the perfect lunch (lox and rye and brussel sprouts!)

The perfect lunch is different for everyone.  Some may fall head over heels for a big, juicy cheeseburger and fries.  Others might go crazy for a kale and quinoa salad.

look at those grill marks!!!

For me, the perfect lunch is dark, crusty bread, thinly sliced lox, a big smear of cream cheese, and a few leaves of spinach for color.  I (generously) butter the bread and it gets all crispy and succulent in the panini press.   Heaven.

On the side, I love to have some veggies.  But not just any old veggies — my famous candied Brussels sprouts.  Some of my friends who normally would never touch a vegetable with a hundred yard stick fell head over heels for these Brussels sprouts.  It’s true, and mildly creepy — almost like those Hidden Valley Ranch commercials where the kids choose cauliflower over popcorn.  These sprouts are mind-bogglingly addictive, in a totally good-for-you way. 

What’s your idea of the perfect lunch?
With love,
Erica

Erica’s Famous Candied Brussels Sprouts

Ingredients
2 cups Brussels sprouts
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1/4 cup dried cranberries
salt and pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium high heat. Add Brussels sprouts.  Sprinkle with brown sugar.  Cook until outsides are lightly brown and caramelized (3-5 minutes). Add cranberries and salt and pepper to taste.

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instarecipe: quinoa fried rice

I have a confession.
Sometimes, I throw together amazing recipes… and I gobble them up before I can grab my big old DSLR.  I’m sorry, I can’t help it.  When I go back and try to recreate them for you all, I can’t remember what I did, and I end up not sharing my new culinary discovery. 🙁
Those of you who follow me on Instagram know that I am Instagramming 24/7 — updating you all on  my socks, my dog, and my new nail color.  From now on, I’m also going to Instagram my spontaneous culinary creations so that I can share them with you all before I forget.
Lets start with lunch.
We just got back from vacation a few days ago, and the kitchen is still quite sparse.  We had egg whites, quinoa, and a bunch of frozen veggies.
Fried rice brings back elementary school memories for me. My mom would make it for me at least twice a week with salami and egg.  That flavor combination will always have a special place in my heart.
Today, I made a healthier and more grown-up version of this childhood favorite of mine.  I replaced the white rice with quinoa and replaced the salami and egg with vegetarian sausage patties, egg whites, and a ton of green veggies.
This lunch packs a ton of protein from the quinoa, egg, sausage and edamame, and a ton of vitamins from all of those green veggies — so it’ll keep you feeling strong all afternoon!
With love,
Erica

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup quinoa (dry)
  • 1/2 +1/8 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1/2 cup shelled edamame (fresh or frozen)
  • 1/2 cup sliced baby carrots
  • 2 frozen sausage patties (I used Morningstar farms)
  • 1 cup frozen spinach
  • 1 cup frozen broccoli
  • 1/2 cup egg whites
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon curry powder

Add the quinoa and water to a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce to a simmer and cover.  Cook for 12 minutes, and let stand for 5 minutes.

In the meantime, put the sesame oil into a large frying pan and cook the egg whites.  Once set, add the saugsage patties and all of the frozen vegetables.  Cook until everything is defrosted.  Add the cooked quinoa and stir. Season with the soy sauce, ginger, garlic powder, and curry.  Cook on medium-high heat for 5-10 more minutes.  Enjoy!

summertime supper

We are enjoying delicious June weather here. — perfect for blissful early morning runs and lazy afternoons spent reading magazines outside. There is so much to do now that the weather is nice and school is out! My grade is taking a class trip to Six Flags this week, and I’m psyched to get my swimsuit and sunscreen out again for the first time this summer! Tonight, I fixed a simple dinner to honor the succulent summertime flavors that are just beginning.

My ratatouille tart is one of my go-to summer recipes, it is fresh, healthy, and showcases colorful summer vegetables beautifully.  Ratatouille a favorite at my house (check out my recipe for the best-ever ratatouille!) in the cold months of winter. In the summertime, instead of serving it in a big, warm casserole dish, I like to serve it in a lighter, prettier way — arranged on thin, buttery, flaky sheet of puff pastry.

served with my favorite jam and crackers


I served my tart alongside a tomato watermelon salad. This salad has a beautiful contrast of sweet, salty, and savory. It is a delicious alternative to the traditional fruit salad, and the addition of fresh sea salt makes it oh-so refreshing and sophisticated. Some may call me crazy, but I always sprinkle a little bit of sea salt on my watermelon — it brings out the succulent sweetness of the melon juice. The juicy watermelon and tomatoes are balanced out by tart balsamic vinegar, fruity olive oil, fresh Thai basil, and tangy feta cheese. Fresh, healthy and beautiful — the perfect way to welcome summer.
What is your favorite summertime dish?
With love,
Erica

ratatouille tart

inspired by Smitten Kitchen

1 sheet frozen puff pastry, defrosted
1 small eggplant
1 zucchini
1 yellow squash
1 long red bell pepper
1/3 cup tomato sauce (sometimes I like to throw in a little tomato pesto as well!)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
Few sprigs fresh thyme
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

