Shrimp and Spinach Orzo With a Side of RHONJ

imageIf you follow me on Instagram you get your fill of foodie pictures. Every recipe I try I photograph and post to my social media. This acts as a great gage for what you, the readers, want to eat. Last week I posted a photo of my favorite orzo dish and the response was overwhelming. I started making this dish after I dined at one of my favorite Greek restaurants with a good friend, who also happens to work closely with Jacqueline Laurita.

This dish will satisfy your craving for all the food groups…well almost, you just will have to add some baklava for dessert. Opa!

Speaking of dessert, I was driving through Franklin Lakes over the weekend and passed a massive house that is under construction. The place was huge with several garages on the side and a turret in front. Could it be? When I met up with a local gal pal I mentioned the home and asked if it was the future residence of The Wakiles. My friend mentioned the street name and told me she’s pretty sure it’s the house. Ladies and gents, I really don’t believe Franklin Lakes is that large. How many turreted houses in the phase of construction that Kathy‘s is at could there be? Kathy and Rich, if it is your house, it is AMAZING! I also think it’s big enough that I could move in and you guys will never notice I’m there. Got a spare room for a mommy who needs a vacay?

One mommy got a little vacay, if only for an afternoon. Another set of Jersey eyes I know spotted Caroline Manzo out shopping with her great niece Olivia, daughter of Dazzle Candy owner Candice Laurita, over the weekend. I’m sure this was the calm before the storm as Caro and company’s new show Manzo’d With Childen starts this coming Sunday on Bravo right after RHONJ!

Tell us, what do you think of Kathy and Rich’s new house? Will you watch the Manzo’s new show? Will you make this recipe?

Shrimp and Spinach Orzo

*1 package of orzo (I like tri-colored)

*1 package of fresh baby spinach leaves

* 2 cloves garlic

*1 package grape tomatoes

* sea salt

*several fresh basil leaves

*1-2 cups  cooked shrimp, tail on or off

* 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese (or goat)

Coat bottom of sauce pan with olive oil and place over medium low heat. Add chopped garlic cloves and whole grape tomatoes. Cover and let sit until tomatoes start to open (about 10-15 minutes). While tomatoes are cooking prepare orzo according to package directions. When tomatoes are soft and opening add spinach, basil, shrimp, and pinch of sea salt. Lower heat and cover until spinach is steamed and shrimp is warm (about 3 minutes). Add sauce mixture to drained orzo and sprinkle with feta. The leftovers are great heated or cold!

Recipe: Apricot, Arugula, and an Amazingly Easy Vinaigrette

imageIf by now you don’t think my life is tied to Housewives then this story will have you convinced. Last year some of you will remember I resolved to spend less money on things in 2014 and more on experiences. With two trips to the Jersey Shore,  2 trips to Atlantic City, and a few spa days under my belt it’s safe to say I’ve accomplished that. My enrichment list got even more interesting in August when I did something I have always dreamed of…I took cooking classes.

My local Sur La Table was offering lunchtime classes for $9.95 as a super low priced summer special. Not only did we get hands on training, but we got to eat too! All three classes I left more than satisfied. Just having lunch for under 10 bucks is a bargain.

The very first class I took was a summer salad class. We made four salads. Our instructor was a bubbly, energetic, professional chef named Marian who looks, sounds, and gesticulates just like Bethenny Frankel. The first class I took of hers I mentioned that she reminded me of my favorite former RHONY. A few weeks later I found myself in another of Marian’s classes and my twitter followers wanted to see a picture of the Bethenny look alike. When I asked her permission to post her picture, and explained why, the conversation turned to Housewives. Well, not only is chef Marian a huge fan, but she’s been on the show! A few years back Jacqueline Laurita hosted a Christmas party on camera and Chef Marian was the caterer. Small world, huh? Here’s my new favorite salad recipe…thanks to Chef Marian and Sur La Table!

Apricot and Arugula Salad (adapted from Sur La Table )

*arugula, washed and dried

*4 apricots, pitted and halved

*olive oil

*sliced or crumbled goat cheese

* sliced almonds (optional)

Brush apricots with olive oil and caramelize in a pan (medium heat about 3 minutes on each side).  Toss arugula in bowl with vinaigrette and nuts. Arrange apricots and goat cheese and serve.

Balsamic Vinaigrette

*1 small clove minced garlic

*1  tablespoon dijon mustard (“Excuse me, do you have any Grey Poupon?”)

* 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

*1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

*pinch of sea salt

*dash of pepper

Put garlic, mustard, and balsamic vinegar in medium bowl. Whisk well until combined. Continued whisking while slowly adding olive oil and continue whisking until oil is emulsified. Add salt and pepper.

*The original recipe calls for grilling your apricots, but being I don’t own a grill I’ve changed it to be prepared with tools most everybody owns. If you have trouble finding fresh apricots, which I have, dried ones are tasty too! This recipe would also taste great with caramelized peaches or nectarines.

*The original recipe calls for pine nuts but I thought almonds would be amazing. Almonds and apricots are complimentary flavors…more about that when I share one of my favorite holiday cookie recipes later this year.

Vegetarian Summer Sandwich

imageAh summer, barbecue season. Hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken, ribs…and the ungrateful vegetarian guest picking at the side dishes. After 25 years as a non-meat eater, I know that there’s no bigger pain in the ass than a vegetarian at a barbecue. We don’t want to be an inconvenience, and many of us will avoid the problem by bringing  a dish to share that we ourselves can eat (at least this is what I do, and hope others do as well). A great host, however, tries to accommodate all, so here is my favorite vegetarian friendly sandwich. Please note that, though it is vegetarian, it is not vegan, and with the cost and flavor (or lack there of) of vegan cheese, well, they probably will have to fend for themselves. Can’t please everyone you know.

Eggplant Delight Sandwich

*one medium eggplant peeled

*1 c whole wheat flour

*1 c Italian flavored breadcrumbs

*2 eggs

* 1/2 c milk (dairy or non dairy)

* 1 vine ripe tomato sliced in thin rounds

* 6 slices provolone cheese

* several large basil leaves

* 1 large ciabatta loaf

* balsamic vinegar

Prepare breaded eggplant as per instructions in our eggplant parmesan recipe. Slice open ciabatta loaf and drizzle balsamic vinegar onto both sides. Layer three slices of eggplant on top of bread. Place three cheese slices over eggplant. Layer 1/2 the sliced tomato on top of cheese, layer basil leaves on top of tomato layer. Repeat one more time. Place three more breaded eggplant slices on top of final basil layer. Wrap sandwich tightly in tinfoil. Place foiled sandwich on the grill to heat up and melt cheese prior to slicing and serving. Serve extra balsamic on the side for dipping. Will be a hit with vegetarians and non vegetarians alike…sorry vegans.

Got vegans? Try this recipe.