Boca, Cincinnati

I love trying new restaurants so you know Boca in Cincinnati is pretty outstanding if I ended up eating there two of the three nights we stayed in the Queen City. The food, service, and ambience were out of this world.

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Boca does a great Midwestern take on Italian cuisine.

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David, our server, was the best. This guy could serve me stale bread and I would still think he was great.

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But no stale bread here. Far from it. Instead I ordered the corn cappallacci, which were little homemade pasta pockets with sweet corn and black truffle. I can still smell it now. It was one of the very best things I have ever eaten.

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The restaurant’s signature dish are these delectable pommes soufflées. These puffed potatoes are a nod to the old building the restaurant occupies. They are so complicated that the chef that one out of every three batches gets thrown out. And they’re divine.

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Boca was a delicious find I will not be forgetting.

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I think it would be worth a trip to Cincinnati just for the corn cappallaci and pommes soufflées.

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Lamb with Tzatziki

On a lovely summer night what could be better than grilling and dining on the deck? Last night the hubby and I made lamb with tzatziki sauce. It was simple and delicious.

We started by marinating a small rack of lamb (16 very small chops) for about an hour in the marinade listed below. This was the perfect amount of food for us with a small bed of couscous, but could easily serve four people with a couple more side dishes. Tabbouleh or roasted potatoes would be great!

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Marinade: Combine a teaspoon of chopped garlic, two tablespoons lemon juice, salt and pepper, a tablespoon fresh thyme, and three tablespoons olive oil in a food processor just until blended. Then pour into a plastic bag and add the individual chops. Marinate about an hour.

Grilling the lamb: Grill the lamb chops over direct heat at 450 degrees for about three minutes on each side.

Tzatziki: Whisk together one cup of Greek yogurt, three tablespoons vinegar, one teaspoon sugar, salad pepper, and a teaspoon of chopped fresh mint. Drizzle over meat or use as dip.

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Pizza Night

Homemade pizza night is a favorite in our house. My two-year-old, husband, and I all love it, and the only side dish required is a simple lettuce salad.

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When I have fresh basil on-hand like this gorgeous stuff from my herb garden, it becomes the star of the show. There are tons of great pizza dough recipes out there, but I often just grab a couple of pre-made crusts at the grocery store. Pillsbury canned pizza crust is also good.

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I usually involve my daughter in topping the pizzas, but last night she had better things to do like playing in her new sandbox.

When it comes to topping pizzas, the possibilities are endless, but here are three of my favorites:

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Margherita Artichoke (shown here): I spread about a cup of tomato sauce on my crust and cover with shredded mozzarella and artichoke hearts (I buy the kind packed in oil in a jar.) This time I threw some pepperoni on, too, per my hubby’s request. I bake for 12 minutes before topping with lots of fresh basil and baking for an additional minute to slightly wilt the basil. Fresh basil is a must!

Pear, Caramelized Onion, and Gouda: Instead of pizza sauce, I drizzle the crust with plenty of olive oil. I slice two pears very thinly along with one small red onion and sauté all in a skillet with yet more olive oil just for a few minutes. I layer the crust with thin slices of Gouda and then top with the pears and onions before baking about 12 minutes.

Prosciutto, Arugula, and Goat Cheese: Again, I drizzle the crust with olive oil and sprinkle on a little shredded mozzarella to hold things together. I layer on thin slices of prosciutto and crumble on  goat cheese. I bake it for about 12 minutes and then pile on a lot of fresh arugula.

Helpful Hint: We prefer a crispier crust in our house so I always bake the crust for a couple minutes before topping it regardless of if I’m using homemade dough, canned, or a pre-made crust.

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The Cookies I Can’t Stop Making

I love these cookies. They’re healthy because of the oatmeal, right? I didn’t photograph a play-by-play on this one, but I have made these a couple of times in the last few weeks. They’re easy and will disappear quickly!

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I found the recipe in a Land-O-Lakes ad. Fancy, right? Make these and you won’t be sad you did.

Recipe:

  • 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 3/4 cup uncooked old-fashioned or quick oats
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup M&Ms
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

 

  • Heat the over to 375 degrees.
  • Combine the brown sugar, butter, egg, and vanilla and beat at medium speed until creamy.
  • Add the oats, flour, baking soda, and salt. Beat at low speed until well mixed.
  • Stir in the M&Ms and chocolate chips.
  • Drop dough by heaping teaspoons, a couple of inches apart, on a lightly greased cookie sheet.
  • Bake approximately 11 minutes and allow to cool on the baking sheet for a minute before removing to a cooling rack.

 

 

Cooking Class and Tangy Tomato Vinaigrette

Last Sunday my friend Lacey and I were in the mood to do something a little different and we landed on this…

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Chef Chris, who has worked in the exciting food scenes of Seattle and Portland before returning to the Black Hills, gave us a fun tutorial on shaking up brunch.

