Category Archives: Dinner

Vetri Birthday Dinner.

A few weeks ago I went to dinner at Amis in Philadelphia.  As I said before, the Chef/Owner, Marc Vetri, has two other restaurants in Philadelphia, Vetri (his first and most expensive) & Osteria (his second restaurant–still expensive, but not as much as Vetri).  I have been to Osteria quite a few times and it is definitely my favorite restaurant in Philadelphia.  For my birthday, Todd took me out to dinner at Vetri!  This was the first time either of us have ever eaten here and we had nothing but good things to say about it.  In fact, some have claimed Vetri to be the ‘best Italian restaurant in America’.  The only problem is that Vetri is very expensive, so this is not a restaurant to visit on a regular basis…unless, of course, you are loaded.

Vetri is a very small restaurant. It probably only seats about 13 tables.

When we first got there, we were taken to our seats and each offered a glass of  Prosecco (in case you don’t know, Prosecco is a dry sparkling Italian wine made from a variety of white grapes).

Todd checking out the wine list & our glasses of Prosecco.

I thought the menus were pretty cool.

Shortly after, our waitress offered us a choice of bread, Focaccia or Tuscan White.  The first time around I went with the Focaccia and the second time around I chose the Tuscan White.  Both were delicious but I enjoyed the Focaccia more.  The bread was served with olive oil & olives that were soaking in the olive oil.

The Sommelier of Vetri came to our table to see what we wanted to drink with dinner.  Todd went with an Italian beer and I ultimately went with the sommelier’s suggestion based on what wine paired best with the food I ordered–which was a Lambrusco.  I don’t know much about wine, but I would describe it as a slightly bubbly, dry Italian red wine.  This wine had a very light taste to it and I ended up really enjoying it.  I don’t think I would have ever ordered it if it had not been suggested to me.

(I’m apologizing ahead of time–the pictures are not that great because the lighting was pretty bad and I am not a great photographer)

To start, Todd & I ordered two dishes to share…

Vetri's famous Spinach Gnocchi with Shaved Ricotta and Brown Butter.

These were so, so good.  They were so light and very spianchy.  Loved them.  This an item that is always on the menu.

The other starter we ordered was…

Artichoke salad with arugula and parmesan.

This picture is really terrible…you can thank Todd.  Thankfully, it tasted one hundred times better than it looks here.  This item is not always on their menu…it will change seasonally.  This was really, really delicious.  I am a huge fan of artichokes so I loved this.  I would really love to recreate this at home.

For the main part of my meal, I ordered two half plates of pasta.  I couldn’t decide between these two pastas and I thought it was a good idea to order half portions of each so I was able to taste more on the menu!

My two half portions of two different Pasta dishes.

My favorite of the two was the one on the right…Fettuccine with Morels.  This dish was supposed to come with Roasted Sweetbreads (no these are not  a type of bread, these are glands of animals), but I opted to leave them out.

Fettuccine with Morels.

Once again, I am sorry about the TERRIBLE quality of the photo.  Oh well.  In case you didn’t know, Morels are Wild Mushrooms…and according to Todd are only available for a very limited amount of time throughout the year.  I absolutely loved this dish.  There’s just something great about pasta and mushrooms…particularly homemade, fresh pasta.

The other half dish of pasta I ordered was the Spaghetti with dungeness crab and favas.

This dish was more light and refreshing in comparison to the Fettuccine with Morels.  While this dish was still delicious, I did enjoy the other pasta better.

Todd ordered the Guinea Hen Breast stuffed with prosciutto served with Mushrooms

I did not taste this, but Todd looked like he was in heaven eating it.

Another entree that looked really delicious was the Salt Crusted Whole Roasted Branzino with truffle sauce and brussels sprouts.  This dish is created for a minimum of 2 people.  Maybe if I ever go back I will order this!

We ended the night with two delicious desserts.  Todd also ordered Espresso and I ordered Tea.

I ordered the Chocolate Polenta Souffle with Vanilla Gelato.

