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Pizza Dough with Kids

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Food inspiration can come from any place. My sister’s breakfast pizza was inspired by a visit to a gas station, my vanilla carrot bisque came by request of my imaginative toddler, and the internet has recently been flooded with stories and recipes for spaghetti tacos, inspired by an episode of the popular children’s show, iCarly. I’ve got to admit that spaghetti tacos are a genius idea. I’ll probably be serving mine up topped with baby meatballs and cheese. Personally, my inspiration often comes from pictures of food, restaurant menus, or food on tv. It comes through daydreams of favorite flavors and insatiable cravings. In the absence of other ideas, a walk through the grocery store never fails to flood me with inspiration.

Most recently, I was inspired by an episode of Barney. Yes, Barney. My boys and I were snuggled up on the couch one recent morning; our typical early morning routine, prior to starting the day. They were enjoying an episode of Barney, while I was poking around the internet. I looked up to see the giant purple dinosaur skipping around a kitchen, followed by a small army of children, throwing pizza dough in the air and singing a merry song. Boy were they having a grand ol’ time! I casually asked the boys if they’d like to make pizza dough someday. In an instant, my three year threw the blanket off his lap and jumped off the couch, excitedly saying, Lets do it right now!

I was hardly ready to make pizza dough at that very instant, but we did make it the very next day. Myself being a pizza dough novice, I ran a search online for a basic pizza dough recipe. I settled upon a recipe from Giada De Laurentiis at the Food Network. My husband is skeptical of skinny chefs. I love that about my husband. I just want to know her secret. Regardless, Giada knows her way around an Italian kitchen, so I was fully confident in her recipe.

I gathered our ingredients, cleaned our work surface, then called my tiny sous chefs into the kitchen. After getting them cleaned up and reminding them of the importance of clean hands in the kitchen, we set to work.

We started by sprinkling one packet of Dry Active Yeast (7 grams) over 1 1/2 cups Warm Water (approximately 100-110 degrees). An instant-read thermometer is helpful in checking the temperature. Water that is too hot will kill the yeast, while too cold will prevent it from activating. Stir until the yeast is dissolved.

In a separate bowl, whisk together 5 cups Flour with 1 1/2 tsp Salt.

Pour the yeast mixture over the flour and stir to combine. If the mixture is too dry, add more water, a tablespoon at a time, until the dough comes together. If the dough gets too wet, add more flour, a tablespoon at a time. We needed to add a few spoonfuls of additional water to achieve the right consistency.

Remove the dough from the bowl and place it on a well-floured surface. Lightly coat your hands in flour and knead the dough for about 10-12 minutes. Small children make excellent kneaders.

Place the dough in an oiled bowl. Turn the dough in the bowl so that all sides of the dough are lightly coated in oil. Cover loosely with a piece of plastic wrap and allow it to rest at room temperature for about two hours. It should double in size.

Push down the dough and divide it into 3 equal sized balls. Place each ball in its own oiled bowl. Cover and let rest for another hour.

Thoroughly wrap each ball of dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate. You can use it immediately or keep it refrigerated for up to a day.

To use the dough, lightly oil your work surface. Press and pull the dough into an 8-12 inch round. If desired, roll the edges to create an outer crust. Place the pizza round onto a baking sheet which has been sprinkled with a bit of corn meal. The corn meal will prevent the dough from sticking.

Top with your desired sauce, cheese, and toppings. Children love spreading sauce and sprinkling toppings. Set up an assortment of toppings and let them go to town! Bake for about 10 minutes on your oven’s highest heat (about 500 degrees).

As you know, I’m  a huge fan of cooking with kids. It develops a wide range of skills and helps to develop an appreciation of food. The process of cooking together is bursting with teachable moments about language, science, and math. It’s engaging, memorable, and helps kids develop a sense of pride in their accomplishments as they enjoy the product of their work.

