Monday, December 13, 2010

Big Soft Ginger Cookies

This recipe could NOT be easier - I promise! If you like cookies that are soft on the inside but a tiny bit hard on the outside, then you need to make these.. I baked them on Friday night and they are still amazingly delicious and soft today - 4 days later...

I copied this recipe from To give you some insight on just HOW good these cookies are - it was rated 5 out of 5 stars on the website based on 2,599 reviews. COME ON! You can't get much better than that - am I right? The combination of molasses and ginger is a real winner in my book - your kitchen will smell like Grandma's house once these go in the oven.

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup margarine, softened
1 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 tbsp water
1/4 cup molasses 
2 tbsp white sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift together the flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves and salt. Set aside.
2. In a large bowl, cream together the margarine and 1 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg, then stir in the water and molasses. Gradually stir the sifted ingredients into the molasses mixture. Shape dough into walnut sized balls, and roll them in the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar. Place the cookies 2 inches apart onto an ungreased cookie sheet, and flatten slightly.
3. Bake for 8-10 minutes in the preheated oven. My oven took 11 minutes to bake them (one tray at a time), turning halfway between baking. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container. (a.k.a. Tupperware from Mom) Makes 2 dozen cookies. I somehow ended up with  38 cookies? Not complaining though!

Tutti Mangia!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Down in the Dirty South

Pulled pork is a form of barbecue that gets cooked over slow heat, typically in a slow cooker or smoker. It cooks low and slow, softening the connective tissue in the meat so that you can "pull" it apart. There are arguments in the South over whose pork reigns supreme! Multiple cities and states in the lower half of our country all claim to have the best pulled pork but the secret is all in their sauce - check it out!

North Carolina - EAST (vinegar based sauce) vs WEST (heavy ketchup based sauce)
South Carolina - mustard based, vinegar based, and light and heavy tomato based
Memphis - tomato and vinegar based sauce, pork is usually rubbed with dry seasoning first and served with sauce on the side
Kansas City - sweet and spicy sauce usually containing molasses
Alabama - traditional and unusual mayonnaise based white sauce
Kentucky - Worcestershire and vinegar based sauce (sometimes bourbon is added)
Louisiana - hot and spicy with Cajun and Creole flavors
Georgia - ketchup, mustard and vinegar based sauce
Texas - BEEF (brisket) not pork... multiple flavors and styles (typically spicy!)

The recipe for pulled pork that I stumbled upon on Better Homes & Gardens' website is definitely a keeper. It is such a fast meal because you basically add the ingredients into your slow cooker and let that do all the work! When you get home from work, the smell of barbecue welcomes you into the house - it's amazing, to say the least. I already made this recipe twice this week - once in quesedilla form with some melted cheese and once on small soft dinner rolls.

3-3 1/2 lb boneless pork shoulder
1 cup chopped sweet onion (1 large)
6 cloves garlic, minced (I used 3 big cloves)
1 12oz bottle chili sauce*
2 tbsp packed brown sugar
2 tbsp cider vinegar
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp chili powder (I used 1 tsp instead)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper

1. Trim fat from meat. If necessary, cut pork to fit a 4-5 quart slow cooker. Place pork, onion and garlic in slow cooker. In a medium bowl, combine chili sauce, brown sugar, cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, chili powder, salt and pepper. Pour over pork in cooker. (I don't even bother dirtying another bowl - I make sure the pork, onion and garlic is touching the bottom of the slow cooker and then add all the other ingredients over the top.)
2. Cover and cook on low-heat setting for 10-11 hours or on high-heat setting for 5-6 hours. Remove pork from cooker, reserving juices. Using two forks, shred pork, discarding any fat. Skim fat from juices. Add enough juices to the pork to moisten. Place 2-cup portions of pork in airtight containers and refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months. Makes 6 cups. Calories - 386 / Fat - 13g
*Chili sauce picture taken from

There is no doubt a dispute in the South on which region has the best BBQ sauce. Each of them have different recipes for success but they all put their heart into their food. I am more than happy sampling them all in an attempt to personally make that decision but that more than likely will not be happening anytime soon. For now, I will settle for eating outstandingly delicious food with family and friends! Tutti Mangia!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Apple Coffee Cake with Crumble Topping and Brown Sugar Glaze

This recipe is courtesy of Mr. Emeril Lagassi from Food Network. It got rated with 5 stars based on 205 user reviews so it was a no-brainer to try this recipe out for a "Hot Chocolate" party that one of my friends was hosting. There are a lot of ingredients, but if you look through the list, most of them you probably already have in your pantry. That worked out for me - the only extra things I had to buy were apples and sour cream.

