I recently had the pleasure of meeting America’s favorite Garden State housewife, Teresa Giudice. Teresa  stars on hit Bravo TV show the Real Housewives of New Jersey and is the proud author of her own book of fairytale feasts, Skinny Italian, which landed itself on the New York Times bestseller list.

The full name of Teresa’s cookbook, co-written by Heather MacLean, is “Skinny Italian: Eat it and Enjoy It – Live La Bella Vita and Look Great, Too!”  This slogan sums up Teresa’s overall message in the book – you don’t have to starve yourself to look sexy!  Skinny Italian is not your typical diet book, but rather a book that attempts to teach one how to cook the REAL Italian way: using fresh, healthful, wholesome ingredients. Teresa wants people to know that you CAN indulge in REAL food and look great too!

I first had the chance to taste these healthful recipes last weekend when Teresa ventured outside of Jersey and took a trip down Interstate 80 to Mount Airy Casino and Resort in the Poconos.  There, Teresa held a book signing and hosted a dinner at Mount Airy’s Italian restaurant, La Sorelle Cucina, which prepared a menu using recipes straight from Teresa’s cookbook.  For $59 a person, Teresa’s guests received a copy of Skinny Italian and feasted on a generous tasting menu of her favorite dishes.  The highlight of the night was, of course, Teresa, who personally greeted each guest, posed for photos, and signed each book.
When I first sat down for dinner, I will admit that I was a little bit nervous to meet Teresa.  After all, even though she is portrayed as a feisty, but loving mother and wife on the Real Housewives, she did coin the phrase “prostitution whore” and infamously flipped over a dinner table at a restaurant following a dispute with former Real Housewives cast mate Danielle Staub. (Teresa also memorably pushed Bravo TV executive and host Andy Cohen on the Season 2 Reunion show!)  With these events in mind, I prayed that no tables would flip if I was brave enough to ask Teresa some questions about this food blog.
When Teresa came to our table, any worries I had quickly dissipated. “Hello,” she said with a smile oozing enough warmth to melt the snow in the sub zero temperatures outside. “What’s your name?”  

Teresa looked even more beautiful in person than I expected.  Complete with a signature New Jersey tan and big hair that shined like silk, Teresa commanded an audience.  She wore a black sequined harem pants suit, something that only Teresa could wear AND look gorgeous in.  (I made a mental note for myself: “Start making Teresa’s Skinny Italian recipes.”)  Her stilettos were silver and matched her diamonds, which sparkled and had a life of their own.  Teresa, who is also infamous for her financial troubles, has said she often wears costume jewelry that looks like the real thing.  Costume or not, the bracelet and ring adorning her hand were the pinnacle of every girl’s dream.  
But the most sparkling thing about Teresa was her warm, vivacious personality.  I introduced myself to her and I told her I would like to write a piece about her cookbook for my blog.  Teresa happily agreed and said we would be in touch.  (I didn’t hold my breath. I am still waiting for Bethenny to get back to me.)  She shook my hand and said how nice it was to meet me.  “Wow,” I thought to myself, “she’s polite too.”  Indeed, Teresa took the time to speak to each guest at the restaurant, pose for photos, sign books with special messages, and converse with each fan. “That’s just how I am,” she would tell me later. I quickly realized that THAT was the real Teresa – a nice, friendly, down to earth girl from New Jersey with the added bonus of having style and class – and enough spirit to flip a table, if she was ever pushed to that point.
When Teresa personally called me days later, my impression of her as a nice girl was solidified.  “Hi Diana,” she said. “This is Teresa.”  And so, Teresa and I proceeded to chat about the things that two things that Italians love most: food and family. 
Teresa, a loving wife and mother of four beautiful girls, dedicated Skinny Italian to her mother and daughters. She credits her parents, especially her mother, with teaching her how to cook the old-school Italian way.  Teresa’s parents, her husband’s parents and her husband were all born in Sala Consilina, near Salerno.  “I’m first generation,” said Teresa, who was conceived in Italy. “My parents took the boat here.”  The family can be seen taking a trip to their native homeland on the Second Season of the Real Housewives of New Jersey. 

