craved creation: napa sandwich

Craved Creation: Napa Sandwich

Sometimes the best things in life are also the simplest things.

That’s how I feel anyway whenever I’m eating a napa sandwich from Rybread Cafe. I actually have a hard time ordering anything else when I visit because it’s just that good.

The sandwich itself is just five ingredients (six if you have it with the proscuitto add on). It sounds simple…. almost too simple… to be anything that special, but it just is. Really.

Now, I can sense your skepticism, but just trust me on this…

Build-a-sandwich
Build-a-sandwich

It’s easy to make this light, refreshing and tasty sandwich at home!

  1. Cut the ends off the french baguette and then cut in half
  2. Slice the baguette open
  3. Add a few tablespoons of pesto
  4. Layer fresh mozzarella
  5. Layer freshly sliced tomatoes and some salt and pepper
  6. Drizzle the balsamic glaze to finish it off

Being in the heart of the spring season, this is a great sandwich to have in your repertoire.

Bright and herby pesto, salty mozzarella, fresh and crisp tomatoes, a tangy balsamic glaze — all on a fresh and crusty baguette — you too will soon realize that some of the best things in life really are the simplest ones!

Try it for yourself and enjoy 

Napa Sandwich: Pesto, Mozzarella Cheese, Sliced Tomatoes, Balsamic Glaze, Salt & Pepper on a French Baguette
Napa Sandwich: Pesto, Mozzarella Cheese, Sliced Tomatoes, Balsamic Glaze, Salt & Pepper on a French Baguette

caesar salad with rosemary croutons

Caesar salad — a classic indeed.

I have always enjoyed a good caesar salad, whether it be with chicken, shrimp, steak…you name it! Sure it’s good with some protein overlaying the bed of crisp romaine and yummy dressing, but sometimes the salad alone can be enough.

Recently, my manager at work gave me her recipe for scratch-made caesar dressing. After trying it once, I knew I would be enjoying caesar salad at home more often.

I add my own touch with homemade rosemary croutons for an amazing caesar salad you will want to make again and again!

I have made croutons many times in the past, but one day I was in the grocery store wandering the bakery for bread to make croutons with, when I came across these rosemary dinner rolls.

Now, I’m not sure if I found these rosemary rolls or they found me — but either way, I was really happy we met (and I’m going to assume how excited I was/am about a couple of dinner rolls is completely normal) because they made for something extra special.

If you balance the right amount of olive oil over the bread and time it spends in the oven, the croutons get really crispy on the outside, but still keep a soft, chewy inside.

I’m not giving the end result justice with my description, so perhaps you should just try it to see what I’m talking about for yourself : )

Crouton Preparation
Crouton Preparation

The dressing is what makes this salad. The recipe my manager at work gave me is so good, there was really no need for me to experiment on my own.

It’s not a creamy caesar, but more of a classic caesar with a good amount of “bite” from the fresh garlic that is balanced nicely with the anchovy paste and fresh lemon juice. The coddled egg gives this dressing a rich and luscious texture (if this idea of an almost raw egg* scares you, you can sub out for egg substitute).

*Using a fresh egg or pasteurized egg is best when coddling an egg to reduce the risk of salmonella.

Caesar Dressing
Caesar Dressing

The hard part is over once you’ve made the croutons and the dressing!

All that’s left is tossing everything in a bowl until the romaine and croutons are evenly dressed.

Build-a-salad
Build-a-salad

If you’re low on time, you could always opt for store-bought croutons, BUT if you find you have the time… it is absolutely worth it.

This salad is nothing new and ground-breaking, but there’s just something really enjoyable about a big bowl of crisp romaine lettuce, crunchy croutons and parmesan cheese all dressed in a classically-luscious caesar dressing.

You can serve it as a starter to dinner, or have a big plate of it for a full meal (and if you’re not buying into the whole “straight-up” caesar salad thing, then grill a piece of chicken, steak or some shrimp to top it off).

Try the recipe here for this oldie, but goodie, that will not disappoint!

Caesar Salad
Caesar Salad

live & laugh: shrimp linguini in orange herb butter

Live & Laugh: Shrimp Linguini in Orange Herb Butter

Up until a little over a year ago, I was the opposite of a runner.

