Month: November 2012

My Obsession With …SUSHI

Waiting on The Nutcracker to start

November 29, 2012- Waiting on The Nutcracker to start

I was going to blog about a delicious basil and Parmigiano frittata I made yesterday before heading to The Nutcracker with the kids, but the pics came out blurry. My photography skills..which are none btw.

So, I will talk a bit about my obsession.  Sushi.  It’s Friday, which means it’s SUSHI NIGHT!

As you will get to know me you will learn that I obsess about a variety of things…. wrapping paper, my blue hair, falafel, pretty bras, sparkly things, sugar skulls, the holidays, the movie Amelie, green eyes, my mother’s food, coffee, tights, plastic Japanese food, Jason Segel, and, well, gosh there is way too many to list at this moment; but find me on pinterest and you’ll see I am an obsessive loon.

My obsession with sushi; I crave sushi at least 5 days a week.  Do I eat sushi 5 days a week? Well, this summer I was on a roll of a straight 7 days one week!  And my husband is on board with me, too. We are obsessed!  90% of the time, if we are going out for dinner, we pick sushi!!  But my parents on the other hand, they think I am deranged and don’t get the concept of Japanese eating anyway.  But that’s too bad for them!  The thought of sushi right now is driving me batty.  I want to taste wasabi and ginger, and I want it now!

Sushi is so delicious, and the way I feel after eating it is great too.  I never feel guilty after eating sushi.  I never feel like a bloated, fat pig after eating sushi. The way the dishes are presented are always a feast for the eyes, and make me feel special. It’s perfectly wrapped bites of food that you eat with chopsticks. Another obsession of mine! Eating with chopsticks really slows you down to appreciate your food.  Except noodles, I always look a fool eating noodles with chopsticks..they are too darn slippery! Which I did two weeks ago at my new fav sushi place.  My God, I couldn’t get a bite of noodles in my mouth, and cause I was laughing so hard at myself, and might have been tipsy from some wine, that I just made a mess and put on a show for our table neighbors.  heh  But not with the sushi, that all fit right in my mouth perfectly with those chopsticks!

Sushi is serious business!

Jiro Dreams of Sushi.  If you haven’t seen this documentary you must, another obsession of mine, documentaries!  It’s about this 85 yr old Japanese man, Jiro, whose whole life has revolved around sushi and his business, which now his oldest son is looking to inherit.  His son is stressing because he is afraid of not following in his father’s footprints in the same manner.  But his other son, who has a restaurant of his own, went that route so he didn’t have to follow in his father’s steps.  Great story.  Apparently, Jiro is a renowned sushi chef in  Tokyo. His restaurant is a super quaint space with a waiting list weeks and months long, seats something like 8-10 people.  It’s located in the basement of an office building! Which is very common in Tokyo..restaurants in obscure locations.  Well, my husband and I were in Japan in 2004, and seeing a restaurant in an office building setting or in a random place was common.  I am dreading to even admit this.. but I was not into sushi when we were on that trip. I was ..as you might say, a bitch about eating raw fish.  UGH I KNOW!, how could I go to the land of sushi and not even adventure to try it?!  WELL, in my defense, I was a mess during that whole trip.  For some reason I couldn’t get my internal clock going from the second we got there until the day we left..14 days!  The trip seems like a dream at times. I was so out of it I SLEPT THROUGH A TROPICAL STORM!

I have been kicking myself ever since for not going beyond the norm of noodles, yakitori and tempura the whole time we were over in Japan. We keep saying we will venture back to Japan when we are older, not only for ourselves, but for our girls.  I really hope we do.  If we ever do, I’d make a huge sacrifice by getting myself all time changed up here before the trip so I can take the girls to the Tsukiji Market at 4AM to witness the seriousness of sushi, and then eat the eff out of that place as fresh as we can!!!

MAGURO AND SASHIMI ME!!

I am by no means an expert on sushi. Still a total novice, and there are some raw foods I just refuse to eat. Like scallops.  But, there are so many forms of sushi that you can’t ever be tired of it.  My personal favorites are Nigiri (fish on top of rice) and Maki (rice/fish/or veg wrapped in seaweed, or reversed, and roe).  Not a sushi person, or afraid of trying it? If you want to be adventurous and want to start getting into sushi I have some great advice.