Teresa takes pride in cooking healthful meals from scratch for her family. “After I had my third daughter, Milania, Joe started to cook too.”  On the first episode of the second season of the Real Housewives of NJ, Teresa can be seen in her garage with her family, parents and in-laws included, canning over 160 jars of homemade tomato sauce. This technique to preserving homemade sauce is clearly explained in Skinny Italian. 

When I spoke to Teresa, I asked her what all want to know: What is her secret is to looking so good, especially after having four girls?  “I’m on the bike now,” said Teresa. And suddenly, it made sense to me why she sounded a little bit breathless. “We just got it not too long ago.”  Then, being the modest and polite person that she is, she thanked me for the compliment.

Teresa said she is a strong believer in eating healthy and keeping active to maintaining a svelte figure.  “Working out is also really important for your health, for your heart,” she said.  Still, Teresa admitted that as the mother of four young girls, including a 16-month old, she doesn’t always have time to work out.  So she fits in workouts when she can, running and making use of the exercise bike and hand weights that she keeps at the house. “So what would you tell someone who wanted to lose weight?” I asked. “Eat the recipes from my book,” said Teresa. “Cook your own meals and watch your portions. You can have pasta, but just don’t have a large bowl. Have an appetizer portion.” 

Teresa was also excited to tell me she has a new cookbook in the works. “Fabulicious” is scheduled to be released on May 4, 2011.  Unlike Skinny Italian, Fabulicious won’t be so health-centric. Rather, this second cookbook is a collection of Giudice family specialties. “It’s going to have all our family recipes,” said Teresa excitedly, “including lasagna!”

Now, I am not a stranger to Italian cooking.  My grandparents were both from Sicily and worked as chefs at the Gramercy, (the Brownstone of Pittston!) for over 75 years.  I grew up eating real, traditional Italian dishes but I am still really excited to add Teresa’s Skinny Italian to my library of cookbooks. Why?  Because it’s fun, young, easy to understand and filled with signature Teresa-isms.  (I laughed out loud when I read the heading in her cookbook entitled, “OO, VOO, EVOO, WTF” and her little tidbit warning us to “avoid stripper food,” a.k.a. food with the words “candy” or “cupcake” in them.) 
But even without her playful anecdotes and the “Juicy Bits from Joe,” Skinny Italian is a solid cookbook filled with over 60 recipes that are simple, tasteful and timeless Italian staples that everyone should know how to make. (Plus, there are recipes for limoncello and nutella pizza that I am really excited about!) “Cooking really is not hard,” Teresa said. “You just need to try it! You’ll get used to it. If you make something you don’t end up liking, just try again!”  As Teresa gave this advice, my grandfather’s words of wisdom immediately echoed through my mind, “It takes practice, Diana Marie,” he always tells me. “It takes practice!”  And they are right, because for every fairytale feast, there are a dozen fairytale failures. You just can’t give up! 
While Teresa couldn’t divulge any hints about what we can expect from Season Three of the Real Housewives of New Jersey, she did say it will likely air on Bravo TV sometime this year.

(My own observation: Skinny Italian was released in May of 2010 and coincided with the premiere of the Second Season of the Real Housewives of New Jersey. So here’s to hoping that Season Three comes on in May and we won’t have to wait that much longer!)

 Here are some highlights from the Skinny Italian dinner at La Sorelle Cucina:
Italians are famous for the best appetizers and antipasto platters composed of mixed olives, cheeses, cured meats and pickled vegetables.  Not only are these appetizers popular and flavorful, but they’re easy to put together when entertaining. The appetizer course at La Sorelle Cucina was composed of two of Teresa’s classic Italian starters: Bruschetta Classica and Salerno Stuffed Mushrooms.  If you have read any of my previous posts, it’s obvious I am a lover of bruschetta and this dish was no exception! (I made it for the Superbowl last year, click here.) Teresa also has variations of the classic bruschetta recipe in her cookbook Skinny Italian. 
 (The bread basket at La Sorella Cucina was probably not a part of Teresa’s “skinny” menu, but I can’t say no to olive stuffed foccacia so I tried it anyway. It was delicious, so I included it here. Props to them!)
The next course was a fennel salad. Fennel is grown throughout the Mediterranean and in the United States. It looks like a large white bulb and is treated like a vegetable. Fennel can be eaten raw in salads and is also used in braising meats or in soups. Some people confuse fennel with anise, a similar looking vegetable that tastes like licorice. However, fennel is sweeter and has a fresh taste that cleans the palate.
I was so happy to see this recipe in Teresa’s cookbook, as I absolutely love fennel salad.  My family also makes a version of this dish with dill and fresh oranges.  Here, Teresa preserved the delicate flavor of the fennel by seasoning it with lemon juice and some fresh parsley. 

