Carbonara?

This is probably going to shock some of you, I've never had a carbonara sauce.  Nope.  Never.  At least not that I remember.  Yes, I'm half Italian.  Yes, I love Italian food.  No, I've never had a carbonara sauce.  When confronted with Italian food I tend to gravitate towards the red sauces, the spicier the better usually, though I do love my Grandma Cicero's sauce (and I think DeGidio's in St. Paul stole her recipe for sauce and her meatballs) which is just a good red sauce, no meat, just good sauce.  Our standard sauce at home is a bolognese I make from a recipe we got from our Kenwood wine club years ago.  I make a big batch and freeze it.  It's amazing.  A whole bottle of merlot goes in that sauce.

So back to white sauces, no I don't usually order them.  It's not that I don't like them, I just like red sauces more and I'm picky about my red sauces because, well, I'm spoiled with my Grandmother's and Kenwood's recipes that I make in my very own kitchen.

This Saturday we found ourselves, once again, at Sunrise Creative Gourmet in St. Paul.  I just had to get more of the lemon pepper linguini and butternut squash ravioli so Dave could try them.  I had to let Tom know how much I enjoyed the pasta and how truly good it was!  I was expecting something like Rosetto or maybe Buitoni.  Buitoni is better than Rosetto but both, in my opinion taste, well, processed.  They taste nothing like my homemade.  This is not true with the pasta from Sunrise Creative Gourmet.  It is good.  It is very good.  It rivals my homemade and is much faster to prepare.  It's also reasonably priced.  A 12-ounce package is just $5, which is at least three servings, if not four.

So you want to know about carbonara, right?  While I was there Tom asked me to try their carbonara sauce.  How could I say no?  Tom explained that a traditional carbonara has egg in it but because of packaging limitations there was none in this sauce.  He suggested that when I add my noodles to the sauce I stir in an egg. 

We decided to have the carbonara that night.  We just couldn't wait!  So when we got home from errands I started a loaf of bread.  Dave requested my braided Italian bread.  It's so good!


Before I used the sauce I did a little research.  I found out that carbonara is typically served over spaghetti but that other pastas work fine.  I also found that Ree Drummond has a recipe for carbonara that I will definitely be trying!  I've already Pinned the recipe.

On to the Sunrise Carbonara sauce!


I decided to put the carbonara over some bucatini.  I prefer it to spaghetti, it has a bit better texture in my opinion.  I get my bucatini at The Olive Grove Olive Oil Company.


I warmed up the sauce while the pasta was cooking and I added some peas and asparagus because I just couldn't help myself! 

Once the pasta was almost done I added it to the sauce along with a little pasta water and, as Tom suggested, an egg.


Once that was mixed in I added some shrimp I sauteed in some garlic EVOO from the Olive Grove and then I shaved in some fresh Parmesan cheese.


Like I said I've never had a Carbonara before so I really have nothing to which I can compare this sauce.  I can say both Dave and I really liked it.  It's rich and creamy without being too heavy.  The bacon flavor comes through without being overwhelming and, as with the Parmesan Sage Sauce, the sauce has a pepper finish we both really liked.  There was just a hint of pepper heat.


Again, I have to recommend you check out the shop if you are in the Twin Cities.  Say hi to Tom!  If you're not in the Twin Cities they do ship, even the frozen pasta!  It's definitely worth a try!


Sunrise Creative Gourmet - Gnocchi and Parmesan Sage Sauce

It's day three of my Sunrise Creative Gourmet dinners.  Yesterday was supposed to be day three but a little issue with a furnace that wasn't working sort of took up my evening and I never did get around to dinner!

Tonight's products, traditional gnocchi and Parmesan Sage Sauce.


 
I love gnocchi!  I've made it twice, once a recipe from Chef Peter Janiak from Segehsio vineyards and another pumpkin gnocchi I found on Pinterest I think.

Sheep's Milk Ricotta Gnocchi
Pumpkin Gnocchi

I'm very tired today.  It's been a long week with Dave gone, very busy at work, logging in each evening to try and keep my head above water, broken garage door opener on Tuesday and then last night a furnace that didn't want to stay lit.  Let me repeat, I'm very tired.  I was so happy I had left this very easy dinner for tonight.

