“Fawkes is a clam, Harry. They burst into flames when it is time for them to die, and are reborn from the ashes.” – Dumbledore from Harry Potter

Hey there!

Boy, I’ve had a busy weekend and will have a busy week to come!  Had a wonderful dinner at Lento with loverboy, I made it to the public market which lately I have been running into my Professor, Alex and I had a “meeting of the families” dinner yesterday on behalf of his Nonna, which turned into an engagement dinner for us, I met with a client and made a commercial for 33 Definitions!  My Gosh, I did a lot of work outs that I have not done is so long!  It all felt great except these like “air pushups”, which destroyed my shoulder.  I have not felt pain in my shoulder like this for a long time and I’m really hoping the pain subsides soon!  One positive outcome: the boxing was really fun and I would definitely like to do it again ASAP!

Saturday, November 17, 2012 was the International Survivors of Suicide Day AFSP is another not-for-profit organization very close to my heart; my uncle took his life in June 2007.  A sudden loss like this, what you feel after is not something I can explain, it’s really something you have to experience (unfortunately).  Some people consider it a crime and the act so selfish but I completely disagree.  I do not understand how someone who is so depressed and thinks so low of them self, is selfish.  It’s just a really unfortunate side affect of severe depression, which is why professionals always urge to recognize the warning signs and seek help right away.  Many do not understand this until they have lost someone they love, but yet many are still blind and stay angry at the person – does not help you nor the one you loved.  This is something people are afraid, or ashamed to talk about – do not be ashamed to talk.  Talking, opening up and expressing your feelings is the best thing you could do for yourself to cope with this type of grief.

After my uncle’s death, becoming extremely ill, seeing a therapist and falling in love with such an amazing man who treats me better than I treat myself, all really have taught me to enjoy my life to the fullest

“We react with shock when we are told that someone we know has taken their own life. We wonder to ourselves why they ‘committed’ suicide. We whisper to each other and use the word ‘committed’ without even considering what that word means. We use the word ‘committed’ in conjunction with the word suicide because we have been taught that a crime has been perpetrated. Even if we don’t hold such a belief, we thoughtlessly use the word because it is what has always been.” – Andrej N. Lah. Director, Catholic Cemeteries Association, Diocese of Cleveland, Ohio.

Anyways, I just have to talk about the dinner I had at Lento restaurant – OMG SO DELISH!  I haven’t been out to a really nice dinner in a while and Alex and I normally go to restaurant Good Luck when we want an expensive dinner out but it is just so hard to get a table on the weekend and this restaurant is only open Wednesday – Saturday, opening at 5p.m. if you are able to get a reservation, it’s incredibly worth it!  It’s not exactly healthy, but everything is fresh and seasonal (hey, when in Rome) BUT they do have this organic mixed green salad with an avocado vinaigrette and I never eat any salad as fast as this on.  I would give anything to know how they make it – I tried once but there was one thing I was missing and I cannot pinpoint it!  (Sorry for my ADD and switching from subject to subject)  When I do try new foods, I always seem to end up finding those foods at Good Luck or Lento (both located in Village Gate), Friday night was one of those nights!

This past Wednesday, I tried a raw oyster for my first time in lab so I convinced Alex to try some at Lento.  The texture is something you definitely have to get used to, but they are so delicious; not fishy at all!  You just really have to get used to the texture, “…it’s the best tasting loogie you’ll ever have…” Chef Brinkman told us on Wednesday.  Yeah, like that’s something I really want to hear when trying a new food…… HA!  It’s best to just chew it twice to get the flavor then swallow – you can’t really chew it into pieces because of the texture.

I do not drink alcohol anymore because my stomach can’t handle it with the medication I’m on, but there seems to be only one drink that tastes oh-so-good and doesn’t hurt my stomach at all – a Gilded Ricky from restaurant Good Luck – Hendrick’s gin, meyer lemon juice, yerba-mate syrup, tonic & topped with a mint leaf.  Lento had a similar cocktail as a special, a pomegranate Ricky.  It was delicious, but still not as delicious as the Gilded Ricky!  It’s weird that my stomach can handle gin, when gin is probably one of the worst liquors for you (but it’s so tasty).

We ordered 4 oysters, three from ME and one from WA.  I gave Alex the advantage and let him have the only one from WA because it was the smallest one.  He said that the one from ME was so incredibly salty compared to the one from WA.  Served with some Asian sauce that I believe overpowered the taste of the oyster but it was still delicious.  They all looked so beautiful….

Next, we had blood pudding with a grilled apple salad.  I know this sounds disgusting, but I’m one of those people who loves to watch Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmern and they always talk about how good blood things are.  I was watching the Layover with Anthony Bourdain today he had blood sausage in NYC (I have a secret crush on Anthony Bourdain… what a sex-ay man; sorry Alex).  The blood pudding tasted very similar to pâté but not as strong (I freaking love pâté, so fatty but so good).  This blood pudding was served warm with sliced onions & apples that were grilled & a sherry vinaigrette for the greens.  Everything complemented each other so well I devoured my portion!

For my main course, I ordered a portobello mushroom stuffed with curried potato, cauliflower, spinach & cilantro, topped with a pear chutney… Again, SO GOOD!  I wish I took a picture of this one but I had teared into that shroom so fast I was so sad how quickly I finished it =(

I felt awesome after this meal.  The portions are perfect the perfect size that my stomach felt not full, but just right.  I actually treated myself to a mini mint oreo blizzard for dessert, seeing as though we have a new Dairy Queen in Rochester and I had never had their ice cream.  Alex was expecting it to taste like McDonald’s ice cream (kinda crappy) but it was actually really good!  I was quite surprised, too.

At our trip to the Public Market, we purchased two dozen beautiful, dense, live clams for $5.00.  They were actually $3.00 per dozen but old men love me (no joke).  Flashed a smile, elderly man liked it and gave me a dollar off without me asking, ha!  My uncle that passed used to make an awesome clam dip every Christmas Eve – always will be known as Uncle Joe’s Clam Dip.  I would have loved to make this but it’s so fattening that I try to only make it a holiday snack.  It’s basically canned clams, clam juice with cream cheese & seasonings served with Lay’s ruffles chips.  So, I decided to make some white clam sauce, which is a sauce I have grown up on.  But again, my family had always made this sauce with canned clams.  I have nothing against canned clams, but having the opportunity to make it with fresh clams it makes such a difference.