For the pasta course, we had Teresa’s Favorite Tagialtelle [prounced tah-lyah-TEH-leh]. Teresa said that this was her favorite recipe from the book. Tagialtelle are long, flat egg noodles that are about 1/4 inch wide, similar to fettuccine or linguine. This dish is made with peas and smoked ham, topped with a sprinkle of grated Parmesan cheese.

For our entree, we had a choice of four different dishes: “Papa’s Steak Pizzaiola” a tender New York Strip Steak topped with Teresa’s special tomato sauce; “Voluptuous Veal Piccata;” “Sexy Swordfish with Capers and Lemon;” or “Gorgeous Garlic Shrimp” with rice and steamed asparagus. 
Each dish looked amazing and I was really torn.  Our server, who was kind, enthusiastic, and knowledgeable about each dish, said the “Sexy Swordfish” was her favorite so I went with that. Swordfish, a large fish averaging between 200 to 600 pounds, is found in temperate waters throughout the world. Like salmon, swordfish “steaks” are firm and dense and easy to handle when cooking. Swordfish can be grilled, sauteed, broiled, poached, etc.  Swordfish is very popular in the United States but contains high levels of mercury so it should not be eaten in excess, especially by women of child bearing age. 
Teresa’s Sexy Swordfish with Capers and Lemon was absolutely delicious and really blew me away. The portion was generous, the swordfish steaks were moist, flavorful and fresh. The capers, pickled flower buds from a bush native in the Mediterranean, provided just the right amount of saltiness to the dish. Combined with the lemon juice, this swordfish was fresh and delicious.  It made me feel good about myself.
Finally, for dessert we had strawberries soaked in Sambuca.  Sambuca is a colorless flavored liqueur made in Italy.  The name Sambuca is derived from Sambucus, the genus name for the fruit of the elderberry. Sambuca tastes somewhat like anise, or licorice, and has a strong scent.  Most Italians have a bottle of Sambuca in their homes! 

The strawberries soaked in Sambuca as a healthy alternative to a fatty dessert was a brilliant idea. I liked it so much I decided to make this dish at home. 

The beautiful “Gorgeous Garlic Shrimp” entree served at La Sorelle Cucina also inspired me to make my own at home. 
Teresa was gracious to share this recipe, for my blog, so I hope you enjoy it! I made it exactly as written, and being a garlic lover, I used about five large garlic cloves to REALLY infuse that flavor into the shrimp!

Gorgeous Garlic Shrimp
“If you’re a serious garlic lover (like I am), feel free to add more garlic to the recipe. I usually serve this with rice and steamed asparagus with a fresh lemon squeezed over the veggie.” ~ Teresa, Skinny Italian

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 1/2 pounds large (21 to 25 count) shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

1. Heat the oil and garlic together in a large skillet over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the oil is hot and the garlic is softened, about 1 1/2 minutes. Add the shrimp and season with the salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until the shrimp turns opaque, about 4 minutes.
2. Add the lemon juice and parsley and stir well. Serve hot. 

I used this bag of frozen shrimp from Wegmans that is already peeled and deveined. Make sure to thaw the shrimp first. I usually do this by letting it sit in a bowl of cool water for about 15 minutes.

I also made another recipe from Teresa’s book, Farfalle Con Piselli, a pasta dish with peas and parsley and a touch of light cream. It reminded me of the pasta and peas my Sicilian grandmother used to make for dinner so I will definitely be making this again.

