Bringing Italy home to Iowa.

Our friends and family haven’t been shy about “warning” us that all of our travel will need to cease…or at the very least slow down…once Baby B arrives.  Some say it with a chuckle…others much more seriously…but each time, Ryan and I look at each other and think, “Yeah…we’ll figure it out.”  Maybe “they” are right.  Maybe we won’t want to travel as much.  Maybe we won’t be able to afford to travel as much.  Maybe it will just be too hard to travel with children…or maybe it will be to hard to travel WITHOUT the kids….I guess that is for us to find out sometime down the road.  In the meantime, we are so grateful for the traveling we’ve been able to enjoy…the miles we’ve gotten under our wings…and for all the places we’ve been able to see.

While we anticipate our “travel” schedule to be different once the baby arrives, we already look forward to the vacations we will sneak away on as a couple…and others that we will enjoy with Baby B.  And when we can’t get away…we will bring some of each of those destinations into our home…and our kitchen!

As some of you know, Ryan recently returned from 10 days in Italy.  It just KILLED me that I couldn’t travel with him.  I mean, come on….of ALL places….ITALY.  But, at just over 32/33 weeks…I figured it would be best to stay put in Iowa.  🙂  Lucky for me, Mom came to spend the week with me!

When Ryan returned, he surprised me in a couple of ways.  First…he brought presents!  I honestly was NOT expecting presents.  We both travel so much that bringing home “tokens” of a trip fell by the wayside looonnngg ago.  But…this time, he had 2 little treats packed away in his bag.  First…he pulled out a little Christmas ornament.  The ornament was a little red scooter.  Adorable!  He reminded me that when we were in Italy last year, we had forgotten to pick up a Christmas ornament (our little tradition whenever we travel together) and since there are scooters EVERYWHERE in Italy…he thought it was quite appropriate.  I’d have to agree.

The second gift was a gift for Baby B.  I about cried just at the THOUGHT of him bringing her a present (seriously, these hormones are out of control).  And then…he pulled out the most adorable little hat.

I love it!  Turns out Ryan walked several miles around Rome trying to find a children’s store…one with the perfect little piece for Baby’s wardrobe.  While this picture might not do it justice, I don’t think he could have found a more suitable gift for Baby’s first summer!  Thank you, “Dad”, for being so thoughtful and picking out a little something for Baby. 

If I wasn’t surprised enough by the 2 little gifts, I was further surprised by Ryan’s comments on his meals in Italy.  To be very honest, our meals in Italy were much of the reason we loved Italy so much last year!  I expected that Ryan would come back and torture me with stories of all of the delicious meals he was able to indulge in while he was away.  Instead…he said just the opposite.  While he had a few really good meals…the majority were lacking.  He went on to explain that the meals just weren’t up to “our tastes.”  At home, we’ve pinpointed the flavors that we love and customized each meal we make.  Over there…well, some were just too bland for him…missing a little of this or a little of that.  As we finished the conversation, he said, “So…can we make one of OUR Italian meals this week?!”  Without hesitation I said….”ABSOLUTELY.”

So…that week, I whipped up a batch of Caprese Salad as well as a new recipe, Chicken Cacciatore.  The original recipe is by Giada (my fav!) but adjusted to our tastes!  We loved this recipe! 

CAPRESE SALAD

Serves 2

  • 2 – 3 “On-the-vine” tomatoes, sliced ~1/2 inch thick
  • Fresh Mozzarella, sliced ~1/4 of an inch thick
  • Fresh Basil leaves
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • Sea Salt/Pepper to taste
  • Salad greens (Spring Mix or Arugula) – Optional

If you are looking for a more filling “salad” with your meal, start by laying salad greens in a thin layer covering the bottom of your serving platter.  If you are looking for a lighter appetizer, skip the extra greens!

Next, slice tomatoes and mozzarella.  Layer mozzarella on top of tomatoes.  (One slice of cheese for every tomato slice).  Lightly salt and pepper to taste.  Tear basil leaves and top each of the tomato/mozzarella slices.  Gently drizzle EVOO over the plate.  Follow with Balsamic Vinegar. 

CHICKEN CACCIATORE

Serves 4

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 teaspoons salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour, for dredging
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine (Sauv Blanc)
  • 2 ( 14-ounce) cans diced tomatoes with juice (Garlic/Olive Oil)
  • 1 (14-ounce) can of whole, peeled tomatoes without juice, crushed by hand
  • 3/4 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano leaves
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves, plus another 1/4 cup for garnish
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1lb of Linguine
  • 1 cup of freshly grated Romano Cheese
Sprinkle the chicken pieces with 1 teaspoon of each salt and pepper.  Dredge the chicken pieces in the flour to coat lightly. 
 
In a large heavy saute pan, heat the oil over a medium-high flame.  Add the chicken pieces to the pan and saute just until brown, about 5 minutes per side.  If all the chicken does not fit in the pan, saute it in 2 batches.  Transfer the chicken to a plate and set aside.  Add the bell pepper, onion and garlic to the same pan and saute over medium heat until the onion is tender, about 5 minutes. 
 
Season with salt and pepper.  Add the wine and simmer until reduced by half, about 3 minutes.  Add the tomatoes with their juice, broth, and oregano.  Return the chicken pieces to the pan and turn them to coat in the sauce.  Bring the sauce to a simmer.  Continue simmering over medium-low heat until the chicken is just cooked through, about 30 minutes for the breast pieces.

                       

 
While the chicken and sauce are simmering, boil the fettuccine noodles as indicated on the package.  Once boiled to al dente, strain and set aside.
 
 
Using tongs, transfer the chicken to a platter. If necessary, boil the sauce until it thickens slightly, about 3 minutes.  Spoon off any excess fat from atop the sauce. 
 
Divide the noodles into single servings, top each plate with a chicken breast and spoon the sauce over the chicken.  Finally, sprinkle with romano cheese and fresh basil! 
 
 
 
Serve with a chilled glass of Sauvignon Blanc and enjoy a little bit of Italy…in your own kitchen!
 
Indulge.  In Life.  In Love.  In Food.
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One thought on “Bringing Italy home to Iowa.

  1. Aunt Kelly and Uncle Cory will always be up for babysitting so you can travel……or better yet, we can all travel together and have tag-team baby duties – 8 hands are better than 4! We need a phone date soon 🙂 Miss you!

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