Heat the oven to 375°F. Place the puff pastry on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and gently roll until it measures about 11 x 15 inches. Prick the pastry all over with a fork.
Spread the tomato sauce over the pastry, leaving a one-inch border around the edges.
Trim the ends off the eggplant, zucchini and yellow squash and pepper.
On a mandoline or with a very sharp knife, cut the eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash and red pepper into very thin slices.
Arrange slightly overlapped slices of vegetables concentrically over the tomato puree or sauce.
Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and sprinkle de-stemmed thyme leaves over the vegetables. Finish with a little sprinkling of Parmesan (as much or as little as you like).
Bake in the heated oven until the pastry is puffed and browned and the vegetables look softened (about 30 minutes) Slide onto a cutting board, sprinkle with a little bit more cheese, and cut into squares or strips. Serve warm or at room temperature.

tomato watermelon salad

inspired by Merry Gourmet
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 small clove of garlic, minced
1/4 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
1/8 cup finely chopped fresh basil (I love Thai basil)
Kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper


3 cups cubed watermelon, seeds removed
6 tomatoes, chopped into 3/4 inch pieces
1/4 cup chopped or torn fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup feta (or more or less, depending on your taste)
Make vinaigrette: Mix vinegar and minced garlic in bowl. Whisk in olive oil, then whisk in basil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.
Add watermelon, tomatoes, and torn (or chopped) basil leaves to bowl. Sprinkle with feta. Toss gently with the vinaigrette and let sit before serving to allow the rich flavors to sink in.

ratatouille and rosemary breadsticks

Hi there!
Welcome to my new blog, Cannella Vita. Instead of boring you all with a bunch of info about this blog (which I will probably do in a post soon to come!), or an “about me” post (which is also on its way!). I thought it would be nice to jump right in and inspire you all with one of my favorite comfort recipes — a colorful ratatouille with delicious, homemade, chewy breadsticks brushed with EVOO, sea salt, and fragrant rosemary. I don’t really like all of the heavy cream and cheese that goes into some versions of ratatouille — so I created this recipe that has no cheese, and tons of flavor! Hopefully you all can warm up in this chilly month with this nice ratatouille. As delicious as it is on its own, I also love to use the leftover ratatouille in sandwiches — a great lunch to pack for school or work! Enjoy! 
With love, Erica

Look at all the vivid colors — simple vegetables baked together and enhanced with delicious, fragrant herbs and olive oil









Ratatouille
as envisioned by Erica


1 onion, finely chopped
2 squirts amore garlic paste concentrate (I highly recommend this, I HATE chopping garlic cause it makes your hands smell all garlicky — I get mine at the local Balduccis)
1 cup tomato sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small eggplant
1 smallish zucchini
1 smallish yellow squash
1 longish red bell pepper
Dried Basil
Dried Rosemary
Dried Oregano
Few sprigs fresh thyme
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Pour tomato sauce into bottom of an oval baking dish. Squirt the garlic paste into the bottom of the dish add the chopped onion into the sauce, stir in one tablespoon of the olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper.
On a mandoline, adjustable-blade slicer or with a very sharp knife, cut the eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash and red pepper into very thin slices.
On top of the tomato sauce, arrange slices of your vegetables from the outer edge to the inside of the baking dish, alternating vegetables and making a pretty pattern 🙂
Drizzle the remaining tablespoon olive oil over the vegetables and season them generously with salt pepper, and the Italian herbs. Add the sprigs of fresh thyme on top.
Bake for approximately 45 to 55 minutes, until vegetables have released their liquid and are clearly cooked, but with some structure left so they are not completely limp.
Enjoy with some rice, on a sandwich, with my homemade breadsticks. (recipe follows)


Erica’s Homemade Breadsticks

For the dough:
3 cups bread flour
1 tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. instant yeast
1¼ tsp. salt
2 tbsp. olive oil
¼ cup milk
1 cup plus 2 tbsp. lukewarm water
For the glaze:
2 squirts amore garlic paste concentrate
3 tbsp. melted butter
½ tsp. rosemary
Sea Salt

To make the dough, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment combine the dry ingredients.  Add the olive oil, milk and water.  Mix until ingredients have formed a dough.  Switch to the dough hook and knead on low speed until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes.  Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, turn once to coat, and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to rise for about 1 hour, or until doubled in bulk.
Divide the dough into 10 equal pieces.  Roll each piece into a 10-inch long rope. Put ropes on a  baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rise for 45 minutes, until puffy.
To make the glaze, squirt the garlic paste into a bowl.  Mix with the melted butter and rosemary.
Preheat the oven to 350° F.  Brush the glaze onto the shaped rolls. Sprinkle with sea salt.  Bake until set and lightly browned, about 15-18 minutes.  Let cool slightly before serving. Enjoy freshly baked, breadsticks 🙂