The Latest

Sep 14, 2014

Dear Marian, 

Sooo. Yeah… don’t know if I want to make this post about football because things haven’t been going so well, but here goes. Adam and I attempted to kick off Football Season last sunday with some grilled wings (two ways), but it seems it didn’t work out very well for the Saints. On the other hand, his Jet’s have been faring quite well. 

Grilled Chicken Wangs 

Let’s get on with this. Super easy - per usual. I took about 20 frozen chicken wings and defrosted them in a salt brine to kill two birds with one stone. I always add some sort of sweetener in there - sugar, maple syrup, somethin’ as well as any fresh herbs, garlic, etc I have laying around. Today it was kosher salt, white sugar, rosemary, and a couple smashed garlic cloves. 

I then patted them dray and brought them to room temp. Using a technique I learned from Cooks Illustrated, I sprinkled non fat milk powder on the meat ever so lightly and then sprayed them down with non-stick cooking spray. This helps get those perfect grill marks. 

I turned the wings ever 7 minutes or so for about 21 minutes. I did not add sauce until the last go round, painting it on with a cooking brush and turning once more to hit up the other side. I decided to do one spicey and one sweet. We had some buffalo sauce as well as Teriyaki in the fridge so  that solved that problem. Serve with some celery and carrots and you have yourself the best game day snack ever. 

A little bird projected that the Saints were going to go… all… the… way…. but after the last two weeks, well, we might need to do some prayin’.

Cheers!

Melanie  

Sep 5, 2014

Dear Melanie,

Wow. Your last post was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. Are you sure you are not working for Martha Stewart Mag? Mine is not so pretty but it does contain an innovative and healthy dinner option.

Homemade Caesar Salad

I have decided after trying many purchased bottles of Caesar salad dressing that I will not buy one again, they’re terrible. I decided to take a leap and make my own, following this amazing fool proof recipe from Food Network. It was soooo good. I’ve used this recipe thrice since. I washed and chopped up some romaine and made croutons using these yummy sprouted whole wheat buns I got from my local health food store. I just cut them up into squares, lightly tossed them in olive oil with grated Parmesan cheese and toasted them in my mini oven until they were nice and crunchy. I threw in some extra Parmesan in the salad and seriously, my favorite Caesar ever.

Baked Turkey Parmesan Burgers

I made the turkey patties using my turkey meatball recipe. I used a pound of ground turkey, added one egg, a 1/2 cup of chopped green onions, a 1/4 a cup of panko (or breadcrumbs), sprinkled in Parmesan cheese, red pepper flakes, dash of fennel, salt and pepper. I heated up the burgers in the oven at 425 for about 10 minutes. Then I poured on some marinara sauce (I bought it this time) and laid on some fresh Mozzarella and baked another 7 minutes, or until the cheese was melted nicely. I used the same buns for the burgers and spruced them up by spraying on some olive oil, rubbing them with fresh chopped garlic and toasting them for a minute. This was the best turkey burger I’ve ever made - so juicy and so much flavor.

I’ve since made this Caesar salad for my friends. I just added some sliced baked chicken breasts and it was a huge hit. I brought a huge bowl to Shakespeare in the Park where we enjoyed a free viewing of The Taming of the Shrew - soo funny.

Looking forward to more of your posts!

Love,

Marian

Sep 1, 2014 / 3 notes

Dear Marian, 

Thanks for getting this back up and running again. Sorry to all of our “followers” for the lack of attention but it has been a crazy year and you would be surprised to know how much time it takes to do these posts! 

Adam and I recently purchased our first home together in Dallas so the past three months has been filled with trips to Lowe’s and Home Depot, workers constantly in and out, nights spent weeding, cleaning, and dusting, and more cleaning and dusting. I am exhausted just thinking about it but it is worth every bead of sweat and penny. Every morning I wake up with a smile on my face thinking about how obsessed I am with our new home and this next chapter.

So in honor of Labor Day, we decided (aka I) to throw a little House warming slash Labor Day Soiree - we invited 50 of our closes friends, and were excited with 20+ actually showed up!