The recipe for  Farfalle Con Piselli, the rest of the above dishes and many more Italian classics can be found in Teresa’s cookbook Skinny Italian, available online and at bookstores nationwide.  Teresa’s new cookbook, Fabulicious, is scheduled for release this May.

Teresa will also be embarking on a book tour so check her website for updates and details to see if she will be visiting your hometown so you can have your book signed! ๐Ÿ™‚

Enjoy ๐Ÿ™‚

As a child, one of my favorite activities was coloring.  My father would take me on weekly trips to the grocery store and allow me to pick out a treat. I always picked out a box of Crayola crayons – and not just the box of the original 8 colors. Glitter crayons, metallic crayons, neon crayons, glow in the dark crayons, pastels, colored pencils, magic markers, I had them all.  And I remember the magical feeling of overwhelming joy and excitement I was filled with in anticipation of using these unique colors to paint a new canvas.

I get a similar feeling about dining at Aurants in Duryea.  Each time I go there, I feel giddy with anticipation about the endless culinary combinations on the menu, which includes many things I have never even tasted before. It’s slogan, “A separation from the rest,” appropriately describes this unique restaurant. A far cry from the diet of pizza and wings that are traditional in the area, Aurants offers bold and innovative creations. Don’t get me wrong, I do love pizza and wings, but, like the original box of 8 Crayola crayons, I tire of them and need more “color”!

Chef and owner David W. Ciminelli, Jr. (“Chef Davo”) has carefully crafted an extensive menu that changes often, offering a plethora of flavors and “proteins” in ever color. The menu is divided into different sections, “Easy pickings” (appetizers, small plates, soups and salads), “Hand held hotties” (described as modern gourmet sandwiches), “make a meal mayhem” (create your own entree section) and “Side car tag alongs” (your choice of accompanying sides that are available to be purchased separately for $5).

When I heard about Aurants, I couldn’t wait to try it. I was a huge fan of Chef Davo’s homemade potato chips with blue cheese dip and pretzel encrusted chicken bites when he was a chef at the River Street Ale House. I have heard that these chips sometimes grace the menu at Aurants and have been on the lookout for them ever since.
Here is a sample of some of the tasty treats we have tried at Aurants.

The first bite I ever had at Aurants blew me away. I ordered the chocolate jalapeno corn fritters, an appetizer described as “southern style corn fritters infused with minced roasted corn, pickled jalapenos, banana puree and saved which chocolate, pan fried and plated with a side of ancho chili maple syrup.”  Now, I have had corn fritters before, but this sweet and savory appetizer was unlike anything I have ever tasted. There were so many layers of flavor that were way beyond anything I could imagine. The deep fried, spicy chocolate taste made me feel like I had gone to heaven and hell at the same time. Hell because I knew it probably wasn’t the healthiest choice, but heaven because I loved it anyway and would order it again. Sometimes, it feels good to be bad.

Aurants boasts a wide selection of domestic and imported beers, bottled and on tap. They cleverly showcase this feature seamlessly in their menu by offering a Chicken Dogfish Chowder as an appetizer. A chowder of chicken tenderloin morsels, bacon, granny smith apples, corn, basic root vegetables, smokey cheese and random selections of dogfish head beers with crispy onions,” this chowder was the perfect remedy to the winter blahs. One bowl warms the soul, and if you are still in the mood for Dogfish Brews after your dinner, Aurants is open late every night. See below for details and hours.

The Aurants house salad is a colorful combination of the freshest ingredients and is by far one of the best salads in the area. Available in a small or large size, the house salad is a heaping pile of baby spinach greens with vine ripe tomatoes, english cucumbers, artichokes, portabella mushrooms, mixed kalamata olives, caper berries, fresh mozzarella cheese dressed with a house lemon garlic vinaigrette. The olives were jumbo and delicious, like homemade mix my uncle makes.  Be warned, the large size house salad is very large!  Definitely enough for a table of four, and a nice starter to accompany any appetizer on the menu.

One of the most popular items on the menu is the Blue Crab Grilled Cheese, composed of Muenster cheese, poached garlic, artichokes, and blue crab meat on a thick sliced ciabatta bread. As you can see, the portion is extremely generous.

