The Best Porcini Mushroom Risotto, Period.

I am breaking one of my own rules, and I don’t care.

I have always said I would not claim something as “the best I ever ate” if I had not tried enough of a particular food to compare.

Scratch that.  For now, at least.

This past week, I had the opportunity to try a local Italian restaurant in Ft. Lauderdale, Casa D’ Angelo.  I have wanted to try this place for a while now, but it is pretty pricey and shocking, not in my current budget.  What do you do when you really want to try a restaurant and can’t afford it?  You wait for your family to take you there.

I had family visiting from NY who suggested we all go to Casa D’ Angelo for dinner.  That’s right, I didn’t even have to debate internally whether it was rude of me to pick such an expensive restaurant because they picked it themselves.  Amazing.  The food here was so good and so authentic Italian, as judged by my relatives from Italy, that we ended up going back AGAIN before they left.  I seriously hit the food lottery that week.

One of the main persuasive forces of returning a second time was this risotto.

Mushroom Risotto at Casa de Angelo

Mushroom Risotto at Casa de Angelo

I ordered it on a whim as an appetizer for my boyfriend and I because I have never had a truly authentic risotto, and I certainly don’t have the time or willingness to add 5 sticks of butter to make this on my own.  I don’t care that I have not tried other risottos, and I don’t care that this is one of the least photogenic dishes ever- this risotto was pure heaven.  The truffle oil and porcini mushrooms added just the right amount of flavor on top of the divine creaminess of the cheese and other goodness in here.  The rice itself was perfectly al dente.  My hard to impossible to please Italian grandmother raved about this risotto.  This was seriously one of my favorite appetizers from a restaurant ever.  You can also order it as an entree, but I think the appetizer portion was plenty satisfying.

If you are ever in Ft. Lauderdale and looking for the best Italian food, go to Casa D’Angelo.  Order this risotto whether or not it is on the menu that day.  Somehow.

Every other part of my dining experience was delicious and blog-worthy as well.

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I ordered the linguine positano as my entree, which is linguine with shrimp sauteed in white wine, with garlic, fresh tomato, and arugula.  I thought this dish was phenomenal- fresh, simple yet flavorful, and filling.  The shrimp were a bit on the firm side, but I suppose that is better than overly cooked, rubbery shrimp.

So, my recommendations to you all:  1. Plan a trip to Ft. Lauderdale, if you don’t live nearby.  2. Invite family to cover the bill (joking, kind of.) 3. Demand to try the mushroom risotto. 4. Order anything else as an entree 5. Drink wine to enhance good time and better tolerate family and 6. Pass out in food coma.

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Creamy Tomato Soup with Focaccia Croutons

The other night was just one of those days: rainy, cold, and dismal outside.  The weather was perfect for wearing pajamas at 5pm, cuddling with pets &/ significant others, and of course: making soup!

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I noticed on the Two Peas & Their Pod blog a recipe was posted for a healthier creamy tomato orzo soup, and I was immediately intrigued.  Especially because we had 1/2 loaf tomato basil focaccia bread left over that was way past its prime and destined to be made into croutons.

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I made this soup, with only two changes, and I was very impressed.  The creaminess comes from greek yogurt so it is actually a very healthy soup.  I highly encourage anyone who loves creamy tomato soup but hates the idea of slurping up 50% saturated fat in one bowel to try this recipe!

Creamy Tomato Soup with Focaccia Croutons

From: Two Peas and Their Pod Blog

Yield: 4 bowls

You Will Need:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3-15 ounce cans diced tomatoes *
  • 1-15 ounce can vegetable broth
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil *
  • Dash of crushed red pepper flakes
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt (we use Chobani)
  • 1 cup cooked Orzo pasta *
  • 1/2 loaf of stale focaccia bread for croutons (my addition, HIGHLY recommended)

* I used no salt added diced tomatoes and added my salt per our taste.  I did need to add a lot of salt to achieve a good flavor, but I still feel I added less than what would be in the regular sodium cans.