First, start with foods you are familiar with.  They offer tons of maki rolls that are cooked or vegetarian.  Being comfortable in what you are eating is what makes it enjoyable. I started that way.  I would go in for only the avocado rolls. Then, once I was comfortable with the tastes of the rice and seaweed, cause there is a flavor to them, I added on another component. Since I really like tuna carpaccio, I went in for the tuna/avocado maki.  Then once I got familiar with that I moved onto the spicy tuna rolls, and then to the straight forward maguro (tuna) sushi. And now try to eat a new combo of sushi often. Though I still love the staples I started with.  There is just something so wonderful about a fresh tuna and avocado roll.  SOOOOO YUMMY!

Well, now that I have induced myself into a frenzy thinking about sushi, I will stop writing and just post some pics.
Have a great Friday!

On the streets of Japan 2004- Plastic food displayed in restaurant's window.  This stuff drove me nuts. Love it.

On the streets of Japan 2004- Plastic food displayed in restaurants’ window. This stuff drove me nuts. Love it.

It's a deer garnish made of beets from my fave sushi restaurant. Also, an obsession..fun and creative garnishes.

It’s a deer garnish made of beets from my fav sushi restaurant north of Boston. Also, an obsession..fun and creative garnishes.

This was a garnish on the fruit. A carrot lobstah!  SUPER CUTE!

This is of a garnish on the fruit at the end of our meal. A carrot lobstah! SUPER CUTE!

Our garnish two weekends ago.  A beet heart.  So pretty! (and i ate some of it.  lol)

Our garnish two weekends ago. A beet heart. So pretty! (and i ate some of it. lol)

Empty sushi plate, before I bit into the heart!

Empty sushi plate, before I bit into the heart!

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

A few years ago, I was soo intimidated by brussels sprouts.  The thought of preparing them gave me cold feet. But once I saw someone prepare them and it was so easy; I got hooked! And at least once a week we prepare them as a side dish.  Below is a walk through on how to clean/prep brussels sprouts, using fresh brussels sprouts.

Brussels Sprouts taste amazing roasted, in olive oil and S&P as I walk you through below, but there is a product I want to share that goes amazingly with brussels sprouts. I really love love love to use a balsamic reduction, or as seen in the photo I am attaching, a balsamic cream. Drizzling a little bit over the roasted brussels sprouts takes the dish to another level with a sweet and sour flavor.  It’s a must try; and can be found at most grocery stores that have an international/Italian aisle.  This reduction is great on a variety of meats, vegetables, fruits and even ice cream!

Balsamic Glaze/Reduction.

What you’ll need:

1.5 lbs Brussels sprouts (prep directions below)
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3/4 tspn salt
1/2 tspn freshly ground black pepper

1 cookie sheet covered in parchment.

Preheat oven to 400F.

Cut off the stems of the brussels sprouts and pull off the bottom and first layers of the outer, darker leaves.  Score the bottoms with an X.

A washed brussels sprout. Isn’t he cute?

Without top layer of leaves.

Without browned stem

Score the brussels sprout with an ‘X’.

Mix them in a bowl with the olive oil, salt and pepper.

Place them scattered on a cookie sheet, and roast until the outside is browned and some outer leaves are crispy, (and that they are tender in the center), about 35- 40 minutes.  I like to set the timer for 20 minutes, then shake the pan up a bit so they brown on all sides.

The finished dish! Roasted Brussels Sprout

☞I enjoy eating roasted brussels sprouts as a snack..with chopsticks.

T’is me. YUMMY! (with the balsamic on it!)

Ugh, some people.

Everyone has a list of things that annoy them.  These are at the top of my mind today. I’m sure there will be more lists in my future. ….

