Monday, June 28, 2010

Eggplant Parm 'N' Pesto Quesadilla

New York. The Big Apple. The City That Never Sleeps. The Empire State.  Whatever you call it, to me it will always be
the roots of my tree.
The place I was born, where I spent the early part of my childhood growing up, and where most of my family still lives today.

There's no other place quite like it...the raw energy couldn't be duplicated even if you finds it's way into your veins and gives you a rush like nothing you've ever felt before.
Times Square is mesmerizing no matter what time of day...
taxis honking, weaving in and out of traffic...
people surging up and down subway stairs. 

I love how small I feel beneath the skycrapers of Manhattan - how the skyline twinkles at night - the smell of fresh basil, pasta, pizza and pastries throughout the streets of Little Italy - the trendy boutiques and cafes in SoHo - the buzz on Broadway - even the hustle and bustle in Grand Central Station.

Ohhhh but what I love MOST about New York resides on the east side of Long Island, on a tree lined street in Ronkonkoma, in Aunt Marie's Kitchen....and that's Grandma's cookin'. Meat-a-balls as big as your head. Eggplant Parmigaina baked to perfection. The very thought of it puts me in a groove of emotion I can hardly contain....fuhgettaboudit... I can almost taste them right now.....just a small sample of the 150,000 calories I usually consume while sitting at Grandma Tina's table.

Of course, if she doesn't witness you eat the food with her own eyes it doesn't count, so you always want to make sure she actually sees you putting the food in your mouth, otherwise, you're sure to hear "eh, Jaiiiime, you-a so skinny, you don't-a eat nothing...come-a eat, eh, mangia mangia"...and believe me, she's watching...with arms folded in the corner, giving nods of approval with each bite....before you know it, the platters start coming your way... antipasta, baked ziti, sausage and peppers, scotchada, lemon chicken, caprese, garlic knots, and trust me, that's just the beginning..... The most special memories I carry with me involve eating around the table with mi familia.

This recipe I'd like to share with you today is a beautiful fusion of Italian and Mexican cuisine. My love affair with basil comes in to play and combines itself with the flavorful crispy goodness of eggplant cutlets layered with ripe juicy roma tomatoes, and 3 cheeses all snuggled up in a warm tortilla. A quesadilla is sort of like a mexican version of a panini, yes? The only limits are your imagination when it comes to creative combinations of ingredients to serve up, so go a little crazy and try something my Eggplant Parm 'n' Pesto Quesadilla....and make some beautiful memories
with the ones you love....mangia!Photobucket
Eggplant Parm 'n' Pesto Quesadilla

3 - 3 to 4" pieces from a small oblong eggplant appx. 1/4" thick
1 egg, beaten with a splash of water
1/2 cup of breadcrumbs
3/4 teaspoon of salt
*(SHORTCUT: In a pinch, you can also substitute 6 small frozen eggplant cutlets that can be found in freezer section of most grocery stores, I like Trader Joe's, if so eliminate above ingredients)
2 tbsp of olive oil
2 oz. of cream cheese, softened
5 tbsp of pesto (recipe for pesto below)
1 Large Roma Tomato, sliced
1/2 cup of grated Parmiggano Reggiano, divided
1/4 cup of grated Fontina Cheese
1/8 tsp of cracked black pepper
1 - 10" tortilla
cooking spray

to prepare eggplant:
slice 3 to 4 pieces of eggplant from the large part of the eggplant into 1/4" thick slices
salt front and back of each eggplant slice, lay on plate for 10 minutes so it will sweat out any bitterness
then, rinse each eggplant slice off well to get salt off and pat dry
dip in egg and then bread each side in breadcrumbs
*(if substituting frozen eggplant cutlets, you may skip the above steps)
fry in olive oil until medium golden brown on both sides
lay on paper towl to drain

to assemble quesadilla:
lay tortilla on cutting board side by side
spread cream cheese evenly on tortilla
spread pesto evenly on top of cream cheese on tortilla
sprinkle 1/4 cup of parmiggano reggiano on one half of tortilla
lay eggplant cutlets evenly on same half of the tortilla
sprinkle fontina cheese just on top of eggplant cutlets
lay roma tomatoes evenly on top of fontina cheese and eggplant cutlets only
sprinkle remaining parmiggano reggiano on top of tomatoes
sprinkle cracked black pepper evenly over parmiggano reggiano
fold other half of tortilla over to cover eggplants cutlets so that it forms a half quesadilla

to cook quesadilla:
spray large skillet or flat iron gridle with cooking spray
place assembled quesadilla on top of pan or gridle over medium-high heat
cook appx. 2 to 3 minutes and flip gently making sure to keep ingredients inside quesadilla intact
cook other side appx 2 to 3 minutes or until cheese is melted and tortilla has a medium golden brown crispiness to it
place on cutting board and use pizza cutter or large knife to cut into 4 pie pieces
plate, serve hot and mangia!

