Sunday, December 26, 2010

Phyllo-Wrapped Brie

This time of year so many of us are entertaining and going to parties. And when the hostess says can you bring something to share? You have no idea what to take or what will others like.

A few years ago I was hosting a dinner party and I wanted to make something different, but was totally had no idea what to make. After much Internet searching I found the perfect appetizer ... Phyllo-Wrapped Brie. I found it on Better Homes & Garden website, a place I would not normally look at, but it looked so good in the picture I had to try it.

This is what I did ...

3 tablespoons of unsalted butter
4 medium onions, cut into thin wedges (about 2 cups)
2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 cup crushed pecans
8 sheets (17x12 inches) frozen phyllo dough, thawed
1 stick of unsalted butter, melted
1 round of Brie
4 tablespoons of apricot spreadable fruit

Melt the 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter in a large saucepan. Add onion. Cover and cook over medium-low heat about 10 minutes or until onion is tender and golden, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle sugar over onion. Cook, covered, for 10 minutes more or until browned, stirring occasionally. Stir in pecans & set aside.

Work with one sheet of phyllo at a time, keeping remaining sheets covered with plastic wrap until needed. Lightly brush one sheet of phyllo dough with some melted unsalted butter. Place another sheet of phyllo dough on top of the first sheet, and brush with unsalted butter. Repeat with two more sheets of phyllo, brushing with unsalted butter.

Slice round of Brie in half horizontally, keeping it in its "wheel" form. Place bottom half in center of phyllo stack. Spread with 2 tablespoon of the apricot spreadable fruit; top with one-half of the caramelized onion-pecan mixture. Top with other half of Brie, 2 tablespoon spreadable fruit, and another one-half of onion-pecan mixture. Wrap phyllo up and over filling, pleating phyllo as needed to cover and slightly twisting phyllo on top. Brush phyllo with unsalted butter.

Place one wrapped Brie round 13x9x2-inch baking pan/cookie sheet. Cover and chill up to 24 hours. Bake in a 400 degree F oven about 20 minutes or until golden. Let stand 5 to 10 minutes. Serve with Melba thins. Makes 12 servings.

This has been a hit every time I make this dish. I would love to have taken my own picture of this, but it is eaten up so fast. A close friend of mine calls this "heaven on a plate." That is how good this is.

There are a few variations you can do to this recipe. Such as you can use any shape Brie you can find, they all come out yummy. Also if you do not like pecans you can also use hazelnuts or walnuts. (We love pecans so where ever we can use them, we do.) Another thing you can do is serve it with sliced apples, sliced pears and bread, but I have found that the Melba thins work the best because they are so hard they hold the brie and yummy goodness much better.

You may think that this looks hard to make but there is so much room for not perfect when it comes to the phyllo dough. Please try this you and your guests will love this.


Monday, November 29, 2010

Tea at the Four Season's Boston

A couple of weeks ago my cousin and I went to the Four Season's Boston for High Tea. It was a cold November afternoon and this was a perfect way to finish a day filled with shopping and walking all over the city.

I am a fan of High Tea and love to go to all the hotels in the city for tea and see who has the best tea, treats and ambiance. The Four Season's Boston is so beautiful since it overlooks the park, and this time of year the park is full of skaters, lights and happy people walking. We may live in one of the coldest cities in the country but we do make the best of the cold days, and look beautiful in our coats, hats & scarfs.

Boston is a famous place to have tea since the most famous "tea event" happened here ... The Boston Tea Party, in 1773. It was a cold December night, when a small band of colonists threw 340 chests of tea into the Boston Harbour as a sign of protest against “taxation without representation.” It was the beginning of a chain reaction that eventually led to the Declaration of Independence.

"Today, afternoon tea is no longer a sign of protest – it is a civilized, refined respite from the taxing pace of the day’s activities." - Four Season's

This is what we had ...
Scones and Tea Bread
Strawberry Jam, Lemon Curd and Devonshire Cream

Selection of Tea Sandwiches and Pastries

Served with a Pot of Brewed Tea of Your choice
Gunpowder – Organic Variety of Rolled Chinese Green Tea with a Crisp Refreshing Flavour
Crimson Berry – Lively Herbal Tea Made with Elderberries, Grapes, Currants, Bilberries and Hibiscus
Wild Mint – This Mint Herbal Tea is very Aromatic, but not Sharp. A Full, Complex and Refreshing Tea
Lemon Camomile – Herbal Tea, Blending the Camomile with Lemongrass and Lavender Flowers

All the treats that were served were so yummy and very traditional for tea. We had sandwiches such as cucumber, curried chicken, and smoked salmon. Sweets such as lemon tartlets, profiteroles filled with whipped cream and raspberry, a lemon poppy bread, and how can I forget scones. Scones that were warm when they were delivered to the table and tasted so full of flavor with tea.

The best part of going out for tea is how relaxing tea is and how much uninterrupted time you can spend with a person when you are having tea. There is no need to have your cell phone on, and ll that matters is what is in front of you ... the company and the treats.

If you have never experienced an outing for tea you should definitely do it. Bring your Mother, Sister, Best Friend, Daughter, etc. This is the perfect way to end a day of shopping, or a day walking around the city in the cold. Tea warms you up and the company you have will warm your soul.


Peanut-Rasin Granola Bars

Last week I was looking through my pantry for a snack and found so many different granola bars. Some we like and some we are not too fond of but still eat, but there were so many. And they all have such crazy ingredients in them, some I cannot even pronounce, I thought they were healthy treats but when you have no idea what is in them how can be healthy.

I seem to be on the kick on making everything we put in our bodies at my house. It may take a bit of time and energy but in the long run now you know what is it so you know how healthy it is. The other nice thing about making more of the things you eat is the love that you put in each meal you cook. Love translate in taste, flavor, and texture ... believe me when someone makes something with love it shows.

This is how I made my granola bars ...
cooking spray
2 1/2 cups organic rolled oats
1 cup dry roasted peanuts
1 cup of raisins (or 3 boxes of Sunmaid raisins)
1 cup organic sunflower seeds, hulled
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 14oz can of sweetened condensed milk
1 stick of unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 325degrees. Line a rimmed cookie sheet with foil and coat with cooking spray.

Mix the oats, peanuts, raisins, seeds, cinnamon, nutmeg, condensed milk and butter in a bowl. Bake in oven till golden brown, about 45 minutes. Cool slightly, flip over, peel off the foil and cut into bars.

These are such a yummy treat when you need a pick-me-up. Thinking of using dried cranberries, mini chocolate chips, and possible chocolate drizzle on future ones. Maybe even candied ginger or dried apricots. Wow the possibilities are endless.


Sunday, November 28, 2010

Cottage Pie

I would like to start by saying for the past few weeks I have been looking for a mandolin slicer. But I have not been able to find one, or maybe find one I like. So the other day my Mom & Dad came over to visit and they gave me a mandolin slicer they found while they were out shopping. How sweet of them to find a tool I have been looking for. Now no more looking and lets get slicing.

Last months issue of Everyday Food Magazine had a Cottage Pie on the cover. This very beautiful Pie in a casserole dish with thinly sliced potatoes as the "top crust." All I wanted to do was make this beautiful dish. After receiving the mandolin slicer I knew this was the first dish I was going to make with this new kitchen tool.

I am such a fan of comfort food and things that make you feel good inside and out. They make the house smell wonderful in the winter and warm the soul of all those who pop in for a visit unexpectedly during the winter.

This dish has other advantages in that you can use what you have in your fridge to make it. Most of these ingredients can be exchanged for something different and it can still be considered a Cottage Pie. The original way to make Cottage Pie is to use Lamb but since Turkey day was just upon us I substituted Turkey for the Lamb and it was such a yummy idea.

