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Brooklyn Eats: Nostro Ristorante

Location: Greenwood Heights, Brooklyn

Cuisine: Napoli-style Italian food; rustic feel; fresh pasta

My husband and I got married in March of 2015. I am a teacher/special education coach and my husband is an accountant, therefore we don’t have many times to go away, let alone a lot vacation like a honeymoon. During this summer in particular, I embarked on a 5-week intensive for an administrative program called LEAP and met some of the most incredible humans that are still my close friends to this day. This only gave us a smaller window for our vacation, August. Where the hell were we going to go in August? Oh wait, Italy sounds like a good idea. We had the time of our lives: eating so much fresh pasta, pizza, drinking loads of vino rosso and enjoying the sights. Our love for Italian cuisine only grew from our 2 weeks of Italian bliss.

Tuscany, Florence

Two years later, our love of Italian food holds strong; it’s probably my go-to when cooking and creating recipes, as well as our order-in cuisine. We stumbled upon a restaurant maybe seven months after it opened, literally up the block from our apartment. We decided to give it a try after hearing raving reviews from our neighbors. We were immediately blown away. Our hearts were singing, our bellies dancing, and quickly became friends with the owner, Romena. Each table is served fresh focaccia bread as guests impatiently wait for their food to be served, and can take in the scenery of the beautiful pictures of Italy around the restaurant.

Since trying this restaurant in 2017, we have gone back more times than we can count, even more so when I “forget to take out chicken to make for dinner.” I have tried almost everything on the menu, and still have more to go. Of course, there are some staples and my favorite items that I’ll share here.

This calamari is some of the crispiest, most delicious serving I have ever had. Ever. Served with cocktail sauce and hot peppers, this is a must as an appetizer. Heck, order two.

Polipo, or Portuguese charred octopus. I must say, I was hesitant when I first ordered, but DAMN does this rock. Tender, juicy, and healthy!

Crostini Burrata: literally heaven on a serving board. Four slices of crostini smothered with pesto, roasted red peppers, topped with the most insanely tasteful burrata. Your taste buds will thank you.

Chicken parmesan: I know, this is nothing fancy; however, this chick parm is cooked to perfection. Tender, perfectly sauced, and oozing with cheese. Pair with pasta, sautéed kale, or with veggies. So. Many. Options.

Fettuccini Amore: Guys, no joke, I ate 3x slower when I had this dish. Squid ink fettuccini tossed with fresh lobster and shrimp, smothered in a pink cream sauce and garlic. MIND BLOWN!

For those who prefer lighter options, like myself 85% of the time, they have delicious vegetable sides, like this mixed veg. Seasonal and available vegetables sautéed in olive oil and garlic, presented in the most precious cup of awesomeness. This actually goes well with anything, so just order it because I say so.

Eggplant parmesan: You can never go wrong with an eggplant parm. Perfectly tender eggplant slices, layered with mozzarella and tomato sauce. It’s on another level. Fo sho.

Phew, now that I am officially starving again, BRB, about to go get me some amore and mixed veg. If you’re in Brooklyn, or even if you’re just looking for quality eats at affordable pricing (also, this place was originally BYOB, but does have wine available too), this is THE place to visit. Buon appetito!

Creamy Garlic Parmesan Chicken and Rice

Since the beginning of the year, I have tried to be incredibly resourceful when it comes to leftover items in the fridge. I know there are instances where this is hard to do as some condiments or produce go rancid and can’t be salvaged. However, when these items are in their “sweet spot” (just before going bad but still smells okay) I love making things to use the rest of it up! Tonight’s dinner was a perfect example: using last bits of heavy cream and parmesan to make a creamy parmesan dinner with chicken and rice.

Instead of using plain water to boil the rice, I opted for bone broth because if I’m going to have starch, I may as well use bone broth (actually, chicken mushroom bone broth) for the added benefit #amirite? I seasoned the chicken first with some salt and pepper and added it to a hot pan with EVOO. This cooked until both sides were not pink. Afterwards I seasoned with garlic powder, minced garlic, oregano, and fresh thyme sprigs.

Once the chicken cooked through, I poured in the rice and chicken bone broth. This cooked for a total of 18 minutes, but halfway through, I added 3/4 cup water because I noticed that the rice absorbed most of the liquid already. At around 3 minutes before the chicken/rice finished cooking, I added in the heavy cream and parmesan (grated) and stirred together.