Basil Pesto
2 cups fresh Basil Leaves
2 garlic cloves
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts (pignoli, pinon)
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
pinch of salt
pinch of black pepper
Blend all ingredients in a blender, voila!
*I like to mix in 1/2 cup of shredded parmiggano reggiano after the pesto is blended for an extra layer of flavor :)

I want to take a moment to thank for presenting me with "the beautiful blogger award" - I truly am speechless. It is such an honor to be noted for bringing some beauty into another's life and I am truly grateful for this acknowledgement. I would love to pass this special award on to the following blogs: Life Beyond The Picket Fence, Let me think, sophistimom, The Art of Choosing Joy, Enjoying the Small Things, and HELLO my name is Heather - you all have brought beauty to me through your magnificent blogs - keep shining sweet bellas!

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Sunshine Award...

It was only a year and a half ago, just north of Santa Fe, in the mountains of Glorietta, New Mexico, that I spent an unforgettable weekend with three of the most precious bellas you have ever known.

Each one of us arrived OVERSATURATED, yet filled with anticipation of what those next few days would hold. We unpacked our weary spirits and hungry hearts, and tucked them away ever so gently in hopes that our desperate need for rejuvination wasn't painfully obvious at first glance. But it was.

The lodge was rugged, intended to host a much larger crowd, but as PROVIDENCE would have it, it was just us....four souls unknowingly about to be woven into the very fabric of each others lives....

Our antennas were up, and we were yearning for solitude....the tranquil, stripping, contemplative kind of solitude that would allow us to tap in to the quiet rousing of our souls. We laughed, we cried, we walked, we prayed, we sorted through our confusions and peeled back our layers until the rawness began to sting....we embraced and tended to each others wounds....we carried each others burdens and lifted each others spirits, and our hearts were able to find fresh air again.
We left that mountainside thinking, believing, and loving more seriously than we already had thought, believed and loved...I tell you not a single one of us walked away from that weekend unchanged.

Flash forward to present day....prayers have been answered, hearts have been changed, lessons have been learned, insight has been obtained on how the very trials and tribulations that brought us to our knees were used so precisely to do remarkable things deep within. We have set sail on to new adventures, with new attitudes, and new perspectives. We have allowed ourselves to be stretched outside of our comfort zones, take more risks, be more vulnerable, more alive...and more importantly, moreAWAKE.

And it is with that in mind that I type to you now, at 3 AM in the morning, holding 3 paper plates in my hands that are very near and dear to my heart. You see, on the last evening of our weekend retreat, we presented one another with a "paper plate award." And what an evening it was....With snacks in hand and kool aid grins on our faces, we giggled and snickered into the wee hours of night as we cheerfully decorated our plates with magic markers and heartfelt sentiments to give to each woman in the room as a token of our time spent together. The awards given to me on that memorable evening were the "diligent seeker award," the "compassionate prayer warrior award," and the "heart of joy/song of love" award.
Last night I came to learn that I have been presented with "The Sunshine Award," for blogs that add a little sunshine and inspiration to your day. What an unexpected surprise! As a new blogger, this means a whole lot to me, and I am truly grateful to be able to touch another soul and bring some inspiration and sunshine to their day. And because of YOU, in just 4 short weeks over 100 bellas have packed their bags and hit the road with Mangiabella to journey along with me on this new adventure. unbelievable...I am truly humbled, and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to share more inspirational thoughts and delicious food with you in the days ahead.

Keep Shining Sweet Bellas!

and now....Congratulations to Lucy from! You are the winner of Mangiabella's first giveaway....the toddler tutu by Huggabugbaby LLC....
*winner chosen at random using

Monday, June 14, 2010

Play Sublimely...