This is what I did ...
3 tablespoons of unsalted butter
1 large onion, diced
2 large carrots, sliced
coarse salt & pepper
2 tablespoons of tomato paste
2 1/2 cups of minced turkey (both dark and white meat)
2 teaspoons of dried thyme
1 cup larger beer
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3/4 cup frozen peas
2 Yukon gold potatoes, thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon butter over medium-high. Add onion and carrots and cook, stirring often, until onion is soft, 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and stir in tomato paste. Add meat and cook, until almost cooked through, 3 minutes. Add thyme and beer and bring to a boil. Cook, stirring frequently, until slightly reduced, 2 minutes. Sprinkle flour over mixture and stir to combine. Add 1 cup water and cook until mixture thickens, about 2 minutes. Stir in peas and season with salt and pepper.
Transfer mixture to a casserole like baking dish. Top with sliced potatoes, overlapping slices. Season potatoes with salt and pepper and drizzle with 2 tablespoons butter. Bake until potatoes are browned around edges and tender when pierced with a knife, 40 to 45 minutes. Then put in broiler for 5-10 minutes to crisp up the edges of the potatoes.

Let sit for 10 minutes to "settle and rest" before serving.

My husband thought this dish was so yummy he cannot wait for me to make it again. We although thought the next time we make it was are going to add 3/4 cup of frozen corn to add another level of sweetness.

As you can see there is so much you can do with this recipe from different meats you can use to veggies that can go in it makes it a frugal find, for what you have in your fridge you can use and it will come out just as yummy. It is so easy and looks so nice when finished it can even make a great casual dinner for you and another couple for a weeknight dinner


Sunday, November 21, 2010

Jerk Chicken

This is a crazy time of year to be talking about Jerk Chicken, and Jerk Chicken that needs to be cooked on a grille, with fire, outside your house. Since I am blogging from outside Boston and today it is 39 degrees, and not many brave souls have the stamina to stay outside and cook chicken on their gas grille. But my Husband does!!!

You see he asked me two days ago to marinade chicken for him and he requested Jerk Chicken to take to the Patriots vs. Colts game at Gillette Stadium. He loves to go to the games but I think he loves tailgating more than the game itself. Even though we are in a cold weather land please do not mess with the boys who tailgate for they mean business when it comes to the food they make in the parking lot of Gillette. Mike's group of buddies usually plans on two meals while in the parking lot. One before the game and one post game. What they are varies because of the time of the game. Sometimes it is breakfast & lunch and other times it is lunch & dinner. This week was a lunch & dinner week, I made lunch, Jerk Chicken.
This is what I did ...
6 scallions sliced (green only)
2 large shallots, diced
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
2 hot peppers, minced with seeds (if you do not like it hot omit the seeds)
1 tablespoon of ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup olive oil
Mix all the ingredients together, and marinate the chicken overnight.
Best if grilled either on charcoals or gas grille.
This time I used thighs and drums. We usually de-skin the chicken and let it set overnight in a zip-lock bag in a cold place.

This is Mike my husband grilling the Jerk Chicken today before the game. The picture was sent with a message ... "these were over the top, all the guys loved them, thanks."


Monday, November 8, 2010

Classic Chocolate Whoopie Pies

Yes!!! More whoopie pies. I think I am a bit hooked on them now and loving everyone that comes out of my oven. In my last post I mentioned that I had never made whoopie pies but they have a deep root in my life. You see when I was a kid my Dad would bring me to the local Italian bakery called Mirabella's Bakery to get fresh bread. But as a little girl I would see all kinds of pastry and treats in the glass refrigerator cases and would ask for a treat. Usually around the time I started looking for a treat the owner would come out and see my Dad and give me a special treat to take home, a Cookie Monster Whoopie Pie. It was the silliest treat but it was one of my favorite treats, and special because Mr. Mirabella always told me he made it special for me.

You may be wondering what is a Cookie Monster Whoopie Pie? Well, they would take a whoopie pie and fill the center but before putting the top on a pink butter cookie was cut in half to look like a tongue. The top was put on. Half the top was covered in blue frosting and sprinkled with coconut to look like fur. Two dollops of frosting made the eyes and M&M's made the pupils. It was sheer delight for a young girl like myself.

What also makes this so special is years later when I needed my first job, I went to Mr Mirabella and I started working for him. And all those Cookie Monster Whoopie Pies that I would see sold and the little ones who's eyes would light up when their parents would bye them one. Childhood memories last forever. When these whoopie pies came out of the oven all those childhood memories flooded back.

These were so much fun to make and very different from the Pumpkin ones I spoke of earlier. The real reason why these were made goes back to that very sweet book that was dropped on my desk. The original request was for traditional whoopie pies with traditional filling. So that is what I did. These are very yummy!!!

Classic Chocolate Whoopie Pie

1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoon unsalted butter, room temperature
4 tablespoons vegetable shortening
1 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup milk

Preheat oven 375 degrees. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Sift the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt onto a piece of wax paper.

Beat the butter, shorting, and brown sugar together until fluffy and smooth. Add the egg and vanilla, beat for 2 minutes.

Add half of the milk and half the four mix beat until Incorporated. Add the remaining four and milk and beat till completely combined.

Drop 1 tablespoon onto a prepared sheet spacing them 2 inches apart. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely on wire rack.

Classic Marshmallow Filling
1 1/2 cups of marshmallow fluff
1 1/4 cup vegetable shortening
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Beat together the fluff and the shortening until smooth and fluffy. Add the sugar and vanilla and beat until Incorporated.

These are so light and fluffy from the batter to the frosting. Let's hope everyone who eats them loves them like I love them. I wonder what will be the next Whoopie Pies I make?!?


Pumpkin Spice Whoopie Pies

Whoopie Pies are something that I have NEVER made in my life but was presented with a book the other day in my office called "Whoopie Pies: Dozens of Mix 'em Match 'em Eat 'em Up by Sarah Billingsley & Amy Treadwell.

This book is so sweet in more way than one. After looking through this book I knew I had to make the Pumpkin Spice Whoopies first. But before I start baking I looked through this very sweet book, everything you need to know about making, filling and the history of whoopies. The book is illustrated so simple, ANYONE can make these, and want to make these. The other really nice thing about this book is there are Gluten-free whoopies, Vegan whoopies, and Savory whoopies. The book is laid out so that the pies and the fillings are separate so you can mix and match. YUM!!

The Pumpkin Spice Whoopies seemed very fitting for a dessert with Turkey and all the fixings. Keeping the theme of dinner start to finish is what I like to do most often, and since pumpkin is in season this time of year, made it the perfect choice.

I will tell you that the recipe calls for pumpkin, and this when you have to decide do I want pumpkin that comes in a can or do I want to roast my own pumpkin? Even though filling in a can is so cheep you get so much more natural flavor and texture from the real thing. And since roasting a pumpkin is so easy why not roast your own vegetable. (side note: you can also salt and roast your pumpkin seeds for a snack while you make your whoopie pies

This is what I did ...
Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

2 1/4 cups of all-purpose baking flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
1 1/2 cup solid packed pumpkin
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper

Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, nutmeg, and salt on wax paper. Set aside.

Mix brown sugar and butter on low speed until combined. Add the pumpkin, then the egg, beat well. Add the vanilla and beat till combined.

Add the flour fix and to mix, beat on low till combined

Drop 2 tablespoons of batter on lined cookie sheets spacing them 2 inches apart. bake for 15 minutes, until firm to the touch and beginning to crack. Let the cakes cool on cookie sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack for them to cool completely before filling.

The filling ...

Classic Buttercream
3 cups confections' sugar
1/2 cup (1 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3-4 tablespoons heavy (whipping) cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch salt

Beat together the confections' sugar with the butter, starting on low and increasing the speed until the mix is crumbly, about 1 minute. Add the heavy cream, vanilla,and salt and beat on high until smooth, about 3 minutes.

Fill the whoopies and serve!!!

These were such a hit after turkey I had to snap a photo before they all got eaten.