This was warm with a gooey center.  Very, very delicious.  Enjoyed every bite.

Todd ordered a dessert that I unfortunately can’t remember the name of.  It was called Blueberry….something with an “S”.  I believe it was warm and it was served with a yogurt panna cotta.

Once again, terrible picture.  Todd’s dessert was really, really good.  I loved the yogurt panna cotta.

Well…the food was outstanding.  All of our plates tonight resembled this one…

Yum.  Thanks so much Todd for taking me to Vetri.  I had an amazing time.

Todd looking like he is having a blast.

Can't keep my eyes open.

If you live in the Philadelphia area or are ever in town, I would highly recommend visiting one of Marc Vetri’s three restaurants.

Thursday night I am actually going out with my family to his other restaurant, Osteria.  Both my Mom and Todd made reservations at two of Marc Vetri’s restaurants to celebrate my birthday…how lucky am I?


Baked Tomato Sauce with Spinach & Goat Cheese.

Well, I certainly haven’t updated in a while!  Sorry about that.  This past Monday I finished my first year of graduate school so I was really busy writing papers and all of that.  It feels great to be finished and now I only have one more semester left.

I don’t think I ever mentioned it before on my blog, but I am a huge Philadelphia Flyers fan…have been for years.  I’m not sure if any of you have been following along with the NHL playoffs, but the flyers were I think the 5th team ever to force a game 7 after trailing in the series 3-0.  My sister and I decided to buy tickets for the game Wednesday night when the Flyers tied the series at 3.

We had a great time and I am so happy that we decided to go.  All of the fans were going crazy and my throat was killing by the end of the night.

Other than that, I went strawberry picking…probably my favorite thing to do this time of the year.  haha.  Fresh Jersey Strawberries don’t even compare to the strawberries you find at the food store.  They are so much juicier and sweeter.  I went with my sister and between the both of us we picked 20 pounds of strawberries!!!

Me with my case of strawberries

Christina with her case!

Yum.  We will definitely be eating every single one of them as well.  I bet they will be gone by the end of the weekend!

How could I forget??  My cousin Michael and his wife Kim had their first baby on Wednesday as well!!!  They had a little girl, Elizabeth Catherine Chait.  She is 7.5 lbs. and 20 3/4 inches.  She is a lucky little girl…Mike and Kim will make amazing parents!!! 🙂  My sister and I went to go visit them this week and I held her!  haha I was so scared since she is so tiny and delicate.

Mommy & Baby

The baby came a little earlier than they had anticipated…just by about a week.  Everything worked out great and both Kim and baby Elizabeth are very healthy!!! 🙂

I’ve been making some really great food lately too.  I will share a couple of recipes with you over the next few days.  Today I will share with you a recipe I actually got from my boyfriend’s brother.  He made this for us a couple of weeks ago and I loved it, so I decided to give it a shot myself.  He based his off of a recipe he found on Smitten Kitchen.

Fusilli with Baked Tomato Sauce with Spinach & Goat Cheese

This recipe is SO simple and delicious.  It is really quick and easy to make.  You will love it.  It has quickly become a favorite of mine.  Thanks for introducing this recipe to me Evan!


  • 3-4 Tablespoons of Olive Oil
  • 1 pound cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1/3 cup plain, dry bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated pecorino cheese
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1 pound dried fusilli (corkscrew) or farfalline (butterfly) pasta
  • 1/4 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves, torn


  • Preheat the oven to 400°F. Grease a baking dish/baking sheet with 2 to 3 tablespoons of the oil.
  • Place the tomatoes cut side up in the dish/baking sheet.  Gather all of the tomatoes in the center so they are all touching.
  • In a small bowl, combine the bread crumbs, cheeses, and garlic and toss with a fork to mix well. Sprinkle the bread-crumb mixture over the tomatoes, making sure that each cut side is well covered with the crumb mixture. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and then the final tablespoon of olive oil. Bake until the tomatoes are cooked through and starting to brown on top, about 20 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, in a pan, sauté garlic and olive oil.  Add the spinach and season with salt and pepper.
  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, or until al dente. Time the pasta so it finishes cooking about the time the tomatoes are ready to come out of the oven.
  • Combine the pasta, tomato mixture, and spinach.  Garnish with basil and sprinkle with Goat Cheese.

