Portobello Personal Pizzas

When don’t you have a craving for pizza?  The fact is, most of us will save pizza for Friday movie nights, a party or some other excuse to indulge our endless craving for dough, cheese, sauce and goodies.  Trying to get in shape for an upcoming vacation has me rethinking recipes and finding ways to have my favorites without sacrificing too much.  That’s where this alliterative recipe comes in – you’re going to love it!

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PORTOBELLO PERSONAL PIZZAS

Ingredients

  • 2 Portobello Mushroom Caps
  • 2 Tsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 Tsp. Dry Italian Seasoning
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 1/2 Cup Pizza Sauce
  • 2 Tbs. Diced Red Onion
  • 8 Slices Pepperoni or Turkey Pepperoni
  • 1/2 – 3/4 Cup Shredded Mozzarella

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Remove gills from mushrooms with a spoon.  Wash and dry them thoroughly.
  • Place mushrooms on a baking stone or sheet.  Drizzle each with a teaspoon of olive oil.  Sprinkle with Italian seasoning and salt and pepper to taste.
  • Place in the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes, depending on size and thickness of your mushrooms.  They should darken and shrink some, but still be slightly firm to the touch.
  • Remove from oven and pat dry with a paper towel.  They release a lot of water in the initial baking and you don’t want soggy pizzas!
  • Spread each cap with half of the pizza sauce.  You can use marinara or any other jar sauced here as long as it is thick and not watery.
  • Top each cap with onions, then pepperoni and finally cheese.
  • Place in the oven and bake an additional 10-12 minutes until cheese is melted and slightly brown and bubbly.
  • Remove from oven and serve immediately.

You almost don’t miss the crust on these easy pizzas.  The good news is that your topping choices are endless – sausage, peppers, olives, etc.  As long as you like mushrooms, you’ll be thrilled with an alternative to heavy pizza that saves you both carbs and calories.  It’s also great for gluten-free friends if you watch your sauce ingredients.  Try some at home and let me know what you create.  Dig in!

Roasted Beet Salad

I have always loved beets!  Granted, as a child and into early adulthood, my exposure to beets were limited to the canned variety or pickled beets.  Both are delicious, but you can’t full appreciate the true flavor unless you roast them yourself.  Luckily, our farmers market had some this past week and I was able to make this fantastic salad.  As a side or a main, this one hits all the right notes of sweet, salty, crunchy and fresh.IMG_0771

ROASTED BEET SALAD

Ingredients

  • 4 Medium Red Beets
  • 6 Cups Spring Lettuce
  • 4 Ounces Semi-Soft Chèvre (Goat Cheese)
  • 1/2 Cup Roasted Pistachios
  • 8 Tbs. Ken’s Raspberry Walnut Vinaigrette
  • Fresh-cracked Black Pepper
  • Flaked Sea Salt

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Trim and wash beets thoroughly to remove dirt.  Do not dry them!  Wrap each wet beet individually in aluminum foil.
  • Place beets in a shallow baking dish or 9×9 pan and bake for 1 hour 15 minutes.
  • Remove beets from oven and allow to cool about 1 hour or until you are able to handle.
  • Remove beets from foil.  Unless you want red hands, wear rubber gloves and carefully peel each beet with a knife.  The skins will come off easily like a roasted sweet potato does.
  • Dice each beet into 1-inch cubes and place in a glass bowl.  You can refrigerate or use them at room temperature for this dish.  I prefer them chilled.  (HINT:  you can peel and dice beets with a pair of tongs and a knife, but be careful!)
  • Assemble 1 1/2 cups of lettuce mix on each of four plates.  Drizzle each plate with 2 Tbs. (or less) of the vinaigrette.
  • Arrange 1/4 of beets on each bed of dressed lettuce.
  • Sprinkle each salad with 1 ounce Chèvre and 1/4 of the pistachios.
  • Top each salad with fresh black pepper and sea salt to taste.
  • Serve immediately.

It sounds pretty simple, but the star of the show is the beet!!  I recommend the salad dressing above, but you can easily make your own light vinaigrette.  I recommend a fruity vinegar as it helps bring out the flavor and sweetness of the beets.  I enjoyed this for an easy lunch at home or topped with seared salmon for dinner or it would be a dazzling starter for your next dinner party – how gorgeous would this look on a large platter?!  Enjoy the bounty and eat those red and yellow beets while you can get them fresh.  Dig in!

