Pasta Alla Vecchia-Bettola

I often find myself reading other cooking blogs and cookbooks when I have some free time and I tend to drool over the pasta recipes and usually, I don’t make them because of the carbs etc. But when I saw this one I knew I had to do it.  Vodka sauce is my absolute favorite and this recipe is perfection.  I want to give a HUGE thank you to Ina Garten for being such an incredible chef to come up with it, and then for Alexandra to put it on her website Alexandra Cooks.

The title of the recipe is Pasta Alla Vecchia-Bettola.  I don’t speak Italian, but from what I cooked it’s basically pasta with vodka sauce.  I think for a nice spin on Vodka Sauce, next time I am going to add some fresh orange juice from one orange and then add the zest as well.  Inspired from one of my favorite dishes of all time: Scalopinne all’ Arancia at Ti Amo in Vail, Colorado.  Do you have a spin on Vodka Sauce?  Let me know!

Pasta Alla Vecchia Bettola

1/4 cup olive oil
1 medium (or a few small) Spanish onion(s), chopped to yield 2 1/2 cups
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (If you are sensitive to heat, just use a pinch and adjust at the end. The 1/2 teaspoon makes for a seriously spicy sauce.)
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano (optional — I didn’t use. I love dried oregano, but I don’t always love it in tomato sauce.)
1 cup vodka
2 (28-ounce) cans peeled plum tomatoes
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3/4 pound penne pasta or whatever shape you like
4 tablespoons fresh oregano (I used basil)
1/4 to 1 cup heavy cream
grated Parmigiano or Pecorino

1. Preheat oven to 375ºF.

2. Heat the olive oil in a large oven proof sauté pan over medium heat, add the onions and garlic and cook for about 5 minutes until translucent. Add the red pepper flakes and dried oregano (if using) and cook for 1 minute more. Add the vodka and continue cooking until the mixture is reduced by half, about 5 to 7 minutes more.

3. Meanwhile, drain the tomatoes through a sieve. Put on an apron and crush the tomatoes into the pan with your hands — careful here…you might make a mess all over your oven. Add 2 teaspoons salt and a pinch of black pepper. Cover the pan with a tight fitting lid and place it in the oven for 1 1/2 hours.

4. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta al dente. (Note: Ina adds 2 tablespoons of kosher salt to her pasta water. I did this, too, and found it really seasons the pasta nicely. There is no need to save pasta cooking liquid in this recipe, but if there were, I think the 2 tablespoons would be a little too much — the reserved liquid would be too salty. Just something to keep in mind.) Drain and set aside.

5. Place the tomato mixture in a blender or food processor and purée in batches until the sauce is a smooth consistency. Place potholders or dishtowels around the handles of your pot to prevent burning your hands in the next step.(Note: I puréed a handful of basil with the sauce at this step and didn’t add anymore fresh herbs.) Return sauce to the pan.

6. Reheat the sauce, add 2 tablespoons fresh oregano (if using) and enough heavy cream to make the sauce a creamy consistency — start with a quarter cup; taste; add more as necessary. Add salt (if necessary) and pepper, to taste, and simmer for 10 minutes. Toss the pasta into the sauce and cook for 2 minutes more. Stir in a generous handful of grated cheese. Serve with an additional sprinkle of cheese and a sprinkle of fresh oregano (if using) on each plate.

pasta1 pasta2 pasta3 pasta4

Time for a Spring Diet?

April has been quite a busy month! For all of us, Spring is just starting, you are wanting to get outside and Spring vacations are in full swing.  With everything considered, eating and drinking are more than likely involved.  Not to mention, we still have our hibernation pounds still lingering from the winter.  I would say that this is crunch time.  Whether you are a guy or a girl, nobody wants to be seen in a bikini if you’re sporting some body fat.  Here are a few tricks and tips that I do when I am trying to fit into my skinny jeans:

1. If you are looking for a cleanse to kick off your diet, I have tried two that work great.  Depending on your preference of juicing, or mildly eating I recommend the Blue Print Cleanse or the 7-Day Refresh Cleanse by Dr.Junger  Ideally, I would say that the juice cleanse should be done for 3 days. Dr. Junger’s refresh is a week program. What I try to do if I don’t want to cleanse is I actually order just the chocolate shakes and have one each morning along with my salads etc. throughout the day.

2. All things green. My best success when trying to shed some pounds is lay on the green. What works best? Spinach, kale and peas. Yes, I love peas. Other things to keep in mind with these three veggies: Put spinach in any smoothie in the morning along with flaxseeds (or flaxseed oil) and your antioxidant fruits. With Kale, pre-make some kale chips and you can be snacking on this all day!