On the menu this evening was Slow Cooked Pork Shoulder, Quinoa Salad with Lime and Cilantro, Watermelon Salad, Funfetti Cupcakes and a little Watermelon Cocktail to sip on. The Watermelon Cocktail was definitely the hit of the night so I will start off with that.  

Watermelon Cocktail 

The most painful part of prepping for this party was cutting, blending, and then straining a 13 pound watermelon. It takes time, but don’t skip the straining part - it does make a difference. You obviously don’t have to make enough for 20 people so here is the basic recipe: 2 cups watermelon juice, 1/2 cup vodka, 1/4 cup triple sec and 2-3 tablespoons of lime juice.  I believe I multiplied this by 7… and we still could have had more! I mixed everything together a couple of hours before the party so that all of the ingredients really melded together. Poured over ice with a watermelon wedge garnish and you have yourself the perfect summer cocktail! PS - technically this is healthy… no sugar added or needed! 

Slow Cooked Pork Shoulder 

Pork shoulder is one of the least expensive cuts of meat which I love when serving a crowd… I got the largest one at the grocery, around 5 and a half pounds and it only cost me about 17 bucks. I would say as a main course this could feed 10-12. I covered it with brown sugar, a bit of cayenne, salt, pepper, paprika, cumin and garlic powder and seared it on all sides in a cast iron skillet. I laid a bed of sliced onions and carrots on the bottom of the slow cooker and added in a small can of tomato paste and a 1/2 cup of apple cider vinegar and sloshed it around. I laid the shoulder on top and poured the juices from the searing pan. I cooked it on low for 8 hours. When it was done almost the entire cooker was filled with juice. I took the meat out, chopped it up and set it aside. I took the juices from the pan and completely blended everything - carrots, onions, drippings, the whole bit. And then you had sauce. Mix in a cup of this with the meat and you are set.  

Quinoa Salad with Cilantro and Lime

I got this recipe from a magazine, but I feel like you could swap out any and everything to make it your own. I added purple onions which I let sit in the lime juice overnight to mellow out there flavor. 

I prepped everything the day before so that I could just mix everything together in a bowl the day of. Cook 1/2 cups of quinoa according to package directions. I have not mastered the art of making the quinoa fluffy but I will say I did master the flavor this time by cooking it in chicken broth. Once this cooled I added in one cup of defrosted edamame, one cup of defrosted corn, the diced purple onion soaking in 1/4 cup of lime juice, about a handful of chopped cilantro, and a half cup of halved cherry tomatoes. Season to taste if needed. Mix. Done. 

Watermelon Salad

My go-to this summer. I think I have made it about 10 times in the past three months. Love, and super easy. I chopped up 1 large watermelon into chunks, topped it with feta and fresh herbs - my favorites are mint, basil and cilantro. Sometimes I will add olive oil if I am feeling fancy but it really doesn’t need it. Since I was feeding a crowd I put the herbs and cheese on top so that it wouldn’t get soggy. The feta seems to bring out the juice of the watermelon so I put the herbs in between to slow this process (so the bottom wouldn’t get all mushy!). 

Enjoy and here’s to Dinner Sister’s being back!

Happy Labor Day! 

Mel

Aug 4, 2014

Dear Melanie,

It’s been so long since I’ve posted! We’ve both been very busy and I was debating whether or not to get this site up and running again for a while now. After I made Nick biscuits and gravy and shared the pictures with my girlfriends, their immediate response was, “My boyfriend like, totally, loves that, can you please send me the recipe? He would flip.” And so, I’m totally writing the recipe and sharing it with the world.

It all starts with the perfect biscuit. I did not come up with this recipe. I am not Betty Crocker - although Sue Sue Bruno is well on her way. Yay Culinary Institute!! I found the recipe HERE. Follow it to a T and you will not fail. All you need is buttermilk, unsalted butter, flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Buttermilk is a scary word but in fact it’s not any worse than regular milk - it’s simply milk gone sour with vinegar. I didn’t have a food processor, just a hand mixer, and it worked fine. I just made sure to cut the butter up into super small squares and got my fingers in there to help along the way. I also did not have a biscuit cutter, just used a glass that was the same size. Ok, you’ve got the biscuits. They will totally rock your world. I officially love making biscuits now. I feel so connected to the South when I get my hands in there.