Coffee cake is a moist, tender cake usually topped with a streusel and/or glaze as opposed to a frosting. There does not have to be coffee listed in its ingredients. The name was derived because it is a cake meant to be eaten alongside coffee (or tea). There are very few things I like better then getting the chance to eat cake for breakfast and I know I'm not alone here! This recipe even has fruit added to it so give it a try!

1 stick plus 2 tsp unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup sour cream
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 cups peeled, cored and chopped apples (I used granny smith)

Crumble Topping:
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
4 tbsp unsalted butter, softened

Brown Sugar Glaze:
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp water (I had to add a little more water to get it at a "glaze" consistency

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 13" x 9" glass baking dish with 2 tsp of the butter. In a large bowl, cream together the remaining stick of butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs 1 at a time, beating after the addition of each. In a separate bowl or on a piece of parchment, sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Add to the wet ingredints, alternating with the sour cream and vanilla. Fold in the apples. Pour into the baking dish, spreading out to the edges.
To make the topping, in a bowl, combine the sugar, flour, cinnamon and butter, and mix until it resembles course crumbs. (I used a fork to do this) Sprinkle the topping over the cake and bake until golden brown and set, 35-40 minutes. It took my oven about an hour to fully cook. Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack for at least 10 minutes.

To make the glaze, in a bowl, combine the sugar, vanilla and water and mix until smooth. I doubled the recipe ingredients for the glaze - on purpose! WHOOPS! Drizzle the cake with glaze and let harden slightly. Serve warm. Tutti Mangia!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Baked Rigatoni with Turkey Bolognese

This is a great dish to make when the weather starts to get cold... The slow simmering of the sauce allows the flavors to blend and concentrate and creates a delicious homemade tomato sauce that will make your mouth water. The base of a Bolognese sauce is a soffritto - basically an Italian version of a mirepoix.

The components of a soffritto typically include onion, carrot, celery and garlic, slowly sauteed in olive oil. The difference between the French version is that Italians use olive oil and garlic. This is also known as the Holy Trinity in Creole cooking, refogado in Portugese and sofrito in Spanish. Maybe you'll see these terms make a come-back in some of my later posts...

Traditional Bolognese sauce oringinated in Bologna, a city in Northern Italy. That is no where near where my family is from in Italy but worth stealing their recipes! Nowadays you can use any combination of meats, vegetables and a tomato based sauce to create Bolognese sauce. I love being able to use a little creativity in the kitchen! It's all about having fun right? I had a general idea of how to make this dish but I found a recipe that you can replicate from another awesome blog. I've copied it below:

To start the Bolognese:
1 tbsp canola oil
1 lb ground turkey
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper

To finish the sauce:
1 tbsp canola oil (I always use olive oil)
8 cremini mushrooms, thickly sliced (I omitted this but used 1 stalk celery instead)
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp dried basil
1 can (28 oz) whole tomatoes (I used 2 cans)
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
1 zucchini, large dice (left this out this time)
1/3 cup fresh basil leaves, chiffonade

8 oz dried Rigatoni, cooked according to directions on package
3 oz Havarti, grated (I used only mozzarella, so doubled the amount needed)
3 oz part-skim mozzarella, shredded

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Spray an 8"x11.5" glass or ceramic baking dish with cooking spray. Set aside. Place a large pot of water over high heat. Add a large handful of salt. Bring to a boil.

Place a large saute pan over high heat. Add 1 tbsp canola oil. Once the oil is almost smoking hot, add the ground turkey to the pan. Sprinkle the turkey with the salt and pepper. Using a wooden spoon or spatula, break up the turkey. Allow the turkey to brown, stirring occasionally, until cooked through. Remove browned turkey from pan, drain and set aside. Return saute pan to medium heat.

