Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Chocolate-Strawberry Panini


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No, look a little closer. You know you want to.

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You want to make this. You know you do....

My friends, I give you the Chocolate-Strawberry Panini. Yes, you guessed it..... from Giada. What can I say? The woman is a genius. Sheer genius. You can say what you want about her (and I've heard lots of things..... ), the woman knows what she's doing when it comes to dessert.

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Believe me. You want to make this. Trust Giada. She won't steer you wrong.

The wonderful thing about this particular dessert is that you don't even have to bake anything to make it. Now, on the particular day that I made this I could not locate any pound cake in my favorite grocery store, and I already had pound cake on the brain, so I just made two. I know, I know..... crazy, but I just had to have this, and right away. I used The Barefoot Contessa's Lemon Yogurt Pound Cake Recipe, but any old pound cake will do. I did leave the lemon glaze off the pound cake that I made for the paninis. I didn't want to interfere with the sheer bliss that is chocolate, strawberries and cake....... oh. my. goodness. Did I already say that you should try this??? You should try this.

Here's the lowdown...

Chocolate-Strawberry Panini
Recipe (adapted for one) courtesy of Giada De Laurentiis and foodnetwork.com

3-5 Tablespoons of Nutella
2 (1/2-inch) thick slices pound cake (from 1 (10.75-ounce) loaf)
1-2 fresh strawberries, hulled and very thinly sliced (depends on how much strawberry you want on the panini)
Butter-flavored nonstick cooking spray (I didn't use the cooking spray, but if you're worried about sticking, go for it)

Heat a panini grill to medium according to the manufacturer's instructions. Go ahead and start by cutting your pound cake pieces in half. It's easier this way. Cutting this after you take it off the panini maker is a recipe for disaster. Trust me.

Spread the chocolate-hazelnut spread over 1 side of each of the pound cake slices. Arrange the sliced strawberries over top of the chocolate spread on each slice. Cover with the remaining cake slices, chocolate side down.
Spray panini grill with nonstick spray and grill each panino (very gently) until the pound cake is crisp and golden and the fillings are warm, about 2 minutes.

Eat immediately. You won't regret it.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Lemon Yogurt Cake

And last, but not least.....pound cake.

Lemon Yogurt Pound Cake .... from The Barefoot Contessa. Giada can't have all the fun ya know...

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Ina says that this version is healthier than most pound cake recipes due to her substitution of yogurt for some of the butter. While this may be true, I have a hard time with the words 'pound cake' and 'healthy' being used in the same sentence. That's all I've got to say.

Oh yeah...... this was delicious. And if you come back in a few days, I'll show you something else you can do with this cake and a panini maker that will make you run for the kitchen.... I promise.

Lemon Yogurt Cake
Recipe from Ina Garten and foodnetwork.com

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
1 1/3 cups sugar, divided
3 extra-large eggs
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

for the glaze:
1 cup confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8 1/2 by 4 1/4 by 2 1/2-inch loaf pan. Grease and flour the pan.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt into 1 bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the yogurt, 1 cup sugar, the eggs, lemon zest, and vanilla. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. With a rubber spatula, fold the vegetable oil into the batter, making sure it's all incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 50 minutes, or until a cake tester placed in the center of the loaf comes out clean.

Meanwhile, cook the 1/3 cup lemon juice and remaining 1/3 cup sugar in a small pan until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear. Set aside.

When the cake is done, allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Carefully place on a baking rack over a sheet pan. While the cake is still warm, pour the lemon-sugar mixture over the cake and allow it to soak in. Cool.

For the glaze, combine the confectioners' sugar and lemon juice and pour over the cake.


Paella is one of my favorite dishes to make. Easy, full of flavor, and colorful..... this recipe has it all. It's also very easy to throw together with whatever you have on hand, and it makes a ton of food, so I normally get the next night off from cooking dinner. Can't beat that. It covers all the bases as far as a balanced meal goes as well. Rice, chicken, sausage, shrimp and veggies. What more do you need. It's the perfect one pot meal..... well, two pots really, but they both get combined in the end.....

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On some nights, I just don't feel like dealing with the chicken, so I leave it out. On this particular night, I felt like if we were to eat chicken one more time that week, we would all end up clucking out in the yard the next morning. Ever feel like that? Oh good, I'm not the only one. On this night, I left the chicken completely out. The shrimp and sausage was a pleasant as well as welcome change to our all-chicken diet that week.