  • Toy packaging. Why on earth is Barbie bolted, taped, twisted, and now sewn into her packaging? They have thread woven through her head to keep it attached to the plastic backing. Toy companies have lost their ever-loving mind with their obsession to keep the toys pretty in the package. Last Christmas, after the big present reveal with my children, I was gauging myself for 40 minutes just taking the toys out of their wrapper! I actually had a pair of pliers! This year, noooooot a fat chance in hell I am doing this.
  • Breaking a nail. This always happens to me right after I notice that my nails are finally looking nice, growing in long and strong. Bam. Break.
  • A weak handshake. This has to be the worst thing to me. Meeting someone, going in for that hello and a firm handshake.. and they give you a limp, lifeless hand. Are you that bothered to shake my hand? Have you injured yourself and the thought of me shaking it scares you? Has no one ever taught you how to shake a hand?
  • Mosquitoes. What purpose do mosquitoes serve? Other than spreading disease, biting and leaving itchy bumps, or as frog & bat food? I just really don’t know and am too lazy to google it. But they seem to love to bite me and I hate them.
  • Dress sizes from store to store is different. Why can’t the size of clothes be universal? Ever notice every store or brand has a different sizing chart? WHY!?!? I want to wear the size I wear to be the same everywhere I go- especially if that number is low! I hate having to figure out if the v-neck tee I want to buy at the The Gap will be the same fit as the one I love from JCrew. So frustrating.
  • Lack of eye contact when speaking to someone. Now, I know some people have a real hard time with this, actually knew someone who just couldn’t do it.. for the most part I figured it’s some submissive reaction. BUT when the person is distracted or is looking around while you are in a full conversation, that boils my blood.  Hi there. See me?  I am talking TO YOU, not anyone else, so at least do me the courtesy of looking at me and acknowledging the words.
  • The overuse of Political Correctness. I am still reeling over the Tom Brokaw apology during the Presidential election vote tally. He made a remark, and excuse me for paraphrasing, but it was something like, “I am amazed by the schizophrenia of America’s political landscape”. Then within minutes he had to apologize for the use of that word and how it’s a serious disease and bla bla bla. FOR WHAT? Ugh, America. You have to be kidding me that we are this sensitive. Yes, schizophrenia isn’t a mental disease to make fun of, but he wasn’t making fun of it. Everyone has to get over themselves, because not everything should be taken so personal.
  • Drama. People that live in a constant state of upset, arguing, or soap opera type situations- minus the hotness that you’d find in a soap opera on TV. I avoid these people like the plague. You wanna know why? Cause eventually I will become the focus of their faux wrath and then I get swept into their insanity.
  • Social Media Haters! You know the people I am talking about. Those that say they are never on Facebook or other social media.. but in fact are all over it. You can see them liking and commenting everything a million times a day, or, updating their LinkedIn profile. No one really cares if you are online..believe me. I don’t care if you are talking to your BFFs, posting political crap (well, this I do care, just STAHP!), stalking your exes, or just playing games. I still love Facebook. Twitter is still not on my hot radar.  I am a social media reject though, thus this blog 🙂 hah
  • Women who complain about the toilet seats being left up. Can we be more stereotypical ladies?? I’ve had an issue with falling into the toilet seat ONCE. Once!! You know what happened after that incident? I started to check the toilet seat every time I would go to sit on it! I grew up in a house with 4 women and 1 man, so the likely hood that I’d be the one finding the seat up was slim, so when I fell in it was a total accident, not a drunk funny story, unfortunatley.  But one mistake as a newlywed, and it’s a learned lesson for life. Look before you sit!

Thanksgiving

That’s me with my double chin- my husband was trying to do me a favor taking pictures of me, cause I take them of everyone.. but this isn’t my best angle. :\ My dress is cute though, right? Navy blue might be my new black!

Had a great time out with our friends this Thanksgiving Eve.  It’s a tradition that when our friends are home from NY we get together either the night before or after.  It means more now than ever before cause now all of us have children, with one of the couples having TRIPLETS!  EEK! I KNOW!  We make it a point to have a kids free night out, geek out on catching up..and drinking a plenty of scorpion bowls.  I LOVE ME SOME SCORPION BOWLS!  And I love me my friends, too. Time always flies when we are together, and I wished it wouldn’t.

My Thanksgiving was a smaller gathering than it normally had been for the past 11 yrs..it was my parents, my husband, our two girls and myself.  My oldest sister lives in Italy, so since 2007 when she moved there we haven’t had a Thanksgiving together. My older sister went to visit the in-laws in the midwest, an annual trip. My in-laws’ home was the usual spot for us in the past, but this year they decided that after three months of renovations, where my sister in-law and family lived with them, they’d treat themselves to a small holiday with their daughter and her family. At the time hearing all this I have to say I got pretty, pretty upset.  It has been set up that we celebrate as one big family the past few years that I just wanted it to stay that way. Everyone at my mother-in-laws. BUT even with these changes, making it a more intimate gathering worked out well in the end.

After a relaxing morning and a home delivered Starbucks latte from my handsome husband, we headed to my parents in the late morning.  I do have to say that I am thankful for my Father not being a football weirdo.  I say weirdo, cause it’s like a cultish religion for some men/women.  And, honestly, I just don’t get it.  I fully understand the sport, don’t get me wrong. And my husband has been trying to get me to like football since we met in 1996.  It just isn’t a thing for me.  Hockey on the other hand. I grew up with my Father watching two things.. Italian soccer and the Bruins. Most of the time I’d pass out cold from the sounds of the fans at the televised soccer games, but the sounds of the hockey games were exciting; and it was fun to watch.  So, when they are not on hiatus, I have been known to get into a game of the Bruins. Watching Milan Lucic is fun too, not so bad on the eyes. Jussaying. But back to Thanksgiving!  My parents prepared a spectacular dinner. Starting with my Mother’s homemade chicken broth and tortellini (photo below). I can eat that dish everyday for the rest of my life and never be tired of it. It’s just that good! Then we had the main course of roasted turkey, which my Mother stuffed with apples, oranges, and dates. The sides were sauteed pumpkin with onions, broccoli, asparagus with parmiggiano, roasted red bliss potatoes, sausage stuffing, and the infamous salad.  A side note, we always make this ginormous salad for the holidays and there is just too much food that no one eats the salad.  So it’s a big joke for us, and we still make that salad!! Dinner was amazing, even had some of that salad.  The cheesecake I made, posted the recipe earlier, and pumpkin pie were a huge hit at dessert. OINK.