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Apple Bread

Now that the fall is here there are cool days and cold nights. The leaves are changing (well they are are here in New England) and the days are getting shorter. All of this means I am cooking and baking more. My husband loves it too ... well, his waist-line may not like it too much but he sure loves it all.

I noticed the other day that I had some apples that were looking not so good, well for eating raw, but that means they are perfect for baking. And that is exactly what I did with them. You see a few years ago a friend of mine made this great Apple Bread and brought it over to my house for tea, it was so good I had to get the recipie and make it myself. It is quite different than many of the other breads I make, but so yummy.

This is what I did ...

Makes 2 loafs

Cream: 1 cup shortening (I use butter flavored shortining)
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup sugar
Add: 2 eggs
1 cup milk
Sift: 4 cups of flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Chop: 2 cups of apples (peeled & cored)
Slice: 2 apples (peeled & cored)

Preheat oven to 35o degrees

Blend dry ingredients, fold in apples

Pour into greesed loaf trays (two). fan the sliced appples on the top.

Bake for 1 hour

The original version did not have as much spices and the sliced apples on the top. But much of what I like to do is make it my own. Think about that when you make your version of Apple Bread.


Sunday, August 15, 2010

Corn on the Cob

Corn on the Cob in New England is a HUGE summertime side dish. At most BBQ's you find someone shucking, boiling and eating Corn on the Cob. It is quite primitive food but when harvested at the right time and cooked the right way this can be the BEST part of the meal.

To begin the process of making corn on the cob don't buy corn in the grocery store. Look for a farm stand, a neighbor or a local farmers market. The best corn is the corn that has not traveled at all and is still in its husks. A local farmer once told me that as soon as you shuck your corn it starts to age. So the best thing for corn is to wait till the very last minute before it goes in the pot to shuck your corn.

The way we cook corn is a tad different than others ... or at least it seemed
You see after the corn had been shucked it goes in a large stock pot of water, just high enough to cover the corn. Then add 2-3 tablespoons of butter and about a 1/2 cup of milk to the water. put on high and allow to boil for about 10 minutes. Good fresh corn will tell you when it is finished but smelling so wonderful you want to eat it right away.
The nice thing about making corn on the cob the way we make it is you really do not have to add butter or anything else, since it was all in the water the corn was boiled in.
Try this one day ... this may be the way you too may make corn from now on.

Blueberry Pie

Blueberry Pie is on of my favorite pies to eat in the summer, and sometimes the only reason why on a 90 degree day my oven gets turned on. As some of you may already know I really love to make pies, and would try any pie recipe you put in front of me and see if I like it or not. If it is one I like I guarantee I will make it again and again.

The nice thing about making pies is in most cases there is not too much work that has to be done and you can have one of the most tasty and beautiful baked goods. Fruit pies are usually very easy and very good, since when you add sugar to the fruit the flavors ooze out of the fruit and make the fruit oh so much better then in their raw state. This holds true with this pie ... My Blueberry Pie, which really should be called Mixed Berry Pie but since there are more blueberries in it than any other berry I fool everyone with the name.

This is how it is made ...

2 Crusts for 9" pie
1 cup sugar
5 tablespoons of flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground clove
4 cups fresh blueberries
1 cup fresh cut strawberries
1 cup fresh blackberries or raspberries
1 tablespoon butter

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

In a bowl mix together the sugar, flour, salt and spices. I a large bowl mix the berries and then sprinkle the dry ingredient over the berries.

Line a pie pan with one of the crusts. Pour in the Blueberry mix. Dot the top with butter. Cover the pie with the second crust. (if you do not lattice the top don't forget to cut in vent holes). I also like to egg wash my crust tops and sprinkle with sugar ... makes the top golden brown and gives it a bit of crunch.

Bake in oven for 50 minutes till crust is golden brown.


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Tea at the Taj

A few weeks ago a close girlfriend of mine (Allyson) and myself went out for a girls day, and it took us to the Taj in Boston for Traditional High Tea. This was one of the most exciting experiences of our lives. We were truly treated like queens while we were there.

Our afternoon began with a walk through the Public Gardens and a stroll down Newbury Street in Boston for some shopping, and gallery browsing. What made it better was the day was a perfect 10, which made walking such a nice thing to do.

When we were seated at our table ... it was such a cute table for two in an elegant room with high ceilings, a fireplace and the most beautiful drapes adorning the windows. The room was wall covered with damask fabric which made each table have its own personal conversations that stayed with them and not with everyone in the room. Did I mention that there was a woman playing the violin the entire time. The setting and the company were just awesome that day.

We both had a difficult time deciding on what we were going to drink for tea and what we were going to eat for sandwiches. But then we realized all we had to do was figure out the tea and the sandwiches and sweets would be chosen for us.

The tea that was chosen was Green and Earl Grey ... and when they arrived we each had our own pot, warmer and tea leaf strainer ... it was so nice.

This is the Menu for Taj Royal ... as they call Traditional High Tea, and what we had ...

This was our First Course:
Smoked Salmon and American Caviar
Cucumber & Cream Cheese
Traditional Egg Salad
Lobster Profiterole
Prosciutto and Melon

(and that is Allyson)

As you can see they come to your table on this beautiful tiered platter. I am not sure if we know which one is best ... but what we do know is each bite was a mouth full of flavors that complimented the tea so nicely.

Then came the Second Course
Currant and Cherry Cornmeal Scones served with Devon shire Cream and Lemon Curd
Traditional Opera Torte
Citrus Tartlette
Chocolate Dipped Strawberry
Pistachio Financier
Spiced Chai French Macaroon

As you can see it was on another tiered platter. Each level had its own yummy goodness to be savored bite by bite.
By the time we finished eating all the sandwiches and the sweet treats we were full. Not only were we full of sweet treats and savory bites but we were full of stories and memories to last us both a long time.

Thank you Taj Boston for such an enjoyable day being a girl.


Sunday, June 13, 2010

BBQ Chicken Pizza

It is game night and you have your friends and their children over and you want the kids to get involved in what you are making and still be able to watch the game at the same time. I found that pizza is the answer to all this.

If you are an avid reader of my blog you know that my husband is lactose intolerant and for a while he was having issues with gluten (I am happy to say that gluten is back in his diet and he is not allergic as we first thought). But there is really no good way to make pizza unless you use mozzarella cheese and white pizza dough. So this did cause some issues in my house, but my husband likes my pizza so much he found a way to eat it. The answer is Lactaid Tablets. They are what helps my husband and so many out there to eat the dairy they love and not suffer after. And yes we do have these tablets everywhere; the car, house, my purse, etc.

Pizza is something we usually remember as kids having at sleepovers or pizza day at school ... but this is not the pizza I like to eat so why should I subject my guests or husband to it. My husband and I do go out for pizza but the pizzas we go out for are usually wood fired pizza with very unique toppings such as duck con fit, ricotta cheese and fig compote. I am not the large cheese type of person. The more unique the topping combination the happier I am. But this topic can be saved for another blog.

When the time came for me to make my first pizza I wanted it to be more like me and what we like so the BBQ Chicken Pizza was born. If you think about it all you need is three basic ingredients to make a pizza they are dough/bread, sauce, and cheese and you have a pizza.

This is how I make my Pizza
1 dough ball
1 small container of pizza sauce
1 bottle of BBQ sauce
2 cups of mozzarella cheese
1 diced red bell pepper
1 diced onion
4 precooked chicken tenders, shredded
thyme, basil and oregano to sprinkle over top
salt n pepper to taste

Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees

Start by rolling out the dough so it is the desired size for baking (meaning if you are using a 18" round stone roll to that size or if you are using a cookie sheet roll to that size)

Like traditional pizza add the sauce to the center of the dough. Then add the BBQ sauce to the exterior of the dough ... and with the back of a spoon in a circular motion mix the sauce and the BBQ sauce so the top of the dough is completely covered.

