Mrs. Carla Monti

Mrs. Carla Monti

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! 3

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.

Update: I made these Oct 2018!

Bento 3

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!

Strawberry Shortcake Parfaits!

As a busy working mama always on the go with a full planner - I sometimes find myself out of time for baking, and needing to come up with a quick and tasty dessert to bring with me to an outing. These strawberry shortcake parfaits are always my fallback dessert - they are easy to whip up in a few minutes, require only a handful of ingredients, and look as good as they taste!

I just buy one box of Entemann's butter loaf pound cake, a carton of heavy whipping cream, and a carton of organic strawberries. The only work involved (besides cutting the cake and strawberries) is to whip the cream using an immersion blender and vanilla extract. Once the cream is whipped, assembly takes no time at all. I like to use plastic 9 oz tumbler cups because they are easy to transport, and you can throw them away when finished.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Healthy Weeknight Dinners, part 1!

My family and I love to cook, and we typically eat healthy with lots of seafood, and using olive oil instead of butter, following a traditional Mediterranean diet (we are Portuguese on my side, Italian on my husband's).

Below are three typical weeknight dinners that I prepare, and my husband and toddler both enjoy.

#1: Chicken

  • Oven roasted chicken tenderloins, seasoned simply with olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic powder, and then diced. 
  • Portabella mushrooms cooked in a port wine sauce. 
  • Diced zucchini, oven roasted with olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic powder, and then oven broiled with Italian breadcrumbs and grated Parmesan cheese.

#2: Salmon

  • Oven roasted Asian-marinated salmon fillets. The marinade consists of rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, black pepper, and sesame seeds. (I omit salt because the soy sauce is salty enough!).
  • Sauteed cannellini beans and spinach in a white wine, olive oil and lemon sauce.
  • Portabella mushrooms sauteed in Marsala wine.
  • Brown rice.

#3: Tilapia

  • Oven roasted tilapia filets seasoned with olive oil, salt, black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, lemon juice, and a pinch of grated Parmesan cheese.
  • Oven roasted yellow potatoes and zucchini, seasoned with olive oil, salt black pepper, garlic powder, and grated Parmesan cheese.
  • Orzo (small type of pasta that more closely resembles rice) and sauteed spinach in a garlicky Alfredo sauce (roux of flour and butter, then minced garlic, heavy cream, milk, and Parmesan cheese whisked together for a thick sauce). 

DaVinci's 1

One of my family's favorite local restaurants is DaVinci's located in the Town Center mall here in Boca Raton. The food is always delicious and fresh, and their happy hour is one of the best in town.

We had dinner here a few weeks ago to celebrate one of my mom's best friend's birthdays.

Short rib ravioli in a creamy mascarpone and beef jus sauce!

Prosciutto and burrata salad, yum!

Spaghetti alle vongole ... I love clams!

A delicious super Tuscan to complement the meal.

Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes!

'Tis the season for all things pumpkin! I LOVE baking with pumpkin, and these cupcakes are a fall staple in my household.

My Pumpkin Spice Bailey's gives the cream cheese frosting a kick!