I started some water boiling, like the lemon pepper linguini and the butternut squash ravioli, the gnocchi don't take long to cook.  I browned up a chicken breast from Otis Family Farm.  Isn't that pretty?


When the chicken was almost done I threw the gnocchi in the boiling water.  I removed my chicken from the pan and kept it warm for the couple minutes the rest of the meal was going to take.  I threw some asparagus in the pan and let it get warm, then added some of the Parmesan Sage Sauce, the cooked gnocchi and a little of the water I cooked the gnocchi in.  I just let that saute for a couple of minutes before plating it and topping it with that beautiful chicken breast.





How was it?  The gnocchi had perfect texture.  It was firm but melted in my mouth.  It wasn't grainy or tough.  In a word perfect. I forgot to taste one before I added the sauce (I'm tired) but I'm sure if there was something off about them I would have tasted it.  The Parmesan Sage Sauce was also very good.  The sauce lives up to the "rich and creamy" on the label as well.  It coated the gnocchi nicely and was definitely creamy!   have to admit to not tasting a lot of sage, but what I did taste was the pepper.  It wasn't an overwhelming pepper flavor, but just enough to give the sauce a nice little kick.  I really enjoyed it! 

 

Sunrise Creative Gourmet - Lemon Pepper Linguini with Shrimp

Last night I tried the Sunrise Creative Gourmet butternut squash ravioli and I found them to be quite delicious!  You can check out my review HERE.  Tonight I tried the Lemon Pepper Linguini and I was not disappointed!




Originally I had planned on having the linguini with salmon but at the last minute I changed my mind and decided to do shrimp instead.  I was just going to saute the shrimp in some lemon infused olive oil, but then I got a burst of ambition and decided to bread them first in a lemon-pepper/panko mixture.


I threw a couple of homemade breadsticks in the oven and got my water boiling and breaded my shrimp.  I heated some lemon EVOO from my friends at the Olive Grove in a pan and started my shrimp.  When I flipped the shrimp I threw the pasta in.  This is fresh (frozen) pasta so it only took a couple of minutes to cook.  

I tossed the cooked pasta with a little more lemon EVOO, added the shrimp and, of course, shredded some Parmesan over the top.  Somewhere in there I threw together a salad and in less than half an hour I had dinner.




Not only did I have dinner, I had a delicious dinner!  The pasta has a nice subtle lemon flavor and great texture, like the ravioli.  The package says it's two servings.  I think it's easily three, if not four if you served it as a side.

Simple.  Easy.  Delicious.  If Dave read my blog I bet he'd wish he was home for dinner tonight!

Sunrise Creative Gourmet - Butternut Squash Ravioli!

Dave is out of town all week.  I knew this and I prepared!  This past weekend we stopped in at the Sunrise Creative Gourmet store on Pierce Butler in St. Paul.  When Dave is gone I usually just eat a lot of poached eggs for dinner.  I don't really like cooking for one.  I thought Dave's trip would be a great excuse for me to try some of their frozen pastas and sauces.  We already know we love the Lasagnetta!

If you know me, you know I generally make my own pasta.  My Grandma Cicero taught me how.  It's not hard, just takes time, something I haven't had much of lately!

Here's a link to some crab and goat cheese ravioli I made.  There's a picture of my Grandma Cicero in it!  I usually just make my Grandmother's recipe for dough and filling, a traditional ricotta cheese filling, though I do make some yummy butternut squash ravioli too.
Crab and Goat Cheese Ravioli

Tonight I decided to try the Sunrise Creative Gourmet butternut squash ravioli.  I was curious if it was as good as mine and I had already decided how I was going to prepare it, browned butter and walnuts!


Check out the ingredients.  Not a lot of junk you don't need or want, just good ingredients you can actually pronounce! 



I started by getting some squash roasting in the oven.  Once that started I got the water boiling and added the ravioli.  You get a really good sized serving, 7 ravioli!

While the ravioli were cooking I toasted some pecans, then browned a little butter.



I tossed the cooked ravioli in the browned butter, added the walnuts, the roasted squash, a little fresh sage and some freshly grated Parmesan cheese.  Doesn't it just look delicious?  How can you go wrong with browned butter?




