SEARCH WARRANT: Best Vodka Sauce Recipe

“A la Vodka”……for millions of Italian food lovers, Vodka Sauce ranks number one on their list of favorite dishes and it is definitely up there on mine. The classic combination of tomato sauce, vodka, cream, and parmesan seems like it should be one of the most simple dishes to make. I feel like it should be especially easy to create after a couple of years of professional culinary school. But for some reason, I cannot get this darn recipe correct. Am I being hard-headed? Probably…

Attempt A: It all started last summer. I thought making Penne A La Vodka for the boy would be a great treat after a long day of work. I followed a recipe almost perfectly, but realized that I began making the dish too late into the evening. He got home, we were both starving, and I had just added the vodka to my tomato sauce. Obviously, you are supposed to wait for the alcohol to burn out of of the sauce, but my patience jolted out the window, I was getting cranky, and I added the cream and cheese anyway. As the two of us sat down with a beautiful plate of pink sauce, we took a bite….and….got all warm and fuzzy inside. The vodka did not nearly burn out enough whatsoever.  I can honestly say that I was a little bit tipsy after that plate of penne a la vodka. Who knew you could get drunk off of food?

Attempt B: At the end of last summer I thought I’d wing it again, only this time, start a marinara sauce from scratch. Carrots, onion, celery, tomato paste, tons of dried herbs, etc. I had exceptional focus on not making another drunken penne a la vodka, cooked out the vodka completely, added the cream, and….disaster #2. I believe it was from the tomato paste, but the sauce became creamy with big hunks of red tomato-y-pieces floating all over the place. It looked like my dish had the chicken pox.

Attempt C: Last night. I thought, “Hey, I’ve got a degree at a well-respected culinary school. I shouldn’t even need a recipe for this!”. I was wrong. I did everything right in the beginning: I sauteed some pancetta, added a little shallot, simple crushed tomato, vodka (cooked it out), cream, and lots of freshly grated parmesan. I even added shredded chicken that I cooked in the rendered fat from the pancetta and quickly blanched broccoli, but the sauce was bland. BLAND! SammyRoo does not make bland food. Many of my chefs ridiculed me for OVER-seasoning my dishes. I love salt and pepper. They are a match made in heaven. But that sauce still was not there.

Is there anyone out there with a Vodka Sauce recipe that cannot go wrong? I’m a bit desperate here. I do not like being bad at something. And I think the poor boy who has suffered through 3 fails at his favorite sauce and I would really appreciate it.

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Kardea Nutrition Bars

Yesterday a package came for me and in this little white box was my own sample pack of 4 Kardea bars! Banana Nut, Cranberry Almond, Chai Spice, and Lemon Ginger were the four that I was given, and I could not wait to try one!

Before I tell you about my Kardea adventure, I would like to chat a bit about the Kardea company. Their mission is primarily based on lowering cholesterol using great tasting and natural foods. Not only does Kardea sell nutrition bars, but they also have their own olive oil as well as natural supplements. Their bars have 7 grams of fiber, 7 grams of protein, and contain only 150 calories. Although their ingredient list is rather long, they are all 100% recognizable.

After breakfast and before my gym workout I was not starving but knew I could use a little bit of a boost so I went with the Banana Nut. I am a huge fan of the banana and nut flavor combination. I always have been. When I opened the bar I examined what it looked like and I enjoyed how you could see the walnuts and puffed rice bursting out of the sides of the bar as if they were trying to escape. I could not tell from the look of it whether it was going to be soft like a granola bar or super crunch like that of a Nature Valley bar.

I took a bite and the first flavor I got was banana. More importantly, it was true banana. It did not taste anything like it came out of an extract bottle and it made me smile. The texture was much chewier than expected, although it was not like biting into a powerbar where your jaw literally hurts after a couple of bites. The flavors melded together quite well and I felt satisfied, not full. I ran 3 miles in 24 minutes after that.

I just finished the cranberry almond bar and that lovely product made its way to my number 1 so far. You know how sometimes certain foods can bring back the most oddest of memories? This is going to sound crazy, but as soon as I took a bite this came to mind:

L’Oreal kids cherry-almond shampoo. My mom bought us this shampoo when my brothers and I were little and it was my favorite. I would wash and rewash my hair with this product because I wanted to smell like it all day every day. I was an interesting child.

The taste of the bar is very strong in the almond department, and every once in a while you bite down on a tart dried cranberry. It was fabulous. Kardea, you are two for two in my book!

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Pan Seared Lemon Chicken with Broccoli and Whole Wheat Sketties

Lately, I have been going through this “lemon and protein” obsession phase.

