Thursday, June 27, 2013

the "I don't feel like cooking" meal

I was exhausted Monday. I commuted from Mikes so I was awake at an ungodly hour, plus the rain from Sunday continued...I got home and just wanted to collapse.

After a few minutes of winding down and yoga, I was ready to eat--and starving. I was still in the "I don't feel like cooking" mood, but I had all of these fresh veggies and some feta cheese--I could make something work out of that.

So out of it came pasta (shocker, I know) with squash, kale, onions, carrots, garlic, feta and chicken. I will admit it--I used Trader Joe's frozen chicken fingers but they were good. Use fresh if you have it, but I didn't and wanted the added substance.

makes about 4 servings-perfect lunch leftovers

veggie and feta pasta
one large squash, diced in half moons
3 medium sized carrots, diced in half moons
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, diced
2 cups of kale (this cooks down substantially)
1/2 lb pasta (I used whole wheat)
1 oz of feta, cubed
chicken, cooked and diced into bite size pieces
1 tbsp olive oil for cooking
juice of 1/2 lemon
salt and pepper for seasoning

  • bring a pot of water up to a boil, cook pasta with a generous amount of salt 
  • saute your veggies in a pre-heated pan with olive oil
  • remember to place the carrots in first, then squash as they take longer to cook the kale is quickest and can go last.
  • season as you add veggies, but be careful with salt--the feta is pretty high in salt content
  • under cook the pasta by about a minute--once done, drain and transfer to the pan with the veggies
  • add the feta and the lemon juice, and taste for seasonings--adjust accordingly 


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

raspberry and peach crockpot cobbler

I've mentioned that I love the crockpot, right? A dinner and a dessert down and it is truly the easiest kitchen appliance ever.

I started to find recipes for cobblers on pinterest (you can check out my entire crockpot board here) and became really interested in the idea of making a cobbler that sounded so easy.

Found this recipe via the Crockin' Girls and swapped the blueberries for raspberries. I also added about a half cup more milk, and a cup more flour than the recipe called for, but other than that followed that recipe to a t.

There is something so comforting about coming home to a meal that is ready to eat and just tastes cozy. It was a chilly and rainy Sunday (by bay area standards) so this was perfect after dinner with some vanilla ice cream on top.

I will say, it turned a pink/purple color that I did not love, and I admitted to missing the typical cobbler crust/topping. Next time I think I will try the same recipe but in the oven with a few adjustments. The ice cream on top is a requirement though.

the start of some delicious cobbler

finished product--I artfully covered the pink-ish color ;)

The rest of the weekend was just as relaxing as I had planned--even snuck in some pool/tanning time.

Happy cobbler cooking!!

Friday, June 21, 2013

happy weekend

It's been a loooooooong week and I couldn't be more excited for the weekend to relax. I want to get some cooking in (thinking about a crock pot cobbler and then letting Mike cook dinner for me for once!)

We are also planning to attend a street festival by Mikes apartment and I absolutely need some pool time: aka it's critical that I work on my tan. A few runs and a yoga session are in definite need as well.

It sounds packed but will be filled with all the things I love.....

I wanted to share a favorite quote of mine, which I use as a reminder to appreciate what I have, enjoy the moment and look forward to what's ahead.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

fresh and springy pasta

I mentioned in Monday's post that I had made this pasta for Sunday dinner from smitten kitchen.

It was absolutely perfect and I found myself wishing I came up with that flavor combination. I have never cooked with mint and I have tried and failed with a ricotta sauce in the past. The trick there? Fresh, full fat ricotta, a bit of the pasta water reserved with some olive oil and grated parmigiano reggiano.

Deb has been the main inspiration for a lot of my cooking--to try new things, make dishes from scratch (her naked tomato sauce was life changing and the first sauce from scratch I ever made.) Her blog, and now cookbook, have been the push I have needed to keep this going and realize one of my dreams.

