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Over the weekend, my husband’s cousin and his wife came to spend the weekend (I am just going to refer to them as my cousins for the remainder of this post, because they are now)! Whenever I have anyone coming over, I always like to have a few desserts around, you know, just in case! This might be more for my benefit than anyone else’s, but it sure is a good excuse!
There’s a recipe idea I’ve had for a while now but hadn’t made yet…this was the perfect occasion to finally pull that trigger! I love S’mores and have been thinking of a way to make it into a pie. I have done a cake in the past (and thought it was quite delicious) but wanted to try something different. My idea was to make a basic graham cracker crumb crust, a brownie filling and marshmallow top. It turned out quite tasty, but next time, I think I’ll make a larger batch of brownies as the pie came kind of thin looking…although more fudgy brownies would certainly make this pie uber rich…but that’s never been a complaint of mine!
I also wanted to have something around that you can just grab one or two of, as opposed to having to go through all of the effort of cutting something. I’ve made dough balls in the past, but I modified my old recipe and cooking time and these turned out the best so far! I literally ate almost an entire batch the night before our cousin’s got in and had to make more…oops.
Brownie S’more Pie:
- 2 cups graham cracker crumbs (about 15 whole crackers if doing yourself)
- 8 T butter, melted
- 1/3 cup sugar
Brownie (The Baked Brownie):
- 10 T butter
- 1 cup sugar
- 3/4 cup cocoa powder, heaping
- 1 t vanilla
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup flour
15 large Marshmallows cut in half
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix melted butter, graham cracker crumbs and sugar together. Press into the bottom and up the sides of an 8 or 9 inch round pan. Set aside.
In a small saucepan, melt the butter, sugar and cocoa together until butter is completely melted and everything is incorporated. It might be a little grainy, but that is OK. Remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes. Meanwhile, beat eggs and vanilla together until creamy. Add a few tablespoons of the cocoa mixture to the egg mixture, beating to temper the eggs. Add the rest of the cocoa mixture and then the flour, beating just until combined…don’t over-mix. Pour into the crust
Bake for 23 minutes, then top with marshmallow halves, cut side down and bake another 3 or so minutes, just until melted. I used a propane torch to blacken the tops of the marshmallows a bit, but you could also just turn the broiler on for a minute or so on high (just be careful, they can go from white to super black in 3 seconds so watch them carefully)!
Dough Balls (aka, little bites of heaven):
- 1 stick butter, softened
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup white sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 1/2 t vanilla
- 2 cups flour
- 1/2 t baking powder
- 3/4 cup mini chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350. Sift together flour and baking powder, set aside. Cream together butter and sugars until pale and fluffy. Add egg then vanilla. Slowly add in flour, beating just until combined. Fold in chocolate chips. Scoop into balls (I used an ice cream scooper but you can use whatever size you like). Place onto greased or silpat lined baking sheet. You do not need to leave much room between them because they do not flatten nor grow much. Bake for 10 minutes…they will look a little underdone but they are done. Trust me. The biggest mistake you can make with these (and trust me, I’ve done it several times now) is to over bake them! You want them to be doughy, soft and cookie dough-like on the inside and more like a cookie on the outside.
I know I said I was going to be better about posting pics, but unfortunately that does not start today! I was going to wait to post something until I had pictures but then decided, why wait? Just post something with pictures next time!
You always hear how tastes change as you get older and boy is that ever true! I used to hate peppermint, everything about it, the smell of peppermint used to make me nauseous! This past winter, around Christmas though, I randomly decided to taste my husband’s peppermint mocha he ordered since the smell didn’t upset me! To my complete surprise, it was delicious. I have now consumed over 50 peppermint mochas and it’s only been about a month…once I like something, I go all out! Since I was drinking so many (sometimes 2 a day, seriously), I decided to make my own at home to save some money. I didn’t make any fancy syrup or anything even remotely complicated, although I certainly will soon…I just used a really good dark chocolate, chopped up, and put in in the glass with the milk before steaming. The steam melts the chocolate and creates a rich, creamy cocoa which I then added peppermint extract and espresso to! Another way I have done it is to add peppermint chips (found all over around Christmas time, not so much anymore though) in with the chocolate chunks and steam them all together. I prefer this way however, as I said, it might be hard to find peppermint chips now that Christmas is over…I knew I should have stocked up!
