Eggplant Bolognese

Well hello again, my friends.  It’s almost been a year since my last post!  I have been extremely busy with life and my good old little food blog got away from me.  New job, got married, bought a house, you know, the basic things that keep you away from a computer once you’re finally home!

I can promise you though, that I have been spending that last year building up a repertoire of tons of fun new and exciting recipes to share.  As life is starting to settle down for the moment, I made it my goal to bring those recipes to you and start writing again.  So, here we are!

I wanted to start us off with a really solid, versatile recipe that you can really do a lot with.  Take out the beef and make this meatless for your Monday, or for your favorite vegetarian!  Don’t like eggplant?  Swap it out with Zucchini or Squash!  That really is the best thing about cooking, you can do WHATEVER YOU WANT!  BUT, if you do like eggplant, and you are a carnivore like myself… please do yourself a favor and try this one out, you won’t be disappointed!

Eggplant Bolognese
Recipe Adapted from:  Cooking Light 

Ingredients:
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
2 Large Sweet Onions, chopped
3/4 teaspoon Kosher Salt, divided + 1 Tablespoon
1/2 teaspoon Black Pepper, divided
1/2 lb Ground Beef, I used 85%
1.5 lbs Eggplant, chopped
3 Cloves Garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon Tomato Paste
1/2 cup Red Wine- I used Pinot Noir so I could drink some while I cooked 🙂
1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes, undrained
1 Tablespoon Red Wine Vinegar
10oz Whole-Wheat Fettuccine
1/4 cup small fresh basil leaves

Directions:
1. Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven or large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and beef; cook 10 minutes or until beef is browned, stirring to crumble beef. Add eggplant, garlic, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper; cook 20 minutes or until eggplant is very tender, stirring occasionally. Add tomato paste; cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add wine; cook 1 minute, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Add tomatoes; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally and breaking up the tomatoes too. Add remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and red wine vinegar.
2. Cook pasta according to package directions, adding 1 tablespoon kosher salt to cooking water. Drain.
3. Toss pasta with sauce; sprinkle with basil leaves.

IMG_0800

Well, that’s all for today, goal of posting in October ACCOMPLISHED!  Huzzah!  Now, go comment, like, share… do it!

Roasted Grape Tomato, Garlic, & Poblano Ragu

I feel like I’m living in an episode of Seinfeld or Friends.  You know… when something happens and then something else happens and then a third thing happens that somehow ties it all together.  I’m pretty sure some recent events are really just my subconscious is trying to tell me that I’m losing my mind.  Literally.

friends

I’ve always had this panic thing where I really think I lose my cell phone and once I start the panic mode, I find it under my leg in my seat in the car, in a fold in a blanket, or under the dog.  This happens like, literally all the time.  At least once or twice a day.

What’s going on with my recent misplacement of really important belongings isn’t this panic-mode.  It’s real.  I don’t know what’s going on (with the exception of me losing my mind)… but in the past two weeks I have somehow managed to misplace not one but TWO jackets, leave my car keys in my Mom’s car, and forget my purse in a restaurant.  WTF?!

Rather than just thinking I’m a moron, I’m going to take this as a sign that I need to take a step back and relax.  Take a minute and breathe and STOP LOSING ALL OF MY CRAP!

In an attempt to go back to my normal routine, I decided to make dinner last night.  It’s been rare since Dave and I got engaged… life has just been too crazy and busy to make fun dinners.  I was inspired by the surplus of Grape Tomatoes in the house and wanted to try to make my own tomato sauce.

This sauce is so good… I almost could not believe myself.  Don’t leave out the roasting of the veggies in this recipe… it gives the sauce such a rich flavor.  It’s very easy to do!