My mother’s chicken soup with Tortellini.

The day was so nice and relaxing.  I had brought two crafts for the girls to do, in case they got bored, but they were more interested in showing Nonno how to make and fire pottery on the iPad than crafting (also to play bejeweled with Nonna!).  Had some great crafts too..grabbed two foam cones, a bag of mini peppermint marshmallows, a bag of spiced chewy candy, and a box of toothpicks, to make candy Christmas trees! The other things I brought were blue and white foam snowflakes and pipe cleaners to make ornaments.  But it didn’t matter that they were more interested in something else, cause they had the happiest looks on their faces being with Nonno, Nonna, their daddy and I.  And that is what the holidays are really about.. making those memories for them.  At the end of the evening, while driving home, both girls were still wide awake and talked the entire 30 minute drive about how great of a Thanksgiving they had with us..though they really missed their cousins.  🙂 

Hope you all had a wonderful day too.  🙂

Vanilla Cheesecake with Oreo crust

20 Oreo cookies (about 2 1/4 cups finely crushed- also can subsitute WhoNu Brand)

3 Tbsp. butter or margarine, melted

5 pkg. (8 oz. each) PHILADELPHIA Cream Cheese, softened

3/4 cup sugar

3 Tbsp. flour

1 Tbsp. vanilla bean paste- you can find this at Trader Joe’s (or 1 Tbsp. vanilla extract)

1 cup low fat sour cream

4 eggs

Use a 9″ spring form pan.

Heat oven to 325ºF

Start with the crust.  Mix cookie crumbs, 3 Tbsp. sugar and butter; press onto bottom of pan. Bake 10 min.

You can breakdown the Oreos in an zip-loc bag using a rolling pin, but it’s so much easier in the food processor.

Filling.  Mix cream cheese, sugar, flour and vanilla paste with mixer until well blended.   Add sour cream; mix well.  Turn down mixer to low, add eggs in one at a time just until blended and smooth.  Pour over crust.

** If you would like to decorate the top with the cookies: before baking, take four cookie halves and place on top-pressing them into the filling enough to be stable.

Bake 1 hour 10 min. or until center is almost set. Cool completely. Refrigerate at least 4 hours before taking out of the form.

Fresh from the oven! The cheesecake rises a lot while it’s cooking, and when it’s cooled it deflates and settles into the pan.

Run knife or metal spatula around rim of pan to loosen cake and you are able to spring the form without any cake attached.

Vanilla Cheesecake with Oreo Cookie Crust! Soooo yummy!

What are you thankful for?

I am thankful for my Mother.

The holidays were my favorite times of year growing up. And still are actually; I am like a child around the holidays with food, setting the table, gifts, decorations, and making sure my children understand their importance. But even without a lot of family around growing up, my parents made us feel like we were never alone. It’s always been so baffling to me that I grew up without a lot of family present in my life outside of my Father, Mother and 2 Sisters. But my parents had an immense core of friends, who ended up becoming family, and still to this day call them ‘zio or zia’ or regard them as cousins. But for the most part it was the five of us. My Mother would go all out, buy the best ingredients to make dinner; then we’d celebrate for hours talking, laughing and eating.

In fact, I do have a very large family-lots of Aunts and Uncles, and an unfathomable amount of cousins and second cousins..and thirds, but not here in the States. My parents are immigrants from Sicily. They came to America some 42 odd years ago, before my sisters and I were born; so I am Italian-American, aka first generation. Long story short, my parents, after living a few years in NY, move from where they had a few siblings to where they are now, for better work and living opportunities. Even with the longing of family, my parents, who I believe I mentioned as being amazing people..and if I haven’t, well, my parents are amazing people, made such a wonderful life for my Sisters and I, and they still do.

