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Nutella, Strawberry & Banana Stromboli

July 22, 2014 Menu No Comments

Being a writer of an Italian-themed food blog, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I have quite a few tasty guilty pleasures – with Nutella and stromboli way up on top of my list. I’ve posted a number of stromboli recipes on my blog over the years, and Nutella…well, how can I not love Nutella? Last week, I allowed both tasty worlds to collide as my daughter Julianna and I put a frozen puff pastry sheet that we hand on hand to deliciously good use. This was a fun and easy recipe that my daughter and I both enjoyed working on together. Time was mostly spent waiting on the pastry sheet  to completely defrost (which took a good 30-45 minutes). Once the pastry sheet was defrosted, I had Jules spread an even layer of Nutella as I sliced up some fresh strawberries and bananas. When spreading the Nutella, we left a one inch border on all four sides, which would allow us to fold and tuck the pastry sheet and not have any Nutella run out when baking. Once rolled, jelly-roll style, we brushed a little egg wash on the top of the rolled pastry, then topped it with a sprinkling of cinnamon. We baked it at 400˚ on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet for 15 minutes. In just a short amount of time, we had a piping-hot dessert ready to be shared with my wife and our younger daughter Ava, served up with a little whipped cream on the side. I’m sure you can go all kinds of fun and crazy directions with this recipe…and I plan to do so, especially when the fall weather rolls into town in a few months. Be sure to keep it fun, let the kids get involved, and I guarantee that it will make for a tasty and memorable evening for you and your family!


Step 1: Using one defrosted puff pastry sheet, spread an even coating of Nutella. Be sure to leave a one inch border on all four sides, which will make for easier rolling and sealing. This is a fun and easy step to have your kids handle, as you prepare and slice the fruit topping.


Step 2: Place the fruit slices evenly on top of the Nutella spread. Be sure not to over-pack it with fruit, otherwise it will be difficult to roll the pastry shell – possibly breaking the shell if over-packed.


Step 3: Roll the pastry sheet jelly-roll style. Fold the top and bottom ends down before the final roll, so that both ends are tucked in and sealed.


Step 4: Place the rolled pastry onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Lightly brush the top of the pastry with an egg wash, then sprinkle with a little cinnamon. Be sure to add a few vertical cuts to the top of the pastry to allow steam to escape. Place the cookie tray into a 400˚ oven for 15 minutes, or until golden brown.


Step 5: When cooled, slice it and serve it on a plate with a dollop of whipped cream or a scoop of ice cream. Enjoy!


Italian-style Shrimp Po’Boy Sandwiches

July 11, 2014 Entrees, Menu No Comments

I was inspired to put this dish together a few weeks back when I saw Rick Moonen’s Catfish Sloppy Joe sandwich featured on The Food Network. I put a different spin on it by using my own Sloppy Joe recipe (found here), replacing the ground meat with shrimp. I also added zucchini and Old Bay to the mix for additional taste. I like to think of this sandwich as a cross between a Sloppy Joe and a Shrimp Po’Boy…a Sloppy Po’Boy, if you will. Unlike a true Po’Boy, these shrimp are not battered and fried. I also used a crusty Italian roll instead of a baguette…as long as the bread is good, there’s no need to be picky as far as I’m concerned. Whatever you prefer to call it, this is definitely a hearty and tasty sandwich, easy to make, and perfect for the summer season.




Italian-style Shrimp Po’Boy Sandwiches

Makes four sandwiches

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 small red or green bell pepper, coarsely chopped
½ cup chopped onion
1 zucchini, cut into 1″ cubes
1/2 lb medium raw shrimp, peeled and deveined, each piece cut into thirds
1 8-oz can tomato sauce
salt & pepper
Old Bay seasoning

Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add bell pepper, onion and garlic; cook and stir 2-3 minutes or until crisp-tender. Add the zucchini, stir together and cook for another 2-3 minutes.

Add the shrimp, stir together. Cook until all shrimp are pink.

Add the can of tomato sauce, season with salt, pepper and Old Bay seasoning  to taste.

Stir together, lower the heat to medium-low, and simmer for 10-15 minutes until sauce thickens up.

Serve in a crusty roll.


