New Favorite Restaurant in Suburbia: Antonia’s Italian Ristorante

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When my husband and I decided to move out of Houston’s midtown area and out to the suburbs it was a huge step for us. We wanted a bigger, more affordable place and we wanted a backyard for our dog to run around in. One of the things we knew we’d be missing out on was all of the great restaurants in the city. Life in suburbia would be chains, chains, chains. Tonight, we discovered an Italian restaurant that instantly became our favorite restaurant in our new suburban neighborhood. My husband is Italian and we have high standards when it comes to Italian restaurants and this one exceeded our expectations: Antonia’s Cucina Italiana.

When you open the menu at Antonia’s you’re greeted by dishes listed in Italian and a note from the restaurant that reads, “Devoted to maintaining the traditions of Italian cuisine and culture, we have honored the complex and rich flavors of Northern Italy by featuring fresh seafood, veal, and pasta dishes along with homemade desserts made from the finest ingredients.”

In my opinion, they stay true to their testament.

We started with the Calamari Fritti, lightly fried squid rings with banana peppers, sliced garlic and fresh lemon juice served with marinara sauce. The words that came out of my husband’s mouth were, “This may be the best I’ve ever had.”

I had the Pasta Carbonara with Chicken, pasta made fresh daily with bacon, onions, green peas and mushrooms in an Asiago cheese cream. It came with a house salad with a homemade balsamic vinagrette.

My husband had the Vitello Parmigiana (veal Parmesan), Sicilian style baked with marinara and mozzarella cheese. His dish came with a cup of homemade chicken and vegetable soup, which was delicious.

We drank their Chianti Classico, Rocca delle Macie, from Tuscany, which we loved and will be buying at Spec’s on a regular basis.

We ended the meal with Tiramisu and cappuccino.

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Tomato Crostini with Basil and Whipped Feta

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Whipped feta with garden fresh tomatoes, basil and crunchy multi-grain crostini. Oh my. This may be one of the tastiest summer dishes I’ve ever made. This is a dish that you will keep thinking about when all that’s left on the plate is bread crumbs.

Whipped feta:

8 ounces crumbled feta cheese, at room temperature

3 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

Drizzle of olive oil

Blend feta in a food processor until small crumbs form. Add cream cheese and a drizzle of oil olive until mixture is smooth.

Toast multi-grain bread. Spread feta mixture on crostini and top with fresh tomatoes and basil. Drizzle with garlic oil.

Recipe: Better than Sex Cake

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I love this dessert. I’ve seen several recipes that call for boxed vanilla and chocolate pudding, but I prefer this dessert with scratch-made chocolate pudding. I found this recipe on Pinterest from The Old Hen.

PUDDING INGREDIENTS:

  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 1/2 cups milk
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Place all dry ingredients in a saucepan and whisk together well (to prevent lumps). Whisk in cold milk and eggs. Cook on low heat only until you see it begin to boil. Take off burner immediately. Stir in butter and vanilla. Keep stirring as pudding thickens.

Place saran wrap over pudding and gently push onto top so that pudding does not form a skin over the top. Place in refrigerator until cooled.

Preheat oven to 350F. Place all crust ingredients into food processor and process on low speed until crumbly.

CRUST INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 cup walnuts
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick of butter cut into small pieces

Coat 9X13 baking pan with baking spray and then press crust into pan. Bake for about 15 minutes.

CREAM CHEESE FILLING INGREDIENTS:

  •  1 cup whipped cream (saving a couple cups of the whipped cream for top of dessert)
  • One 8 ounce package cream cheese

Whip together until creamy and shiny.

Spread onto cooled crust.

Remove chilled pudding from fridge and spread over cream cheese filling.

Spread remaining whipped cream on top of dessert.

Happy Saturday: Crescent Roll Breakfast Casserole

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This picture really doesn’t do this breakfast casserole justice. Buttery crescent rolls, eggs, sausage and cheese. Oh the cheese. There’s more cheese in this dish than eggs.

Crescent Roll Breakfast Casserole

1 lb pork sausage – I like maple and brown sugar pork sausages

2 tubes crescent rolls

4 eggs

1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Melted butter to drizzle on top

Preheat oven to 375° F

In a pan, cook pork until no longer pink. In a small bowl whisk eggs with salt and pepper.

Grease a 9×13 baking dish.

Press one roll of crescents into bottom of dish, pinching closed any cut seams. Pour egg mixture over crescent rolls, layer sausage over the eggs and sprinkle with 1/2 c. cheddar cheese.

Bake for 10 minutes.