To ensure a positive cooking experience with kids, be prepared. Gather the necessary ingredients and materials ahead of time, so you can keep the process moving smoothly. Muster up all of your patience and be prepared for a bit of mess, which admittedly, is often easier said than done. It’s normal for young children to need repeated directions and multiple prompts to stay on task. They may find that brushing all the flour off of the table onto the floor is more interesting than kneading the dough. Take a deep breath and try to redirect their attention. Modeling is your best teaching tool. Prior to each step, explain and show children what to do. If necessary, guide their hands as they complete each step.  Finally, talk, talk, talk as you cook. Talk about the procedure. Talk about the ingredients. Discuss how the yeast makes the dough grow. Make predictions about what will happen next. Ask questions and engage their curiosity.

This pizza dough recipe is a winner! It comes together easily, is a cinch to work with, and tastes perfectly doughy and delicious. It would be delicious with any combination of toppings.  My husband and I enjoyed one of the dough rounds with a few ingredients we had on hand; Bertolli’s Four Cheese Rosa Sauce, sliced pieces of leftover Wine and Cheese Sausage, and a generous sprinkle of a Monterey Jack cheese blend.

The kids chose traditional pizza sauce with mild cheddar, bologna, and pineapple tidbits. Such a kids’ pizza!

Everyone was satisfied with their selections. This dough will most definitely be making future appearances in our home. Also, keep your eye out for a basic pizza sauce recipe, coming up soon!

Eggplant Parmigiana

Winter comes on fast here in Syracuse. It seems like one week you’re sweating in 90 degrees weather at the fair and the next week you’re rummaging through the house trying to figure out where you stashed your scarf when winter finally ended in June. It’s a long, cold, snowy winter ’round here, predominated by gloomy, gray skies and frostbitten noses.

But, there’s a short period of time between the summer and winter, where the sun is still shining, but the air carries just a touch of chill; sweater weather. The leaves turn a beautiful rainbow of rusty reds, burnt oranges, and golden yellows. Apples are ripe for picking. It’s perfectly autumn.

And though I don’t particularly care for the long periods of Syracuse winter gloom, I feel a buzz of excitement on the day I wake up to that perfectly autumn weather. To me, the first cool day in September is shouting one thing, loud and clear… Welcome to Comfort Food Season!

Comfort food season. It’s the time for spending a little longer in the kitchen. Time for heating up the oven and letting the warm aromas permeate the house. Time for hot, cheesy dishes, casseroles, and slow-cooked meats with roasted potatoes. Time for forgiving stretchy pants and bulky sweaters. Comfort food season makes this Gourmand Mom a very happy girl.

So, in honor of comfort food season, I’m making one of my childhood comfort food favorites. You see, I’m Irish, Scottish, and Armenian by heritage, but a good part of my family is Italian. I was raised on Italian food. There may not be a drop of Italian blood in me, but there’s the heart of an Italian cook hiding in there. And, as far as I’m concerned, when it comes to comfort food, it doesn’t get much better than Eggplant Parmigiana. Breaded and fried eggplant, layered with cheese and tomato sauce, then baked until perfectly hot and delicious.

My recipe is based on the recipe I was raised with. The secret comes from the combination of three different cheeses between each layer of eggplant; parmigiano-reggiano, mozzarella, and ricotta. The ricotta’s the real key, if you ask me. You can use any kind of tomato sauce in the dish. Homemade marinara or a high-quality store-bought sauce would be fine. I’m using a jar of Bertolli’s spicy Arrabbiata Sauce, which I received in the welcome gift bag over the weekend.

My process for making eggplant parmigiana begins with salting the eggplants. If you’re using freshly picked or baby eggplants, you can probably skip this step. For larger eggplants, which have been off the plant for a few days, salting serves a dual purpose. The salt draws out the bitter liquids which can accumulate in older eggplants, leaving you with a better flavor. Also, as a result of removing some of the liquid, you’ll have a firmer eggplant which will absorb less oil during the frying process.