Roasted Grape Tomato, Garlic, & Poblano Ragu

Ingredients:

1.5 pints Grape Tomatoes

1 Head Garlic

1 Poblano Pepper

8oz Lean Ground Beef

1 Green Bell Pepper

1/2 Large Sweet Onion

1 can Diced Tomatoes 

1/4 cup Fresh Basil Leaves

1/2 teaspoon Garlic Powder

1/2 teaspoon Onion Powder

1/2 teaspoon-1 teaspoon Sea Salt

1/2 teaspoon Black Pepper

1/8 teaspoon Cumin

1/2 teaspoon Dried Parsley (or 1T fresh)

Directions: 

1.  Roast the Veggies:  Preheat the oven to 400.  On a baking sheet COVERED with foil and prepared with cooking spray, spread the tomatoes.  Put the poblano on the sheet too.  Cut off the tip of the garlic exposing the tops of the cloves.  Wrap the garlic in a small piece of foil and pour a few drops of Olive Oil in and close.  Put the foiled garlic on the baking sheet too.  Either drizzle or spray the tomatoes and poblano with just a bit of Olive Oil, sprinkle with salt, and pop in the oven for 30-40 minutes.  Flip the poblano halfway through and remove if the skin becomes charred.

2.  Cook the meat:  While your veggies are roastin’, cook the ground beef in a skillet over medium heat.  If frozen, scrape into small pieces or chop if fresh.  Season with a little salt and pepper.  Remove from pan.

3.  Cook the veggies:  Chop the pepper and onion and saute with cooking spray in the same pan the beef cooked in.  Cook for 5-10 minutes then set aside in the same bowl as the beef.  

4.  Make the sauce:  When the tomatoes are a little browned ontop and nice and soggy looking, remove them from the oven.  Unwrap the garlic and let cool.  Cut the poblano in half and scrape out the seeds.  Scrape off the skin too, if possible.  Chop half of the pepper and reserve the remaining half for another use.  Using the back of a spoon, press the bottom end of the garlic until the cloves slide out.  Place the chopped poblano, 1/2 of the garlic cloves, and all of the tomatoes in a blender with the rest of the seasonings, the can of diced tomatoes, and fresh basil.  Blend until smooth.  Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary.  

5.  Eat the Sauce!  Combine the tomato mixture from the blender with the beef, pepper, and onion.  Heat in a medium saucepan over medium heat until warm.  Serve over spaghetti and top with a little bit of fresh parm.  Enjoy!

Everything in the blender and ready to whirl!

Everything in the blender and ready to whirl!

Cookin' up the pepper and onion.

Cookin’ up the pepper and onion.

Sauce!

Sauce!

The sauce all ready to go

The sauce all ready to go

beautiful!

beautiful!

So delicious.

So delicious.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Veggie Marinara Bake

This is what happens when you let a girl like me loose in a grocery store.  I just go wild.

I have been a very good girl lately with my food shopping excursions- always having a plan for the week including a list and a budget.  This past week, I was feeling rather uninspired and only had one dinner pre-planned.  When I got to the market and saw all of the bright, fresh produce… I finally got the inspiration I needed.  I decided that I wanted to take the idea of baked ziti (not sure why but I had a bad craving for it) and put it together using veggies instead of pasta.

I went through the different areas of the produce section picking out what looked to be the best local veggies I could find.  I went home and threw it together and this is what I came up with:

Veggie Marinara Bake

Makes 4 Large Servings

Ingredients:

1 Tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 Tablespoon chopped Garlic 

1/2 Vidalia Onion, diced

2 small Zucchinis, sliced into thin circles

1 large Yellow Squash (or 2 small), sliced into thin half-moons or circles

1 Baby Eggplant, cut into small chunks

3/4 cup Shredded Carrots

1/2 Red Bell Pepper, diced

1 small can Sliced Black Olives

Italian Seasoning, Salt, Pepper, Crushed Red Pepper

1 28oz can Crushed Tomatoes

1 package Hot Turkey or Chicken Sausage (I used Wegman’s brand, it came with 4 patties)

1/4 cup Fat Free Ricotta Cheese

1/4 cup Shaved Parmesan (divided, optional)

1/4 cup Grated Parmesan 

1/8 cup Italian Seasoned Bread Crumbs

Directions:

1.  Wash and cut all of the veggies.  Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add onions and garlic.  Saute for a few minutes.  Add the rest of the veggies and saute, stirring occasionally to re-distribute.  Stir in Italian Seasoning blend of your choice or just some Salt, Pepper, and Crushed Red Pepper.  Once the squash and eggplant are soft, add the can of crushed tomatoes (reserve some if you’d like to dip).  Simmer over medium-low heat.

