naan pizzas

It wouldn’t be summer if I wasn’t wiping noses and playing Bop It alone in a dark room.  (click on the link for a description of Bop It a.k.a the greatest game in the universe).

Wait, what?! You all probably expected me to say something more glamorous like “putting on tanning oil and playing volleyball in Aruba.” Nope, not me.

I’ve been working at the same summer camp for the past six summers.  Every year by week three, I ask myself why in the world I come back every year to clean up “accidents” and listen to “Down By the Bay” for the millionth time.  But nevertheless,   I find myself back at camp every June — with a box of Clorox wipes and an open mind.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.

If there’s one thing that playing with kids as a job has taught me, it is the importance of being able to roll with the punches.  I never know when a game of duck duck goose will turn into a WWA showdown.  I’ve learned that it can be an emotional experience when the lunch ladies switch from strawberry to grape jelly.  I’ve learned never to let my kids play Doodle Jump on my phone — it always ends in a dead battery and a lot of goo on my screen.  I’ve learned the importance of censoring spooky stories before telling them (recapping the Paranormal Activity 2 = not the move).  I’ve learned that when I tumble down a concrete staircase while daydreaming and sipping my Venti triple-shot latte, I need to take a break (I have the knee bruises to prove it).

I play patty-cake on the reg.  I can climb up a plastic slide faster than you ever will.  I smell like Clorox, play dough, and sunscreen.  Unstoppable? Kind of.

Working with the little munchkins is a ton of fun, but it can get noisy, messy, and sticky really fast.  I have no time to color-categorize pony beads, disinfect Legos, or bedazzle our class sign.  I just dump multicolored glitter on everything and call it a day. #yolo

Just like a class sign that is not made with a ruler, there’s something to be said about a recipe with no measurements.  That leads me to the recipe of the day: naan pizza.  Super easy, super savory.  It gives me time to scrub the tie-dye off my hands, and it’s always a hit. You’re a bacon guy?  Throw that hickory-smoked goodness all up in this pizza.  You’re vegan?  Slather this with tofu.  Go nuts with it (meaning you could even add some pine nuts to this).   Or just let it be, and make an easy-peasy Margarita with pesto like I did.  Just toss things on, add a little extra cheese, and add some fresh herbs to be classy.

Dinner = done.
Now I have time to buy more puffy paint at Micheal’s. 

With love,
Erica

Ingredients
Naan
Cheese
Basil
Toppings of Choice (pesto, tomatoes, Parmesan, bacon, whatever your heart desires)
Olive Oil

Preheat your broiler.
Heat a glug of olive oil in a frying pan.
Assemble all of your toppings (cheese + everything else) onto the naan.
Grill the pizza in the frying pan over medium-high heat for 5 min
Transfer pizza to the oven and broil until cheese is melty.
Enjoy!

 © Cannella Vita. All images & content are copyright protected. Please do not use my images without my permission/linking back to Cannella Vita. If you want to republish this recipe, please link back to this post.

creamy roasted tomato basil pasta

I apologize for not posting for a while, but I have a legitimate excuse this time, so please hear me out.  See I have this medical condition…

It’s called spring fever.

Let me elaborate.  It’s something between a head cold and a rash.  Just like a head cold, I feel lazy as ever.  Book report? Heck no.  Clean my desk? Yeah right. Like a rash, I can’t stop itching.  Itching to go outside.

In the winter time, I have nothing better to do than make fifty blueberry muffins and photograph them from different angles.   Now that it’s 80-degrees, with sunbeams and clear skies, it’s been a real struggle to get my butt in the kitchen.  (Let alone whip out my DSLR).  It’s nothing personal, I swear, my history book feels neglected as well, my elliptical machine could use some love, and my hair could really use some deep conditioning.

Alas, all I want to do is slip on my shorts, run out the door with nothing but my house key, and go exploring.  That being said, at this time of year there’s nothing less appealing than slaving over the stove for hours preparing dinner.  I’ve officially kissed all of my roux, stews, and marinades good-bye until the October boredom sets in. 

