Saturday, May 30, 2009

Fresh Pasta with Morels and Carmelized Vidalia Onion Cream Sauce - The Roma Bakery Story

First, the story of how this fantastic dish came to fruition...

Some friends of ours visited last weekend from Ann Arbor (booooo, hisssss!!!). Charlie, one of Matt's ushers at our wedding, brought over a large bag of Morel mushrooms that his uncle had given to him. My jaw dropped when I saw how many he had. When he left, he gave us a bag of them, saying he wouldn't be able to eat them all before they went bad. And so they've been sitting in our fridge, burning a hole all week, until I had time to properly prepare them.

So yesterday, on our 11-month anniversary, I knew I was going to cook up the Morels for dinner. I had done some research on the internet and wanted to make a cream sauce to go with pasta. I had gotten off work a little early and had the brilliant idea to stop by Roma Bakery, in hopes of finding some fresh pasta.

One of the staff there pointed me in the direction of their freezer case to find fresh pasta. Much to my dismay, all they had was stuffed ravioli, tortellini, gnocchi and other stuffed pasta varieties (I am DEFINITELY going back to get some of this in the future).

A short gentleman in a white hat walked up and asked if he could help me find anything. I told him about my Morels and that I wanted to have some fresh pasta with them. He shared that they used to carry fresh pasta but stopped making it because no one was buying it. Having my mind set on the fresh pasta, I asked if he knew of anywhere I could pick some up. He gave me the names of a couple shops, I thanked him and walked over to the bakery to admire their delectable-looking treats. I picked out a few dessert treats and a sourdough baguette. While the woman was packaging them in a box for me, the man in the white hat came by and said "I'll tell you what. Come back in half an hour and I'll have some fresh fettucine waiting for you." What what what?!?!!? I couldn't believe my ears. Someone was going to make ME some fresh pasta... just for me?!?!?!? I thanked him profusely, asked the woman at the bakery to hold onto my things for a bit and then drove around for half an hour until it was time to go back.

When I got back to the bakery, out came the man in the white hat with a white box. He opened it up and showed me the pasta he had made special for me.

I thanked him again and then he looked at me and said "There's no charge for this." I almost started crying. What a kind and generous man to be giving me something he had just made with his own hands. He walked back towards the kitchen, whispered something in the bakery woman's ear and then was gone. I was all ready to be rung up for my pastries and bread, still in shock about the pasta, when the woman crossed out my total on the pastry box and said "there's no charge for this." At this point, I think I just stood there with my mouth hanging open and shaking my head. I couldn't believe the kindness shown at this local institution. So I proceeded to the front counter and handed the cashier $2.09 for my baguette. I asked for the name of the man in the white hat. His name is Sostine Castriciano. He and his wife, Mena, own the Roma Bakery.

What Sostine gave to me yesterday embodies the kindness and generosity of the human spirit. If we can all stop focusing on the negative (i.e. the economy, etc.) and embrace each other, I think we can get out of the funk that seems to have settled over our great nation.

More Articles on Roma Bakery:
Roma Bakery Shares Old World Flavor
Roma Brings a Taste of Italy to Mid-Michigan
Lansing Traditions Worth a Taste
Ethnic Groceries Anchor New Economy Neighborhoods

Oh, wait, you want the recipe for the Morels and Carmelized Vidalia Onion Cream Sauce? :-) Recipe follows. I'll also blog about the yummy salad dressing I made and our desserts. Both are worthy of their own post.

8-10 fresh Morel mushrooms
Half of a large Vidalia onion, roughly chopped
3 Tbsp butter
3 oz of 1/3 less fat cream cheese
1 C half and half

Cut the Morels in half lengthwise and dunk in a cold water bath for 5-10 minutes, agitating the water to help remove any dirt on the 'shrooms.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, bring 2 Tbsp butter to a bubble over medium high heat. Add the Vidalia onions and sautee for 15-20 minutes, or until caramelized.

Pat the mushrooms dry and roughly chop. Once the onions are done, remove them from the skillet, add 1 Tbsp butter and the mushrooms. Let sautee for about 5 minutes, or until soft.

Reduce the heat to low and add in the cream cheese. When the cheese had started melting, slowly start adding in the half and half until the sauce reaches a soupy texture. Pour over fresh pasta and serve with some fresh grated parmigiano reggiano.