Serve with more fresh thyme, a dollop of sour cream or like we did, a side of charred broccoli, which can be found here! This was a dish that I had seen done before, but wanted to make it my own. Here is this version, and damn is it tasty! NOMaste 🙂

Creamy Garlic Parmesan Chicken and Rice

Course Dinner
Cuisine American
Keyword cheesy, Chicken, garlic, Hearty, parmesan, quick meals, rice
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Servings 6 people
Author nomastehungry

Ingredients

  • 1.5 lbs Chicken breasts Diced
  • 1/5 cups Rice white
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese grated
  • 1/4 cup Heavy cream or half and half
  • 1 pint Chicken stock or bone broth
  • 1 tbsp Minced garlic
  • 2 tbsp Olive oil extra virgin
  • Garlic powder
  • Dried Oregano
  • Fresh thyme
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Instructions

  1. In a large saute pan, heat olive oil and add in diced pieces of chicken on medium heat.  Let sear on each side until each piece is no longer pink.  

  2. Add in seasonings (garlic, minced garlic, oregano, thyme) and stir.

  3. Pour in rice and chicken stock.  Bring to a boil.  Cover and let simmer for 18 minutes on low flame.

  4. Halfway through, check and see if the rice may absorb a lot of the liquid; add in 3/4 cup water and stir.  Continue to simmer with lid on.

  5. Three minutes before timer is up, add in heavy cream/half n half and parmesan cheese.  Stir to combine ingredients. Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately.

New Year Eve Throw-down! Appetizer III – Spinach Dip

This has been one hell of a week to say the least. Without going into details, and getting incredibly emotional, we lost a very special person in our family a week ago Friday (tomorrow). My emotions are running rampant; I feel like I could cry or throw a chair at the drop of a hat. Despite this loss, the memories will always live in our hearts and our minds. I’m glad to have spent the weekend with family and survive the loss in our conversations together. RIP.

There’s no great segue into this recipe, except for the fact that I promised to post this recipe, and I’m glad to, especially because I am a major sucker for spinach dip (and coffee cakes from Drake’s, which were always at the ready whenever I saw the angel that left us… ah, a segue).  In all honesty, spinach dip does not need to be or should be difficult to make. It’s combining cheesy ingredients with chopped spinach and artichokes, broiled in a ramekin until the cheesy top is crusty and golden brown, served with chips, and in this case.. Siete chips!

I have definitely brought up Siete chips before, and I will a thousand times over. THEY. ARE. AMAZING. Siete is a grain-free brand that specializes in cassava, almond, coconut, and cashew-based products such as tortillas, tortilla chips, queso, and hot sauce. I love this product and the masterminds behind the company so much I’m doing a GIVEAWAY on Instagram (@nomaste.hungry) this coming week – stay tuned! Anyway, you can buy your Siete products here.

What I love about this spinach dip is that I KNOW what ingredients go into it: cream cheese, parmesan cheese, mozzarella cheese, chopped spinach, artichokes, and garlic powder. All of the ingredients listed are 100% organic and local, I truly believe there is a different in organic produce and products, and you can find most organic items in Trader Joe’s or inexpensive stores too! To start, I thaw a large bag of chopped spinach and drain with a decent amount of paper towels (maybe 2 or 3 double sheets, or a cheese cloth). Draining the spinach takes out the moisture so that the remaining ingredients combine and don’t get soggy.

Next, I melt an 8oz block cream cheese and add in the spinach along with the artichokes. I’ll whisk this around until the cream cheese starts to bubble and melt. Layer in 1/2 cup of parmesan and 1/2 cup mozzarella, whisking to marry all ingredients together. This is the recipe.

Sprinkle some garlic powder, mix again. Ladle the mixture into a ramekin or oven-safe bowl and sprinkle a final layer of mozzarella cheese. Turn the oven to broil, and broil the spinach dip until the cheese is golden on the sides. Serve with your NEW Siete chips and enjoy 🙂 Nomaste.

New Years Eve Throw-down! Appetizer II: “Pigs in a Blanket”

Who even came up with the “pigs in a blanket” name? Either way, New Years is never NYE without these guys present at the appetizer table. I feel like people never say no to them also, and so that’s why they’re always a hit for parties, large or small.

Franks in blankets are basically small cocktail franks rolled up in crescent roll dough from the container. I cannot express how simple this recipe is, that I won’t be including a recipe at the bottom *GASP*

…still working on my flat lay and making these pics fancy but I’m just living my best life

The reason I chose to make these on my own is because I have honestly always wanted to see if I can make them just as good as the store-bought kind. Survey says, YES!