* I believe you could up the fresh basil a tad, maybe add in an extra  1 TBS.

* I substituted ALPHABET pasta instead of of orzo.  No, I don’t have a five year old.  I am just a kid at heart and the sight of this in the grocery store pretty much made my day.

Lastly, my own addition that pretty much MADE this soup amazing was the hommemade focaccia croutons.  See below for how to make these.

Now for the recipe:

1. In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the bay leaves.

2. Add the tomatoes and vegetable broth. Stir in the brown sugar and fresh basil. Season with red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper, to taste. Simmer on low for 15 minutes.

3. Remove the bay leaves from the pot. Use an immersion blender to blend the soup (or blend the soup in a standing blender and return to the pot). Stir in the Greek yogurt until well combined. Stir in the orzo pasta (or alphabets). Serve warm.

And for the highly encouraged, totally worth it, absolutely delicious add in….

Tomato Basil Focaccia Croutons

Like I mentioned, I had an extra 1/2 loaf of focaccia bread left over from making my roasted eggplant and tomato sandwiches, and it was getting very stale.  I made croutons out of the bread by simply cutting it up into thick cubes, combining with 1 TBS + 1 tsp olive oil, and sprinkling with a little salt (about 1/2 tsp).

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I then baked these beauties for about 10 minutes until they were nice and crispy.  I stored them in an air-tight container until dinner time when they met their fate by drowning in a bowel of creamy tomato soup.

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The next time you are craving a creamy, healthy, comforting soup, I definitely recommend you give this recipe a try.  I highly encourage the use of alphabets instead of orzo, because let’s face it: childhood favorite > random pasta that looks like rice ;)

And if you have a little extra time, whip up some homemade croutons for dunking.  You can never go wrong by adding more carbs!

What are your favorite healthy soup recipes?

Fried Mac n Cheese: What Heaven Tastes Like

I wouldn’t normally be one to blog about a dish from a run-of-the-mill chain restaurant such as the Cheesecake Factory, but I have the itch to blog and this appetizer was a-maz-ing.

What brought us into the Cheesecake Factory in the first place was the fact that we had a $75 gift certificate from the holidays to use and a free slice of cheesecake (admit it- their cheesecake is to die for).

Fried Mac n Cheese

Fried Mac n Cheese

We started off with this fried mac and cheese appetizer that was seriously delicious.  The fried portion was perfectly crispy and seasoned, and the inside was ooey and gooey macaroni and cheese.  Not questionable cheese filling with a piece of pasta, but actual macaroni and cheese that would have been awesome on its own.  Equally as delectable was the sauce served on the bottom of the plate.  The best way to describe the sauce is creamy tomato sauce meets romesco sauce.

Our entrees were ok but nothing to write home about.  Our cheesecake of choice was the Oreo cheesecake which is not pictured because it wasn’t around long enough to capture a photograph :)

I highly recommend that the next time you are in the mood for a drinks and appetizer type night with your friends or hunny, hit up the Cheesecake Factory and order t0 this fried Mac and Cheese.  We have $10 left on our gift card (don’t you love it when that happens),and our plans literally include a return trip for Fried Mac n Cheese and wine.  And maybe cheesecake…

We all know that chain restaurants are not quite as exciting as home cooked meals or fancy dinners out, or even hole-in-the-wall foodie finds, but sometimes we just end up at one of these places for a meal and are pleasantly surprised.  Similar story? Share!

Chicken In A Pastry

Finally, after a week of hectic schedules and grab-and-go food, we were able to cook a nice dinner last night: chicken in a pastry!  Before I blog any further, I must tell you guys that I am aware the pictures of this meal are rather unappealing.  There is only so much Instagram and Photo-toaster can do for an un-photogenic meal.  However, I promise you the taste makes up for the appearance!

Chicken in a Pastry

Chicken in a Pastry

This is seriously the easiest meal to make- you only need 3 ingredients!

  • Puff Pastry Sheets (I used Pillsbury)
  • A soft, spreadable herb/cheese mixture, such as Rondele, (I used the light variety)
  • Cooked, cubed chicken, either baked or cooked in a pan until just cooked.

