June 12, 2015

Ready, Set, Weekend with Simply Beautiful Eating

Most of you might think that all this cooking and photography stuff is my full-time job. Well, it’s not. I have been blogging for just over a year and showcasing my pics @thegardenofeatin on instagram. My real job is in the public sector. I work for one of the most “honest politicians” in the universe and his name is Alan. Our team looks after one of the largest constituencies in the municipality. After working together for the past 11 years we have really become good friends. Alan and his wife Francine have traveled to so many wonderful spots in the world. One in particular was Tuscany, Italy. A dream of mine to visit.
He is a wine connoisseur while I’m…… well…..a juice and water kinda gal. Yep, that’s right. It drives him insane that I only like wine with as much sugar as grape juice. We may have different tastes in booze but one thing we both have in common is our love of fabulous food. How cute are those “eat local” plates above? That’s another thing about this boss of mine – he is very much an advocate of supporting local farmers and buying organic produce.Alan14
For his birthday this year, his family gave him a marcato pasta maker. Apparently, he has always wanted one. When he mentioned that he received this as a gift I was super excited to see what he could do with this gizmo. One Sunday, I found him aimlessly walking through a local bulk food store seeking out just the right blends of flour for his new adventure in pasta making. The next day, he came into the office and told me that he made one of the best meals he has ever had in his life. It consisted of his homemade PASTA.Alan11
Ding, Ding! This was a perfect opportunity to book a photo shoot to watch my boss roll in dough. We scheduled a date, his wife invited us to stay for dinner and this is what transpired…..

But before I go on, I must tell you that Francine is both an amazing cook and entertainer. She has one of the most awesome collections of dishes, serving pieces, knicks, knacks and stacks of chachkas/stuff that I’ve ever seen. One line in particular that she is partial to is MacKenzie-Childs. Check out all the checkers and florals! I LOVE!Alan3Alan20
The recipe that Alan used for his fresh pasta is a classic Jamie Oliver one which seemed very easy peasy to me. His wife threw together all the sides and fixins. Menu: Bruschetta, Guacamole, Fresh Buffalo Mozzarella and tomato salad, asparagus (which were as tall as trees!) She also made a simple fresh tomato sauce which was light and spiced to perfection. I was elected to sit on the dessert committee and ended up bringing two desserts. I’m saving the details of my dessert disaster (and success)for the next blog. Stay tuned. It’s a doozie.Alan21Alan6Alan5Alan7Alan4Alan19Alan9
This is not a quick process but if you’re a pasta aficionado and want to give this a whirl, it’s a heck of a lot of fun. My boss seemed to be enjoying this so much I have a fear of him dumping his political hat and opening up his own pasta bar. I think it may be his next career because clearly this guy is one smart noodle.

Ready to get our pasta on? Let’s go.
Just as a side-note….I have never seen anyone happier with a plate of pasta….have you? Bon Appetito!Alan 1Alan22
Debi @thegardenofeatin
Simply Beautiful Eating

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May 22, 2015

Ready, Set, Weekend with The Garden of Eatin’

Thai food happens to be one of my favorites and the men I live with are obsessed with anything noodle oriented. Sometimes I wonder why? Perhaps it was because I ate a ton of cantonese lo mein throughout each one of my pregnancies? This could be why my kids hand chopsticks easier than a fork.

Whatever the reason, I can incorporate noodles into almost everything and be happy. I have made pad thai for years and have really not been impressed with the recipes that I’ve tried. I decided that the best pad thai is the one that you don’t add 100 ingredients to…..this one has less than 20…. don’t get scared when you see the long list of stuff below. It’s basically the entire contents of my fridge and pantry. ha ha.


Simple is best. My version of this dish includes tofu and chicken. Feel free to go Pad Thai wild and add anything you wish. Line up the ingredients and let’s get our chopsticks ON.

How to:

1/2 pkg skinny rice stick noodles
2/3 cup chicken stock – low sodium
1/2 cup ketchup
1/4 cup fish sauce
2 tbsp granulated sugar
2 tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp grated lime rind
2 tbsp lime juice
1 tsp chili flakes
4 tsp vegetable oil
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts, sliced
1 package firm tofu, cubed
4 carrots, thinly sliced
1 sweet red pepper, sliced
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 tbsp minced gingerroot
2 cups bean sprouts
1/4 cup chopped unsalted peanuts

Prepare rice noodles according to package directions, rinse in cold water and set aside.
In a small bowl, whisk together chicken stock, ketchup, fish sauce, sugar, cornstarch, lime rind and juice and chili flakes; set aside.
In wok or large skillet, heat 2 tsp (10 mL) of the oil over medium heat; cook eggs, stirring often, for 2 minutes or until scrambled and set. Transfer to plate.
Wipe out wok; add remaining oil. Brown chicken and tofu, in batches, over medium-high heat. Transfer to separate plate.
Add carrots, red pepper, garlic and ginger to pan; cook, stirring, for about 3 minutes or until slightly tender. Add noodles; stir gently for 1 minute.
Return chicken to pan. Stir sauce and pour into pan; cook, stirring, for 3 minutes or until thickened, noodles are tender and chicken is no longer pink inside.
Return egg mixture to wok along with bean sprouts; toss gently for 1 minute or until heated through. Serve sprinkled with peanuts and optional green onions.




See ya next week!
debi @thegardenofeatin

Find Debi’s Recipes on her blog, Simply Beautiful Eating.