2.  In a separate pan, cook the sausage over medium heat and chop.  Stir and chop and cook until the sausage is cooked through and browned.  Put aside.

3.  Preheat the oven to 350.  Prepare a baking dish with cooking spray.  Add a layer of the veggie/tomato mixture to the baking dish.  Place half of the chopped sausage ontop.  Using a spoon, dollop little sections of the ricotta cheese onto the top.  Add the rest of the veggies, then the sausage, then more dollops of ricotta.  Top with half of the shaved parmesan if using.  Sprinkle the bread crumbs evenly ontop, following with the grated parmesan.  

4.  Pop in the oven and bake for about 10-15 minutes or until the top is browning just a bit.  

*Note: Serve carefully- since there is no cheese or egg throughout the dish, it will not hold shape like a baked ziti or lasagna will.  Just scoop and serve… it’s delicious, trust me.

Before: So pretty :)

Before: So pretty 🙂

The after:  Not so pretty... but it's going to be pretty tasty!

The after: Not so pretty… but it’s going to be pretty tasty!

After it's done baking

After it’s done baking

P1020133

Served with a side of garlic bread... nom nom

Served with a side of garlic bread… nom nom

Even good for lunch while I'm working at home!

Even good for lunch while I’m working at home!

At first I was disappointed that my faux-baked ziti did not turn out very pretty.  But then I started thinking about it, and who really cares what it looks like?  This was just a dinner for Dave and I to sit in front of the TV and watch the Eagles game.  I’d much rather have a healthier meal than have it look pretty.  Because this recipe is chock full of fresh veggies, we were able to only divide it by FOUR and still have the total calorie count under 300 (depending on whatever type of sausage/meat you choose).  Amazing.  Don’t you just love pigging out on food when you  know it won’t do any damage!?

What’s great about this recipe is that it’s something different from your typical same-old.  Try it with whatever veggies you have or whatever veggies you prefer.  You can also go crazy and take out the sausage to make it vegetarian! Oh, and the leftovers?  I’m eating them right now for lunch… they are even better!!

 

Posted Last year:  Lunchtime Tuesday

Other recipes you may enjoy:

Spinach-Artichoke Lasagna

Spinach-Artichoke Lasagna

"New" Chicken Parmesan

“New” Chicken Parmesan

Mom's Baked Tomatoes

Mom’s Baked Tomatoes

Modo Mio, Philadelphia (PART 2!)

I rarely have enough time to write a post about a restaurant shortly after we’ve dined there.  Life gets in the way, I forget, or I simply just have too many fabulous recipes to share with you to write about a restaurant.  Let’s face it, one of the most amazing meals I’ve had in Philly was two months ago at the famous Zahav with my girlfriends (an Israeli FEAST in which I tried DUCK HEARTS!!) and has yet to make it on the blog.  I’m not the best with timeliness here.

Now that you know this, maybe you’ll understand just how good my meal was this past weekend at Modo Mio.  Sound familiar to you?  It should, since just a month and a half ago I raved and raved about it while bragging about how wonderful my boyfriend Dave was for taking me there.  You heard me:  I am writing about a restaurant I went to just a few days ago… and for the SECOND time.  This place just deserves that kind of attention.

Just a recap:  Modo Mio is an adorable little Northern Italian BYOB in the Northern Liberties area of Philadelphia.  They offer a “Turista” menu every night, where you can order an Antipasti, a Pasta, a Secondi, and a Dessert, for $35/pp.  

When I found out a few days prior that our favorite foodie friend Donny was coming to visit, I knew I had to pick a good place for dinner.  We caught a late reservation and also reeled in our friends (another) Dave & Betsy (actually, her and I are both Elizabeth!  Weird!).

Dave, Donny, (my) Dave and I were all on the same trip to Israel and have remained good friends since, trying out some seriously awesome restaurants along the way.  Modo Mio only seemed appropriate to share with this hungry crew.

The thing that made me most excited about this dinner (other than the fact that we had our very own big round table) was that everyone wanted to do the “Turista” tasting option… and wanted to SHARE.  This meant we basically get to try the entire menu with only the exception of maybe six items.  OMGOMGOMG!  Our server explained that the menu had just changed, as it does every 4-6 weeks, left us with some delicious bread and porcini flavored oil, and we got down to work.

