Thursday, June 28, 2012

Baked Risotto

In my short time blogging, I already mentioned my obsession with the sweet pea risotto at the now closed restaurant Taste.  Today, I am discussing my love for risotto again.  When I had my “last supper” at Taste before we moved to Vegas, the owner knew I was moving.  (I had to tell him because I had to justify why I came in three times in one week just to order his risotto) Then, bam, I move back to Kansas and they close shortly after.  Sad, sad day.  Anyway, they told me since I was moving they would give me the recipe, but things got busy and I never took the time to follow through.  Now that they are closed I may try to find their names online and see if I can do some Sherlock Holmes action and find him to get that recipe.  Until then, this recipe below will satisfy my cravings. 

Let’s face it, the time consuming process of making risotto is what keeps most people from making it.  It takes a long time to slave over the stove stirring, adding more liquid, boiling it down, add more liquid, then repeat.  I have good news! There is an alternative way to make an amazing risotto dish.  BAKE ITI have to give credit to my mom for finding the recipe.  She saw it in the Kansas City Star a year or so ago and we both frequently make it now.  It is SO easy-you still have to bring it to boil, but then you stick it in the oven to finish.  Then you just stir in your vegetables.  The recipe calls for peas, but I usually add whatever I have on hand.  I’ve added asparagus, zucchini and sometimes if I don’t have anything I just do the spinach and call it good.  Whatever your family prefers will work.  Just make sure you don’t add it from the beginning b/c it will get too mushy/cooked.  I usually add it at it the final 5 to 10 minutes of cooking or just stir it in at the end so it’s nice and crispy.  I use vegetable or chicken broth depending on what I have on hand.  The pictures below are with chicken broth.  The vegetable broth gives it a brownish tint and isn’t quite as flavorful, but it is healthier that way.  Although I am alwasy tempted to double the recipe, I usually make a half batch since there is just the two of us.  It is good leftover, but it isn’t super healthy so I try to just have one or two servings leftover for my lunches that week. 

Baked Risotto With Spinach And Peas

2 T. butter
1 cup chopped shallot
½ t. salt
¼ t. pepper
½ C. dry white wine or cooking wine
3 C. vegetable or chicken broth
1 C. Arborio rice
1 C. frozen peas, thawed (or whatever veggie(s) you like
4 oz. fresh spinach, chopped (about 2 C.)
¼ C. freshly grated parmesan cheese

Heat oven to 425 degrees.   In a saucepan over medium-high heat melt butter.  Add shallot, 1/4 t. salt and 1/8 t. pepper and cook, stirring often, 3-5 minutes.  Add wine and cook, stirring 2-3 minutes until almost evaporated.  Add broth and rice and bring to a boil.  Once it boils transfer to a 9 X 13 pan.  Cover with foil and bake 20-25 minutes until rice is tender.  Remove from oven and add chopped spinach and peas (or other veggies), parmesan cheese, ¼ t. salt and 1/8 t. pepper.  Stir to combine.  If it is too thick, gradually add hot water to thin.

This is on the stovetop after I added the wine and reduced it until it was almost evaporated. 

This is what it looks like right out of the oven

The beautiful finished product.  When I made this I added spinach and I also had some delicious snap peas from the farmers market so that's what I added.  Use what you have-mushrooms, asparagus, zucchini, etc.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Homemade Laundry Soap

I am going to switch gears a bit today and post a recipe, but not for something edible.  It is a link to make homemade laundry soap.  Before you quit reading, hear me out!  I made my first batch in March after seeing it on a blog and I was skeptical.  However, the cost to make it was so cheap I decided it was worth a shot.  If it did not work, I was only out $10 or so.  And guess what?  I am thrilled with it.  It is going to last me at least 5 months and, more importantly, it works!  As an added bonus the recipe states each load costs less than one cent.   Guess what that means?  I save mucho money on laundry soap and can spend that money on more exciting things, like trying a new restaurant!  J 