My experience of living in Philadelphia provided me with a solid education on cheese steaks, and I have tried a wide variety of them but I have never before seen this version. Aurants offers a Gouda Duck Cheese Steak, made of pulled duck confit, smoked gouda cheese, portabella mushrooms, yellow peppers and sweet onions on a Philly roll. 
(They also offer a Chicken Garlic Cheese Steak, which I will absolutely be trying in the near future. It is served on a Philly roll with roasted free range chicken, mozzarella cheese, melted onions, poached garlic and lemon garlic aioli.)

Each sandwich and main protein dish comes with your choice of side car tag along, which includes the popular bacon smoked Gouda macaroni and cheese. 

In the “make a meal mayhem” portion of the menu, your choice of protein can be prepared in one of six signature ways. The protein list at Aurants is updated daily, and specifically provides that the meats are raised free range style, without any hormones, antibiotics or unnatural farming practices involved. The seafood is wild caught and ocean farmed. This may account for the high price ($12-$40) for some of the first class selection of meats and seafood, but you get what you pay for, and it’s nice to know where your dinner comes from.
 Seafood protein offerings have included: diver sea scallops, yellow fin tuna loin, atlantic coast mahi mahi, new zealand king salmon, and east coast halibut. Meat protein offerings have included angus top sirloin filet, pork mignon, baby veal chops, New York Strip steak, and even game meats like Canadian buffalo tenderloin, Red Elk Rib Chops, and even KANGAROO! But vegans and vegetarians, don’t stress. Tofu is available as a protein, and is also available as an appetizer. 

These protein offerings can be prepared in six different fashions as described on their menu:

basic pan roast style
rubbed w/ dried herbs, lightly seasoned, pan roasted and finished w/ port wine shallot butter, pan juices and crispy tumbleweed onions.
au poivre diane clash
pepper tarragon spiced, pan seared and plated over dijon green peppercorn sauce w/ poached garlic, caper berry pods, shaved asiago and set afire.
spanish thai on the fly
rubbed w/ chili spices, painted w/a mojito mole aioli, baked and plated over coconut curry cashew sauce w/ crispy cellophane noodle and blackened candied cashews.
spinach pesto parmesan
ginger coriander rubbed, pan seared, brushed w/ spinach walnut pesto, ambushed w/ parmesan, baked and finalized w/ a tad more spinach walnut pesto and lemon garlic aioli.
mediterranean style
caraway dill weed infused, pan seared and displayed over zinfandel remoulade, cucumber dill sauce, topped w/ olive tapenade and asiago.
east vs. west
sesame seared one side, blackened on the other, plated w/ maple mustard, wasabi wing sauce, sriracha stripe, cellophane noodle and crispy onions.


If the choices overwhelm you, no need to worry. The wait staff at Aurants are patient, kind, and professional. More importantly, they are knowledgeable of the offerings on the menu and available to make a recommendation.  Here are some of the proteins and side dishes we have tried:
Filet mignon with a side car risotto tag along.

Pork mignon prepared East and West style, with a side of spinach garlic artichoke saute.

Atlantic Coast Mahi Mahi prepared Mediterranean style, a perfect choice for seafood dishes, with the gorgozla polenta pumpkin plank. The Mahi Mahi was cooked to perfection, and the olive tapenade really created a nice layer of flavor. I loved the polenta and plan on ordering it again. (Note to those unfamiliar with polenta: It’s just another carb made of cornmeal that you will love. Try it!)

Colossal diver sea scallops, prepared Mediterranean style with a side of pan fried asparagus and portabella mushrooms.
Each time I visited Aurants, the food blew me away. If I HAD to offer complaint, there are two things I would like to change. First, it seems like a good number of the patrons order sandwiches, which eradicates the need for a bread basket. But for those patrons that order entree selections, especially the pricer items that can cost upwards of $38 and $40, an accompanying bread basket and/or a  modest house salad of mixed greens would be nice.
Second, I would really love a side of mixed greens with my sandwich. The sandwiches, which range from $12-$15, are already accompanied by your choice of a generous side dish. While you can chose a vegetable, the natural and more popular choice of side with a sandwich is a starch like potato salad or the restaurant’s popular mac and cheese. Add in some mixed greens with vinaigrette on the side, and your plate would be a more balanced dish of perfection.

