Last month we took the little one to Walt Disney World in Orlando, FL to celebrate her 5th birthday.  During our trip we dined at a fabulous restaurant called Il Mulino New York Trattoria .  It is an Italian restaurant, modeled after the original (in New York) located in the Walt Disney World Swan Resort.  We had an wonderful evening there, full of yummy food.  One of the delicious things we ate there was a complimentary dish, an amuse bouche from the chef.  It was this eggplant dish, served room temperature with bread & spicy crackers and sliced salami.  We loved it!!  Of course, as soon as we got home, I had to try to make it.  So here is my version of Caponata, a traditional Italian appetizer or side dish.  It's like a bruschetta or vegetable relish/ salad.  You can serve it as an appetizer with bread or crackers.  Or as a side or topping on grilled chicken or fish.  I made my version to taste like it did at  Il Muno but you add other tradition ingredients like celery, capers, raisins, & pine nuts to suite your taste.
2 medium- large sized Eggplants
1 pint Cherry Tomatoes
1 medium-large Yellow Onion, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup Black Olives, halved
4-5 Cloves of Garlic, Smashed
1/4 cup Balsamic Vinegar
2 tbsp Red Wine Vinegar
8-9 tbsp Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper, to taste
Fresh, chopped Flat Leaf Italian Parsley
Freshly grated Parmesan, to garnish
Preheat the oven heat to 425 degrees.
Chop the eggplant into 1" (ish) pieces.  Place the eggplant on sheet pans (I used 2) & drizzle with a little olive oil (about 2 1/2 tbsp).  Toss to evenly coat then season with salt & pepper.
Roast for 30-40 minutes, flipping once to ensure even browning.  Let cool on the roasting pan.
Lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees.  Place the whole cherry tomatoes on a roasting pan with the cloves of garlic.  Drizzle a little olive oil lover top then toss to coat (approx 1-2 tbsp).  Make sure to coat the cloves of garlic well with oil so they don't burn.  Season with salt & pepper.
Roast in the oven at 325 degrees for about an hour, until the tomatoes are soft & start to caramelize.
While the tomatoes are roasting, coat the bottom of a large skillet with olive oil & heat to medium.  Add the chopped onion & season with a little salt & pepper.  Saute for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally until they start to caramelize.
Add the roasted tomatoes & garlic to the onions & stir to combine.
Turn off the heat & gently add in the roasted eggplant to the roasted tomatoes, onions & garlic.
Add in the black olives, then pour in the balsamic & red wine vinegar over top.
Toss in some freshly chopped parsley & stir to combine well.
Refrigerate over night to let the flavors marry then bring to room temperate before serving.
You can serve this the day you make it,  just let it sit to room temperate first.  Slice up a baguette, top with some freshly grated Parmesan Cheese & enjoy!

Long Boy "Cheeseburgers"

As soon as I saw this recipe in Cooks Country, I knew my husband would love it.  It's kind of like an open faced cheeseburger but more like a meatloaf or meatball sandwich, all of which the hubs is a huge fan.  It ended up being a bit hit with the whole family!  Even my picky little one.  My husband loved it heated up for lunch the next day too!  It's fun, casual & super easy to make.  Perfect for any night of the week!  Of course, I changed the original recipe some but the method is the same.  And my homemade french fries make the perfect side to go along!
(for the burger patties)
1 lb Lean Ground Beef
3/4 cup Panko Bread Crumbs
2/3 cup French Fried Onions or 1/2 of a Yellow Onion, finely chopped
1 large Egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup Milk
3 tbsp Ketchup
1 tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
1/2 tsp Garlic Powder
Salt & Pepper, to taste
3- 6" Sub Rolls
(for topping)
2 tbsp Ketchup
1 tbsp Yellow Mustard
2 cups Cheddar Cheese, Shredded
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Place the sub rolls, cut side up on a wire rack set on top of a sheet pan.  Bake (with the oven rack in the upper middle position) until golden & crisp, about 5 minutes.
Combine all the ingredients for the burgers in a large bowl, just as you were making a meat loaf or meatballs.  I've made it with both french fried onions & raw chopped onions & like it both ways.  You get a stronger onion flavor with the raw so use according to your liking!  
 Combine the additional 2 tbsp of ketchup with the yellow mustard in a separate dish for the topping.
Top the toasted rolls equally with the meat mixture.  Take care to cover the bread all the way to the edges with the meat mixture so it doesn't burn!  
 Evenly brush the tops with the ketchup & mustard mixture. 
Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the meat registers 160 degrees.  Remove from the oven, top with the shredded cheddar cheese & continue to bake until the cheese is bubbly & melted, about 3-4 minutes.  Let rest 5 minutes before serving.

Mini Hash Browns

Who wouldn't want to wake up to these tasty little hash browns for breakfast?  They are so darn cute & could not be easier to make.  Which is perfect early in the morning before my has coffee kicked in.  You can serve these for breakfast, brunch, breakfast for dinner, when ever!  I use frozen, store bought hash browns but the refrigerated ones work well too.  Of course, you could also shred potatoes & squeeze them out your self.  But I don't, I'm lazy like that...especially at breakfast time.  Besides, I love that I can keep the frozen ones on hand for last minute meals on the fly!!  You can make as few or many of these at a time as you need.  I'd say 2-3 a person per serving.
Shredded Potatoes (Store bought, frozen or refrigerated)
Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper
Non- stick Cooking Spray
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Spray the cups of a sized muffin or cupcake tin with nonstick cooking spray.  Fill each muffin cup about half way with shredded potatoes.  Season with a little salt & pepper.  Then fill the rest of the way, pushing to pack the potatoes in.  You want to make sure to really fill the muffin tin all the way to the top, the shredded potatoes will shrink when the cook so pack them in well!.  Drizzle a little olive oil over the top of each hash brown & lightly season again with salt & pepper.  
Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour, until golden & crispy on the top. (See!  I told you they would shrink.)
Let sit in the muffin tins for a few minutes before tying to remove them so they set.
Serve warm.

Creamy Tortellini with Peas & Parmesan

This is a great summer recipe!  It comes together quickly & with only a few ingredients, it's easy to keep everything on hand for dinner on the fly!  It can be served as an entrĂ©e or a side dish & will please even the pickiest of eaters!
1 lb Cheese Tortellini, frozen or fresh
2 cups Sweet Peas, frozen
2 tbsp Butter
2 cloves of Garlic, minced
1 cup Heavy Cream
1/2 cup of Parmesan Cheese, shredded
Salt & Pepper, to taste

In a large chef's pan, over low- medium heat, add the 2 tbsp of butter.  
When the butter is melted, add the minced garlic & cook 1 minute.  Add in the heavy cream & stir to blend.  Simmer the sauce to thicken, stirring occasionally while you prepare the tortellini.  
Cook the tortellini according to the package directions, adding in the frozen peas for the last 2 minutes.
Drain the peas & tortellini & add it directly to the cream sauce.  Add in the Parmesan Cheese (Reserving some for topping!) & toss to coast well.  Season with salt & pepper to taste.
Serve immediately.