Thursday, August 16, 2012

Basil Salt

If you are like me you love to use fresh herbs but always have extra that goes bad pretty quickly.

After making my Skillet Baked Ziti I had some extra basil I didn't know what to do with. After doing some google research I decided to make Basil Salt.

It was so easy and now I have no wasted basil!

Place 1/2 cup of basil and 1/2 cup of sea salt in a small food processor.

Pulse until the basil is broken up and mixed throughout the salt.

Bake at 200 F for 60 minutes.

Your kitchen will smell fantastic.

Store in a small mason jar or airtight container.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Skillet Baked Ziti

A few weeks ago I woke up and got ready to go to work like any other day.

I went to grab an english muffin out of the freezer to defrost and toast and realized EVERYTHING was melting.


So I quickly moved everything to a cooler and waited for the repair man. 

As I was cleaning out the freezer I decided to defrost some ground beef that had been in there. I didn't feel like making meatballs so I decided on a baked ziti.

In my cast iron skillet. Yay :)


  • 1lb penne pasta
  • 1lb ground beef
  • 1 small shallot, diced
  • 4-5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 28oz can of San Marzano tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh minced basil
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 15oz container skim ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, plus more for topping
  • 1/2 of lemon, for juice and zest

Preheat your oven to 350 F. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and season with salt. Cook penne pasta for 6-7 minutes or until it is slightly under al dente.

In the meantime...

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the minced shallot and cook for a minute or two. 

Add the minced garlic and cook for 30 seconds.

Add the ground beef. Break up with a wooden spoon while cooking until browned.

Add the canned tomatoes, basil, crushed red pepper and cinnamon. Let simmer over medium-low heat for 15 minutes. Use the wooden spoon to gently break up the tomatoes as the sauce simmers. Season with salt and pepper.

While your sauce is simmering combine your ricotta, beaten egg, mozzarella cheese, lemon juice and zest from 1/2 of lemon. Season with salt and pepper. Comine with a fork until all mixed together. 

Grab a cast iron skillet (or a regular casserole dish will work great!). Layer the bottom of the skillet with a small ladle of sauce. Put a few dollops of the ricotta mixture over the sauce.

Add the cooked pasta to the rest of the sauce and mix well.

Layer the pasta/sauce mixture and more dollops of ricotta in the skillet. Top with extra shredded mozzarella cheese.

Cover loosely with tin foil and bake for 20 minutes at 350 F.

Remove tin foil and continue to bake for another 10 minutes. 

You will now be able to feed an entire army and STILL have leftovers.

I took over half of what I made and froze it. This dish freezes really well and when you want to have it again you can defrost or pop in the oven!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Tasting Menu at Tico

I love going out to dinner with Jaime.

Lately we've found some really great Groupon/Eversave/LivingSocial/GiltCity/Bloomspot deals. There are SO many sites now and what they are offering is getting better and better. These vouchers and deals are a great way to introduce yourself to a new restaurant, especially one you may not have wanted to try before.

A restaurant we haven't wanted to try before? There aren't many. Jaime and I keep a list of restaurants and it is growing by the day. Don't make fun of us.

Tico has been on the list for a while. It was just a stroke of luck that Gilt City had a deal for it. A great deal I might add. $65 got us 4 tasting plates, 1 taco each, 1 la plancha each, 1 dessert to share and a pitcher of margaritas. That's right. A PITCHER.

A la plancha means food that is grilled on flattop metal plate over low even heat with a little oil to caramelize. Yes, I looked that fact up. But now we know.

So Tico. It was amazing. I cannot wait to go back and taste other dishes on their menu. They are a must try if you are in the Boston area!

What I liked most about this deal was that the chef chose the tasting plates for us. It was very exciting not knowing what was coming our way next.


First up was a the Ceviche of the Day. Ours was a striped bass served with a side of hot sauce and an oversize tortilla chip. 

I usually do not eat striped bass but this was fantastic!

Next was the Shredded Cabbage Salad with spicy salsa verde vinaigrette and crushed almonds. I didn't realize how much I loved salsa verde until this dish. It was so refreshing and light.

If there was one dish that was made for me and Jaime it was the Sweet Corn with Bacon, Chiles and Thai Basil. Next time I want two of these :)

Tico’s Mac ‘N Cheese with serrano ham and crunchy bread crumbs was perfect. Not too heavy and the ham gave just the right boost of flavor.

(I can't believe those stray pieces of corn landed on the table and not our our mouths!)

The La Plancha.

Ours was a homemade chorizo with chimichurri. Out of all the dishes we had this was my least favorite. It was caramelized great but I didn't like the sauce - it was way too oily!

Our taco was crispy fried chicken with fennel slaw & spicy buttermilk dressing. 

Everything about this dish worked well together and the "taco" was an very authentic tortilla that you could tell was fresh.

This is straight from Tico's menu: "Super delicious Chocolate Tart with tres leche ice cream-

it’s good for you, loaded with lots of vitamins!"

Well they were right it was super delicious. The homemade tres leche ice cream had these toffee crunchy bits underneath and the tart was topped with homemade whipped cream and sat on caramel sauce.


Well if this hasn't convinced you to go to Tico I don't know what will! Everything we had was great and I loved the surprise of the tasting menu to give the meal some excitement. 

Tico has three different tasting menus offered every day for $35, $55 and $85 per person.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

No Bake Homemade Granola Bars

I know.

It's been MONTHS.


It's summer. I'll get my act together in the fall...I promise.

In the meantime here is a really easy recipe for homemade granola bars. You can change up the ingredients with tons of different dried fruits, nuts or chocolate - whatever you like!! 

These take about 5 minutes max and no baking necessary :)


  • 1/4 cup butter 
  • 1/4 cup honey 
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar 
  • 2 cups quick cooking oats {not rolled oats} 
  • 1 cup crispy rice cereal 
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla 
  • 2 tablespoons mini chocolate chips

Melt the butter, honey and brown sugar in a small sauce pan over medium high heat.

Let bubble for 2 minutes so that all the brown sugar dissolves. Remove from heat.

In the meantime mix the oats and rice cereal together in a bowl.

Once the butter mixture is removed from the heat add the vanilla.

Pour butter mixture over the oats and rice cereal.

Combine so every thing is covered with the butter mixture.

Press into a shallow baking dish (or jelly roll pan if you have one!).

**In this step it is very important that you firmly press the mixture down into the pan as much as you can. I used a piece of wax paper to do so. If the mixture is not pressed down enough the bars will fall apart when they cool.**

Top with mini chocolate chips and lightly press them into the bars so they stick.

Once cooled cut into bars and enjoy!