I think this was the most impressive menu decision making ever, we finished in five minutes… checking off which dishes we wanted directly on the menu.  Talk about efficiency!  (oh, also confirmed with our server that we’re the first people to do this.  Love.) We decided to pay an extra $5 for the whole fish of the day & for the Broccoli Rabe side.  After ordering 5 of each course… we sat back… drank some wine… and got ready for a feast of bites (literally).  Get ready for your tummy to grumble… here we go!

Antipasti

Cozze:  Mussels, Red & Spicy

Cozze: Mussels, Red & Spicy

We nearly fought over the broth from the mussels... wow!

We nearly fought over the broth from the mussels… wow!

Polpo:  Grilled Ocopus, Spicy Chick Peas, Raisins, Almonds, Lemon, Arugula

Polpo: Grilled Ocopus, Spicy Chick Peas, Raisins, Almonds, Lemon, Arugula

Carpaccio:  House-Cured Pork Loin, Crispy Gorgonzola, Cherry Fennel Compote

Carpaccio: House-Cured Pork Loin, Crispy Gorgonzola, Cherry Fennel Compote

Carciofo al Mattone:  Crispy Artichoke, Black Olive, Mint, Goat Cheese, Rosemary Honey, Pangrattato

Carciofo al Mattone: Crispy Artichoke, Black Olive, Mint, Goat Cheese, Rosemary Honey, Pangrattato

N'duja:  Calabrese Sausage, White Bean Pancake, Fried Egg, Honeyed Mushrooms

N’duja: Calabrese Sausage, White Bean Pancake, Fried Egg, Honeyed Mushrooms

Pasta

Vincis Grassi:  Rich festival Lasagne, Meat Ragu, Porcini, Besciamella, Fresh Pasta Sheets

Vincis Grassi: Rich festival Lasagne, Meat Ragu, Porcini, Besciamella, Fresh Pasta Sheets

Agnolotti:  Mascarpone & Artichoke Stuffed Ravioli, Almond Butter

Agnolotti: Mascarpone & Artichoke Stuffed Ravioli, Almond Butter

Gnocchi:  Potato Dumplings, Speck, Gorganzola, Spring Peas & Cream

Gnocchi: Potato Dumplings, Speck, Gorganzola, Spring Peas & Cream

Special Pasta: Ziti w/ Oxtail Ragu

Special Pasta: Ziti w/ Oxtail Ragu

Bucatini Amatriciana:  Thick, hollow Spaghetti, Pancetta, Spicy Plum Tomato, Pecorino Romano

Bucatini Amatriciana: Thick, hollow Spaghetti, Pancetta, Spicy Plum Tomato, Pecorino Romano

Secondi

Melanzana Ripiena:  Tomato Braised Stuffed Eggplant, Molise Style, Mint, House-Made Ricotta

Melanzana Ripiena: Tomato Braised Stuffed Eggplant, Molise Style, Mint, House-Made Ricotta

Trota:  Prosciutto-Wrapped Brook Trout, Porcini, Strawberry, and Basil Salad

Trota: Prosciutto-Wrapped Brook Trout, Porcini, Strawberry, and Basil Salad

Pesce Arrosto: Whole Roasted Branzino

Pesce Arrosto: Whole Roasted Branzino

Guance: Veek Cheek "Chef's Choice, trust him" (yes this is directly from the menu)

Guance: Veek Cheek “Chef’s Choice, trust him” (yes this is directly from the menu)

Agnello:  Grilled Lamb Shoulder Chop, Goat Feta, Date Gremolata, Dandelion, Hard Cooked Egg

Agnello: Grilled Lamb Shoulder Chop, Goat Feta, Date Gremolata, Dandelion, Hard Cooked Egg

Our Side & Desserts

Broccoli: Bitter Broccoli, Pepperoncino, Garlic, Lemon, White Beans

Broccoli: Bitter Broccoli, Pepperoncino, Garlic, Lemon, White Beans

(clockwise) Rosemary-Olive Oil Cake, Apple Blondie w/ Vanilla Bean Semi Fredo, Tiramisu

(clockwise) Rosemary-Olive Oil Cake, Apple Blondie w/ Vanilla Bean Semi Fredo, Tiramisu

Flourless Chocolate Cake & Basil Panna Cotta

Flourless Chocolate Cake & Basil Panna Cotta

As if these gorgeous pictures don’t say enough as it is… let me tell you, this was such an outstanding meal.  The five of us “ooh”-ed and “ahh”-ed with literally every bite we took.  Each dish was better than the last and we loved everything we tried.  