Back in March, just to make sure I was correct in my assessment of the soap, I gave some to my mom.  She fell in love with it as well and made a batch of her own.  (On a side note, I have an old washer, but she has a newer high efficiency one and she said this works just fine)  I told some friends about it and they wanted to make it too.  So, last night I had them over for dinner, wine and soap making.  (I’ll share my spaghetti squash with basil pesto and stuffed zucchini recipes that I made for dinner soon)  Both Katie and Brittany were in awe at the ease of preparing the soap and asked I blog the recipe.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Below are a few notes on what I did for mine:

*I have one of those rotating cheese shredders that it saves a TON of time.  I didn’t use it the first time I made it and it took awhile to shred the soap.  Last night, I shredded 3 C. for our triple batch in about 5 minutes.  If you don’t have one click here to see the one I have from Bed, Bath and Beyond.
*The first time I made this I did not use any essential oils and my clothes smell clean, just not scented.  I was very happy with how it smelled with no essential oils.  This time, my friend Katie had essential oils and brought them along.  Each of us added lavender to our soap and I am anxious to see how we like it.

*I used the Fels-Naptha soap she talks about.  It’s only $.97 at Wal-Mart. 
Homemade Laundry Detergent Recipe
*Recipe and pictures from

1 cup Washing Soda
1 cup bar soap, grated (I used Fels-Naptha. She said other good options are Ivory soap, Sunlight bar soap, Kirk’s Hardwater Castile, and Zote.)
1 cup Borax
1 quart boiling water
Large bucket-I used a 5 gallon bucket with a lid

Next, grate your bar soap. As I mentioned, much easier with a cheese grader.

Boil 1 quart of water on the stove, then add the grated soap one scoop at a time until completely dissolved. (Pay close attention and stir constantly.  You may have to move it back and forth from the stove as it will boil over if you aren't careful)

Fill your bucket about halfway with hot water. I do this using my shower head. Then add the Borax and Washing Soda and stir well.

Stir in your melted soap mixture. Mix well. Fill bucket the rest of the way with hot water.

YOU’RE DONE. no kidding. well, there are some additional things you CAN do, if you wanna be fancy. One way or the other you’ll need to leave the detergent alone overnight to allow it to set. When it has set, you’ll need to mix it up again…I mean REALLY get in there and mix it up…

Use 1/4 – 1/3 cup of detergent per load of laundry

Friday, June 22, 2012


Monday was a big day at our house.  Well, that might be exagerating a little.  Okay, a lot, but it was exciting for me!  We will get to that in a bit, but let me back up a bit first.

A few months ago, while eating dinner in Mexico, Josh (my husband) shared with me a new goal he decided to work on.  You know, becuase you get those really good conversations in while on vacation.  Love them.  Anyway, he said he was going to cut back on his meat intake.  I almost dropped my fork into the ocean.  It was like a chorus of “HALLELUJAH’S” went off inside my head.  I remained relatively calm (can you tell it’s the little things in life that excite me?) and proceeded to blabber on about how happy I was that all this time I have been telling him about my concerns with the hormones, antibiotics and the mass over consumption of meat he was listening.  Warmed my heart to the core.  I decided right then and there he would partake in “Meatless Mondays” to start his journey.  While I don’t eat meat 99.9% of the time I was thrilled he would join me for one day.  I’ll take what I can get.

I am very fortunate that Josh enjoys eating healthy.  However, he is a bit picky when it comes to vegetables.  I knew Monday’s from here on out were going to be tough to find main entrĂ©e veggie items that we would both enjoy.  As Barney would say:

I was so excited to get started.  While I knew I could take the easy route and make gnochhi or cheese pizza I wanted to get more creative;  I wanted him to really enjoy it.  I have tried several new recipes, which we always eat, but none have been amazing.  I knew I needed to step up my game to keep him motivated. 