So back to the meal at hand-I love ricotta, lemon, and a crunchy texture as contrast in my meal. This combined all of that in a fresh take with some pasta, my favorite blank canvas.

Debs recipe is linked above, and I encourage you to make it yourself and check out some of her other stuff.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

two pastas: one week

I have this tendency to go to the grocery store, buy a ton of produce and use less than half of it. It drives me crazy to waste things (which is why I love to utilize my freezer to its fullest potential) and I have begun to buy fewer items, but re-purpose them into separate meals.

And yes. We have established that homemade pasta is, above all else, heaven. However, during a busy weeknight its just not happenin'.

So last week this was nothing fancy, but I used squash, arugula, tomatoes, garlic, onion, goat cheese, chicken and pasta and stretched it to three dinners and two lunches.

first meal: roasted chicken, arugula, tomato and goat cheese pasta. For a sauce, I just used the pan juices from my arugula/tomato saute and the drippings from the roasted chicken.

meal two: chicken roasted with garlic, sauteed squash with onion, tomato and arugula, white wine sauce with goat cheese.

recipes below, feel free to combine all of the it as you please :)

roasted chicken:
seasoned with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes
pan fry on both sides until you have some color, then transfer to a preheated 350 oven and roast until cooked through (use a meat thermometer)
tip: add garlic during the roasting process

dice, saute with olive oil, season with salt and pepper
tip: when sauteing veggies, add them to the pan first to last based on most to least firm. i.e. carrots will take longer to cook than onions, peppers will take a bit longer than garlic. plan accordingly when adding to the pan.

in both cases I used the pan juices-for the white wine sauce, I added a bit of butter, flour and white wine and whisked together with salt and pepper
in the first sauce, I used the pan juices and added the drippings from the roasted chicken
adding goat cheese to both pastas helped to make the sauces really creamy


I know they look oddly similar, but both were delicious in their own flavor!

Monday, June 17, 2013

ask and you shall receive: brioche french toast and grilled peaches

At some point I became a short order cook for my boyfriend.

Over the weekend he was just listing things he wanted to eat while I furiously typed ingredients on my phone to pick up. Obviously for breakfast he was not getting french toast, bacon AND fruit salad--I drew the line at bacon. I have my boundaries people.

Then Mike suggested peaches with the french toast and I decided I could be into this idea.

But I needed the perfect recipe. It couldnt just be any french toast--it needed to be on some thick, absorbent and fresh bread. And I needed to consult a trusted source. A friend bought me the smitten kitchen cookbook for my birthday last year, so I flipped it open and there it was-a cinnamon toast french toast recipe!

ps--made the bowtie pasta with sugar snap peas, lemon, ricotta and mint for dinner last night--coming soon!

I cut the recipe in half--made 6 slices

preheat oven to 450

brioche french toast
1 loaf of challah or brioche
1/4 cup of sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 cup milk (recipe calls for whole, I used 1%)
3 large eggs
pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla
1 stick of butter, softened

  • slice bread into about 1/4 inch slices
  • line a baking sheet with foil
  • mix sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl until well incorporated
  • butter bread on both sides, sprinkle with cinnamon sugar (reserve a bit for the peaches)
  • place on cookie sheet in preheated oven for about 7 minutes--this gets the bread a little crispy and caramelized
  • while that is baking, butter a casserole dish on all sides
  • whisk eggs, milk, salt & vanilla in bowl for custard
  • remove toast from oven, lower to 375
  • let the bread cool then place in casserole dish as pictured below (I had to cut one slice in half to fit along the sides)
  • pour custard mix over bread

place the dish in the oven for 25 minutes

tip: while the french toast is baking, you can start your peaches, details below!

grilled peaches
  • rinse and slice your peaches
  • preheat pan and melt a half tbsp of butter
  • once melted, place peaches in pan & let grill on each side for about 3 minutes
  • sprinkle remaining cinnamon sugar on both sides and grill for another minute on each side

serve peaches on top of french toast with maple syrup-enjoy!

