LaRosa’s Andover – The One Pound Meatball

Our Meal at LaRosa’s Andover
The one pound meatball, salads and rose from LaRosa's Andover
The menu, the artichoke, fennel, lemon dijon vinaigrette salad, the shaved celery Caesar salad, my glass of Rosé and the one pound meatball.

 

 

Last weekend, I had the pleasure of stopping in to LaRosa’s Café and Bar in Andover, MA. I’ve enjoyed lunch and events here before, but I’d not yet been in for dinner. When a friend posted a pic of LaRosa’s one pound meatball, I couldn’t get it off my mind.

Tony and I enjoyed a relaxing meal on the patio in LaRosa’s quaint outdoor seating area. While our mini-meal (two salads, one meatball) was delightful, I was most impressed with one question. Our waiter kindly asked if we would like bread for the table. Interestingly, I’ve never been asked that before. We weren’t all that hungry, so the answer was an easy no. But had that bread shown up, I would have eaten it. That’s just the way it is. So, I was happy to have had the right of refusal. It was a nice touch and seeing we couldn’t even finish the meatball, I was glad not to have filled up on bread.

Service was friendly, our salads were delicious (Tony got a unique take on a Caesar salad with shaved celery instead of romaine – quite good!) and the meatball with honey basil whipped ricotta was divine. Yummy!

If you’ve not been, LaRosa’s Andover is definitely worth a visit.

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Do you Rosé? The Resurgence of Rosé Wine

La Crema rose wine


I think it’s common knowledge that rosé wine has a bad rap. It has the reputation of being low-grade and overly sweet. Years ago, when the Real Housewives of Orange Country first introduced me to the idea of rosé, I was all into it. Pink, pretty, sweet – what could go wrong? Well, try suggesting a bottle of rosé to a room full of wine snobs and you’ll get laughed out of the room just like I did. Honestly, the feeling of judgement was worse than what I experienced with my Pinot Grigio habit. I made the move to Sancerre just to avoid ordering Pinot Grigio. I blogged about it here.

But back to rosé. While many naysayers hold their opinion, it’s hard to deny that this lovely blush vino has made a comeback. It’s pretty much all over the place. Namely Bravo’s newest reality show sensation “Summer House.” They had rosé wine in every episode (clearly a sponsor) and these successful Montauk millennials were drinking it by and from the gazillion ounce bottle. You just have to check out this pic – it’s insane. This actually didn’t make a great case for my appreciation for rosé, but at least it indicated it was on trend.

And look at the rosé display at my favorite North Andover gift store, Rose and Dove. How fun – I love it!

 

rose wine display

 

Whispering Angel seems to be the rosé of choice around my parts. However, if I’m being honest, I find myself preferring rosés with a bit more color and flavor. I’ve noticed that the pinkest of pink rosés tend to lean a bit sweet and floral for my taste. If you can find one that boasts a slightly more orangey hue, you may find the flavor to be more satisfying.

I recently cracked open the featured bottle of Le Crema Rosé – notice the deeper pink tone. La Crema has long been a favorite of my chardonnay loving friends, so I figured they might have a good handle on their rosé. Not bad!

Call me girly, but there’s something about sipping on a pretty pink libation that makes me feel good.

So, what do you think? Is rosé wine classé or passé?

#roseallday

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Simple Cocktails to Enjoy at Home or Anywhere

Simple cocktails gimlet, amaretto and ginger, baileys and coffee cubes

Have you ever gone to order a cocktail and said…I can’t decide, I don’t know what I want. I do that all the time. The older I get, the more I struggle to find adult beverages that agree with me. Beer fills me up, wine gives me a headache, mixed drinks are risky for my tummy and most hard alcohols are just more than I can handle.

While my signature martini with…3 olives and a twist of lemon has become my go-to order, it’s not something I make for myself at home. If I’m going to sit down for a drink, simple cocktails are the only ones I’ll pour.

Here are three Simple Cocktails that I have come to enjoy and find easy to prepare.

Amaretto and Ginger

This is a little sweet, but I find a good squeeze of orange juice and a lot of ice helps cut the cloying sweetness. This is a nice, warming spirit that’s perfect by a fire.

  • I like a healthy pour of Amaretto, over ice, with a splash (or two) of ginger ale and a good squeeze of fresh orange juice. Garnish with an orange wedge.

Bailey’s and Coffee Ice Cubes

I saw this simple cocktail on Facebook and have been dying to give it a try. It’s more of a dessert drink, but it sure is good.

  • Freeze prepared coffee in an ice tray. Place frozen coffee cubes in a glass and pour in Bailey’s Irish Cream. Finish with a shot of vanilla vodka. Yummy!

Vodka Gimlet

This is the simplest of my simple cocktails and I just love it. It’s clean, crisp and smooth – so easy to sip and savor. Gimlets are traditionally made with gin, but I’m a vodka drinker so…

  • Combine 2 oz. vodka, 1 oz. fresh lime juice and 3/4 teaspoon simple syrup (I buy mine bottled) in a shaker. Shake and pour over ice. Garnish with a lime wheel.

