Tre Stelle Cheese and Chili

Tre Stelle Cheese containers and ChilliIt’s still winter, which means we want easy, fast, comforting meals. The kind of meals that make us feel cozy. Meals that taste even better the next day, so we don’t have to cook twice, and are great for a crowd. We often travel in packs in the winter, moving from skating rink, to hockey arena, to tobogganing hill.  And then we want to reward ourselves for braving the cold, with hot food.  So to this I say, chili!  Even if it weren’t winter, but say, just a super chilly day, chili is still the answer!

Chili is one of those meals that inspires individuality and personality.  It can be as simple or as complex as we want.  After developing the basic skills to bring various veggies, legumes, spices and perhaps meat together confidently, we aren’t worried about the numbers: how many carrots, how much garlic, how much meat, etc.  We get a ‘feel’ for what we want the finished chili to taste like.  Perhaps our heritage will influence our choice of ingredients.  So we forgo everything that we’ve been told and put our own spin on it.  So truly, a simple pot of chili becomes a delicious expression of our skills, our heritage, and our creativity.

Tre Stelle Cheese and Chilli

I’m putting my own spin on a standard chili recipe that will feed eight. With a few changes, we can make an Italian, Spanish, or even Moroccan inspired chili.  I’m heading to Spain with the recipe below.  I really wanted to develop a recipe that allows for vegetarian options. While I use a fresh sausage for the protein, you can totally omit and just increase the beans and veggies for a vegetarian option.

And even better, while the chili is bubbling away, we get to think about the toppings. There are the obvious ones: chopped avocado, shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, but how about shaking it up with something new?  I’m thinking of Tre Stelle® Ricotta blended with Italian herbs and roasted red peppers, spread on ciabatta and grilled for an Italian crostini topped chili.  Or perhaps crumbling Tre Stelle® Feta and tossing it with ground almonds, pistachios, fresh mint leaves and spices for a Moroccan twist.  For my Spanish inspired chili, take Tre Stelle® Bocconcini balls, wrap them with serano ham and olives for a delicious tapas version!

If you’re feeling especially ambitious, prepare all three of these fantastic toppings and lay out a chili bar for your guests to crown their chili bowls.

All of these toppings will work with any version of chili you choose to create. Enjoy!

Love Jen.

 

Tre Stelle Cheese and Chilli

Spanish Chili with Three Tre Stelle Toppings

Ingredients:

Spanish Chili

3 tbsp olive oil

1 large onion, diced

5 cloves of garlic, minced

4 fresh chorizo sausages, from the butcher, casings removed

1 tbsp chilli powder

1 tbsp dried rosemary

2 tsp dried thyme

2 tsp espelette pepper

2 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp sweet paprika

2 large carrots, cut into 1/2 inch quarters

2 large sweet red pepper, seeded and diced into 1/2 pieces

2 large celery sticks, sliced into 1/2 pieces

2 28 oz (796 ml) cans of diced or crushed tomatoes

1 14-19 oz (400-540 ml) white beans or romano, drained and rinsed

2 medium zucchini, sliced into 1/2 inch slices

fresh parsley to garnish

Tre Stelle Ricotta Italian topping

Italian Ricotta Ciabatta Crostini

8 slices of ciabatta loaf

2 tbsp olive oil

3/4 cup Tre Stelle Smooth Ricotta Cheese

3 tbsp chopped roasted red pepper

2 tbsp fresh rosemary leaves, chopped

2 tbsp fresh basil leaves, chopped

olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

Tre Stelle Bocconcini Spanish Tapas topping

Spanish Bocconcini Ball topping

16 Tre Stelle Bocconcini balls, drained well

8-16 slices of Serrano Ham, (if large, can slice 8 slices in half lengthwise)

16 Spanish style or Greek pitted olives

Espellete pepper

kosher salt and cracked pepper

olive oil for drizzling

16 cocktail skewers

Tre Stelle Feta Moroccan topping

Moroccan Feta Crumble topping

1/4 cup pistachios

1/4 cup almonds

3/4 cup Tre Stelle Feta cheese

1/4 cup chopped fresh mint

1/4- 1/2 tsp harissa powder

kosher salt and cracked pepper

 

Directions:

Chili
Sauté the onions and garlic in a large dutch oven or pot over medium heat, until just turning translucent, about 3 minutes.

