Tuesday, April 22, 2014

{GF} Four Cheese Ravioli & Meatballs

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With my parents overseas now and settling back into my kitchen, it was time to get my mojo back. For the past few months while my parents were visiting, we were spoiled with dinners waiting for us after work and an overabundance of leftovers wherever there was room in the freezer or fridge. It was nice not having to worry about coming up with a menu plan, writing up a grocery list, setting time to prepare meals after a long day, etc. But reality hit and I am left to feed my boys again. I forgot how much I love kitchen therapy. And one way to get a healthy dose of kitchen therapy is to make homemade pasta. I've been craving ravioli for awhile but finding gluten free ravioli is tricky. You can find it, but will it be good? Will it be worth the extra money to pay for them? That's when I decided to just try making a batch of gluten free pasta myself at home. And you can too! These {GF} Four Cheese Ravioli are pillows of delicate dough stuffed with a blend of cheeses and served with our favorite pasta sauce and meatballs. Comforting and gluten free, what more could I ask for?

Monday, April 21, 2014

Happy Monday! Easter Weekend Recap 4/18 -4/20

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Happy Monday! This past weekend was a relaxing one with no real major events aside from being domestic and enjoying the Easter holiday with family. It was a gorgeous weekend and spring has finally given us warmer temps and sunnier days to take advantage of. Friday, we didn't do much aside from having dinner out at a local Mexican place, followed by frozen custard for dessert and then getting home in time for another episode of Kitchen Nightmares. Yep... we really party it up when the weekend hits lol. We weren't too impressed with the 2 back to back episodes this week, but eh... it was always good to see Gordon Ramsey calling out restaurant owners on things that could be improved.

Saturday was spent doing some spring cleaning in the garage and domestic chores around the house. But the highlight was definitely the tradition of coloring Easter eggs with the Baron's family. This year we had just over 2 dozen to color and decorate. I love how creative we get in coloring the eggs! Our mascot is 'Bruce', as shown here:

Easter Sunday was a beautiful sunny day and we were surprised by a generous Easter Bunny. This was what we woke up to, just outside Joel's bedroom door...

And when the lucky recipient woke up, he was nothing but all smiles, as the rest of us were too. He got some toy golf clubs, perfect to take to the putting green with the Baron. And in his basket, Joel loved his chocolate bunny, jellybeans, m&m candies (his favorite - how did the Easter Bunny know?!) and a special t-shirt he could wear for his birthday. The Easter Bunny must be really smart since Joel's birthday is coming up and this year's birthday theme is one of his favorite shows, Bubble Guppies. The Baron even got his favorite Reese's peanut butter eggs and I got a lovely vase of colorful tulips...

Later in the day, we visited the Baron's family and it was time to search for the Easter eggs we decorated the night before. Joel did a great job finding 21 if the 25 eggs hidden all over the house and as a reward, he came across a creative basket left for him by the Easter Bunny. This basket was filled with some fun toys and more candy!

Then after the fun Easter Egg hunt and a sugar rush, it was time for a few rounds of golf with these fellow golfers...

Dinner was delicious as always. We feasted on a traditional Easter ham, scalloped potatoes, steamed asparagus, harvest salad, garlic & herb dinner rolls and for dessert, a fresh berry salad a la mode. I wish I got more pics of our dinner, but it was so good, we didn't want to wait to dig in! Here's a 'selfie' of me and Joel as we're practicing how to take them together. Clearly, we need more practice lol! Here's hoping you had a wonderful weekend yourselves and a great week ahead!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Domino's Specialty Chicken {Review}

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Earlier this week, we had the opportunity to try Domino's newest menu addition, Specialty Chicken. These are crisp, breaded chicken that are topped with a variety of cheeses, sauces and other ingredients to put them over the top. It's like a great low carb alternative to their pizza menu and overall, we thought it was a creative spin. 

The Specialty Chicken menu offers four different options: Classic Hot Buffalo, Sweet BBQ Bacon, Spicy Jalapeno Pineapple and Crispy Bacon & Tomato. We chose to try two of these flavors for a quick impromptu dinner and to make a meal of them, I prepared a couple sides to pair them up with. 

The Crispy Bacon & Tomato (lower left photo) was good and we enjoyed it with garlic cream macaroni. The chicken was covered in a garlicky white sauce, then topped with a mixture of cheddar and mozzarella cheeses, along with a sprinkling of bacon and chopped tomato. I liked how it wasn't completely covered with 'stuff' and you could actually enjoy it as a chicken dish. The garlic cream macaroni highlighted the garlic sauce used on the chicken nicely.

The Sweet BBQ Bacon (lower right photo) was also good and we enjoyed it with cheddar smashed potatoes. The chicken had a nice sweet and smoky BBQ sauce drizzled over it along with some bits of bacon and a nice layer of cheese. This was our favorite of the two and serving it with cheddar smashed potatoes helped balanced the sweetness of the BBQ sauce.