Last Monday I tried another new recipe that I found on Pinterest.  Baked Sweet Potato and Black Bean Burritos.  They looked great and they included two of his favorites: sweet potatoes and black beans.  Remember earlier I said it was a big day at our house?  Well, halfway through his dinner, he said, “This is the best Meatless Monday meal yet.”  Mission accomplished!

Here is a picture of my finished product as well as the link to the recipe.  The changes I made were I had some pepper jack cheese in my freezer so I used that.  I also left my seeds in the pepper because we like spicy food.  I made guacamole to eat with it, but next time I will also have salsa.  This recipe is definitely added to the Monday rotation!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Cream of Chicken Substitute

My husband has fondly named one of his favorite meals.  He calls it...drum roll please...Good Chicken. (It's more commonly knows as Poppy seed Chicken)  I enjoy this meal a lot as well, but I have a hard time eating things that I know are horrible for me.  The recipe calls for two cans of cream of chicken soup.  He named it "Good Chicken", not "Healthy Chicken" for a reason!  I tried this substitute a few years ago and we have been using it ever since.  I will admit, it doesn't taste exactly the same as the regular cans, but once you see the nutritional comparison, you probably won't care.  I started out slow and used one can of cream of chicken soup along with a can's worth of this mixture.  We could hardly tell a difference.  Now, sometimes I substitute both cans with this and we still enjoy the meal and I feel slightly healthier.  It's still full of butter and sour cream, but hey, every little bit helps!  The only other recipe I can think of I make with cream of chicken is cheesy potatoes and this works great in that as well.  Here's the recipe:

2 cups nonfat dry milk
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup instant chicken bouillon
2 tablespoons dried minced onion

1. Combine all ingredients and store in an airtight container
2. To use as substitute for one can condensed soup, mix 1/3 dry mix with 1 1 /4 cups water in a saucepan
3. Cook and stir until thickened

Step 3 has never worked for me.   I have slaved over the stove and let it get really hot, whisked it constantly so it didn't stick to the bottom and it still never thickens up.  Now, I save some time and just put it on med/low, whisk it a few times and call it good when it gets hot.  My recipes still work fine.  Once it is in the oven and cooks you will never know the difference. 

Now, here's the really exciting part.  Yes, i just called this exciting, but I love nutrition facts and this one will blow you away!  I do not have a can of cream of chicken soup so I'll just get on Campbell's website and copy what I find...

Cream of Chicken Soup

Cream of Chicken Soup
Nutrition Facts*
Amount Per Serving (serving size) = 1/2 cup (120mL) condensed soup

Calories 130
Total Fat 9g
Sodium 870mg

Homemade Cream of Chicken Soup

 Amount per serving (equivalent to 1 can)

Calories 95
Total Fat 0.2g
Sodium 710mg 

At first glance you are probably thinking that is not much difference...BUT, the serving size for the cream of chicken is only 1/2 cup.  Guess how many servings per can? 2.5!!!  For one can, the nutrition facts total:

Calories 325
Total Fat 22.5g
Sodium 2,175mg

I rest my case.

My original recipe says you can substitute this for cream of "anything" soup.  I have never tried it in place of mushroom, celery, etc.  The only reason is I never cook with those, but it might work.  Give it a try!

One last added bonus...not that you should need more after you see the nutrition comparison.  You may be dumpster diver extraordinaire, but I am not about to go through trash so therefore I do not have 5 coupons for my cream of chicken soup can.  Each "can" you make only costs 15 cents.  It's a win-win! 

Friday, June 15, 2012

Food Rules by Michael Pollan

I read a fantastic book today. I have heard of Michael Pollan for his NY Times best seller called, "The Omnivores Dilemma." I have not read it yet, but it's on my book list and it just moved to the top of the list! Today, I read Michael Pollan's short book entitled, "Food Rules". In it, he lists quick rules to live by when eating. I could blog each one of his rules every day and I'd have so much to write! If you are at a loss for where to start or how to educate yourself on healthy living this book would be great for you. I agreed with all of his rules and try to follow them already myself. Even if you lead a healthy eating lifestyle you can still learn some things and he makes some very valid points. (Very candidly showing the faults of our Western diet and stating we need to take notes from the Italians and Chinese big time) I borrowed the book from my instructor at a training today and then proceeded to read it while he taught...oops. I had a great conversation during a break with him about "flexitarians", which is when he showed me this book so I don't think he minded at all! (Flexitarian: one who eats meat about 1 time per week. I finally have a label! How have I never heard of this term?) Anyway, I wrote down a Chinese Proverb from the book about cutting way back on our meat intake.

