Almost Christmas!

This whole last month has been the end of my teachings at The Culinary Institute of America. I graduate on December 21st, and after that I get to spend a week with my family in Minnesota. I wasn’t going to decorate my apartment, since I was going to be leaving before Christmas. But I really just couldn’t help myself. I love the scent of pine needles. I love candy dishes around the house. I love seeing lights at night. I really wanted the spirit this year.

Last year I was on my externship in New Jersey. I spent Christmas alone. Completely alone. And though it was a bummer, I still made myself Christmas. So I decided that since my roommate has graduated and left for now, I might as well make it happen!

So, welcome to my apartment. A.k.a. My Baby Christmas Wonderland…

Yep!—My tree is almost as funky cool as me. Gingerbread cookie post soon (also, Chicken Marsala that I actually messed up?!)!!!! I hope you can handle it. 


Pan-Fried Pizza

Brian made us both a midnight snack the other night. He transformed an ordinary slice of delivery pizza (hey, we do that sometimes!) into something other-worldy! He pan-fried it in a cast-iron skillet, which made it the crispiest pizza I have ever had. Also he sprinkled it with some red pepper flakes for spice, and topped it with a fried egg and grated parmesan. Ugh…

Too good.

If you don’t follow his blog you should probably do that because he is a wonder-chef!

Oh! I passed the wines final! Now I move into the restaurants. I’ll be graduating in December! Can you believe it? But don’t worry, I’m not going anywhere. Shesalty is here to stay!


In Banquets class one day we made Vol Au Vent with Creamy Mushrooms, Haricot Vert and a Carrot Puree Sauce.

To me, this dish was perfect harmony. The puff pastry shell was flaky and buttery…the mushrooms perfect with the cream. The carrot sauce was made with chicken stock, so it was full and rich, yet light! And the carrot was still the star of the sauce. 

I wish this was more of a Vol Au Vent ‘pie’ so I could ((EAT THE WHOLE THING)).

Oh, by the way, wines requires SO much studying, but I will try to get an epic post up here this week. 

Still love me?

Grilled Flank Steak with Zucchini and Tomato Sauce

Start with the steak! We bought 1.5 pounds of flank steak. We took 2 teaspoons of fennel seeds and 2 teaspoons of black pepper. We used a mortar and pestle and ground it down (you can use a spice grinder as well, or go with ground fennel and pepper to begin with, but fresher spices equals fresher flavor!) Mix your spices with 3 tablespoons or so of olive oil. 

Rub the flank steak with the marinade. As Chef Reilly would say, “don’t be a rookie”. Use your hands! Get messy. The kitchen sink is there for a reason (well, it’s there for many). Who cares if you are covered in raw beef for a couple of minutes? Did I mention I ate half a 98% raw burger yesterday for lunch yesterday without realizing? Classic. 

Cover the steak and chill (a.k.a. soak up orgasmic flavors) for an hour and a half. Pull it out and give it a half hour to come to room temperature. 

Meanwhile, make your sauce. This sauce is so easy it seems like a joke. But trust me, the flavor is incredible and goes perfectly with the steak and zucchini.

Here’s what you’ll need:

1 red bell pepper. 1 tomato. 1 onion. All chopped to the same size. Heat 2 T or so of olive oil and a pinch of salt (we’ll add more later). Cover the pan and gently simmer the veg until they are cooked through. Covering the pan will trap the steam and help sweat everything perfectly together. Add 2 T of white wine vinegar and cook (uncovered) a minute more. Pass the veg through a medium sized food mill. Return the sauce to the heat, add 2 T minced rosemary, and let the sauce do it’s thing. Season again at the end! Add some pepper, too. 

For the tortino you’ll need:

2 zucchini sliced thin. 1 minced garlic clove. 1 t finely chopped parsley. Some olive oil, and some grated parmesan. 

Line a sheet tray or baking dish with parchment paper. In a pan over medium-high heat, heat up some olive oil. Add the zucchini, garlic, parsley, and a pinch of salt. Cook the zucchini until it’s done (obviously!). We alternated layers of zucchini and parmesan. Just overlap the zucchini coins like a spiral. Sprinkle a generous amount of parsley. Crack some pepper over it. Repeat for 3 layers. Bake at 350 until the parmesan on top has browned a bit. 

Grill the steak to medium rare (MEDIUM RARE, do you hear me?). You can grill it outside on a beautiful day, or if you happen to live in an apartment where you can’t have a grill (sigh) use your hefty cast-iron grill pan. If it isn’t done after the grilling process, finish it in the oven (we did!).

Let the steak rest for 5 minutes! I know it’ hard to wait, but all the juices will settle within the meat and trust me, it’s worth it! 