The entire process of composing the eggplant parmigiana is a little time-consuming, but not complicated. The great part is that is can be prepared ahead of time and refrigerated or frozen until you’re ready to eat. If baking from refrigerated or frozen, be sure to add some additional cooking time to ensure that the dish gets thoroughly heated through.

Eggplant Parmigiana

Ingredients*

  • 2 medium/large Eggplants, sliced into approximately 1/3″ slices
  • Salt
  • 1 cup Flour
  • 3 Eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 cups Bread Crumbs
  • 1/2 cup Olive Oil
  • 2 cups Tomato Sauce
  • 1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese, shredded
  • 2 cups Mozzarella Cheese, shredded
  • 2 cups Ricotta Cheese

* All measurements are approximate. Adjust according to the size of your eggplants and your preferences.

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Arrange the eggplant slices on a baking sheet. Generously sprinkle the slices with salt. Allow the salted eggplant to rest for 15-20 minutes. You will begin to see droplets of liquid forming on the eggplant. Rinse the eggplant slices and pat dry.

Then, set up a dish of flour, bowl of the beaten eggs, and a dish of bread crumbs. Press both sides of each slice into the flour, dip in the beaten eggs, then press into the bread crumbs to thoroughly coat. Repeat this process with all eggplant slices.

Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Places slices of eggplant in a single layer in the pan. Cook for about two minutes, then flip and cook on the other side for two minutes. Both sides should be a golden brown. Place the slices on layers of paper towels to drain. Continue this process, adding more oil as necessary, until all of the eggplant has been cooked. If the bread crumbs remaining  in the pan between batches begin to burn, wipe out the pan and replace with fresh oil before beginning the next batch.

Pour a small amount of sauce in the bottom of a baking dish. To compose the eggplant parmigiana, spread a spoonful of ricotta onto a slice of eggplant. Place the slice on top of the sauce in the baking dish. Sprinkle with parmigiano-reggiano and mozzarella. Then drizzle a small spoonful of tomato sauce on top. Repeat with additional eggplant, cheese, and sauce to create layered towers of eggplant, cheese, and sauce, each without about four eggplant slices. After placing the final slice of eggplant on the tower, top with sauce, then parmigiano-reggiano and a generous amount of mozzarella.

Bake for about 30-35 minutes. For a firmer cheese crust, leave the baking dish uncovered. For a meltier, gooey cheese topping, cover the baking dish with foil for the first 25 minutes or so.

Serve over spaghetti with extra sauce and cheese.


Fine Food meets Fashion ~ What a Night!

Well, we’re back in Syracuse. Home, sweet home and happy to be snuggling my little men. But what a great weekend we had!

Following the welcome dinner with the other winners and the Bertolli team on Friday night, we visited with some friends, then settled in at the hotel for a good night’s sleep. We woke refreshed on Saturday morning and began our day with Bacon, Egg, and Cheese bagel sandwiches. If you’ve been following this blog for any length of time, you probably could have seen that coming. There’s just nothing like a NY bagel sandwich!

Then, we trained our way uptown for a visit to the Museum of Natural History.

After a few hours of wandering the museum, we headed back to the hotel to rest up for the big event of the weekend, the Zac Posen fashion show and Bertolli after-party.

We met the four other winners and their guests in the lobby of our hotel. Everyone looked absolutely smashing. We were picked up by a small fleet of towncars, which shuttled us over to Lincoln Center. Once at Lincoln Center, we were greeted by the chaos known as New York City Fashion Week. Holy Schmoly! For a Fashion Week newbie, navigating the crowds and finding our way to the Zac Posen show was quite a feat.

Once we found our way to the correct location, we stood in a mob/line with the other anxious ticket holders. While we waited, we got to peak at the Bertolli event being set up in the courtyard. I’ve got to say, it’s a pretty exciting experience to watch a catering team preparing a recipe you developed.

The doors finally opened and we made our way through the crowds and past a wall of photographers and videographers, who literally appeared to be stacked one on top of another, to find our seats. While we waited for the show to begin, we watched Carmen Electra, Claire Danes, and America’s Next Top Model judge, Miss J get interviewed at their seats in the front row.

