Saturday, July 19, 2014

GIADA - The Restaurant

For those of you who follow me on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, you know that I was fortunate enough to visit one of the hottest dining spots in Las Vegas recently - GIADA.  This Food Network Chef opened the doors to her first restaurant in June of this year.  Situated in the only boutique hotel on the Strip, The Cromwell.  Wondering where this is?  Right across the street from Bellagio and Caesars Palace at the Northeast corner of Las Vegas Boulevard and Flamingo - it was first Barbary Coast and then in 2007 when Harrah's Entertainment purchased it, they named it Bill's Gamblin' Hall & Saloon.

I was super excited about the opportunity to dine here as I am a big fan of Giada!  Making my reservations through Open Table about a month in advance, I was able to enjoy an early dinner before my evening departure back home.  I was in Vegas for business so asked one of my colleagues (and friends!) to join me. We were both able to take some decent iPhone photos during our visit.

Walking in, the hostess toured us through the open kitchen and into the restaurant.  We saw so much beautiful food along with chef's busily preparing meals, and of course fresh pasta being made.

Once seated, we perused the cocktail and wine list.  While doing so, our server brought over a cocktail courtesy of Giada that was a delicious mixture of Prosecco, St Germain, and lemon juice.  He also informed us that he could not request Giada to come out of the kitchen to greet the table.  This seemed to be a standard notification for each table seated.  She was there, but was in the kitchen during our visit.  

After reviewing the cocktail options on the interactive drink menu, my friend ordered The Destroyer filled with Clase Azul Tequila Reposado, fresh tangerine, orange and basil.  This cocktail include an ice sphere. These ice sphere's were pretty cool - we had to snap a photo!

I opted for the La Strada, a beautiful cocktail made with Campari, homeade lemon sorbeto, Bertagnolli Limoncello, and Prosecco.

While enjoying our drinks, our server brought over a delicious bread basket filled with lemon-thyme flat bread, homemade focaccia, and Parmesan bread sticks.  With the basket came a few dipping sauces and seasonings to add as you please.

The server did an excellent job of explaining the menu.  It was really geared towards sharing, suggesting four first course items, two pastas and two entrees.  We opted for exactly half of that by starting with the Citrus Marinated Calamari Salad with Sundried Tomatoes and Olives and the Burrata with Balsamic Salt.  Both were amazing.

For dinner, we chose to share the Tortellini with Pea Pesto, Pancetta, and Mint along with the 7 ounce Filet with Salsa Verde and Crispy Polenta.  Again.  Amazing.

Our picture taking started to get a little tricky with our meal as we were seated next to the enormous set of windows, which was awesome, but it was right at sunset so the restaurant was just starting to open the blinds.  We did have a nice view, however!

We were super full from our delicious meal, we opted against the dessert cart.  Overall, we had a wonderful experience at Giada's and I wouldn't hesitate to go back again in a heartbeat!  Thanks Giada!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Aged Balsamic Browned Butter Spaghetti with Chicken, Spinach, and Bell Pepper

 I am a huge fan of browned butter.  Huge.  Oh, and balsamic vinegar.  So, why not combine them in a pasta dish?  Perfectly delicious!  You’ll want to give this one a try!  I hope you’ll stop by my blog to let me know if you liked it!

Aged Balsamic Browned Butter Spaghetti with Chicken, Spinach, and Bell Pepper

Serves 4
1/2 pound dry whole wheat spaghetti
2 chicken breasts, chopped
2-4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 lemon
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup bell pepper, chopped
4 cups fresh spinach
1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted
1 stick unsalted butter
4 tablespoons Aged Balsamic Vinegar
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package directions.  

Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat, add 1-2 tablespoons olive oil (enough to coat the pan). Add chicken and stir occasionally. As the chicken is cooking, add salt and pepper to taste, 1-2 cloves minced garlic, and the juice of 1/2 lemon. Continue to cook until chicken has browned. Once browned, add 1/2 cup white wine to the pan to deglaze. Once the liquid has evaporated, remove chicken to a separate bowl. 

To the same pan, add more olive oil to coat. Add bell pepper and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Add fresh spinach and 1-2 cloves minced garlic. Continue stirring until spinach cooks down. Add spinach and bell pepper to the bowl with the chicken.

In a small sauté pan over medium-high heat, add the stick of butter and allow to melt. Watch the butter closely as you want it to turn a nice caramel color and not burn.  

While your butter is melting, add the spinach, bell pepper, and chicken back to the large sauté pan over low heat. Add your cooked pasta over using a pasta strainer to get some of the pasta water in your pan as well. Add sliced toasted almonds to pan.  

Once your butter has browned and has a nutty aroma, pour over the spaghetti mixture. Add 2 tablespoons of aged balsamic vinegar to the pasta. Season with salt and pepper and top with grated Parmesan. Stir to combine and serve. 

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package directions. 

Monday, July 7, 2014

Chocolate Blueberry Muffins - Kids in the Kitchen!

When I was asked to share a recipe for San Tan Valley Parenting that would promote families to get in the kitchen together, my mind filled with ideas!  I asked my boys if they would be willing to help me each time to test out the recipe and to, of course, taste test the results.  My older son was actually pretty excited about this – he started thinking about all kinds of fun and delicious treats we could make together.

We decided to run with his first idea of chocolate-blueberry muffins.  Once he started explaining this to me, I was a little concerned because I thought he was expected a blueberry muffin covered in chocolate.  Not so – this guy wanted the healthiness of blueberries packed into a chocolate muffin.  Great idea! 

I, like many of you I’m sure, wanted to make this easy on myself – but still be able to let the little ones get involved.  Instead of trying to come up with a chocolate muffin recipe, I purchased……what all good moms would……a box of chocolate cake mix. Muffins are just cupcakes without the frosting, right?  That’s what I decided.  Any chocolate cake mix will do, my boys and I chose Betty Crocker’s Super Moist Milk Chocolate cake.

The recipe is below and gives suggestions on where the kiddos can help.  Get your family in the kitchen this summer and let them eat chocolate cake chocolate muffins, for breakfast!  What else you are making in the kitchen with your kids?

Chocolate-Blueberry Muffins

Makes about 2 dozen muffins

6 oz. of fresh blueberries, washed and dried
Baking spray (I use Pillsbury’s Baking Spray with Flour)
Plus ingredients listed on back of cake mix (typically water, eggs, vegetable oil)

One 15.25 oz. chocolate cake mix

Combine the cake mix along with the required ingredients in a large bowl.  The kids can help by pouring everything in.  Depending on the age, throw in some math and have them use a measuring cup to determine the correct amounts.  They can also use the mixer to blend and make the batter.  My older son typically loses interest while doing this so I almost always end up finishing the process.  I am secretly OK with this because I always fear that he is going to remove the mixer from the bowl while it is still running.

Spray a regular sized muffin tin with the baking spray and fill about each muffin cavity about 2/3 of the way full.  The kids can then plop a few blueberries into each spot once you have added the batter.  It goes pretty fast with helping hands!

Follow the directions on the cake mix box for the baking temperature and time.  Once a toothpick comes out clean, they are done!  Let cool slightly and remove each muffin from the pan to a wire rack to cool completely.