The Dining Room Miami Review

I consider myself to be a lucky gal. So when my buddy (and fellow foodie) Briner over at ButterNBurbon suggested I enter a gift certificate giveaway on Twitter to The Dining Room, I jumped all over it. I was their 400th fan and won $25 and a bottle of wine of my choosing.

When going to Miami for dinner, things can get tricky. With many restaurants being run by high-profile chefs with large advertising budgets, it’s hard to decide. With that being said, it’s nice to find a tiny, neighborhood gem that would have gone unnoticed in the shadows of the industry giants. The Dining Room is tucked away on Washington Ave, just south of 5th. It’s a small, but quaint bistro and you can’t pass up the opportunity for some great people watching while you dine outside!

First off, I have to say the service was probably the best I’ve ever had in Miami. They were VERY accommodating and attentive. Also, I was extremely impressed with the “freebies” that are offered at the start of the meal. House made pickles, warm bread and truffle butter…oh yeah!

My girlfriend and I stared the meal with vanilla butternut squash soup with green apple and celery sprouts. I was so glad we split it because the portion was huge and quite satisfying. Anyone who has gone out to dinner with me knows I like to try a little bit of everything and going halfsies is one of my favorite things. So, my friend ordered the very decadent brown butter mushroom gnocchi and I asked for the branzino (my favorite fish!). We divided the plates and got to enjoy each entrée. As you would suspect, the gnocchi was delicious. Doesn’t the best stuff always seem to be bad for you? The branzino was cooked whole and had very crispy skin which always wins me over. All in all, the meal was a 10!

I’m sorry I can’t comment on dessert. The two of us were stuffed to the gills. However, when I returned home and Tweeted about my good time, The Dining Room graciously offered to send over a signature recipe and I have that here to share with you!

Sweet potato gnocchi with mushrooms and lemon butter sage sauce

For the gnocchi:

  • 3 sweet potatoes
  • 1/2 egg
  • 1/2 cup of flour
  • 1/2 cup of leftover bread crumbs
  • Pinch of nutmeg

Method: Preheat the oven 400 degrees, bake the sweet potatoes until tender and fully cooked between 40 to 50 minutes. Let them cool slightly and then mash the sweet potatoes. Add the rest of the ingredients, blend well mixed until the dough is soft.

Divide the dough in 5 equal balls. Roll out each ball into a 1 inch wide rope and cut each roll into 1 inch pieces.  Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the gnocchi and cook until tender about 4 minutes.


  • 3 oz butter
  • 8 oz shitake mushrooms (whatever mushroom you have leftover)
  • 5 leaves of fresh sage
  • 1 cup vegetable stock

Method: Sauté the mushrooms in one spoon of butter. Add the sage and the stock. Bring to boil and then add the remaining butter. Toss gnocchi’s in the sauce and finish with grated parmesan cheese and lemon zest.

Let me know in the comments below if you try this recipe!


The Best Homemade Hot Chocolate in the World

Bold title, I know. However, the minute I saw this recipe for Nutella hot chocolate on Pinterest, I knew it would be a hit. Once you try it, I’m confident you’ll agree with the title. If you’re like me, and you’re easily distracted by shiny pictures of pretty things (food, shoes, home décor…you name it!), then you’ve probably already discovered Pinterest, the online customizable pin board site. The site is extremely girly but I find it super useful for discovering new things such as this recipe. And, for all you men out there, they’ve recently come up with a similar site just for you, GentleMint.

Whenever I entertain at the house, I want to make sure I have something for everyone…especially my six year old niece, Lily. Since 65 degrees classifies as “winter weather” here in Florida, I knew it was the perfect time to try this. Also, you can cover almost anything in Nutella and it will be tasty. Trust me, we’ve tried it all in my house!

Nutella Hot Chocolate

Ingredients for one cup (from Audriana’s Vanity)

  • 1 cup of milk
  • 2 tablespoons of Nutella
  • Pinch of cinnamon *if you want to make Mexican Hot Chocolate, substitute with cayenne pepper
  • Whipped cream (optional)
  • Mini marshmallows (optional)


  • Pour about 1/4 of the milk into a saucepan on medium-low heat.
  • Add the Nutella and whisk until blended.
  • Slowly stir in the remaining milk.
  • Add a pinch of cinnamon and whisk until hot and frothy.
  • Add whipped cream, and mini marshmallows as desired.