Lately, I’ve been coming home late, opening the windows, turning on some breezy music, and whipping up some sinfully easy (and delicious dinners).  The goal is for me to be in and out of the kitchen before the sun sets.  There’s really nothing quite like flopping over in the sun after eating a gigantic bowl of cheesy pasta.

This pasta is on the table in less than 30 minutes.  Using roasted tomatoes adds an extra smoky touch (that just gets me even more psyched for BBQ season).  Cheese. Ease. A gentle summer breeze… Talk about instant gratification.  Who said a girl can’t have it all.

This is classic, good, old comfort food, that doesn’t require arugula.

With love,
Erica

Ingredients
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 white onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 3/4 cup half & half
  • 1/2 cup skim milk
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1/4 cup basil, minced
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 10-12 ounces fusilli pasta (or any good pasta shape for holding this rich sauce)
Directions
  1. Bring large pot of water to boil for the pasta.
  2. While waiting for water to boil, start the sauce.
  3. In large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and and saute until translucent, about 5-7 minutes.
  4. Add garlic and cook one more minute.
  5. Add flour to onion mixture and stir to combine. Let cook another 1-2 minutes.
  6. Slowly add half and half and then the milk, stirring continuously.
  7. Add tomatoes then cook another 7-10, stirring often, to let sauce thicken.
  8. While the sauce cooking, add pasta to boiling water and cook according to package instructions.
  9. With
    an immersion blender, puree sauce until your desired consistency. I
    left a few chunks, but wanted my sauce pretty smooth.
  10. Add basil and Parmesan and stir until melted. Season with salt and pepper, to your liking
  11. If sauce is too thick, add about 1/3 cup of the pasta water to thin it out, if you feel that is needed.
  12. Add pasta to sauce and stir to combine.
  13. Serve topped with additional Parmesan cheese. Enjoy! 

Adapted from Greens N’ Chocolate

© Cannella Vita. All images & content are copyright protected. Please do not use my images without my permission/linking back to Cannella Vita. If you want to republish this recipe, please link back to this post.

rosemary chicken

“No one who cooks, cooks alone. Even at ones most solitary, a cook in
the kitchen is surrounded by generations of cooks past, the advice and
menus of cooks present, and the wisdom of cookbook writers.”

My dad just got home from Newport and brought me a little tin box full of family recipes.  They’re all written out by hand and spattered with pasta water and melted chocolate. Although I have never met any of the women behind these recipes, each one gives me a glimpse into the lives they led.

I know that Ms. E. M. Langley felt very strongly about adding extra cheddar to her stuffed peppers, and that Mrs. Pierce liked to dip her doughnuts not once, but three times in powdered sugar.  Even though I don’t even know their first names, I think Ms. Langley, Mrs. Pierce are pretty cool, and I think we would all be very good friends.  (I don’t joke around when it comes to powdered sugar)

This got me thinking — what recipes define my immediate family?

We don’t have many heirloom recipes.  I don’t have a Greek grandmother who taught me how to roll a phyllo dough.  I don’t come from a long line of bread-makers.  We don’t even have a family recipe for lasagna.

Then realized that there are so many tastes that remind me of my family.

This rosemary chicken is one of them.  It’s a recipe that’s always been there.  It was simmering in the background when I learned how to ride a bike, when I broke my arm, when I thought bangs would be a good idea, when I went on my first date and when I got my first cavity.  It will still be simmering on the back burner when I learn to drive, when I go off to college, and when I get my first job.  It’s that good.  

It’s a simple recipe — chicken breasts covered in a luscious rosemary cream sauce that fill the entire house with the warm, comforting smell of rosemary and caramelized onions.
 
Someday, I want to be the lady behind a family recipe.  I’ll always add extra cheddar, and hopefully an aspiring cook someday will look at my recipes and think that I sounded like a pretty cool lady.

Do you have any family recipes?

