Mrs. Carla Monti

Mrs. Carla Monti

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Blue Apron ... take two!

I recently reviewed Home Chef, a DIY meal kit that gets delivered to your house complete with all the ingredients you would need to make three different dinners.

I was able to try Home Chef for one week, because one of my co-workers recently signed up for the program, which lets you invite a friend to try it for free. She also tried Blue Apron, so I got to try one of their new boxes as well.

I was thrilled to see those well-known blue labels again, and here are the dishes I made.

Chicken Khao Soi

A spicy chicken curry dish with kale, served over rice. The recipe calls for crispy wonton noodles to serve as the starch (like pasta) but unfortunately these were the only thing missing from my box, so I served the curry over rice. This was so flavorful and I loved the curry flavor. The freshly-squeezed lime juice was the perfect way to cool down that spice.

You can find the recipe here.

Takeaways:

  • I prefer using spinach to kale.
  • I would have roasted the chicken breast in the over, versus cooked it in the pan.
  • Next time, I'd add another vegetable or maybe chickpeas.




Stir-Fried Beef & Broccoli

This was my favorite dish out of the three. I had made a similar dish the week before from my Home Chef box, but this one was better. I got a nice slight char on the broccoli, and the soy glaze marinade worked really well with the beef. I had never eaten or cooked with a persimmon before, and that ended up being the best part! A persimmon is a fruit that looks like an orange tomato. This recipe called for dicing it finely, and marinating it in mirin and rice wine vinegar, before adding it to the cooked white rice.

You can find the recipe here.

Takeaways:

  • I LOVED the taste of the marinade for the persimmon, which was rice wine vinegar and mirin. I already keep rice wine vinegar in my pantry for my weekly Asian-marinated salmon, but I've definitely put mirin on my shopping list for next time, as well as persimmon. I want to make this rice dish again soon.
  • I just love the beef, broccoli and asian flavor combo. I definitely need to work this in my biweekly repertoire. 


Provolone Cheeseburgers

This was my least favorite dish in the bunch. There was nothing wrong with it, but it seemed blah. Although the ground beef was organic and of very high quality, the recipe simply called for minced fresh garlic to add to the beef for flavor and I thought that was too little. I doubled the amount of garlic, and added some Worcestershire sauce as well. I hate beets so I skipped that part. The roasted potato wedges were good, but needed a dipping sauce. I mixed together ketchup and mayonnaise to use as a dipping sauce for the wedges, as well as slathered one half of the potato buns.

You can find the recipe here.




Fries to Caviar: Review!

One of my good friends has been raving at the happy hour at this restaurant for months, so finally I met up with her to try it. It's more pricey than I would say the standard happy hour, but it's certainly worth it as the food is not only inventive, but delicious!

Website here!

First up, spicy fried shrimp and pineapple in an Asian glaze. So tasty and the spice was just the right amount of kick! The pineapple works really nicely with the shrimp.


Next, chicken and waffles, with chunks of fried chicken stuffed into a waffle cone, topped with whipped mashed potatoes, and served with two sauces, a thick mushroom sauce, and sweet syrup! Of course, this dish was topped with the requisite slice of bacon.



The last dish we tried was the rigatoni bolognese, which was absolutely spectacular, and I am very particular when it comes to pasta!


This is the house Cabernet they offer for happy hour - it was nice and light, not as full-bodied as most other Cabs.


Friday, November 10, 2017

My Love Affair With Aldi's!

I am a newly devoted shopper at Aldi's, and I try to make it there at least once a week. When cooking dinner for some friends a few weekends ago, I was shocked to discover that my entire purchase (appetizer, entree and wine) for dinner cost only $31! Check out my haul below.


Having tried and tested several times, I feel confident enough to write a brief guide on what to definitely buy at Aldi's, and what to avoid.

Buy, buy buy!

  • Salmon, salmon, salmon! It is delicious, and HALF the price of what you are paying at Publix or Whole Foods, easily!
  • Chicken breast - the flavor is the same as Publix, and a bit cheaper too.
  • Wine! I love their Winking Owl brand (less than $3) a bottle. I buy white to cook with and Cabernet or Merlot to drink!
  • Fresh produce: spinach, zucchini, yellow squash, strawberries, etc. I wish that you could buy just ONE thing, like one large potato, instead of a huge bag of 10, but oh well.
  • Chocolate - they have some delicious and very legit German brands for sale
Skip!
  • Toilet paper, baby food/snacks, milk, chips, bread. I had bad experiences with these, so I save these for my Walmart/Publix trips on the weekends.

Toast & Soup!

I saw a video on Bon Appetit's Facebook page for cashew cauliflower soup and I made it a few days later. This soup is creamy and really tasty, especially with the topping made of buckwheat groats (had to go to Whole Foods for those!), paprika and lemon juice. Recipe here!

To accompany, I made avocado toast (how millennial!) on sourdough bread, topped with an egg. Yum!



Farmhouse Kitchen: Review!

I have been a fan of Gary Racks' restaurants since the first time I went to Racks' in Mizner Park. Gary is a well-known restaurateur in our area (Boca Raton / Delray Beach). I recently went to brunch at his restaurant Farmhouse Kitchen in Boca with two girlfriends and it was fantastic!

They have an unlimited mimosa deal for $14, which is standard for bunch in our area, but when we went a few weeks ago, if you checked in on Facebook and showed the manager - your unlimited mimosas were free! It was a fabulous deal, and one we took well advantage of.

The avocado toast to start was yummy, as was the steak and eggs, and brownie sundae that followed.