First of all, the smell of the frothy chocolate will immediately bring you back to your childhood! But this is not your boxed Swiss Miss. It’s something special and I hope you enjoy!



Working Girl Meals: Roasted Tilapia & Avocado Salad Recipe

This “Working Girl Meal” was sent to me by my dear friend (and some say twin sister) Elyssa. Not only is she a “working girl” but she is also knee deep in wedding planning so you can imagine how much time and energy she has to cook. We all know that eating healthy isn’t always the most convenient so I commend her for whipping up this recipe as it is not only delicious but it is healthy too! Elyssa’s fish of choice for this recipe is Tilapia however you could swap it out for any other mild white fish such as Red Snapper, Sole or Flounder depending on your taste and whatever is freshest at your market.

“My all-time favorite things to cook are guilt-free meals that can still give you that blissful bite! Even better, this Roasted Tilapia and Avocado Salad leaves you feeling content rather than stuffed or starving. The warmth of the fish and the richness of the dressing make this an all-year-round kind of recipe.”

Serves 2

2 Tilapia fillets
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 fresh lemon
1/8 cup fig balsamic vinegar
Fennel, a few white stalk ends chopped
1 bag of Spring Mix salad
1 medium avocado, thinly sliced
Crumbled goat cheese
¼ cup chopped walnuts
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Salt to taste
Rosemary & Parsley to season
Preheat broiler on high.

Rinse off your Tilapia fillets and place them in a baking dish. Make several diagonal slashes in the skin and then coat the fish with the 2 tablespoons of oil and the juice of half a lemon, being sure to get both sides covered. Then season with salt, (I prefer sea salt), and sprinkle on some parsley and rosemary.

Broil Tilapia, ideally on the top rack of your oven, for about 7 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the dressing by whisking together the remaining 1/4 cup of oil, juice from the other half a lemon, 1 tbsp of Dijon mustard and the 1/8 cup of fig balsamic vinegar. You can adjust the amounts per your personal preference.

In a big salad bowl, add the bag of spring mix salad, chopped walnuts, crumbled goat cheese, chopped fennel and toss in 2/3 of the dressing. Whenever you have the chance, use spring mix salad, it provides almost ten times more vitamins and antioxidants than iceberg lettuce. You should also know that fennel is an amazing addition to any salad; it adds a nice crunch and refreshing flavor. Fennel is also high in Vitamin A and E, calcium and potassium and is often used as a herbal remedy for digestive problems.

After the 7 minute broil time is up, check the fish by cutting into the thickest part of the fillet. If it still appears to have some transparency in the middle, put back in the oven on low broil for a few minutes.

Serve salad topped with avocado slices and Tilapia fillet. Drizzle the remaining dressing on top of the fillets. The presentation looks as impressive as it tastes.

And, if you like this recipe, I also found this great ginger and cilantro baked tilapia one from Serious Eats.


Holiday Treat: Gingerbread Whoopie Pies

My friend Megan recently posted these Gingerbread Whoopie pies to her Facebook page. Of course, I emailed her right away for the recipe!

Cream Cheese Frosting:
1.5 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened*
4 ounces cream cheese, softened*
1 teaspoon flavoring/extract (maple, vanilla, almond – depending on what Whoopie Pies you’re making. I used maple with the Pumpkin Whoopie pies and vanilla with the Gingerbread Whoopie pies)

For the Gingerbread Cookies, she used Trader Joe’s Gingerbread Mix, but you could substitute your own favorite recipe or mix from the grocery store. Follow the directions to mix. Make sure to grease the cookie sheet and then spoon 1 tablespoon of the batter onto the sheets for each. Bake for about 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

I usually make the cream cheese frosting while the cookies are in the oven; just mix all ingredients until well combined. That way, you have time for the cookies to cool and then frost and assemble them.

*Be sure to leave the butter and cream cheese out while making the cookies so they soften, it is much easier to mix that way.

Megan puts them in the fridge to cool and then later eats with her cup of coffee!

What’s your favorite Gingerbread recipe?

Antipasti:The Ultimate Holiday Appetizer

My family is funny. After last year’s Thanksgiving, we realized that everyone filled up on appetizers and didn’t have room for the main course. So we said “next year we’ll just do antipasti”. You know, some Italian meats and cheeses and call it a day. Well, this is what ended up happening!


