Target Tuesday: Must-Have Kitchen Items

Being that this is a food blog and also being that Target is the greatest store in the history of stores, I decided I just had to link up with Tara for Target Tuesdays so I can share what I find to be essential kitchen items for anyone who would like to cook a good meal.

1. Pots & Pans
My mom bought these pots & pans for me as part of my birthday present and my cooking experiences haven't been the same since. I had never cooked with stainless steel before so there is a slight adjustment period (everything cooks faster!), but now I don't even use my old pots and pans, ever.

2. Slow Cooker/Crock-Pot
The Crock-Pot brand knew what it was doing when it made slow cookers. I mean, honestly, sometimes nothing is better than just being able to throw a bunch of ingredients into a pot and do nothing else until you're ready to serve and eat. 

3. Knives
Admittedly, I only have 2 good knives, but those 2 knives basically save my life on a daily basis. Make your food chopping precise and efficient. I breeze through the cutting of vegetables, fruits, etc etc etc with the knives I have. 

4. Stand Mixer
While stand mixers, in general, are out of my price range, I have had my eye on this yellow one for years. With a $300+ price tag, it's too steep, even for me (impulse shopper and lover of credit cards here!), but it really is essential for baking. The reason I don't generate a millionty Christmas cookies every year? No stand mixer. The reason I bake stupid pound cake instead? No stand mixer. The reason my right arm gets a muscle cramp during baking? I have to use the stupid hand mixer in 3 different bowls to get my baking done. Read: no stand mixer. I'm not kidding when I say that when I come into an extra $300, this is first on my list of items to buy.

Other items on the list: nice dishes, 2 sets of measuring spoons and cups (one for wet ingredients and one for dry), a wine bottle opener, and a food processor. 

Now tell me- what are your essential kitchen items?


J. Alexander's Restaurant

This weekend, I had the pleasure of going to J. Alexander's for my best friend's birthday. Being that I don't generate much income, I don't get to go out to fancy-schmancy dinners very often.  However, a 26th birthday celebration calls for a little spending, right?!

(Also, I got her an Erin Condren planner as a present! How awesome of a friend am I?!)

Mike and I were some of the first to arrive so, being that we decided to wait in the bar area so the birthday girl couldn't immediately see us when she walked in the door (the dinner was a surprise), I ordered a Pomegranate Martini.
I admit, Blue Martini's pomegranate martini is the best. But, J. Alexander's didn't disappoint. It wasn't too strong and it wasn't too fruity. Bonus? The amount of martini that you get filled two glasses. Weeee!

Once we sat, looking at the menu was a challenge for me because everything looked so great. Jackie ordered the chips and salsa for the table as an appetizer (which was eerily similar to Pioneer Woman's Restaurant Style Salsa) and I finally decided on Grilled Pork Tenderloin with NYO (Not Your Ordinary) Mac & Cheese as a side and a caesar salad to start.

Delicious! and not too "anchovy" which is nice. The croutons were of a butter flavor and were perfect.

The pork tenderloin is cured in-house and grilled with bang bang sauce for a nice flavor. The meat wasn't overly grilled. It was juicy and tender and FABULOUS. The mac & cheese was topped with breadcrumbs, tons of cheese, and spices. It was really unlike any mac & cheese I've had before.

Overall, I'd definitely come back. It's a little more than I'd want to spend on a normal night's out (between $20-40/person, before drinks, appetizers, and desserts), but it seemed to be well worth the money. Yum!

I'm also linking up with Magical Monday's blog hop!  :)

J. Alexander's on Urbanspoon


My Blog Design


Really, I do. And it's all thanks to Meg! Around the blogosphere, I had been seeing many websites with Meg's design and I thought she did such an amazing job on theirs that I knew I had to have my own!

So, when I decided to start this site, I commissioned Meg's help in designing it. Basically, all I did was tell her what colors I was thinking of and she ran with it. I think this entire process took less than a week!

I recommend Meg as much as I recommend a girls night out, complete with friends and martinis. So, click the button (below) to visit Meg's site. Even if you aren't in the market for a blog design, you should just read her blog anyway.



Pinkberry is, in a word, amazing. I first tried Pinkberry about 5 months ago when they opened at a local mall. I happened to be at the mall, meeting friends for lunch, before heading to David's Bridal to try on bridesmaids dresses. As we were leaving the mall, these wonderful Pinkberry employees had samples outside- pomegranate froyo with strawberries and mangos on top. Delicious! and I had never had froyo that was so good.