"Your playing small does not serve the world...

We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us."

~ M. Williamson

If I could be any instrument in the world, I would be a Stradivarius Violin. No doubt you can understand why. The very name personifies virtuosity.

I was about 15 years old when I first learned of Antonio Stradivari, the famous violin maker who was quoted as saying that "to make a violin less than his best would be to rob God, who could not make Antonio Stradivari's violins without Antonio." Touche.

I love how Max Lucado puts it, "In the great orchestra we call life, you have an instrument and a song, and you owe it to God to play them both sublimely."

So, play sweet bellas...

Play....Showcase your luster, spill over, Shine!
Don't let the noise and distractions of this world destroy your magnificent melody -

On that note, and for those who missed it or are new to this blog, I am once again sharing the recipe that seems to be the catalyst that sparked this adventure, the chile relleno ravioli...

This fusion recipe is sure to impress family and friends and is an absolute cinch to make. Every bite awakens the senses with a combination of savory and sweet with just enough heat and spice from the chile to tickle the taste buds all the while delivering a presentation that's visually stimulating and bursting with magnificent color.

Chile Relleno Ravioli
• 1 pound(s) of Wonton Wrappers
• 2 eggs slightly beaten with water
• 7 ounce(s) of Ricotta Cheese
• 4 ounce(s) of Philadelphia Cream Cheese, softened
• 1/2 cup(s) of chopped green chile
• 1 tsp. of garlic powder
• 4 tbsp. of shredded Parmiggano Reggiano
• 4 Diced Roma Tomatoes
• 1/2 Purple Onion cut Fajita Style into slivers
• 2 Diced Mangos
• 1 handful of fresh italian flat leaf parsley
• 4 tbsp. of olive oil
• 1 diced clove of garlic
• 1 tbsp. of canola oil
• salt to taste
• black pepper to taste

1) In a large bowl, mix cream cheese, Ricotta Cheese, chopped green chile, & 1 tsp. of garlic powder.
2) In a small bowl, beat 2 eggs slightly with a splash of water to create "eggwash"
3) Lay One Wonton Wrapper onto cutting board and brush with "eggwash" in a square following the edges of the wonton wrapper.
4) Add a teaspoon of chile cheese filling in 4 spots in the corners of the wonton wrapper down just far enough to give room to seal the edges on all four sides of each filling spot.
5) Place another Wonton Wrapper on top and seal edges and seal well around each filling spot - press gently but firmly to seal well. Use a knife or ravioli cutter to cut into 4 raviolis along the sealed seams.
(Repeat steps 3-5 to create ravioli with remaining wonton wrappers and filling).
6) In a sautee pan over med to low heat, sautee 4 tbsp. of olive oil with one clove of garlic, 1/2 purple onion, the 4 roma tomatoes and salt to taste until onions become translucent,
then add the 2 diced mangos and sautee for a minute longer - turn off heat and cover to keep warm
7) Boil Raviolis in Water (with 1 tbsp. of canola oil and a small handful of salt) for 2 to 3 minutes. Lift gently on flat spatula with holes to drain water.
8) Plate Raviolis, cover with sauce on top, add italian flat leaf parsley, shredded Parmiggano Reggiano and black pepper to taste.
serve hot

AND NOW.....a gift for YOU! Mangiabella would like to thank you wonderful bellas for journeying with me on this grand adventure.
With the help of one of my uber talented BFFs, Melanie Rivera, the mastermind and craftswoman behind Huggabugbaby, LLC, we are joining together to give away one of her remarkable creations to one of you lucky winners. Talk about gifts and talents, this woman's cup is overflowing with awe inspiring creativity and absolute brilliance and by golly she beautifies everything her heart and hands can hold. She has dreamed up and brought to life the most adorable lil tutus for toddlers you have ever laid your precious eyes upon, as well as unique hair accessories, hats, AND...she is a proud representative of Moby Wraps, the most amazing baby concoction I have ever used.
One sweet bella will win one of her custom tutus as shown above, here's how to enter:
1) You must be a follower
2) Invite 10 friends to become a follower of Mangiabella
3) Share this post on Facebook/Twitter (or both)
4)leave a comment below!

What a lovely gift this will make for one tiny lil bella :)
Winner will be chosen at random and announced next week


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