I did run track in high school, for two years, but that was almost a decade ago (which by the way was really scary for me to type out — crazy). Anyway, last year I signed up for the 10-Mile Broad Street Run here in Philadelphia with a couple of friends.

I remember the first time I went out for a run to “train” for the race, I literally couldn’t run a full mile! Well, it’s amazing how quickly your endurance can pick up, because in a couple of weeks I was running 2-3 miles without a problem and when race-day did come I was able to finish the race without walking (albeit in pain and not the greatest pace, but finished nonetheless)!

This year, we decided to embark on a half-marathon (13.1 miles) as well as the Broad Street Run again. We just completed both races in the past three weeks — and it felt awesome!

As the races approached, there’s this whole concept of carb-loading, since carbohydrates is where you get your energy when running long distances.

Well, I love carbs, so I thought this concept was just great.

With that in mind, I wanted to come up with a pasta dish that wasn’t your typical red sauce, but also wasn’t in a rich cream sauce since it was the night before a race. I also feel like I’m constantly cooking with lemons, so I wanted a change of pace. What resulted was really delicious — shrimp linguini in an orange herb butter sauce.

This was… really good. You need to try it. I was a little skeptical of my judgement and how the orange would go with the dish, but it just complemented the shrimp and veggies really well and the butter and garlic balanced the sauce from being something too sweet.

I was extremely happy with the end result, so I hope you’ll try it too!


If you’re up for it, and the weather is nice this weekend or in coming weeks, maybe challenge yourself to get out there and go for a run! (If the concept of running gives you a visceral reaction, then challenge yourself to take up something else active outdoors.)

Here are some ideas of goals you can set for yourself if you want to give running a try:

  1. The Color Run 5K: this is a 3.1 mile race that tours the country, it’s a great starting point if you’re just beginning to run. As you run the course, there are pockets of people throwing “color” (aka colored powder) at you so that when you end the race you a) feel uber accomplished and b) look like a walking rainbow — sounds like fun to me!
  2. Road Race Runner or Runners World: these are actually great links for you to find different running events in your area. The distances range from 1-mile to a full marathon (26 miles)! They are great resources to use if you want to find an event out in the future to give you time to train.
  3. Tough Mudder: maybe the idea of straight-up running for any length of time is unappealing (or not challening enough?) to you. Train for this 10-12 mile obstacle course instead then! They have events all over the world, so look for an upcoming event near you.
  4. I hate running: alright, I’m not going to force this running thing on you. So maybe instead, you can find a trail near where you live and go for a bike-ride or long walk. This link will help you locate local trails near you to just enjoy yourself and take in the outdoors, no running necessary…
  5. Support Boston: one of the great things at the two races that we just ran, was the amount of unity there was in support of the tragic event at the Boston Marathon. Everyone wore black ribbons at the half-marathon and red socks at the Broad Street Run to show there support while running the races. Here’s a link to show your own support for those who were affected.

If you decide to make a goal for yourself, running-related or not, I wish you luck! But if you train for a run or some other event, be sure to carb-load with the yummy shrimp linguini!

I am proud of myself for completing the half-marathon — if you told me I would be running 13.1 miles on purpose a couple of years ago, I think I would have laughed at the idea — but I actually did it!

With that said, I really never care to run a half-marathon again — I think 10 miles is my limit. So two things are certain:

  1. I will (most likely) never run a half-marathon again
  2. I will definitely make the shrimp linguini in orange herb butter many times to come

Good luck, and enjoy!!

Have you trained for any races? How did you prepare?

barbecue chicken & shaved brussel sprouts

Something about the weather getting nice always gets me itching to barbecue things. I just love the sweet and tangy flavor of barbecue sauce, especially when it’s used to marinate and grill food like barbecue chicken.

It’s also such a versatile flavor that the sides you can serve with barbecue are endless. I always do my best to serve greens with my meals, and for a while now I have been obsessing over brussel sprouts — so with that in mind, I made barbecue chicken and shaved brussel sprouts for dinner last week.

I think the reason I’ve been obsessing over brussel sprouts is to make up for lost time.