Bacon Parmesan Stuffed Mushrooms

I’m constantly looking for and creating new small bites for holidays, parties, Sunday suppers, tailgates, etc.  Who doesn’t love an afternoon or evening of cocktails, cold beer and appetizers??  I like to make things that don’t require a ton of work, but taste like a million bucks with the convenience of friends/guests being able to grab-and-go with something.  Think of it as “what can I pick up and eat while never putting my drink down”!  Behold, the best stuffed mushrooms below…

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BACON PARMESAN STUFFED MUSHROOMS

Ingredients

  • 2 Quarts White Button Mushrooms
  • 2 8-ounce Bricks Cream Cheese
  • 6 Ounces Real Bacon Bits
  • 1/2 Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 1 Tbs. Parsley Flakes
  • 1 1/2 Tsp. Garlic Powder

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Instructions

  • Lay out cream cheese to bring to room temperature.
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Wash and stem mushroom.  If there are thick ribs on the underside, scoop out with a spoon.  Place on paper towels and blot dry.
  • In a medium bowl, use a hand mixer to mix cream cheese, bacon bits, parmesan and garlic powder until well combined.
  • Using a spoon, fill and smooth a teaspoon or more of filling in each mushroom.  These should be mounded, but not overfilled.  A good rule of thumb is that the filling should be about 1/3 to 1/2 the size of the mushroom cap.
  • Continue filling and place mushrooms on a large foil-lined baking sheet.
  • Bake mushrooms at 375 degrees for 30-40 minutes until the mushrooms are cooked and the filling has browned on top.
  • Remove from oven and serve immediately.  These can also be transported but place a few paper towels in the bottom of your contained as they will seep liquid as they cool.

You’re going to love the earthy, creamy and salty bite of these mushrooms!  The recipe above will fill a large cookie sheet, but you can easily cut this recipe in half or double it depending on your event.  Oh, and if you have any filling left over, it’s ridiculously good on a toasted everything bagel.  Now go get that party started.  Dig in!

Tano Bistro – Loveland, OH

A night “out on the town” doesn’t always mean heading to downtown.  Tano Bistro is one of the most popular spots in Loveland and does a great job of making each trip feel both special and like you’re coming home every time.  Tucked in a storefront on Loveland Avenue, this cozy upscale restaurant has a bar, dining room and patio for al fresco evenings.  While the decor and feel is a combination of modern and historic charm, you’ll find guests dressed in everything from casual to formal.  And none of it ever feels out of place.

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Stopping in on the Friday before Valentine’s Day, we thought we’d try for a table without reservations (recommended on weekends).  While it was booked for the next few hours, the bar and high top tables are first-come first-serve.  Lucky for us we grabbed the last table for two.  There’s a great selection of beer, wine and cocktails, but nothing out-of-the-ordinary.  It’s hard to pass up the happy hour specials with $5 wine pours and dirty vodka martinis!  We took advantage of those prices and ordered the charcuterie to start our evening.  We had a beautiful assortment of fresh meat, cheeses, veggies and spreads.  It was a delicious plate and definitely enough for 2-4 people to share.  Our server was friendly and attentive and made sure we were taken care of all night – even though we were taking our time chatting the evening away!

The menu has a lot of small plates/starters and just the right amount of choices of salads, entrees and sandwiches.  We’ve had the eggplant pasta and bone-in pork chop before, both of which were delicious.  Given our huge charcuterie plate though, we settled on the Alabama BBQ sandwich and the mussels.  The sandwich, a spicy not-too-sweet pork bbq served on the perfectly crispy toasted white Texas toast, was a great portion served with salty potato wedges.  The ample bowl of mussels was served in a light broth of butter, garlic, chorizo, tomatoes, white wine and herbs.  I couldn’t get these eaten fast enough to dip the toasted ciabatta in that broth.  I love that dish anywhere, but they hit the nail on the head particularly well.

Open for lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch, you have no excuses to not stop by and enjoy the service, atmosphere and locally sourced menu at one of Loveland’s best restaurants.  And you’ll be interested to know they have a Tano To-Go location in Loveland as well – awesome for delicious food you can warm at home!  You can find out all the details and menu on their website foodbytano.com.  Get there and dig in!!