Add 1 tbsp canola oil to the saute pan. Add the cremini mushrooms, onions and carrots to the pan. Saute the veggies over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 10-15 minutes until the onions are translucent and the carrots are soft. Add the garlic to the pan and saute for another 1 minute. Add the dried basil and oregano. Saute for 1 more minute. Using your hands, individually crush the whole tomatoes into pan. Once all the tomatoes have been crushed, add the rest of the juice left in the can as well as the browned turkey back into the pan. Stir. Bring sauce to a simmer.

Simmer sauce over medium heat until nearly all of the liquid from the tomatoes has cooked away, about 30-40 minutes stirring occasionally. Once liquid has cooked away, taste and adjust seasonings as desired with salt and pepper. After about 20 minutes of simmering the sauce, boil the pasta according to the directions on the package. Drain.

Add the cooked pasta, diced zucchini and basil to the finished sauce. Stir thoroughly to evenly coat. Pour the pasta and sauce into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle mozzarella and Havarti evenly over the top of the pasta. Place into a preheated 450 degree oven. Bake until the cheese is melted and golden in areas, about 15-20 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for at least 5 minutes before serving. Garnish with fresh basil if desired. Tutti Mangia!

* Bologna picture taken from

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Devon's Cupcakes

I first have to apologize for being non-existent! I am making a New Year's resolution a month early - and that is to blog WAY MORE often! I promise I will never go a whole month again without a post!
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Shaun's cousin Devon had her 13th birthday recently so I made her cupcakes to celebrate with the family. I got the recipe for these cupcakes off Martha Stewart's website.They were called Vanilla Letter Cupcakes on there but I renamed them in Devon's honor. I've been searching for a home-made vanilla cupcake recipe and this is definitely a strong contender! Beware - this recipe is a long one but worth it in the end!

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 (12 tbsp) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a standard 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners; set aside. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl; set aside. Put butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer. Mix on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs, 1 at a time, mixing well. Add vanilla. Reduce speed to medium. Mix in 3 batches of flour mixture, alternating with 2 batches of milk. Raise speed to medium-high; mix until thoroughly blended, 10 to 20 seconds.

Spoon 1/4 cup batter into each muffin cup. Bake until a cake tester inserted into centers comes out clean, about 17 minutes. Let cool in tin on wire racks 10 minutes. Remove cupcakes from tin; let cool completely. Line tin with muffin cups; repeat process with remaining batter. Makes 2 dozen cupcakes.

Fluffy Vanilla Buttercream
4 sticks (1 pound) unsalted butter, softened
6 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 pinch of salt

Put butter in bowl of an electric mixer. Beat on medium-high speed until pale and creamy, about 2 minutes. Reduce speed to medium; add sugar 1/2 cup at a time, mixing well, about 5 minutes total. Add vanilla and salt. Raise speed to medium-high; beat until smooth, about 1 minute more. Makes 5 1/4 cups.

Transfer buttercream to a piping bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain tip. Pipe buttercream onto each cupcake in a spiral pattern, starting at the edges and ending with a peak in the center. OR - feel free to use store-bought icing!

Iced Letter Cookies
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
4 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Black icing tube to write with OR cut mini-letters from dough

Sift flour, baking powder, and salt together into a large bowl; set aside. Put butter and sugar in bowl of electric mixer; mix on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 mins. Mix in egg and vanilla. Reduce speed to low; mix in flour mixture until combined. Wrap dough in plastic; refrigerate 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees with racks in upper and lower thirds. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough out to 1/8-inch thick. Cut twelve 2-inch circles and twelve 1 1/2-inch circles using cookie cutters. Cut out centers with a mini letter-shaped cookie cutter. Transfer to baking sheets lined with parchment paper. If cookies become soft, refrigerate until firm, 20-30 mins. Bake, switching positions of sheets about halfway through, until just golden, about 10-12 mins. Transfer cookies on parchment to wire racks; let cool completely. Makes 2 dozen.

Place 1 iced letter cookie upright in the buttercream of each cupcake. Tutti Mangia!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Chicken Chili Mole

Now the Autumn is really upon us, I thought it was time to start making "warmer" recipes - such as chili! If you know me by now, I don't make dishes I am used to frequently; I love trying out new recipes! I was watching Food Network one day last week for inspiration and saw this recipe made by Robin Miller so I figured I'd try it out. I sometimes like to buy a rotisserie chicken from Stop & Shop on Friday's because they sell it for $5 on that day only. One can never have enough recipes to use that rotisserie chicken so alas that was another reason to try out this recipe. 

- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 5 teaspoons garlic
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 red bell peppers, seeded and diced (I used green, not a huge difference)
- 3 canned jalapeno peppers, diced
- 1 packet chili seasoning (didn't have this but made my own seasoning mix)
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes
- 1 (5 ounce) can pinto beans, drained (I excluded these because I do NOT like beans)
- 2 cups shredded chicken
- 1 bottle beer (I used Bud Light because it was all we had in the fridge, but I'm sure a dark beer would be great as well)
- 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, shaved (I only used about 1 ounce becasue the chocolate flavor was too overwhelming to me)
- 2 scallions, chopped, for garnish
- Cheddar, for garnish

In a large dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and onion and saute for 5 minutes. 


Add red bell peppers and jalapenos and saute for 5 more minutes, until soft. 


Stir in chili seasoning packet and cinnamon and cook until spices are fragrant. Add tomatoes, pinto beans, shredded chicken and beer. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer 10 minutes. Stir in chocolate just before serving. Garnish with grated cheddar and chopped scallions, if desired.

It was a very good meal and if you like chili you will like this dish. It really warmed me up and the smell of melted chocolate in my dinner was certainly a plus! Now if only I was sitting near a blazing fireplace while I was eating this, it would be even better... Tutti Mangia! 

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Prosciutto Chicken Breasts

I'm very sorry about the lack of blog posts recently. I was in Washington DC for a work event and then went on to Baltimore for a short vacation, yet I was still gone a whole week! The night before I left, I decided to use up a few ingredients left in my fridge since they would have went to waste anyway. I had chicken breasts in the freezer along with cheddar cheese and prosciutto in the fridge. VOILA - dinner would be served! This was a very easy but flavorful and delicious dinner! I made three chicken breasts so that Shaun would have one good dinner while I was gone. I found a recipe online that gave me the idea for this but I put my own spin on it (courtesy of Real Simple).

3 chicken breasts
Olive oil
Ground black pepper 
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons garlic powder
6 slices of prosciutto
Cheddar cheese

Drizzle chicken breast with olive oil and season with spices. The reason I did not use any salt on the chicken was because the prosciutto is full of it, but feel free to if you would like. If you notice in the picture that my chicken looks thinner than yours, that is because I always pound out my chicken that way so it cooks evenly. 
More Surface Area = More Flavor!

Saute the chicken breast in a pan on one side until it turns white. Go ahead and flip the chicken at this point. Then, lay 2 slices of prosciutto on each chicken breast (cooked side up). You need make sure the chicken cooks up on both sides before the prosciutto has a chance to get too crisp or burn! Once that second side is almost done cooking, turn the chicken one more time so that the prosciutto is now on the bottom of the pan. This will allow it's fat to render and it to get crispy and delicious!

Flip the chicken just one more time so that the prosciutto is back on top again.At this point you want to put the slices of cheddar or any cheese on top so that it can start melting. You should not jump to this point until the chicken is basically cooked through. It will not take more than a minute or two for  the cheese to melt, especially if you put a lid on your saute pan to hold in the heat. This recipe would serve three people just fine, with a side dish or two to complete the meal of course!

Tutti Mangia!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Caramel S'more Cups

I got an email yesterday from Betty Crocker (yes I subscribe to their email lists) with this recipe. It looked so incredibly easy and I was craving chocolate so I decided to make them last night. You can't go wrong with a chocolate chip cookie, caramel, marshmallows and more chocolate, can you? BTW - Happy Birthday Mike (my awesome brother going to school out in Arizona)! These are for you!

1 pouch (1 lb 1.5 oz) Betty Crocker® chocolate chip cookie mix
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 egg
24 round chewy caramels in milk chocolate, from 3 (1.91-oz) rolls, unwrapped
72 mini marshmallows (about 3/4 cup)
1/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Heat oven to 350°F. Spray 24 mini muffin cups with cooking spray. Make cookie dough as directed on package, using butter and egg. Shape dough into 24 (1 1/2-inch) balls. Place 1 ball into each muffin cup.