 

simplesyrup

 

Hope you like these super simple cocktails.  They are great to make at home or even better when ordered out and someone else prepares them for you.

The blog will be on break next week during February vacation. See you back on Monday, February 28th.

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Dine In or Dine Out? I’ve Got My Answer

Caeser Salad with Salmon from Mango II Cuisine
Tony ordered this simple Caesar salad with salmon, but it was the beautifully carved carrot that so impressed me. That must have been a really big carrot!

 

Dine out! Lately, it seems, the answer is always, dine out. I realize this may not be the healthiest option, but it sure is enjoyable.

In the last year, Tony and I have embraced the concept of eating out. I am sure it comes with the stage of life we are in and the age of our children, but we have reached a point when sitting down to a relaxing meal outside the home, with or without the kids, is ultimately satisfying. My waist line isn’t so sure about all of this, but I’m in a YOLO (you only live once) state of mind, so I’m going with it for now.

Then

Let’s be honest, at certain points of child-rearing, a meal was simply a means to an end to fend off hunger. When the girls were little we did family dinners. While the little lovelies fidgeted in their seats, Tony and I sat exhausted wondering who’d have the most energy to do the dishes following the meal. Finger on my nose  – you’re it!

Now

Today, we have teens who are more independent and, suddenly, time is back on our side.

It’s funny – the very thing that prevented us from being able to dine out more often is now the thing that is enabling it…youth sports!

In the past, the kids’ schedules were erratic. We were either unable to or too tired to dine out on a regular basis.

This year, activities are more manageable and, currently, both girls are fully engaged in basketball season. Meanwhile, Tony and I find ourselves with more free time.

We have now made a habit of using the time during practices, after drop-offs and before or after games to dine out. Time might allow for a full meal or maybe just an appetizer or cocktail. We look forward to the time to catch up with one another or friends who join us. The more we go out the more we want to. Basketball has never been so much fun. Take a look at this fabulous food, and drink, we enjoyed at a little Thai restaurant in Tewksbury.  We discovered Mango II Cuisine before a basketball game on Friday night.

 

3 olives & a twist martini at Mango II Cuisine
A thing of beauty
appetizers and cocktails from Mango II Cuisine
Two apps and a cocktail made a perfect pre-game meal.
coconut soup with mushrooms and chicken from Mango II Cuisine
I wanted something different -I ordered this coconut soup with mushrooms and chicken and was wowed. So good!

 

I do feel guilty that I don’t cook at home more often these days. Truthfully, I don’t love to cook and there are very few meals I can prepare that everyone in my house will eat. Between allergies and picky eaters (one of whom is an adult and not me!) preparing meals at home is laborious and frustrating. So, I’m over it.

My dream is to be a city girl someday. I want to walk to restaurants of all kinds for brunch, lunch or dinner.  I want to try new foods and dine out in cool, new settings.

So, while I wait for my dream to become a reality, I will live it right here in the suburbs I call home.

Cheers and Bon appetite!

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French Toast Casserole Recipe – A Brunch Favorite

french toast casserole with strawberries

 

Last week, I had the pleasure of hosting Julia’s varsity basketball team for brunch following their practice. I gave the menu some serious thought because these girls are ravenous following two hours of sprints, drills and scrimmages.

Loading up on bagels and muffins was the easy and filling choice, but I also wanted to make something homemade. This French Toast Casserole recipe, originally found on Allrecipes.com, was the perfect dish. It is easy to make, hearty and unbelievably delicious.

When several of Julia’s teammates reported that it was the best thing they’d ever eaten, I took that as the highest compliment. When the double batch that I prepared for them was devoured, I knew I had a winning recipe worth sharing.

If you like French Toast, give this recipe a try. And when you take your first bite, be sure to dig deep.  The best part is the brown sugar butter at the bottom!

French Toast Casserole Recipe

Ingredients

french toast casserole ingredients

 

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • a pinch of salt (this is my addition just to help balance all of the yummy sweetness)
  • 1 loaf crusty bread (I used Italian, original recipe calls for French), cut into bite-size pieces
  • 2 cups milk (I use fat-free which is what I have in the fridge, but I imagine whole milk would take this recipe over the top)
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 additional tablespoon brown sugar

Directions

  • Grease a 9×12-inch baking dish.
  • Stir 1 cup brown sugar, butter and salt together in a saucepan over medium-low heat until butter melts and sugar dissolves into butter, 2 to 4 minutes. Pour into prepared baking dish and spread a 1 1/2- to 2-inch layer of bread pieces over the top.
  • Beat milk, eggs and vanilla extract together in a bowl; pour milk mixture over bread into the baking dish. Cover with plastic wrap and compress bread to ensure liquid is absorbed. Sprinkle cinnamon over the top. Secure plastic wrap and refrigerate, 8 hours to overnight. (I have neglected to take this step and the end result has been just as good.)

When ready to bake:

  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Uncover baking dish and sprinkle remaining brown sugar over the top.
  • Bake about 30-40 minutes until you see a rise in the bread mixture ensuring the eggs are cooked through. Top should be brown and bubbly.

If you’ve got a lot of mouths to feed for breakfast or brunch, give this French Toast Casserole recipe a try. Your guests will love it.

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