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I have never added the mussels to this dish, primarily because this is my go-to easy dinner dish and mussels just say 'trouble' to me. Classic paella has the mussels as well.

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You can throw whatever veggies you happen to have on hand in here. Sometimes I have peas and carrots and throw them in there as well. This particular night, I forgot and added only corn. You can also add whatever amount suits you..... you can't screw this dish up.

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It does have a pleasant spiciness to it from the red pepper flakes. Since I am feeding a 12 year old, and a rather picky one at that, I always err on the side of less spicy and add only 1/2 a teaspoon of the red pepper flakes, so I don't end up making another completely separate dinner in the end..... if you know what I mean. You could certainly add more if you like it spicier.

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And yes, I realize that this is flat leafed parsley and not cilantro..... but hey, for this dish, anything goes...... What are you waiting for??? Make it tonight!

Recipe adapted from Rachael Ray and foodnetwork.com

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 2 turns of the pan
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 cups enriched white rice
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
1 bay leaf
1 quart chicken or stock
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 1/2 pounds chicken tenders, cut into thirds
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 package of chicken sausages sliced into rounds (either packs of 4 or 5, both will work)
1 pound peeled and deveined large shrimp
18 green lipped mussels, cleaned (optional)
1 cup frozen peas (or peas and carrot mix)
1/2 bag frozen corn
2 lemons zested
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
4 scallions, chopped
Lemon wedges

In a very wide pan or paella pan, preheated over medium high heat, add 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 2 turns of the pan, crushed garlic, red pepper flakes, add rice and saute 2 or 3 minutes. Add saffron threads, bay leaf, broth, and thyme and bring liquids to a boil over high heat. Cover the pan with lid or foil and reduce heat to simmer for 13 minutes.

In a separate nonstick skillet, over medium high heat brown chicken on both sides in 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, 1 turn of the pan. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Add peppers and onions to the pan and cook 3 minutes longer. Add sausage to the pan and cook 2 minutes more. Remove pan from heat.

After about 13 minutes, add shellfish to the rice pan, nesting them in cooking rice. Pour in peas, scatter lemon zest over the rice and seafood, then cover the pan again. After 5 minutes, remove cover or foil from the paella and discard any unopened mussel shells. Stir rice and seafood mixture and lift out bay and thyme stems, now bare of their leaves. Arrange cooked chicken and peppers, onions and chorizo around the pan. Top with cilantro and scallions. Serve with wedges of lemon and warm bread.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Cranberry Orange Pecan Bread

What's better than starting your day with a big cup of tea and a delicious piece of Cranberry Orange Pecan Bread? Let me tell you....not much. Well..... maybe some things... but right now, all I can think of is this delicious bread. Cranberries, pecans, and orange.... three of my favorite ingredients. All three of them together? Heaven.

Around here we eat it for dessert as well. Personally, I would almost prefer a piece of quick bread to a big piece of chocolate cake. Unfortunately, others in this house would disagree.... to each his own, I suppose.

I recently purchased The Grand Central Bakery Book and was so excited when it arrived. It's a beautiful book and has recipes for everything from classic cakes and cookies, to cinnamon rolls, pizza dough, and quick breads like this one. I am a big lover of cookbooks with plenty of pictures, and this one has the most beautiful pictures as well as pointers and advice for making several different types of baked goods. It has been a wonderful addition to my cookbook collection.
Cranberry Orange Pecan Bread

Recipe adapted from The Grand Central Baking Book

(recipe makes 2 loaves, but they didn't last very long around here)

3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs
1 1/4 cups buttermilk*
zest and juice from one large orange
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups craisins (you could use fresh or frozen as well)
1/2 cup pecans, lightly toasted and rough chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Mix flour, salt and baking soda together in a bowl. In a stand mixer beat sugar and oil together until combined (mixture will have a sandy look). Crack eggs into a separate bowl, break yolks and whisk together. Slowly pour eggs into sugar/oil mixture while mixer is running. After eggs have been added, continue mixing for 2 more minutes.

Whisk together buttermilk, orange zest and juice and vanilla. Add 1/3 of dry ingredients to mixer and mix until combined. Add half of the buttermilk mixture and mix until combined. Continue alternating 1/3 dry ingredients, rest of buttermilk, and final 1/3 of dry ingredients and mix after each addition until just combined.