Bake 13 to 15 minutes or until edges begin to brown. Remove from oven; firmly press 1 candy into center of each cookie until flush with cookie top. Top each with 3 marshmallows. Bake 2 to 4 minutes longer or until marshmallows are puffed. Cool 10 to 15 minutes. Loosen edges of cookie with small metal spatula and remove to cooling racks. Cool completely.

Place chocolate chips in small resealable freezer plastic bag. Microwave on High about 1 minute or until softened. Gently squeeze bag until chocolate is smooth; cut off tiny corner of bag. Squeeze bag to drizzle chocolate over marshmallows. Let stand until hardened, about 10 minutes.

Tutti Mangia!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Risotto with Pancetta and Wild Mushrooms

Risotto is one of my absolute favorite dishes to make. It is actually quite simple to make so I'm unsure why people are so scared of it. The one thing that I can think of is that you need to stand near the stove the entire 20+ minutes that the risotto is cooking - it requires constant stirring. Thankfully I have an awesome boyfriend who stood by the stove with me while the risotto was cooking. I'd like to say that he loves to be helpful in the kitchen but the fact is he was just starving - I love him regardless!

I used one of my MANY cookbooks to find this recipe. It came from the book "Food & Wine 2000: An Entire Year's Recipes from America's Favorite Food Magazine." It is an amazing cookbook with over 500 recipes and tons of photos. Another few reasons I love this cookbook are because it has sample menus (using recipes from the book), wine recommendations and tips from the editors of their magazine. I've included the recipe below, adapted from Food and Wine, with a few minor tweaks of my own. No surprise there! 

 8 paper-thin slices of pancetta or bacon (about 2 ounces) I used diced pancetta
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound mixed mushrooms, such as chanterelles, cremini and Portobellos, thickly sliced
Sea salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon finely chopped parsley or tarragon I used both, split evenly
1/2 cup white wine (I clearly added this ingredient on my own)
5 cups light chicken stock or canned low-sodium broth
1 garlic clove, lightly smashed I minced up my garlic because I love the flavor
1 shallot, minced Didn't have one so I used half of a regular onion
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus shavings, for garnish
2 tablespoons heavy cream Omitted this, didn't miss it!
Freshly ground white pepper

Preheat the broiler. Arrange the pancetta slices on a baking sheet in a single layer and broil for 1-2 mins or until golden and sizzling. Drain on paper towels, then crumble. I sauteed the pancetta in a small frying pan because I didn't want to use the stove!

In a large nonstick skillet, heat the oil. Add the mushrooms, season with salt and cook over high heat, stirring, just until they exude their juices, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer the mushrooms and their liquid to a strainer set over a bowl and press lightly on the mushrooms; reserve the liquid. Wipe out the skillet and add 1 tablespoon of the butter. Return the mushrooms to the skillet and cook, stirring, until tender and just beginning to brown, about 3 minutes. Add the parsley, cover and keep warm.

In a medium saucepan, combine the stock with the reserved mushroom liquid and bring to a simmer, then keep warm over low heat. In a large, deep nonstick skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter. Add the garlic and cook over moderate heat until fragrant. Add the shallot and cook until softened but not browned, 3 to 4 minutes; discard the garlic. Add the rice and stir until the grains are thoroughly coated with butter.

Add 1 cup of the hot stock to the pan and cook, stirring constantly, until the rice has absorbed most of the stock, 1 to 2 minutes. Continue to cook the risotto, adding the stock 1 cup at a time, and stirring constantly between additions until it is absorbed. Cook the risotto until it has a creamy, porridgelike consistency, about 20 minutes.

Remove the risotto from the heat and stir in the grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, the cream and the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter. Season with salt and white pepper and transfer to warm soup plates. Garnish with the mushrooms, pancetta and shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano. Serve immediately.

Risotto is a classic Italian specialty and I'm proud to say it is one of my specialties as well! This dish in particular screams "Italian" to me, probably because of the specific ingredients - wine, pancetta, arborio rice and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Come on! "The salty crunch of the pancetta serves as a palate-pleasing counterpoint to the tenderness of the mushrooms, with the al dente rice making a midpoint between the two," says the cookbook writers. I hope you enjoy this dish as much as I did!