Finally, the lights dimmed, the music rhythmically pounced, and the show began. It was much a faster event than I’d expected, maybe 5-10 minutes long tops. But it was definitely very cool. There’s something very exciting about viewing the culmination of an individual’s hard work, displayed for all to see. Well done, Zac.

Check out Miss J in the bottom right corner, scoping out the fashion.

The models walk the runway at the end of the show.

Zac Posen, triumphant after a successful showing of his Z Spoke collection.

Following the show, we found our way over to the beautiful courtyard for the Bertolli after-party, where a crowd had already begun gathering. The party was lovely and planned to perfection, though somewhat of a surreal experience. I had a hard time slowing my nervous heart rate for long enough to relax and enjoy the delectable food and charming company. Being the focus of any attention has always made me a little weak in the knees.

Thankfully, most of the attention was on the slew of attending celebrities who each took a turn in front of the brightly lit army of cameras. We watched from afar as Claire Danes, Michelle Trachtenberg, Rashida Jones (Parks and Recreation), Jillian Jacobs (Community), and others were photographed in front of a large Bertolli banner. To Rashida Jones, who passed in front of me while navigating the crowds, I said, and I quote, Hi, to which she responded, Hi. I know. You’re jealous of how smooth I am with the celebrities.

Kimora Lee drew quite a bit of attention when she entered the party followed by the film crew for her reality show. She certainly makes an entrance. She is stunning! Absolutely stunning. I was told later by one of the Bertolli crew, that Kimora was filmed eating my Braised Lamb Shanks and loving them!

During one part of the evening, the camera light was focused on each of the winners as we were interviewed about our dishes. Talk about being out of my element. I was shaking so badly that I’m lucky I didn’t drop the dish of lamb I was displaying. The videos have been uploaded to the Bertolli Facebook page. (Click here to see the video.) You can also follow the Bertolli Facebook page to see the five winning recipes, which are gradually being shared. One recipe, for Andreann’s Sausage and Kale Four Cheese Rosa Soup has already been posted. I tasted it at the party and it was fantastic. Definitely worth trying. Keep an eye out for my recipe for Braised Lamb Shanks with Mushrooms and Brown-braised Onions which should be coming up soon! Also look for Margee’s Bean, Poultry & Sausage Polenta Au Gratin, Ally’s Walnut Pumpkin Ravioli with Ricotta and Bertolli Vidalia Onion Pasta Sauce, and Gaylenn’s Easy Seafood Quiche, all delicious!!

Andreann's Sausage and Kale Four Cheese Rosa Soup

We also got to meet Rocco Dispirito, the very gracious host of the event. After saying a few words, he invited each of us in front of the army of cameras to pose for a few pictures. To Rocco, I said something to the effect of, Would you, could you, uh, hi, before motioning to my husband holding the camera. Rocco, possessing much better social skills than I, politely responded, I don’t think we’ve met yet, at which point I introduced myself. In retrospect, an introduction definitely would have been the more courteous way for me to begin a conversation. Clearly, social skills are not my best asset. Sorry for my sloppy manners, Rocco.

Rocco and The Gourmand Mom

The party slowly wound down after that. It was definitely an event to remember!

We spent Sunday eating bagels and pizza and visiting with old friends. This morning, a towncar delivered us back to the airport, beginning our short journey home. It was a lovely weekend, to which I owe many thanks to the Bertolli, Unilever, Ogilvy team! You’re all wonderful and it was truly an honor to meet you!

I’ve got a couple jars of Bertolli sauce in my suitcase just begging to be used! New recipes coming up soon…

Margee, Andreann, Ally, Me, and Gaylenn ~ Winners!

The Gourmand Mom Hits the Big Apple

Hi everyone!