Fold cranberries and pecans into batter by hand and then split batter between two 9x5 inch loaf pans (buttered and floured). Bake loaves for 60 to 75 minutes, rotating pans every 20 minutes.

Slice and eat.

* No need to buy buttermilk for this recipe. Using whole milk, measure the amount of buttermilk needed for the recipe and top off with a splash of white vinegar. Stir, and let the mixture sit for 5 to 10 minutes and voila! Buttermilk.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Spiced Cocktail Nuts

A little more than just a bowl of nuts out on the table......

Spiced Cocktail Nuts

What's on these nuts?.....oh, just about everything in the spice rack.... and they have a sneak attack spicy bite to them. They would be perfect for guests to snack on if you're having company over, and were an absolute cinch to make. If you like curry, you'll like these.

Recipe from Giada De Laurentiis and foodnetwork.com

parchment paper
2 egg whites
2 cups roasted and salted almonds
2 cups roasted and salted cashew nuts
2 cups walnut halves
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons curry powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 1/2 teaspoons garlic salt
1 1/4 teaspoons cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Place an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F. Cover a sheet pan with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk the egg whites until frothy. Add the nuts and stir until coated. In a small bowl, combine the sugar, curry powder, cumin, garlic salt, cayenne pepper, cardamom, and cinnamon. Sprinkle the sugar mixture over the nuts and toss until coated. Arrange the nuts in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. 

Bake for 45 minutes until golden and fragrant. Cool for 1 hour.

Using a spatula, remove the nuts from the baking sheet. Break the nuts into bite- sized pieces and place in a big serving dish.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Lemon Chicken Noodle Soup

What could be better on a cool, rainy, spring day than a bowl of chicken soup.....and a panini on the side of course...... kidding, kidding.... The panini maker has become our favorite kitchen appliance this week...

Although I normally make my good ole standby Rachael Ray recipe for chicken soup with stars, which is always a big hit, this past weekend I thought I would try Giada's version. Hers has the added twist of fresh squeezed lemon juice added to the chicken broth.

The original recipe is called Lemon Chicken Soup with Spaghetti, but I decided to use Lumachine noodles as well as a handful of stars instead of the spaghetti because I really love the Lumachine noodles in soups, and they seemed easier to deal with than spaghetti. If you're not familiar with them, they are very much like mutant macaroni noodles and about the same size. My ding dong calls them 'cyclops pasta' because they have one large hole on one end.... at least I think that's why he calls them that, but you can never be sure...... I also shredded the rotisserie chicken instead of chopping the chicken into bite sized pieces. It was delicious and the perfect meal for a relaxing day inside.

Recipe is adapted from Giada De Laurentiis and foodnetwork.com (Recipe can also be found in Giada's book Giada at Home)

10 cups low-sodium chicken broth (add more or less depending on how much broth you like)
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
1 dried bay leaf
1 cup Parmesan cheese
2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced into 1/4-inch pieces
1 medium onion, diced fine
2 ribs celery, diced fine
1 cup (about 2 1/2 ounces) Lumachine pasta (you can use broken spaghetti noodles or any short cut pasta)
1 rotisserie chicken, meat shredded
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Kosher salt

In a large stockpot, bring the chicken broth, lemon juice, bay leaf to a boil over medium-high heat.

Add the carrots, onion and celery and simmer until tender, about 5 to 8 minutes.

Add the pasta and cook until the pasta is tender, for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the chicken and heat through, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and discard. Stir in 1/2 of the cheese and the parsley. Season with salt, to taste. Ladle the soup into serving bowls and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Almond and Lemon Biscotti

Almond and Lemon Biscotti..... Dipped in White Chocolate
Mmmmm..... The perfect accompaniment to a big cup of tea or coffee. I've been enjoying these every night with a big cup of ginger orange tea and my favorite shows, on the couch, under the covers. My favorite part of these is the texture added by the cornmeal and the almonds. They are so very simple to make and the recipe makes plenty. Why buy the ones in the box, when you can make these? I think they might just become a staple around here....
Recipe from Giada De Laurentis and foodnetwork.com You can also find the recipe in Giada's newest book Giada at Home

2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cornmeal
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
3 tablespoons grated lemon zest (from about 3 to 4 lemons)
3/4 cup coarsely chopped whole almonds
18 ounces white chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt.