Remove from oven and sprinkle remaining cheese on top.

Place second roll of crescents on top. Drizzle melted butter over the top and bake for 15 minutes until golden brown.

Adapted from Recipe Swagger.

Roasted Butternut Squash, Ricotta and Spinach Stuffed Shells

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I was so excited about trying this recipe because the ingredients looked like they would be amazing together. I was underwhelmed with the result, but I think it could be a great dish with some improvements. The ricotta was too overpowering for my tastes and overshadowed the other flavors in the recipe. I modified this recipe from one that I found on Pinterest. If you have any ideas on how to bring out the notes in this dish, please let me know!

Ingredients

1 box jumbo shells

2 c. Ricotta (I used whole milk ricotta)

1/3 c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 c. frozen chopped spinach, drained and squeezed

1 egg

2 c. roasted squash (I used a butternut squash), mashed with a fork

1 tsp. lemon zest

Salt and pepper to taste

1 stick unsalted butter

6 sage leaves

Squeeze of lemon juice

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Peel the squash and cut it into cubes. Sprinkle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast for 35 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the jumbo shells according to the time on the package.

In a large bowl, combine ricotta, Parmesan, garlic, spinach, cooled squash, lemon zest, salt and pepper.

Once the cooked shells are cool enough to handle, stuff the shells with the ricotta mixture. Place shells in a buttered or greased baking dish.

Bake the shells in a 400 degree oven for 25 minutes.

While the shells are baking, make your brown butter and sage sauce. Melt the butter until it is boiling and has turned a nice golden brown. Add the sage leaves for flavor. Finish with a squeeze of lemon juice.

Spoon sauce over shells and serve.

 

Grown-Up Three Cheese Mac and Cheese

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I’m usually not a big fan or mac and cheese, but this Three Cheese Mac and Cheese recipe is so sophisticated and grown up it might as well be in it’s own mac and cheese realm. Goat cheese, white cheddar, Parmesan, thyme, lemon. Need I say more?

Three Cheese Mac and Cheese

3/4 pound penne
1 1/2 cups heavy cream or half-and-half
2-3 tablespoons finely chopped sweet onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
5-ounce log goat cheese
3 ounces sharp white cheddar, shredded
1/2 cup packed freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 tablespoons sour cream
3/4 teaspoon lemon zest
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 extra large egg yolk

Preheat oven to 400º.  Butter a 10-inch cast-iron skillet.

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta until al dente.  Drain and return to pot.

Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, bring heavy cream, onion and garlic to a simmer.

Transfer 1/2 cup of the cream to a medium bowl and gradually whisk in flour; return mixture to saucepan.  Set the bowl aside for later.

Whisk over moderate heat until thickened, about 3 minutes.

Remove from heat and whisk in goat cheese, cheddar and half of the Parmigiano until melted.

Stir in the sour cream, zest and 1 teaspoon thyme and season with salt and pepper.

Add egg yolk to medium bowl and gradually whisk in 1/2 cup cheese sauce.  Whisk egg/sauce mixture back into saucepan.

Pour cheese sauce over pasta and toss to coat evenly.

Add pasta to cast-iron skillet and sprinkle with remaining Parmigiano.  Bake for about 25 minutes, until bubbling and golden brown.  Sprinkle with remaining thyme.

Rest for about 5 minutes and serve.

Weekend Biscuit Egg Casserole

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When my husband and I started dating, one of my favorite things about our relationship was that we went out to eat together. A lot. We loved trying out new breakfast places on the weekends and that hasn’t changed seven years later. Most of our weekends I spend trying new recipes in the kitchen. My husband has only one request: he wants eggs, meat and cheese. I pinned a recipe for a Weekend Biscuit Egg Casserole on Pinterest and my husband loved it. He requested that I save the leftovers for him and finished it the next day. This recipe is very easy and would be something fast to whip up for company of for just two of you.

Weekend Biscuit Egg Casserole

1 can of buttermilk biscuits (8 count) – such as Pillsbury Buttermilk Biscuits
1 pound breakfast sausage, browned
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese
5 eggs, beaten
2 egg whites
3/4 cup milk
salt
black pepper
Preheat oven to 425 °F. Cook sausage in skillet over medium heat until browned. Drain.
Line bottom of greased 8 x 8 inch baking dish with biscuit dough, firmly pressing perforations to seal.
Sprinkle with sausage and cheese.
Whisk together eggs, milk, salt and pepper in a medium bowl until blended; pour over sausage and cheese.

Bake 30 minutes or until set. Let stand for 5 minutes before cutting into squares; serve warm.