Remove the meat from the sausage casings and add to the pot. Raise the heat to medium high. Using a cooking spoon, break up the meat until small and crumbly, no longer pink but rather turning crispy, about 7-8 minutes.

Add the spices and stir to coat well.

Add the carrots, peppers and celery, and cook till just starting to soften, about 5-7 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and all juice and bring to a low boil.  Reduce the heat to a simmer and cover slightly with the lid.  Let it simmer for about 30 minutes, till veggies are almost tender.

Add the can of beans.  Continue to simmer another 10 minutes.

Add the zucchini pieces and simmer another 5-10 minutes.

Season with salt and pepper, and re-season with any of the spices or herbs you’d like to taste more of!

Garnish with the fresh parsley.

Serve with a medley of toppings, including one of the toppings I’ve created below

 

Italian Ricotta Ciabatta Crostini topping

Preheat the oven to 375F, set rack in the middle.

Lay out the ciabatta slices on a baking sheet and lightly brush with olive oil

Toast in the oven, till golden brown.

Combine the rest of the ingredients together and spread evenly on each slice of bread.

Return to the oven and set it to broil.  Broil for about 5 minutes, till spread is warmed through.

Drizzle with a touch more olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

 

Moroccan Feta Crumble topping

Spread the pistachios and almonds in a cast iron skillet or other sturdy skillet.  Toast over medium heat till just warming and turning golden.  Watch them, they shouldn’t take too long.  Allow to cool and then chop.  Aim for a smaller size rather than too rough.

Crumble the Feta cheese into a medium sized bowl.  Make sure the crumble is is pretty uniform in size.

Add the chopped nuts, as well as the mint.  Stir to combine well.

Season with harissa and salt and pepper to taste.

 

Spanish Tapas Bocconcini ball topping

Take one slice of Serrano Ham (it should be around 5 inches long and 1inch wide) and guide one end onto a cocktail skewer.

Add one bocconcini ball.

Wrap the ham around the ball and skewer it again, to capture the cheese inside the ham.

Add an olive onto the skewer.  Wrap the ham around the olive, thus trapping it on the skewer as well.

Repeat with the remaining 15 skewers.

Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with peppers and salt as desired

 

Spinach ravioli with Ricotta filling

spinach ravioli with ricotta 4March 20th is National Ravioli Day! A perfect opportunity to include the kids in the preparation of a beloved Italian classic – after all, food has a way of bringing family together.

Cooking with your kids is a great way to springboard them into a life full of appreciation for food and food culture, let alone an understanding of healthy eating habits. Including them in the process gives them a foundation to learn that the kitchen is a blank canvas. Cooking is a creative outlet that provides sustenance and nutrition.

With our busy schedules, it’s not always easy to catch up at the end of the day.  Spending time in the kitchen preparing food and eating together helps keep families connected and around the table after a busy day.  Assigning tasks such as setting the table or prepping items to other family members will help set the stage for a successful meal.

There’s no shortage of “kid friendly” recipes out there. Sure, the kitchen might get a little messy, but this is a great opportunity to educate the little ones on the importance of cleanliness when handling food. As my great aunt used to say “if there’s time to lean, there’s time to clean”.

Having been born and raised in Italy, I was introduced to pasta fresca (fresh pasta) at a young age by my grandmother. I can still hear her voice as she walked me through her recipe step by step. Of course, this memory is drenched in nostalgia, but it serves as proof that inviting your children to take part in food preparation will nurture a positive perception of cooking. Some might say the proof is in the pudding. In my case the proof was in the pasta. To this day, when I visit my home in Italy, I stand side by side with my mother, making fresh ravioli and tagliatelle, as we share stories of the past, present and future.

The recipe I am sharing with you is Spinach Ravioli filled with Tre Stelle® Ricotta. In traditional ravioli, spinach is often mixed in with Ricotta before being added as the filling. This time I’ve worked the spinach into the pasta resulting in a colorful spin that is sure to generate interest in the young minds of your sous chefs. Did I mention this is a great way to hide extra veggies in your kids meals?