Linguini w/ fresh white clam sauce

Ingredients

1 pkg. linguini pasta, your preference

2 dozen clams, soaked in cold water for at least 30 minutes and scrub them clean under cold water

1 C. white wine, always cook with a wine you would drink

1 baby red onion, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 of a roasted red pepper, diced

1 lemon, zested & juiced

1 tsp. dried or fresh oregano

3 tsp. dried or fresh parsley

2 pieces quartered marinated artichoke hearts, diced

pinch crushed red pepper

4 Tbs. part-skim ricotta cheese**

EVOO

salt & pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Start the pot of water for the pasta and cook according to directions on the package.
  2. In the meantime, in a pot on medium heat, add enough EVOO to give a decent coat to the bottom of the pot and heat up the oil.
  3. Add the onion and garlic, cooking only for a couple minutes.
  4. Add all except however many clams you would like to keep in the shell and wine.
  5. Bring the heat up to medium high, let cook & reduce.
  6. Once the clams open, remove them from the sauce and continue to reduce.
  7. Remove the cooked clams from their shells, mince and reserve on a plate with the artichoke and roasted pepper.
  8. Once the sauce has reduced by half, add the cooked clams, artichoke, roasted pepper, lemon juice & zest, crushed red pepper flakes, oregano and parsley – cook for a few minutes.
  9. If you think there’s too much liquid in there, reduce the sauce some more, but if not, add the remaining uncooked clams and cover until the clams have opened.
  10. **At this time, you want to taste the sauce.  The clams I purchased were extremely salty and made the sauce so freaking salty I could not handle it, I didn’t even add any extra salt, it was all natural from the clams.  So, I added extra lemon juice and some ricotta cheese to try to balance out the saltiness and it seemed to work.  Depending on how salty your sauce is, this part is optional.  I really wish the sauce wasn’t so salty because I actually prefer it without the cheese.
  11. Once the sauce is finished, toss it with the cooked pasta.
  12. Serve with a sprinkle of fresh parsley, a lemon wedge and some sauteed spinach to up your veggies!

Look, how pretty!

These clams were so delicious.  Alex agreed and he is not one that favors shellfish.  These clams had absolutely no grit – I was really surprised!  The man I bought them from must have a really clean farm and really know what he is doing.  Clams are tasty, low in bad fat and high in good fat, a great source of lean protein and they have a low amount of contaminants.  Not only do they have positive nutrition, but what I love most of all – clams are sustainable!  You know how much I love fresh, local & sustainable food =)

Well, I really need my sleep.  My body is in pain and I need to rest up for my week.  I’m spending Thanksgiving with the future in-laws and offered to make mashed potatoes and gravy (I really make an awesome gravy, my mother is quite jealous that I am not making it for her, haha).  Although, Nonna did say that “…we’ll taste and see how she does.”  Gotta live up to the Italian grandmothers expectations!  Haha, I’m not nervous at all, Nonnine is awesome.

What’s your favorite type of shellfish?

Are there any foods that are now a traditional dish for Thanksgiving?

How do you make sure you are purchasing sustainable seafood?

After Thanksgiving is Small Business Saturday – what are you doing to support your local small businesses?  If you live in Rochester, NY check out Bernunzio Uptown Music if you’re in to vintage instruments – not only is it an amazing store, but so is the family behind it!

#EatFreshCookBellissima

Posted in 33 Definitions Health and Wellness Education, Dinner, Farm Markets, Fitfluential ENJOY, Restaurants, Sustainable, Wedding | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“I am a glutton. I’ll eat whatever is there. Pizza. I love hot dogs anywhere. I’ve got nothing against any of that. If I feel like eating, I eat. I don’t feel guilty about it at all.” – Jacques Pepin

Well, I posted a picture of some kale pizza for two a while ago on the Bellissima facebook page and I have gotten messages asking for the recipe.  I haven’t made pizza in a while, but it was so delicious that I do remember what I put on it!

I feel like that I can’t really make an exact recipe for this pizza because pizza is really personal taste.  You put whatever you like on the crust!

As for pizza crust… It’s kind of hard to find a healthy pizza crust, unless you go to Trader Joe’s but that’s a bit of a drive for me.  Unfortunately, the quality of the Wegman’s in Rochester varies by city/suburb so I tried to find the best pre-made, quick-cooking, whole wheat crust.  The only downfall about this crust is the palm oil – which is responsible for the saturated fat.  But like I always say, everything in moderation.  If you have this crust a couple times a month it won’t hurt you!

Boboli mini whole grain pizza crust…..

 

If you get this crust, make sure you purchase the mini-sized one instead of the full-size or else you will be splitting a 6 person pizza between 2 people!

With pizza, I try to make it an all-in-one meal.  Carbs with the crust, turkey pepperoni or white meat chicken for the protein and always load it up with veggies!  I mean seriously, it’s kind of hard to overdose on veggies, and when it comes to kale it’s the best autumn super-food you can give your body!

I just want to sink my teeth into that right now!

Anyway, here’s what I did…………

Kale Pizza

  • 1 pkg. Boboli mini whole-wheat pizza crust***
  • EVOO
  • dash of dried Italian seasoning
  • ~4 Tbs. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • ~6 Tbs. grated mozzarella cheese (block, not fresh)
  • 6-8 artichoke hearts
  • ~4 Tbs. sun-dried tomatoes, sliced
  • 2-4 Tbs. black olives, sliced
  • ~16 slices of turkey pepperoni
  • ~1/2 roasted red bell pepper, sliced
  • ~2-4 C. kale, washed
  • ***If you can’t find the mini one, just get the original size and remember it’s 6 servings!

