Quickie: Everything Bagel w/ Homemade Veggie Cream Cheese

I’m alive, I promise! I’ve had to take a temporary hiatus from blogging between computer issues & a much needed vacay. Thought I’d share some quick food love with you this great Friday in Spring. I fell in love with my chef’s veggie cream cheese at the Philly Mag Martini Madness event this past week at work. Man, I was thrilled there was some leftover to schmear on my toasted everything bagel this morn. I loved the ample cucumber & peppers (a few years ago you’d never hear that out of my mouth, or in my mouth for that matter) and it’s fresh veggie taste has me excited to start my garden this weekend.

Everything Bagel w/ Homemade Veggie Cream Cheese

Happy Spring, readers! I promise to be back in the swing soon with lots of amazing food love to share!

Saturday w/ Sarah: Ansill’s Menu @ Ladder 15

This past weekend, Dre & I went on a mission to the bookstore for Dalai Llama wisdom, food rules via Michael Pollan, & hopefully a continued subscription to Cook’s Illustrated. He headed off to work at 3 and I ventured across Broad is pursuit of a long-overdue Saturday w/ Sarah.

I’m glad I recalled that David Ansill (of Pif & Ansill restaurant notoriety) had revamped the menu* at the relatively new Ladder 15 – 1528 Sansom Street. Our waitress was great and beyond adorable, so I took her recommendation on the Pear Complex from their (also newly revamped) cocktail menu. DELICIOUS! We started off the meal with the Curried Lamb Empanadas. The three rich, crispy, & dense pockets were  savory and perfectly paired with an Apple Chutney & Mango Yogurt.

Curried Lamb Empanadas w/ Apple Chutney & Mango Yogurt

Ahh, the new buzz menu item around Phily – the Ladder 15 Burger! This burger is on a new level of decadence. Eff a kobe burger… a sizzling bone full of marrow & truffle sauce are where it’s at! For those that can’t handle it, they have a classic burger, too. Both are paired with perfectly crisp fries & parmesan mayo dipping sauce… with caviar on top?!?!

Burger 15 - Prime Sirloin, Braised Short Rib, Red Wine Mushrooms, Grilled Red Onion, Bone Marrow, & Truffle Sauce on Metropolitan Bakery Brioche**

Ansill’s self-titled restaurant (that unfortunatley closed last Summer) had a buzz menu item of its own – Korean Tacos! I never had the opportunity to try them, so it was exciting to have a second chance. The order came with (2) soft tacos – a Pork Belly one & a Braised Short Rib one. They were of a richness beyond my imagination with a fatty Korean BBQ marinade, kim chi, scallion, & sesame seeds. I WILL be back for these again soon… and to try whatever flaming dish I envied as it was delivered to another table.

Ansill's Korean Tacos - (1) Pork Belly & (1) Braised Short Rib

The highlight of the experience was not one, but two visits to our table by Chef Ansill. He made a welcome point to show Sarah his vision on topping off the Burger 15 and popped over again to see how we were enjoying everything. Now that’s a chef I can surely respect & support!

*Check out Ansill’s full new Ladder 15 menu HERE!

**Thanks to Metropolitan Bakery for their Twitter shoutout of my Burger 15 pic on Flickr!

Quickie: Sauteed Pierogies & Brussels Sprouts

Tuesday night, I found myself with an empty house and a surplus of Brussels sprouts inching their way to the trash bin. My Polish heritage inspired me to rescue the mini cabbages by pairing them with pierogies. I followed my usual Sauteed Brussels Sprouts recipe. Lazy & hungry, I resorted to boiling some frozen Poppy’s Potato, Swiss, & Monterey Jack Pierogies and quickly browned them in butter. I think I just discovered a new comfort dinner!

Sauteed Pierogies & Brussels Sprouts

To Taste: Grandma’s Chicken Divan

I grew up with the luck of enjoying my Grandma’s home-cooked dinners every night. My favorite of her dishes was the Chicken Divan – a casserole of broccoli, pulled chicken, & a cheesy sauce. If she wasn’t making it fresh for dinner, she was always sure to have portions frozen to indulge my divan requests. Not too long ago, I finally convinced her to share her recipe.

Grandma's Chicken Divan

We had a serious surplus of broccoli in the fridge so I had to get creative with ways to get rid of it. A giant casserole of my Grandma’s Chicken Divan seemed perfect. The first direction on the recipe was to blanch broccoli and layer it in a greased casserole.

Broccoli Base

I thawed half a chicken worth of white & dark meal STILL hanging out from my Rustic Roasted Chicken dinner. I can’t believe how many Leftover Lightning! meals came out of it!. I pulled it & layered it on top of the broccoli.

Pulled Chicken layered on the Broccoli Base

I was missing some ingredients from the next step, so I improvised with what my pantry staples could offer. I only had (1) can of Cream of Broccoli & Cheese Soup, so I combined it with mayo, lemon juice, & some water to loosen it up. Grandma’s recipe called for smoked paprika, but all I could dig out was some chili powder. My spice cabinet is really a disaster right now. Once the cheesy mixture was combined, I spread it on top of the pulled chicken & broccoli layers.

Cheesy Soup Blend over Pulled Chicken over the Broccoli Base for Chicken Divan

I melted some butter, combined it with seasoned bread crumbs, & sprinkled it over the whole casserole.