3. Protein. Along with the shakes (or smoothies) in the morning, it is important to throw in protein whenever you can. If you can get your hands on some almonds….DO IT. The calorie content may say that it’s high, but please, I can snack on these things all I want and just lose the pounds. You can find almonds in all sorts of flavors and they keep you full until your next meal.

4. Water. Flush it out readers. Think of it this way, the more water you drink, the less hungry you are, the less you eat, the more you lose. Voila. Not to mention it’s just great for you in general.

If you have any more tips or tricks that I’m missing please leave me a comment and let me know!

Surf and Turf

One thing that I loved the most about going to Key West was the incredible food. Not only was it the end of lobster season, but Key West is also known (obviously) for their Key Limes. One drink in particular was called the Key West Colada at Latitudes Restaurant Sunset Key. No idea what was in it. I even asked the waiter and he said “Oh it’s just a Key West Must-Have.” Ok…. Well regardless of what was in this drink, I will tell you that I would love to recreate myself it was so delicious.  Only problem is that nobody in Key West would spill the secret ingredients! Pina Colada mixed with Key Limes and amazingness?  Who knows! Definitely pie crust crumbles on the rim of the glass though…very nice touch.

To finish off our trip we had a wonderful birthday dinner for my friend’s 30th. I ordered the Surf and Turf which consisted of a jumbo shrimp that tasted like lobster, and a 6oz filet all covered with a wild mushroom sherry sauce. Then, the chocolate cake was BANANAS. It was the most moist cake layered with chocolate mousse and a raspberry coulis. Light, fluffy and everything you’d ever want a cake to taste like.  Overall, I ate so much great food on this trip and needless to say, I certainly need to go on a diet….Dr. Junger’s Clean program here I come!

Key Lime Coolada

Key Lime Colada

 

Sunset :)

Sunset :)

Surf and Turf

Surf and Turf

Birthday Cake

Birthday Cake

Key West

Last weekend in Key West was truly incredible. I had a feeling that it would be fun, but little did I know what I was in for. I made new friends, had quite a few slushies at Fat Tuesdays, and ate my way through the weekend. We really lucked out with the weather, which was fantastic, and overall we were very happy to say that we celebrated Spring Break 2014 the right way. Hey, just because your old doesn’t mean you can’t go on Spring Break too! Enjoy a few of the pics and there will be more to come soon!

My First Trip on a Private Jet!

My First Trip on a Private Jet!

Simonton Court Cottages...so precious

Simonton Court Cottages…so precious

Inside our Cottage

Inside our Cottage

Sunset Key for Lunch

Sunset Key for Lunch

Key West Here I Come!

In two days I am jetting off to Key West with about 10 friends for a long weekend to celebrate my best friend’s 30th birthday. YAY! This will be the second dirty thirty birthday that I have attended within the last six months, and I’m just going to put it out there that I’m not complaining. You think that hitting 21 is a big deal? Nope. It’s all about when you turn 30 and now you’re supposedly an adult. You’re supposed to have your life in tact, and maybe you’re even starting a family. But on the other end of the spectrum, you still want to party, and frankly are nowhere near having it all put together. Regardless of the situation, it’s your last weekend of being in your 20′s and being somewhat irresponsible, so why not do it up right in a tropical paradise surrounded by cocktails with umbrellas and your best friends to drink them with you? I am so excited to take my professional camera down there (hopefully it will come back with me) and take some great pictures, but for now here’s a little glimpse of lovely Key West, FL…
key west

key west1

Too busy eating….Red Velvet Cheesecake and more!

Hi Readers!

My sincere apologies for the delay in my posting. It seems as though I have been too busy eating! This post is merely going to be a glimpse into my ridiculous obsession with food so please see the captions under each picture as it describes exactly what is in the delectable treat and where it came from.

Yours truly,

Courto

Red Velvet Cheesecake from Eleven South: Raspberry Coulis, Ghiradelli white chocolate drizzle, shortbread cookie dust, fresh raspberries

Red Velvet Cheesecake from Eleven South: Raspberry Coulis, Ghiradelli white chocolate drizzle, shortbread cookie dust, fresh raspberries

Monday Morning pick me up from SB's...Mocha Frappuccino Light, don't skip the whip

Monday Morning pick me up from SB’s…Mocha Frappuccino Light, don’t skip the whip

Southern Burger from The Blind Rabbit: Fried Green Tomato, Creole Pimento Cheese, Peach Habanero Hot Sauce, Arugula, Georgia Cane Syrup, Pickled Okra, Artisan Bun

Southern Burger from The Blind Rabbit: Fried Green Tomato, Creole Pimento Cheese, Peach Habanero Hot Sauce, Arugula, Georgia Cane Syrup, Pickled Okra, Artisan Bun


Intuition Ale Works: Peoples Pale...Sunglasses by Cole Haan

Intuition Ale Works: Peoples Pale…Sunglasses by Cole Haan

Wine Review: Mer Soleil Silver Unoaked Chardonnay 2012

Last week Mom and  I decided to take a long excursion out to whole foods on Saturday afternoon (we don’t have one in Ponte Vedra)  and when we were there we came across this Mer Soleil Silver Chardonnay that looked quite appealing.  The bottle itself looked like cement, and Mer Soleil is a great vineyard to begin with, so we figured that this was a must try.

