Monday, June 18, 2012

Meal Planning Mondays: Kiss an Italian Grandmother week.

This past week included two bombdiggitydotcom recipes from our one and only Nonna. For reals people, i married my husband simply so i could be invited to eat at his house.The way to my heart was through my stomach, my poor mother-in-law should have known.
She's the type who spends days in preparation for a good meal. The spread is legendary in looks and taste and humanly impossible to consume in its entirety (though we give it our best shot). 

So, in honor of Nonna,
i want you to try these recipes for a tasty summer meal
find the nearest Italian grandmother
 give her a big squeeeeze
and say

Ti Amo!

Then beg her to let you eat at her house.


1. Perfect one bowl meal. Makes enough to feed two families (which we did, as I made this on special request from a best friend who just had her second baby and specifically asked for "that amazing orzo salad thing"). 

 Chicken Orzo Salad

½  teas. Cumin
½ teas. Thyme
½ teas. Minced garlic                             
1 teas. Dried  oregano
1 cup olive oil
6 tablespoons wine vinegar
6 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice
1 ½ teas. Salt
1 teas. Pepper
2 teas. Dijon mustard

Wisk  above  ingredients  together  and  set  aside.

¾  lb. orzo
1 bunch spinach torn into bite size pieces  (I usually put more spinach in the salad)
½ cup pine nuts
¾  pitted kalamato  olives
1 cup feta cheese
¼ cup sundried tomatoes
½  of a red bell pepper chopped
¼ cup chopped green onion
2 teas. chopped capers
1 roasted chicken – remove meat from bone and add to salad in bite size pieces

Cook orzo and drain.  After it has cooled toss with a little olive oil.  Add the rest of ingredients toss.  Add dressing a little at a time and toss to coat evenly.  This salad gets better as it sits in the refrigerator.  Yummy!


2. {Bad picture, Great cake}

I like my cakes dense and moist: just like this one. My Dad loves carrot cake so it  made for a great Father's Day gift.

Nonna's Carrot Cake
 3 cups sifted flour
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 ½ teas of baking soda
1 ¼ teas salt
1 teas baking powder
1 8 ¾ can crushed pineapple (drained-reserve the juice)
3 eggs beaten
1 ½ cups salad oil
2 teas vanilla
2 cups grated raw carrots

Combine flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder and salt.  Mix well.  Drain pineapple, set aside.
Make a well in center of flour mixture and add pineapple juice, eggs, oil and vanilla.  Blend thoroughly.  Stir in pineapple, and carrots.  Turn into a greased 10 inch tube pan.  Bake @ 325 in a preheated oven for 1 ½ hours or until done.  (my oven always takes longer)  Cool completely and frost with homemade cream cheese frosting.


3. Unrelated to Italian cooking but SERIOUSLY WORTHY OF ATTENTION. 

I couldn't believe how much my kids loved this meal. I'm a huge fan of lettuce wraps and peanut sauce and the whole shabang, but seriously?! Watching your kids devour vegetables with such enthusiasm makes ya feel all warm and fuzzy. I think they loved the crunch of the crispy veggies and the fun of wrapping your hands around something so messy. The rice added a nice bulk that made for a total meal. They even LOVED the tofu! Whaaaaat?!!! I recommend this for a fun weekend dinner. We will definitely be trying this one again.
  • Sauce:
  • 1 teaspoon canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallot
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
  • 4 teaspoons hoisin sauce
  • 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • Filling:
  • 1 (14-ounce) package extra-firm tofu, drained and crumbled
  • 1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
  • 6 thinly sliced green onions (about 2/3 cup), divided
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, divided
  • 3 tablespoons lower-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Sriracha (hot chile sauce, such as Huy Fong)
  • 1 cup matchstick-cut cucumbers
  • 1 cup matchstick-cut carrots
  • 1 cup fresh bean sprouts
  • 2 cups hot cooked sticky rice
  • 8 Bibb lettuce leaves (We did Iceberg instead and loved it)


1. To prepare sauce, heat a small saucepan over medium heat. Add canola oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add shallot, and sauté for 2 minutes. Add 1/3 cup water and next 3 ingredients (through red pepper), and stir with a whisk. Bring to a boil; cook 1 minute. Remove from heat; stir in lime juice.
2. To prepare filling, spread crumbled tofu in a single layer on several layers of paper towels; cover with additional paper towels. Let stand 20 minutes, pressing down occasionally.
3. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add sesame oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add 1/3 cup green onions; sauté 1 minute. Add tofu; sauté for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add 2 tablespoons cilantro, soy sauce, ginger, sugar, and Sriracha; sauté 1 minute. Remove from heat; stir in cucumbers, carrots, and remaining green onions.
4. Spoon 1/4 cup rice into each lettuce leaf. Top with about 1/2 cup tofu mixture; sprinkle with 1 tablespoon cilantro. Serve with sauce.

Recipe adapted from Cooking Light Magazine.

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