Let them crack an egg or two, under supervision of course, and ask them to get their hands messy by mixing the ingredients. Once the pasta has been rolled out, offer them a strip to make their own Ravioli. Their imagination will be ignited and their pride will be front and center as they sit across from you at the table, enjoying the fruits, or raviolis, of their labour.

Sharing your love of cooking is extremely rewarding, especially when you’re inspiring the next generation.

spinach ravioli with ricotta 3

Ingredients for 4 p.

Pasta:

1 cup of boiled and well-drained spinach (60 gr. approximately)

3 eggs

50 gr. of durum wheat semolina for dusting

250 gr. of all-purpose flour

1 tbsp. of olive oil

Salt

 

Filling:

1 tub Tre Stelle® Ricotta

Salt, pepper and nutmeg

Tomato sauce for plating.

 

For the filling:

Strain the Ricotta using a strainer then place the Ricotta in a bowl with a pinch of salt, pepper and nutmeg. Mix and let sit.

For the dough:

Mix flour, semolina, spinach and olive in a bowl, add salt and mix.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface, knead a few minutes, roll it into a ball and let rest for 30 minutes at room temperature, covered with a kitchen towel.

Cut the dough in 3-4 parts, cover the pieces you are not using to prevent them from drying out.

Dust the counter and dough with a little flour, then press the dough into a rectangle and roll it through a pasta machine, 2 or 3 times, at widest setting.

Pull and stretch the sheet of dough with the palm of your hand as it emerges from the rollers. Reduce the setting and crank the dough through again, 2 or 3 times.

Continue tightening until the machine is at the second narrowest setting (long thin sheets are the goal here). Avoid too much flour on the dough sheets.

Using a glass or a cutter, made discs of dough (about 8 cm wide).

Place a teaspoon of Ricotta filling on each disc and fold the edge, wrapping the filling.

Press your fingers along the edge, eliminating any air pockets.

Using a pasta cutter to add some flare to each ravioli.

Cook the ravioli for 2-3 minutes in a large pot of salted boiling water with a few drops of oil.

Drain gently with a slotted spoon, plate the ravioli with tomato sauce, drizzle with olive oil and serve.

 

 

 

 

Making plans for a colourful March Break

Life with kids is full of colour – whether that’s the crayons you find under the couch or the active days of imagination and laughter. And that seems to double during March Break. It’s always good to plan for some downtime and some activities to keep the kids busy. And usually, I find myself gravitating towards the kitchen for these projects. My thought is this: if we’re getting our hands messy, it might as well be for something to eat or leftovers to prep for the freezer. Here’s some ideas to try this March Break:

 

Creative Ricotta Toasts

Break out of a breakfast rut by making a colourful topping bar for toasts. Swap out nut butters or chocolate spreads for Tre Stelle Ricotta packed with protein to ensure the kids get some wholesome calcium with breakfast and then have them top the toast with nutrient-rich veggies or fruits. Make the toasts savoury: top the Ricotta with avocado, bacon, tomatoes or other colourful veggies. Or go sweet: mix the Ricotta with a teaspoon of sugar (or drizzle with honey) and top with plums, strawberries or even bananas. Let the kids go wild mixing flavours and colours, making designs and getting excited about their creations.

 

Freezer-ready DIY Pizza Pockets

Get ready for a few splatters on the kitchen table! Store-bought pizza dough is a great way to easily create calzones, a type of hand pie, full of pizza goodness (in other words a homemade pizza pocket!) Kids can roll out the dough in small circles and then choose their sauce and cheeses. Let them pick from colourful toppings like pesto, tomato or even romesco sauce. Chop up some vibrant veggies like peppers and broccoli. And finally, offer a range of cheeses to finish their creations: Tre Stelle Bocconcini, Mozzarella and Feta make great choices. Fold the small pizzas in half, sealing the edges with a little water and pinching it with a fork. Place the calzones on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake until golden brown. These “pizza pockets” are great to eat while watching movies on the couch and easy to freeze for lunches when the kids get back to class. So go ahead and make too many!