After that DEVOUR your meal. Feel free to lick your plate clean. You’re home. Enjoy the fuuuu— out of it! 

Have a spendiforous weekend! I get a 3 day weekend…then I start Wines, a.k.a. The Devil Wouldn’t Even Take It.


Really, Really Good Pad Thai.

First, make your sauce.

Combine these:

5 T fish sauce + 1c water + 1.5 T lime juice + 1.5 T rice wine vinegar + 3.5 T sugar + 3/4 t salt + 1/4 t cayenne + 3 T chili pepper sauce.

Cut 1 pound of boneless, skinless chicken breast into 1-inch cubes. Coat in a little fish sauce. 

I know, fish sauce smells horrible. But it tastes great. It brings out all the other flavors. You will love it! 

Next, cut a quarter pound of firm tofu into 1/4-inch cubes. Toss in more fish oil. 

Boil your noodles while you do your veg prep work. I couldn’t find pad thai noodles, so I used linguine. Perfectly fine! 

Make an egg crepe! Whisk an egg. On low heat in a non-stick pan, cook the egg ‘pancake’ without stirring. When it is 80% cooked, flip it and finish. When cool, shred or slice the egg. If this seems too difficult, just scramble it up and add. Shh, no one will know.

Toast 1/2c of peanuts. Chop. Buy unsalted if you can!

Slice 3 scallions thin, on the bias.

Mince 4 cloves of garlic and 1-inch of ginger. Use the tip of a spoon to ‘scratch’ off the skin with ease.

Bean sprouts go well in this as well. I bought mine in a can (I only used half). You can find this in the Asian section at the grocery store (hopefully!). 

Alright, time to impress yourself. :-p

Heat your wok or large frying pan on medium-high heat. Add 1 T of oil. Gently saute your chicken until cooked through. You don’t necessarily want color here, just to cook the chicken. It will be tender, not chewy in your noodles. 

Add 1 T oil to the pan, then add the tofu and saute for 2 minutes. Remove all from the pan and set aside. Heat another tablespoon of oil. Saute your garlic, ginger, and scallions.

Add your noodles and your sauce to the pan. Stir for about 3 minutes, until the sauce thickens and absorbs into your noodles. Add the chicken, tofu, peanuts, bean sprouts, and shredded eggy goodness.

Remove from the heat. Add another tablespoon or so of lime juice. 




Peppadew Cheddar Stuffed Chipotle Pork Burger with Tomatillo, Cilantro Avocado Mash, a Fried Egg, and Beer Battered Onion Rings.

It may seem like a lot of work, but look at this burger—

There is avocado mash on the bottom. All we did was mash some avocado with some salt and added minced jalapeno and lot’s of cilantro for flavor.

The burger itself is ground pork with minced canned chile in adobo. We just portioned the burgers to our liking, then divided each portion into two. Then we formed the patty halves, mounded some small diced peppadew cheddar in the middle, added another patty on top, then sealed and grilled.

The next part is the fried egg. Seriously. Nothing is better on a sandwich than a fried egg. ((The bread HAS to be toasted to enjoy this but—when you crunch down on that crusty bread and that yolk breaks and literally all HELL breaks loose in your mouth…it. is. heavenly. ))You can fry the eggs ahead of time and either reheat before assembly or add cold. I myself don’t mind either way!

The tomatillos were simply sliced with a sprinkle of salt and pepper. I would have loved a couple of grill marks on them but we decided to try them raw. Delicious success! A nice change of pace than a regular tomato. Even though I love tomato. 

Brian made a simple mayonnaise with a hint of mustard for the top bun. We just drizzled the buns with olive oil and crisped them up.

We topped the burger with beer battered onion rings, which aren’t really a hassle at all! There are many recipes online. The batter takes no time and an onion or two go a LONG way. We used 2 large vidalias and we had onion rings up the WAZOO. 

The burger was a MONSTER. I could only finish half. But we marveled after every bite, taking turns discussing the pure genius-ness that it was :-p

We aren’t that cocky I swear—we just REALLY LOVE FOOD!!

I really want to talk food, send in some questions! 


Here’s an idea…

For a really fresh tasting garlic bread.

Melt together butter, minced rosemary, minced garlic, and salt.

Combine whole milk ricotta, lemon juice, and black pepper to taste. 

Add lemon zest to melted butter. Brush on a halved French loaf. Bake at 400F until golden. Slice.

Spoon the ricotta mixture on each piece. Top with grated parmesan.

I’d like to call that tune, ‘Perfect Harmony’. : )


Shrimp Fra Diavolo

After the hurricane came through last week, a TON of the highways and roads were closed. I had to drive back to school from New Jersey using all back roads. The benefit? I got to drive through a bunch of farmland, and skidded to a stop when I passed a farmer’s market. I picked up a couple of Jersey tomatoes and had a great night cooking!