It wasn’t until I got older that I realized because of the way I was brought up that I am a type of ‘snob’ about food. I use that term snob very, very loosely though, because it’s not that I was intentionally snobbish. I mean a person can’t help but compare what they know to what they see.  For example, something like dinner. I grew up with my sisters preparing the table for dinner, eating a first and second course for dinner..maybe a pasta made with a fresh meat and tomato sauce with a second course of veal cutlets, a crisp salad, fresh sautéed vegetables and crunchy bread. Sounds great right? It was. But then, and this is a true story, the first visit to a friend’s house for dinner. You don’t really think of this, unless you are of another culture. Your expectations are the same as your own home, you wait for the table to be set..but then you see they don’t set the table before eating. Ok, you move forward. Then you are handed a bowl of plain spaghetti, which is fine. But you see them pull ketchup from the fridge to put on their pasta. Wth? Blech. And though this story isnt mine, it’s a story that I have kept in my mind since hearing it when I was 4..from my sister.  But yes, these first glimpses outside your realm are strange and it’d be strange the vice versa, too, I’d imagine. But I just always felt bad for those people. Like they were missing out on so much goodness. Like I knew a secret that they didn’t know. GOOD FOOD MADE WITH LOVE.

So, as I start to think about my Mother, I can’t help but share this Friday’s story.  After a morning of Christmas shopping with me and my 5 yr old daughter, who wore us both out, my Mother went home and started preparing with my Father for the night’s dinner. My Father and my Brother-in-law’s birthday celebration was planned.  She was making dough for her pizza. Our whole family was getting together for this celebration.. this means 6 adults and 4 children, who love to eat. So I thought..’Uhm, it’s real late, why not buy the dough..or the pizza?’ Well, she says ‘there is an honesty to what you make when you do it yourself. You know the ingredients, and a part of you goes along with that’. And you know what, she is right. Even at (cough) 35 yrs old, she keeps teaching me life lessons. She has this ability to make you feel love through her food. It is a phenomena that I feel is so innate. Something that she learned from her own Mother, my beautiful Nonna. A woman who I feel like I know in my soul through my Mother’s stories, but unfortunately, never got a chance to meet. And. Yes, it’s some strange Italian obsession that all our Moms cook like no one elses, but in this instance it is true. Honestly, it’s not about her making you something for your birthday, or, that she’ll hear you driving down her street and already start putting the pan on to make soup for you..she just has this way of making her food comfort you. Even toast! Every bite is delicious. Feels special. Warms you. It’s my Mother.

Holidays and family celebrations are not the same without the good, quality food we grew up with. Which is part of how my Mother made things resonate with importance. Family is important. The food we share is important. The morals and etiquettes we were taught, and, the traditions we carry on are to keep those feelings with us forever, are IMPORTANT. My Mother. I am so thankful for my Mother. I love her so much. She really is a gift from God to me and my sisters. Not only a beautiful woman on the outside, but so much wonderful on the inside. Her passion is evident in everything she touches, and I am proud to bestow this passion onto my children.  Ti voglio un mondo di bene, Mamma.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Be safe in your travels, and, EAT GOOD FOOD, dammit!

                       

Here are 2 images of the amazing pizza my Mother made Friday; from the dough to the sauce all homemade. I can see the love here. And Anchovies unfortunately. haha

Too bad it’s just a picture.

Linguine Fini con Pane Grattugiato Tostato (toasted bread crumbs)

One of my favorite and super, quick dishes to make for my family is a long pasta with toasted bread crumbs. My pasta of choice is always a linguine fini, but any long pastas will work.
The great thing about making this dish is that it literally takes only a few minutes to make- in the time you boil the water and cook your pasta…you are done!

I love having toasted bread crumbs handy for a variety of dishes, as well; so in this recipe I made enough to keep on hand. Toasted bread crumbs last a long time in the fridge and can be kept easily in a plastic zip-loc.

1 cup plain bread crumbs (do not use flavored)

2 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 clove of garlic minced

salt and pepper to taste

1 lb cooked pasta

Put the bread crumbs in a small pan on high heat.  Add in the extra virgin olive oil and constantly stir until all is a golden brown.  DO NOT let the bread crumbs sit on the stove unattended as they will burn quickly. I like to stir and ‘flip’ the bread crumbs to get an even toasting.

Bread crumbs toasted in the pan.

In a bowl, take the cooked, strained pasta and mix it with the garlic, S&P, and extra virgin olive oil, make sure it’s all coated. Then add in a 1/4 cup bread crumbs that you toasted and toss them together.  Top with your favorite grated cheese.

Linguine Fini con Pane Grattugiato Tostato (toasted breadcrumbs)