Mrs. Carla Monti

Mrs. Carla Monti

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Tea Time!

Something new that I have implemented this year was to remove all the candy from my desk at work and replace it with an overflowing plethora of assorted tea bags gathered from both my parents' and boyfriends' houses. My co-workers may laugh, but I am really enjoying drinking various types of tea throughout the my work day. A few simple changes, and a new routine is born. In this case, a Parisian-themed jar, cozy new mug, and tea is the name of the game!

My new mug. I spent way too much money on this, but oh I am in love.

My boyfriend's fancypants tea pot, which I recently unearthed from a dusty cupboard.

One of my friends from college recently started a tea business with her fiance, called Steep City Teas. You can check them out on their website and Facebook. I am sure they will be very successful in Miami, as they have an incredible variety of teas! I chose three different types: Vanilla Sky, Pom Pom, and Cha Cha Chai. Not only do these loose leaf teas smell incredible, they taste amazing! The teabags at work have nothing on these deep flavors, that's for sure. They are packed with energy and taste, and could turn even the most avid coffee drinker into a believer.

Here's Vanilla Sky - I want to bake with the smell of this tea. Vanilla Sky Tea Cupcakes? It just might happen ....

I love the colors and textures of the pomegranate tea. The scent is divine!

Over the weekend, I brewed up a pot of the Cha Cha Chai. A little warmed almond milk, and boom! My very own, DIY Chai Tea Latte! It is ridiculously easy, and oh-so-good.

So check out Steep City Teas, and consider making adding tea a healthy part of your busy life, or adding some new flavors into the mix! :)

Monday, January 21, 2013

Red Velvet Cheesecake Swirl Brownies!

The best of chocolatey, red velvet brownies, mashed together with the gooey richness of simple cheesecake = genius! This is a tried and tested recipe in my book; this is the third time I've made it, something which I can say of probably a handful of recipes. I always try a different blog's take on it though, and today I used a recipe from the lovely Kitchen Meets Girl. If you like cheesecake and brownies, I highly recommend making this. It is a bit of work since you are making two batters, one after the other, but the end result is both pretty and delicious. A heart-shaped cookie cutter would make these perfect for Valentine's Day too!

Strawberry Shortcake Trifles!

The dessert I made last was perfect: easy, delicious, and just enough for two! I had seen a new technique for making whipped cream on Pinterest, by using an immersion blender to whip up heavy whipping cream in less than 30 seconds. I was amazed! Heavy whipping cream along with a heavy dose of powdered sugar, blended to perfection in no time at all! I used stemless wine glasses, and layered the trifle with the whipped cream, diced strawberries, and broken up pieces of an old-fashioned donut I picked up at the grocery store (yes, I was too lazy to make the actual 'cake' component!). Pretty and tasty! I think my man wolfed his down in less than 30 seconds too ;)

Zucchini Cakes!

For last night's dinner, I roasted some tilapia filets in the oven with lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic powder until nice and flaky. To accompany the protein, I decided to change it up and instead of roasting zucchini, I made zucchini cakes. I got the recipe from Pioneer Woman and they came out great! Grated zucchini is flavored with eggs, Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs, salt, pepper, and garlic powder and then pan-fried until browned. Served with a big squeeze of lemon!

Zucchini & Yellow Squash Soup!

I love to make soup purees using fresh vegetables and not much else. The basics are easy: sautee and onion and some garlic cloves in olive oil, and then add any diced vegetable (in this case 3 zucchinis and 5 yellow squashes). Once all the veggies are softened, add enough chicken stock to cover, and let simmer for 20 minutes, until everything is tender. Then I like to add salt, pepper, white wine, lemon juice, and a touch of cream before pureeing everything into a warm, comforting soup. As you can see, this was a hit at my house! I like to make this soup because it is so versatile. You can make it vegetarian by using vegetable broth or vegan by omitting the cream at the end. You can use frozen vegetables, or whatever is in season.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Apple Pie Love!