But how did they taste?  Were they as good as mine?  I have to admit they were very, very good.  As good as mine, I won't give them better (just can't do that) but they were very good.  There was plenty of squash in each ravioli and it was firm and very well seasoned.  The pasta itself had a perfect bite and there were no leakers!  I usually have at least one of my ravioli explode on me.  the only bummer, my dish washer is in Rapid City!

I think we will definitely be stocking these in our freezer.  This was a super simple and simply delicious dinner and with my busy schedule that's what I need!

You want some too?  Stop by the shop at 865 Pierce Butler in St. Paul or shop online and have the ravioli shipped to you!

 

The First Course - French Onion Soup

Just before Thanksgiving I posted the menu for our Thanksgiving dinner.  This is the first year in a long time Dave and I were home and it was just the two of us so I made what we wanted to eat.  That menu started with French onion soup.

We both like French onion soup but I've never made it before.  It was a snap!  Well, after many tears slicing a couple of pounds of onions it was a snap.  Does anyone know if onion goggles really work?  They are on my wish list at Amazon.  Hint.

But I've digressed.  I had planned on blogging about the whole dinner and dinner experience and then I decided that I was going to paint and rearrange furniture in my office over the Thanksgiving weekend.  I'll never do that again!  It's a little room but it sucked up most of the four days off!  Although I must admit as I sit in my new "command center" with the new flatscreen on the wall and the big hulking treadmill out of the way, I kinda like it!

And I've digressed again, the soup, let's get to the soup.

Wait, I have to digress again because I forgot to pick up a little baguette to top the soup at the grocery store.  It was Thanksgiving morning when I realized this but I was not going to go shopping on Thanksgiving!  So I made homemade baguette!  I had time, one of the perks of it just being Dave and I for dinner.
 

I think I saw this recipe posted by Williams-Sonoma on Facebook, and like so many recipes I pinned it.  Then it was added to the Thanksgiving menu and now I've made it, and I will again.

Here's a link to the recipe:
Williams-Sonoma French Onion Soup

As you can imagine, the preparation starts with thinly slicing a couple of pounds (2 and 1/2 to be exact) of yellow onions.  Thank god for a mandolin!  My eyes were burning and tearing even with the quick slicing with my mandolin.  


The onions are caramelized with just a little butter over about half an hour.  Pretty!



A little flour is added as a thickener, then white wine and beef stock are added along with a bay leaf and some thyme.  Now it's really starting to smell good!

Williams-Sonoma has a picture of the soup in pretty little crocks with a handle.  I'm sure you can buy them at Williams-Sonoma.  I had these little crocks.  I think they worked fine.


I toasted little slices of my homemade baguette and topped each crock of soup with two.  To this shredded Gruyere cheese is added.  We love Gruyere.  We just wish it was cheaper!  (Oops I forgot to take a before picture with the cheese!  But I bet you get the picture!)


Under the broiler they went until the cheese was all melty.  I know, there isn't cheese oozing off the edges of the crock.  I hate trying to get that cleaned off!  And I wanted to eat every morsel of the cheese!


Dave and I agreed it was a pretty good start to our Thanksgiving meal.

Small Business Saturday in St. Paul - So much fun!

I was so excited for Small Business Saturday!  I had my list of places I wanted to go ready, in fact I'd had it ready for over a week.  The dogs got me up at their normal 6:00AM and I was l like a kid waiting for Santa waiting for it to be time to go!

Stop 1 - Ward 6

We started the day with a good breakfast at one of our favorite local establishments, Ward 6.  I had two eggs, bacon and toast with a decaf.  I was saving room for a treat at Golden Fig!  Dave had oatmeal and a breakfast beer.  They have lots of beer there!



Stop 2 - Sunrise Creative Gourmet

Our second stop was a brand new place called "Sunrise Creative Gourmet."  We've purchased their pastas at Farmer's Market and when we heard they were opening a store front, well it just had to go on the list! 

The store wasn't difficult to find if you know their logo and are watching for a sign.  A new, lighted sign will be coming soon.  It's in a rather industrial area and the storefront is part of a much larger building. 


We got to meet the owner, Tom Forti.  Tom's great-grandfather started the business in 1913 when he immigrated from Italy to Hibbing and it's been going strong ever since.  I encourage you to read their story.  It's pretty cool.