In another large bowl, beat the sugar and eggs with an electric mixture until pale yellow, about 3 minutes. Mix in the lemon zest and then the flour, and beat until just blended. (The dough will be sticky). Stir in the almonds. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes.

Divide the dough evenly into 2 equal mounds and place on the prepared baking sheet. With moist hands, space the dough evenly apart and form into 2 (9 by-3-inch) logs. Bake for 35 minutes until lightly browned. Cool for 5 minutes. 

Using a serrated knife, cut the logs crosswise into 3/4-inch-thick diagonal slices. Arrange the biscotti cut side down on the same baking sheet. Bake until the cookies are pale golden, about 25 minutes. Let cool completely.

Place the chocolate chips in a medium bowl. Place the bowl over a pan of simmering water, making sure the bottom of the pan does not touch the water. Stir until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Dip the end of each biscotti in the chocolate. Transfer the dipped biscotti to a wire rack, set over a baking sheet, until the chocolate has hardened. Store in an airtight container.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Mozzarella, Raspberry and Brown Sugar Panini

So we were out running errands the other day and we decided to run into Target and get one of the items on our list. There was this crazy woman standing in front of the Giada display in some sort of trance......... anyway, next thing I know, we're standing at the registers and I am buying a panini maker. Yes, yes, it was Giada's panini maker.

Hello, my name is Sam, and I love Giada. I am about 2 steps away from packing my bags and heading out to California to see if I can sit out on her pool deck and attend all the dinner parties, and taste all those delicious meals that she serves to all her friends..... I kid, I kid...... My friends are about 2 steps from staging some sort of intervention. They said they are going to tie me up and drive me to some undisclosed location and force me to eat nothing but McDonalds and Burger King for days..... They're not kidding.

So, back to the subject...... I know, I know... I am probably the last person on the planet to get a panini maker, but I am so excited. Ahhhh the possibilities.... yummy possibilities. And possibilities that my soon to be 13 year old can execute for dinner all by himself. How did I ever live without it. Obviously I need to get out of the house more.

I took my new baby for a test run today, and this is what I made.

Giada's Mozzarella, Raspberry and Brown Sugar Panini.

You didn't really think I was going to make something that wasn't Giada's did you? Anyway, I digress.... it was delicious. Beyond delicious. Also very indulgent if you ask me. It would be perfect as a breakfast dish, but also would work well as a dessert. Seems like an odd combination of menu items, but let me tell you, this woman knows her food. It's brilliant I tell ya. Brilliant.

Here's the recipe (from Giada De Laurentiis and foodnetwork.com. Can also be found in her new book Giada at Home
) I've adapted the recipe for one sandwich.

2 (1/2-inch thick) slices bakery-style white bread (or some kind of Italian bread)
extra-virgin olive oil for brushing
raspberry jam
1/4 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves
2 slices fresh mozzarella, drained and patted dry
Kosher salt, optional
1 teaspoon light brown sugar

Preheat the panini press.

Using a pastry brush, brush the bread on both sides with the oil. Spread 1 side of each slice of bread with the raspberry jam. Sprinkle the rosemary over the jam. Cut 2 slices of mozzarella. Place the slices of cheese onto the bread on top of the raspberry jam. Season the cheese with a pinch of salt, if using. 

Place the remaining slice of bread on top, jam-side down. Sprinkle the top with the brown sugar. Press in the panini press for 3 to 5 minutes until the cheese has melted and the bread is golden and crispy.
Cut the panini in half and eat it.

Would you like to see my garden?

Welcome. I'm so glad you're here. I have a cake in the oven.... What did you say? Would you like to see my garden? Oh good. Follow me.

These are my hostas. I don't have much shade around here, but where I do, there are hostas.... If I could fill the whole yard with them, I think I would.

What are those? Those are my ferns....

Oh how I love my ferns....
These suckers have taken forever to get established and start spreading, but I think we're finally onto something here...... there are about a zillion Lily of the Valley planted in amongst them, but we'll have to come back and see them some other day. They look like a bunch of weeds at the moment.....but when they flower.....oh my goodness....

Come over here, and I'll show you my new vegetable garden. We dismantled the swingset this winter and my husband constructed a new raised veggie garden for me.