Yes, that is a dining table COMPLETELY COVERED in Italian deliciousness! So much for not filling up on appetizers. Although it looks overwhelming, it’s actually really simple and such a great conversation starter. I highly recommend replacing dozens of small frozen appetizers or the usual dips with fresh delicatessens. Here is what you’ll need to get started:

  1. Start with a large surface such as a table or kitchen island
  2. Lay down parchment paper or aluminum foil to protect the surface
  3. Buy enough romaine and/or wide leaf green lettuce (no iceberg) to cover the surface. We bought a total of five bags for the photo above
  4. Get radicchio cups to hold your various antipasti items such as chickpeas, assorted olives, roasted red peppers, eggplant caponata, pepperoncini, marinated artichokes, marinated asparagus, and anchovies
  5. Cheese: 2lb block of provolone sliced thin and two large balls of fresh mozzarella
  6. Meat: 1lb of prosciutto, 1lb of capicola,  1lb of pepperoni,  1lb of Genoa salami and 1lb of soppressata
  7. Shrimp: 1lb of cocktail shrimp. You can get a Styrofoam tree (or whatever shape you prefer) from a craft store such as Michael’s. Cover the tree with endives and attach the shrimp using toothpicks.

I hope you try this one at your next holiday party. I guarantee that your guests will talk about it for years to come. Happy Holidays!

Working Girl Meals: Spicy Sausage with Red Beans and Rice

Let me start my first “working girl meal” post by saying I am not, nor do I claim to be a fancy cook. I am just a girl who loves food and tries her best to create fast, delish meals during the week for me and my hubby. I have very little patience (I’m working on this…hey, at least I am self-aware people) so recipes with few ingredients and fast clean up really appeal to me. You will notice that I take a lot of inspiration from Claire Robinson’s “5 Ingredient Fix”. I love that you don’t feel daunted by a ton of ingredients but everything is super flavorful, which is all that matters in the end. So I’ll share with you one of my go-to meals during the week. Actually, it only has THREE ingredients so…BAM, in your face Claire (just kidding, I love you).

Grocery List:

  • 1 package hot Italian sausage  (preferably Roman Brand)
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 package of reduced sodium Zatarain’s red beans and rice

The first thing I do is get the red beans and rice going as it takes 25 minutes to simmer and then 5 minutes to cool. Just follow the steps on the box. After the Zatarain’s is on the stove and simmering away, I heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan. In the meantime, I simply cut the sausage casings off and crumble the sausage meat into the pan. That way they are perfect bite size pieces.  I like the sausage to get a lot of color so I usually let them cook until the red beans and rice are done and I stir them frequently to get even color.  Then you get a great big bowl and combine them both and…voilà! You’re done in 30 minutes!

The reason why my husband and I love this dish so much is that New Orleans is our absolute favorite city. So, this is a version to get those New Orleans flavors in a quick weeknight meal. If you have more time (and patience) than me then you can certainly add ingredients like peppers and onions to the sausage. Also, a little Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top is tasty.  Please don’t judge me for using a boxed ingredient, as I said I am not a fancy cook and more often than not I’m short on time! I know once you try it, you’ll love it. 🙂

Happy Cooking!

This Sh*t is Bananas!

Frozen Bananas

Bananas are my go-to fruit. They are so handy and easy to eat;
I bring them to work every day as my mid-morning snack.

I try to be strategic when I’m buying them. I usually pull
apart a few from the bunch that I think I’ll use before they go bad…while no one’s
looking of course. I’m pretty sure it’s a supermarket taboo that everyone does
but no one talks about. I get super frustrated every week because I always have
1-2 that I need to throw away due to them becoming over rip.

My friend Nicole mentioned putting them in the fridge to
extend the shelf life. I must have been half listening because I starting
putting them in the freezer.  I happily
told her that I took her advice and put the bananas in the freezer, now what?
She looked at me like I was crazy! Anyhoo, I’m stuck with a bunch of frozen
bananas and nothing to do with them. I figured I wasn’t the only person with
this dilemma so I’ve compiled a list of handy things to do with frozen bananas.

  • Bananas Smoothies
  • One Ingredient Banana Ice Cream
  • Frozen Chocolate Covered bananas
  • Thaw one to add to cake mix for super moist cake
  • Banana Daiquiris
  • Banana Butter
  • Banana Pancakes
  •  Banana Muffins or Bread

You get the idea. Enjoy!