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May 11, 2015

Mandy’s Meals & More

Do you have a recipe that you always come back to? A real crowd pleaser?
I do! And it happens to be my very good friend Elyse’s recipe. Whether it’s brunch, bbqs or an easy weekday side, this orzo salad is so fresh and perfectly seasonal with peas and mint.
I absolutely love this easy dish, and it’s quit stunning to boot. Recipe is below and you can find more from Elyse and her catering here!
Orzo Salad with Feta and Mint
1(about 454g) 2 cups package orzo pasta
1 cup feta cheese – cut into cubes fresh mint
1 cup roughly chopped fresh or frozen peas
1 lemon juice and zest
2 shallots, finely chopped
1⁄2 cup good quality olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1.) Boil orzo to package directions. Add peas for the last 1 minute of boiling. Drain and rinse with cold water to cool the pasta down. Set aside.
2.) In a large mixing bowl whisk together the lemon juice, lemon zest, shallots, salt and pepper. While whisking, slowly pour the olive oil until combined and emulsified.
3.) Toss the dressing with the orzo, peas, feta and mint. Season with some more salt and pepper to taste.

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February 27, 2015

Ready, Set, Weekend with The Garden of Eatin’

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Comfort Food Definition: A food that gives emotional comfort to the one eating it, these tend to be favorite foods of childhood, or linked to a person, place or time with which the food has a positive association.
I have eaten lots of comfort foods in my lifetime (mainly because I’m old and need to be comforted). To name a few….creamy mashed potatoes, chicken pot pie, buttermilk biscuits, apple pie, meatloaf and of course classic macaroni and cheese.
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In fact, I’ve always envisioned myself as Laura from Little House on the Prairie, cooking up “vittles” in a small wooden barn house…….I just don’t look great in braids.
I’ve used my “mac n cheese” recipes in various ways but the easiest and cutest thing I have done to date are these little muffins. They are great for parties or just for fun when you want to serve them as an appetizer, main or even a side dish.
The trick to a perfect mac muffin is a good combo of “binders”…….eggs and cheese are your best bets. I have tweeked my recipe to add a little punch for the adult crowd by making them sharp and spicy but you can absolutely use any cheddar cheese you desire.
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Here’s how you make em’ ….
2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 extra large egg, beaten
1 cup whole milk (if you are watching your diet you can use 1 % milk but it really makes a difference using the full fat one)
1 1/2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese or shredded jalapeno cheddar for an extra kick
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup seasoned dry bread crumbs
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley for garnishGOE 2.27.15 6
1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease a 12 cup muffin tin (or a 24 mini tin) with nonstick spray. In a small bowl, stir together the bread crumbs, olive oil and salt; set aside.
2. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the macaroni and cook for about 8 – 10 minutes, it should still be a little bit firm or al dente. Remove from the heat, drain and return to the pan; stir in the butter and egg until pasta is evenly coated. Reserve 1/2 cup of cheese and stir the remaining Cheddar, milk and mozzarella cheese into the pasta. Spoon into the prepared muffin tin. Sprinkle the reserved cheese and the bread crumb mixture over the tops.GOE 2.27.15 3
3. Bake for 30 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the topping is nicely browned. Allow the muffins to cool for a few minutes before removing from the pan. This will allow the cheese to set and they will hold their muffin shape. Garnish with fresh parsley and serve warm.
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See ya next week!
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Debi @thegardenofeatin

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December 19, 2014

Ready, Set, Weekend with The Garden of Eatin’

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Growing up, my mom always made a dish using “bow” shaped pasta and a whole grain Kasha. Kasha is buckwheat groats and can be eaten as a soft cereal. It is considered to be a Jewish comfort food and is often served with little bow ties. This dish is referred to as “Kasha Varnishkes”. You can also use Kasha as a filling for Knishes and my mother throws some into her famous chicken soup. I have no idea why I have started this blog with a complete description of Kasha because it has nothing to do with the recipe I’m sharing with you below. I think I just got side-tracked because of the stupid bows.

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So, let’s talk about pasta shapes for a second. The past few months I’ve been walking down the specialty aisle at a local market eyeing the colored pasta. This is something that you probably may want to know. Colored pasta is made from natural food coloring and is only different from your regular pasta IN PRICE. I have a rule at my home which most of my kids know to a keep secret. They actually have been paid handsomely to keep some information under wraps.  If I buy a package of pasta to use in a photo shoot and it costs 11 bucks ….I don’t tell my husband Steve. We slip it in on the grocery bill and let him think it’s laundry detergent. Steve probably won’t have time to read this blog so I think my secret shopping list is safe. Today I’m using my beautiful striped bow shaped pricey pasta in a very easy recipe that I’ve been using for years. It’s a pink sauce that can be used on just about anything and I think you will love it so much you may want to schmear it all over yourself… it’s that delish.

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Here’s what you need:
2 Tbls extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbls butter
1 Vidalia onion (for some reason this is the only onion I can eat, it’s sweet and doesn’t repeat)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 cans of tomato sauce (15 oz. each) or I sometimes like to use plain old Ragu (large size jar)
1 tsp brown sugar
1 cup of heavy cream or if you want a skinny version use 1 cup of 2% milk
¼ cup grated grana padano cheese, parmesan or romano is fine too
½ cup fresh basil leaves, finely chopped

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How to put it together:

Heat butter and oil in a skillet, medium high heat. Saute garlic & onions for about 2 minutes. Add tomato sauce, season with salt and pepper. Add brown sugar and cook over low heat for 30 minutes. Stir occasionally just to make sure you don’t scorch the sauce. Remove from heat and add your milk or cream. Sprinkle in cheese and then taste your sauce. You may have to add a little more salt, pepper or maybe brown sugar. Add half of your chopped basil and then your pasta. Stir gently and garnish with remaining basil and a few shakes of grated cheese. Bon Appetito !!!

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See ya next week!

Debi @thegardenofeatin

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