Directions

  1. Follow directions on package.  I do suggest cooking the pizza directly on the rack, a crispier crust.
  2. In a bowl, toss the kale with some EVOO, salt & crushed red pepper – set aside.
  3. Lay out the two crusts and drizzle with EVOO
  4. Divide the pepperoni, artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes, pepper and olives between the two crusts, laying the ingredients out evenly in that order.
  5. Divide the Parmesan cheese between the two, then the mozzarella & put in the oven.
  6. A few minutes before it’s ready, add the kale on top of the pizza & cook until done.

 

This pizza is great for when you’ve had such a busy day and you need a quick dinner.  I love loading mine up with kale because it has SO many nutrients and I think it tastes sweeter than spinach.  This is also a good opportunity to use leftover cooked veggies like broccoli (which has protein!), zucchini, mushrooms and even eggplant!

If you have access to a whole foods store and find a better pizza crust, by all means use that!  This is just the best pizza crust I could find, for my convenience.

Thanksgiving is coming up faster than I can blink and I have so much to do between now and then!  Who wants to be my assistant? =)

Tomorrow is shellfish day and I can’t wait to shuck an oyster (which looks like a loogie but Chef told me, “it’s the best tasting loogie ever” hahaha!) and cook clams, mussels… etc.

 

What is your favorite type of pizza?

Do you have a healthy pre-made pizza crust that you love?

What do you prefer – kale or spinach?

#EatFreshCookBellissima

Posted in 30 minutes or less, Dinner, Just for two | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“I go ‘I just want a cup of black coffee.’ She goes ‘Do you want to try a biscotti? They’re from Italy and they’re considered a delicacy.’ Have you ever eaten one of these things? It tastes like a burned cookie. Where I’m from, that’s considered a mistake.” – Bill Engvall

That quote made me laugh out loud – maybe it’s because I’m Italian and about to marry into an even more Italian family.  All jokes aside, a chocolate dipped hazelnut biscotti is actually one of my favorite cookies.  They only seem like a burned cookie because they’re baked twice to give it a dried-out texture.  I tried making them once… I screwed them up… They were gross… And burned… hahaha.  But, now I have a somewhat new Italian baked goods cook book called “Dolci” and there’s a recipe in there that I have yet to try.

I hope everyone was able to observe Veterans Day and possibly thank a veteran!  I definitely thought a lot about PFC Theodore Glende, an old friend of most of my friends and a fellow Sea Cadet, where I met him and little did we know we were both the class of 2007 at brother/sister schools.  He was recently KIA while giving medical aid to a fellow soldier in Afghanistan, after already saving 4 of his fellow brothers.  It’s actions and people like this that help us live with freedom.  I have never felt more honored to have known such a person.  He is also the third person from the McQuaid class of 2007 that has suddenly, tragically, passed.  Sad stories and I think of those families every week…

[I had my Lab Practical today for one of my cooking classes and I was really nervous, even though I shouldn’t have been.  I need some writing time. (Yes, I love to write.  I actually had a blog in high school and majored in Journalism/Communications when attending St. Bonaventure – great program there!)  I just get nervous over stupid things.]

Anyways, I promised everyone some pumpkin cookies!  Eating healthy does not mean depriving yourself!

Every year my dad would make this pumpkin bread with mini chocolate chips and it was SO good, for breakfast and dessert!  I found this recipe for pumpkin cookies and I wanted to really make it my own. I was hoping to make my pumpkin cookie recipe 100% sugar-free, well, I did actually, I used stevia but I felt like I could taste just the stevia and the texture of the cookies the day after they were baked was kind of a weird-tough.  So, I prefer using sugar instead (everything in moderation, people) but I did decrease the amount of sugar being used.  I found these sugar-free Hershey’s chocolate chips when grocery shopping for my mother so I decided to add those to the recipe.  I also wanted to take out the applesauce because sometimes it can be too sweet, and I love the taste yogurt adds to cookies.

Okay, less talk more delicious food………

^^these were made just for me by loverboy using just sugar =)

Pumpkin Cookies

Ingredients

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, mix the pumpkin puree, yogurt and extract.
  3. In another bowl, mix both of the flours, baking soda, baking powder, pumpkin pie spice, ground cinnamon and sea salt.
  4. Add dry ingredients to the wet in two batches, stirring very well after the first batch.
  5. Once mixed, add chocolate chips and mix well.
  6. Line a couple cookie sheet pans with parchment paper.
  7. Dollop the batter onto the pan with a regular cereal spoon.
  8. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until lightly brown.
  9. Remove & let cool… or just eat one while warm!
  10. Store in an air tight container.

^^these were made by me with stevia

These are delicious, especially fresh from the oven.  The next day, the chocolate chips were still slightly melted on the inside – best part of the cookie!

It’s really your choice between using stevia and sugar but I do suggest trying out both batches before making a final decision =)

Well, I have a restaurant critique to write for my Menu Planning class and I just remembered it’s due on Thursday.  Good thing I already ate (went to Joe’s Crab Shack, I love crab – more on that later – but it was delicious!) and took notes so writing the review shouldn’t be hard at all.

Next up, Thanksgiving………. SO much closer than I thought!

Are you planning any new, unique foods for Thanksgiving?

How do you encorporate pumpkin into Thanksgiving dinner (besides the pie)?

Posted in Autumn, Dessert, Snacks | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“I believe that every human has a finite amount of heartbeats. I don’t intend to waste any of mine running around doing exercises.” – Neil Armstrong

Hi, all!  How was your week?  Mine was busy and it looks like my weekend is going to be filled with homework and projects…

I have been having a really hard time with getting back into some sort of daily workout routine with having classes 5 days a week, 3 of those being lab days.  I’m just so pooped by the end of the day.

When I have a hectic schedule I go to Alex’s place to work out using his Xbox Kinect.  This thing is great; unlike the Wii, a camera scans your whole body and you need no sort of remote.

Last winter, Alex bought a fitness game for me called Your Shape for Xbox 360 + Kinect.