This is one of my tomatoes. Don't ask me what kind.... I forget what they are the minute I leave the farmers market with them. I cheated this year and bought plants that were already started instead of seeds. We usually have quite the 'nursery' in our kitchen and I didn't feel like the mess or the pain this year. I tend to go a little crazy every year with the tomatoes....don't ask me why.... I don't really like to eat them. I counted them yesterday and there are 12 tomatoes out here. We're gonna have tomatoes..... lots of 'em.

Over here, next to the tomatoes, are my herbs.



and Chives.... there are a bunch more. Cilantro, parsley, dill, basil (of course), and lavender. A very handy area to have, cause I always forget to buy them when I go to the grocery store...

Over here is one of my favorite trees in the yard.

Behold, the redbud tree. Usually this particular stage is accompanied by a huge swarm of those large 'furry' bumblebees, but this year I think the flowers came too early. A little too chilly still for the bees maybe. I haven't seen any.

Over here is my new spot to try out and experiment with perennials that I see while I'm out and about...

This one's called Arabis or Rock Cress. I fell in love with it at a garden center a couple weeks ago. Unfortunately it's not in love with me, or the spot that I put it in, cause it hasn't looked this good since, but I have high hopes. We'll see what happens.

If you look over here under these laurels..... you'll see one of my favorite additions to my garden...

These are the violas that I planted in the planter boxes on my deck several years ago. I killed the original plants long ago because any plant in a pot around me is as good as dead, but I digress...... These little guys could be considered a weed. They self-sowed themselves all over the area just below where I had the boxes, and have established themselves quite nicely here. I just love those little blooms. They bloom early when not much else is doing much of anything.

Speaking of blooming early when everything else is still dormant.......

These are my Helleborus. Definitely at the top of my list of favorite perennials. It's such a joy to look out my kitchen window and see these guys blooming in early March, and not only do they stay blooming through the beginning of June in most years, but they are evergreen. If you have a shady spot, you should definitely get some.

We're almost at the end of our tour, but I have one more shrub I want to show you......

This is my viburnum. I think they are highly under-rated and under-used as well. Most varieties can become quite the monster if given the chance, so you have to be careful which one you plant and where you put it, but if you have the room, I would definitely go for it. They have the most beautiful creamy white blooms that rival those of hydrangeas if you ask me. They bloom in the spring and the buds are present in the fall. So you can tell your husband not to go all crazy with the pruners and prune it up in the fall, like mine does, lest he cut all the future blooms off.........

I think that's about it for now. The rest of the stuff isn't doing much at the moment, so we'll have to do another tour a little later!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Warm Tomato and Corn Salad

This is from Rachael Ray, and always gets many compliments and requests for the recipe whenever I take it somewhere. A wonderful mix of corn, beans, peppers and a surprise kick. It works very well as either a side for fish or chicken, or just with some tortilla chips as a dip. Try it. You'll like it.

Warm Tomato and Corn Salad
adapted from Rachael Ray and foodnetwork.com

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small red bell pepper, chopped
1 small green or orange bell pepper, chopped
4 scallions, chopped, whites and greens
3 cloves chopped garlic cloves
1 small bag of frozen corn
2 cans diced tomatoes (I used Rotel tomatoes with lime and cilantro), pour off liquid before adding
2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1 ripe lime, juiced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, eyeball it
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper sauce, recommended: Tabasco, eyeball it
1 teaspoon sweet paprika, eyeball it
Coarse salt and pepper
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro or parsley leaves, to garnish

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add oil, peppers, scallions and garlic. Cook 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add corn to the pan and allow the liquids from frozen corn to cook out, about 3 minutes. Add tomatoes and black beans to the pan and the juice of 1 lime. Throw the lime halves right into the pan with the veggies, it will really punch up the flavor. Season with cumin, cayenne sauce, paprika, salt and pepper. Top with cilantro or parsley and transfer the warm salad to a serving dish.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Hazelnut and Chocolate Pie with Vanilla Whipped Cream

Hazelnut and Chocolate Pie with Vanilla Whipped Cream
Recipe courtesy of Giada De Laurentiis and foodnetwork.com

I happened to see Giada make this a couple days before my anniversary. Within 48 hours it was sitting on my kitchen counter.... I decided it would make a perfect anniversary 'gift'. And let me tell you...... yum. Very rich and decadent and guess what? It was a breeze to make. Nothing better than a pie without the trouble of a crust, is what I say! So there is no excuse for you not to make it. Right away! You know you want to......