Breadcrumbs over the Cheesy Mixture over Pulled Chicken over the Broccoli Base

And then I realized I missed a step in the recipe. What’s new. But this was an important step. The CHEESE! How could I FORGET THE CHEESE? I quickly shredded mild & sharp cheddar cheeses and had no choice but to layer it on top of the breadcrumbs. It was only a minor mistake, just a good thing that I caught it. The casserole looked & tasted so delicious. I know I did my Grandma’s recipe proud!

Grandma's Chicken Divan

P.S. Follow along with my steps & feel free to recreate, but my Grandma’s actual recipe will remain a secret among family 🙂

To Taste: Baked Toni

I prefer to cook what my dinner guest craves, so I indulged Dre’s request for baked ziti. I was low on spaghetti sauce and had some veggies that needed to be eaten. I blanched broccoli florets, sauteed mushrooms, onions, & garlic, opened a large can of crushed tomatoes, and warmed them together with seasonings in a saucepan.

Fat Rigatoni

While the sauce simmered, I decided on large rigatoni and boiled them until al dente in salted water. I like fat noodles when making baked pasta dishes as they tend to fill with your sauce when tossed. The jumbo macaronis for my Smokey Bacon Mac & Cheese worked great! I folded ricotta cheese & shredded mozzarella into the warm sauce, tossed it with the cooked rigatoni, and dumped it into a greased casserole. Once the sliced mozzarella I tiled on top began to brown & bubble, I pulled it from the over and served Dre a big, hot scoop of Baked Toni.

Baked Toni

Baked Toni

  • Crushed Tomatoes – (1) large can
  • Broccoli – (0.5) head, trimmed into small florets & blanched
  • Mushrooms – (1) cup, sliced
  • Garlic – (1) T, minced
  • Onion – (1) medium, sliced thin
  • Dried Basil – (1) T
  • Red Pepper Flakes – (1) tsp
  • S&P – to taste
  • Ricotta – (1.5) cups, part skim
  • Shredded Mozzarella – (1) cup, low moisture – part skim
  • Fresh Mozzarella – (6) oz, sliced (or enough to cover most of the dish)
  • Grated Parmesan – to taste
  • Rigatoni – (1) lb, cooked al dente & tossed w/ olive oil
  • Olive Oil – as needed
  1. Heat about (2) T of Olive Oil in a saute pan. Add garlic & onion and cook until caramelized, about (5) min.
  2. Add mushrooms & saute until browned on both sides, about (3) min per side.
  3. Dump entire contents of the canned crushed tomatoes into a sauce pan. Add cooked mushrooms mixture, blanched broccoli, dried basil, red pepper flakes, and S&P. Stir and bring to a simmer.
  4. While sauce simmers, bring a large stockpot of salted water to a rolling boil. Cook rigatoni until al dente, about (10-12) min.
  5. Drain rigatoni and return to stock pot. Add a bit of olive oil & toss to prevent sticking.
  6. Remove sauce from the heat and dump into a large mixing bowl.
  7. Fold in ricotta & shredded mozzarella cheeses unti combine.
  8. Add rigatoni and toss to coat completely.
  9. Pour the rigatoni & sauce mixture into a greased casserole dish.
  10. Tile sliced fresh mozzarella on top.
  11. Bake at 350 degrees for (25) min or until the cheese is browned & the casserole is bubbling.
  12. Let cool for about (3) min and serve with grated parmesan cheese.

Leftover Lightning! Sunny Fried Chicken Breakfast Wrap! A la Dre!

Wow, I’m one lucky girl! Dre made me a delcious breakfast two days in one week. First, were his savory Bacon, Egg, & Gruyère Toast Cups for our VDay breakfast. This time around, he embarked on a Leftover Lightning! adventure of his own. He sauteed red bell peppers & onions and scrambled them in eggs, melting the sliced Gruyère atop the last two whole wheat tortillas. He finished the wrap with crispy bacon & leftover fried chicken breasts from his VDay Dinner for another sunny breakfast a la Dre ❤

Sunny Fried Chicken Breakfast Wrap

VDay Din: Fried Chicken Cordon Bleu, Tarragon Dijonnaise, & Champagne-Asparagus Risotto a la Dre <3

Dre always has a plan. He had a shopping list prepared for our grocery trip, did prep work Saturday night, and researched recipes for cooking on Sunday. I dig that kind of organization in a man.

The breakfast he made me was amazing, so I was looking forward to the dinner on Dre’s Vday menu. I was especially impressed with his ambition. Saturday night, Dre trimmed chicken breasts & marinated them in a habanero-buttermilk mixture. We both almost choked to death, not realizing how crazy hot those peppers are!

On Sunday, Dre seasoned & double-breading the breasts before frying them to perfection in my Cool Daddy. He topped them with crisped slices of prosciutto & Jarlsberg Swiss cheese, paired them with his homemade Tarragon Dijonnaise, and proudly declared it fried chicken cordon bleu!

On our shopping excursion, Dre picked up a bottle of champagne. After no mimosas for brunch, I got curious about it’s part in our Vday. Little did I know, but not only was Dre making a creamy batch of risotto, he was perfecting it with the bubbly and some fresh asparagus. I’m so proud of my Valentine!

Fried Chicken Cordon Bleu, Tarragon Dijonnaise, & Champagne-Asparagus Risotto