I set aside the biscuits and waited to bake them while I made the gravy. Make sure you have turkey breakfast sausage (comes in the tube by the bacon at the grocery), green onions, and milk - everything else is the frills. I only used half of the turkey tube (sounds raunchy but it’s good, I swear, and better than pork) and put the rest in the freezer for another morning, so, if you use the whole tube just double up on the onions and whatnot. Start by chopping up about 4 to 5 stalks of green onions and sweating them down in about a tablespoon of butter. This time I had a half a box of mushrooms I wanted to get rid of so I chopped those up into small squares and threw those in with the onions. Then add the turkey sausage.  Use a fork to break it apart until it looks like taco meat. Move that around a bit and then add whatever spices you like. I added salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, a little white pepper and garlic powder. Then I dropped in a couple of tablespoons of flour and mixed it around until the meat was coated and the flour turned the color of the meat - this is important because this creates the thickness you need for the sauce. Then add about a cup or two of milk. Start by adding a cup and stir it, give it a couple of minutes and it will thicken. You can also add part chicken stock, part milk, so it’s not too creamy. Just go with what you like and stop cooking it when you like the consistency. It will firm up once you turn off the heat. You can always add more milk or chicken stock and stir it up right before serving - definitely do that.

The next day, I had some leftover biscuits and made THE best breakfast sandwich on the planet: biscuit, eggs, bacon, avocado and syrup. And of course, I served it with parmesan grits. YUM. I will miss this breakfast. All other breakfasts will pale in comparison.

OK ladies, go forth and make your man the happiest you’ve ever seen him.

XOXO,

Marian

Dec 16, 2013

Dear Marian,

I am sharing this post only for the pictures and not for the recipe. I made homemade Fruity Pebble Ice Cream over a month ago and it was a hit in that it tasted just like the milk you were left with as a kid after eating a bowl of this for breakfast (?*&%#!), but it was also so damn sweet you could hardly eat a scoop of it.

So enjoy some ice cream prep pictures - I used a basic ice cream recipe but let the cereal soak in the milk for a couple of hours in the fridge before I prepped it for the ice cream maker. In the recipe it said that the sweetness would mellow out post churning but not as much as it needed to be. I blame the sweetness on the combo of the cereal and the sweetened condensed milk - together it was too much.

I made another batch last night with Cinnamon Toast Crunch, which came out much better (use a combo of 4.5 cups of 2% Low Fat Milk, 1 14 oz can of sweetened condensed milk, and a packet of instant vanilla pudding), pretty easy. I will post pictures of it tonight when we do the official tasting!

Love,

Melanie

Dec 14, 2013

Dear Melanie,

Here’s a healthy and hearty side dish idea for a Christmas party buffet that I made a while back.

Citrus Cranberry Walnut Farro Salad

I let the farro sit in water overnight and then boiled it according to the packaged directions. I made a vinaigrette out of fresh squeezed oranges, orange zest, vinegar, a tablespoon of sugar and a splash of champagne with a little salt and pepper. I whisked it up real well and set aside. I allowed the farro to cool and put it in a big serving bowl. I added chopped walnuts, a healthy handful of chopped green onion, a 1/2 a cup of cranberries, and fresh chopped parsley (however much you like).

This night I served the salad with some roasted chicken (store bought - guilty) and some steamed green beans flash sauteed in olive oil and garlic powder. This salad was excellent cold and stayed in the fridge a couple of days after and was great for a snack or dinner accompaniment. 

There are many recipes to come…Including pictures of our Thanksgiving spread.

Love,

Marian

 

Dec 10, 2013

Dear Marian,

Sorry I have once again been off the grid! You would think that I had all the time in the world to spare for cooking and blogging now that I don’t have a job. Don’t exactly know what I have been doing but I seem to keep myself very busy and I guess all of the travel doesn’t help :-) No complains here, just yet…. 