Next add the toppings of chicken, onions, and red bell pepper evenly over the sauce mix. Next add the seasonings and the salt-n-pepper. By adding the seasonings now they become married to the the veggies and chicken and the flavors cook under the cheese layer. Then lastly add the cheese. By topping it all with cheese the bubbly goodness can bake under that layer and meld all the flavors together.

It usually takes about 35-45 minutes to bake a pizza. When it comes out of the oven let it rest on the counter for a few minutes before cutting and serving.


Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Stuffed Peppers

Keep in mind with this post today that this was the 1st time I made Stuffed Peppers, so this is very much trial & error. And as you guessed it there was an error but much of it was right on and I cannot wait to make them again. They are really easy to make and if you have eaten the right things during the week this is a good way to use leftovers you may already have in your fridge. Stuffed Peppers are one of those dishes that my grandmother would make on a week night for dinner, and after making mine I know why.

This is what I did

2 bell peppers, with tops cut off and cleaned out
1/2 lb. ground meatloaf mix
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon Pappy's Choice seasoning

1 cup brown rice (cook accordingly)

1 teaspoon thyme, dried
1 teaspoon basil, dried

1/4 - 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Saute the onions ans the garlic in olive oil with Pappy's Choice/your favorite seasoning. Add ground meat and dried herbs. Let rest and drain all the oil from the meat. By giving the meat time to rest it will give you the opportunity to handle it when stuffing the peppers.

Mix the meat and the rice together in a separate bowl. Stuff the peppers and top with the cheese.

Bake in 350 degree oven for 30-40 minutes till the cheese is melted.


The day I made these ones we only had American Cheese in our house, each pepper was topped with one slice of cheese and as it melted and became golden brown it had a strange effect ... but it was very yummy.

There are substitutions that can be made through out this recipe based on what you and you family likes to eat. For instance instead of using Pappy's Choice seasoning you can use your favorite salt-n-pepper seasoning mix. If you would rather use ground turkey, chicken or deer meat it can be substituted for the meatloaf mix. White rice can be used in place of brown rice any time.

These peppers also had one more hidden ingredient ... Home-made pesto. I had a small container leftover from another night so I thought why not add the pesto to the peppers ... a tablespoon was added to each pepper between the meat and the cheese. It gave these peppers more flavor and made them more yummier than imagined.

The possibilities are endless when it comes to stuffed peppers. Give them a try ... I guarantee you and your family will love them like my family does.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Spiced Bran Muffins

Baked Goods ... yum!!! Baked goods have always been a weakness of mine since I was a little girl. As a teenager I worked at the best Italian bakery in the town I grew up in, our master baker was trained by the famous "Mike" of Mike's Pastry in the North End of Boston ... so you can only imagine what yumminess that was baked daily and eaten daily by myself and all my co-workers. So as I got older I find I am still drawn to bakeries all the goodness that comes out of them, weather healthy or not. And that is where these spiced bran muffins come into play.

I think I have mentioned before that I am an avid reader of Real Simple Magazine, Daily Thoughts, and Weekly Recipes. Everyday I eagerly await for my email to come in and see what Real Simple is delivering me. The recipes though seem to only come once a week ... but when they come I think of when I can make it, who I want to make it for and how can I alter this recipe and make it all my own.
Then this recipe came, Spiced Bran Muffins, I was so excited about making muffins that are 262 calories and have 3g of fiber per muffin. I have just found healthy baked goods ... these are muffins I had to make.
This is what I did ...

1 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup gluten free all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups oat bran
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup Greek plain yogurt
1/3 cup molasses
1 cup currants (or raisins)

Pre-heat oven to 350° F.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, oat bran, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, ginger, nutmeg and salt; set aside. In a second bowl beat the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer on medium-high until smooth. Add the eggs and beat to combine. Add the yogurt and molasses and beat to combine. Slowly add the flour mixture, mixing until incorporated. Fold in the currants.

Spoon the batter into a muffin tin lined with paper liners. Bake until cooked through and a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean, about 25 minutes.
Serve with butter or jam, if desired . YUM!!!

Of course there are ways to make this recipe gluten-free and even lactose free, this time not too much changing. When I do I will update this post and what was changed.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Boston Baked Beans

Boston Baked Beans are a staple in my house ... they have been since I was a kid right through married life. There is something about baked beans that is not only comforting but also very filling, and can compliment more dishes that you can shake a stick at. Think about it beans go with everything you BBQ on the grill ... as well as our personal favorite blackened seafood.

My husband and I were talking just recently about summertime food and baked beans came up, and in his usual fashion asked if I could make some home-made beans. I had always tried home-made beans when someone else made them ... but they were always watery and runny, they missed that thick pasty consistency that you can get out of a can (I cannot believe I just mentioned "a can"). That is what I craved out of a home-made version but had no idea how to make them.

I started to search the Internet (which is what I usually do when I am given a challenge) ... and found many, many, many Boston Baked Beans recipes, some stove-top, some oven, and some crock-pot. Crock-pot was the cooking method I wanted to use, especially in the summertime since it does not give off as much heat as the oven or stove-top.

This is what I did ...

1 bag of dried navy beans
5 small slices of salt pork
1 onion, finely diced
4 tablespoons molasses
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 cup ketchup
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/3 cup brown sugar

Soak beans overnight in cold water. Simmer the beans in the same water until tender, approximately 1 to 2 hours. Drain and reserve the liquid.

Arrange the beans in the crock-pot by placing a portion of the beans in the bottom of dish, and layering them with salt pork and onion.

In a saucepan, combine molasses, pepper, dry mustard, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce and brown sugar. Bring the mixture to a boil and pour over beans. Pour in just enough of the reserved bean water to cover the beans. Simmer on Low for 6-8 hours, until beans are tender.

If you find it is to salty, add more brown sugar one tablespoon at a time, till you reach the right flavor.


The nice thing about beans is that they keep very well in the in fridge, in "Tupperware" or some kind. Like most things that are made in the crock-pot these beans will only get better and better ever day they sit and gather more flavor.

I wonder what we will eat with beans tomorrow???

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


A few weeks ago my Mother and Cousins went out for High-Tea at our favorite place to have High-Tea; Stonehenge Inn & Spa in Tyngsboro, MA. A beautiful place to be pampered and treated like a queen/king for a day.

The day we went for tea it was bitter cold outside and all we wanted was a nice pot of hot tea to warm us up. As it turned out we sat in the Lounge right next to the fireplace and we knew we were going to have a fantastic day together. It was such a good day I had to share it with all my readers. I waited till now to share this because Stonehenge Inn is one of the restaurants participating in Restaurant Week Boston which has come up upon us again. It does not say it on this link but on the Stonehenge Inn page it gives you information about "restaurant week tea."

Tea is something one must remember that it is NOT to be rushed, and should take a couple of hours to drink, eat and enjoy those with you.

This is what we ordered*:

Finest Earl Grey, Black Tea
Ginger Lemon Herbal Tea
Crimson Berry Herbal Tea
Sencha (Japanese) Green Tea

Tea Sandwiches (choice of three):
Maine Lobster BLT on Brioche
Grilled Asparagus w/ Boursin & Prosciutto on White Bread
Fresh Mozzarella, Basil Pesto & Plum Tomato on Focaccia
Cucumber & Herb Cheese on Multi grain Bread
Smoked Salmon on Rye Bread w/ Herb Creme Fraice

Currant-Raisin Scones w/ Devonshire Cream & Fruit Preserves

Petite Pastries & Tea Cookies

* There are other Teas & Sandwiches to choose from on the menu, these are the ones we chose.