You really must try this recipe.  I love how something so simple can taste SO GOOD!  I am really disappointed that I do not have the pictures to share with you!!

Tomatoes coming out of the oven.

Tonight my family and some friends are coming over and my sister and I are making homemade pizza, salad, and strawberries & whipped cream for dessert.  We already made the sauce and the dough.  Everything looks delicious!  We are going to be watching Game 7 of the Flyers vs. Bruins.  It all comes down to this one game.  Who will move on to the next round of the playoffs and who will be hitting the golf course?  I have a lot of faith in the flyers…I really think they can win tonight.  Let’s Pray.

Lemon Braised Artichokes over Pasta

Yum!  I have got a good recipe for you pasta lovers out there.  This is Michael Chiarello’s recipe for Lemon Braised Artichokes over Pasta.  This was my first time cooking with whole artichokes (I normally buy the canned or frozen kind).  It was sort of challenging at first; but, after viewing several youtube videos on how to cut an artichoke, I was fine!  I would definitely recommend that you try using real artichokes.  However, in a pinch you can substitute frozen or canned artichokes–obviously, you will not need to cook them as long.  Either way, you will love this recipe…at least I did!  It’s a delicious light pasta dish perfect for spring.

Lemon Braised Artichokes over Pasta

Serves 6.


  • 1 lb. Fettuccine
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 2 teaspoons fresh oregano leaves
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 4 cups spinach, stemmed and washed
  • Lemon Braised Artichoke Hearts, recipe follows
  • 1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley leaves
  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • Kosher Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Grated Parmesan, for serving


Cook fettuccine according to package directions. While pasta is cooking, heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic. When garlic is golden, add the oregano and broth. Bring to a simmer, stir in the spinach to wilt. Add the artichokes. Drain the pasta and place in a serving bowl. Pour over the artichoke mixture and toss with the parsley and butter and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with Parmesan and serve.

Lemon-Braised Artichoke Hearts


  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil (I used 1/4 cup chicken broth, 1/8 cup olive oil, 1/8 cup white wine)
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • small pinch freshly ground pepper
  • 4 medium to large artichokes


Combine the olive oil, lemon juice, thyme, garlic, salt, and pepper in a medium nonreactive saucepan.  Mix well and set aside while preparing the artichokes.

Snap outer leaves from an artichoke.  Cut off the top half, and then use a paring knife to trim down to the heart, rubbing cut surfaces with the lemon half as you work to avoid discoloration.  Cut the heart in half and scrape out the choke with a spoon.  Cut each piece in half again.

As each artichoke heart quarter is completed, immediately turn it in the marinade to coat completely.  When all the artichokes are trimmed, put the pan over high heat and bring to a boil.  Pour the artichokes and marinade into a baking dish (or cook them in saucepan if it is ovenproof), cover with foil, and cook until the artichokes are tender when pierced with a fork, about 45 minutes.  Make sure you cook your artichokes long enough, otherwise, they could taste bitter! Remove from the oven and let cool in the cooking liquid.

Grain Lovin’

I wasn’t too sure what to make for dinner tonight.  For some reason, I was craving grains & sweet potatoes.  So I decided to create a grain & veggie dish.  I love meals like this but I hardly ever make them.

I used a combination of Pearled Barley, Medium Grain Brown Rice, and Bulgur Wheat.  I cooked the Pearled Barley in Chicken Broth instead of the usual water and it really gave the barley an AWESOME taste.  It smelled awesome cooking on the stove too.  I highly recommend trying this out!  It will work great with rice and any other grain you are cookin’ up.

I preheated the oven to 400 degrees.  I chopped the parsnip and sweet potato and tossed them in olive oil, kosher salt, rosemary, thyme, and sage.  I  also sliced red onion and added it to the baking sheet.  Cook for about a 1/2 hour.