Bella’s Restaurant – Loveland, OH

New development in a small older downtown is often met with a lot of resistance.  When a new retail/residential complex came to Loveland last year, we were hopeful that there would be some great benefits to all the construction and mayhem – Bella’s was it!  Situated in the “Sweetheart of Ohio”, this new downtown Loveland Italian eatery is a block from the Bike Trail and on the first level of the new Loveland Station development.  With indoor and outdoor seating, along with an ample outside covered bar, there’s an atmosphere to please everyone.  The modern and simple interior is comfortable and fairly casual.  You could easily stop in while running errands in shorts and a t-shirt or dress it up a bit and enjoy a night out.  Either way, you’ll love the food and great selection of wine and beers.

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There was a short wait on a Tuesday night – encouraging for a new place.  We selected a glass of wine and one of the 20 beers on tap and were seated within 15 minutes.  There’s a great selection of traditional Italian appetizers – nothing out of the ordinary, but plenty of choices.  We started with Stuffed Mushrooms which were filled with sausage and provolone and served on their house-made marinara.  They were perfect bites, had just the right amount of stuffing and perfectly complimented by the sweet acidity of their house red sauce.

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The selection of entrees varies from a selection of homemade pastas, traditional meats, sandwiches and a a daily special.  Everything coming from the kitchen looked delicious.  Although food wasn’t coming out at a fast pace, I’m sure they’re still adjusting in their opening weeks.  We ordered the Fettucini Alfredo with Shrimp and the Chicken Saltimbocca excited to try some classics from Italy.  As expected, it took quite some time to get our food, but the service was good and the atmosphere relaxing for conversation and drinks.  My wife loved the Saltimbocca which was served on top of creamy polenta.  It was juicy, salty, caper-y and very good.  The polenta was a little stiff, but had good flavor.  Overall a very solid dish.  My fettucini was fresh with beautifully made pasta and a rich alfredo.  It was a little heavy on the butter, but overall rich and creamy.  Perfectly pink tender shrimp were abundant and delicious as well.

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If you’re in the area and looking for something beyond chain Italian restaurants, I highly recommend coming here.  They’re figuring some things out still, but I’m confident this place will get better and better.  Stop by and sit at the outside bar for a few small plates and cocktails or plan a dinner out with friends.  Currently only serving dinner, I hope they open for lunch hours soon as well.  There’s something for everyone at this new local hotspot though – so don’t delay getting here!  I’m excited and optimistic for their success – read more about them and view their menu at bellasloveland.com.

Julian’s Deli On The Loveland Bike Trail

We’re lucky enough to live in Loveland, Ohio with access to the Loveland Bike Trail.  It’s part of the 70 miles of the paved Little Miami Scenic State Park Trail.  You can find great info and links to bike rentals, canoeing, dining and activities at lovelandbiketrail.com.  It’s tough to beat a weekend morning with the dogs taking in the sights along the Little Miami River.  After four or five miles, a stop for lunch is absolutely necessary!

One of our favorite stops is Julian’s Deli on the Bike Trail.  A simple place on the corner of the bike trail and W. Loveland Avenue, you can find a great selection of appetizers, sandwiches and salads.  There’s indoor seating and a small bar, but we love the outdoor space along the trail and in the courtyard.  We love it because it’s also dog-friendly, so we can take an easy lunch right after our walk and have the pups with us!

There’s a great selection of craft beer on tap and in bottles/cans.  On Sundays, they also have a do-it-yourself Bloody Mary bar – what’s not to love?!  The sauerkraut balls are golden fried nuggets of pork sausage, sauerkraut and cream cheese – they are fantastic!  It’s also pretty tough to pass up the caramelized bacon with brown sugar and pecans.  The sandwiches are nothing terribly creative, but they do a great job with fresh ingredients.  Try the egg salad and bacon sandwich with tomato and lettuce on an everything bagel, it hit the spot today…

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This is a relaxed place!  With that in mind, don’t plan on quick service.  Grab another Bloody Mary though and enjoy some people-watching on the patio.  They’re not open late, but there is live music on Friday and Saturday night.  For more info, check out their website at juliansdeli.com.