Friday, May 29, 2009

11 Down... 1 To Go!

We're coming close to our first anniversary as husband and wife. What a journey it's been so far! I'll keep this post short because Matt is waiting for me to watch a movie. I am just so lucky to have found such a wonderful man to share all of life's little moments with. We had a wonderful dinner tonight, which I will blog about tomorrow. Can't wait until June 29, 2009!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Blog Changes

I have made a few recent updates to my blog that I'd like to share/brag about (especially since I had to figure out the html code on a few of them to makeit all work for me).

  1. I have created a three-column blog so that I can highlight more areas without them running long down only one side of my blog.
  2. Twitter - now you can follow me on Twitter and see what I am up to in the upper left corner of my blog. I have Twitter hooked up to my phone so I can Tweet at any time. So high tech, I know.
  3. LinkWithin - now you can see similar posts that may be of interest to you at the bottom of each new post.
  4. AddThis! - now you can take any of my posts that you enjoy and share them on your Facebook, on Twitter, via email, print them and add to your favorite websites.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Gourmet Memorial Day Picnic

For Memorial Day, I planned a gourmet picnic for Matt and I at one of our favorite spots... on the banks of the Red Cedar River on the campus of Michigan State University. For the menu I prepared:

Prosciutto and Sharp Provolone Sandwiches with Grill-Roasted Orange Peppers and Kalamata Olive Mayo
Low-fat Pesto pasta salad with walnuts (made with low fat ricotta cheese and only a teeny bit of olive oil)
Chocolate Chip Cookies with Reeses Pieces
Fresh Grapes
And of course, a bottle of wine

We took all of the stale bread I've been saving up all winter to feed the ducks and geese. Matt had fun "baiting" the geese and then chucking wads of bread at them... love my husband! It was a nice, sunny, romantic afternoon, just the two of us and Ozzy.

Creamy Horseradish Sauce

We bought some fantastic looking filet mignon the other day. They were each about 8 oz., so they didn't need any sides. We served it with some fresh green beans and one of my favorites, creamy horseradish.

Check out the grill marks on those babies! My husband is an excellent griller!

All measures are approximate. I always just do it to taste.

3 Tbsp reduced fat sour cream
1 Tbsp reduced fat mayonnaise
1 Tbsp Reese creamy horseradish - this is the hottest horseradish I have found. If you use jarred horseradish found in the refrigerated section at the grocery store, you will probably need to use some extra if you like your sauce spicier.
Italian parsley, chopped - I used this only because I had it on hand. I don't feel it did much to enhance the flavor, but it added a nice color.

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and refrigerate for 15 minutes or longer to allow flavors to develop.

Easy Chicken Enchilada Casserole

Our friends Josh and Katie just celebrated the birth of their second daughter, Natalie Grace, born last week. We took over some dinner on Saturday night. I held Natalie for almost two hours after dinner. She just slept right in my arms. I even dozed off a few times to the aromatic, perfect baby smell.

This casserole is adapted from a recipe found on I was skeptical that it would turn out runny, but all of the comments were correct in saying that this casserole had almost no extra liquid. It all soaked up into the tortillas and tasted so good!

2 large skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
Southwestern seasoning
16 (6 inch) flour tortillas, quartered
1 (16 ounce) can green chile enchilada sauce
1 (16 ounce) can red chile enchilada sauce
1/2 packet taco seasoning mix
1 (8 ounce) package 2% shredded Mexican cheese
1 (8 ounce) container reduced fat sour cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease a medium baking dish. Season chicken with southwestern seasoning. Arrange in the prepared baking dish. Bake 45 minutes in the preheated oven, until no longer pink and juices run clear. Cool, shred, and set aside. You can also grill the chicken, which I did, since our dishwasher is on the fritz and I didn't want to have extra dishes.

In a bowl, combine the shredded chicken, sour cream and taco seasoning.

Pour about 1/4 inch enchilada sauce in the bottom of a medium baking dish (I used 9 x 13), and arrange 6 tortillas in a single layer.

Top with 1/2 the chicken mixture, 1/3 cheese, and 1/3 of the remaining enchilada sauce. Repeat. Coat remaining tortillas thoroughly with remaining enchilada sauce, and arrange on top of the layers.

Sprinkle with remaining cheese, and top with any remaining enchilada sauce. Cover, and bake 45 minutes in the preheated oven. Cool slightly before serving.

Mussels and Sourdough Baguette

One bag of these puppies was the perfect amount for Matt and I for dinner. Mmmmm.... yummy!