We ate and drank all this and it took about 2 and half hours, and was only $23.00
(Restaurant week $20.10)

It is such a nice "girly" thing to do, with your mother, daughter, sister or best friend ... I definitely have to say this is a must do for those who love to drink tea.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Apple Cinnamon Strudel

I know this is a crazy time of year to be making apple pie, strudel, or anything apple but I seem to be doing a lot of it lately. The apple is such a versatile fruit which seems to be one everyone loves and eats. It is sweet and tart and cooks up very well. And with all the varieties of apples out there why not try them all in baking.

I am not one to follow a recipe to the tee, for I need to tweak everything I make to make it more mine than the one who came up with it. I say all this because I am a huge fan of the magazine Everyday-Food. Not only is it small and easy to keep in a kitchen cabinet for reference, but it has super easy recipes that anyone can make. It becomes a starting point for me and much of what I make. It is also very good at keeping up with the seasons and what you can get seasonally.

With that in mind a couple of years ago in September I fund this recipe and made it for a get together with friends. It comes out so beautiful, and looks like you slaved for hours in the kitchen when it really does not take too much time at all.

This is what I did ...

Apple Cinnamon Strudel
flour for rolling
1 sheet puff pastry
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 apples, peeled, cored and sliced
1/2 cup sugar, and more for dusting
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 egg for wash

Preheat oven 400 degrees

Unfold pastry roll out to 12 x 14 and put on a cookie sheet and chill in fridge

In a large skillet melt butter, add apples, 1/2 cup sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and cook until liquid has evaporated. about 15 minutes and let cool.

Add filling to center of dough. Fold dough over the filling. "Glue" edges with egg wash. Turn over so the seam is on the bottom. Egg wash & sprinkle with sugar. With a paring knife cut out steam vents.

Bake until golden brown 35-40 minutes.


I have made this so many times the only thing that makes this dessert better is a scoop of homemade vanilla ice cream. We perfect to go to Sully's Ice Cream, since it is walking distance from our house. But if you cannot get homemade ice cream and Ben & Jerry's vanilla will be just as good.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Apple Cranberry Popover Puff Pie

The past week had been a bit crazy here at my house for our family is in town for a BIG wedding!!! A very long anticipated wedding, that is one the entire family is looking for. Family is flying in from all over the world staying where ever there is an open place to sleep. With all these people come lots of meals to make and lots of time we are spending together.

Last night we had a family dinner and I was responsible for the dessert. But the BIG question last night was what was I going to make. I knew all I wanted to make was a pie, but what kind to make. Then it came to me ... A Popover Crusted Apple Pie. The recipe is from a Pampered Chef $1 cookbook. (Which is usually what I buy at those parties ... not really a fan of those "house" parties, too much pressure to buy something ... so I usually buy the cookbook and it stays on the bookshelf till years later.)

The one thing I would like to get out in the open while I am on this topic is those cookbooks sponsored or written but companies that sell either food or kitchen tools are NOT my type of cookbook. When someone tells me what tool I need to use to do the job or what processed food I need to cook with ... that takes all the fun out of the kitchen and more on commercialism.

Now that I got all that out of the way let's talk about this Pampered Chef Pie ...

Apple Cranberry Popover Puff Pie
Popover Puff Crust
3 tablespoons of butter
1 cup milk
6 eggs
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt

Apple Cranberry Filling
1 orange
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 package of vanilla pudding (not instant)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground clove
4 firm apples (2 Granny smith apples and 2 Macintosh apples)
1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted
powdered sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Melt the butter, brush the bottom of a deep dish baking dish with one tablespoon of butter.

Whip the milk, egg and remaining butter with a wire whisk. In another bowl mix the dry ingredients; flour and salt. Add to the egg mix and whisk till smooth. Pour batter in baking dish and bake in oven 20 minutes, then reduce temperature to 350 degrees and cook another 10-15 minutes, till puffed and golden brown.

While crust is baking make the filling. Zest the orange, and squeeze the orange, add water to make 1 cup of juice. In a large bowl mix zest, juice, cranberries, pudding mix, and seasonings. Peel, core and slice apples, add to the pudding mix. Microwave on high for 4 minutes. stir gently and microwave again on high for 4 minutes until glaze is thickened. Apples should be evenly covered.

When crust is cooled, pour the filling in the crust. Sprinkle the edges with the almonds and shake powdered sugar over pie.

This is a nice alternative since the crust is more of an egg base than a butter flour mix.


Thursday, February 11, 2010

Steak Bombs

Steak Bombs are one of those yummy local sub shop finds that we all crave and love when they are cooked right but we know deep down that maybe it is not such a good idea when we are finished eating them.

A few years ago my husband bought me a griddle to go over my burners on my stove. Up until now we used it to make omelets, pancakes and french toast, but other than breakfast we really did not use it that much, until we found the shaved steak at the market. Shaved steak is very cheep at $2.99lb. and very good when cooked on a griddle. We thought why don't we make our own steak bombs at home.

This is what we do ...

Steak Bombs

1 lb. shaved steak
1/2 sliced bell pepper
1/2 sliced onion
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt n pepper to season

4 soft sub rolls
4 pieces of American cheese

Slice up the onions and the peppers and toss in olive oil and salt n pepper. Put on griddle and cook until fork tender. Remove the veggies from the griddle and cook the shaved steak in the oil and seasonings left over on the pan.

Slice rolls in half and line bottom of rolls with cheese. Add the meat to rolls while still hot so the meat melts the cheese. Top with veggies.


The Gluten-Free version ... instead of using bread try taco shells.

Fish Tacos

When I met my husband I knew he spent some time living on the west coast. If you have been to the west coast either on business, pleasure or just moved there for a time understands that there are foodies you can get there that are very hard to find here on the east coast. One reason for that is the Mexican influence and migration to the US for better opportunities than their country. And with them comes their culture and cooking, which when you live next door to one .... the cooking really changes you. This is what happened to my husband ... his next door neighbor in CA was Mexican and would invite him over to dinner for true Mexican cuisine.
One thing my husband fell in love with was Fish Tacos. I personally had never heard of them ... other than the trips to CA, where they are about as common as a hamburger is here. This was going to be a challenge to find a good recipe to make for my husband, one that brought back the memories of CA.
Ironically, one day while my husband was reading the newspaper he found a recipe and cut it out so one day we could make it. The article was written by the chef at Game On! Boston ... (so the next time you are at Fenway Park for a game ... check them out). This is one of the only meals that my husband helps me with ... I usually do not like too much help in the kitchen but this is one he is good at since he loves fish tacos so much.

Fish Tacos

1 1/2 lb. skinless, boneless haddock
3 eggs
1 cup milk
1 cup flour (we used rice flour)
1/2 cup corn meal
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon pepper
1/2 cup vegetable oil

taco shells or soft taco shells
shredded lettuce
sliced green scallions
shredded Mexican cheese

Prepare three dishes, one with 1/2 cup flour seasoned with salt n pepper, one with well-mixed eggs and milk, and one with 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup corn meal.
Preheat vegetable oil to 350 degrees in a large skillet. Cut the haddock into long 1/2 inch thick strips. Dip into flour mix, egg wash, then cornmeal mix. Pan fry until golden brown, about 2-3 minutes.
Make tacos like you would a chicken or beef one but use the fish as your "meat."