Home Chef: Beef & Broccoli!

Now this one was a home run in my house. The strips of beef were perfectly cut and portioned, and seared nicely. The Chinese broccoli was delicious after it had roasted in the oven for a few minutes. The sauce made of peanuts, soy sauce, red pepper flakes and brown sugar was very tasty. We'll definitely be recreating this dish soon!

Recipe link here!




Home Chef: Shrimp Scampi & Cheesy Bread!

Meal #2 from our three meal Home Chef make-yourself-dinner box was shrimp scampi with cheesy bread. I made this for myself, and took the leftovers to work the next day, on a night hubs worked late and the kiddo stayed at her grandmother's.

I wasn't completely blown away by this dish, and I think the decision to make the cheese for the bread mozzarella was a poor one. It lacked flavor, and really needed a stronger cheese. The shrimp scampi was okay, but the shrimp were smaller than I am used to.

Recipe link: here!






Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Home Chef: Umami Burgers!

One of my friends at work recently signed up for Home Chef, a Blue Apron style meal delivery service where you do all the prep work and cooking at home. My husband and I are big Blue Apron fans - it about saved my life after I had G and went back to work and couldn't figure out how to also go grocery shopping and cook dinner. Once I got my groove back, we cancelled the service, but we certainly have fond memories of that time.

Home Chef allowed my colleague to send one week's worth of meals to a friend for free, so last week Mike and I received our box! Last night I cooked the first of three meals, Umami Burgers!

The recipe link is here.

My take was that the burgers were good, but too oily for my taste. I liked the aioli, mushrooms and cheese combo, but choose not to put red onion on mine (hubs did for his). I accidentally used the sweet potato for a separate dish last week, so I roasted some small yellow potatoes to use as the side dish to the burgers.




Monday, October 23, 2017

Pumpkin Chili and Cornbread Muffins!

I had some good friends over for Sunday night dinner, and I decided to make pumpkin chili, because apparently I haven't hit my pumpkin threshold yet this fall (so far!)

I found a recipe to make it in a crockpot, but decided to sweat the onions/garlic and brown the ground beef on the stove top first. Then I added all the ingredients (chicken broth, chili beans, black beans, corn, tomato paste, tomato sauce, canned pumpkin, smoked paprika, chili spice, cayenne pepper) together in the crockpot, and let is stew on low for 8 hours.


Next, I got some orange bell peppers, scooped out the insides, and carved them like mini jack o lanterns!


I made some simple cornbread muffins to serve alongside the pumpkin chili.






The fall table, complete with the requisite cheddar cheese and sour cream.


No good Sunday dinner is complete without some red wine and beautiful glasses!


My very talented friend made these beautiful brioche donuts that tasted like heaven!


Mini Bundt Cakes!

I really love my mini bundt pan, but I definitely do not use it enough. When I saw a new fall recipe for pumpkin spice donuts show up on my Facebook feed, I immediately thought to make them into mini bundts. These came out lovely, and I made a simple glaze of confectioner's sugar and milk to dip them into. The cakes definitely tasted better with a cappuccino in hand!








Pumpkin Ale Cupcakes!

Another one of my fall baking staples are my pumpkin ale cupcakes. There is no canned pumpkin in this recipe - instead, a 12 oz bottle of pumpkin ale (yes, beer!) serves as the subtle pumpkin flavor, and the fizzy beer makes for a very moist and fluffy chocolate cupcake. Paired with my pumpkin spice Baileys and cream cheese frosting, these are always a hit at the office and at home.



Bento Box Love

I LOVE my bento box - style lunchbox, and I try to use it every week to switch it up for my office lunches.

Here's an example of what a few of my lunches last week looked like:



  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Baby carrots
  • Cucumber
  • Roasted pine nut hummus
  • Whole wheat sandwich thins with mayo, sliced chicken breast (deli meat) and sharp cheddar cheese


Healthy Weeknight Dinners, part 2!

Roasted Salmon Dinner:



  • Asian-marinated salmon filet (rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic powder, black pepper, white sesame seeds) roasted in the oven.
  • Diced sweet potato, roasted in the oven with olive oil, salt, black pepper and garlic powder.
  • Spinach orzo in an Alredo sauce (made with a flour/butter roux, freshly minced garlic, heavy cream, whole milk, and Parmesan cheese).

Dijon-Glazed Chicken:


  • Oven roasted chicken breast (glaze: Dijon mustard, honey, brown sugar, salt, pepper, garlic powder, Italian seasoning, and melted butter).
  • Roasted yellow potatoes (olive oil, salt, black pepper, and garlic powder).
  • Steamed green beans, tossed in olive oil, salt, black pepper and garlic powder.

Butternut Squash Risotto!

One of my mom's best friends is a lovely lady from Northern Italy, and she makes the best risotto I've ever tasted. Inspired by a warm Sunday night dinner she recently hosted in her beautiful home, I decided to try it myself.

Pics from the dinner party a few weeks ago!




Risotto is known as a labor of love, because you are essentially devoted to the making of it for at least 30-40 continuous minutes. The reason why risotto is so creamy is because the special Italian type of rice required for it (called Arborio rice) slowly absorbs hot chicken stock and wine, as you slowly pour ladleful after ladleful, and constantly stir the pot for half an hour.

I roasted some diced butternut squash in the oven, and grated some fresh Parmesan from a wedge (trust me - this tastes way better than the tub of already grated Parm!), and voila! The risotto is complete, with just a few ingredients, but plenty of work!