Just wanted to pass along a quick update from our big trip to NYC. If you haven’t been following the story, we’re here as a result of my winning recipe, Braised Lamb Shanks and Mushroom with Brown-braised Onions, which I entered into a contest sponsored by Bertolli, the company which produces delicious pasta sauces, olive oils, and fresh-tasting frozen meals.

We arrived early yesterday afternoon and were greeted at the airport by a swanky Lexus towncar. Not a bad way to start the weekend. The driver got us into the city in a snap and we checked into our room on the 39th floor of the Crowne Plaza Times Square Hotel.

Within a few minutes of our arrival, there was a knock on the door, announcing the arrival of a welcome gift from the Bertolli team. The highlight of the gift was seeing my recipe printed on a glossy recipe card.

By this point, it was well past our lunch time and my belly was burning with hunger. We set out in search of food, specifically Italian food, which my husband had a hankering for. We bypassed an Olive Garden and landed upon a little corner place called Ciro Trattoria. The placard in the front advertised a $15 Prix Fixe 3-course menu, with options such as Spaghetti and Meatballs, Chicken Marsala, or Rigatoni Bolognese. Sounded right up our alley, so we entered.

Upon opening the front door, we were greeted by four uniformed police officers and a self-proclaimed psychotic who’d apparently just downed six Coronas and a Hennessey on the rocks in a thirty-minute time frame before deciding that she didn’t feel like paying. Ahh… good ole New York City. I sure did miss it here. The host ushered us to a comfortable table far removed from the commotion. We ordered our drinks and selected our entrées.

Our meal began with a house salad, in a surprisingly delightful vinaigrette. The sweetness of the dressing provided an excellent contrast to the saltiness of the olives in the dish. Italian bread was served warm, perfectly crispy on the outside, chewy in the middle.

We shared an order of Fried Calamari, which were lightly seasoned and well-cooked. The sauce was unremarkable, but overall it was a pleasing dish.

For my entrée, I selected the Rigatoni Bolognese. My husband had the Spaghetti and Meatballs. Once again, the sauce was somewhat unremarkable, but the pasta was cooked perfectly al dente and the parmesan cheese was particularly delicious. I had no trouble clearing my plate.

For dessert, they served Tortoni; a small ice cream dish topped with a light layer of ground nuts and a cherry. It was delicious. My only complaint is that is didn’t come with extra nut topping!

By the time we left, the raving woman had been escorted out of the restaurant and was standing in the middle of the road yelling at the cars. We made our way past and headed back to the hotel for a much-needed nap.

In the evening, we had the opportunity to meet up with the other contest winners and the Bertolli team at a welcome dinner, which was held in a private dining room at a Bryant Park restaurant called Aureole. What a truly lovely group of people!

The drinks, conversation, and laughter flowed easily amongst this new group of friends. We even had the opportunity to meet an extraordinarily well-spoken and well mannered young man, who floored us with his knowledge of the culinary world. He also happens to be a skilled drummer, bassist, and pianist; a young Rock & Roll chef! He shares a food blog with his foodie mom, called The Mouths, which I will definitely be following!

Dinner was truly impressive, prepared to perfection. I started with the Organic Baby Greens with Fresh Buffalo Mozzarella, Summer Vegetables, and White Balsamic Vinaigrette.

For my entrée, I selected the Beef Tenderloin with English Peas, Smoked Fingerling Potatoes, Pearl Onions, and Sauce Au Poivre. It was melt-in-your-mouth tender and expertly seasoned.

Dessert was a Warm Chocolate Cake served with Pistachio Ice Cream and Candied Pistachio. The flavor was full of rich, decadent chocolate, yet the texture was indescribably light. Chocolate heaven on a plate.

It was a lovely dinner, which I felt honored to be part of. Tonight is the big event at Lincoln Center. I’m both incredibly excited and nervous. We’ll be attending the Zac Posen fashion show, followed by the Bertolli after party, hosted by Rocco Dispirito and Zac Posen. The winning dishes have been carefully scaled down into passed hors d’oeuvres and will be served to the attending celebrities and media. It’s certain to be an event unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.