This is also the start of my Gluten Free cooking. My husband may have Celiac Disease and this is the only way to combat the illness. I will not sacrifice taste but adjust the way I cook so my husband can still enjoy all the yummy flavors of food.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Oatmeal Raspberry-Jam Bars

When I met my husband I learned from Day I that he was not a sweet eater nor did he like chocolate, and when he eats chocolate he gets ill. Whenever we look for a dessert I need to find something without chocolate in it, so we can both eat it. This also holds true for when i am making something at home, needs to have NO CHOCOLATE in it or he will not eat any of it.
On my quest to find a dessert that he would like I came across this recipe and thought it is sweet from the berries but not too sweet. But I took the recipe and tucked it away and forgot all about it for almost 5 years. The other day I was looking for something and came across this and knew it was time to make these.
This is what I did ...
Oatmeal Raspberry Jam Bars
1 3/4 cups
1 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 teaspoon backing soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups quick oats
2 teaspoons lemon zest (i.e. zest from one lemon)
1 cup raspberry jam
1 small package of fresh raspberries
pinch ground nutmeg
pinch ground clove
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Preheat oven 350 degrees
Mix four, sugar, salt, baking soda, and butter in a bowl or food processor and pulse several times until the ingredients are combined and crumbly and a dough is starting to be formed. Ass the oats and lemon zest. Pulse quickly two tomes to combine.
Press 2/3 of the dough firmly into a greased 9 x 13 pan. Spread the jam evenly over the crust and even distribute the berries over the jam. Sprinkle the nutmeg, clove and cinnamon over the berries. Sprinkle the remaining dough over the jam, gently pressing down.
Bake until golden brown, approximately 40-45 minutes.
Cool completely, about 3 hours, cut into bars, store in an airtight container.


These were such a success and so yummy. Perfect for with tea or a mid morning snack.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Pad Thai

The other day a friend of mine took me to the Super 88 market to go shopping for Asian groceries. I was picturing a small little place to pick up the rare Asian things you cannot find in your local market. I was so wrong. The Supper 88 Market is the size of a regular grocery store with some of the most unique produce I have enver seen and that is just the begining.

We went to get ingrediens for making Pad Thai, but as you guessed we got so much more. It took us about two hours to get through the entire store and we were the only "white" girls there. There is some great stuff there that any kitchen would love to have ... for instance they have and aisle dedicated to soy sauce, one to vinegar, and one to tea ...

Look at all the tea ...

And this was just part of the aisle ... there were so many teas it was tough to decide which one to try.

Back to the reason we went to the market was to make Pad Thai at home, this is what we did ...

• 8 ounces dried wide rice noodles
• 1/4 cup fish sauce (nam pla)
• 3 tablespoons tamarind juice
• 2 tablespoons sugar
• 3 tablespoons peanut oil
• 1 1/2 pounds large shrimp, peeled with tails on
• 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
• 2 shallots, sliced
• 1 fresh red chile, sliced
• 1 large egg, lightly beaten
• 1 cup fresh bean sprouts
• 1/2 cup chopped unsalted roasted peanuts
• 1 lime, cut into small wedges
• 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves

Soak the dried rice noodles in cool or lukewarm water for 30 minutes, or until they're limp but still firm to the touch; later cooking in the wok will soften them more. Drain the noodles thoroughly in a colander and set aside while preparing the other ingredients.

In a small bowl, mix the fish sauce, tamarind juice, and sugar; stir well to melt the sugar. Taste and adjust flavors to the desired combination of salty, sour, and sweet.

Heat a wok over medium-high heat until it is smoking hot. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil and quickly stir-fry the shrimp until they turn pink and are almost cooked through; 1 to 2 minutes. Remove the shrimp to a plate and cover to keep warm.

Add the remaining oil to the wok and toss in the garlic, shallots, and chile; stir-fry for 30 seconds. Push the garlic and shallots to 1 side of the wok and pour the egg into the center. Scramble the egg lightly until set, breaking it up into pieces with a spatula. Add the drained noodles to the wok, stirring and tossing quickly with 2 spatulas to separate the strands. Pour in the fish sauce mixture, tossing well to coat the noodles and keep them from sticking (if the noodles are still too firm, drizzle with 1 to 2 tablespoons of water to help them cook.)

When the noodles are in good shape, toss in 1/2 of the bean sprouts and peanuts; save the remaining for garnish. Continue to stir-fry, to combine. Return the shrimp to the wok and toss the pad thai together to warm everything through. Serve the pad thai on a platter, pile the remaining bean sprouts and peanuts on 1 side of the dish and garnish with the lime wedges and cilantro. Squeeze lime juice over each portion before eating.



Last Sunday morning I found myself taking some family to Logan Airport. It was pretty early in the morning, and I was really craving a cappuccino from the North End (The Little Italy of Boston) and thought after I dropped everyone off I was going to see if I could find a bakery open to get a cup.

The thing about the North End and me is that when I was a little girl I would spend time there with my Great Grandmother who lived right across the street from Paul Revere's house. She lived in the heart of the North End with the bakeries, delis and grocery stores all within walking distance. She was quite and old fashioned lady in that she would not keep anything perishable on hand but would go out each day to by meat, veggies, and treats. Everyday was an adventure for her in what she would cook for her family.

The North End is famous for many things since Paul Revere rode his famous ride, to the cobblestone streets, and all the restaurants (most of which are holes in the wall family run with the best food your could find for the money). The other thing the North End has is many bakeries with the smell of fresh baked bread wafting through the streets that ropes you in to see all the desserts they have in store for you. Most folks who eat Italian pastry are drawn to the canolli, napolean, or tiramisu, all of which have become main stream and can be found even at your local grocrery store, but the sfogliatelle is one that most may not know about.

The best place in the North End to get one of these is Modern Pastry on Hanover Street. As a little girl my Great Grandmother and I would get up early and go to the bakery first thing to pick up a couple of theses for our dessert. For you see Modern Pastry only makes so many a day and when they are gone you cannot get anymore till the next day so it is very important to be there early. This is what I remember most, so the other day when I went to get a cup of cappucino I stooped at Modern and asked about the Sfogliatelle and best of all they just came out of the oven. I got myself two with my cafe and went on my way home.

A good Italian bakery will also put your treats in a Small box and tie the box, and that is just what I received ....

The package!!!

What's inside the package!!!

I have always wanted to learn how to make this flaky, moist and chewy dessert but have not tried yet. But this is the recipe of how to make them. I do know on thing for sure, they take time and are not very easy to make. If you do make them let me know how it goes ... or if you are like me ... get up early and drive to the North End and pick up a few to eat with coffee or tea later.

Sfogliatelle (Lobster Tails)

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup semolina flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup lard or margarine, melted

Note: You may wish to substitute 1 (1 pound package of frozen
puff pastry dough, thawed, for the above pastry recipe

1 cup milk
1/4 cup semolina flour
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon candied orange bits or grated orange zest
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Confectioners' sugar for dusting

To make the dough:
In a large bowl, combine both flours, sugar and salt.
Using a pastry blender, cut the butter into the flour mixture.
Gradually add the water until a soft dough forms.
Form the dough into a disk, cover, and refrigerate for 2 hours.
To make the filling:
Put the milk in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil.
Slowly add the semolina flour, stirring constantly to avoid lumps.
Simmer the mixture 3-4 minutes, until thick and smooth.
Transfer the mixture to a bowl and allow to cool about 5 minutes.

Press the ricotta cheese through a sieve to remove any lumps.
Add the ricotta, egg, sugar, candied fruit, and cinnamon to the semolina mixture.
Beat well to blend and set aside.
Making the sfogliatelle:
Remove the dough from the refrigerator and divide it into 2 equal pieces.
If you are using puff pastry, use 1 of the 2 pieces from the package.
On a lightly floured surface, roll one piece into a 16 x 22-inch rectangle.
The dough will be very, very thin.
Starting at a short end, brush the first 1/3 of dough with some of the melted lard.
Begin rolling the pastry up like a jellyroll.
Brush the second 1/3 of dough with more lard, and continue rolling.
Finally, brush the last 1/3 with lard, and roll up completely.
Cut the roll into 1-inch pieces, which will resemble narrow rolls of ribbon.