Friday, June 14, 2013

take a chance

Since I started this blog I vowed to push myself, be myself, and most importantly have fun with it. Everyone in my life has been nothing but supportive and this has been such a great outlet for my cooking, stories and general ramblings.

Since the first promise was to push myself, when Mike sent me this posting it seemed like a great way to "dip my toe in the water" as he put it, or try something different on the side. Here I focus more on recipes of my own and my adventures in the kitchen, but I am obsessed with eating out and trying new places. And this looked like fun!

So I sent in my submission and while I think its safe to say I didn't get the job, I wanted to share what I sent in because it was actually a lot of fun to put together and think about how I represent myself.


I'm Veronica and have lived in SF for more than three years. After I visited here for a week and struggled to find other activities that could possibly live up to the meals I had here, I knew this was a city I could live (and eat) in happily.
I am originally from NY and come from a food-loving Italian family. My parents are both amazing cooks and brought me up loving to cook, eat and appreciate delicious meals. 

If my mom has taught me anything it's that every good meal starts with wine. My parents never have fewer than a half-dozen wine bottles on hand, and moving to California has only made me love and appreciate wine even more. I love trying new varietals and am completely obsessed with Barbera and Tempranillo right now.

My co-workers and friends regularly come to me for advice when they are looking for a recommendation on Italian food in North Beach. The answer depends on the night of the week; Monday is tough because my faves are all closed: Franchino, Tony's and Tomassos (best calzone in the city). But Ideale is always open and their bucatini is to die for. Whenever I have visitors I still struggle with what to do between grabbing cupcakes at Cako, brunch at Park Tavern and our dinner reservations at Flour + Water.  I consider myself an expert on food in North Beach but love to explore food in all the neighborhoods across the city.

Places on my hit list include: 
Shorty Goldsteins- Jewish deli that recently opened by my office.
Lolinda- tapas with a newly opened rooftop bar.
Capo's- Recently recommended for deep dish pizza in North Beach and it's shocking to me that I have never been there.
Coqueta- Just opened on the Embarcadero by Michael Chiarello. My meal at Bottega in Napa was a top five in my life- so, yeah, I have high expectations.

I have been blogging for a few months at about my adventures in cooking food that matches my cravings.  

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

the ultimate comfort meal: meatloaf and mashed potatoes

Mike loves meatloaf but I have never been a fan-turns out I had just not had a meatloaf worth trying. Thanks to my lovely friend Katie for the recipe--it's actually a meatball recipe she re-purposed. (And she is also an amazing baker that I am trying to convince to guest blog--come on girl!)

Needless to say the inclusion of BBQ sauce really made this a Mike-approved meal, but even I loved it. I was happily eating the leftovers for days.

preheat oven to 350

1/3 cup BBQ sauce
1/3 cup ketchup
1/3 cup brown sugar

mix all ingredients in a bowl until well incorporated and set aside

1 lb ground beef
2 eggs beaten with 1 cup milk
1/2 cup grated parm (I used Pecorino Romano here)
1 cup breadcrumbs
1 small onion, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 cup fresh basil, minced
salt & pepper to taste

mix all ingredients in a bowl by hand. spray a loaf pan with cooking spray on all sides and place the mixture in the pan, molding it to a loaf shape and pressing down so its evenly distributed.

place in oven for 30 minutes, then add the glaze and bake for another 10 minutes.

mashed potatoes
4 russet potatoes, peeled and diced
3 tbsp butter
a few splashes of milk (or cream if you have it)
1 tbsp sour cream (optional) --makes them super creamy
salt and pepper for seasoning

boil your potatoes until they can be easily mashed with a fork. drain (but save about a cup of the water on the side) and place in mixing bowl with butter, milk or cream, sour cream and seasonings. blend with a hand blender until smooth and creamy--when you stir them you should not feel any lumps.

