Arugula Salad

Sometimes simple is best.  I love all kinds of salads, but this is an easy no-fail salad that is perfect with any meal, to dress up a sandwich or top a pizza.  Just a coupe of ingredients highlight these peppery greens with almost no work at all.

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ARUGULA SALAD

Ingredients

  • 6 Cups Arugula
  • 3 Tbs. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 Tbs. Fresh Lemon Juice
  • 1 1/2 Tsp. Sea Salt
  • 1/2 Tsp. Black Pepper
  • Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese

Instructions

  • Place arugula in a large bowl.
  • Drizzle olive oil and lemon juice over the greens.  Add salt and pepper.
  • Toss lightly to coat evenly.
  • Refrigerate up to 1 hour or serve immediately with freshly grated parmesan.

Voila!  The “little black dress” of salads is now your go-to for almost any occasion.  It’s perfect served to start a meal, as a brunch side with an omelet or quiche or just on its own with a perfectly grilled piece of fish.  Simple ingredients, easy to make and oh-so-delicious.  Dig in!

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Rustic Roasted Mushrooms w/Tomatoes

When I’m cutting back on the carbs for a meal, I like to use hearty vegetables to take the place of the potatoes and pasta I love so much.  So forgoing the baked potato with our ribeye steaks tonight I opted for this Italian-inspired baked mushroom and tomato dish.  A friend of mine, Todd – a fellow food connoisseur, made a similar dish almost 7 or 8 years ago for a dinner party and I haven’t forgotten about it.  I know you’ll love the combination of sweet tomatoes, nutty mushrooms and salty parmesan breadcrumbs.

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RUSTIC ROASTED MUSHROOMS W/TOMATOES

Ingredients

  • 2 Quarts Button Mushrooms
  • 12 Small Campari Tomatoes or 15-18 Large Cherry Tomatoes
  • 6 Tbs. Olive Oil, Divided
  • 2 Cloves Garlic, Minced
  • 1 Tbs. Italian Herb Seasoning (dry works well here)
  • 1 1/2 Tsp. Salt
  • 1 Tsp. Black Pepper
  • 1/2 Cup Dry Breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 Cup Grated Parmesan

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Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Wash trim and quarter mushrooms.  Place into a large bowl.
  • Wash and dry tomatoes.  Slice each one in half and squeeze gently to remove the seeds.  Add to mushrooms.
  • Pour 4 Tbs. olive oil over vegetables.  Add minced garlic, italian herbs, salt and pepper.
  • Toss gently to evenly coat vegetables and place into a 2-quart baking dish with high sides.
  • Bake in the oven for 20 minutes at 400 degrees.
  • Combine breadcrumbs, parmesan and remaining 2 Tbs. olive oil in a small bowl.
  • Sprinkle this mixture over mushrooms and tomatoes and bake for an additional 10 minutes or until topping is browns and veggies are bubbling.
  • Remove from oven and serve immediately.

There’s a lot of liquid rendered from this dish so it’s best served with a slotted spoon.  If you want to take advantage of all that liquid, you can also toss in 1 1/2 cups stale bread cubes before baking.  Think of all that Italian-herbed earthiness soaked up in tender bread!  Of course that defeats the purpose of going no-carbs.  Either way, you’ll forget all about the missing potato and savor the flavor of this rustic side dish.  I can’t wait to put a few over-easy eggs on the leftovers tomorrow.  Dig in!

Southwest Blackened Chicken Rice Bake

Do you ever have a taste for something, but not quite sure what?  Working from home today I really wanted to put something on the smoker, especially in 60-degree weather.  I was craving spicy Tex-Mex flavors though too and wanted to come up with something that would combine the two while using ingredients we already had in the house.  The result was a cheesy spicy rice casserole with smoked chicken.  While you don’t have to fire up the smoker to make this dish, the flavor was outstanding!

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SOUTHWEST BLACKENED CHICKEN RICE BAKE

Ingredients

  • 2 Bone-In Chicken Breasts
  • 3 Tbs. Blackening Seasoning – I love Hog’s Breath
  • 1 1/2 Cups Uncooked White Short Grain Rice
  • 1 1/2 Cups Black Bean Salsa
  • 1 Cup Medium Salsa
  • 1 1/2 Cups Water
  • 1 Cup Corn Kernels (frozen or fresh)
  • 1 Tsp. Salt
  • 1/2 Tsp. Black Pepper
  • 2 Cups Shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese
  • 6-8 Green Onions, Chopped
  • Sour Cream & Hot Sauce For Garnish

Instructions

  • Wash and dry chicken breasts.  Rub in blackening seasoning on all sides.
  • Smoke offset from heat over mesquite or your favorite wood for 1 1/2 hours at 300 degrees until internal temp is 180 degrees.  You can also bake them in the oven at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or they reach the same internal temperature of 180 degrees.  Set aside to cool for 15 minutes.
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • In a 2-quart baking dish place rice, both salsas, water, corn, salt and pepper.
  • Remove skin and take chicken off bone.  Shred into bite-size pieces and add all meat to the casserole dish.  Mix all ingredients with a spoon until well combined.
  • Cover dish with foil and bake at 375 for 1 hour.
  • Remove from oven.  Check rice to make sure it’s tender.  If not, you can add a bit more water or chicken stock, stir, cover and bake an additional 10 minutes.
  • Spread shredded cheese over top of the casserole and place under a broiler until cheese is melted and slightly browned.
  • Remove from oven and serve immediately.  Top each plate with chopped green onion,  sour cream and hot sauce to taste.

When I first baked this, I didn’t allow for enough liquid and had to add more to finish the rice cooking.  However, the recipe above should yield a perfect result!  I know you and your family will love this stick-to-your-ribs dish that gives just the right amount of bite set off by the bright flavors of green onion and sour cream.  And if you like to smoke, I would highly recommend the smoked chicken over the baked, it was awesome.  Dig in!

La Piazza Cafe – Palm Coast, FL

On our first visit to Palm Coast, we had some great and not-so-great meals in the area.  La Piazza Cafe in European Village was the former and a rare treat of authentic Italian in a sea of chains in this resort area!  A quaint, kind of kitschy, restaurant with an old-world feel, La Piazza is a labor of love for the Lass Family.  Dine inside or alfresco under the ample covered patio and warm breeze.  You’ll love the atmosphere and the freedom to dress up or dress down for a relaxed dinner.

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We were seated inside and made some selections from the ample wine list to start the night.  Given a long list of beautiful antipasti choices, we decided on the Antipasto Italiano.  This was a beautiful assortment of meats, cheeses, olives and dressed vegetables served  crostini.  Enough as a starter for four people or a meal for two, the selections were fresh and flavorful.  It’s worth noting here that our server was really friendly and attentive.  She took the time to explain specials, let us drink and chat at our own pace and kept the glasses full throughout dinner.  It really made for a pleasant experience and fun evening!

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We enjoyed traditional caesar salads, perfect with optional anchovies, and then made our selections from the entrees.  There’s quite a list of pastas, traditional fare, steaks and fish, but it doesn’t feel crowded or fussy.  Our table devoured the traditional Bolognese and Carbonara – some of the best we’ve had.  I ordered the Fra Diavolo which was overflowing with fresh shrimp and calamari.  You can order the spice level from 1-10 and my 4 was plenty to give it a good zip.  The portions are huge though and a single pasta dish is nearly impossible to finish all on your own!

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Overall, it was a wonderful meal and a great evening with my family.  I definitely recommend making a stop or going out of your way to make a drive to enjoy a meal with the Lass Family.  I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!  You can find out more and take a look at their menu at lapiazzacafe.com.  Dig in!