About Sunrise Creative Gourmet

Tom was a great host.  He told us about the vision for the location and even gave us a tour of the entire operation.  The building will be a cooperative kitchen for local companies like Ruhland's Strudelhause.  Any of the products produced there will be sold in the storefront.  There are several kitchens including one very large kitchen that will be dedicated fully to gluten free products.  One smaller kitchen will be used for cooking classes!  You know you will find Dave and I there.  We love cooking classes!


We found lots of our favorites there already, like Snappy Dog Salsa and Deena's Hummus!  A product we hadn't had before was Chiqui's Chocolates.  Catalina “Chiqui” Berg is originally from Colombia but now lives in Pengilly, MN.  Do you know where that is?  Me neither!  I had to look it up.  It's about a 3 hour drive north of the cities, near Grand Rapids.  Chiqui started making her chocolates when her daughter came for a visit and wanted something from a local South American candy store.  A little trial and error later and these delicious treats were born.  Chiqui now has a commercial kitchen in her basement where she makes these delicious candies.  You don't have to visit her basement though, you can just head to St. Paul.  Don't be surprised if you see some of these in your Christmas gift from me!  The cinnamon was delicious!



Speaking of Christmas gifts (or birthday or hostess or any other reason) there are some great options at Sunrise Creative Gourmet!  I had all kinds of ideas going around in my head.  In addition to dry, fresh and frozen pastas and pasta sauces there are other great treats like salsa, jams, granola, cookies and other baked good, all reasonably priced.  Tom has some gift baskets already made up or you can pick out some goodies and make your own. 

Want to make homemade soup but don't want to make your own noodles?  They have that!


Know someone who loves meringue?  They have that too!


Know someone with a gluten allergy?  Or someone who loves pasta, salsa, jam, cookies, bread or granola?  This is a great place to shop for unique treats made right here in Minnesota.  It always feels better when you give something that gives back!





So if you find yourself in St. Paul, please check out the new Sunrise Creative Gourmet.  You're going to find something you want to bring home!  Don't live in the area? No worries they will ship! Check out their website! Sunrise Creative Gourmet

Dave and I picked up some pasta (we forgot a cooler so we had to stick to shelf stable), chocolates (of course!) and because I was curious a gluten free cookie.  I'm lucky, I don't have a problem with gluten but lots of people do.  What did I think of the cookie?  It was ok.  It tasted a bit "raw" to me.  Not underbaked raw, but had that raw flour taste.  It wasn't terrible by any means and I did eat the whole thing.  For someone needing this kind of treat, it would be that, a treat!



Stop 3 - Foxglove Market and Studio



Foxglove Market and Studio is a relatively new stop for Dave and me.  We stopped in for the first time a few weeks ago and were surprised to find a great combination of new, vintage and new made to look vintage trinkets in the store.  Dave and Christine, the curator, found they had bourbon in common the first time we went in.  I was busy gasping in delight as I found cool little things like wooden spools for thread and paper straws!  My first trip in I had to have these porcelain jars, one Mason and one apothecary.  I love to cook and I am a chemist by education you know.



This time Dave found some vintage glasses he had to have and I found this fun pad of paper!  There are some great little finds in this store.  Things you won't find anywhere else.  There are fun aprons and paper and fabric place mats, great vintage bar ware and nearly everything made out of paper.  It's definitely worth a stop if you find yourself on Grand Avenue.


Stop 4 - Golden Fig Fine Foods


If you know us you know we love Golden Fig Fine Foods.  It is our go-to place when we miss Farmer's Market or when I'm out of salted caramel sauce for my ice cream!  Laurie McCann Crowell and all the staff are friendly and helpful and yes, they'll talk you into that Salty Tart treat!

There is a little bit of everything at Golden Fig.  Yes, great food.  They stock an amazing variety of cheeses, Fischer Farms and Otis Family Farms pork, Otis Family Farm eggs, and that amazing Golden Fig Salted Caramel Sauce!  They have chips, salsas, cookies, candy, all manner of breakfasty things like pancake and biscuit mixes and amazing syrups.  And look what else I found on the shelf!


And then there is the fresh bakery they have every day.  Dave and I usually get something, either the cranberry, chocolate chip cookies or our new favorite, the Vanilla Brioche from Salty Tart bakery.  Oh my!