Eating what stands on one leg (mushrooms and plant foods) is better than eating what stands on two legs (fowl), which is better than eating what stands on four legs (cows, pigs, other mammals).

Michael Pollan covers everything from a rule about not eating cereal that changes your milk color to avoiding high fructose corn syrup. I was challenged by one of his sections on how to eat. He states the first bite is the best tasting and it will only go downhill from there. Not that the food gets bad, but your taste buds do not appreciate its greatness as readily. He challenges you to chew your food slowly and put your fork down in between each bite. I've tried to work on this before and I fail each time. I'm trying again though! I really need to slow down and enjoy what's been prepared and savor each bite. In theory, I'll give my brain more time to process that I'm full as well. It's a win-win! To wrap up, I'm going to remember this quote from his book in regards to slowing down and enjoying your wine and meal.

Drink your food and chew your drink.

Maybe if I repeat that saying enough I'll savor the flavors of my wine by letting it linger and I'll chew my food enough times to really appreciate it. I almost forgot to tell you my favorite rule of the book. Rule #43: Drink a glass of red wine with dinner each night. Cheers to that!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

One Night Chef

I always try to support local businesses whenever I can and the yoga studio I go to is no exception.  She's a one woman show running her business and she does a fantastic job of keeping her fellow yogis aware of people and places in Wichita to support.  About a month ago, I noticed a new business card at the studio entitled, "One Night Chef." I was so excited at the possibility of having a chef come to my house!  However, I also knew a private chef = $. 

I looked up One Night Chef's website when I got home and I was beyond impressed.  Chef Surya has a heart for giving back, particularly in Nepal, and only charges for the cost of food.  (Initially, it's a VERY affordable evening)  Anything he "earns" beyond that is donated to Nepal and furthering education for children there.  It's up to you, the diner, to donate what you can. I could not wait to find an occasion to book him.  Well, actually, by now I didn't even need an occasion-I was set on booking him.  I was about to make a reservation for the following week to celebrate the third Friday of the month or something ridiculous, but then I came up with the perfect didn't think it would take me more than a few minutes to figure out a legitimate way to get him to my house, did you?  :) My dear friend Katie O was coming to Wichita in June with her husband and they were staying at our house.  PERFECT.  She loves food and cooking like I do so I knew she would be interested.  I sent her the information and we started picking our three course meal.  

One Night Chef offers an incredible selection of food ranging from well known appetizers like hummus to one called Momo.  (Although we didn't choose this dish I asked him about this while he was cooking and he explained it is a very prodominant dish in Nepal, commonly knows as Nepalese ravioli.)  For entrees you can choose from salmon, lamb, pork, shrimp, risotto and many others.  As for dessert, it appears there is no wrong choice, but I am a bit biased to the banana flambe.  Can you see why?!

Last Friday night was the big night for us.  I have to admit, as it got closer I was a little nervous because I had never used One Night Chef and now I was having out of town guests to try him out.  What if the food was not good?  What if he was socially akward and it ruined the evening?  Turns out, there was nothing to be nervous about.  Everything was visually stunning on our plate and equally delicious.  Furthermore, it was a pleasure getting to talk with Chef Surya all evening about food, restaurants, his life growing up in Nepal, and his passion for furthering education for children there.

Our first dish was the vegetable medley.  It was a wonderful combination of green and white asparagus, zuchhini and baby carrots.  He soaked these in a sugar bath (which i believe was honey water) and some fresh herbs.  He then sauteed them and served them alongside a sauce made of sweet peas, honey, and cream.  As you can see below, the presentation of the sauce adds so much to a simple dish of vegetables.  He was off to an impressive start.