With love,
Erica

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 chopped garlic clove
1 chopped onion
4 pieces of boneless chicken breast
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped
1 pint heavy cream
1/4 cup cider vinegar

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
In a large skillet, saute the garlic and onions in olive oil.
Add chicken and brown.

Place browned chicken in a baking dish, leaving the browned onions and garlic in the pan.
Add cream to the skillet and mix with the onions and garlic. Add the cider vinegar.
Cook over medium heat, scraping up the brown bits, onions, and garlic from the pan. Add chopped rosemary. Bring mixture to a boil and reduce to about half.
Pour sauce over chicken in baking dish. 
Bake at 375 for 30 minutes.

© Cannella Vita. All images & content are copyright protected. Please do not use my images without my permission/linking back to Cannella Vita. If you want to republish this recipe, please link back to this post.

recipe showdown: baked mac and cheese

Most of the trees in my neighborhood have lost their leaves.  I have to wear a coat to school everyday.  I’ve swapped my iced chai teas with pumpkin spice lattes.
What does this all mean?  It’s time to whip out comfort food recipes!
Nothing hugs the soul on a chilly day like buttery, cheesy goodness.

I can’t think of anything more “comforting” than a bowl of buttery noodles, swaddled in gooey cheese and topped with toasty bread crumbs.
I have a bunch of comfort recipes up my sleeve (mainly because they all look oh-so enticing when they pop up on my Pinterest board).  However, mac-and-cheese is the ULTIMATE comfort food, so I had to get this recipe out to you before Thanksgiving rolls around!

I tried recipes from some of my favorite blogs: The Cooking Actress, Martha Stewart, Brown Eyed Baker, and A Cup of Jo.
The winner of this Showdown was the Cooking Actress’ Brown Butter Mac and Cheese. It won me over with that lovely, nutty aroma of brown butter.  I got nervous when my dad said that it was “interesting” (he is quite the traditionalist, and “interesting” isn’t always great); however, he said that it was diffrerent in a good way.  The only change that I made to the Cooking Actress’ recipe was I used Honey Wheat Ritz crackers as opposed to regular Ritz.  The Honey Wheat crackers added a nice sweetness to the dish, which complemented the sharp cheddar and parmesan.

If you’ve got a family full of kids (or adults), this will be much appreciated at your Thanksgiving table.  As always, feel free to challenge my recipe!
What is your favorite comfort food?
With love,
Erica

oh-so cheesy


Description
It bakes up thick, cheesy and bubbly with a Ritz cracker crust. Completely irresistible, I tell you.
A baked mac and cheese with a Panko bread crumb crust.  (I omitted the pancetta for consistency)
Famously comforting with real bread crumbs and a dash of nutmeg.
Traditional, baked macaroni and cheese with nutty brown butter and a Ritz cracker crust.
Tasters’ notes
Too much pepper!

Funny taste
Good
Crunchy
Too many bread crumbs
Enjoyable
More traditional
Love the nutmeg!
Cheesy crust
Less cheese
Interesting
Different
Brown butter = yum!
Love that you used honey wheat Ritz, it adds sweetness!
Rating (best = 1)
4
3
2
1
I'm ready for my close-up
Ingredients:
  • 12 oz. pasta (I used a combination of elbow macaroni and egg noodles)
  • 6 tbsp. butter
  • 2 tbsp. flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • heaping 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese 
  • heaping 3/4 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup buttery crackers, crushed (I used Honey Wheat Ritz)
  • 2 tbsp. melted butter
Cook macaroni according to package directions, drain.
In a medium saucepan, melt 6 tbsp. butter over medium heat. Whisk constantly as it foams and then small brown flecks form. Immediately whisk in flour.
Add milk and continue to whisk over medium heat until smooth and thickened.
Whisk in cheeses until smooth and not clumpy.
Turn off heat. Pour cheese over cooked macaroni.
Prepare a large casserole/baking dish by spraying with non-stick cooking spray. Pour macaroni and cheese in.
Stir 2 tbsp. butter with the crackers. Sprinkle over the top of the mac'n'cheese.
Bake on middle rack of your oven on broil for 5-8 minutes (watch carefully to make sure it doesn't burn!).
From the Cooking Actress

tomato soup

My dad said that he could have soup and a toasty sandwich every day, and never get tired of it.

