Sunday, September 29, 2013

Yelp! at Ristorante Bartolotta

For those of you that don't know what Yelp! is, it's a website where you can write and read reviews about local businesses. Today Elite members were invited to Bartolotta Ristorante in Wauwatosa.  You can't live in Milwaukee without knowing the Bartolotta name. The common misconception is the food is pricey or unapproachable. I found the opposite to be true. 

We started out at the Pizzeria. A place was set up for us under the pergola where other diners can eat AL fresco. I was surprised to see the menu and learn the prices are actually quite moderate. 

We got to sample many of their pieces of pizza including the Margarita and their Piccola which had sausage and veggies.. We also had beer from the New Glarus brewery. Joe Bartolotta came and spoke to us for a minute outside and then welcomed us into Ristorante' Bartolotta which is right next door to Piccola. 

 I was expecting a very stuffy environment but it was actually the opposite. It was very warm and inviting. I made friends with my table mates pretty quickly. We had Bellini's and wine to help with that. We started out with a Caesar salad along with figs, melon and prosciutto. I am thinking the drink was a Bellini but am not quite positive. 

Yelp! is also a very unique environment because we have so much power to make or break business as Joe Bartolotta preached to us. He said it takes about a year for a business to get on it's feet and to be kind to them. 

He also talked about the importance of supporting local businesses and the "bastardization" of Italian food by bigger restaurant chains such as The Olive Garden. He said they try to use as few ingredients as possible and stick to the true flavor of the region. 

Entrees were duck risotto and a pasta with eggplant and mozzarella. I could eat the risotto all day!  It was family style for this event but I could have just as well ate the whole thing myself. We had a few dietary restrictions at our table so we had two variations,  Our risotto had duck and cheese while the other was a vegan version. Both tasted amazing!

Joe Bartolotta was so nice to speak to us about the business throughout our meal. It was really cool to hear from a business owner that is so passionate about food and is so involved in the community. As a foodie. I think I went to heaven today:)

Two things I want you to do after reading this story: go to and make reservations for Ristaurante Bartolotta and secondly, sign up for Yelp! and start writing reviews!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

My First Pierogies

Pierogies are a delicious usually potato filled dumpling that can either be filled with savory fillings like sour kraut or other non traditional fillings like I used today.  A month or so ago I got these different sized empanada forms and decided to use the smallest one today for the task of making pierogies. Since I have never made them, I didn't realize they would expand so much when boiled. The recipe is supposed to make 48. I got about 30 out of the recipe. Oh well, cooking is a learning experience. What was important was the end result, delicious, huge pierogi.
The Filling Bacon, Cheese, Potato

6-8 potatoes boiled
1/4 cup cheddar cheese
1/2 container Oscar Meyer Natural Bacon Bits
1/2 diced sauteed onion
2 TBSP sour cream
3 TBSP butter
salt and pepper

Mash the potatoes and add the cheese, bacon bits, sour cream, and butter. Let sit until it cools.

The Dough
3 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
8oz sour cream
3 eggs

Mix the wet ingredients into the dry using your hands. You may have to add a few TBSP. of water if the dough doesn't come into a ball easily.

Divide the dough and roll out on a floured surface with plenty of flour on your rolling surface and on the rolling pin. Roll to 1/8" thickness. Cut out with a biscuit cutter or a small empanada cutter.  Place into the form and add a little less than one TBSP. of the cooled filling. Fold over and crimp the sides with a fork. Set aside on parchment paper until you have made all of your pierogi.

Next step is to start a pot of water boiling with a pinch of salt in it. Add the pierogi and boil for 5-6 minutes. They will float to the top when done. Move to a paper towel to dry.

Heat a frying pan with some oil and about 2 TBSP of butter. Fry the pierogi until golden brown on each side. Serve with sour cream on the side.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Spring Rolls with Sweet Chili Sauce

My mouth is kind of stinging right now with chili sauce. I just got done making some delicious spring rolls for our dinner tonight. We are having a mixed cuisine night of chow mein and Vietnamese. These spring rolls are perfect for a child's  lunch or a light and easy snack.

The noodles are rice noodles and are just soaked in water that has boiled and been turned off for 5 minutes. I cut seedless cucumber and carrots into planks and then matchsticks. It helps to make one end flat before attempting this so the veggies don't go rolling. I used two carrots and 1/2 of a seedless cucumber. I also took a few sprigs of mint and a handful of cilantro and julienned them also. I used frozen shrimp 100/200 count that I defrosted in water and then drained.