I’m a physically damaged (misaligned shoulder & tendinitis in knee and wrist, all thanks to terrible posture while rowing!  Although, the shoulder is really the only thing that bothers me) and very poor college student, I can’t afford a membership to anywhere, and I have a really hard time motivating myself – I need someone with me always.  That’s one of the reasons why I loved rowing so much, there was always someone there to motivate me and push me harder; a coxswain!  I know it sounds funny but in rowing they are your best friend when you are lacking self-motivation.  Too bad rowing is so expensive… hopefully in the future!

Anyway, this “game” is awesome.  There’s boxing, cardio, several types of dancing, yoga, Pilates, etc.!

When you initially start the game, you enter your weight, age, height or whatever and it scans you.  Then you choose a fitness goal – weight loss, gaining strength, etc and it has body focus workouts – arms, legs, butt, etc.  It recommends workouts personalized to your own fitness goal and shows you how many calories you have burned per workout.

There’s even a “boot camp” workout section – my God, it’s intense!  I feel like I’m back at boot camp in the U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps.  I’m telling you, this one is intense!

Anyone who owns an Xbox Kinect should purchase this if you ever need to squeeze in a quick workout, need motivation & no access to a gym.  I can’t wait to really get back into this during the cold weather when I don’t want to leave my comfort zones.  I really want to avoid those women-cursed flabby arms for my wedding, haha! =)

Do you have any favorite at-home workout DVDs?

What type of quick-but-effective workouts are your favorite?

What type of home workout do you prefer – machines (erg, etc) or digital (DVD/TV/Computer)?

#moveitorloseit !

#EatFreshCookBellissima

Posted in 30 minutes or less, 33 Definitions Health and Wellness Education, Fitfluential ENJOY, Stay active! | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“I would rather sit on a pumpkin, and have it all to myself, than be crowded on a velvet cushion.” – Henry David Thoreau

Hey everyone!  How was your weekend?  Did you do anything exciting?

Saturday morning, I went for a breakfast sandwich from Scott’s at the Public Market with loverboy.  Best breakfast sandwich in Rochester, no joke (it may be white bread and bacon but when I get it once a month, it’s so worth it!  I just make sure to eat before walking through the market for goodies) and, Macy Gray had butter lettuce!  No, it’s not really her (I wish), but the lady at the market who sells the lettuce for Bolton Farms looks like Macy Gray… I’m thinking it’s because of her hair-do.  Doesn’t matter, she’s so bubbly!

Also, I got a new Betta fish!  One night several months ago, the cats decided to open the doors to this glass cabinet and they knocked out Berta and ate about 1/3 of it……

Meet, Chloe!  She’s the little angel.

Meet Tobias Fünke!  Toby for short, he’s the little devil.

I’m just glad I wasn’t the one who woke up to the mess and a dead fish!  (Hahaha, sorry Alex!)  I don’t know why I called the fish Berta, it was a male fish.  I think my mom named it?  I don’t really know what was going on, that fish was angry all the time for some reason, I never did anything to it.  I’ll have to post a picture of my new betta, he’s beautiful!  What should I name him?  I’m thinking of a male name this time…

Lots of pumpkin this weekend; after all, it’s in season!  I had found a healthy pumpkin cookie recipe recently because Alex says that he needs to bring in cookies for his Lens Design class on Thursday… I figured I could use this opportunity to promote bellissima!  I wanted to do a test batch this weekend but I really didn’t feel like making them, so he made them and upon his request, only if I helped him.  He did most of the work, I just changed the recipe.  I omitted the applesauce, cut back on some of the sugar, and added a few other things, which include sugar-free chocolate chips BUT that’s next weekend.  I’m going to try to make the batter sugar-free when I make them this week!

Lazy Sundays tend to equal a cooking day for me.  I decided to use the sugar pumpkin I purchased from Old Henry’s a few weeks ago.  I was going to save it for this pumpkin bread recipe but then I figured I should use it for something healthy.  I wanted an all-in-one dinner and I wanted soup.  I love soup so much, but I’ve already told you.  I was craving a soup with pumpkin, roasted red peppers, red lentils and chickpeas (lentils+chickpeas=complete protein).  I typed those ingredients in Google and I came up with pumpkin and pepper soup, lentil and pepper soup, chickpea and lentil soup, chickpea and pepper soup… etc.  So, I pulled up these three recipes (one, two, three), mixed & matched, added & subtracted and came up with a roasted pumpkin, bell pepper, lentil and chickpea soup.  That’s too long… maybe I should just call it roasted pumpkin soup.

Today was the first snowfall of the season for us and I wanted to make something warm and filling; soup is meant for cold snowy days.  This soup is protein-vegetable packed with healthy carbohydrates and no added cream or butter; top the serving bowl with some Brie cheese and freshly chopped chives and you’ve got yourself a meal in a bowl!  This recipe is very versatile, you can easily make it vegan!  One important thing – you need an immersion blender for this recipe.  I will warn you – sugar pumpkins are a pain in the butt to cut!  I thought it would cut just like any other pumpkin but it was kind of hard, I definitely needed a bigger saw of a knife, or maybe an electric saw… I should have just gone outside and smashed it open on the driveway like I do with a coconut, haha!

Hehehe… I love Halloween!