Wish me luck!

: )

Surf and Turf – Anniversary Style

Five years ago, on a sunny early-September afternoon, I married my best friend. And what a beautiful five years it has been. As I sit here reflecting on the past five years, I am eternally thankful for all we have. Love, trust, respect, humor, empathy. We are acutely aware of how fortunate we are.

Photograph courtesy of Tamela Kemp Photography ~ http://www.tamelakemp.com

After a long dating relationship, begun during our college days, we decided to formally tie the knot, which we’d informally tied long before. We carefully crafted all of the details of our wedding to represent our tastes and the result was a memorable wedding day, which our friends and family continue to remark on.

Photograph courtesy of Tamela Kemp Photography ~ http://www.tamelakemp.com

We married at the Thomas Birkby House in Leesburg, Virginia; a lovely property, circa 1770. We said our vows in front of the carriage house, where 130 or so of our closest friends and family had gathered. The bridesmaids wore warm autumn brown and carried rust colored Leonides roses. I carried a bouquet of ivory roses with moss green hydrangeas.

Photograph courtesy of Tamela Kemp Photography ~ http://www.tamelakemp.com

Immediately following the ceremony, our guests enjoyed a cocktail hour in the courtyard to the sounds of a harpist. Hors d’oeuvres were passed and guests mingled while enjoying the assortment of wines and specialty beers we’d hand-selected.

Passed Hors d’oeuvres Menu

Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail with Tangy Cocktail Sauce

Little Washington Tartlette ~ Melange of Virginia Country Ham, D’Anjou Pear, Baby
Arugula and Parmigiano-Reggiano,

Dried Figs with Gorgonzola garnished with a Poached Cranberry

Smoked Salmon on Sweet Potato and Apple Pancakes

Crispy Tomato Toast with Fresh Mozzarella and Basil

Photograph courtesy of Tamela Kemp Photography ~ http://www.tamelakemp.com

Following the cocktail hour,we moved into a large white tent with a ceiling of soft, gathered fabric and a brass chandelier, where the pièce de résistance of our wedding awaited; the food. Of all the details we’d carefully planned, the food was our highest priority. Well, at the very least, it was my highest priority. And when it came down to planning the meal for our wedding, our plan was certain. Skip the traditional multi-course dinner in exchange for a wider assortment of unique, carefully-crafted, decadent hors d’ouevres; arranged on tables scattered throughout the tent. Casual but elegant. Enough food to fill everyone’s bellies, all in bite-sized portions. My favorite way to dine.

Stationary Hors d’oeuvres Menu

Domestic and Imported Cheeses

Savory Cheese Torte with Sun-Dried Tomato

Creamy Brie with Apricot Preserves

Saga Bleu Polenta Rounds with Beef Tenderloin

Smoked Duck on Pecan Crackers with Red Currant Chutney

Bouchees with Brie, Chutney, and Almonds

Miniature Maryland Crab Cakes on a Bed of Creole Slaw with Red Remoulade Sauce

Sate Station – Grilled Beef, Chicken, and Pork with Hot Mustard, Indonesian Barbecue and Peanut Sauces

Scallop Tostada – Seared Sea Scallop on a Salpicon of Lump Crabmeat and Sweet Yello Corn with Poblano Pepper Aioli

Baby Vegetable Crudite with Yellow Pepper Thyme and Black Olive Feta Dips

Butternut Squash Bisque with California Fruit Chutney and Crunchy Cheese Straws

The surprise standout of the menu was the bisque, which we added to the menu at the last minute after enjoying an amuse bouche of pumpkin bisque at a local restaurant sometime during the months preceding our wedding.

Photograph courtesy of Tamela Kemp Photography ~ http://www.tamelakemp.com

We used a wonderful Washington DC area caterer, Ridgewells, who made our vision become reality. Ridgewells is well known in the DC area and they more than fulfilled our expectations. They even worked with us to design custom hors d’ouevres, including a special Little Washington Tartlette, based on one of the courses we enjoyed at The Inn at Little Washington on the evening we got engaged.