Forming the sfogliatelle:
Place one of the slices in the palm of your hand.
Press the thumb of your other hand in the center of the pastry and push it down to form a small ribbed cup.
You do not want the ribs to separate.
Now you will begin to stretch the dough.
Carefully work around the cup, pushing down with your thumbs and pulling up with your fingers.
Think of it an opening a collapsible travel cup.
Form each piece into a cone, shaped 3 to 4 inches across the mouth and 1-inch at the tip.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
Lightly grease or line 2-3 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Fill each pastry cone with 2 tablespoons of the filling.
Gently press the open edges together to seal the pastry. Pull out the top ends to form a seashell shape.
Place the sfogliatelle 1-inch apart on the baking sheets.

Repeat the procedure with the second piece of pastry dough.

Bake 15 minutes or until golden brown and crisp.
Allow the pastry to cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes.
Transfer the pastry to wire racks to cool completely.

To serve:
Sprinkle the sfogliatelle with confectioners' sugar and serve.

Makes about 32 pastries

Give it a try if you are ambitious.


Thursday, January 21, 2010

Pho 88, Lowell MA

Pho 88, Lowell MA

I thought when I started my food blog I was only going to talk about what is being made in my kitchen or my friend's kitchens, but that changed one day. My husband took me out to dinner about a month and when my meal appeared in front of me I knew I had to share this with everyone who follows my "blog." We went to what was once a small hole in the wall not very nice looking Vietnamese Restaurant for dinner, Pho 88. This place has become way more than anyone expected it to be ... They have a bar area on one side of the restaurant and a full dining room on the other side. Which if I may say there are usually more Asians eating there than white people. That is a good sign if you ask me.

I was never really a fan of Pho 88 or Vietnamese food till I tried Shabu Shabu, I will talk about that at a later time. It wasn't that I was not an adventurous eater but I had only seen the soups they make, and tripe is something I just cannot stomach, no pun intended.
About a month ago when we went for dinner we decided to sit at the bar to eat. I was so not sure of what to order and wanted to try something new. So I found this ...
A choice of soft or crispy yellow noodles or flat noodles combined with a choice of Beef, Chicken or sliced Pork with red peppers, onions, broccoli, green beans and snow peas.
I thought why not play it safe and order the Crispy Yellow noodles, with chicken as my meat.
When my dish arrived it looked like this ...

My very own "bird's nest" of yummy chicken and veggies. Who would have thought it was going to be so beautiful as well. This has totally turned me on to Vietnamese cuisine and I cannot get enough of it. And well, it does not help that Pho 88 is about 2 miles from my house.

I hope this helps you to become a more adventurous eater than you were before. It is all a matter of reading the menu good and finding flavors that you like. You may be surprised like me that Vietnamese food is your new favorite.

If you are ever in the Lowell/Chelmsford area go to Pho 88 and try something ... it is always busy and food is always good.


Monday, January 18, 2010

Chicken & Pasta

I have made it to day III of my challenge, and I have to say I think I have done very well. And to think the Risotto I made Friday was enough left over for us to have lunch on Saturday and the roast from Saturday had enough left over for someone to eat on Sunday. Which brings me to Sunday, and what to make on Sunday? This one was the first one I really thought I need to go to the market and pick up some stuff, and as you guessed it my husband invited friends over to have dinner with us. What was I going to do??? Then it came to me ... Chicken in Tomato Sauce in the crock pot over pasta. This is one of those semi-homemade dishes, since there was some fresh ingredients and some jarred ones too.
This is what I did ...
Chicken in Tomato sauce in Crock Pot
1 lb of boneless thighs
1 jar of tomato/pasta sauce
1/4 onion diced
1/4 bell pepper diced
4 cups of pasta
Place chicken, pasta, and vegetables in crock pot and cook on low for 8 hours.
Cook pasta as you normally would have.
Serve with chicken mix over the pasta. Grate some Parmesan cheese and add some garlic bread for a full Italian meal.
Now that I have cooked my way though my pantry and my freezer for the past three days I am actually thinking of keeping it up till we eat more of the food we have in our house. It is quite amazing how much food is really in a well stocked house unless you really start to use it all. Not sure if I will be blogging about my pantry & freezer depletion any more ... but try it at your home and you will be surprised how much food you have even when you think you need to make a trip to the market.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Cabernet Beef Pot Roast, Candied Carrots

As it turns out I seem to ALWAYS have a roast in my freezer in case we decide to have company last minute. I usually stop by Trader Joe's every few weeks, they have the best Cabernet Beef Pot Roast, already marinated. When I gave myself the challenge on Thursday I had no idea I was going to have my parents for dinner Saturday night, why not cook the roast. One of the very nice things about a roast is you can cook it in your crock pot.

The crock pot leads me to my next topic, 110 volts versus 220 volts. Other than the numbers in themselves tell you it is better to use 110 than 220 when you can for cooking. The toaster over, the counter top convection oven, the electric tea kettle, the microwave, and the crock pot (there may be more but I cannot remember right now) all use less power than you electric range when cooking. This as a result lowers your carbon foot print and this makes us feel good about our meal we are cooking too.

So out came the crock pot ... the next decision is what am I going to make for side dishes ...

Let's start with the roast ...

Cabernet Beef Pot Roast

2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup red wine
1/4 cup chicken stock
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Brown the roast on all four sides in a skillet with the olive oil.
Put the roast in the crock pot. cook on high for 4 hours/low 8 hours.

Return the skillet to the heat and add the wine and the stock. Bring to a boil and all the while scrape the bottom of the pan, to get all the yummy goodness left behind from the browning roast. Pour that mix over the roast in the crock pot and cover.

When the roast is done put on a dish to rest. While to roast is resting remove the "juice" from the crock pot and put in a small sauce pan over medium-high heat. Add the butter and whisk till butter is melted.
Slice roast and serve, ladle gravy over meat.
As you can see we decided on mashed potatoes and candied carrots. The only thing I am going to say about mashed potatoes is use Yukon golds only. Tyler Florence said "they are the Cadillac of potatoes" but they have so much flavor and stay together ... I will not use any other potato ever again.
The carrots are another story. I have been on a quest to find a recipe for good candied carrots. Carrots are already a sweet vegetable to begin with, it is only fitting that I try to candy them.
Candied Carrots
1 lb carrots, chopped
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
pinch of salt
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon cloves
Place carrots in a pot of salted water, bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes. (do not cook carrots to a mushy stage)
Drain carrots, reduce heat to lowest setting, stir in butter, sugar, and seasoning. Cook 3 minutes till thick and bubbly.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Easy Teryaki Marinade

A few years ago I tripped over this recipe, and with the amount of steak tips we eat in the summer this is good to have on hand. Well, the amount of grilling we do in the summer, no matter what meat you are cooking, this recipe is good to have on hand. The cost of "30 minute marinade" is quite pricey when you think about it if you like meat marinaded and you marinade a few times a week. Keep in mind that after the meat has been marinated all the marinade must be tossed (since it is now contaminated). What a waste ... but when you make it at home it is so much cheaper which means less money down the drain.

Super Simple Teryaki Marinade

8 oz. can of crushed pineapple
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
1/4 cup soy sauce

Whisk all the ingredients together.

When marinating it is best to pour it into a zip-lock bag and marinate meat in bag. Refrigerate for 1 hour-24 hours.

As you can see we made chicken on skewers and they were fantastic. Like I said, steak tips, chicken thighs, chicken wings, chicken or beef on skewers, etc. the sky is the limit.


Edamame & Mushroom Risotto

The other day on Facebook I said I was going to work my way through my pantry and freezer and cook all weekend without going to the market. Which if you think about it has many benefits, from cooking at home and not eating out, eating healthier since you are eating home, and eating things on hand so they do not expire or go bad.
After I made this post I began to think ... can i really do this? and my husband encouraged me that I could. But keep in mind when I made this I did some modification, for some items that I did not have and made do with others.
The thing with me is a meal still has to have tons of flavor and one I would cook again even if I used ingredients from the pantry and freezer. So after looking in the pantry and the freezer I started with Risotto. I know risotto is not the easiest "rice" dish to make, but it sure is yummy. The best thing about this version is the edamame (i.e. soy beans), they are full of protein and so good for you. This dish gives you the opportunity to eat a vegetarian meal and not miss the meat.