1 mesh bag of fresh mussels (Here are some tips for buying and cleaning mussels)
1 C white wine
2-3 C chicken stock
3 cloves garlic, crushed/minced
1 ½ Tbsp Old Bay or other seafood seasoning
Fresh parsley, finely chopped
Sourdough Baguette

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Thinly slice the baguette and bake on a large sheet until the slices are nice and crispy.

Thoroughly rinse and clean the mussels, discarding any that are cracked or split open.

Meanwhile, in a medium (4-5 qt) pot bring the wine, chicken stock, garlic, seasoning and some chopped parsley to a rolling boil. Allow to boil for 10 minutes or so to allow the flavors to meld.

Add the mussels. At this point, make sure that the liquid barely covers most of the mussels.

Cover the mussels and cook for 5-10 minutes, until they have all started splitting open. Remove from the heat and dump all of the mussels and liquid into a large serving bowl. Garnish with chopped parsley and serve with the slices of baguette. I like to eat mine on top of the baguette and using the leftover baguette to dunk in the sauce goodness.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Pineapple Angel Food Cake Trifle

Happy Memorial Day! What a beautiful day we are expecting today! I finally got around to posting my dessert from Easter. This is one of my favorite desserts to make because (a) it's so darn pretty (b) tastes delicious (that's the important part) and (c) it's WW friendly!! If you don't have a trifle bowl, you can certainly make this dessert on a large platter.

20 oz can crushed pineapple in juice, undrained
1.5 oz (or so) package of fat free, sugar free vanilla pudding
1 container of fat free (or lite) Cool Whip
1 pre-packaged Angel Food Cake - if you're making your own, I think you would probably need one pan's worth for this recipe
Fresh strawberries

In a large bowl, mix the crushed pineapple (with all its juice) and the package of the dry pudding mix. Then add half of the container of Cool Whip to the mix.

To assemble the dessert, cut your angel food cake into three lengthwise portions. Start with a layer of the angel food cake. Then slather about one-third of the pineapple mixture on top and sprinkle with some fresh, cut strawberries. Repeat two more times, ending with strawberries on top.

Finish it off by topping it with the remaining half of the Cool Whip and some fresh strawberries.

WW points per serving (10 servings): 3 points

Friday, May 22, 2009


Let me take this opportunity to say how much I absolutely LOVE our new Samsung front loading washer and dryer. We purchased them when we bought our house because the house didn't already have a set. Based on the Consumer Reports review from March, Samsung is one of the best brands to buy, but also the most expensive. So we went into Lowe's planning to get a GE model that was ranked in the top 10. The guy there told us about a brand new Samsung model that was made to compete with the GE and is the exact same price as the GE. SOLD! Our model numbers are WF209ANW (washer) and DV209AE (dryer), for anyone in the market for a new washer and dryer.

Now we come to the VRT - Vibration Reduction Technology. The washer doesn't even sound like it's running when it is in full spin. That's how quiet it is. The washer has little pegs on the bottom to that you can adjust to make it level with whatever ground you have it on. They are seriously barely audible.

Anyone wanna come over and watch them run? It's one of my favorite things to do. And at the end of both the wash and dry cycle, the machine plays a little "Samsung song," as I like to refer to it. That's the best part.

Now, off to do some laundry!!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Lemon Basil Bowties with Chicken

Oh.My.Gosh. This pasta dish tasted AMAZING! I saw this recipe over on Chelsey's blog, originally from Rachael Ray. Seriously, this tasted SO GOOD! I added chicken to make it a one-dish meal. I also threw all the ingredients into my WW online recipe builder to figure out the points per serving. I can't wait to make this dish again!

2 1/2 cup(s) bowtie pasta
Zest of 1/2 to 1 lemon, plus juice
2 tsp olive oil
4 oz Chicken breast, skinless, boneless, raw, cubed
2/3 cup(s) 1% low-fat cottage cheese
1/4 cup(s) pine nuts, toasted
1/4 cup(s) fresh basil, roughly chopped

Cook the pasta in a large pot with 1 tsp olive oil until al dente.

In a saucepan, roast the pine nuts until golden brown. Remove the pine nuts. Add 1 tsp olive oil, the cubed chicken and lemon juice to the pan. Add salt and pepper to taste and cook until chicken is no longer pink.

Strain the pasta and return to the pot. Add the cottage cheese, toasted pine nuts, lemon zest, basil and chicken and stir until all ingredients are incorporated and the cheese is starting to melt. Serve immediately.