Tutti Mangia!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Caramel Crunch Snickerdoodles

Does anyone shop at Hannaford? I sometimes do and when I'm in there I grab their "Fresh Magazine" right up at the front. It includes some pretty awesome recipes, including these cookies. I'm in AUTUMN mode with my cooking now so this recipe was a "must-make" for me! I always thought snickerdoodles involved some sort of a nut but that could not be more wrong... Snickerdoodles are a type of sugar cookie made with cream of tartar and rolled in cinnamon sugar. For those novice bakers out there that do not know what cream of tartar is - you can find it in the spice aisle at the food store. It is an acidic kind of salt and is actually an active ingredient in baking powder. Cream of tartar is used to make sure these cookies aren't dense and it did it's job! They were both moist and chewy but the caramel gave it a nice crunch!

3 cups sugar, divided
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract

1. Line a baking sheet with heavy-duty foil and spray with cooking spray.

2. Prepare the caramel crunch. In a large, heavy skillet heat 1 cup of the sugar over medium heat, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon to help it melt evenly. When the sugar is melted, lower heat to medium-low and cook to a golden color, about 3 to 6 minutes. Immediately pour the caramelized sugar carefully onto the prepared baking sheet. Tilt the sheet so that sugar spreads to a thickness of no more than 1/8 inch. Allow to cool until hard and cool to the touch, about 30 minutes.You will be surprised on how easy caramel is to make! It was my first time HEHE

3. Break the caramel into several pieces, then place on a cutting board and use a knife to chop into 1/4- to 1/2-inch pieces.

4. Preheat the oven to 325degreesF. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper, or spray with vegetable cooking spray. In a small bowl, stir 1/2 cup of the sugar together with the cinnamon. Set aside.

5. Make the cookies. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. In a large bowl, use an electric mixer on medium speed to beat the butter and remaining 11/2 cups sugar until smooth, about 1 minute. Mix in the eggs and vanilla until blended. On low speed, mix in the flour mixture until it is incorporated. Stir in the chopped caramel pieces.The dough will be stiff.

6. Scoop out a well-rounded tablespoon of dough and roll between your palms into a smooth ball. Roll ball in the cinnamon sugar mix. Repeat with remaining dough and place balls 3 inches apart on the baking sheets.

7. Bake cookies, one sheet at a time, just until the edges are golden but the centers are pale and feel soft if lightly touched, about 15 to 18 minutes. Cool the cookies for 5 minutes on the baking sheets, then transfer to a wire rack to cool. Serve or store in a tightly covered container for up to 3 days, or freeze.

These cookies are about 120 calories each and 5 grams of fat. Worth every calorie though, I must say! Although, do I say that about all my cookies that I bake? Either way - Tutti Mangia!

P.S. I love homemade caramel!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Citrus Pound Cake with Orange Sauce

This was my first experience making pound cake from scratch. I used to be impartial to Sara Lee's frozen pound cake because it was easy but I will be using that NO MORE! Not to say that this recipe is easy, because for a novice cooker it is not, but it is definitely worth the effort.
For those of you who do not know, the name pound cake originated because the ingredients for them used to be one pound each of butter, sugar, eggs and flour... that is definitely not the case anymore. I've read that apparently recipes that had simple ingredients were common because most people couldn't read. Thankfully, I can read, and when I saw this recipe that I had cut out from one of my old Cooking Light magazines, I had to make it! Pound cake dates back to the 1700s and is still a hit today, or so say my co-workers. *wink wink*

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (about 10 ounces)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups sugar, divided
10 tablespoon butter, softened
1/2 cup (4 ounces) Neufch√Ętel cheese, softened
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1 teaspoon grated orange rind
3 large eggs
1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 large egg whites

2 cups fresh blood orange juice (about 12 oranges)
2/3 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 325°. To prepare cake, coat a 10-inch tube pan with cooking spray; dust with 1 tablespoon  flour. Set aside. Lightly spoon 2 1/4 cups flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt; stir well with a whisk.

Combine 1 1/2 cups sugar, butter, and cheese in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended (about 7 minutes). Add rinds; beat well. Add 3 large eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.

Combine buttermilk, 1/4 cup orange juice, and lemon juice. Add flour mixture and buttermilk mixture alternately to sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture.