Another peppermint item that seems to have come up a lot this past year was peppermint bark. My mother-in-law loves it and my sister-in-law makes the best one…so I got her recipe and have made at least 10 batches so far, a few of those strictly for me to ‘taste-test!’ So if you want the best peppermint bark, and you should always want only the best, here’s her super simple, yet delicious recipe:
- 6 ounces dark chocolate (good dark chocolate is the key here, you want a really good brand)
- 2 teaspoons oil or shortening (I used shortening but either works…just gives it a nice shine as opposed to a dullness dry chocolate tends to take on)
- 6 ounces white chocolate (same rule, good quality makes all the difference)
- 2 teaspoons oil or shortening
- 3/4 – 1 teaspoon peppermint extract
- crushed candy canes
Line an 8X8 pan with wax or parchment paper. Melt the dark chocolate with the shortening or oil in a double boiler over simmering water, stirring occasionally until melted and completely smooth. Pour the chocolate into the 8X8 pan, banging pan on counter top to even out the chocolate layer. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes so the chocolate sets and hardens.
After 30 minutes, melt the white chocolate and shortening or oil in a a double boiler over simmering water, stirring occasionally until melted and completely smooth. Remove the white chocolate from the heat and stir in the peppermint extract. Let cool a few minutes while you get the hardened chocolate out of the refrigerator. Pour the white chocolate/peppermint over the dark chocolate. Smooth it out using an offset spatula, reaching every corner. Bang pan on counter top again to even everything out. Sprinkle with crushed candy canes and refrigerate until set/hardened.
I usually keep the bark in the fridge until I want a piece or am bringing it somewhere so it stays hard. You can leave it out, it will just get a little soft from the oil/shortening…delicious either way, personal preference!
It has been a crazy couple of weeks for us but they were some of the best times of 2013! It started on December 19th when my husband took me to New York for my birthday…best birthday so far! NY was amazing, as expected, and we had two of the best meals we’ve had in a really long time…highly recommend Telepan and/or Scalini Fredelli if you are ever there! From NY we headed straight to Michigan for Christmas, finally reunited with our puppy, then headed back to Illinois for a second Christmas spent at my parents! Finally returned home to spend a night in our own bed for once, only to wake up early, head to work Monday the 30th, then back to Michigan straight from work for New Years Eve and the Winter Classic hockey game in Ann Arbor! We drove straight to work Thursday morning and finally returned home for good that evening! Whew, I’m exhausted just writing all that but it was all well worth it and I wouldn’t change a thing if we could do it all over again!
The first thing we did when we got home was get right back in the kitchen! We whipped up an amazing homemade spinach and porcini stuffed ravioli with truffle cream sauce and lamb chops for dinner Friday night! Dessert was a dark chocolate cake with salted caramel frosting, pure decadence! Breakfast the next morning consisted of a shaved Brussels sprout and potato hash topped with poached eggs, divine. Cooking and baking was our way of relaxing and enjoying being home!
Homemade Spinach and Porcini Ravioli:
2 cups flour
2 whole eggs and 1 yolk
1 T olive oil
1 t salt
1 package porcini mushrooms, chopped
1 small onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 T olive oil
1 T butter
2 cups spinach, roughly chopped
1 container ricotta
1/3 – 1/2 cup parmesan
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 t truffle oil
1/3 cup reserved mushroom mixture
1 T olive oil
1 T butter
2 T flour
1 pint cream
1/3 cup parmesan
1 t truffle salt
Pepper to taste
1-2 truffle oil
For the dough, mound the flour and make a well in the middle. Add the eggs,.yolk, salt and olive oil, gently beat with a fork, gradually incorporating more flour from outside the well as you go. When dough comes roughly together, start kneading with your hands until incorporated and no longer sticky. Knead for 7 – 10 minutes. Wrap in plastic wrap and let sit 20 minutes. Meanwhile make the filling. Heat the oil and butter in large saucepan. Add the onions and mushrooms and cook until softened, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and saute another 2 minutes until fragrant. Add in spinach, cooking another minute or two until wilted. Keep about 1/3 cup of this mixture in the pan and mix the rest in a large bowl with ricotta, parmesan, salt, pepper and truffle oil. Set aside. Add a tablespoon of olive oil and a tablespoon of butter to the reserved mixture. When butter melts, add 2 tablespoons flour and let cook for 2 minutes or so. Begin adding cream slowly, whisking the entire time until smooth. Let boil, then simmer, add in parmesan and simmer until desired thickness. Add in truffle salt, pepper and oil.
After 20 minutes, heat a large pot of heavily salted water to boiling and unwrap dough and cut into 4 equal sections. I used my kitchenaid mixer attachment and rolled the dough out to a 5. If you don’t have one, roll out each section as thin as you can with a rolling pin. I also used my ravioli maker attachment to make the ravioli, following the instructions in the manual. If you don’t have one, place teaspoons of filling an inch apart on one rolled out sheet of dough. Top with a second sheet, seal edges and cut out squares or circles, sealing edges as you go (or you can use a ravioli cutter/stamp if you have one of those). Once all are cut, place in boiling water for 3-4 minutes or until they begin to float. Drain and add to truffle sauce, tossing to coat. Top with more parmesan cheese and dig in!