Our main course was salmon with watercress salad.  The salad was topped with chopped oranges and a light vinegarette.  I love salad and this was no exception.  However, in my opinion, the salmon stole the show!  First off, I know a chef is not going to bring over frozen farm raised salmon (thank goodness, I hope you all know to stay away from that farm raised junk), but he went above and beyond.  He went to the local seafood shop and purchased fresh salmon.  He simply pan cooked them, but was able to get the crispiest outside layer, but oh so tender on the inside.  It was a spectacular piece of fish!  He topped it with an orange marmalade sauce and scattered a few shallots around the plate as well.  One bite of shallot with the fish and I was in love.  As I ate my fish I was already thinking of when I could book him again...Flag Day maybe?

I love how he put the orange marmalade sauce inside the shallots as well as drizzles it on the plate.

I am not a big dessert person, but I must say, watching him prepare the banana flambe was entertaining. 

Possibly the most impressive presentation of the night.  He used baby bananas to flambe with a cinnamon stick and pistachio's and then served them over butter pecan ice cream.  The dish was finished with a drizzle of chocolate.  Remember earlier when I said I was not big on dessert?  Well, I still ate every last bite.  It tasted as good as it looked.  And, I think it was all Katie could do to hold back from licking her bowl clean! 
Speaking of Katie, I have to credit her with giving Chef Surya the finest compliment of the night. I may have gone on and on about the delicious salmon, but at the end of our night Katie mentioned how she enjoyed everything coming full circle in the meal. For instance, our sweet pea sauce was served in an orange and then later the inside of the orange was chopped in our salad and we had orange marmalade salmon. Chef Surya was extrememly touched she noticed this. Good work, friend!  If I haven't convinced you to quit reading my blog and go visit One Night Chef's website here are Katie's notes from the night: "I loved everything about it! The main thing that was great was how flavors, colors, and ingredients were carried throughout all 3 dishes! Very impressive and so enjoyable. Plus for a great cause!"

I am looking forward to getting a group of people together to invite Chef Surya into our home again.  I may have decided against Flag Day, but Christmas in July is a real possibility.  (Yes, I am that girl who recognizes Jesus' half birthday each year, please don't quit reading my blog because of it)   As much as I enjoy dining out, I have this saying above my kitchen table:

Isn't that such a true statement?  We had an evening filled with remarkable food, but more importantly, a relaxing evening catching up with one of my closest friends.  Thanks for visiting Moses and Katie!

Katie wanted to make sure the pic of us enjoying our meal got posted.  You know, for all 3 of my followers.  :)
I hope you can check out One Night Chef's website and book him soon.

P.S.  If you are still debating if you want to book him I should also mention he cleaned up everything AND did the dishes. 

Friday, June 8, 2012

Sweet Potatoes With Pecans and Goat Cheese

Since I posted about my love of sweet potatoes earlier this week via a prepackaged item, I thought I should end the week by sharing my favorite sweet potato recipe.  It combines two of my favorite things: sweet potatoes and goat cheese.   I think goat cheese makes everything taste better-not that sweet potatoes need much help.  When I first joined Pinterest I loved all the recipes people shared and was determined to try many of them.  So, a few weeks later when my husband went out of town for work I had a week to try Pinterest recipes.  From that week of new recipes, this was one of my favorites and I make them A LOT.  The best part is, if you have kids (or a picky hubby like I do which is why I tried all the new stuff while he was out of town) you can leave the topping off and serve the roasted potatoes plain.  Fine with me you picky eaters, means more topping for me!  They are also easy to make, but look very appealing and fancy once plated.  If you have some company you want to impress with taste AND presentation add this to the menu. 