Place egg whites in a medium bowl. Beat with a mixer at high speed until soft peaks form, using clean, dry beaters. Add remaining 1/4 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until stiff peaks form. Gently fold one-third of egg white mixture into batter, and fold in remaining egg white mixture.

Spoon batter into prepared pan. Bake at 325° for 1 hour and 10 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove cake from pan; cool completely on a wire rack.

To prepare sauce, combine the blood orange juice and 2/3 cup sugar in a large, heavy saucepan; bring to a boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat, and simmer until reduced to 1 cup (about 30 minutes). Serve sauce with cake. Each slice is 316 calories and 10 grams of fat.

I think my favorite part of making this cake was beating the egg whites and sugar to make that cool "whipped cream" texture. The science behind recipes still ceases to amaze me. Please try out this recipe for a yummy breakfast treat! Tutti Mangia!

Monday, September 27, 2010

French Onion Salisbury Steak

I received a complimentary issue of a magazine called Cuisine at home the other day because I subscribe to their newsletters via e-mail (or at least I think that's why I got it). It had an abundance of recipes that I was dying to test out! That is where this recipe actually came from - plus I conveniently had a package of ground turkey in the fridge waiting to be used. Plus after seeing the picture displayed in the magazine, I had to taste it!

Salisbury Steak is known as a classic dinner staple for American families... not mine though! I can't remember a time eating Salisbury Steak when I was younger. Another staple that this dish replicates is French Onion Soup. I do remember eating my fair share of French Onion Soup growing up on the other hand! I would frequently get it at the diner near my house on Long Island and make it from scratch with friends while in college. Without further delay, here is the recipe:

For the steak -
1 1/4 lb ground beef or turkey (I used turkey)
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
2 tbsp minced scallions
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 tbsp flour

For the sauce -
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cups sliced onions
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp tomato paste
2 cups beef broth
1/4 cup dry red wine (I didn't feel like opening a whole bottle so I omitted this)
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp dried thyme

Combine ground beef, 1/4 cup parsley, scallions, salt and pepper. Divide evenly into four portions and shape into 3/4-1 inch thick oval patties. Place 2 tbsp flour in a shallow dish; dredge each patty in flour. Reserve 1 tsp flour.

Heat oil in a saute pan over medium-high. Add patties and saute 3 minutes on each side, or until browned. Remove from pan. Add onions and sugar to pan; saute 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and tomato paste; saute until paste begins to brown, 1 minute. Sprinkle mixture with reserved flour; cook 1 minute. Stir in broth, wine, salt and thyme.

Return meat to pan; bring sauce to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer 10 minutes. Serve steaks on Cheese Toasts with onion sauce ladled over. Garnish with parsley and Parmesan. Each patty is 337 calories and 16g of fat if you use ground beef.

Cheese Toasts
4 slices Italian baguette, cut diagonally (1/2 inch thick)
2 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 tsp minced garlic
Pinch of paprika
1/4 cup shredded Swiss cheese
1 tbsp shredded Parmesan

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place bread on a baking sheet. Combine butter, garlic, and paprika; spread on one side of each slice of bread. Combine cheeses and sprinkle evenly over butter. Bake until bread is crisp and cheese is bubbly, 10-15 minutes. Each toast is 172 calories and 9 grams of fat.

I don't like soggy bread so I did not place it underneath the steak patties for that reason. I did still dip the bread in the lovely gravy that I made though! I would HIGHLY recommend this recipe to anyone craving a hearty meal who still wants eat healthy. It really warms you up inside! Tutti Mangia!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Pardon me, would you have any Grey Poupon?"

I made dinner the other night with one craving - Dijon mustard.

I happened to have some chicken thighs in the freezer so I defrosted those in the morning. The awesome thing about the recipes below is that they both use fairly common ingredients that most people have in their pantry already. The fun thing about cooking is that you can always improvise on certain ingredients if you don't have them anyway - as I did below!