Meanwhile, cook all your grains on the stovetop.  Once cooked, combine all of the grains in a bowl and top with sweet potato mixture.  Add olive oil and mix.  I also added some chickpeas which I toasted up in a pan with olive oil.

I made quite a lot, but that’s okay…it will make good leftovers!


Whole Wheat Penne with Green Beans, Lemon, & Ricotta

Hello everyone!  I hope that everyone is seeing nice weather, because the Philadelphia area sure is and I am loving it.  I just can’t wait for it to warm up a bit more.  I love the warm weather!  This past Sunday I had an 18-mile long run…my furthest so far for this training cycle.  The weather was PERFECT.  So many people were walking, running, and biking on the trail and there were tons of rowers out on the river.  Beautiful day.  My run went just as well as the day and I felt so good!  I just love those runs where everything clicks!  I was having such a good time and felt like running forever….well maybe not forever.  But anyway, I was very happy with how that run went and I am feeling really good today.  It doesn’t even feel like I ran 18 miles yesterday.  I ran it a bit faster than I would have liked to have but it was so hard to slow myself down when I was just feeling so good!  I ended up running the first 10.8 miles in 8:32/mile and the last 7.2 miles in 8:14/mile.  Next week I have a cut back week and I plan to slow it down a bit for the long run because the following week I have my first 20 miler!  I am so excited for BOSTON! woo. woo.   Now onto yummy food…

While browsing around Target the other day, I saw that Giada De Laurentiis has a new line of products out.  On the back of her Whole Wheat Penne Pasta, I saw a recipe that looked pretty good–so of course I tried it out!

Whole Wheat Penne with Green Beans, Lemon, & Ricotta

Makes 6-8 Servings.


  • 1 package whole wheat penne rigate (1 pound)
  • 1/2 cup part-skim ricotta
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 pound French Green Beans, halved
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • Options that I added: Basil, Parsley, & Crushed Red Pepper Flakes


  • Cook pasta according to package directions.  Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid.  Transfer the hot pasta to a large bowl and add the ricotta.  I seasoned the ricotta with salt & pepper.  Toss to combine. 
  • Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add green beans, garlic, salt and pepper; saute for 4 minutes.  I also added crushed red pepper flakes.   Add reserved pasta cooking liquid and continue cooking until tender, about 4 more minutes.  Add the ricotta-coated pasta to the pan with the green beans; toss to combine.  Add tomatoes; toss gently.  I seasoned with basil & parsley.  Transfer to a serving plate and sprinkle with lemon zest.

I thought that this was a great recipe.  Although, I did think it was missing something so that is why I added the basil & parsley.  Does anyone have any other add-in suggestions to give this dish more of a kick??  Otherwise, this dish was awesome.  Very simple, fresh, healthy, and quick to make.  Enjoy!!

Hot, Hot, Hot!

…and I’m not talking about the weather!  I wish.  I am actually talking about a new Veggie Chili recipe that I tried out tonight.  I am a huge fan of hearty veggie chilis and I love experimenting with different recipes.  This is by far the SPICIEST Veggie Chili I have ever made and ate…and possibly the most colorful! 

I found this recipe in a recent Food & Wine magazine…it was actually featured on the cover.

Winter Vegetable Chili    

serves 4.


  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil (I used Canola)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, very finely chopped
  • 1 large red bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 pound parsnips, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 pound carrots, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon chile powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • Salt
  • One 14-ounce can peeled Italian tomatoes
  • 1 canned chipotle in adobo, plus 1 tablespoon adobo sauce
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 cup canned hominy, drained
  • 1 cup canned red kidney beans, drained
  • Brown rice, chopped red onions, cilantro, sour cream and tortilla chips or bread toasts, for serving


    1. In a medium, heavy enameled cast-iron casserole or Dutch oven, heat the oil. Add the onion and garlic and cook over high heat, stirring, until slightly softened, about 3 minutes. Add the bell pepper, parsnips and carrots and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned in spots, about 5 minutes. Stir in the chile powder and cumin and season with salt. Cook for 1 minute.
    2. In a blender, puree the tomatoes and their juices with the chipotle, adobo sauce and water until very smooth. Add the mixture to the casserole along with the hominy and beans and bring to a boil. Cover partially and simmer the chili over moderate heat until the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes. Season with salt. Serve with rice, red onions, cilantro, sour cream and chips.