If you live in the Philly area and haven’t tried Modo Mio yet… pick up the phone and make a reservation… what are you waiting for?!

Betsy & I before dinner

Betsy & I before dinner

Spinach-Artichoke Lasagna & April SRC Reveal

I am so excited to share this recipe with you for this month’s Secret Recipe Club Reveal day.  This is the FIRST Lasagna I’ve ever made!  I was really nervous but it turned out to be perfectly creamy, cheesy, and delicious.

The Secret Recipe Club (secretly) pairs bloggers up with each other every month.  We can pick ANY recipe that our assigned blogger has ever made, take it and try to make it ourselves.  Everyone reveals their partner and the recipe on the same day so we can all see what has been made!  This is the third month I’ve participated and I love it.  It’s a great way to meet new bloggers, try new recipes, and get others to try yours too!

This month, I was given the assignment to try a recipe from Holly who is the amazing woman behind the blog PheMOMenon (adorable).  Holly has three kids and the cutest Bulldog puppy, I don’t know how she does it all!  I enjoyed reading her story including how she met her husband-  he was her instructor on her very first skydive… love it!

After browsing so many recipes, I finally had to pick The Spinach Artichoke Crab Dip inspired Lasagna.  While her original recipe sounds so outrageously tasty, I couldn’t cough up enough dough on this week’s shopping trip to buy good crabmeat… so I left that out.  I also didn’t make the full size since I was only feeding three for dinner.  What I ended up with was an amazingly cheesy, creamy, absolutely fabulous lasagna recipe that I am going to make again VERY soon.  WOW!

I do have to thank Holly not only for the recipe but for the boost of confidence she gave me when her post warned me not to be discouraged by the “béchamel” I’d be making.  It was so easy.  Also, I loved her diagram of the lasagna… so cute.

Spinach-Artichoke Lasagna

Recipe slightly adapted from:  PheMOMenon

Ingredients**:

For the béchamel:

3 cups 2% Milk
6 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter
1 Shallot, chopped very fine
4 cloves Garlic, minced or chopped very fine
1/4 cup AP Flour
1 teaspoon Sea Salt
1 teaspoon freshly Ground Black Pepper
1/4 teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper
1 12oz package shredded Cheese- Italian/Pizza mix or Mozzarella, divided (about 2 cups for the sauce and another cup for the topping) 

For the Filling:
1 lb package Frozen Chopped Spinach, thawed and drained/squeezed dry (I used fresh spinach, cooked it, and then drained and chopped)
1 12-oz jar Marinated Artichoke, drained and chopped into small pieces 

For the Lasagna:

1 box Barilla Oven Ready Lasagne Noodles 

Directions:

1.  Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Spray a 9x13x3 inch pan with Cooking Spray and set aside.  

2.  Place a dutch oven or large heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the butter and melt completely. Add shallots and garlic to the butter and cook for 3 minutes until softened.

3.  (Make the Bechemel! Key here is whisking) Add the flour to the pan and cook while whisking for 3 minutes. Slowly add the milk while continuing to whisk. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 5-7 minutes or until a little bubbly and slightly thickened (the cheese will make it a lot thicker, it will be more of a gravy-like consistency at this point). Whisk in the salt, pepper and red pepper if using.

4.  Remove the pan from the heat and add all but about 1 cup of the shredded cheese.  Stir until the cheese is melted and the sauce is thick and smooth.  (You’re going to want to go swimming in this stuff at this point.  OMG)  Stir in the drained/dried chopped spinach, chopped artichokes and stir to combine.

5.  I had 15 sheets of Lasagna in my box.  I did mine with 4 layers of sauce, 3 layers of noodles (slightly overlapping), and 1 layer of cheese.  

Order:  Sauce – Noodle – Sauce – Noodle – Sauce – Noodle – Sauce – CHEESE!