Spicy Eggplant Pasta

I actually made this dish a couple of months ago but I am happy that I am just now posting it because it is perfect for a chilly (today absolutely frigged) winter night. This dish is super easy and I think you could totally substitute it for any other vegetable - like squash or zucchini or even portobello mushrooms. Since I was using eggplant, I started out by cutting it into quarter inch thick rounds, and then about one inch strips. In a single layer I then salted the eggplant and let them sit on a bed of paper towels to release their moisture. I repeated this process on the other side and then dusted the excess salt.

In batches I browned each of the strips in my heavy cast iron pot (here is a link to my favorite, which also happens to be super inexpensive and the same one Cook’s Illustrated recommends). While I did this, I started on my red sauce, which is essentially finely diced sweet onion and garlic, which I let cook in olive oil on medium to low heat for at least 20 minutes until they are translucent and almost melding together. If I am in the mood, or have a bottle of wine open, I will add a little red wine to loosed up any bits on the pan. I then add in my spices: basil, oregano, parsley, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper and of course a 16 ounce can of peeled Cento Tomatoes. I mash the whole tomaters up either with my hands, a wodden spoon, or a potato masher depending on my mood. Et Voila!

Once all of the eggplant is cooked, I toss it into the sauce along with some beautiful linguine pasta I grabbed from an Italian Grocery here in Dallas. Topped with some fresh basil and deliciously nutty Pecorino Romano and you are done!

If you would like to see more of Cook’s Illustrated’s top picks for the kitchen, click here for my Pinterest page dedicated to the entire list!

Ciao Bella!

Melanie

Nov 23, 2013

Dear Melanie,

Your trip looked nice.  I went on a trip of my own. It wasn’t to Italy, it was more of an emotional trip. Artists tend to go on those. It’s how we get inspiration to create. I’m glad to be back and there’s a lot of good things to come in my career and of course in the kitchen. I love to eat when I’m happy.

Beef Carpaccio

The success of this dish depends on the cut of meat. This was Trader Joe’s best stab at providing the right stuff. It did the job. Next time I’ll go to the butcher. I laid down the carpaccio, mixed up some arugula in olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper and topped it off with shaved parmesan cheese.

Pappardelle with Turkey Ragu

Whipped up some tomato sauce and threw in ground turkey and then put it on some pasta. No Emeril Lagasse required.

Roasted Asparagus

Just tossed them in some olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic powder and roasted in the oven at 425 until it was crispy and brown on the edges.

Love,

Marian

Nov 10, 2013

Dear Marian,

On our first full day at the villa a group of us decided to drive down to Arezzo, a small town just south of where we were staying, for lunch. We ended up walking away from the main drag and down a small street where we found this lovely restaurant, Osteria da Luchino. I think the waiters were a bit pissed off at us because we were a party of 10, and we didn’t sit down until a little before 2 which is their closing time.

Once again we were served beautiful, fresh plates of pasta. A couple of us started off which a Tomato Terrine, which I have never ordered or seen before so it was a complete surprise when it was placed in front of me. It ended up being very light and refreshing which was perfect on the hot August day.

Quick fact: I took over 1400 photos on this trip. I ended up weeding out about 300 of them (repeats, angles, bad lighting) but still ended up with a butt ton of beautiful pictures, so enjoy!

Ciao!

Melanie

Nov 9, 2013

Dear Marian,

I am sorry for the influx of letters but I feel like I need to share the wonderful places we found - and the amazing photo’s we got as well! We were joined by Mary on night two in Florence so luckily we got to share this next amazing spot with her. While I was studying abroad here, the San Lorenzo market was one of my favorite places to go. I remember the first time I walked into the doors and all of the smells, sounds, food, people, excited me. We walked around a bit before we decided on a joint, which was a good call because there are so many places that it makes it very hard to decide. I don’t recall a name but if you ask anyone where to get the “Orgasmic” sandwich they will point you in the right direction.

Once again we let our waiter lead us a bit, and after we answered a couple of questions she started bringing out the food. We started with a a glass of wine of course, along with Tuscan style chicken salad, with sundried tomatoes, capers, fresh herbs, celery, hearts of palm, lettuce and a vinegar based dressing. Next came a plate of cheese and meat along with fresh bread. Adam wanted something a bit more substantial so he ordered the Orgasmic for himself - yes it was good, no I would not say it was orgasmic but it was huge, so maybe that’s where the name came from!?

