I Made Nutella Crepes and So Can You

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When we visited Paris last fall, we stopped at the Luxemborg Gardens or the Jardin du Luxembourg, an attraction know for it’s cascading flower pots, serene pond, and tree-lined pathways. While we were there, I was feeling a little peckish (let’s just be honest, hangry), so we stopped at the crepe stand inside the gardens. I ordered the Nutella crepes, and to do this day, I remember it being one of the most life-affirming snacks of my life. Paris was already beautiful, but the gargoyles at Notre Dame really had a sparkle in their eye after that. I instantly felt energized and warmed by the gooey chocolate center enveloped by fluffy pancake. Ever since our trip, I’ve been dreaming about recreating it. Here’s the crepes recipe I followed. To my surprise, they turned out great!

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The Simple Pasta Carbonara Recipe That’s Great for Dinner Parties

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The kitchn Pasta Carbonara Recipe

Saturday night we had our friends and their two adorable children (brothers almost 2 and 4) over for dinner. We served pasta carbonara, two gorgeous salads, and garlic bread. A simple yet satisfying meal. It was the first time I made pasta carbonara and I was surprised at how easy it was. Although the online recipes kept warning me not to let the signature egg and cheese sauce turn into scrambled eggs when it hit the hot pasta. That part was easy. The hard part was deciding to have everyone over for dinner in the first place.

We had just been out of town for a few weeks and felt like we were still recovering from giant piles of laundry and a cluttered house. As a consummate homebody, I look forward to the weekends we get to spend at home. But one of the things that makes our house feel like a home is having friends over for dinner. And before our trip, that had not happened for a long time.

I couldn’t help but wonder what had been holding me back all this time. The only thing I could think of were a handful of excuses like: we’re too busy, the house is a mess, I don’t know what to make, what if it’s not good enough? Cooking for others is something I really enjoy. Thought I’m still a novice, it’s a skill I want to improve.

In the end, I decided that there will always be a list of excuses. It doesn’t have to be perfect to be memorable and meaningful. And, if your friends are truly great people (like ours), they will help make sure everything else goes smoothly. Even if that means bringing over a space heater when your heat suddenly stops working the night of your dinner party. The only things that truly matters are the memories you create around the table and the time you spend together because these moments seem more infrequent as you get older.

So, after a good pep talk with myself, I decided to make pasta carbonara. It’s something we had and loved while in Rome and I was intent on recreating it. I followed this recipe from the kitchn. I love the recipe because it includes a lot of tips from famous chefs. And it’s incredibly simple, focusing on a few high-quality ingredients as the stars. It proves that a dish doesn’t have to be complex to be impressive.

I thought the recipe turned out great, but there were a few things I could have done to improve it:

  • Add more pasta water

After stirring in the egg and cheese mixture, the recipe recommends adding some reserved pasta water. I should have added more because the cheese started to get a little sticky and the pasta ended up resembling a mac and cheese more than a pasta dish.

  • Serve right away

Between all of the stirring that must happen after the pot of pasta comes off the burner and getting everyone set up at the dinner table, it’s easy for the past to lose some of its heat. It tastes best when served hot, so I would recommend calling everyone to the table before taking the pasta off the burner.

  • Get the bacon a little crispier

The bacon was good but I should have gotten it a little crispier, using a pan that gets hot quickly like a non-stick or my All-Clad. A crispier piece of bacon will stand out in the pasta better, both in taste and appearance.

Zucchini Bread

With the colder weather we had this weekend, I was in the mood for baking, but I wasn’t ready to make something pumpkin just yet. So I turned to this classic summer baking project. It’s a go-to for people with an unsustainable amount of zucchini taking over their garden this time of year. I’ve never made zucchini bread before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. This recipe from a Dash of Sanity will definitely move to the top of my list because of how easy it is to make. It has just the right amount of sweetness, which tasted perfect with a little mascarpone. I made this while watching the Steelers/Browns game. I can’t believe they tied and how badly each team played! At least it was a close game.

Tuna Salad with Lemon Olive Oil Dressing

I hope you’re adjusting to your routine after the long holiday weekend! A few weeks ago I shared my pantry staples for having healthy lunch options ready to go. This week I’m using one of those staples to make this light and tasty salad. The albacore tuna in olive oil that I bought at Trader Joe’s is cheap (under $2) and can be stored away until you need it. With only five ingredients, plus olive oil and lemon juice for the dressing, this salad is a cinch to whip up. Add your tuna, two pearl tomatoes sliced, a few slices of red onion, a handful of arugula, and salt to your salad bowl. Mix in the juice from half a lemon and about a tablespoon of olive oil. (I use the olive oil I keep at my desk.) And your lunch is ready! It’s been in the 90s in Pittsburgh so simple recipes like this are helping me stay out of the hot kitchen.

Turkey Stuffed Peppers

These Skinny Taste Sante Fe Turkey Stuffed Peppers are packed with gooey cheese, ground turkey, corn, black beans, tomatoes, and a lot of flavor. You would hardly believe that one serving or half a pepper is 160 calories. Of course you’ll want to eat more than just half a pepper! I make a few modifications to this recipe. I keep the stems on the peppers. It’s easier to keep the meat in the peppers that way. And I usually use 1 pound of turkey and 5 to 6 peppers because these go fast at my house and the leftovers are great!

Summer Meal with Scallops

Being on vacation for a week has convinced me of one thing: relaxation time is essential. It wasn’t until I had to force myself to do nothing that I realized how much I was craving that time for myself. Now that I’m back to my regular life, I’m hoping to accomplish that a little bit each day by doing a little bit less. Dinner time is one of those areas where I feel like I can cut back. Sometimes I take on overly ambitious meals during the week that I don’t have time for when something simple is all I need. Take this meal for example. It took less than a half hour to prepare. Another thing I realized while on vacation is how much I love southern cuisine. While on vacation, I had the best scallops over cheesy grits at a new restaurant we tried called Peninsula Grill in downtown Charleston. This meal is like a subtle tribute to that. I hope you enjoy!

Scallops Recipe
I used this easy to follow recipe to get the timing right. 

Corn on the Cob Recipe 
Another recipe that is all about the timing. 

Tomato Salad with Burrata 

  • 2 to 3 garden tomatoes sliced 
  • Burrata cheese 
  • Basil 
  • A drizzle of balsamic vinegar  
  • A drizzle of extra virgin olive oil 
  • Garlic salt

Avocado Grapefruit Salad

I’ve made it a priority to make fresh meals almost every night for dinner. No packaged or frozen meals unless that’s all I have time for. With these sweltering 90-degree days we’ve had, it’s hard to want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen. So I’ve been gravitating toward simple, no-oven-required recipes. This avocado grapefruit salad is perfect for hot summer days and it’s bursting with color and flavor. All you need are a few ripe avocados, grapefruit, Dijon mustard, lemon juice, olive oil, black pepper, and kosher salt. I made this with fish tacos one night and it was bon appetit!