After we were done dress shopping, we headed back to the mall to our respective cars. But, before I took off, I had to sneak back for yet another sample of what would become my favorite treat in the history of treats.

Since that fateful day, I've become obsessed and I've introduced many to the wonders of Pinkberry. With their fantastic flavors, fresh fruit toppings, delicious and plentiful dry toppings (think: fruity pebbles, granola, and yogurt chips, among other things), and liquid toppings (honey, caramel), it's difficult to say no to more froyo.

Tuesday, I headed with my mom to the new Citrus Park Pinkberry location to try their newest flavor: Peanut Butter. A standard PB calls for their organic strawberry jam and toasted breadcrumbs, but I decided to forgo those toppings and opted instead for bananas and heath bar pieces.

Have any of you had Pinkberry? What is your favorite flavor and toppings combo?

Pinkberry on Urbanspoon


Macaroni & Cheese (some of the best you'll ever have)

French fries. Cheeseburgers. Chicken wings. Pizza. Typical foods that we just can't get enough of, right? Another food? Macaroni & Cheese!

My good friends Bonnie and Nick gave me this great recipe for homemade Mac & Cheese that I'd like to share with you all.

Macaroni and Cheese


1-1.5 cups noodles

1/4 cup margarine or butter

1 small onion, chopped

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

1/4 cup flour

1 3/4 cups milk

8 ounces sharp cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (I used all cheddar, but my friends typically use 1/2 cheddar and 1/2 something else, like swiss)


Cook noodles as directed and drain.

In another pot, stir together and cook the margarine, onion, salt and pepper over medium heat until onion is slightly tender. 

Blend the flour in the pot with the margarine and onion. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is smooth and bubbly. *Apparently, it's very important to continue to stir constantly. It's easy to mess this part up and think the mixture is done before it actually is. But, this step should take between 5-10 minutes and result in a more liquid substance than when you first started.*

Remove from heat and stir in milk. Return to heat and heat to boiling. Once the mixture starts to boil, stir constantly for a full minute. Then, remove from heat again. Stir in cheese cubes until melted.

Place cooked noodles in an ungreased casserole dish. Stir cheese sauce into noodles. Cook uncovered at 375 degrees for 30 minutes.

For an added bonus, sprinkle some shredded cheese on top!


Voila! This way of making Mac & Cheese is definitely more tedious than the boxes with the little packet of cheese sauce, but it's worth it! I felt accomplished and I ate a whole plateful. Delicioso!


Cowboy Stew (thanks be to Publix)

I know some of you aren't fortunate enough to have Publix Supermarkets where you live. Take my word for it, it's the best grocery store in existence. Not only are they clean and always well-stocked, but they are quick to order special products for individuals, they always have food samples as you shop, AND some have a COOKING SCHOOL. From 16-19 years of age, I worked at a couple of different Publix locations by my house and (is it sad?) I'm really passionate about this grocery store.

If you live by a Publix, or plan on visiting a city with a Publix, I encourage you to sign up for the cooking school. The cooking school isn't like a college with real semesters. They offer many different classes that you can sign up for and attend with friends and family, depending on what you'd like to learn and what cuisine you are interested in. From the website:

"Whether you're a brand-new beginner or an experienced cook wanting to expand your repertoire, we have classes that you'll find entertaining and informative. Renowned chefs, authors, cooking celebrities and restaurant chefs make the culinary arts accessible and fun. Some classes focus on certain cuisines or cooking techniques, others center on topics such as desserts or holidays. We also offer deliciously entertaining gourmet food and wine tastings, and cooking classes just for kids and teens."

The cooking school is called Apron's and while only a select few locations have the actual school (the first Publix I worked at did and we had everyone from Wolfgang Puck to Emeril host classes), every Publix has a little Apron's station where you can almost always find a Publix associate making a delicious meal. And I'm talking, a full meal. Hurry because they go fast, but the associate will show everyone how easy it is to follow along with Publix Apron's Simple Meals (there are currently over 700 recipes online) and he/she will create an entire meal (sides and all), break it up into sample plates, and disburse.

My go-to stew is called Cowboy Stew and thanks to Publix, it's become quite the staple meal in my house.