Sweet Potatoes With Pecans and Goat Cheese
Serves 2 1/2
1 1/2 pounds sweet potato, scrubbed, unpeeled, in 3/4- to 1-inch coins
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/4 cup pecan halves (original recipe says to toast and cool them, but I never do that and I think it’s fine)
2 tiny or 1 small shallot
2 stalks celery
2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley
2 ounces goat cheese (if you’ve never cooked with goat cheese before you can buy a block of it and crumble it yourself or you can purchase it already crumbled)
Salt and black pepper to taste
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon smooth Dijon mustard

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Coat a large baking sheet generously with olive oil, about 1 to 2 tablespoons. Lay sweet potatoes in one layer on the oiled sheet. Sprinkle with salt and black pepper. Roast, without disturbing, for 15 to 20 minutes. Carefully flip each piece: the undersides should be blistery, dark and a bit puffy and should release from the pan with no effort. If they’re not, let it cook longer. Sprinkle them with additional salt and pepper and return the pan to the oven for another 10 minutes or so, until the undersides match the tops.

Meanwhile, prepare your salad. Chop your pecans well, mince your shallot, chop your celery and parsley.  Crumble your goat cheese and stir into pecan mixture.  In a small dish, whisk together 2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar and 1/2 teaspoon Dijon. Pour half over the salad and stir.
When the sweet potatoes are done place them on a serving platter.  (When it’s just me I leave them on the pan) Scoop a spoonful of the salad mixture over each round. Pour remaining salad dressing over top and enjoy.

Sliced and on the pan before baking them

This is what the salad mixture looks like before you put it on the potatoes

Finished product.  And lesson learned.  I told you they were pretty and then I took a picture of them on my nasty sheet pan.  Imagine them on a dinner plate and you get my drift!

*I know some people do not like leftovers very much, but I think they are great.  I always pack my lunch and these hold very well for a few days.  In fact, I have some in the refrigerator right now….gotta go!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Tortilla Chips With a Twist

I always try to squeeze in a trip to Trader Joe's when I visit Kansas City.  However, I knew my visit last weekend consisted of a tight schedule (and, yes, by that I mean I had to attend a pool party and get my tan on) so my mom graciously offered to go for me before I got there.  What a mom!  When I arrived in KC I found out both my mom and dad went to get the items on my list for me.  Turns out, perhaps my mom should go alone next time.  To quote what my dad said to me when I arrived, "You sure sent us on a hunt for some weird stuff."  Weird?  I don't know about that...more like, AWESOME stuff!  My husband was the first to try these sweet potato tortilla chips last night.  He got home from work before me and when I walked in he told me they were really good.  I whipped up some black bean corn salsa to try for myself and I agree-they are delicious!  Unfortunately, I threw my receipt away and I don't remember how much they cost, but it's Trader Joe's, which means they are affordable.  And, while they may not be as healthy as my regular Baked Scoops, I feel a little better about it since they are made with sweet potatoes.  If you are a Trader Joe's shopper, pick up some of these on your next visit!

And, don't worry, I'll get to more of the "weird" stuff I got soon!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Chicago Dining at RPM

I mentioned in my first post that my love of food was one of the reasons I chose to start a blog.  Well, my excitement as I described my experience at a Chicago restaurant was the deciding factor.  You see, a few weeks ago two of my Wichita friends told me I should start a blog.  I told them I wouldn't be interesting and what would I write about?  They both said I should start a food blog.  Then, a few weeks later as I discussed healthy eating tips with a Kansas City friend, she told me I should start a blog so she could read all my tips conveniently. Then, when I returned from my Chicago trip and filled my family in on every last detail (probably to their boredom) of my meals my brother suddenly looked at me and said, "You should start a blog."  So, it took some nudging, but I decided if three different groups of people think I should start one I might as well give it a whirl.