If ordered alone, these make for a good snack... however if you're looking for a meal, you'll want to pair it up with something else. When you're ordering a pizza, this would be a good item to add to your order for those who want a lower carb alternative. Thank you to the folks at Domino's for giving us the opportunity to try the new Specialty Chicken!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Sweet Potato & Apple Casserole

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For the most part, the Baron and I have very similar tastes. I especially like how he's open to trying anything and willing to venture into more exotic foods. But one common ingredient we don't share a love with are sweet potatoes. Joel and I can eat our weight in sweet potatoes! But the Baron? Oh no... he'll politely decline any offering of such dish. Well, if you're like me, you can appreciate Sweet Potato & Apple Casserole. Part dessert and part side dish, this cinnamon and nutmeg kissed Sweet Potato & Apple Casserole with a pecan and marshmallow topping is a great accompaniment to an Easter ham, turkey or pork roast...

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Dilly Potato Rolls

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It's Thursday! Yesterday was a busy, crazy day which left me away from the site. I was looking forward to sharing another Easter worthy recipe, like these Dilly Potato Rolls. These rolls are not gluten free and I have yet to see whether I can adapt this using gluten free flours. But if gluten laden rolls don't bother you, you're going to love this one. These were rolls made by the Baron's mom, Marnee. I rave about the recipes she prepares because they are always so good. Especially this one. Dilly Potato Rolls are speckled with fresh dill in a soft, tender crumb made with potato flakes and a crisp crust, perfect with a slathering of butter...

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Harvest Salad

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Easter is this weekend... and if you're celebrating, have you figured out what will grace your Easter dinner table? This year, we will be spending it with the Baron's family and I'm sure it will be a delicious meal as it always is. All this week I'll be sharing some dishes that will surely be welcomed on any dinner table for Eeaster or anytime! Since we are in the midst of spring, a colorful salad is a great way to incorporate fresh vegetables. One of our favorite salads involves something sweet, savory, crunchy and creamy. This Harvest Salad brings together tender spinach greens with sweet dried cranberries, savory blue cheese, crunchy walnuts and creamy avocadoes that are tied together with a raspberry vinaigrette. If this doesn't get folks to enjoy eating spinach, I don't know what will!...

Monday, April 14, 2014

Happy Monday! Weekend Recap 4/10-4/12

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Happy Monday! I hope you had a great weekend and enjoyed some good weather in your corner of the world. As for us here in Chicago, we finally had a real taste of spring with sunny skies and temps in the upper 70s! Sadly, it was long lived. There was a bizarre stint of hail in some areas and then today, a snow storm. Go figure. I guess Mother Nature isn't quite sure herself if it's spring yet.

Nonetheless, this weekend was another productive one for me with some relaxation mixed in. Friday night, the Baron and I ditched our original dinner plans of cooking at home and went out to our favorite Japanese steakhouse in the area. Yuri's of Japan is always a great time for us... not so much for the show but just enjoying watching people around us having fun. It's especially great to see kids there. We have yet to take Joel since we're not sure if he'll be ready for fire show and fast paced knife skills the teppanyaki chefs do. Perhaps next year when he's a bit older.

After dinner, we rushed home to catch the newest episode of Kitchen Nightmares. Do you watch this? We're huge fans of Gordan Ramsay and we couldn't miss the first episode of this new season... and it opened with a return to Amy's Baking Company. I won't even bother explaining because it's just better if you watch a bit of these restaurant owners in their tirade...


Saturday was a busy day for me. I went to check out 2 kitchens in the city to teach in since I wanted to find a new, more inviting place. After a couple hours meeting and talking with folks, I've finally found a place to call home for my teaching kitchen! I can't wait to settle in and teach some new classes going forward starting in June. The place I decided on is still renovating so pictures to come! For those in the Chicago area, I'll be based just on the border of Wicker Park & Humboldt Park, steps from the intersection of Western Ave and North Ave.

After checking out potential new spaces, my friend & 'sous chef' assistant Melissa had a private class to teach on French Profiteroles. It was such a fun time and the irony of my client is that her name is Sue Ellen who was also Filipina and is dating a Caucasian named Patrick. She also currently works in the same building I used to work in a few years ago just before I moved back to the suburbs. How crazy is that?! There are a few other coincidences between us after talking a bit more... but seriously? What are the odds?! Aside from that, we had a great time and they did a fantastic job making sweet and savory profiteroles.

Saturday night after teaching, the Baron and I made a few pizzas to take over to our friends who were hosting a potluck party in anticipation of the big Pacquiao vs Bradley boxing match. Being the early sleepers we are, we stayed up just before the fight started knowing we probably couldn't stay awake to watch the match in its entirety lol. But regardless, we had a great time hanging out, sharing a few laughs and enjoying the company and delicious potluck spread!

Sunday was our lazy day. The Baron and I initially planned on working on the yard and doing some yardwork but given the rainy forecast, we rescheduled for another weekend. I also had to reschedule a sushi class I was teaching since there weren't enough students signed up. So we ended up having a great brunch at Johnny's Chophouse... and we left so full, we didn't even need to have dinner until much later that night. After brunch we did some grocery shopping to stock up our pantry, fridge and freezer so I can get back into the cooking and baking mode in the weeks to come - I can't wait!

As for Joel, he enjoyed his weekend with his dad and cousins at the local waterpark. He was so tired from playing at the pool that he ended up taking a long nap the minute we got home lol. He woke up just in time to help make dinner (ravioli with meatballs and garlic bread). And that was pretty much my weekend. Now reflecting back, I'm anxious for another weekend to come around... and with Easter almost here, it's sure to be a fun one!
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