6.  Cover the baking dish with foil.  Bake for 50 minutes, then remove the foil and let bake for another 10-15 min to brown the top a bit, depending on how you like it.  Remove the pan and let it rest for 5 minutes or so before serving.  

**Pay attention!**  The original recipe was for two lasagnas which would be way too much for us.  I split the recipe in half.  I totally did not have enough filling.  SO, learn from my mistake (not fatal, but should be corrected) and double the bechemel/filling and use a smaller baking dish in order to have a more perfect lasagna.  Like I mentioned, this is also the first time I’ve ever made one, so there has to be some learning curve, right?!  (I should have listened and just made the whole batch and eaten the rest as dip or with a spoon!!!)

Chop chop

Chop chop

Couldn't you just eat the entire pot just like this?

Couldn’t you just eat the entire pot just like this?

Oven-Ready Sheets are easy to use!

Oven-Ready Sheets are easy to use!

Here's what it looks like coming together...

Here’s what it looks like coming together…

Layers are ready for the oven

Layers are ready for the oven

I made this for Myself, Dave, and our friend Diana and the three of us devoured it.  It is seriously so good.  Like I mentioned above, I didn’t have enough sauce to completely cover the bottom of the dish which made the first layer crispy.  Of course this made it taste freakin’ amazing… but in terms of lasagna, it certainly wasn’t supposed to happen!

I could have eaten this entire sheet...

I could have eaten this entire sheet…

What an amazing dish!

What an amazing dish!

I am a loser and actually googled what to serve on the side of Lasagna... we had a delicious baguette with some seasoned EVOO!

I am a loser and actually googled what to serve on the side of Lasagna… we had a delicious baguette with some seasoned EVOO!

Thanks Holly for such an awesome recipe!!!  I can’t wait to read more of your blog 🙂

Click below to see so many other creative/delicious recipes from today’s SRC Reveal:



C19 Cichetteria Venezia, Philadelphia

Dave and I are in a very serious competition right now.  I mean, a lot is at stake here.

I’m not sure if I mentioned this to you in the past year or not, but Dave and I are using a heart rate monitoring program with my gym called “MyZone”.  Without going completely into the schpeel, MyZone is a belt you wear while working out that measures your heart rate.  Depending on your age, gender, weight, height, and resting/max heart rates, the program will design personal heart rate zones that apply to only you.  Each zone is designated a color (the prettiest and best part of this) and a point value for those zones depending on how hard your working, or your effort.  Since it’s all personalized, the points make it possible to compare workouts to people who are different than you (you know, since guys burn a ton more calories than girls… heavier people than skinny people, etc).

You get your own website to keep track of your workouts and your progress.  This program has absolutely helped me step up my workout game and in turn, helped me lose a lot of weight.

If you’re still following… Dave and I are currently in a MyZone challenge against each other to see who gets the most MyZone Points in March (aka who is working out the most or hardest).  The loser has to take the winner out on a date night in April planned by the winner.  Like I said… a lot is at stake here.

Here's what a Kickboxing class looks like on the MyZone system.  Blue to Green to Yellow is least to most effort exerted.  Great workout, right?

Here’s what a Kickboxing class looks like on the MyZone system. Blue to Green to Yellow is least to most effort exerted. Great workout, right?

Our current standings are:  Beth @ 3153 & Dave @ 3043.  I’m barely holding onto my lead!  You could hardly tell I want to be the winner and choose date night 🙂

Just Stelly saying bye before we leave for our date night!

Just Stelly saying bye before we leave for our date night!

Our last date night was also chosen by me.  I took Dave to a restaurant near where we live called C19 Cichetteria Venezia.  I had actually been to C19 for a happy hour dinner with a group of girls- loved it, and have been telling Dave we have to go since.

C19 is a medium-sized restaurant specializing in fresh, seasonal, Venetian-Inspired cuisine.  It has a bunch of tables in a room with the bar, and then larger tables in the back.  The walls are covered with Italian words that are beautifully hand-painted.  While it has that darker, romantic feel it also is a little funky with the bar covered in orange and red tiles, making it a great spot for happy hour, a date, or just a nice dinner out with friends.