3 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
a few splashes of reserved potato water
salt and pepper for seasoning

melt butter in saucepan over medium heat with flour and whisk--you need to form a rue here and it should be on the thicker side since you will also be adding the potato water.

if it feels too thin, add more flour, and add a few splashes of the potato water--a teaspoon at a time. this will add flavor to the gravy.

add your seasonings and continue whisking everything together--it should be thick enough to stick to the back of your spoon, and continue to add seasoning and potato water (and flour as needed to achieve desired thickness) until you get the flavor you want. spoon on top of potatoes.

served with some roasted carrots and asparagus--delicious!

Monday, June 10, 2013

loving right now

Every so often I will try to take a break from the cooking and food talk and focus on something else.

So heres a few things I'm loving lately, including a few items from my recent obsession World Market which, as I put it to the friend who introduced me: "one hour of my life down, countless to go.."

I found the jar pictured below at World Market for just $4! I have been collecting the wine corks for years with the idea to turn them into some sort of craft project (I still have a ton left and more ideas to come..) and I just placed a pillar candle in there--so cute and easy. I love this little corner of my apt. 

wine cork candle display

 Speaking of candles---recently I have become obsessed and found these little tealight holders, also at the amazing World Market.

I have not found the jars that these labels will live on, but these chalkboard labels were just too cute to pass up. Take one guess where I found them....

My amazing and talented friend Michelle has recently "retired" and moved to North Carolina with her boyfriend to explore a simpler way of life. I could not be happier for her--you can follow her adventures at I requested this custom print which I think I am going to use it as part of a gallery wall above my couch, but in the meantime it is decorating the floor :)

Sunday, June 9, 2013

my famous bbq chicken pizza

Listen. I won't usually brag about my cooking. I enjoy doing it, people enjoy eating it, and I'm happy with that.

But this pizza? Well, I have had two people who hate BBQ chicken pizza become converts. And I am pretty sure Mike fell in love with me because of it. He still tells me its his favorite thing I have ever made him.  I think I had him at 'BBQ' but still.

A few years back when my love of cooking was in its infancy, my brothers bought me a cooking class for Christmas. I picked pizza making--of course--and it was so much fun. To me, pizza is up there with pasta as the most versatile thing you can make--basically add anything plus goat cheese and its perfect.

Naturally after this class my family wanted me to make them pizza. My brothers best friend is allergic to cheese and was going to be there for dinner, so I had to make a special pie catered to him--and who knew it would turn into the cornerstone for my pizza making! He requested BBQ chicken and bacon pizza, hold the cheese (of course) and it came out so great I had to try it again with cheese.

Over the years I have tweaked the recipe and found the best ingredients to make it as perfect as possible. I don't make my own dough because it falls into the "not worth the effort" food category, and Trader Joe's has a great one. They also supply me with the best BBQ sauce I have tried--their Kansas city style sauce that has the perfect amount of sweetness. (When I make this pizza for Mike I mix that sauce with their spicier version.)

I made it this weekend for one of my aforementioned BBQ chicken pizza convert friends as we christened her new apartment with wine.

So without further ado, here it is below.

pre-heat oven to 350

bbq chicken pizza
1 package of chicken breasts or tenders
1 bottle of your fave BBQ sauce (you will prob use about 2/3 the bottle.)
1 package of pre-made dough (make your own if you like, or get it at TJ's or your fave pizzeria)
1 cup shredded cheese--I like a mix of mozzarella, cheddar and monterey jack
about 2 oz of goat cheese (I probably go overboard here)
sauteed red onions (optional)
crispy bacon (optional)
salt & pepper for seasoning
1/3 cup flour for rolling out dough
1 tbsp olive oil