This soup is traditional, mellow, and has a lovely tomato flavor.  It conjures up peaceful, childhood memories — without coming from a red and white can.

As the days get cooler, and the air gets nippy, I start to think about comfort food.  Mac and cheese, lasagna, and warm biscuits come to mind.  Unfortunately, most of these dishes contain dairy, and my mom has sensitivity to dairy products. Luckily, this tomato soup is dairy free.  It’s nice, thick and creamy… but contains no heavy cream!  How do I achieve such a rich texture without dairy? Ritz crackers.  My dad always crumbles Ritz crackers onto his tomato soup, why not put them in the soup? When crumbled into the broth they act as a delicious, buttery thickening agent.

This soup is extremely easy to make, and uses all fresh, wholesome ingredients.  One of the things that makes this recipe unique is that it 100% fresh, roasted tomatoes.  Nothing comes from a can, bag, or freezer — resulting in an extremely rich, tomato flavor.

Whip up a pot of this steamy soup and cuddle up for some good, wholesome comfort.

With love,
Erica

Ingredients:
2 pounds fresh tomatoes (use small tomatoes, like plum or cherry)
4 garlic cloves (skin on)
4 small Vidalia onions, cut in half (or 2 regular onions)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons dried basil
2-4 cups water (depending on how thin/thick you like your soup)
1/2 cup crushed Ritz crackers
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400F.

Slice the tomatoes in halves and place them on a baking sheet. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil.

Place the garlic cloves and onion halves on a separate baking sheet and
drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.

Place both baking sheets in the oven and roast the vegetables until soft, about 20 minutes.
Remove from the oven and let cool.

Peel the skin off the garlic cloves and place with the rest of the
vegetables, in a food processor. Add about 2 cups of water and puree
until smooth. Add more water to reach your preferred consistency. Add to a large pot on the stove top and add Ritz crackers.  Simmer for 20 minutes. Adjust
the seasoning with salt and pepper if desired.

Adapted from Cup of Jo

best crab cakes

Making crab cakes at home is a lot easier than I thought. In fact, crab cakes are ridiculously
easy to make from scratch. When formed into large patties, they make a hearty, summer dinner — and when formed into little bites, they make adorable appetizers (a.k.a the perfect party food).

While I was researching various crab cake recipes online, I was appalled by the amount of filler that some people put in their patties — breadcrumbs, onions, cheese, avocado… you name it! The secret to a good crab cake is simply good crab.  Have you ever had a crab cake that was more of a “breadcrumb cake”? Not good. These cakes are bound together with just a bit of egg and buttery Ritz crackers (a New England secret!), so each bite is full of sweet, succulent crab meat.

I believe that juicy, lump crab meat is worth the splurge (as opposed to the canned stuff). Sure, it costs more, but it is still much cheaper than going out to eat. I get mine locally at Whole Foods. I love to serve these with good, tangy tartar sauce and a big, juicy lemon squeeze.

What is your favorite summer seafood?
With love,
Erica

Makes 10 cakes


Ingredients

  • 2 eggs
  • 6 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon dried tarragon
  • 1 pound crab meat
  • 1 cup crushed Ritz crackers
  • 1 tablespoon butter



In a medium bowl, whisk together egg, mayonnaise,
lemon juice, chili powder, tarragon, and garlic. Gently stir in
crabmeat, being careful not to break up meat. Gradually mix in cracker
crumbs, adding until desired consistency is achieved.


Heat butter in a skillet over medium heat. Form crab
mixture into 10 patties. Place patties in skillet, and cook until golden
brown, about 5 to 6 minutes on each side.