I do also have to mention how wonderful the service is here.  You can tell that the service works as a team, as someone will fill up your water, someone else will take your order and serve your food, another person will clear your plate, and about two other people will check in on you and make sure you’re okay.  Everyone is super friendly and you can tell how much they love the food (and drinks!).

My friend from Penn State, Elisa, and her husband go here all the time and told me to introduce myself to the manager, Kevin.  I had done this during my first visit but it was months before and I figured I should just do the same again.  Once I introduced myself, Kevin not only stopped by to chat about some new items on the menu… but he remembered me.  He remembered who I was with (a bunch of CHOP doctors… lucky girl, right?) and where we were sitting.  Whoa.  Now you have to believe me about the great personalized service here, right?  (Elisa will also tell you a story about a time they asked about a dessert no longer on the menu.  The C19 team went out to buy the ingredients and re-created it for them that night.  WOW!!!!)

Anyway, let me get onto our actual meal.  My tummy is grumbling just thinking about it.  

We started our date night off right with a spicy, sweet, and very creatively named cocktail, Catching Fire.  Adorable, right?  The drink was so good.  Here’s what was in it:   Hornitos reposado infused with jalapeño, passion fruit, fresh lime, combier l’original, hibiscus salt rim.  I probably shouldn’t admit that between Dave and I, we ordered three of these babies!  Worth the splurge, for sure.

Just the perfect amount of spicy, sour, and sweet.  The flash made it look yellow, lol.

Just the perfect amount of spicy, sour, and sweet. The flash made it look yellow, lol.

As soon as our drinks arrived, we ordered our meal and were brought a wooden bowl of olive oil and grilled bread.  It was even still warm… mmm!

After some careful deliberation the starters that we chose for the night were the Pork Belly Brasato & the Roasted Tomato Gnocchi.  Both of us have a hard time passing up a pork belly dish (complete with radicchio, pine nuts, and raisins), so that was an obvious choice.  The Roasted Tomato Gnocchi (served with Duck Ragu & Spinach Pesto) sounded so delicious.  I had to pick it because it was recently added to the menu, but also because C19 is famous for their light and fluffy homemade gnocchi.  Mmmmm… getting hungry yet?!

The Pork Belly with its accompaniments.  One hell of a way to start a meal.

The Pork Belly with its accompaniments. One hell of a way to start a meal.

Perfectly soft gnocchi... loved this.

Perfectly soft gnocchi… loved this.

Next up, we ordered a pizza and a pasta.  I remembered from my first visit to C19 that their pasta is soooo good… fresh and homemade.  It’s hard to resist.  I had never tried the pizza, but we decided to try the Dry Aged Venetian Meatballs on the pizza instead of as an appetizer.  I told you our ordering was thought out.  The pizza we picked had the meatballs, Polpette Mozzarella, and fresh Basil.  The crust was light and crispy, my favorite kind.  Of course the pasta we ordered was the one with Spicy Marinara.  There was some house-cured Pancetta in there too… and I only sort of stumbled over the name “Pasta A’Matriciana“.  Totally didn’t make an ass out of myself.  Don’t you worry.

Saucy & fresh pasta.  So good. This was the large portion, but you could also get a small one to taste test.

Saucy & fresh pasta. So good. This was the large portion, but you could also get a small one to taste test.

Check out this pizza... sooooo good.  The meatballs are fab.

Check out this pizza… sooooo good. The meatballs are fab.

This would have been the perfect place to end a night with delicious cocktails and dinner… but when our server came over to tell us about dessert… I just could not resist!  I am on a Tiramisu kick and C19 seemed like a great restaurant to try it.  I think something like “oh my goddddd” came out of my mouth with every bite going in.  It. was. SO. GOOD.  

Nom nom nom!! Look how creamy this Tiramisu is.  I think I've found a favorite dessert... Tiramisu tour of Philly, anyone?

Nom nom nom!! Look how creamy this Tiramisu is. I think I’ve found a favorite dessert… Tiramisu tour of Philly, anyone?

So, if you’re looking for a nice neighborhood restaurant… try C19.  The Venetian food and huge selection of wines and creative cocktails are some of the best in town.  C19 will also have you coming back for more and often, as they change their menu weekly depending on what fresh local ingredients are available.  And if you go, tell Kevin “hi”… and expect him to remember you!