Here's the lowdown.....
8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup hazelnuts, skinned and toasted
1/4 cup all-purpose flour, plus more to dust the pie dish
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup hot water
4 eggs
1 stick butter, cut into 3/4-inch pieces, at room temperature, plus more to grease the pie dish
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

for the whipped cream:

1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Position an oven rack in the lower 1/3 of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.
Put 1/2 of the chocolate chips, hazelnuts, and flour in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the hazelnuts are coarsely chopped. Pour the hazelnut mixture into a small bowl and set aside. Combine remaining chocolate chips and sugar in the food processor. Blend until the mixture is finely ground. With the machine running, gradually add the hot water until the chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth. Add the eggs, butter, vanilla and cinnamon. Pulse until mixture is blended. Return the hazelnut mixture to the food processor and pulse to incorporate. Pour the mixture into a buttered and floured 9-inch pie dish. Bake for 35 minutes. Place the pie on a cooling rack and cool for 1 hour. (Top may crack during cooling.) Refrigerate for 2 hours. (Pie can be made 1 day in advance and stored in the refrigerator).

to make the whipped cream:

In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream until it forms soft peaks. Add the powdered sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon. Continue to beat until cream holds stiff peaks.
Let pie sit out at room temperature about 30 minutes prior to serving..... in fact, we heated it up just a little bit in the microwave prior to putting on the whipped cream and eating it.

Buttermilk Cake with Vanilla Icing

Buttermilk Cake with Vanilla Icing
adapted from Fine Cooking Magazine and finecooking.com

This cake has shredded butternut squash in it, which makes it similar to carrot cake, if you ask me, but nowhere near as rich. It was delicious.

No need to buy buttermilk for this. I just pour the needed amount of regular whole milk into a container and then add a little white vinegar (1 cup milk to 1 tblspn vinegar). Let it sit 10 or 15 minutes or so, and voila, buttermilk......

For the cake:
4 oz. (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened; more for the pan
13-1/2 oz. (3 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour; more for the pan
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
2 large eggs
1 Tbs. distilled white vinegar
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. table salt
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
3/4 cup buttermilk
2-1/4 cups peeled and grated butternut squash (about 8 oz.)

For the icing and garnish:
9 oz. (2-1/4 cups) confectioners’ sugar
3 Tbs. buttermilk; more as needed
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp. table salt

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 325°F. Butter and flour a 10-cup Bundt pan; tap out excess flour.

In a large bowl with a hand mixer or in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until well combined, about 1 minute. Add the oil and beat until combined, about 15 seconds. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well on low speed. Add the vinegar and vanilla and mix again until just combined. Add half of the flour and the baking soda, salt, ginger, and nutmeg, mixing on low speed until just combined. Add half of the buttermilk and mix until just combined. Repeat with the remaining flour and buttermilk.

Stir the squash into the batter and transfer the batter to the prepared pan; smooth the top with a rubber spatula. Bake until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 hour. Cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes; then carefully invert the cake onto the rack and remove the pan. When the cake is completely cool, transfer it to a serving plate.
Make the icing
In a medium bowl, whisk the sugar, buttermilk, vanilla, nutmeg, and salt until smooth. Add more buttermilk, a few drops at a time, as needed, until the icing is pourable but still quite thick. Pour the icing back and forth in thick ribbons over the cooled cake. Let the icing set at room
temperature, about 45 minutes, before serving.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Stracciatella Semifreddo

Stracciatella Semifreddo
Recipe from Giada De Laurentiis and foodnetwork.com

This was beyond heavenly..... Rich and decadent don't even begin to describe it. I will say that although it looks like a lot of trouble to make, it was fairly easy. Several different steps, but all easily completed in about an hour or less.

If you want to impress company for dinner, this is the dessert to do it with.....then again, they may never leave after you serve this......

Special equipment: a 3 by 15-inch piece of parchment paper, a 7 1/2 by 12-inch piece of parchment paper

For the crust: Put an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9 by 5 by 3-inch nonstick loaf pan with vegetable oil cooking spray. Using 2 pieces of parchment paper, line the pan, allowing the excess to hang over the ends and sides.

In a food processor, blend the biscotti and hazelnuts together until finely ground. Add the melted butter and pulse until the crumbs are moistened. Using a flexible spatula, press the crumb mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes until the edges of the crust are golden. Cool the pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes.