Alright, here’s the breakdown of ingredients:

  • One 8oz can of crescent rolls
  • One package cocktail franks
  • Melted butter
  • Coarse sea salt

To make these babies is totally simple:

  1. Open canister of crescent rolls and pull apart at the perforated seams.
  2. Sprinkle some flour on a clean surface and lay out the crescent roll dough
  3. Cut the dough into smaller portions
  4. Take a cocktail frank and start at the thinner end of one of the crescent rolls and roll from one end to the other, pinching at the end. Repeat
  5. Spray a nonstick pan with olive or coconut oil, layer the piggies on the pan, spread the melted butter on top, then sprinkle with salt.
  6. Bake for 12-15 minutes at 375* (adjust heat as needed).

These will easily become a staple at any event, in fact, I’m planning these for a Superbowl party along with another showstopper: spinach dip! Nomaste 🙂

Coconut Cream and Crushed Tomato Chicken

Just like Bubba said in Forrest Gump about shrimp, there are a million ways to make chicken. You can grill it, bake it, bread it, fry it, broil it, sauté it, and the list goes on and on. There are days where I despise chicken, especially bland, grilled chicken breast on a salad (boring AF), but when chicken is done well, and it’s not always the breast, it can be a show-stopping meal.

The finished plate with crumbled feta on top, a side of sautéed spinach and mashed potatoes.

When I was in my 20s, I was told that the dark meat of chicken is bad for you and that it’s too “fatty” and will make me fat. Now that I’ve had 10 years of learning what foods work for me and my own body, and what foods I find I can and cannot eat, chicken thighs tend to be the cut of the chicken I gravitate toward most. Sure, there is definitely more fat, and there’s NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT. Ya heard? Fat will not make you fat (at least not in moderation and eating the correct fats). This happens to be a very simple recipe and will cook on its own in a dutch oven (or a crockpot –> on low for 5-6 hours). The difference this recipe makes is two ingredients: Herbes de Provence and coconut cream (NOT milk, cream). These can both be found at Trader Joe’s.

*if you don’t have Herbes de Provence you can use several dried herbs such as sage, thyme, rosemary, marjoram, basil, and garlic powder*

I start with the chicken thighs, organic and freshly cleaned, and place them on a cutting board. Sprinkle a generous amount of Herbes de Provence on both sides of the chicken and let sit. Another quick tip: let the chicken sit out to get to room temperature, as this allows the chicken to remain juicy and not tense up as it hits a hot pan.  I heat my dutch oven first then melt 3 tbsp of butter and add the chicken to the butter and let simmer.

Once the chicken simmers and sears on both sides, I add in the crushed tomatoes (I really like Cento 28oz as it yields a lot of sauce and is low sugar) and coconut cream. Cream is a thicker consistency and makes the sauce thicker too. I season with salt and pepper and lower the flame to low and cover. This will sit on low heat for two and a half hours, stirring occasionally. That’s it.

When the chicken is done, it’ll be beautifully pulled and in shreds, incredibly tender and juicy, and delicious with the coconut tomato sauce. Serve with any veggies and potato, or over rice and beans, maybe even fusili pasta?! The possibilities are truly endless 🙂 Nomaste!

Leftover chicken in coconut cream tomato sauce – can be reused for enchiladas…add some chili powder and BOOM!

Coconut Cream and Crushed Tomato Chicken

Course Dinner
Cuisine American, Chicken
Keyword Chicken, coconut, cream, dinner, dutch oven, easy, healthy, simmered, tomato
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours 30 minutes
Total Time 2 hours 40 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Author nomastehungry

Ingredients

  • 6 Chicken thighs untrimmed
  • 3 tbsp Butter
  • 1 28oz can Crushed Tomatoes
  • 3/4 can Coconut cream NOT milk
  • Herbes de Provence generous seasoning
  • Salt to taste
  • Pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Clean and pat dry chicken thighs and lay on a cutting board. Sprinkle Herbes de Provence generously on both sides of the chicken.  Let sit.

  2. In a dutch oven, melt butter and place chicken into pan.  Searing both sides of chicken, about 5-7 minutes each side.

  3. Add in can of crushed tomato sauce and 1/2 can of coconut cream.  Stir to mix liquid.  Judge here if you need more coconut cream, if so, add in a drop more.

  4. Turn heat to low and cover. Simmer for 2.5 hours, stirring occasionally.

  5. Serve immediately with vegetables or sides of choice.

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