I only started eating them a couple of years ago — we never made them growing up, and I always heard all these horror stories of how horrible they tasted, so never tried it when out to eat.

That all changed when I was out to dinner one night and the person I was with ordered a side of oven roasted brussel sprouts — after trying them I was immediately disappointed I had gone so long in life without having them! Since then, I have found myself roasting brussel sprouts often.

Now, roasted brussel sprouts are delicious and all, but…

  1. They do take some invested time in the oven
  2. Sometimes the centers of the sprouts can still have a tough texture

That is why I recently started making shaved brussel sprouts — with a quick sauté in the pan they are equally delicious and more consistently tender, in a lot less time.

Brussel Sprout Preparation

Barbecue chicken is an easy way to change up your normal chicken routine. With a little time spent marinating, you have a great flavor infused, especially when you couple the barbecue marinade with grilling as a cooking method.

I like to season the chicken with salt, pepper and adobo seasoning.

Adobo seasoning is basically a seasoned salt and usually contains garlic powder, onion powder, salt and oregano (there are other variations though) and it adds a little something extra over the go-to salt and pepper duo.

Chicken Preparation
Chicken Preparation

This dish was super easy to prepare.

It requires very little effort and work, yet produces such a flavorful and satisfying meal. The charred barbecue chicken is really yummy and the brussel sprouts sautéed with the shallots and garlic provide the perfect compliment. Make this for yourself and see!

If you haven’t tried brussel sprouts or have been hesitant in the past, I really encourage you to give them a go — you may find you’ll want to make up for lost time too!

What are your favorite barbecue dishes?

BBQ Chicken and Shaved Brussel Sprouts
BBQ Chicken and Shaved Brussel Sprouts 

lemon blueberry prosecco pancakes

Pancakes. I don’t eat them often… I consider myself a more salty food eater than sweet — and when I do go the sweet route for breakfast, I usually go with french toast.

Even so, every once in a blue moon I get a hankering for some pancakes.

Well this past weekend was one of those times so I decided to make some. Originally, I was going to make more straightforward lemon blueberry pancakes, but I was in the liquor store the other day and walking past the champagne, I found myself wondering how fun it might be to have them in the pancakes. So I went for it and made lemon blueberry prosecco pancakes.

I opted for prosecco over champagne (it happened to be on sale), but they are essentially the same thing, so feel free to use prosecco, champagne or sparkling wine for this.

I will admit it required a little experimentation to get the batter to be the right consistency, but once I figured it out, I was all too excited to make and eat these pancakes!

Batter Preparation
Batter Preparation

Dry Ingredients

  1. Self-rising flour and sugar
  2. Lemon zest
  3. Mix to combine

Wet Ingredients

  1. Lemon juice
  2. Melted butter
  3. Eggs and prosecco
  4. Whisk to combine
 

Once the batter was all prepped and ready to go, all I had to do was heat up the griddle and mentally prepare for pancake flipping.

I have not always been very successful when it comes to the art of the pancake flip — I used to either get too eager and flip too soon (which was not very pretty) or I would wait too long and get a semi-burnt result… By the time I would find the right balance, there would only be a couple pancakes edible out of the whole batter batch.

Sigh.

But then (finally) it clicked. Between working at a breakfast place in high school and watching food shows on tv, the advice of waiting until you see the edges bubble was the missing key.

It does require a little patience (a well buttered griddle always helps too), but once you wait to see those bubbles… voila — pancake perfection!

Make-a-pancake
Make-a-pancake

This recipe created thinner, crispier pancakes that still proved to be light and airy in the middle. They were citrusy and bright, thanks to the lemon and prosecco, and the fresh blueberries provided nice little bursts of sweetness.

I warmed a little maple syrup (the real stuff) on the stove to pour over the stack of pancakes. It’s always special when you have the syrup warmed versus cold from right out of the refrigerator.

The best part of this whole pancake adventure? There was plenty of prosecco left to enjoy with breakfast!

Try my recipe here for a fun and bubbly breakfast!

Lemon Blueberry Prosecco Pancakes
Lemon Blueberry Prosecco Pancakes

 

 

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