I'm thrilled that my first blog where I actually discuss a specific restaurant is so exciting! For Memorial Day weekend my friends and I took a girls trip to Chicago.  I had not visited there since I was little so I really didn't remember it.  If I was planning my own trip with just me and the hubby I would have taken one of the Chicago food tours.  But, that takes a big chunk of the day and I was with 5 other girls for a quick two days and let's be honest, shopping on Michigan Avenue was priority!  So, I wasn't about to suggest that to everyone.  However, months before the trip as we made plans I did tell them (as politely as I could in an e-mail) I did not care what we did except for one thing.  I just had to eat at RPM, the new restaurant Bill and Giuliana Ransic just opened.  (I even went so far to tell my friends I would be going alone, without them, if they didn't want to go)  I realize it was a bit risky as I could have come across a little demanding, but I mean business when it comes to food.  Thankfully, after sending them the link and having them look the menu over, the price was right and the options were plentiful.  Dinner plans were set and they were all very excited to go as well!

Six weeks out from our trip I was checking Twitter and saw a famous person tweeted about eating at RPM.  My stomach dropped...I had no idea this was a celebrity hotspot.  I got on and there were no tables available for reservation.  At this point, I was beginning to sweat.  My dreams were going to be crushed.  Why, oh why, didn't I make reservations yet? Where on earth would I eat now?  (I know, a bit dramatic considering it's Chicage and there's a bazillion placed to choose from)  My family used to own a restaurant so therefore, I know through Opentable a restaurant can put a cap on how many tables can be reserved online, but tables may still be available if you call.  (A little tip for you if this ever happens to you)  So, I grabbed my phone and made a call.  The soonest they could get us in was 9 pm.  SIX WEEKS out and that's the first available time.  Of course, I took it! All I know is, they are making some serious dough at this place.  I'm contemplating moving to Chicago to be a server there.  Just kidding.  Sort of.

All that introduction, now let's get to the good stuff.  I had high expecations because I had only read good reviews, but I was a little skeptical because just throwing a menu together and putting your famous faces on the promotional tour does not equal good food.  (I was HIGHLY disappointed in Eva Longoria's restaurant Beso a few years ago)  But, my girl Giuliana did not disappoint.  Her and her mama, known on her reality show as "Mama DePandi", did not disapoint. These Italians know how to cook! 

We started with Provolone Stuffed Peppers ($5) and Zucchini Fritti ($8) as appetizers.  The stuffed peppers came first and I got a little nervous.  There were six on the plate and the peppers were the size of a cherry tomato.  For the price and amount, I wasn't overly impressed.  I started thinking the prices are so affordable because we'll have to order so many things to get full.  However, then the Zucchini came and I relaxed a bit.  They were perfectly breaded and fried.  Nothing too heavy, not greasy at all, and delicious!  So good, that we ordered another one.  (Don't judge, six girls-one pregnant-at 9 p.m after walking/shopping all day, we deserved some more fried food!)  Oh, and I have an old Iphone with no flash so my pic of the zucchini didn't work.  I won't bore you with the decor of the restaurant, (fab.u.lous!) but it was pretty dark and my phone had a hard time. 

I had studied the menu a bit before I arrived (okay, a lot and yes, I know that's weird) and had a few questions for our server so I would be able to narrow it down.  I was already planning on ordering a couple things just so I could try them, but my friends were awesome and suggessted we order a bunch of items and share.  Loved the idea!  I could try so many items in one visit.  We ended up ordering two orders of Giuliana's Italian Salad. ($11 each)  Our entire table agreed it was an excellent choice.  Perfectly seasoned dressing and perfectly proportioned.  And, while little miss twig Giuliana probably only eats her self named salad, we were just getting started. 

I knew I was going to get the signature dish, Mama DePandi's pasta. My questions were in regards to the Eggplant Parmesan, the Gnocchi, and the Sweet Pea Risotto.  How's a girl to choose?  Well, after asking our server a couple questions I weeded out the gnocchi dish.  Turns out it's in a meat sauce, and I don't eat much meat.  A couple girls wanted ravioli and our meal was set.  We ordered: Mama DePandi's Bucatini Pomodoro ($10), Eggplant Parmesan ($18), Sweet Pea Risotto ($13), Ravioli Americano ($10), and Maine Lobster Ravioli. ($15)

Mama DePandi's was my favorite!