For the filling: In a medium stainless steel or glass bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, 1/2 cup sugar, vanilla extract, and salt until smooth. Put the bowl over a pan of simmering water, making sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water. Whisk until the egg mixture is pale, thick and creamy, and an instant-read thermometer registers 160 degrees F, about 10 to 15 minutes. Put the bowl into a larger bowl of iced water to cool completely.

In another medium bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the cream until thick. Add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and beat until the cream holds stiff peaks. Mix 1/4 of the cream into the cooled custard. Using a spatula, gently fold the remaining cream into the custard.

Drop spoonfuls of the chocolate-hazelnut spread over the custard mixture and gently fold until just incorporated but still chunky. Spoon the mixture onto the prepared crust. Fold the overhanging parchment paper over the custard and freeze for at least 8 hours or up to 3 days.

Run a thin-bladed spatula around the semifreddo between the parchment paper and the pan. Unfold the parchment paper and invert the semifreddo onto a platter. Peel off the paper and cut into 1-inch thick slices. Serve on chilled plates.

Cook's Note: To toast the hazelnuts, arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake in a preheated 350 degrees F oven for 8 to 10 minutes until lightly toasted. Cool completely before using. You can put the hazelnuts in a dishtowel and rub vigorously to remove skins as soon as they come out of the oven, but I seem to have just as much success in letting them sit for 4 or 5 minutes or so, and then rubbing the skins off with my fingers. In my experience, you're never gonna get all the skins off either way, so don't let that detail rain on your parade.

Italian Chocolate Sandwich Cookies

Italian Chocolate Sandwich Cookies...
Recipe from Giada De Laurentiis and foodnetwork.com

These cookies have managed to make it to my short list of favorite cookies... They're surprisingly light and delicate, the orange and chocolate are perfect complements to each other, and the addition of the cornmeal imparts such a wonderful texture and crunch to the cookies. Try them. They'll become your new favorite too.


Chocolate cookies:
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature (2 sticks)
2/3 cup sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup cornmeal or polenta
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 orange, zested

Orange filling:
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature (1 stick)
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 orange, zested
Pinch salt


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
To make the Chocolate Cookies, in a large bowl use an electric mixer to cream together the butter and sugar until light in color and fluffy. In another medium bowl stir together the flour, cornmeal or polenta, cocoa powder, baking powder, salt, and orange zest. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and stir to combine using a wooden spoon. Place the dough on a sheet of plastic wrap. Press the dough into a 1-inch high round. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 1 day.
Roll out the dough to between 1/8 and 1/4-inch thick. Use a 1 3/4-inch round cookie cutter to cut out the dough. Bake on a heavy baking sheet for 15 minutes. Place the baking sheets on a wire rack to cool cookies.
Meanwhile, to make the Orange Filling, combine the butter, powdered sugar, orange zest, and salt in a medium bowl. Use an electric mixer to cream the ingredients together.
To assemble the cookie sandwiches, place about 1 teaspoon of the Orange Filling on a cookie. Top with another cookie and press the cookies together. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 day.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Spring is here......hallelujah.

circumstances and situations do color life but you have been given the mind to choose what the color shall be.
- John Homer Miller

a song for your saturday.

Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Well, this is it. My new blog in which I attempt to chronicle my adventures.....both in the kitchen and out. I'm a little obsessed with food and cooking these days, so it'll likely be more 'in' than 'out', but I'm sure some other stuff will sneak in there here and there. Bear with me.... I'm trying to figure all this out......

We'll start with these. These delicious cookies are from Martha.....yes, that Martha. The recipe makes a ton of cookies and they were a big hit here. Soft and chewy. Yum.

Thanks for stopping by! And for heavens sake, if you try one of the recipes yourself, let me know how it turns out!

Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Recipe from Martha Stewart

Makes about 4 dozen

2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, slightly firm and cut into chunks
1 cup packed light-brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2/3 cup sour cream
2 cups semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 1/2 cups chopped walnut or pecan pieces

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt; and set aside.

With an stand mixer, cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla; beat until combined. Add sour cream, and beat until combined. Add flour mixture; beat until just combined. Fold in chocolate and nuts.

Drop dough in mounds at least 2 inches apart onto prepared baking sheets (as you work, chill any remaining dough until ready to bake).

Bake, rotating sheets halfway through, until cookies are golden brown but still soft to the touch, 13 to 15 minutes (chilled dough will take longer). Cool 5 minutes on sheets; transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.