Ingredients

  • 1 sugar pumpkin, gutted & sliced into chunks
  • 1 small-medium sweet onion, peeled & quartered
  • 2 large baby bella (crimini) mushrooms
  • 1 large garlic clove, peeled
  • 2 pinches crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 C. red lentils, cooked (ratio water to lentils, 2:1)
  • 1-15.5oz. can Goya chickpeas, drained & rinsed well
  • ~1/2-1 quart of chicken broth, low-sodium
  • ~4 Tbs. whole milk (optional)
  • 1 jarred roasted red pepper
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1 tsp. dried rosemary
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • pinch of light brown sugar or 1 Tbs. honey (optional)
  • 1/2 small lemon, juiced (fresh lemon, never use the bottled stuff!)
  • 1-2 C. fresh baby spinach
  • EVOO
  • salt & pepper, to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees and line a baking sheet with non-stick foil.  Add the pumpkin, onion, mushrooms, garlic, a drizzle of EVOO, sprinkle of salt, black pepper, 1/2 (tsp.) of all the dried seasonings, and the crushed red pepper.  Put in the oven and roast until the pumpkin comes out fork tender, ~30-40 minutes.  Take out to let it cool enough to touch.
  2. In a saucepan on medium heat, scoop out with a spoon and add the roasted pumpkin, onion, mushrooms and garlic.  Add roasted red pepper, chickpeas, rest of the dried herbs, milk, brown sugar, and broth.  Stir well.
  3. Using your hand immersion blender, blend everything until smooth-ish.  This is where your own preference comes into play, if you like it a bit chunky, leave some chickpeas and lentils out before blending ( and add after step 6), don’t blend completely smooth.
  4. Stir well, making sure the temperature is increasing gradually without burning the bottom.
  5. Add the lemon juice, stir well
  6. Add baby spinach, stirring a bit to cover with the soup and then using the immersion blender, blend all the spinach into the soup.
  7. Pour ~1 C. soup into serving bowls and top with Brie cheese and chopped chives.  Ready to serve!

Can you believe that is actually a serving size of Brie cheese?! YUM!!

This soup was really good and the cheese melted so beautifully.  The rind of the cheese is a bit grassy, so I might add some freshly grated Parmesan if I want something salty or use plain Greek yogurt on top next time instead of the cheese.  Alex thought this soup was so delicious, he didn’t even add salt to his bowl!  He loves salt.  I rarely add extra salt to my soups and always try to use as little as possible when cooking, always.  Maybe he’s getting used to it?  Hopefully!

Do you have a favorite squash soup recipe?

What did you change to make my recipe your own?

Let me know what you think! =)

#EatFreshCookBellissima

Posted in Autumn, Dinner, Farm Markets, Great for work!, Lunch, Seasonal | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Happy Halloweenier!

I want to start off this post by saying how grateful I am to live in Rochester, NY; especially after Hurricane Sandy.  Nothing like this in the history of New York City/New Jersey/Brooklyn, etc. has something like this happened, it truly is a disaster and my thoughts and prayers go out to all those affected.  It’s crazy, NYC really is not that far from Rochester but they got hit so much harder.  We just got some strong winds and heavy rain – nothing like NYC.  Rochester is so safe when considering the weather.  Sure we get some bad snow storms, but it does not cause damage like this.

I am truly amazed at the people coming together.  There have been times in the past where you hear of so much stealing and looting after a weather disaster, but not this one.  I heard on the news this morning that a restaurant that could not open due to damage had an abundance of food that needed to be used, so they cooked it up and gave it away to people walking on the streets – for free!  Also, an 11 year-old girl set up an “internet cafe tent” outside her house so people could charge their phones and electronics – for free!  It’s really nice hearing news about people coming together after a disaster instead of breaking apart.

 

I carved my $3.00 pumpkins!  Yes, they were $3.00 each at Old Henry’s farm market in Gates/Greece.  My parents purchased only one pumpkin from Powers farm market in Pittsford, and they paid almost $10.00 for just that one pumpkin!  I always remember going to Powers when I was younger because they have farm animals and awesome teepee’s filled with amazingly carved pumpkins but now knowing the price difference, I still go to see the animals and teepee’s; I just purchase my pumpkins at Old Henry’s.  Honestly, my fiance and I noticed a difference in the seeds compared to Powers; Henry’s has a more meaty seed and Powers has a thicker hull that’s slightly harder to chew.  Sometimes you’re better off going to the “little guy” than the “well-known guy” =)

I was originally going to do Stay Puft and Jack… so I did a creepy grave hand and Jack.  I always carve my pumpkins the night before and I just didn’t have enough time to carve Mr. Puft =(   but these pumpkins turned out better than expected, especially the hand!  I enjoy carving pumpkins so much, I do two of them every year!

How did I do?  Did you carve a pumpkin?  Go ahead, show me a picture!

For as long as I can remember, every Halloween in my family meant that dad would make his roasted pumpkin seeds from the pumpkins we carved the night before.  They would be roasted on Halloween night since it was an easy recipe with all the kids coming to the door.  But no more than a few days later, my two older brothers and I just couldn’t get enough and they would be all gone.

One year in high school I handed out candy for my parents and every once in a while as I opened the door and the kids would say, “trick or treat” some would say, “Oh my gosh your house smells so good! What is that smell?!”  No joke, these kids were hilarious.  My neighborhood is awesome because it’s so kid friendly and safe.  It also seemed like they had never smelled roasted pumpkin seeds before, hmm!

Pumpkin seeds are the most common squash seed that is roasted this time of year, but all winter squash has edible seeds!  Some are obviously different in size and texture, but the cooking process is pretty much the same.  Last year I tried making these BBQ roasted pumpkin seeds and they turned out really gross, haha.  So, this time around I told myself, “a little goes a long way” when it came to eye-balling the seasonings because you can’t measure the seeds when purchasing a pumpkin and you want to use all the seeds, right?!  You never really know how much you’re going to get in one pumpkin.  My slightly smaller pumpkin had more seeds than the larger one!  The key is to look for a pumpkin that feels heavy for its size.

Almost any kind of flavor can be added to squash seeds before roasting.  I have made an Indian version before with garam masala and turmeric, it was pretty good.  This time around I made a lightly flavored slightly smoky with a bit of a kick in the back of your throat once in a while………

They were delicious!  “BUT TELL US WHAT’S IN IT!”

  • I had two large pumpkins that yield ~3 C.
  • Separate the guts from the seeds, it’s okay to have some pumpkin strings still left in there because it gives it flavor, but take out almost all of it.  Put in a strainer and rinse well under cold water.
  • I let mine sit out until the next day in the strainer, stirring it every once in a while with a paper towel and it was about 85-90% dry.
  • Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
  • Put in seeds a bowl, drizzle with just enough EVOO.
  • Sprinkle garlic powder, onion powder, beau monde seasoning, dash of freshly cracked black pepper and dried parsley, a pinch of cayenne pepper and a sprinkle of smoked paprika for color and smoky flavor [you can also use smoked salt (I have this stuff, it’s delish!) BUT beau monde seasoning already has salt added, so be careful with adding extra salt; to be honest, it really just won’t taste the same].
  • Toss to coat really well, pour onto a sheet pan lined with non-stick foil and shake to flatten out to one layer.
  • Put in the oven at 300 degrees for about 45 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.
  • Slightly browned and a bit dried out, they are ready to take out of the oven to cool and serve.