WW Points per Serving (half of recipe): 11 points

Sunday, May 17, 2009


Exactly one month ago we received the keys to our new house. Let me tell you, living on a pond has been quite an adventure over the past month! Below are some pictures of the fun things we have seen. There was NOTHING like this at our apartment in East Lansing!

First, there was the painted turtle that I almost ran over on my way home from work. Coming up to it, I thought it was just a leaf blowing across the road. When I was almost on top of it, I realized it was a turtle! I braced for impact and surprisingly missed the little fella! So I slammed on the breaks, u-turned it and pulled over on the opposite side of the road with my hazards on. With each passing car I covered my eyes, waiting to hear a crunch of the little turtle under someone's tire.

Thankfully, he got his wits about him and turned around to scoot back to the embankment. I waited for traffic to clear, then ran across the street and scooped him up. I finished the rest of the ride home with the turtle in the car. When I got home, I showed him to Matt and we decided to let him go in the pond.

The release!
Now he will be happy in his new home!
These are the baby robins that have a nest under the deck. Mommy comes and feeds them all the time. They are so cute!
We found this little guy on our front window before heading to bed one night.

Matt found this guy out front when mowing the lawn yesterday. Good thing he was paying attention so he didn't run him over!

It has been a joy discovering all of the wildlife in our own backyard. I can't wait until the weather warms up and we can sit out back in the evening and enjoy our little paradise.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

First Home-Cooked Dinner at the New House

Just had to post this, as it was our first dinner at our new house. Matt seasoned the filet mignon and cooked it perfectly to my liking, medium rare. I sauteed some mushrooms and onions. We served it with some pan-cooked yukon gold potatoes and some fresh Michigan asparagus. The asparagus was A-MAZ-ING! So fresh, with a slight sweetness. Welcome home!!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Mother's Day Wrap Up

We had a fantastic Mother's Day at our new house. My parents drove in from Detroit area to spend the afternoon with us. And we had a visit from one of Matt's groomsmen and his fiance, Jen and Jeremy, who were in town from Indianapolis for the weekend.

For the menu, I prepared (with help from my mommy!) Sicilian Grilled Cornish Hens with Basil Aioli, Risotto with Grilled Eggplant and Artichokes and a Creamy Cucumber Salad. Matt's mom brought her famous cookies for dessert (Snickerdoodles and Chocolate Chip, this time). We all went for a nice walk around the pond after dinner and then gave our moms plants for their gardens as gifts. All in all, it was a wonderful day. To top it off, the Red Wings won 4-1 against Anaheim.
Sicilian Grilled Cornish Hens (recipe adapted from
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
1/4 cup olive oil
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
4 rock cornish hens, defrosted

Whisk lemon juice, parsley, olive oil, garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in medium bowl. Place 2 cornish hens in each of 2 resealable plastic bags. Divide lemon marinade between bags. Seal bags, releasing excess air. Turn to coat hens with marinade. Chill overnight if possible, turning bag occasionally.

Prepare barbecue on medium heat.Remove the cornish hens from the marinade. On a cutting board, with the breast side up, gently push on the breastbone of the bird to slightly flatten it, creating a larger surface area for grilling.

Place hens, breast side down, on the grill. Cover for 4 minutes. Turn the chickens, cover and grill for an additional 4 minutes. Turn hens again and reduce heat to medium-low. After 10 minutes, turn again. Grill until instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of thigh registers 180°F (per the instructions on the package of the cornish hens).

Transfer chickens to work surface; let rest 10 minutes. We cut the hens into four pieces. First down the breastbone and then again in half, leaving half of the breast and the leg as one portion and the other half of the breast and the wing as another portion.

Basil Aioli
3/4 C lite mayonnaise
1/3 C finely chopped basil
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp. garlic, minced or crushed
1/2 tsp. grated lemon zest

Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour to allow flavors to develop. Can be made up to two days in advance.

Risotto with Grilled Eggplant and Artichokes (using Mary Ellen's perfected risotto recipe)
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 shallot, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
1.5 C arborio rice
1/2 c dry white wine
8 cups chicken broth, heated
1 eggplant, grilled and diced
1 can artichoke hearts, roughly chopped
1/2 C grated Parmigiano Reggiano

Heat olive oil and butter in a large saute pan. Add shallots and garlic; stir until tender, about 2 minutes.

Add arborio rice and stir until coated. Add the white wine and stir until absorbed.