Yes, we got the brioche.  We also picked up some staples, bacon and eggs.  And we couldn't resist the pumpkin spice granola!  I can't wait to use that in pancakes!


Stop 5 - PJ Murphy's Bakery


PJ Murphy's is a great little neighborhood bakery.  When you walk in it smells like a bakery should smell.  It's like walking back in time.  The staff is very friendly.  While we were waiting to check out we got to eavesdrop on a conversation between the staff and a little boy.  He was explaining that he was going to leave a note for Santa to make sure he gave the reindeer the carrots and not the cookies he was going to leave out because cookies were bad for reindeer.  He was adorable, even put his bow tie on for his trip to the bakery!

We picked up hamburger buns and a loaf of Black Russian Rye bread.  And even after half of that brioche from Golden Fig, Dave couldn't resist a maple frosted treat.



Stop 6 - The Olive Grove Olive Oil Company


I think I own almost one of everything from this store.  Don't believe me?  This is my counter (the big bottles won't fit in my cupboard) and below it is a picture of my cupboard stash of these amazing olive oils and balsamic vinegars.



I cook with them nearly every day.  If you don't, you don't know what you are missing!  Once you start tasting it will be hard to leave without buying a bottle (or two, or three as my neighbor found out).  Natalie and the entire staff are very helpful.  They'll give you some delicious ideas for using the different products.  One of our favorites is the Tuscan Herb olive oil.  Use this to roast veggies and you'll never roast them in anything else again.  I use the lemon and orange olive oils in cakes.  And the butter olive oil is a great replacement in any baking.  Better for you too!  We always have a big bottle of the 18 year balsamic too.  Mix some fig balsamic with a little roasted walnut olive oil for a great salad dressing!

Don't think you need any oil or vinegar?  How about pasta?    The orecchiette and bucatini are a staple in our home and I just noticed they also do a gluten free pasta as well!


They have great seasoning blends to add to the oils for bread-dipping.  There are great spreads and chutneys and you'll even find a line of skin care products with olive oil in them.  I use the face cream every day!


On this visit in they had chocolate bars that are made with their olive oils!  They had one out for tasting.  We loved it!  What a great little Christmas gift a bar of chocolate, a bottle of the oil used in that chocolate, and a bottle of 18 year balsamic would be?  How could you make it better?



I know!  Put the oil and vinegar in one of these adorable "gift bags."


Don't live near Mendota Heights?  No worries!  They ship!  Check out the website. 

This trip we purchased pasta, farro and one of those amazing chocolate bars!  We couldn't pass up the gift bags either.


Stop 7 - Buon Giorno Italian Market


We hadn't been to Buon Giorno in a long time.  This is a great little Italian deli and grocery store.  It's a bit smaller than Cosetta but every bit as good.  They had several specials going on for Small Business Saturday including buy one, get one on their sauces.  I just made a big batch of bolognese so we didn't really need sauce, but we did find something!

Years ago we went to a wine tasting where I learned that I didn't dislike all Chianti's, just some.  I like Chianti Colli, I don't like Chianti Classico.  Guess what?  They had a Chianti Colli on sale.  It came home with us!


Stop 8 - Sunfish Cellars Wine Bar

Our final stop was a new one for us.  Dave read about the new wine bar in the paper and we thought it would be a nice place to get some lunch after a day of shopping.  We weren't wrong!

We started in the liquor store.  They have 1700 wines and 500 different beers!  We were just going to look around but we were greeted by a great staff member who really knew his wine.  He asked what we liked and pointed out some wines he thought we'd like that we hadn't had before.  He was great fun and we ended up buying 4 bottles!  We had the "Shebang" last night.  Not bad for an inexpensive (I think it was $9) red.


OK, now we needed lunch!  We moved over to the wine bar and ordered lunch and a glass of wine.  I had the "Sweet and Salty" flatbread.  It was topped with pears, blue cheese and prosciutto.  I paired it with a Riesling.  Perfect.  Dave had a ham and cheese with a Zinfandel.  Also delicious.  And check out the view!


We had a great day.  We'll be back to all these places because now that I've had time to think about things, well, I need some gifts!  Don't be surprised if you see something from today in your Christmas package this year!  We met some fun people and hopefully helped out the local economy just a little.


If you have any questions let me know!  Or better yet, check some of these places out for yourself!



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