After lunch we walked around the remainder of the market, picking up tons of goodies along the way, aged balsamic, truffle butter, fois gras, truffle tapenade, squid ink risotto, you know all normal everyday things.

Next stop: the villa!

Ciao!

Melanie

Nov 8, 2013

Dear Marian,

This one will be short and sweet since my novel yesterday seemed to go on for hours! Since Adam has been all about homemade pizza over the past couple of years I wanted to take him someplace notable while in Italy - for true Neapolitan style pizza. I hate to admit how we found this place, but it is the number one pizza joint in Florence and man did it meet all expectations. A beer and whole pie will cost you about 10 euro’s which is amazing, especially because you are getting the best and freshest ingredients out there.

We headed across the Arno River to a neighborhood called Oltrarno to Gusta Pizza. There are only about six options to choose from, but any one you go with will be a winner. I got a basic Margarita and Adam did something with a spicy meat which was dee-voon.

And I’m out.


Ciao!

Melanie

Nov 7, 2013

Dear Marian,

Here is the climax of our trip. Il Latini. My absolute, most favorite, delicious, amazing restaurant on Earth. I know a couple of ladies who might agree - ah hem Lane Stoulig and Kim Miller… so I hope they really enjoy this post! I was very nervous before Adam and I went because I have been talking up this restaurant for years - literally. So I was really hoping they would over deliver, and they absolutely did. This is the kind of place where you really want your server to guide you in your meal. Don’t ask for a menu because you don’t need one. Don’t order wine off the list because the table wine - which is already on your table when you sit down, is delicious and perfect for everything they serve. Yes you will find this in the tourist books, but get over it - locals and visitors a like all go here for the same reason, amazing food. 

I saved a couple of pictures from my past visits on my cell phone, which brought us some amazing memories not only for me but the servers who were still working at the restaurant. I fun to hear about where some of the missing guys were - who had babies, went off to school, moved to San Francisco… etc and to also see that many of the same faces were still there.

We told our waiter that we wanted just little tastes of everything, so he started us out with some freshly baked bread, prosciutto and melon of course, a cold barley salad, and another cured well marbled meat which you cannot see in this picture. Adam polished off not only his plate of prosciutto but almost all of mine as well and that was only Round 1.

The second course was three different pasta’s: Rabbit Gnocchi, traditional Tuscan style Bolognese, and a spinach and Ricotta Ravioli. My lord we were both in heaven. And we told ourselves we would not finish everything and then all the sudden the plates were licked clean. Oh well, when in Rome. Onto round three. 

Our third course was another melange, but this time a melange of meat - Roasted Chicken, Pork Loin and who knows what kind of steak, but it was red meat and it was drizzled with this amazing brown sauce that I could drink with a straw. But it didn’t stop there - they then placed on the table fried Zucchini Flowers (love!) and roasted potatoes that when you placed them in your mouth you just melted, literally, like butter. I don’t know how they got the potatoes so crispy on the outside and absolutely perfect on the inside with just the right amount of salinity but next time I go back I am volunteering in the kitchen.

Just when you thought you couldn’t put another thing in your mouth, all of the plates were removed, new silverware was put in its place, and three different desserts landed on the table. My favorite are their biscotti cookies, which are complimentary and cooked in house.

Now mind you, during this entire process Adam and I have also polished off almost two bottles of the house red wine and now glasses of Moscato and Champagne are being placed in front of us, and repeatedly refilled as they pass in front of the table. There was no way we were going home after this meal, so Adam and I hit the streets of Florence for an impromptu walking tour where I attempted to remember everything I had learned over 8 years ago during my study abroad. I have to admit I did a pretty good job, although my book helped me with some of the dates and random names.

I absolutely cannot wait to take the family here next summer. I am debating between reserving the cellar downstairs or sitting beneath the stars like Adam and I did. In the end, as long as the next time I am there is with you and the rest of the Bruno crowd I will be a happy camper.

Ciao!

Melanie