Dark Chocolate Cake (adapted from Ina Garten):
1 3/4 cup flour, sifted
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup dark chocolate cocoa powder
2 t baking soda
1 t baking powder
1 t salt
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup oil
1 t vanilla
1 cup fresh coffee
Preheat oven to 350. Combine dry ingredients in large bowl and mix well. In a other bowl,combine buttermilk, oil, eggs and vanilla. Add tge wet to the dry until combined. Slowly add in coffee, batter will be thin. Pour into two greased 8-inch cake pans. Bake 30 minutes.
Salted Caramel Frosting:
1 cup sugar
4 T water
2 T light corn syrup
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 T butter
3/4 t salt
Then: 2 sticks softened butter, 3 cups powdered sugar and 1 cup salted caramel
Combine sugar, water and corn syrup in saucepan over medium heat. Heat until sugar dissolves, stirring with a woodenspoon. Once dissolved, turn heat up to medium high and let boil without stirring. Cook until mixture turns a deep amber color, remove from heat and add in heavy cream, butter and salt. Careful, mixture will bubble up and is very hot. Mix until butter melts and cream is incorporated, pour into bowl and set aside to cool and thicken. Meanwhile, whip butter until creamy, add in powdered sugar and whip until fluffy. Add in caramel, whipping until fluffy and incorporated. Frost cake any way you’d like, sprinkling top with more coarse salt! (I cut each 8-inch round in half so I had a 4 layer cake and drizzled the frosted top with a dark chocolate ganache, letting it drip down the sides and didn’t frost the sides of the cake at all, just between the cake layers).
1 very large or 2 medium potatoes, diced
Diced pancetta (I use Trader Joes pre-packaged diced)
10-15 brussels sprouts, shaved
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
1 t vinegar
Boil potatoes until softened, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, heat pancetta in olive oil in a large saucepan until crispy. Add onion and brussels sprouts. Cook until softened, add in softened potatoes and garlic. Season to taste. Cook until potatoes are browned. Meanwhile, bring a few inches of water to a simmer in a saucepan. Add in vinegar and use spatula to swirl water, creating a pseudo whirlpool effect. Crack eggs into individual dishes and gently slide into swirling water. Cook about 3 minutes, they should still be jiggly! Scoop hash into bowls, spoon eggs out of water using a slotted spoon and place atop hash. Crack eggs and use yolk as sauce for hash. Poaching eggs is now our favorite way to eat eggs, we’re obsessed…and it’s all thanks to Locanda Verde in NY!
It’s good to be home!
P.S. New Years resolution is to be better at taking pictures to post!
I know I do, goat cheese is one of my favorites! Last night, I decided to whip up a pasta dish that would use up most of what was left in our fridge since we will once again be leaving town for the weekend! Here’s what I ended up with: penne with roasted leeks, zucchini, mushrooms and a garlic oil creamy goat cheese sauce with pan-fried breaded chicken! You would never know I forgot to add in the arugula! Not the fastest recipe since it had a few different components, but they were all fairly easy to do! Here’s the breakdown:
- 8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
- zucchini, diced up however you like
- leeks, halved then cut into 1/2 inch pieces
- 3 T good olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
Heat oven to 400, mix together vegetables, oil and seasonings. Spread onto one or two sheet or roasting pans depending on how many veggies you have. You want them to be in one layer, no overlapping or they will steam instead of roast and you won’t get that caramelization you want when roasting! Roast for 15-20 minutes, flip over and roast another 15 or so minutes until golden and caramelized! Set aside when done.
- One package chicken tenders, diced into chunks
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1/2 to 3/4 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
- 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
- salt and pepper to taste
- olive oil to coat bottom of pan
Put beaten eggs in one bowl and bread crumbs and parm in another. Salt and pepper chicken, then coat chicken with egg then bread crumbs, egg then bread crumbs again. (You do not have to do a second coat if you don’t care for a lot of breading or just want a light breading). Heat oil in a cast iron skillet or fry pan over medium heat until hot. Add chicken, working in batches if necessary until cooked through, turning once.
Garlic Oil Sauce:
- 1/3 to 1/2 cup good olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic
- red pepper flakes to taste
- salt and pepper to taste
Heat oil in small fry pan until hot. Remove from heat and add in garlic. Let cook for a few seconds to brown the garlic then add to drained pasta (that you cooked while doing all of the other various tasks for this dish, and save at least a cup of the heavily salted pasta water in case you need it later), immediately followed by adding the goat cheese while the oil and pasta are still hot so that the goat cheese can melt. Toss until goat cheese melts, adding in roasted vegetables, chicken, Parmesan cheese and pasta water if needed to thin out sauce! (This is also where you would add the arugula or spinach if using and you did not forget)! Top with more parm and eat up!