My roommate, as she headed out the door, let me know that she had marinaded chicken in the fridge and since she was going home for a few days it was all mine. I completely jumped on that opportunity. I was rummaging around looking for the bottle of marinade to see what was in it, but had no luck. When I took the lid off of the container I instantly got a pleasant lemon and garlic aroma and that was all I needed to get to work. While I was waiting for the couple of tablespoons of olive oil to heat in my pan, I put the marinaded chicken breast into a little plastic baggy, pounded it out a bit to make it a little more even, and trimmed off the excess fat. I had the oil at a solid “ripple” stage because I wanted to get a good sear on both sides. I love when theres that crust factor on the outside of chicken, steak, pork, etc.

I had angry chicken tonight. It decided it was going to splurt oil on me and I was not thrilled.

While the chicken was in the pan I quickly grabbed about a cup of frozen broccoli and steamed it in the microwave with a dash of water.

Before.

After. I have grown a whole new respect for frozen vegetables after my first apartment experience.

A few days ago I wanted pasta so I decided to just cook the entire pound of whole wheat spaghetti a bit underdone and keep the rest in the fridge. It makes it so much easier to be able to take a handful and throw it into the pan with whatever you are cooking it with. Just make sure you cook it pretty underdone or else it will be way too soft when you reheat it. I love my pasta super al dente.

NOTE: Also, you might want to toss the pasta in a little bit of oil before storing it or else it will all stick together!

After the chicken was finished, I added an additional tablespoon or so of olive oil as well as a tablespoon of butter, a couple tablespoons of lemon juice, a splash of white wine, salt, and pepper and let it reduce a bit. Finally I added the broccoli and pasta, sliced the chicken, and plated!

I added a dash of parmesan because I wanted to. The chicken was incredible. It was so juicy and tender I could cut it with my fork and the little “zing” that came from the lemon sauce was perfect with the broccoli and pasta. I was so excited after I made this and it only took about 20 minutes! I love when things go right.

I’m aware I got a bit carried away with my plating, but I just wanted to make it special for you guys! Enjoy!

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The Duck and Bunny

A couple weeks ago in class all I could hear students talking about was this new cafe known as “The Duck and Bunny“. Located on Wickenden Street, it supposedly was the cutest place ever and served great food. Ever since I heard that it was known as “a snuggery” I knew I just had to check it out. The boy flew over from Arizona yesterday so I thought it would be a great time to go!

This adorable baby pink house serves everything from crepes to “mini cupcake flights” served with 3 perfectly paired wines. Walking in literally felt like we were going to someone’s house for a little party. Every room of the house was decorated from head to toe in paintings, sculptures, chandeliers, and the cutest furniture I have ever seen!

My best friend, T.

The boy. With his Flyers’ playoffs mustache 🙂 .

Here are a few menu items that sounded delicious:

The Owen

Corned Beef, braised cabbage, leek crepe, baby yukon potato and grilled tomato accompaniment/12.

The Angelina

Blueberry Blini, Des Nuages cheese, raspberry chocolate, lemon zest/ 10.

Fresh Ricotta with Olive Oil drizzle

Fresh Narragansett creamery Ricotta with Olive Oil drizzle and served with Olga’s crusty Pane Francese and olive tapenade/6.

For drinks they had a long list of teas, coffee, wine, craft beers, and sparkling wines. We were not hungry enough to get a full meal, but we decided to each get a cupcake so we could taste a few of their different, and homemade, flavors. We decided on a chocolate mint suprise, banana chocolate chip, and red velvet cupcake. I also ordered myself a pot of English Breakfast tea (my favorite).

I pretty much gave the two of them a small bite of my banana chocolate chip cupcake, but the rest was all for myself. The icing was unbelievable. It had a hint of banana in it and you could feel the texture of the sugar in your mouth so you know it was homemade. It reminded me of my mom’s banana bread because she always puts mini chocolate chips in her recipe!

The red velvet was so good. I think I would order that one for myself next time (that was T’s). Unfortunately the boy’s chocolate mint surprise cupcake felt and tasted as though it had been sitting out since this morning. I felt bad. However, my tea was delicious and overall I would definitely want to go back. Next time, though, I would want to go first thing in the morning while everything is fresh and order a crepe!

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Bacon Wrapped Pork Tenderloin with Cheesy Potatoes

“What am I going to make for dinner tonight?” That’s a common question we tend to ask ourselves while pushing the cart through the aisles of the grocery store. While my friends T, Mike, and I were doing our last big grocery run before the end of the year, we debated a few things. As we walked by the meat section we came across these pre-marinaded pork tenderloins. Normally I would’ve liked to marinade it myself, but we were all drooling with hunger and decided to just “Sandra Lee” it and purchase the honey mustard marinaded pork tenderloin.

I added a couple more seasonings to it, such as salt, pepper, and garlic. Mike just happened to ask, “do you guys have bacon?” and almost instantly we both simultaneously got the same idea and said “oh my god yes”. Wrapping pig with more pig was genius!