Add the chicken broth, one ladle at a time, stirring constantly. Add more broth only when all of the broth in the pan has been absorbed by the rice. This process of adding broth takes anywhere from 17 to 25 minutes. Taste as you go along so you don't over or under cook the rice. When you add your final ladle of broth, add the eggplant, artichoke and cheese, and stir until broth is completely absorbed. Serve immediately.

Creamy Cucumber Salad (adapted from
4 seedless cucumbers
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 C lite Miracle Whip

1/4 C half and half cream
4 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. celery seed
1 tsp. dried dill weed

Peel the cucumbers and then use the vegetable peeler to slice the whole cucumber very thin. Basically, discard the peels and then "peel" the whole cucumbers until you havea bunch of cucumber ribbons. Pat dry thoroughly with paper towels to remove excess moisture.

In a large bowl, combine the cucumbers with the tomatoes and the rest of the ingredients. Chill or at least one hour before serving to allow flavors to combine.

Everyone said they enjoyed everything. Here's our parents, eating at our makeshift dinner table (aka inlaws' card table) while our real table gets refinished. Happy Mother's Day!!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Traverse City Chocolate Festival

Let's start with a recap of the chocolate fest since, in the move across town, I can't seem to locate my camera to computer plug and my telepathic skills just aren't able to transfer the pictures off my camera and onto the computer.

My good friend John Jessup from the Traverse City Convention and Visitors Bureau picked me up from Grand Traverse Resort last Sunday and took me to Downtown TC for the Traverse City Chocolate Festival. First, we stopped at one of my favorite shops, Fustini's Oils and Vinegars. I must give them a plug, as they have some of the finest offerings in flavored olive oils and balsamic vinegars. If they allowed it, I would literally pour the Red Apple Balsamic Vinegar right from the spout into my mouth. *drool*

Back to the Chocolate Fest... I was in awe of the City Opera House, which has been renovated over the last seven years. The gold inlays in the ceiling and wraparound balcony were truly a sight to see. Picture me with my jaw dropped, looking up at the ceiling until John snapped me out of the trance.

I was also intrigued by the number of chocolatiers that have made their home in Northern Michigan. It made much more sense when I saw the local wineries that participated in the festival, showcasing their port and other sweet, dessert wines. Chocolate + Wine = Match Made in Heaven

One of the highlights was watching a demonstration from a local chocolatier, whose name escapes me at the moment, making fresh truffles... and then she passed them out for all to taste. I suppose this is why I have forgotten which shop she represented. I was too mezmerized by the explosion of fresh, warm chocolate melting in my mouth to see which company she was from.

Another highlight was talking to one of the creators of True North Vodka from the Grand Traverse Distillery. I mean, I know a little bit about wine, but am clueless about vodka. I learned so much about the production of this fine spirit. They use only rye grown in northern Michigan to make their vodka and are distributing in all Meijers and working on a deal with Costco. They were sampling a chocolate vodka, made with cacao beans which rested on the bottom of the bottle. Thankfully, they only sampled about a half an ounce. By the time we visited them, my cheeks were already red from all of the chocolate and wine we were trying.

Some of the chocolatiers in attendance included:

I certainly had a wonderful time and left with quite the sugar buzz that kept me going for the rest of the afternoon and into the evening, when my conference began.

A BIG thank you goes out to John for introducing me to this fun (and yummy!) festival. As the weather warms up, I can't wait to chronicle the other festivals and events that Matt and I attend. I promise to take pictures of any future events. I was counting on the TC Chocolate Fest website to have more photos that I could borrow for this post, but I came up short.

OK, back to looking for my camera cord...

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

One Month Hiatus

My co-worker and I on the course at Grand Traverse Resort in Traverse City, MI

Dear friends, I confess to being a horrible blogger for the last month. Let's start with what's happened since April 5...
  • Easter
  • We closed on our house
  • We renovated our house
  • We moved into our house
  • We lost a dear friend, Chris Keene
  • I turned 27 years old
  • I went to Traverse City for 5 days to manage/coordinate the largest event I plan all year (this is the main reason for the lack of blog entries)
All of that aside, I am getting the internet hooked up at our house today (yippee!!!), so here's a list of what's in store in the upcoming entries:
  • Easter Treats
  • House pics before and after renovations
  • VRT - you, too, will be amazed
  • The garden
  • The furniture
  • Traverse City Chocolate Fest
  • John's blogging quest

Much more coming VERY soon!!!