“New” Chicken Parmesan

I was looking for an easy but delicious recipe that would be good to make for four instead of my typical two.  I had friends over for dinner… friends who love food like I do… so something boring or ordering pizza was not gonna happen.

After about an hour of searching through my saved recipes on the internet, I remembered a really super simple recipe I saw in a Bon Appetit recently that I thought would be perfect:  “New” Chicken Parm.  I recalled that the chicken was not fried and then cooked in sauce, resulting in a healthier chicken parm… AND a potentially sauce-free dish for one of my guests who doesn’t like sauce (he’s crazy, right?).

Those two points sold me, and have the potential to give this dish a permanent spot in my repertoire.  I love finding classic comfort food recipes with new twists and tricks to make them healthier.

New Chicken Parm

Modified from:  Bon Appetit

Ingredients:

1.5 lbs of Thin-Sliced Chicken Breast (8 breasts)

1/4 cup EVOO 

1 Tablespoon Minced Garlic

1/2 teaspoon Sea Salt

1/2 teaspoon Black Pepper

1/2 teaspoon Italian Seasoning Mix

1 12-oz container of Grape Tomatoes

1/2 teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper

1/2 cup +1/4 cup (divided) Parmesan Cheese, grated (I used Reduced Fat) 

1 cup Italian Seasoned Bread Crumbs

1 cup Shredded Mozzarella Cheese (again, I used Reduced Fat)

1 jar Prepared Tomato Sauce

Fresh Basil, chopped or torn

Directions:

1.  Preheat the oven to 500.  Whisk the oil, garlic, salt, pepper, and italian seasoning mix into a large bowl.  Dump the tomatoes into the bowl and stir to coat the tomatoes with the oil mixture.  Remove the tomatoes reserving the oil mixture, spreading the tomatoes out onto a foil-covered baking sheet and put in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes, stirring about halfway through.  Remove them once they are starting to brown.

2.  Prepare a large baking dish with cooking spray.  Combine 1/2 cup parmesan cheese and the bread crumbs onto a plate.  Place a chicken breast into the garlic-oil bowl and mix around.  Let drip off and then dredge into the bread crumb-parm mixture.  Coat completely, then carefully place in the baking dish.  Do this for every piece of chicken breast.  Your tomatoes should be done by now too- remove them and place aside.

3.  Cook chicken for about 8-12 minutes, then remove the baking dish to sprinkle on the crushed red pepper, 1/4 cup Parmesan, and 1 cup Mozzarella.  (I kept my cheese on the lighter side).  Place back in the oven and cook until the chicken is done (firm to touch), about 2-3 more minutes depending on thickness.  If the cheese is starting to cook too fast, place aluminum foil on top.

4.  Remove the chicken and plate with a side of tomato sauce, the roasted tomatoes, and fresh basil.

Besides the fact that this chicken turned out to be sooo delicious, there are a few things I really liked about it:

1.  Chicken is dredged in flavored olive oil (and not a lot of it) instead of egg.  The bread crumbs still stuck on really nicely.  It made the chicken light and crispy.  

2.  The chicken is not fried like in most Chicken Parmesan recipes.  

3.  Tomato Sauce is not added on in the baking process, preventing the chicken from getting soggy.  

4.  Roasted tomatoes.  Nom nom nom.

I served the “new” Chicken Parm with a side of whole wheat Spaghetti, sauteed Green Beans, and a sliced baguette with spiced olive oil & Whipped Ricotta.  The four of us had one seriously tasty feast!

photo 1 (10)

Chicken has baked once and is now cheesed- ready to go back in for a nice melt.

Chicken has baked once and is now cheesed- ready to go back in for a nice melt.

Here's that amazing Whipped Feta with a few roasted tomatoes ontop... click for the recipe!

Here’s that amazing Whipped Feta with a few roasted tomatoes ontop… click for the recipe!

I told you it was a feast :)

I told you it was a feast 🙂

Closeup of one delicious meal.

Closeup of one delicious meal.

Even Stella was tired after such a meal!  :)

Even Stella was tired after such a meal! 🙂

photo 4 (9)