I have seen some recipes where they say to cook the seeds in salted boiling water for about 10 minutes to make the husk softer and an all-around even salt flavor.  Personally, I think that’s too much work and I could care less about salt water and soft husks for my seeds; I think they’re soft enough!  What you boil takes out the nutrients, the outside of the seed is fibrous – not always inedible!

These are such a great snack for on-the-go, or sprinkle a few on top of some turkey chili to add a crunch.  Pumpkin seeds are packed with magnesium, iron, and calcium, vitamin K and protein and will definitely give you an energy boost.  Lighter than nuts, try a handful of them in the afternoon a few hours after lunch, especially if you are working out after work or have a long stretch before dinner.

Have you tried roasting other seeds besides pumpkin?

What kinds of seasonings do you use on your seeds?

Do you know of a different trick to soften the husks of the seeds?

#EatFreshCookBellissima

Posted in Autumn, Farm Markets, Fitfluential ENJOY, On-the-go, Seasonal, Snacks | Leave a comment

“A thriving household depends on the use of seasonal produce and the application of common sense.” – Olivier de Serres (1539-1619)

One of the main points of Eat Fresh Cook Bellissima is to always purchase produce that is in season, not only are the herbs, fruits and vegetables at their peak freshness and flavor, but you will save money from buying in-season produce.  Also, local produce has lower levels of pesticides!

When you use fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs, you don’t have to do much to make them taste great. Although many fruits, vegetables, and herbs are available year-round, you’ll get better flavor and prices when you buy what is in season.

What’s in season this autumn…

Fruits: apples, cranberries, figs, grapes, pears, persimmons, pomegranates, quinces.

Vegetables: Belgian endive, beets, bell peppers, broccoli, broccoli raab, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, eggplant, escarole, fennel, frisée, kale (select varieties), leeks, mushrooms, parsnips, pumpkins, red potatoes, rutabagas, shallots, spinach (select varieties), sweet potatoes, winter squash, Yukon gold potatoes.

Herbs: Bay leaves, parsley, rosemary, sage, tarragon, thyme.

It’s normally around this time of year that I really crave the juicy cherries and stone fruit from summer but then I just have to remind myself that none of that tastes good this time of year and that there are plenty of other fruits that are juicy and in-season right now. But, I will say that frozen fruit (and vegetables) are a great alternative and if you want a fruit that is not in-season, you are better of getting it in the frozen section.

I haven’t made pork tenderloin in a long time, but I think that this pork tenderloin stuffed with figs and apricots deserves a making soon! Perfect time of year, everything’s in season – just got to take the time out to make it.

Cooking is not hard, it just takes a bit of time!

My Tuscan kale is doing so wonderful in this cool weather. I have started a little vegetable garden and it’s a lot easier to take care of than you think! But I will elaborate on that in a different post, I just wanted to share this picture because my kale just looks so beautiful and I’m so proud! I purchased the plant from the tasteful gardens, which is a certified organic plant producer. These people are so wonderful and nice. They are actually sending me a couple herbs next week because the previous ones had mealybugs (2 out of the 5 plants I purchased only had bugs and they were easy to get rid of, just some Spinosad), these bugs were gross but the Alabama people were so nice and sending replacement plants free of charge after Hurricane Sandy passes.

Do you shop for produce that is in season?

Do you buy produce that is not in season? If so, is it fresh or frozen?

Everyone’s taste-buds are different, do you think in-season and non-seasonal produce tastes equally good?

#EatFreshCookBellissima

Posted in Autumn, Farm Markets, Seasonal | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“I think we’re going to the moon because it’s in the nature of the human being to face challenges. It’s by the nature of his deep inner soul… we’re required to do these things just as salmon swim upstream.” – Neil Armstrong

November 2, 2013 – it’s finally official.  Everything (well the church & reception) is booked for my wedding next year!  A church from my childhood, a beautiful and classy reception place, and 150 max. is the perfect number of people!  I can now move on to planning the more exciting things – bridesmaids dresses, colors, flowers… so much to think about.  But that’s also why there are bridesmaids and I have the best bridal party ever!   It’s kind of nerve-wracking but I’ve never been more excited to spend the rest of my life with the love of my life.

Enough of the lovey-dovey shhtufff…….

I know I say this a lot but school has been pretty awesome.  One thing that has been so awesome about taking culinary classes is that it has given me a lot more confidence in the kitchen.  I’m not saying I had no confidence before, I definitely did because the outcome of most things I would make would be amazing, and that’s said by lots of people, not just me!  But, I did not have much confidence when it came to cooking meat/poultry.  That changed this past week in lab when we made an herb crusted rack of organic Australian lamb.  BAAA … it was so incredibly good and so unbelievably easy to cook.  The key to cooking really is having confidence in yourself. If you have confidence in yourself while already having the tools and knowledge of basic cooking techniques, temperatures and safety, you will excel in your own kitchen!  I now don’t purposely overcook my meat just because I don’t trust myself and afraid of it being undercooked, HA!  I also always try to remember: when the cooked meat rests, the internal temperature raises a maximum of 5 degrees [personally, I think having the meat rest for 20 minutes is a bit too long (unless it’s a whole huge bird) – 10 minutes is good enough for me].