Eggplant and White Bean Meatballs

eggplant meatballs

Could it be? A meatball recipe that doesn’t include beef, pork and veal, and isn’t fried? I’ve preferred baking meatballs over frying them for a long time now…but a meatless meatball? Truth is, there are a lot of interesting vegetarian meatball recipes out there. I find that eggplant is a fun vegetable to experiment with, and a little research led me to quite a few eggplant meatball recipes. I picked and chose from a bunch and put together my own version, which also includes white beans. While obviously not the same taste and texture as a true meatball, these are loaded with great flavor, and are very hearty and filling. Crunchy on the outside, moist and chewy on the inside…it was a perfect substitute for the real deal. What’s best is that my youngest daughter Ava, who is a meatball aficionado, powered through a dish of these! Serves well on their own or with a dish of marinara on the side for dipping.



Eggplant and White Bean Meatballs

Makes approximately 12 meatballs

1 large eggplant, skin removed, cut into 1″ pieces
1 shallot, finely chopped
2 tbspn olive oil
1/4 cup warm water
salt and pepper
1 tbspn fresh basil, finely chopped
1 tbspn mint, finely chopped (you can use 2 tbspn basil if you do not have mint on hand)
1/2 cup canned canellini or garbanzo beans, rinsed
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1 cup bread crumbs
1 egg, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 375˚. Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add shallots, cook for one minute. Add eggplant, then add water. Stir so that all of the eggplant pieces are coated. Season with salt and pepper. Place a lid over the pan, lower the heat to medium and let eggplant cook until soft and tender, about 10-12 minutes (stirring occasionally). Remove eggplant from the pan, set aside to let cool.

When cooled, place eggplant in a food processor with remaining ingredients. Pulse until well mixed, but not puréed. You can mix by hand if you do not have a food processor, but the meatballs will have a chunkier consistency. Shape the mixture into small balls as you would with traditional meatballs. Placed the meatballs onto a lightly sprayed baking sheet. Lightly spray the meatballs. Bake for 25-30 minutes.

Serve with marinara sauce.


Caprese Garlic Bread

June 10, 2014 Appetizer, Menu, Salads No Comments

A few weeks back, a friend of mine was telling me that she was planning to make Caprese Salad sandwiches for a family dinner. Just thinking of the classic combination of fresh tomatoes, basil and mozzarella nestled between crusty bread had my mouth watering. Her sandwich combination was the perfect inspiration for this week’s recipe…Caprese Garlic Bread. The marriage of Caprese Salad and crusty, rustic garlic bread is a no-brainer. Think of it as a crispy, fresh and flavorful home-made pizza, served as an appetizer.

While the ingredients are very simple and basic, I cannot stress enough that you should use all fresh ingredients. Forget about pre-made frozen garlic bread, dried basil or garlic powder. While they all serve a fine purpose, you will quickly agree after one bite that fresh ingredients are the way to go.

The ingredients for the garlic bread itself are very simple and basic. You can either go with a garlic-butter spread or a drizzle of olive oil topped with garlic and sea salt, then lightly dusted with grated parmesan cheese. Normally I would add additional herbs to the mix, such as oregano, parsley, marjoram or thyme. But for this recipe we’re going very basic with the garlic topping, while letting the fresh basil, tomatoes and mozzarella handle the bulk of the flavor. This recipe is very quick and easy to assemble – you can have it prepped, baked and plated in about 20 minutes or so. Just pour yourself a nice glass of wine, and 20 minutes later you’re ready to dig in!

Caprese Garlic Bread

1 loaf Italian bread or French bread, sliced in half length-wise
12-oz fresh mozzarella, sliced about 1/4″ thick
4 roma tomatoes, sliced about 1/4″ thick
10-12 fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
2 tbspn grated parmesan cheese

Version A: Garlic-Butter Spread
1/2 cup softened unsalted butter, mixed with 3 cloves minced garlic

Version B: Garlic and Olive Oil topping
1/3 cup olive oil
3 cloves minced garlic
sea salt

Pre-heat oven to 350˚. Place both halves of the bread, cut side up, on a baking sheet. If using the garlic-butter, spread it evenly on both pieces of the bread. If using the garlic and olive oil,  lightly drizzle both pieces of the bread with the olive oil so that the bread is lightly but evenly coated, then spread the minced garlic and add a light sprinkle of sea salt. Once the bread is topped, add a light dusting of grated parmesan cheese.

Next, place the sliced mozzarella evenly onto both halves of the bread. Place the bread into the oven for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven, add the chopped basil and the tomato slices, then place back into the oven for an additional 5 minutes. Remove from the oven, let cool for a minute or so. Slice, serve and enjoy!

The garlic bread topped with fresh cheese prior to baking.

The garlic bread topped with fresh cheese prior to baking.

Caprese Garlic Bread, plated and ready to serve!

Caprese Garlic Bread, plated and ready to serve!



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