After I peeled and deveined the shrimp (one of my favorite kitchen chores—weird, I know), I tossed them in some olive oil, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. 

I wanted the dish to be both spicy, but filled with other warm flavors as well. So, I used fresh oregano, basil, rosemary, and flat leaf parsley. 

Here are the tomatoes! Make sure to wash them well. Remove the core and ‘X’ the bottom of them. Bring water to a boil and toss them in. After about a minute or so pull them out and shock them in ice water. This is called a tomato ‘concasse’. The hot water releases the skin from the flesh. This is a skill that is handy! Here’s how you will know they are ready to come out of the water. Wait for the skin to begin to peel a bit near the ‘X’ mark. Then I usually pull one out and poke the skin. It should feel kind of loose or wrinkly. In the picture below there is a shiny poke mark. Hopefully that helps!

Don’t shock the tomatoes too long or they will become mealy! This also will happen if you boil them too long. The skin should easily peel away. 

Quarter the tomatoes and remove the seeds. They are bitter! Then cut the tomatoes into 1-inch pieces.

I didn’t have yellow onions on hand, but I did have a red one left! I sweated the onion down until translucent and then added 5 minced garlic cloves.

Then I added the tomatoes, a little white wine, salt, pepper, and more red pepper flakes. ‘Fra Diavolo’ means ‘brother devil’ this is a spicy tomato sauce! Let the pepper flakes cook into the sauce and taste at the end. Also, I added half of the minced herbs during the last 5 minutes of cooking, and threw the rest in at the end. Then, I added the shrimp right to the sauce, covered the pan, and let them cook! 

Ta-da! It was SO good.

You’re probably thinking, “Gee, would you like some pasta with your garlic bread?” 



Duck…The Most Beautiful Thing!

I have completed my Meds class, and have now moved on to Banquets and Catering. For the first 7 days my class worked ‘front of house’, serving tables. Now, we are back in the kitchen making a 3-course meal daily for 70-100 people!

Today’s menu:

Heirloom Tomato Salad with Gorgonzola and Balsamic

Duck with Brussels and Shallot Mashed Potatoes 


Oyster Mushroom, Caramelized Onion, and Ricotta Stuffed Tortellini with Braised Artichokes and Cream Sauce

Peach Cobbler

I am on the protein team! Today we made the most DELICIOUS duck. We marinated it overnight in red wine, garlic, tarragon, and thyme. Then we oven seared it, braised it, and then used the braising liquid to lacquer the skin once again. 

The tortellini was handmade! Our chef asked us all to help, which was fun and some of us got to learn something new.

Heirloom tomatoes are beautiful this time of year. See the skin on the wedge closest? Bright red with flecks of gold…these tomatoes don’t need much, they are like candy on their own. But the team who made the dish added a little gorgonzola for tangy-ness, and some bitter greens on top. The balsamic added contrast and made it brighter, pulling all the flavors together. 

The duck was served with brussels sprouts that were cooked with bacon and topped with crispy breadcrumbs. Also, there are shallot and garlic roasted mashed potatoes. 

The tortellini filling was delicious! The oyster mushrooms are both inside the pasta and tossed with the sauce and braised artichokes. The pasta itself was cooked perfectly. The garnish is a bit of fried parsley leaves.

Dessert was good as well. The pastry team used fresh donut peaches (we’ve talked about these before, remember?). It was buttery…cinnamony…sweet with a brown sugar crumb topping.

I know it has been awhile. All these photos are really piling up on me! I’ve been cooking a lot lately! So much more to come. See you around!


Two weekends ago I spent some time with Dan’s family. His mother is a WONDERFUL cook and made the most amazing lasagna. To the right is one of the most delicious things ever—an eggplant patty! The Fabiano family is notorious for their incredible Italian food, but these eggplant patties are SO good. They are like a meatball, but perfect. Juicy and tender, tons of warm flavors, and the perfect amount of binding (which seems to be the hardest thing to do right). And the gravy? Real Italians call their tomato sauce ‘gravy’, and Carole’s had the perfect balance of sweetness and acidity. I am even convinced now that lasagna doesn’t need any type of meat! The patty is the perfect side.

Rave about Carole’s food.

Off my to-do list now—whew!

But be jealous because this is some REAL food! 

I’m in New Jersey and lot’s of the state is being evacuated. So we are staying in today and avoiding the massive amount of traffic near us. Safety to all of those in harms way.