  • put the chicken in a bowl or ziploc with enough sauce to cover each piece--try to do this at least 30-45 mins ahead.
  • once its marinated for a bit, move to an oven safe and foil-lined pan and bake in a 350 oven for 15-20 minutes. chicken should be cooked through since it will not do much cooking once on the pie. once cooled enough to handle, dice into bite size pieces.
  • while that cooks in the oven flour the counter and your rolling pin and begin rolling out your dough. (be liberal with the flour so nothing sticks)
  • I usually use a rectangle cookie sheet, so I roll the dough accordingly. you can use a pizza stone but I have never had much success with them.
  • once the dough is rolled out, lightly oil your pan and place the dough in, making a crust by shaping the sides against the pan. if you have excess dough just cut it off the sides. be careful not to stretch it as the dough will rip.
tip: you can transport the dough easily from the counter to the pan by rolling it on the rolling pin until it is fully wrapped around, then unroll it on the sheet you are using. no tears in the dough!
  • poke a few holes around the dough with a fork to avoid too many bubbles forming and brush with the remaining olive oil until you cover all of the surface of the pizza (not edges.)
  • place in the oven at 350 for about 10 minutes until the crust starts to brown on the bottom and the crust has risen along the edges. the idea here is to "pre-bake" to avoid the toppings burning and get a crispy but slightly chewy crust.
  • remove from the oven and cover the crust liberally with BBQ sauce, then layer your chicken, any optional toppings and cheeses.
  • bake again in the oven at 350 for about 5-7 minutes--everything is cooked so just let that cheese melt and you are good to go.

finished product

table set for dinner

a few sweet treats for after. my motto-make dinner, buy dessert!

Monday, June 3, 2013

slow cookin' ribs

I bought Mike a slow cooker for his birthday (read: I was dying for one and lack the gadget space in my kitchen. He has whole cabinets with nothing in them.)  I finally made use of it this past weekend and what better thing to make than his favorite--BBQ pork ribs, cooked low and slow. The BBQ sauce + pork is an obsession that runs deep, and I'm pretty sure if I was unable to prepare/eat pork or enjoy BBQ sauce, our relationship wouldn't last...kidding (I think.)

We talked about these ribs all day Saturday so by Sunday when I was cooking, my mouth was practically watering at the sight. We put them in the slow cooker, left the house for a few hours, and came back to the best air freshener I have ever smelled.

Accompaniments: corn on the cob, slathered in butter, mashed sweet potatoes and beer bread I had picked up for him in Arizona--just mix the package with 12 oz. of your fave beer. So easy!

I adapted my recipe from pinterest, but pretty much made it my own..feeds 2 with a little extra for leftovers..

preheat the oven to 350

1 rack of pork ribs (I cut the rack into 3 to easily fit into the crockpot)
rub-either homemade (recipe below) or store bought

rub (this can be customized to your tastes--I just threw a bunch of spices together..)
1 tbsp freshly ground pepper
1 tbsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tbsp salt
2 tsp seasoning salt
1 tsp garlic & herb seasoning
2 tsp spicy bbq seasoning

mix all spices together and rub generously on both sides of the ribs
place them on a foil lined pan and into the oven for 30 mins per side
while the ribs are going, you can put your sauce together

sauce (again, use what you have and what you like. the best part of this recipe is that it is entirely customizable.)
3 cups BBQ sauce (I mixed trader Joes Kansas City BBQ sauce, which is a little sweeter, with their original BBQ sauce, which is a bit spicier)
1.5 cups ketchup
3 tbsp worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup brown sugar (I like a sweeter sauce and made the rub extra spicy to counter-balance the sweetness)
3 tbsp dijon mustard
1 tsp seasoning salt
2 tsp freshly ground pepper

mix all ingredients together and set aside
once the ribs are done cooking on both sides, put a bit of the sauce at the bottom of the crockpot, then layer ribs and sauce until done
cook on low for 4 hours, and high for another hour
they come out almost falling off the bone and so delicious

mashed sweet potatoes 
3 sweet potatoes, scrubbed, skins left on and diced
1/4 cup heavy cream
3 tbsp butter
salt and pepper for seasoning

boil the potatoes until they are fork-tender and practically mush with a fork
drain, and place back into the pot, and mix in butter, cream, s & p until at the consistency you prefer (you can use a blender or a hand masher.)

finished plate!