There's something so light and refreshing about the simplicity of authentic Italian, but yet it's so full of flavor.  I could have eaten much more of this, but I wanted to sample it all.  The ravioli was good, but didn't stand out from anything else I've had.  I am allergic to Lobster so I did not sample that one.  Eggplant Parmesan is one of my all time favorite dishes and I would definitely order it again from RPM.  Not greasy or heavily breaded and full of flavor.  It was not served atop any pasta, which at first I was disappointed by, but once I started eating it I realized it didn't need anything; it was perfect the way it was served.  It also wasn't drowned in a thick, red sauce so you could really taste the eggplant and fresh tomato sauce.  I also love, love, love, risotto.  The peas were perfectly crisp, but I could have used a bit more cheese.  It was good risotto, not great.  (Although, I have high expactions after Kansas City's TASTE restaurant's sweet pea risotto.  I'm yet to find one that comes close and this was no exception.  Sadly, TASTE closed a few months ago.  RIP, you are missed)

We chose to skip dessert since we were pretty full at this point.  If I haven't convinced you to eat here yet, maybe the fact that we left at 11:45 and the place was still packed will convince you.  Just remember, call early for a reservation! 

To sum it up in Giuliana's words, it was, "Amazeballs!"

P.S.  I feel I should thank my wonderful friends for coming with me and being open to trying so many things.  It was very nice to know I could look around and get a little giddy about the contemporary atmosphere, the wine case, the menu, the bathroom, the bar, the server outfits, etc.  I may not have been the best conversational diner that evening, but I had a blast! 

Don't Say I Didn't Warn You

Since this is my first blog post I should warn everyone: I'm not funny and I don't consider myself a writer!  However, before you think my blog is going to be completely horrible I should tell you one of the reasons I started it-I LOVE FOOD!  And, not just eating it.  Everything about it.  When I cook, I love the planning, the preparation (there's nothing better than turning on some tunes, pouring a glass of wine and cooking dinner) and the wonderful conversation with others while enjoying a home cooked meal around the table.  So, in my blog I'll share some of the recipes I try and new things I learn.  (I should tell you I'm a healthy, if you want recipes with loads of butter and bacon please continue on to Paula Dean's website immediately)

Then, there's dining out.  It's one of my favorite things to do.  (And, by dining out I don't mean Olive Garden or Red Lobster.  Real restaurants people.)  I must say, my husband has it quite good.  Any occasion where gifts are normally given all I want is date night at a nice restaurant.  Pretty easy to please if you ask me!  He may not agree though, considering he is the one across from me at dinner having to listen to my critiques.  Sure, I comment on the "normal" things like the menu and how our server is doing so far.  But, I do believe he looked at me like I had completely lost it one time when I mentioned how nice the silverware was.  God bless him for taking me places and knowing we will spend a majority of our time discussing every aspect of the restaurant.  I just can't help myself!  Naturally, I'll also share my dining out experiences on here.  I live in Wichita, KS so a lot of it will be restaurants I eat at in Wichita.  I go to Kansas City a lot so I will post anywhere I eat there as well.  And, of course, if I travel I'll write about the places I try out of town.

I'm not a trained chef, nor am I nutritionist.  I'm just a girl who loves to learn more about healthy eating and trying new recipes.  My mom tells the story of when I was little (around 10 years old) she looked over at me in the grocery store and I was reading a nutrition label on the back of a box.  She said she never used to do that and did not teach it to me.  My love for the grocery store at a young age has only grown; it's one of my favorite places to go.  (I mean, who doesn't want to spend hours at Trades Joe's???!!!)  My Dad also says when we were on family trips when I was little we would be eating lunch and I was already asking where we were going for dinner.  My poor parents, I must have drove them crazy.  However, these stories show from a young age I have always enjoyed looking forward to meals as well as finding ways to make it healthy.  I hope you enjoy my blog!