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We made a BLT salad, peanut butter granola pancakes with homemade date syrup, and more.

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Lacey, a registered dietitian, was a much better student than I was. Look: Those are actual notes on her menu. Dedicated! By the way, go check out her blog Edible Remarks for healthy and tasty meal recommendations.

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Roberta, the chef’s assistant was hilarious. She had plenty of one-liners to amuse us while she cleaned up the kitchen and plated our delicious treats.

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These open-faced smoked salmon sandwiches with avocado were refreshing and tasty.

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Eggs Benedict with fool-proof hollandaise sauce was a favorite.

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If you live in the Black Hills area and want to take a class, visit this link for more information. Sadly, they are taking a break from classes over the holidays, but will be back with a fresh line-up in March.

Here is one of the recipes from the class. We had this vinaigrette over grilled romaine lettuce.

Tangy Tomato Vinaigrette

Ingredients:

  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 tablespoon red onion, minced
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon Tabasco or Sriracha sauce (optional)
  • Pinch of lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley or chives, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons plus 1 tablespoon (for sauté pan) olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Method:

  • Heat a tablespoon of oil in a sauté pan over medium heat.
  • Add red onion and tomatoes. Cook until just softened, about two minutes.
  • Stir in cherry tomatoes and cook briefly, about two minutes.
  • Place contents of pan into a blender or food processor and add vinegar, Worcestershire, hot sauce, lemon zest, and parsley or chives. Blend together.
  • With the motor running, slowly drizzle in oil until completely incorporated.
  • Serve.
  • Can be saved in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Peanut Butter Blossom Cookies

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This weekend featured rainy fall mornings made for baking cookies. My two-year-old is really into making Daddy cookies lately, so we got right to it yesterday. This peanut butter blossom recipe is an oldie-but-goodie from one of those family cookbooks most of us have in our collection.

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I like to use the miniature Hershey’s Kisses. The rest of the ingredients are pretty basic.

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A creamy mixture of peanut butter and shortening gets the ball rolling right. Then granulated and brown sugar are added as well as egg, a little milk, and vanilla. The flour, baking soda, and salt are then mixed in gradually.

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Roll the cookies in granulated sugar before baking. My daughter loved helping with this part.

Just when the cookies come out of the oven, three mini kisses are placed on top so they melt slightly into the top of the cookie and look like a pretty little blossom. Happy fall baking, everyone!

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Recipe:

  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1/3 cup additional granulated sugar for rolling
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 cup peanut butter
  • Miniature Hershey’s Kisses
  • Heat the over to 375 degrees.
  • Beat the shortening and peanut butter in large bowl until well blended.
  • Add 1/3 cup granulated sugar and 1/3 cup packed brown sugar and beat until light and fluffy.
  • Add the egg, milk and vanilla. Beat well.
  • Combine flour, baking soda, and salt. Gradually add to peanut butter mixture, beating until well blended.
  • Shape the dough into one-inch balls.
  • Roll in granulated sugar and place on an ungreased cookie sheet.
  • Bake 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Immediately place three kisses on top of each cookie, pressing down slightly.
  • Makes about 18 cookies (but I make my cookies fairly large!)

Shrimp, Strawberry, and Feta Salad

Hot summer days call for refreshing, yet satisfying dinners. We have been in a salad mood at our house and trying to come up with new combinations. My husband made an amazing steak salad for lunch Sunday so I tried to top that with this creation.

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The savory roasted shrimp and crumbled feta balance out the sweetness of the fresh strawberries.

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I like the Olde Thompson Fish and Seafood Seasoning to give the shrimp plenty of flavor. You can find it at most grocery stores. I bought this at Target.

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Chopped shallots add flavor to the easy vinaigrette.

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Balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and a little salt and pepper round out the vinaigrette.

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I use feta a lot. It is rich and creamy.

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This is a perfect dinner for a hot summer night. Cheers to August!

Recipe:

  • About 1 pound raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • Olive oil to coat shrimp
  • Salt and pepper
  • Seafood seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon chopped shallot
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 cup sliced strawberries
  • Greens (I used romaine)
  • 1 cup crumbled feta

 

  • Toss as much raw, peeled, and deveined shrimp as you like in olive oil and season. I used Olde Thompson Fish and Seafood Seasoning, available at Target.
  • Roast at 400 degrees for 10 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, make the vinaigrette: Whisk together a tablespoon of chopped shallot, 3 tablespoons of olive oil, 2 tablespoons of water, 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, and a little salt and pepper.
  • Arrange greens on plates. Cover with sliced strawberries and crumbled feta.
  • When shrimp is cooked and cools for a minute, arrange it on the salad.
  • Drizzle with vinaigrette.
  • Serve and enjoy!