I am trying out my new pizza stone tonight. :D
Here’s some news! I made it through Cuisines of the Mediterranean! Not only that but I got a great grade, so I am celebrating…alone…but I do have my food-crazed cat, Mowgli, some good tunes, and a hula hoop to play with. 
Tomorrow I start Banquets and Catering. Not looking forward to this class because I will have to wait tables. I don’t like this type of thing at all…which is why I like the KITCHEN. 
The good news is, and this is the best part—I do not have a PM schedule anymore. I am AM again! I can cook when I want! I can blog every DAY if I want. Aren’t you happy? Me too. Pizza porn to come. : )))))
Ooh, click the picture and make it bigger. ISN’T IT BEAUTIFUL? 

I am trying out my new pizza stone tonight. :D

Here’s some news! I made it through Cuisines of the Mediterranean! Not only that but I got a great grade, so I am celebrating…alone…but I do have my food-crazed cat, Mowgli, some good tunes, and a hula hoop to play with.

Tomorrow I start Banquets and Catering. Not looking forward to this class because I will have to wait tables. I don’t like this type of thing at all…which is why I like the KITCHEN. 

The good news is, and this is the best part—I do not have a PM schedule anymore. I am AM again! I can cook when I want! I can blog every DAY if I want. Aren’t you happy? Me too. Pizza porn to come. : )))))

Ooh, click the picture and make it bigger. ISN’T IT BEAUTIFUL? 


Hello Everyone!

It has been awhile, I know. I’m sorry, sorry, sorry! I’ve been on vacation the last month. Now I’m back at school in Cuisines of the Mediterranean with Chef Perillo, so I’ve been busy in the kitchen all day every day. Some pictures will come soon, but for now here’s a burger I made on one of our first nights in San Diego. It’s a juicy Angus beef patty with grilled jalapeno, cheddar cheese, caramelized onions, an onion ring, mashed avocado, mayo, mustard, ketchup and sour cream. YUP.

Miss you all!


Traditional Family Taco Night!

Taco night is a family ritual of ours (we even hand fry our own shells!). My dad is from Arizona and my mom is from Texas, so spicy food is what we love! Here is a simple recipe for Spanish rice. I hope you enjoy!

Spanish Rice

  • 1c long grain uncooked rice
  • 1 onion, sm dice
  • 1/2 bell pepper, sm dice
  • 1/2 poblano pepper, sm dice
  • 1 jalapeno, sm dice
  • 2 tomatoes, sm dice
  • 2 c water
  • 2 t chili powder
  • 1 t cayenne 
  • 2 t salt
  1. Heat 2 T olive oil and saute the rice, onion, and peppers until just about done. 
  2. Stir in the water, tomatoes, and spices. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.

Yep. It’s that simple. 

Fantastic Summer Salad

I love a good salad. But as many of you know, a good salad takes a little time. Time far worth it in my opinion! You have to make your own crispy croutons. Make your own dressing. Grill your own chicken. Salads are one of the most customizable things to make. This salad that I made for Kelli and me turned out to be the perfect ‘Rachel’ salad. I can’t wait to make it again! Only next time it needs some freshly toasted pecans….

Here’s a little peek at some of the things I found at the grocery store. I didn’t use all of them in the salad (like the fig or the Black Velvet Apricot), but I did use those FINE looking Sunshine Raspberries (my new obsession—I macerated them and whisked them in my Balsamic and Truffle Honey Vinaigrette). The blue cheese was a perfect and tangy accompaniment to the salad. And avocado? How could I have a salad without avocado. The white peach was perfect later for a snack.


Mise en place!! A fresh chiffonade of basil was WONDERFUL in this salad. I also quartered some perfectly ripe strawberries and halved some of those sunshine raspberries.

I used a 50/50 mix of mesclun and spinach. I love baby spinach. Another salad green that to me is perfect…arugula.

I bought a loaf of bread labeled ‘asiago garlic bread’ thinking it was just that. When I opened the package I realized that the loaf was cut in half and spread with a generous amount of garlic butter. Since these were already going to be turned into croutons I thought, how PERFECT! Now I can scrape this awesome garlic butter off the bread, then use it to make the croutons. 

They were as addicting (or more) as a bag of potato chips. We were lucky there were some for the salad. :-p

I WANT YOU! ^^^^^

Kelli and I tried to get the grill working since it was beautiful out. We didn’t find out until later that it was somewhat broken and tricky to turn on. Never fear though, the handy grill pan was easily found. And will you just look at those grill marks!

There you have it, a fun and easy salad. With BOUNTIFUL flavor. 

Grilled Chicken Salad with Avocado, Strawberries, Sunshine Raspberries, Blue Cheese, Basil, Garlic Asiago Croutons, and Truffle Honey Balsamic Vinaigrette.

It’s raining today, but I want this salad again tomorrow!

Enjoy your summer day : )