Most days during the week I don’t get out of class until 5 p.m. which has been pretty hard for me to be able to make the nice meals because I like eating dinner at 5:30-6 p.m.  Since I get out of class so late, I’ve been making up recipes that are lighter and take less than 30 minutes to prepare, and if you are fast enough with your mise en place that may include your cooking time!  My most recent creation are salmon cakes with wheat germ and a homemade tartar sauce. DON’T LEAVE THE PAGE NOW! =(  I know wheat germ in salmon cakes sounds disgusting healthy but I promise, you will not be able to taste it – and when given the opportunity to sneak in fiber and vitamins in your meal, do it!  As for the tartar sauce, I know it’s either you like it or you don’t.  My fiance sure thought it was disgusting, until he tried mine.  Now he eats it up every time I make it!

These cakes took me two tries to get it right.  I was actually really surprised that it didn’t take me more.  The first time I made them the were delicious but they fell apart in the saute pan; they were too moist.  The second time, I added the breadcrumbs after the wheat germ by the spoonful, stirring and pinching the mixture after each spoonful to feel the texture.  It is important to touch your food and always taste as you go.  Another important thing with these salmon cakes – I used pouched salmon, not canned.  Canned has a lot more sodium and you have to drain it before using it.  With the pouched you can dump the whole thing in a bowl – no draining necessary!

Salmon cakes & tartar sauce for TWO

Ingredients for cakes

1 pkg. Bumblebee salmon

4 Tbs. chives, minced

1 egg, beaten

1 tsp. horseradish

zest of 1 lemon

juice 1/2 lemon

pinch crushed red pepper flakes

dash of garlic powder

4 Tbs. wheat germ

6 Tbs. whole wheat unseasoned breadcrumbs

salt & pepper to taste

Ingredients for tartar sauce

1/2 C. low-fat mayonnaise

1 Tbs. chives, minced

1 pickle spear, minced

1 Tbs. pickle juice

3 pickled garlic scapes, minced

juice 1/2 lemon

dash of garlic powder

dash of onion powder

salt & pepper to taste

Directions for cakes

  1. In a large bowl, empty the pack of salmon and flake the fish into small pieces with a fork.
  2. Add chives, garlic powder, crushed red pepper, salt & pepper, zest & juice of lemon, horseradish and mix with a fork until well combined.
  3. Add beaten egg and mix with fork.
  4. Add wheat germ in two batches, mixing (with fork) well after each.
  5. Add breadcrumbs in 3 batches, mixing (with fork) well after each.
  6. Form mixture into 4 even patties.
  7. Heat 2 Tbs. EVOO in a pan on med-high.  When hot enough, add patties (good side down), they should be making some noise … sizzle sizzle … and smelling delicious.
  8. Once browned on one side, gently flip & brown on the other.
  9. All browned and have a nice crust, they are ready to serve with the tartar sauce.

Directions for tartar sauce

  1. Put mayonnaise in a bowl, add lemon juice, chives, pickles & mix.
  2. Add salt & pepper, garlic & onion powder (you won’t need much), and mix well.
  3. Let rest in fridge for 20 minutes before serving to let the flavors meld.

Read about sustainable salmon here! – had to put this in here, my Uncle lives in Sitka, Alaska.  Plus, it is much better for the environment (and your body) to purchase sustainable, wild caught fish.

I was so proud of myself when I made these because they didn’t fall apart in the pan at all and they tasted better than the last time I had made them.  I think it was from the horseradish … I love that stuff, I can eat it right out of the jar!

This is so random but I cannot wait to carve my pumpkins for Halloween.  I have my two ideas picked out and they are going to look SO AWESOME!  I have always carved the pumpkins for my family.  I used to do the headless horseman every year but every year it seems that the tools to carve pumpkins keep getting worse so my tools keep breaking.  Do you have any suggestions for a wonderful carving kit to purchase?  Even if I couldn’t carve a pumpkin, I would still buy one just to open it up and take the guts out for the seeds.  I love roasting pumpkin seeds because you can taste four different cuisines on just four different seasoned pumpkin seeds.  They’re also good for you!

What are your favorite fish cakes; crab, salmon, or something else?

What are you doing for your Halloween pumpkin this year?

Do you have a favorite pumpkin seed recipe?

#EatFreshCookBellissima

Posted in 30 minutes or less, Dinner, Fitfluential ENJOY, Just for two, Wedding | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Recipes are really just guidelines…” -Chef Gerry Brinkman

Hey guys!

I have been enjoying culinary school SO much!  I love getting A’s and B’s in all my classes without struggling, and I am now officially certified in ServSafe food safety.

Depending on where you go, Culinary school can be a hit or miss.  Most of the time, getting a job in a kitchen and learning on the job is your best bet.  This is one reason why I like MCC, it’s a high ranked community college and cheap!  Why pay $40,000+ per year when you can pay 1/4 of that?  Especially with my history, changing my major about 5 times.  I did not want to stay at St. Bonaventure if I was undecided; just a waste of money.

One thing that I love about cooking over baking is that you don’t have to be so exact with your measurements and ingredients.  My professor said, “recipes are just guidelines” and that really is so true.  If you don’t like something, omit it and substitute something else.  Cooking is so flexible and forgiving if mistakes are made.  You just have to learn how to alter that mistake with other ingredients to make it look like there was no mistake and your dish is perfect!  Although, one thing that is not forgiving at all – SALT – “…you can always add more but you can never take out…” – Chef Brinkman

I always tell my clients that when they read labels to make sure to look at the amount of sodium in the product.  When grocery shopping, do you look at the sodium content of what you are considering of purchasing?  It’s ridiculous where they sneak in salt.

Chicken broth is a perfect example.  I always purchase natural, low-sodium chicken broth but it took me about 4 different products to find what I think is the healthiest one.

Here are two low-sodium, organic, low-fat broths:

 

They both basically look the same, right?

 

Well, check out the nutrition facts:

 

 

#EatFreshCookBellissima

Crazy, right?

The Pacific broth had less sodium than the Imagine.

When buying store broth, it is so important to look at the sodium because you may be adding salt to whatever you are cooking and if you have a salty broth and add that, it ruins the whole dish. Salt is not forgiving.

What do you look for when grocery shopping?
Do you read the nutrition facts, ingredients, or both?
What is one important thing you always take into consideration when grocery shopping?