After doing a little bit of research and trying the wine myself, here is what I found. Apparently this bottle is reminiscent of the limestone-based cement tanks that the wine is kept in to age.  I would say that it is a moderately priced bottle of Chardonnay but well worth the money if you are going to be cooking a nice dinner and staying in for the evening. I had it with some spicy salami and cheese (however, I would pair anything with meat and cheese because I love them so much) but in general, I would suggest pairing this with a grilled fish or salad.  According to the website and my own tasting, the wine is very well balanced with notes of grapefruit and citrus flavors.  Can’t you just see yourself now: rooftop location, sunset, summer, and a glass of your unoaked chardonnay? I whole heartedly suggest trying out this wine even if you aren’t very much into whites as it was truly a pleasure.

wine wine1

Boyfriend Jeans: Friend or Foe?

Recently I acquired a new pair of jeans that I am SO excited about. However, I have my thoughts on them and I need your help. They are boyfriend jeans by J Brand and I think they’re awesome but to be honest, does everyone else? I love following Blaire Eadie’s blog and she always wears them which made me think to myself that I could pull them off too…but then every time I walk around in them and they are essentially swallowing me, I think to myself is this the right fashion move? Do I look like a boy? OR is that actually the point…hence the title boyfriend jeans. It truly makes me wonder about style these days. I will tell you that I absolutely love wearing them because I feel like I can jump around, play with my dogs, lounge, and they don’t restrict me one bit! Let me know your thoughts!

Boyfriend Jeans

Boyfriend Jeans

Boyfriend Jeans being flexible (puppy play time)

Boyfriend Jeans being flexible (puppy play time)

Spring Lunch

Yesterday was in my opinion, the beginning of spring. Finally, after a few months of horrible rain and cold weather (for Florida at least) the skies opened up and there was sun and warm temps. Currently, I am lucky enough to work across the street from my house so I can go home during lunch and yesterday was the perfect day to go home, take off my cardigan, have some ice cream, and read my new magazine. If I could pin point my perfect lunchtime activities this has got to be at the top of the list! My food for thought after this great lunch is if you’re in need of a pick me up, here are a few things that might help:

1. ICE CREAM! If you are going vegan, try soy ice cream. Really, any kind of delectable fro-yo, ben and jerry’s, milkshake, or almond ice cream will do the trick. It’s a comfort food we all love and puts a smile on our face…every time!

2. A new book or magazine. For that little amount of time I was able to escape into the beauty world and learn new tips and tricks, and some “life lessons” too. I think everyone always feels a little bit better when they learn something new, it’s like adding more depth to yourself right? And if a magazine isn’t for you and you’re into romance novels, who doesn’t want Mr. McSteamy to have a cameo during their lunch hour?

3. Peace and quiet. A lot of people’s days are filled with talking, whining, screaming, mundane conversations etc. The best little bit of time yesterday was when I closed my eyes outside and took in the sun. Nobody was talking and it was just me, myself and I. More calming moments = more calming Courto = THANK GOODNESS!

That last one made me giggle :) Happy Friday readers and enjoy the pics of my serene lunch!

Wind blowing my mag and beach in the background

Wind blowing my mag and beach in the background

Raspberry and Chocolate Ice Cream paired with my lovely Real Simple magazine

Raspberry and Chocolate Ice Cream paired with my lovely Real Simple magazine

Peace and Quiet :)

Peace and Quiet :)

Food Scene in New York City

This past weekend I was so lucky to finally get up to New York after my debacle at the airport, but once I was there it was so worth the hassle. In true New York fashion, I had fancy meals, strolled the streets of SOHO, bought way too much at the local bakery, and had a weekend filled with champagne and cocktails, so Sex and the City of me! Anyways, I wanted to share a few pics of places that I absolutely adored in New York…enjoy :)

Molly's Cupcakes

Molly’s Cupcakes

Irish Coffee at Blue Ribbon Café in the West Village

Irish Coffee at Blue Ribbon Café in the West Village

The Standard Beer Garden where we stopped for pretzels and a boot

The Standard Beer Garden where we stopped for pretzels and a boot

Murray's Cheese Shop

Murray’s Cheese Shop

Meat Selection at Murray's

Meat Selection at Murray’s