Photograph courtesy of Tamela Kemp Photography ~ http://www.tamelakemp.com

Oh, and the cake! The cake, the cake, the cake! Honestly, while planning the our wedding, the cake was not incredibly high on my list of priorities. I had an idea for the design and, of course, I wanted it to taste good, but I felt no need to run around to various bakeries looking for the perfect wedding cake. We’d tasted a few of the cake selections which Ridgewells offered and it was enough for us to feel comfortable having them provide the cake. We requested a Rich Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Mousse and Raspberry Filling. I remember the moment the first bite of that cake entered my mouth. It was a complete surprise. I had expected wedding cake. Know what I mean? Doesn’t it seem like wedding cake always tastes like wedding cake? Well, not this wedding cake. I was floored by how rich and moist and utterly delicious our cake was. Seriously the best wedding cake I’ve ever tasted.

Photograph courtesy of Tamela Kemp Photography ~ http://www.tamelakemp.com

In honor of our 5th anniversary, I decided to prepare two of the items from our wedding menu, entrée style. An anniversary surf and turf duo of Beef Tenderloin on Sage Blue Polenta garnished with Julienned Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Jumbo Lump Crab Cake on a bed of Spicy Creole Slaw.

I seasoned the tenderloins with salt and pepper and seared them in a hot pan with a bit of olive oil. Then, I placed them several inches under the broiler and cooked in the oven until they reached our desired doneness. After allowing the beef to rest for a few minutes, I sliced the steak, which I served over warm polenta. To the polenta, I added some Saga bleu cheese. Any other bleu cheese would be delicious as well. I garnished the steak with thin slices of sun-dried tomatoes.

For the crabcakes, I used my recipe for broiled jump lump crab cakes, which you can find here. I served the crab cakes on a bed of creole slaw, which added the perfect amount of crunch and spice to the dish. Leftover crabcakes and slaw make to-die-for sandwiches the next day.

Creole Slaw

Ingredients

  • 6 cups Cole Salw Mix (Shredded Cabbage and Carrots)
  • 1/2 cup Mayonnaise
  • 1 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1/2 Tbsp Worchestershire Sauce
  • 1 Tbsp Creole Mustard
  • 1 Tbsp Brown Sugar
  • 1 tsp Garlic, minced
  • 1/4 tsp Cayenne Pepper
  • 1/2 tsp Salt

Directions

Combine the mayo, vinegar, worchestershire, mustard, brown sugar, garlic, cayenne and salt. Taste and adjust seasoning, if desired. Toss with the cole slaw mix. Make several hours or a day ahead if possible.

Photograph courtesy of Tamela Kemp Photography ~ http://www.tamelakemp.com

Later this morning, we take off to New York City for our 3-night getaway, courtesy of Bertolli. Tonight we’ll be attending a welcome dinner at Aureole, which is certain to be a treat! We’ll have a chance to meet the winners of the other categories and the Bertolli team. Tomorrow evening we’ll get dolled up to attend the Zac Posen show, followed by the afterparty, where my winning Braised Lamb Shanks will be served in passed hors d’oeuvres form. Should be a very exciting weekend! Stay tuned for more details.

In totally unrelated news, my little man started nursery school yesterday. Unbelievable.

Winner Winner Lamb Dinner

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Yesterday was Mr. Gourmand Mom’s birthday. (He’s probably not going to appreciate me calling him that.) As the day approached, I began asking him for his birthday cake requests. There was no need to ask what he wanted for dinner. That answer was predictable. Greek Lamb Burgers with Tzatziki Sauce, his favorite dish and a fair request, considering that I’ve hardly made them since beginning this blog. As far as the cake went, he insisted he didn’t want a cake at all.

So this is what we sang Happy Birthday to…

To see the complete recipe for my Greek Lamb Burgers with Tzatziki Sauce, click here.