 

Mascarpone Truffles

A delicious activity everyone will love! Melt chocolate with cream, stir in cookie or cereal crumbs and Tre Stelle Mascarpone until you have a thick consistency that’s ready to roll. What I love about this recipe is that every step is pretty much kid-friendly. They can stir the chocolate safely on a double boiler, watching the change as the ingredients melt and meld. They can crush cookies, or even cereal “o”’s, with their hands (I like placing them in a sealable bag and then let them bash at it with a wooden spoon or the back of a cup measure). They can stir together the ingredients and then get rolling. Amp up the fun with different decorating sprinkles and even package them up to give as gifts to friends or teachers as they return to school. This colourful recipe truly reflects the laughs and fun kids bring to your life… and to the kitchen!

 

 

trestelle_ldamelio_Jan17Kid-Friendly Mascarpone Truffles

4 oz milk chocolate

4 oz table cream

1 1/2 cup cookie or cereal crumbs

135 g mascarpone cheese

 

Over a double boiler, melt chocolate and cream together. When fully combined, remove from the heat and mix in the crumbs and cheese. Chill overnight in the refrigerator.

 

Using a small spoon or ice cream scoop, scoop out balls of the chocolate mixture. Roll briefly in your hands before rolling them in a topping to decorate. Use sprinkles, cookie crumbs, chocolate or anything else that would coat nicely.

Raspberry Ricotta “Strudel” in time for Entertaining

trestelle_ldamelionov1_03

Finger foods go hand in hand with the holidays – my favourite meals start with a platter of finger foods, move on to shared family mains with everyone passing plates and laughing, and end with a fancy dessert. What’s a dead giveaway that a dessert is fancy? It comes to you plated (rather than grabbing cookies out of a bag, let’s say), warm and delicious.

 

There’s something luxurious about warm desserts that are just garnished for the holidays, with berries tumbling to the side as you carry it out to guests. But luxurious doesn’t always have to mean complicated. I recently took to making one of simplest of desserts that looks the fanciest and perfect for the holidays: Raspberry Ricotta “Strudel.” I’m calling it a strudel for how it’s wrapped up, but I’ll concede it’s not the classic type. And it uses store-bought phyllo sheets, which adds to its’ ease.

 

The trick to making it fancy is in how you lay out the phyllo sheets. You set them out flat, butter and layer them, then crinkle them in the middle, creating crevasses and creases that will get crunchy and flaky when baked. The mix of the soft and sweet ricotta with savoury and crunchy phyllo makes for a dessert that seems more complicated than it is to make. You can assemble these in minutes and pop them in the oven to get back to entertaining without a worry.

 

Raspberry Ricotta Strudel

(Makes approximately 12 desserts)

1 tub/475g Tre Stelle® Extra Smooth Ricotta Cheese

1 cup granulated sugar

1 egg plus 1 egg yolk

1 package/454g phyllo pastry

1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted

1/2 pint fresh raspberries

Icing sugar (optional)

 

trestelle_ldamelionov1_02Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.

 

Mix together Tre Stelle® Ricotta Cheese, sugar, and eggs. Wash raspberries and gently pat dry.

 

Remove phyllo pastry from the packaging and lay the sheets out flat. Remove one sheet and lay it out flat on a clean work surface. Using a pastry brush, lightly coat the sheet with melted butter. Cover with another sheet of phyllo and repeat the butter. Using the tips of your fingers, gently crumple the centre of the phyllo sheets to create a slightly crinkled look. Place three to four table spoons of the Ricotta mixture on the phyllo, about three inches from the short end of the sheets. Place 5 raspberries on the ricotta. To wrap the Ricotta mixture, fold the short end the phyllo over the Ricotta and raspberries, tuck in the ends and continue to roll until the phyllo creates a closed envelope. Transfer to your baking sheet. While working on the phyllo, be sure to cover the sheets not in use with a lightly damp towel to keep them moist.

 

Bake phyllo packets for 15-20 minutes until they are golden brown and crispy. Remove from the oven and place on individual plates immediately. Garnish with icing sugar and more raspberries.

 

12 Healthy, No-Cook, Family-Friendly Snack Ideas

TreStelle_HealthySnacks_01The idea of snacking can be divisive. Some think you should ban it to avoid overeating, and others consider it essential to keeping your metabolism running consistently throughout the day. If you have kids, you probably consider snacks crucial to a smooth-running day! I personally need snacks to keep my energy levels up between meals, and my toddler son needs them to fuel up between enthusiastic playing, running, and climbing sessions. To avoid falling for salty, fatty snacks (which are so easy to reach for), I try to always have fresh fruits, vegetables, and cheese in the fridge so I can assemble healthy bites as quickly as possible. The snacks I like to make are not only beautiful to look at, attracting the curiosity and interest of little ones, but also nutritious, effectively appeasing hunger pangs without leading to overindulgence.