Cowboy Stew
(adapted from Publix Simple Meals)


1 lb. beef for stew

1 packet taco seasoning mix (about 1 ounce)

Large zip-top bag

1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes with garlic and onion (undrained)

1 (10-ounce) can milder diced tomatoes and green chiles (undrained)

1 cup refried beans

2 cups frozen seasoning blend (diced onions, bell peppers, celery)

2 (16-ounce) cans pinto beans (drained)

Sprinkle of parmesan cheese


Preheat slow cooker on high. Place beef and taco seasoning in zip-top bag; shake to coat. Transfer beef and seasoning to slow cooker. 

Stir in canned tomatoes (including liquid), refried beans, seasoning blend, and the sprinkle of parmesan cheese. 

Pour pinto beans on top of mixture (do not stir from this point on until you are ready to serve). Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook 8-10 hours. Serve.


As you can see, the recipe really calls for little effort. I was able to just throw all ingredients in there before I left for work and it was all ready for us when I came home. The boyfriend even told me that the delicious aroma from the stew is what woke him up. Don't you love when that happens to you? The beef becomes so tender and because it breaks apart a little while cooking, there is meat is every bite. The stew is also a little spicy thanks to the green chiles, but it's perfection!

Make and enjoy!

*I did not receive any compensation for doing this post. Publix is just awesome, y'all. 


Sausage Stuffed Zucchini Boats

A couple of months ago, when Mike (the boyfriend) and I would have normally spent our Friday night with friends or at the movies, we stayed in to watch the Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Pittsburgh Penguins in the NHL Playoffs. Because it's crucial to never miss a Lightning playoff game, I decided to stay in and cook a meal that I had been itching to try: Sausage Stuffed Zucchini Boats from Kitchen Belleicious, who has some pretty fantastic recipes!

Sausage Stuffed Zucchini Boats
(adapted and re-posted, with permission, from Jessica at Kitchen Belleicious)


3 medium size zucchini

1 red bell pepper, chopped

1 green bell pepper, chopped

1/2 onion, chopped

1 pound of Italian sausage

1/2 cup mozzarella cheese

1 tsp salt and pepper each

2 eggs

1/2 cup bread crumbs

1 tsp Emeril's Creole (Bayou Blast) seasoning

1 tsp garlic powder


Cut zucchini in half lengthwise. Using a small spoon, carefully scoop out flesh and seeds, leaving a 1/4-inch-thick shell around the edges. Discard seeds and set aside the flesh. Take the flesh and chop into small pieces for the stuffing. 

Cook the sausage until no longer pink. Drain and set aside. 

Saute the onions and peppers in the same cooking pan until nice and tender, approximately 6-8 minutes. Add the chopped flesh of the zucchini along with the seasonings and 1/4 cup of mozzarella cheese.

In a large bowl, combine the sausage and veggie mixture with the breadcrumbs and eggs. Mix together with your hands until thoroughly combined. Place zucchini boats in a single layer in a greased baking dish and divide the stuffing equally among the boats, making sure to mound the stuffing. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese and bake 35-40 minutes at 375* until stuffing looks nice and browned.


And that's all, folks! The original recipe has some extra ingredients, which I'm sure would only enhance the wonderful flavor of the filling, but being that I didn't have these ingredients on-hand, I opted out and just worked with what I had! Also, she used Slap Your Mama seasoning, but I couldn't find it at my local grocery store. Instead, I decided that Emeril's Cajun seasoning would be close enough!

Please go check out Kitchen Belleicious- you will not regret it! And special thanks to Jessica for the permission to re-print! 

*Warning: you might experience continual thoughts of this dish, making you salivate and wake up at 2am for a quick snack. Also, your significant other might not be able to stop singing your praises. In addition, you might just fight with said significant other over the last zucchini and if you aren't mature, you'll rock-paper-scissors for the win.



Mangiamo! [maan-jaah-mo] translates to "Let's Eat!" in Italian.

That's what this blog is all about--food! More importantly, food that you can share with your friends and loved ones.

I created this blog because, for as far back as I can remember, my Italian grandfather has gathered our family around (several) dinner tables, often crowded into his living room, for his "often imitated, never duplicated" pasta. We gather, we eat, we laugh, and we converse until our stomachs are full and it takes every strength in our bones to get up and start packing our leftovers.

To me, food is family. Food is laughter. Food is passion. Food is a journey.

Thank you for following along! xoxo