But, I’m a firm believer that everyone needs dessert on their birthday. So we also picked up these little treats from Coldstone Creamery…

In other news…

I’ve been keeping a little secret from you. Partly because I wanted to confirm what I should or shouldn’t share and partly because I still can’t believe it’s for real. Perhaps you remember a couple months ago, when I posted this picture…

And this picture…

You may remember me mentioning that the pictured dish was my first entry into a recipe contest.

Well, the recipe contest was for Bertolli Ristorante, the company which produces delicious pasta sauces, olive oils, and surprisingly fresh-tasting frozen pasta meals. The idea of the contest was to create a recipe inspired by one of Bertolli’s pasta sauces. I chose one of the sauces in their Vineyard Collection; the Fire Roasted Tomato with Cabernet Sauvignon. Inspired by the rich tomato flavor in this very yummy sauce, I created my dish, Braised Lamb Shanks with Mushrooms and Brown-braised Onions.

And guess what…

It won the grand prize in the meat category! I couldn’t even believe it when I first got the call. I won the very first recipe contest I’ve ever entered. I certainly never expected that to happen! I can still hardly believe it.

Wondering what I won?

The grand prize includes:

  • A trip to NYC to attend an exclusive event hosted by Chef Rocco Dispirito, where my dish will be featured on the menu
  • $500 spending money
  • A signed copy of Rocco’s newest cookbook, Now Eat This: 150 of America’s Comfort Foods, All Under 350 Calories
  • Premium 10-piece cookware set
  • A year’s supply of Bertolli Pasta Sauce

Sounds awesome, right??

Here’s where it gets really interesting. I’ve been speaking to the good people who are organizing the exclusive event. Turns out that the event will take place immediately following the Zac Posen fashion show, as part of New York City’s infamous Fashion Week. The event will be hosted by both Rocco Dispirito and Zac Posen at the gorgeous Lincoln Center, which is currently undergoing a transformation in preparation for hosting NYC Fashion Week. We will have seats at the show and then move across the way into a courtyard area for the Bertolli Ristorante afterparty, where my dish and the winning dishes of the other four categories will be served. We can expect a few celebrities and many members of the media to be present at the event.

Wow! Sounds very exciting.

The only small problem, as I put it to my parents, is that I’m barely fashionable enough for the grocery store. As I was selecting bananas the other day, I made a quick evaluation of my look. Terry shorts with an elastic waistband. Well-worn t-shirt from Target (with a tiny hole on the side). Sandals. Chipping polish on my toe nails. Hair in a ponytail, loose hairs surrounding my face.

Oh Boy. I’m in a much better condition for attending (or participating in) a pie-eating contest than a NYC Fashion Week event. It’s not that I don’t care about how I look. It just plays second fiddle to my homemaking responsibilities. Somehow, when I imagined my life as a stay-at-home mom, I fancied myself as the June Cleaver type. Handle the housekeeping and children with ease during the day, then greet my husband in the evening, immaculately dressed, hair perfectly coiffed, with a fresh baked apple pie and glass of brandy in hand. Turned out to be more of a stretchy shorts kind of job.

This gourmand mom is going to require a serious makeover to get herself in suitable condition for a NYC Fashion Week event. Currently accepting applications for a fashion consultant.

Seriously though, I am so thrilled about winning the contest and the exciting prize that Bertolli is providing. Within the next couple of weeks, my recipe will be posted so you can try it out. I’ll be sure to share the link when it’s available. In the mean time, wish me luck as I try to put together a suitable Fashion Week worthy outfit, learn how to apply makeup, and walk without stumbling in heels. I’ll definitely keep you updated!

EDITED TO ADD: The winning recipe for Braised Lamb Shanks with Mushrooms and Brown-Braised Onions can be found by clicking HERE.

Secrets of An Avon Beauty Boss

Achieving Beautiful Dreams with Avon

The Gourmand Mom

Good food, seasoned with a dash of life

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