The spring roll wrappers come dry and are activated by placing in warm water. I did one at a time placing the veggies close to the folding edge. Lettuce went down first, then some noodled, the shrimp, and then the cilantro and mint. (a pinch each)

The wrapper and its contents are rolled up burrito style tucking the sides in. They can be served cut in half and can be made ahead of time. Make sure to cover with plastic wrap if refrigerating.

Sweet Chili Sauce

3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup vinegar
1/4 cup water
1 TBSP. garlic
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp. Sriracha
1 TBSP cornstarch
1 TBSP cold water
1/2 tsp salt

Bring the sugar, vinegar, water, garlic and crushed pepper flakes to a boil. Stir the cornstarch and cold water together. Add to the boiling chili sauce and stir. Remove from the heat and place in a jelly jar or container. Add the salt and stir in the Sriracha. Let cool and serve with the spring rolls.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Reduced Fat Rice Pudding Not Reduced Flavor! Post 300!

Look through any rice pudding recipe and you will find heavy cream and plenty of sugar. This recipe tries to put the limit on both with giving a cinnamon punch. Yes it was 10 o'clock at night, but I needed something to satisfy my sweet tooth. I ate it warm but you can also eat it cold. I just couldn't wait for it to cool down. One thing we also have an abundance of at our house it rice. Rice is a real budget extender. I usually find a good deal on a 20lb bag and it lasts us for months.

Low Fat Rice Pudding

2 1/2 c fat free milk
2/3 c uncooked long grain rice
pinch salt
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1/4 tsp.  vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
pinch nutmeg
1/4 cup raisins (optional)
whipped topping (optional)
pinch cinnamon sugar for topping

Bring the milk, salt and rice to a boil. Reduce heat and cook for 25 minutes making sure to stir every 5 minutes or so. The rice will start to get puffy but still have a bite to it.

In a small bowl mix the egg brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg. Temper the eggs. Using a whisk pour some of the hot rice and milk into the eggs. Be sure to keep mixing or you will have scrambled eggs! Once the eggs are warmed, use the whisk to combine the rest of the eggs into the rice milk. Add the raisins and cook for another 10 minutes stirring frequently.

The rice will start to have a oatmeal like consistency and will begin to have eruptions. It will pull away from the edges of the pan. The rice still should have some consistency and not be mushy. Remove from heat and let cool or serve warm . Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar and whipped topping.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Lite Creamy Chicken Alfredo Homemade

My oldest has had a really rough road health wise for the last few weeks and I wanted to make something to cheer her up. One of her favorite dishes is chicken Alfredo.  If I were in a hurry I might go with the Ragu lite version of the sauce but I made mine from scratch. This was the second time today I used this method by using a roux. The only difference is I didn't brown it for the Alfredo. A roux is basically equal parts flour to butter and is a thickening agent for gravy, Cajun gumbo, and anything else you need to thicken. Browning the flour takes out the raw flavor. 

This recipe is enough for 5 people. We had pretty generous portions. I also wanted to give a shout out to my next door neighbor who is amazing! She brought us a huge bag of fresh produce from a family garden. I made a cucumber salad to go along with the Alfredo. 

Lite Chicken Alfredo 

1 large chicken breast diced and browned
2 TBSP butter
2 TBSP flour
2 cloves minced garlic
1 1/2 cup fat free milk
1/3 cup fat free sour cream 
1/3 cup Crystal farms parm. or your favorite brand 
salt and pepper
1 lb boiled pasta (linguine or spaghetti)

Brown the chicken breast in a bit of olive oil until no longer pink . Remove from the pan and melt the butter and add the flour. I didn't brown this because I wanted the sauce to stay as white as possible. Have a whisk handy and begin adding the milk. It is critical you don't leave the sauce alone at any point because it will burn. Heat the milk until you can begin to see bubbles form on the sides. Don't let the milk boil. Add the sour cream next. 

Keep the heat on a medium heat. Add the cheese and keep stirring until melted. Season with salt and pepper. If it becomes too thick add 1/4 cup water. Remove from heat add the chicken back in to warm and stir in drained pasta. Serve with your favorite garlic bread.