We threw it into the 350 degree oven and got started on our potatoes. Mike recently purchased an unbelievable Shun knife and requested he slice the potatoes in thin, potato chip thicknesses. His cuts were incredible. Shun is my number one on my list of knives that I want to have for myself someday.

That should be enough for 3 of us, right?

We placed them on a sheet pan in layers along with some seasonings and a handful of shredded cheddar cheese. We referred to them as the “lazy mans au gratin” minus any of the heavy cream.

To give the potatoes a little bit of sweetness we decided to top them with some caramelized onions, so I got right onto that. I absolutely adore caramelized onions. It really aggravates me when certain restaurants’ idea of caramelized onions are pretty much just sauteed onions. The point of caramelizing onions is cooking them at a low heat for a long time. I always add some secret ingredients to mine such as honey, brown sugar, balsamic, a splash of white wine, or even a couple shakes of tabasco to give it that sweet&spicy combination 🙂 .

Come on. Who wouldn’t want a bite of that?

We only used the bacon for flavoring and moisture, so sadly we got rid of it. Overall, everything came out great. Please, do not judge us on the lack of vegetable. We were aware of it and I truly felt bad about it. I promise. I drank a V8.

CHANGES (for next time)

1. We would have seared it on a really high heat first so it had more of a crust to it.

2. We would have set the oven to 375 because 350 for 40 minutes was still not enough time!

That is what cooking is all about. Experimentation. You learn things, you fix things, and you make better things!

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LARABAR

Hello everyone!!

It has been quite some time since I have updated, I know. Having academics for my last Johnson and Wales trimester made me assume that I would have a lot more time on my hands to be updating, but I was soon faced with quite the opposite. Balancing my time and work was difficult for the majority of the past month and half, but all of the focus now is primarily on my finals in just a couple of weeks! I cannot believe this is my last year here, let alone how quickly it has flown by.

One of the most beneficial energy bars I have been eating to get me through my long 8 hour school days are these lovely little things called Larabars. Have you ever heard of them? Sometimes when I come home for a weekend my dad will re-stock me with a variety of flavors of these fruit bars. What is so special about them? Well, for starters, they are gluten, dairy, and soy free. They are vegan and kosher. There is no added sugar, plenty of fiber (averaging around 5 grams per bar!), and are sodium free! 1 bar is 1/2 of the daily recommended value of fruit and they taste amazing!

The name of these bars comes from the creator, Lara. She lives in Colorado and does a lot of hiking and wanted to come up with a delicious and good-for-you energy bar that had no added ingredients or preservatives. So with her Cuisinart and a rolling pin she began coming up with these recipes (Banana Cookie, Cherry Pie, and Cashew Cookie to name a few) and on April 13, 2003 they started being sold in stores!

These are my top three favorite flavors, but there are plenty more to choose from. I highly recommend you try one!

“We at LARABAR believe that a sound mind, body, and spirit are derived from food in its simplest, most natural state. Made from 100% real food, LARABAR is a magical harmony of fruits, nuts, and spices that will lift your vitality and provide energy with every bite. Simple. Pure. Delicious. Enjoy the energy!

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I WANT “S’MORE” BROWNIES!

For most people, (or should I say most college students?) brownie mix is a staple in the pantries of their kitchens. For most people, they think “hey, we’re bored, let’s make brownies”, eat half the batter, bake them off, and enjoy what they could get out of it. We’ve all been there. For my roommate T and myself, however, we thought, “hey, we’re bored, what can we make out of this brownie mix?”. I guess we aren’t like most people and that’s what led us our S‘more Brownies. They are so simple, so delicious, and I highly recommend you make these! 🙂

INGREDIENTS:

graham crackers (we had to resort to Honey Teddy Grahams)

melted butter

1 bag of mini marshmallows

cooking spray

1 box of brownie mix and the ingredients it requires to make them

We’ve all seen these before right?

WARNING: Anyone apart of any sort of animal rights movement should not look at the next picture.

If these brownies didn’t taste so fabulous I would probably have some sort of guilt towards the murder of the little bears. But, I don’t. 🙂

melted butter + crushed teddy’s = our graham cracker crust

Then we poured the brownie batter on top of the graham cracker crust and baked it according to the directions on the box. As soon as it came out, we turned on the broiler to 500 degrees. While it was heating up,  T and I placed the mini marshmallows individually all over the brownies so that they all stood up like little soldiers!

It was finally time to put the marshmallows under the broiler. NOTE: T and I literally squatted in front of the oven to keep an eye on them, that’s how fast it took. Not even 30 seconds later we pulled them out and voila!

Maybe it was just because we are culinary and pastry students, but this got us really excited.

Suggestions:

1. Wait until they are cooled to cut them, unless you don’t care about presentation and want the warm marshmallow chocolatey goodness right away.

2. Next time we make these, we are definitely going to use plain old graham crackers. The crust was a little un-proportioned with everything else.

Other than that, enjoy!!! Question/Comments????

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