 

#EatFreshCookBellissima

Posted in Fitfluential ENJOY, Grocery shopping | 1 Comment

“A new kind of woman with deep-rooted values is changing the way we live. Market researchers call it ‘neo-traditionalism’……..

“…To us it’s a woman who has found her identity in herself, her home, her family…. She is part of an extraordinary social movement that is profoundly changing the way Americans look at living–and the way products are marketed. The home is again the center of American life, oatmeal is back on the breakfast table, families are vacationing together, watching movies at home, playing Monopoly again. Even the perfume ads are suddenly glorifying commitment.” – Unknown

Hello there! How have you been?

As you know, I always start my blog posts with a quote about what I am going to write about.  I typed into Google, “farmers markets quotes” and this one came up.  It’s not really related to farm markets but I chose this quote because I believe it is what every family should strive for.  Food brings people together, no matter what ethnicity you are, if the food’s good, everyone is happy!

Just because it’s getting colder outside does not give anyone the excuse not to go the local farm market; they are still open!  Go online, ask your neighbor, or look in the newspaper to find what markets are still open near you.  When you go to the local farm market, you do not pay for the shipping from another country, or for the people that stock the shelves in the store.  Little do people know, the produce in the supermarkets could have easily been sitting there for three weeks.  So, in the end, you’re not really buying 100% fresh produce and sometimes, especially if it’s not in season, frozen vegetables and fruits may be your best bet for dollar and daily nutritional value.

Purchasing produce from the local farm market, you will notice a difference in quality and freshness.  Personally, I would rather give my money to the local farmer who does manual labor 12 hours a day, every day.  These people dedicate their life to growing affordable, fresh produce to feed the public.  To lengthen the life of your produce, I really recommend purchasing some Debbie Meyer Green Bags to keep produce fresh even longer.  A few months ago, I purchased two butter leaf lettuce heads from the city market and put them in a green bag.  Three weeks later, the lettuce was still fresh!  I chopped it up, washed it and used it for a salad to share with Alex and he literally thought the salad was the bagged stuff found in the supermarket!

I was exposed to the public market when I was pretty young and I would go with my father sometimes on the weekends.  I mostly went because I knew if I went early enough on Saturdays, I would get a bunch of free cheese samples from my cousin, George.  Seriously, who doesn’t love cheese?  Completely unrelated but, funny story, also kind of embarrassing.  It was my sweet 16 and I decided to go to the Rochester public market with my father and of course it’s a day that George is there (this guy is a freaking NUT) and my father tells him it’s my birthday.  Bad idea.  George starts yelling singing, “happy birthday to you…”  and the whole market joins in.  NO JOKE!  Literally several hundred people singing happy birthday to ME.  It took me a couple years to go back to the market after that… HA!

This past year I really have been trying to take advantage of my local farm markets because everything is just so cheap!  These people on cooking channel and food network that stress in-season, local farm market shopping have such an advantage of living in a large city like NYC or San Francisco because the markets there are HUGE and some of them are indoors, which means guaranteed year-round produce.  But my friend who recently moved to San Francisco after getting married (Hi Rose!!)  said to me how jealous she is about my market purchases here in Rochester, NY.  I thought to myself, “How is she jealous?  She lives in SF which has gorgeous produce year-round and a gigantic indoor market.”  The price difference across the country is unbelievable, but in the end, it is so worth the price (and will be cheaper than the supermarket) no matter where you are because it is fresh, local, in-season and most importantly – you know exactly where your money is going.

For the people here in Rochester, NY, here are some local farm markets that are still open:

Brighton Farmers Market – Brighton HS – 1150 Winton Rd. S

Sundays, 9am-1pm | May 27-October 28

Brockport Farmers Market – Market St. – b/t Main St. & Water St.

Sundays, 8am-2pm | June 17-October 28

Chili Farmers Market – Chili Paul Plaza – 3240 Chili Ave.

Saturdays, 8am-1pm | May 12-October 27

Fairport Farmers Market – 58 South Main St – b/h Bank of America

Saturdays, 7am-12pm | May 5-November 24

Greece Rdg Mall Farmers Market – Ridge Rd West & Long Pond Rd.

Thursdays & Saturdays, 9am-3pm | June 7-October 27

Hamlin Farmers Market – Hamlin Town Hall – 1658 Lake Rd.

Sundays, 9am-1pm | Early May-November

Mendon Farmers Market at Cibi’s – 3894 Rush-Mendon Rd. – (Rt. 251 west of Rt 64)

Tuesdays, 4pm-7pm | June 5-October 30

Pittsford Farmers Market – 3750 Monroe Ave.

Tuesdays & Saturdays, 8:30am-2:30pm | May 1-November 24

Rush Farmers Market – United Methodist Church – 6200 Rush-Lima Rd.

Thursdays, 3pm-6:30pm | June 14-November 1

Scottsville Farmers Market – Scottsville Ice Arena – 1800 Scottsville-Chili Rd.

Sundays, 8am-1pm | July 1-October 28

Rochester Public Market – 280 N. Union St.

Tuesdays&Thursdays, 6am-1pm | Open year-round

Saturdays, 5am-3pm | Open year-round

Old Henry’s Market
76 Gates-Greece Rd – I am not sure about the hours for this place, but it is open all week.

When shopping at your local farm market, everything is seasonal (except maybe bananas depending where you are).  This weekend I was able to purchase 2 broccoli heads, quart of green beans, dozen free-range organic eggs, 3 zucchini, 4 parsnips, pint of baby bella mushrooms, a quart of shiitake mushrooms, bunch of kale, 6 lemons, 1 large bunch of hydroponic lettuce mix, 3 bulbs of fennel, 5 bananas and 4 foot-long incense sticks for a total of $25.00!

This is the first page of my lab notebook for one of my Culinary classes:

Are you an avid farm market purchaser?

What are your favorite things to buy at the market?

What are the markets like in your town?

Do you have a favorite farm in your area?

#EatFreshCookBellissima

Posted in Farm Markets, Fitfluential ENJOY | Leave a comment