    This is actually really quick and easy to make.  If you are a fan of heat, you have to try this recipe.  If you want to cool it off a bit, I’d suggest adding less Chili Powder and maybe even avoid the chipotle pepper (oops, I added 2!).

    I served mine over sticky brown rice (my favorite).  I topped it with avocado (which helped cool it off a bit), cilantro, and crushed blue corn chips.  Delicious!

    **Just a reminder, the last day of my Pledge to Be Veg is this Tuesday!**


    A first.

    Last night was the FIRST time my boyfriend, Todd, made dinner for me.  Yes, we have been dating for 6-7 years!  I sat back and did nothing to help…it was actually quite relaxing! 

    I feel like I am on a role using Anna’s recipes, first her Barley Vegetable and now her Butternut Squash and Black Bean Vegan-Chiladas.  Both amazing recipes.  Thanks, Anna!

    Butternut Squash and Black Bean Vegan-Chiladas


    • 1/2 butternut squash, peeled and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
    • 2 tsp. cumin, divided
    • 1 tsp. paprika
    • 1/2 tsp. garlic salt (omitted this because we did not have)
    • 1 tsp. olive oil
    • 1 onion, chopped
    • 1/4 tsp. red pepper
    • 1 15 oz. can black beans
    • 1/4 cup tomato paste
    • 1 10 oz. can enchilada sauce
    • 4-6 whole wheat flour tortillas
    • 1 avocado, cubed
    • salsa
    • fresh cilantro


    Preheat oven to 450.

    Place butternut squash on a baking sheet.  Spray with olive oil cooking spray and toss with 1 tsp. of cumin, paprika, and garlic salt.  Bake for 15-20 minutes, until squash is tender.  Set aside, and reduce oven heat to 400 degrees.

    In a pan, heat olive oil.  Add onion and cook for about 5 minutes, until onion has begun to turn transparent.  Add the second tsp. of cumin and red pepper to the onions and cook for another minute or so.  Add beans, butternut squash, tomato paste, and about 1/4 cup of enchilada sauce. Cook for 2-3 minutes more and remove from heat.

    Spread another 1/4 cup of enchilada sauce on the bottom of a baking dish.  Fill the tortillas with about 1/2 cup of the mixture and place, seam-side down, in the baking dish.  There should be enough filling for about 4-6 tortillas, depending on how full you stuff them.

    Once the enchiladas are arranged in the baking dish, pour the remainder of the enchilada sauce over them and bake in the oven for another 10-15 minutes.

    Remove from oven and top with avocado, cilantro, and salsa.

    Some of the mixture on the stovetop

    In the Oven.

    Well, Todd’s first cooking experience was a success!  We gobbled them right up.  It was delicious!!  I just wish I took picture of Todd cooking…that may be the first and last time I see that!

    This weekend consisted of another first.  Today was my first “long run” for training for the Boston Marathon.  This week, the plan called for a timed run as opposed to a distance run.  The plan called for an hour and twenty minutes at an easy pace, picking up the pace for the last 1/4 of the run.   I guess it was actually long for me since I have not ran long in a while! 😛 

    • Time: 1:20
    • Distance: ~9.7  (+ ~1 mile cooldown)
    • Pace: 8:14/mile

    I felt great during this run.  Most of my splits were between 8:30 & 8:40.  I was cruising along and felt awesome.  Towards the end, I picked up the pace a bit and  was able to finish the last .7 of the run averaging a 7:30 pace. 

    I was a bit hesitant to get out there today too since the weather said it felt like 10 degrees.  I am really  not a fan of cold weather.  But once I got out there, I felt pretty good!

    It feels good to be getting back into the groove of things!