I apologize for not having step-by-step pictures- we were a bit pressed for time.  Next time I make this I will inset the photos into this post.  But, no worries,  this recipe is fool-proof.

Chicken in a Pastry

  1. Season chicken with salt and freshly cracked pepper and cook in the oven or on a frying pan until just cooked through.  *It is important not to dry out the chicken by overcooking now, as you will bake the chicken once more for about 15 minutes.  Once cooked, dice the chicken into small chunks. Set chicken aside.
  2. Defrost pastry sheets according to directions on box.
  3. Cut the sheets into desired sized squares.  In the Pillsbury sheets, you get two full sheets that each break into thirds.  I then cut each third into thirds again to make one square (this is your desired pastry).  This will yield 18 total squares which equals 18 filled pastries when done.  Depending on the brand you use, and whether or not this is a meal/appetizer etc.., you will need to eyeball the appropriate size you want your pastries to be.
  4. Spread about 1 teaspoon of the herbed cheese onto a square and place about 3-4 small chunks of chicken on top of the cheese.  Bring the four corners of the pastry square up and press them together, forming a pocket so that all of the filling is enclosed.  Repeat for each square.
  5. Lay all of the pastry squares on a foil-lined baking sheet (dull side up) and bake at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes, or until the pastry shell is just turning golden brown.
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Chicken in a Pastry

This is seriously one of the most comforting and simple meals ever.  I served it along with a nice fresh salad of spring mix lettuce, diced pairs, blueberries, and walnuts dressed with oil and vinegar.

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Salad with pear, blueberries, and walnuts

I know this is not really a “recipe” necessarily, as the idea of stuffing puffed pastry sheets with cheese and filling is not new.  But, I hope I at least planted a seed in your mind for the next time you need an easy yet comforting dinner that leaves you both full and satisfied :)

I just wanted to mention the addition of my “Best Thing I Ever Ate” section to the blog.  This section will be documenting my absolute favorite foods in different categories. It is a work in progress, but please check it out.  I would love to hear any feedback anybody has to offer.

Now, off to enjoy a very not homemade but equally satisfying dessert: girl scout cookies!  It was brought to my attention the other day that most types of girl scout cookies can actually be found year-round in the grocery store from other brands (i.e. Keebler “grasshoppers” = thin mints).  However, I feel that there is a certain nostalgia/special element to girl scout cookies that makes them so special, even if they are not necessarily the best, most unique cookies ever.  What do you guys think?  Worth the $3/ box for a bite of your childhood?  I think yes!

Fresh Spinach Konafa

Since the image of this glorious appetizer is most likely what lured you in, I must admit right off the bat that I did not cook this!  This fresh spinach konafa is from a Greek restaurant, Taverna Yiamas, in Hollywood, Fl.

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This dish is very similar to spanakopita.  It is made with shredded phyllo dough, feta cheese, and spinach, all sandwiched together and grilled (fried?) to perfection.

Now, over the past year or so I have developed somewhat of an obsession for Greek Food.  I have tried numerous Greek restaurants and have strong, unwavering opinions of who makes the best kebobs, saganaki, tzatiki, hummus, spanakopita, etc.. Let me tell you, Taverna Yiamas makes the best konafa/spanakopita I have ever had.  Period.  The service/ambiance at this place leaves much to be desired, but that becomes irrelevant as soon as you bite into the konafa.

What makes this dish outstanding and different from other spanakopita-type dishes I have had is the crispiness of the shredded phyllo paired with the creaminess of the abundant feta cheese and fresh spinach.  We always order the exact same thing (konafa appetizer with schwarma pitas), so that is the only food I can vouch for from this restaurant.

Ironically, we stumbled upon this place via Groupon, and it was definitely one of those places that surprised us for the better.  Like I said, the ambience and service is sub-par at best, but the konafa is so good I would eat it off the floor if that were my only choice (kidding.. kind of).

Anybody else obsessed with Greek &/ Mediterranean food?