The following healthy snack ideas don’t require any cooking, making them especially handy for hot summer days, and they won’t keep you in the kitchen for too long. Some chopping is involved, but then it’s just a matter of assembling the bites, which the kids will love helping you do. Each bite features a main fruit or vegetable, a Cheese, a protein, and some flavorings. If you want to take a shortcut, you can skip the flavorings altogether, but they add a delightful complexity and a certain sophistication to the snacks. Each snack idea is great for calming appetites on a busy weeknight while you prepare dinner, but you can also make several of the bites to create gorgeous spreads for brunch, cocktail parties, or special events, such as baby showers. In short, they’re versatile, healthy bites you’ll want to serve all summer long.

TreStelle_HealthySnacks_04

  1. Blueberries + Ricotta + Almonds + Honey
    Halve mini-pitas. Spoon some Ricotta over each piece, top with blueberries and almonds, and drizzle with honey. As an alternative, you could also fill the mini-pitas with the ingredients instead.
  2. Apple + Ricotta + Chicken + Walnuts
    Slice an apple thinly. Core the pieces that need it. Spoon some Ricotta over each slice, then add chopped roasted chicken. Top with a walnut half.
  3. Spinach + Ricotta + Bacon + Pumpkin Seeds
    Transfer some Ricotta in a small bowl. Chop a handful of baby spinach very finely, then mix it in. Spoon the mixture into edible crispy shells or over crackers, then add a piece of cooked bacon and sprinkle with toasted pumpkin seeds.
  4. Avocado + Chickpeas + Feta + Sunflower Seeds
    Smash the avocado with a fork and squeeze in some lemon juice so it doesn’t brown. Spread over slices of toasted baguette, then top with cooked chickpeas (make sure to rinse canned chickpeas thoroughly before using). Sprinkle with crumbled Feta and sunflower seeds.
  5. Cucumber + Feta + Walnuts + Basil
    Slice a cucumber into thick rounds. Top with cubes of Feta cheese. Sprinkle with chopped walnuts and fresh basil.
  6. Cherry Tomatoes + Feta + Corn + Coriander
    Sprinkle crumbled Feta on tortilla chips. Top with a halved cherry tomato. Add a spoonful of cooked corn kernels over each tortilla chip, then finish with fresh coriander leaves.
  7. Dates + Mascarpone + Prosciutto + Lemon Zest
    Cut open each date to remove the pit. Fill each date with Mascarpone Cheese. Sprinkle with finely grated lemon zest, then wrap each date in prosciutto.
  8. Strawberries + Mascarpone + Maple Syrup + Thyme
    Dice the strawberries. Spread some Mascarpone Cheese over salted crackers. Top with diced strawberries. Drizzle with maple syrup and finish with fresh thyme leaves.
  9. Mushrooms + Mascarpone + Pesto + Toasted Panko
    Remove the mushroom stems and place the caps upside down on a serving plate. In a small bowl, mix some Mascarpone with a spoonful or two of pesto. Fill each mushroom cap with the Mascarpone-pesto mixture, then sprinkle with toasted panko crumbs.
  10. Melon + Bocconcini + Ham + Mint
    Cut the melon into cubes (any melon variety will do). Top each cube with a strip of smoked ham, then add a leaf of fresh mint. Finish with a Bocconcini pearl and secure with a toothpick to serve.
  11. Zucchini + Bocconcini + Hazelnuts + Lemon Zest
    Cut the zucchini into thick rounds and grill lightly, if desired. Let cool, then top each round with a halved Bocconcini. Finish with chopped hazelnuts and finely grated lemon zest.
  12. Figs + Bocconcini + Pistachio + Olive Oil
    Halve fresh or dried figs, then use your finger to lightly press into the center of each fig, so to create a shallow indentation. Grind the pistachios, then roll Bocconcini pearls into the nuts. Press one pearl into each fig, then sprinkle with more ground pistachios. Finish with a drizzle of aromatic extra-virgin olive oil.