This recipe is courtesy of Ellie Krieger, adapted from

Maple Mustard Chicken Thighs
4 large bone-in chicken thighs, skins removed (about 1 1/2 pounds)
2 tablespoons grainy French mustard
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 clove minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram (shockingly I didn't have any so I didn't use it!)
2 tablespoons maple syrup

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Rinse chicken and pat dry. Combine mustard, garlic, marjoram and maple syrup in a small bowl. Spread about 1 1/2 tablespoons mustard mixture evenly on top of each chicken thigh, being careful to cover as much of the surface as possible to form a "crust." Arrange chicken in a glass baking dish. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until mustard mixture has formed a crust and is slightly hardened, and juices run clear when the chicken is pierced.

For a side-dish, I stuck with the Dijon-mustard theme and made roasted potatoes and asparagus. The asparagus was just dressed with salt, pepper and olive oil before cooking though. I didn't want to over-do it! The potatoes were crispy and popped in your mouth because I roasted them. The mustard seeds formed a delicious crust on the outside and the lemon was a great addition.

This recipe was adapted from - one of my favorite websites!

Mustard-Roasted Potatoes
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
1/2 cup whole grain Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter, melted
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (I did not use FRESH so HA!)
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel (I didn't have a real lemon)
1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
3 pounds 1- to 1 1/2-inch-diameter mixed unpeeled red-skinned and white-skinned potatoes, cut into 3/4-inch-wide wedges (I used baby small potatoes that did not need to be cut)

Position 1 rack in top third of oven and 1 rack in bottom third of oven and preheat to 425°F. Spray 2 large rimmed baking sheets with nonstick spray. Whisk mustard, olive oil, butter, lemon juice, garlic, oregano, lemon peel, and salt in large bowl to blend. Add potatoes; sprinkle generously with freshly ground black pepper and toss to coat. Divide potatoes between prepared baking sheets, leaving any excess mustard mixture behind in bowl. Spread potatoes in single layer. Roast potatoes 20 minutes. Reverse baking sheets and roast until potatoes are crusty outside and tender inside, turning occasionally, about 25 minutes longer.

This is what it looks like before cooking, after all the ingredients were on them.

This is what it looks like after cooking. Much more appetizing, don't you agree?

I would highly recommend both of these dishes for anyone to try, even a novice chef. I frequently roast potatoes and many different vegetables during the Fall and Winter months, so I will definitely be using that recipe as one of my go-to's from now on. For anyone feeling particularly inspired by Ellie Krieger's chicken dish, you should go out and buy her cookbook called "The Food You Crave: Luscious Recipes for a Healthy Lifestyle". It won a few awards in the Cooking World and contains tons of healthy recipes - worth picking up.

Here is a picture of the final dish --> Tutti Mangia!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Homeade Margarita Pizza

Who doesn't love pizza? If you live in America, you love pizza. I dare someone to argue that fact. This recipe is a great go-to meal made with pantry staples that comes together in no time!

It just takes a few simple ingredients - as you can see. I use a lot of shortcuts because, as I've said before, I'm a busy girl.
- Pillsbury Pizza Crust
- Fresh mozzarella cheese (Sorrento is one of my favorites, it melts so well!)
- Marinara Sauce
- Fresh basil
I don't want to get knocked for using store-bought marinara sauce because 9 times out of 10 I make my own and slave over the stove for hours to simmer it to the correct taste, just like Grandma used to do. Sometimes I could use a little help.... that is where this Tuttorosso sauce comes into play. I have to say that I have tested many bottled sauces and this is one of my favorites. That is probably because I use their canned tomatoes when making my own sauce. You don't taste any sugar or other additives like some of them out there.

The directions for this recipe could not be easier either - just roll out the pizza dough, right out of the can. I don't even use a rolling pin, I just put a little olive oil on a baking sheet and roll it out sicilian style - into a rectangular shape. Let that bake for about 10 minutes in a 375 degree oven then flip the dough over. This helps it get that thin-crust pizza flavor that everyone loves! Let the dough cook for another 5-7 minutes on it's own and then put on the marinara sauce, fresh basil (shredded by hand, not cut perfectly), and mozzarella cheese (cut into thick circles). You can also add any other cooked ingredients at this stage if you would like. As you can see, I had some little pepperoni slices, so I threw those on there. Let it cook in the oven until the cheese melts to your liking - just don't burn it!

Try to let it cool off when it comes out of the oven - I know it looks so damn good, I burnt my tongue! Tutti Mangia!
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