This is what I did ...

Edamame & Mushroom Risotto

2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 small can of sliced mushrooms, drained

1 lb. of frozen edamame

3 cups of chicken broth mixed with 1 1/2 cups of water

1 small onion, chopped
1 1/3 cup arborio rice
1/4 cup white cooking wine
1/8 teaspoons black pepper
1/2 cup shredded Romano cheese

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add drained mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Set aside.
Cook edamame, following the directions on the package, Drain, cool, and remove beans from pods. Add to the skillet with mushrooms.
Chicken broth and water should be placed in a sauce pan and heated over medium-high heat, to simmer.
In a second sauce pan heat remaining oil over medium-high heat, and saute the onion. Add the rice to the sauteed onion, and stir until rice is coated with oil. Add the wine and cook till wine is absorbed. Add 1 ladle full/1/2 cup of simmering broth to mix. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally until the broth is absorbed. Continuing doing this until all the broth is absorbed. This is a bit of a process since you have to stay with your risotto and stir in between each added 1/2 cup of broth. This should take about 30 minutes.
Heat the mushroom and edamame and stir into the risotto. Remove the risotto from the heat and add 1/4 cup of Romano cheese.
The other 1/4 cup of cheese can be sprinkled over each bowl before serving.

As you can see from the picture I also made chicken teryarki, this I will blog about at a later date. When my husband ate this he was so happy. One bowl is so filling it is all you will need.


Sunday, January 10, 2010

Anisette Cookies

Let's talk about cookies. Cookies are definitely something I love but I do not seem to make them enough. Anisette Cookies are an Italian favorite, and they are best when made with anise extract. When I was little my Nana would gather her grandchildren and we would make these cookies together. The fun part about making these cookies is that since they have to handled, we would all make our initials and those would be our cookies to eat when they were served to the family. It was silly but we all had fun making them.
Years later I was a friends house and she made them and they were just like Nana made!!! You know who you are if you are reading this :), and I love that you shared your recipe with me. I knew I had to make them for myself.

Anisette Cookies (Noni Cookies)

1 cup granulated sugar
12 heaping tablespoons butter flavor Crisco
6 eggs
1/2 cup milk (room temp.)
5 cups flour
6 heaping teaspoons baking powder
1 3/4 tablespoon anise or lemon extract

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

In a large bowl cream sugar and shortening for 5 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, mix well after each with mixer on low speed. Add 1/2 cup of milk, 3 cups of flour, baking powder and extract. Stir slowly adding the remaining 2 cups of flour until dough is pliable. Dough should be sticky when you take it out of the bowl, and kneed on a floured board. Kneed till dough is firm.

Break into 1"balls, dough will rise to 2x size when baked. Place dough balls on ungreesed cookie sheet 2" apart. Bake in hot oven 8-10 minutes, till top is slightly browned. Remove from oven and cook on rack before frosting.

YES!!! Frosting. This is what makes these cookies what they are, the frosting and the sprinkles.


3 1/2 cups of confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon anise or lemon extract (accordingly)
1/4 cup milk (room temp.)

multi-colored sprinkles

Combine sugar with extract and mix well.
Add milk to form a paste: to thick add more milk, to thin add more sugar.
Frost cookies on wax paper and immediately sprinkle.

When cooled (about an hour) move to decorative plate.


Pasta e Fagioli (Pasta & Beans)

If you are not Italian or know someone Italian you may never have heard of Pasta e Fagioli. When I was a little girl my Nana & Grandpi made this soup quite often, but it was not my favorite dish. It wasn't until years later that I realized how good it really is. You see I was in the North End of Boston (the Italian section) with some friends when we found this hole in the wall family restaurant, which sad to say I have no idea what is the name of the restaurant, but I do know it is family owned and operated. It was a cold winter day and all I really wanted was something warm and comforting and I think the cheapest and most filling dish on the menu. That was Pasta e Fagioli, it was so yummy I still think about it whenever I make mine.
Pasta e Fagioli is for the most part peasant food since it is pasta and beans, two very cheep ingredients that can fill you up and serve many. But don't let that stray you away from making it. It is so yummy. I will say I have been told that my version is quite fancy but why not, when you have the ingredients use them.

Pasta e Fagioli

2 tablespoons of olive oil
1/8 lb. pancetta, diced

1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon chili powder or crushed red chili's

1 medium onion finely chopped
2 carrots finely chopped
2 ribs of celery finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic chopped
salt n pepper to taste

2 cans of beans (cannelloni, garbanzo, or kidney your choice)
1 cup canned tomato sauce
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 cup water
1 quart chicken stock

1 1/2 cups of ditalini pasta

grated Romano or parmigiana

Heat a stock pot over medium high heat and add oil and pancetta. When pancetta is browned add the herbs, vegetables, and garlic. Season with salt n pepper to taste. But be careful how much salt you use since Pancetta is a cured meat. Brown the veggies, then add the beans, tomato sauce, tomato paste, water, and chicken stock, and raise heat to high. Bring it to a boil. At this point you can add the pasta, and cook for 6-8 minutes. Or what I like to do is let it simmer on the stove for a few hours so all the flavors meld. Then before I plan on serving I make the pasta.

When serving it is best to grate cheese over each bowl, either Romano or parmigiana.

What I can say is my Grandpi is very proud to eat my version, even though it is not like his. But one thing to remember mine will never be like his even if I make his version ... there is always something that makes Grandpi's different than mine. But the fact that I make Pasta e Fagioli now brings back all the memories of being in Nana and Grandpi's kitchen, and what great Grandparents I had and still have.

This is so Yummy ... you got to try it. YUM!!!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Lettuce Wraps

Any visit to P.F. Changs for dinner and you probably have tried Lettuce Wraps, or about 5 years ago they were a staple on Chili's menu. To find good ones are sometimes not so easy, and since the closest P.F. Changs to me is 30 minutes away I have been thinking baout making these, but have not been really sure where to start.

The other day the January 2010 Everyday-Food magazine came in, and low and behold there was a recipie for Lettuce Wraps. This was the perfect oppertunituy I had to fininally make these for my husband.

This is what I did ...

Lettuce Wraps

1/4 cup soy sauce
4 teaspoons fish sauce
4 teaspoons sugar

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 shallot, diced
2 tablespoons ginger, minced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 small jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped
1 lb. ground turkey meat

2 large heads of bib or boston lettuce
2 carrotts julienned

In a small bowl whisk soy sauce, fish sauce, and sugar till sugar is dissolved. Set aside.

Heat up a large skillet over high heat. When hot add oil, and swirl pan round to coat the pan with the oil. Add the shallot, ginger, garlic, ginger, and chilli and stir until fragrant (the oils in the shallot and the chilli will over take the other smells). Add the ground turkey and cook, braking up meat as it cooks with a wooden spoon.

Remove the leaves from the head of lettuce. The leaves are going to serve as you "vessel" to hold the meat.

To serve; place piece of lettuce on dish, fill with turkey mix, carrots, and drizzel sauce over. Fold like a burrito and eat.

If you are not sure what a shallot is ... it is a French onion. They are not very big but can be found at any local grocery store, and if you cannot find them I would suggest substituting red onion for one. Sometimes white onions are too strong and a milder onion flavor is needed here.

A secret I can tell you is I did not cut the carrots thin ... I used my potato peeler to make thin pieces of carrots. they came out very delicate and were so super easy to make. sometimes thinking outside the box can achieve the same goal.

One very nice thing came of this ... when we sat down to eat dinner my husband was so excited before he even took a bit. He knew before he ate it that it would be great. When he bit into his first one he asked "where did you get the sauce?" When I told him I made it he did not believe me and thought I purchased it somewhere. That was the best thing I heard all week. YUM!!!