This seems to be the week of throwback cooking! I haven't made a new recipe in a little while, as I have been finding great happiness in taking some past successes and tweaking them to new, improved dishes. Today I was in an apple mood, so I decided to revamp my individual apple pie tarts, and cover them with dough (more apple pie-style). I recently got a set of heart-shaped cookie cutters, so I cut a small heart into the dough and decorated the top of the tart with it.

Lemon Ricotta Cookies!

Giada De Laurentiis is one of my favorite Food Network chefs. Her dishes are very Italian, yet elegant and simple. One of my favorite recipes of hers is her Lemon Ricotta cookies (recipe link). I've made them once before, and they came out great, but this time I made them a big bigger and flatter. The result is fabulous - the cookies are like little light pillows of lemony goodness. The ricotta doesn't really flavor the cookie, but it gives it a nice chewy texture and ensures that the lemon does not dominate the taste. These are perfect for tea-time, or to wrap up in a neat little package for a co-worker, which is how I used them, this time around!

Pão de Queijo!

Pão de queijo are delicious, Brazilian cheesy bread balls. The texture is amazing, it has a nice crunch on the outside, but the insides are soft and chewy. A good recipe to make them from scratch can be found here, however this is one instance where the boxed mix will literally produce the same results. This bread uses a very specific type of flour that may not be available everywhere, however you can find the mix in most grocery stores. Bom!

Chicken Tortilla Avocado Soup!

My parent's wedding anniversary is in January, and as of last year, the tradition is that instead of giving them a gift, I make them dinner. Last year my boyfriend and I made quite the feast (memories!), but this year I kept it simple and made a chicken tortilla soup, partly inspired by Rachel Ray's recipe. I tweaked it a bit, adding taco seasoning to the chicken and then mashing up a few avocados with lime juice, olive oil, salt, and garlic powder, and then using my small cookie scoop to put a scoop of it in the middle of the soup. Yum!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

New Year's Resolutions!

I am not one for traditional new year's resolutions. I never vow to lose weight, join a gym, or diet. These things would never be a part of my life, and go against everything I believe about food, drink, and enjoying oneself. I did however chose to set some personal and professional goals for 2013. I had a very successful and wonderful year in 2012, and want to ensure the same levels of happiness and success abound in this year!

1. Get Lasik. I have two consultations scheduled for this month!

2. Get teeth professionally whitened. My appointment is in two weeks!

3. Bake and cook much more ... at least every other day! So far so good ... I've done well for the first week of 2013 ... on to the next ones! I love the way I feel when I bake and/or cook. I have energy and love to dance around my kitchen as well as grocery shop beforehand. One of my favorite things to do is sit down with my beau and eat, drink wine, and discuss our days. I am looking forward to plenty more nights like this, this year!

4. Read more books on my Kindle, and re-watch old Sex and the City and Glee episodes less! I finally finished reading "Everlasting Meal" for the millionth time, along with J.K. Rowling's "Casual Vacancy" (both fabulous!) I am on "The Paperboys", "The Elegance of the Hedgehog" and "This Is How You Lose Her" next (some great recommendations from my BFF there).

5. Work hard towards my goals ... Enroll in my desired MBA program in August as planned ... and keep going, with my first big career goal being to manage and head up my own team by the time I am 28!

So there they are, my newfound New Year's Resolutions, and hopes and dreams for this fresh new year. I wish you all a beautiful, healthy, and happy year. Leave the ghosts of past years where they belong - in the past. Don't drag them into your present and live freely!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year 2013!

My man and I decided to celebrate the new year by having a quiet night in together. I cooked, we drank wine, and it was lovely and peaceful. I sauteed shrimp in olive oil, lemon juice, butter, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and sliced cherry tomatoes, served over a bed of wilted spinach. I roasted tricolor potatoes and cherry tomatoes in olive oil, salt, and pepper and served alongside cheddar garlic biscuits (red lobster style - recipe here). Yum!