Lastly, Aurants offers desserts made in house, including flan. My personal choice is the rich chocolate cherry creme brulee, which I always order with a nice hot cup of tea.

I hope you enjoyed my sampling of photos from my delicious dining experiences at Aurants. Their menu changes daily and they are always offering new items, so please let me know if you go and try something amazing and it brings the color back into your life! ๐Ÿ™‚
If you go:  Aurants is located at 941 Main Street in Duryea, PA 18642. Aurants is now open for lunch and its hours are as follows:
Tuesday- Thursday: 11am-midnight
Friday: 11am-2am
Saturday: 5pm-2am
Sunday: 5pm-midnight.
I suggest you make reservations well in advance. I called the day of my birthday (too late) and was SOL. While the staff is always very accommodating, they’re always packed for dinner, especially on a weekend!! But it’s well worth the wait. ๐Ÿ™‚

Now that you’ve eaten all of the Christmas cookies, here is a healthy recipe to help start your 2011 off right! Scallops are incredibly low in fat and calories and require five to six minutes of total cooking time in a pan. Scallops are one of my favorite types of shellfish. A scallop is a type of bivalve mollusk, which is a muscle tucked between two shells that are hinged together. Clams, oysters and mussels are also bivalve mollusks. The shells of scallops are fan shaped and often used as contains to serve other dishes.  The entire scallop is edible but the muscle is the most available and is classified into two major categories: bay scallops and sea scallops. Bay scallops are very tiny and more sweeter than a sea scallop. They’re more costly because they are less common than sea scallops, which are widely available and average about 1 1/2 inches in diamter.  Bay scallops are available on the East Coast in the fall.  Sea scallops are just as sweet as bay scallops, they’re just a tad chewier and denser. They are available on the East Coast in midfall to midspring.

Traditionally, scallops are harvested by boats using chains and nets. The term “diver scallops” are used for those scallops that are hand picked by divers, who naturally pick the largest and ripest scallops, leaving the smaller ones intact until they are ready to be harvested.  There is some controversy surrounding the classification of diver scallops, as one can’t ever be sure that they were truly hand picked.

When picking out scallops, keep in mind that they are supposed to range in color from a beige to a creamy pink. Though stark white scallops are more visually appealing, this is a sign that they have been soaked in water (this increases the weight, which will cost you more!). The shelf life of scallops is not lengthy. You usually need to use them immediately after purchase, within a day or two, and they should smell fresh and sweet.

This recipe took me less than 20 minutes and is something I will make again and again. The freshness and juiciness of the fruit makes you feel alive and transports you to a tropical place on these dreary, desolate winter days. If you don’t have the fresh fruit on hand, frozen lima beans or corn are a nice and healthy accompaniment to scallops. Or try to serve your scallops over whole wheat linguine and some diced tomatoes with sauteed spinach.  Here, I added in a cup of cooked instant brown rice with margarine, cilantro and Tony’s seasoning to spice it up.

Fairytale Winter Fruit Salsa

1/2 cup of chopped pineapple
1/2 cup of chopped strawberries
1/2 pomegranate arils (seeds)
1/2 cucumber, diced
3 tablespoons of chopped cilantro
1/2-1 jalapeรฑo, seeds removed and chopped
Juice of 1 lemon

Combine all of the above ingredients and set aside for at least 15 minutes while the flavors marinate.

Fairytale Pan Seared Scallops
(Serves 2)

2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 cloves of garlic
1 pound of scallops (about 5-6 per person)
Salt and pepper

Wash each scallop and pat dry. Lightly season the scallops with salt and pepper. Heat olive oil in a pan on high to coat. Add in garlic for last 10 seconds. Turn the heat down to medium high. Add in scallops and cook for 2-3 minutes on each side until browned. Do not crowd the pan with the scallops! Remove from pan and place on a paper towel to blot.  Serve immediately with tropical fruit salsa as a garnish.