Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Summer in "Italy"

The summer has blissfully continued and we shared another great night with our best buds, M&C.  Last time we hosted, this time they did! 
We enjoyed bruschetta on the grill........
Servings: 4
2 mini ciabatta rolls, cut in half
8 slices of Roma tomato
8 basil leaves
4 slices of mozzarella
oil and balsamic vinegar for drizzling

Drizzle the bread with evoo and balsamic vinegar (OR spread pesto on the bread - we were supposed to have that too, but it was somehow forgotten...), then arrange tomato, basil and mozzarella slices on the bread.  Toast on the grill for about 5 minutes until the bottom is golden brown and the cheese is melted.

Lettuce "boats"......
Servings: 4
12 endive spears
1/4 cup matchstick carrots
1/4 cup celery - chopped
1/4 red apple - chopped
1/4 green apple - chopped
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup balsamic dressing

Arrange carrots, celery, apples and cranberries in endive spears and drizzle with the dressing.  A very light, summery, crunchy "salad"!

Stuffed Shells........
Servings:  a boatload!!

1/2 box pasta shells
1/2 package ground beef
1/2 package ground sausage
1/2 red bell pepper - chopped
1/2 green pepper - chopped
1/4 large onion - chopped
2 garlic cloves - minced
s&p to taste
Marinara sauce
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Saute the onions and the garlic until onions are translucent, then add the peppers, season with s&p (and Italian seasoning if you have it).  Saute until softened, but still crisp-tender.  Add the meats and cook until the meat is cooked through.  Boil noodles until a little less than al dente - there should be just a little bit of white in the middle of the pasta dough.  Stuff shells with meat mixture, cover with marinara sauce and cheese.  Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes at 400 degrees, then remove the foil and bake uncovered for 5 minutes.

1/2 box pasta shells
1 8 oz. container ricotta cheese
6 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated parmesan
1/4 large onion - chopped
2 garlic cloves - chopped
1/2 red bell pepper - chopped
1/2 green bell pepper - chopped
s&p to taste

Marinara sauce
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Mix ricotta, 6 oz. mozzarella and parmesan together in bowl - set aside.  Saute onion and garlic until translucent, then add the peppers.  Season with s&p and saute until peppers are softened, but still crisp-tender.  Add the mixture to the cheese and combine.   Boil noodles until a little less than al dente - there should be just a little bit of white in the middle of the pasta dough.  Scoop the cheese mixture into a gallon-size ziplock bag and cut the tip of one side to make a piping bag (GREAT idea from C!!) and pipe mixture into shells.  Cover with marinara sauce and cheese. Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes at 400 degrees, then remove the foil and bake uncovered for 5 minutes.

25th Anniversary Party

On July 3rd, my parents celebrated their 25th anniversary!  I can still remember my sister and I acting as "junior bridesmaids" at their wedding.  It was neat to see some of the guests at the party who were also at their wedding.
My parents have been busy creating an outdoor kitchen off their back patio.  It's absolutely beautiful!!  Tin roof, lots of wood detail, comfy chairs and not just one, but two grills!
The setting........
For the anniversary party, we had a TON of food.  I wasn't able to snap pictures of all of it, but here's what I did get.......
A caprese salad that I made using little pear tomatoes that my sisters grew and homemade, fresh mozzarella from Mazarro's:

My sister-in-law, Erica made two huge batches of homemade pizza dough and she, my sister and her mom were on grill duty as all of our guests made their own individual pizzas.  They were phenomenal!
Rockstars of the evening!

Two of my most favorite people!!

And of course, what party would be complete without a little cake, pizzelle's (courtesy of Mrs. B)... and a beer (this was my step-dad's anniversary treat)!

Our kind of night

One of our, if not THE, favorite restaurant JD and I love is Ceviche.  We've been to three of the four locations and we really love them all - each has their own unique setting, but the one we frequent the most is the location in St. Pete.
This night we took a chance and went to the downstairs basement of Ceviche to have a drink and if we got lucky, maybe a table too? 
Well, we got more than lucky!!  We got VIP seating (okay, not really, but this seat is so good, we would've paid an admission price for it!) at a large corner table with privacy on three sides and on the fourth side - right in front of our table was the stage where two musicians were playing Spanish jazz.
We decided to get outside our comfort zone and choose tapas we've never had before (we practically know the menu by heart). 
This beautiful dish came to our table and I had to capture it!  An assortment of Spanish cheese (Mahon and Manchego to name two), figs, jam and apple slices.  It was delicious!!

Pizza on the Grill (take 2... or 20?)

Our house may be the size of a matchbox, but there's one thing we have that no one else does - our very own treehouse!  We may not have a whole lot of privacy and yes, taking the dogs out and having to carry them down the stairs is not ideal, BUT on the positive side... there's something almost magical about sitting on the patio, completely surrounded by trees.  We hear the sound of birds chirping, squirrels foraging and Cicadas singing their mating song.  Our fan picks up the breeze and our string of lights provides just the right amount of light as the sun sets and the moon rises. 
Sitting on the patio, just JD and I and the dogs (with the cat looking on from her safe place in the house), is something that I look forward to every single night.
This summer night, we grilled pizzas.  We've had several of these nights... the best night being the night we used my sister-in-law, Erica's leftover homemade pizza dough!  (Christine, I promise to make my own soon!!  hahahaha)
JD had his usual, pepperoni and I had a marguerita pizza.

Pickies for dinner!

So far we've had a fun summer full of dinners with friends and bbq-ing just the two of us in the evening.
I will take you on a little food journey of our summer so far...

Dinner with best friends ~ Matt & Christine

Antipasto; Apples, pears and our favorite - Drunken Goat Cheese