Wow it’s been a while since I’ve posted! However, I do have a great excuse…I was in Italy for two weeks! And unfortunately for me, when I returned, I got a horrible cold that I am still fighting, so my apologies for the delay! Italy was absolutely amazing, even more so than I ever dreamed. We flew into Florence, went to Monterosso (part of the Cinque Terre), then headed to Siena, Cortona, then Rome, then Sorrento and finally ended in Positano on the Amalfi Coast! It was a trip to remember, that’s for sure! Josh and I took the advice of a few friends and family that had been before us and kept a journal of all the places we ate at so we can always remember, in case we ever make it back or get to give any other lucky travelers advice! My favorite food was through the Tuscany/Chianti region where we got to feast on things like wild boar stew, duck and/or rabbit ragu, truffled everything and different things like that…my ‘least favorites’ (since that really isn’t true, everything was scrumptious) were in the big cities such as Florence and Rome where everything seemed to be the same…however you can never go wrong in my book with fresh, homemade pasta! We were right outside the truffle capital of the world so we got to enjoy the freshest, most delicious truffle dishes ever…not like the ones here where they just douse everything in tons of truffle oil and call it ‘truffled!’ One of our favorite places, one we ended up eating twice at (something we absolutely swore we would not do but the pizza was just too fabulous not to) was a place called Pizzeria Aurora in Sorrento. When you were served your amazingly thin and crispy pizza that was oozing with melty, fresh buffalo mozzarella, they brought you a pepperoncini oil to the table instead of regular plain olive oil to sprinkle over your pizza…AMAZING! Changed my world completely, we bought 6 jars to take home…a few for ourselves and a few to give away as gifts because everyone should experience that little bit of heaven! Being along the Amalfi Coast, there was tons of fresh seafood everywhere, so if you like seafood, that is definitely the place to go! My husband had at least three different seafood pastas and loved them all! We took a cooking class in Ravello where we actually went to a fish market and picked out what we wanted to cook from what was caught that morning…great experience but wow, talk about an overwhelming smell! Lastly, one of the best parts about Italy was the wine…so delicious and abundant, I definitely have a new-found love of Chianti! We may have come back with 6 bottles of wine as well…oops! Overall, it was one of the most incredible experiences of my life so far and I cannot wait to go back…however, next time, maybe in May or October…we got some unseasonably warm weather which made for some rough site-seeing days! I am sure I am leaving out tons of things I wanted to say but I wanted to get a post out before the weekend since I’ve been dropping the ball…so more to come and everyone have a cool, safe weekend!!
I posted about my newfound love of coconut recently, so no surprise that the obsession continues! I follow a blog called Mel’s Kitchen Cafe that I really enjoy reading and yesterday’s post was right up my alley…I just knew I had to run home and try this recipe out! It combined chocolate and coconut into a gooey bar-type brownie with a fudgy frosting sort of thing…mouth watering yet?!
Josh is obsessed with tacos and would love to have taco night at least 3 nights a week, however I apparently have been ‘slacking’ as he puts it, and we haven’t had taco night in at least two weeks!’ So in an effort to please both of us, we had taco Wednesday with coconut chocolate bars for dessert! Doesn’t matter that those two don’t seem to go together at all, we were both very pleased and let’s be honest, chocolate goes with everything!
So here’s the recipe I ended up using, slightly altering the recipe from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe:
Chocolate Coconut Bars:
For the Bars:
- 3/4 cup flour
- 1/3 cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- dash of salt
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 4 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
- 2 eggs, at room temperature
- 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
For the topping:
- 4 oz cream cheese, softened
- 4 T butter, room temp
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1/3 cup cocoa powder
- 1/2 t vanilla
- 1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
- 1 1/2 cups coconut
Heat the oven to 350 degrees and spray an 8×8-inch square baking pan with non-stick cooking spray. In a larger bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar until evenly combined. Add the butter (cooled so as not to scramble the egg), eggs, and vanilla, and mix until the mixture forms a stiff dough. Gently press the dough evenly into the prepared pan and set aside.
For the topping: cream together the cream cheese and butter until fluffy. Add the beaten egg and mix well, then the cocoa powder and vanilla and mix until well blended. Add the powdered sugar gradually while beating until the mixture is smooth. Fold in the coconut.
Spread the topping over the base and bake 30 minutes. The edges should be set and the center still slightly under cooked looking. Cool completely, in fact the blog says that the bars are even better cooled and chilled in the refrigerator! Of course I couldn’t wait that long and had them hot right out of the oven! My recommendation would be to let them cool slightly, as they are very difficult to cut when they are still hot and gooey! Rushing out the door this morning I completely forgot to grab one from the fridge so the anticipation all day will be killing me…I can’t wait to get home and dive into them! I’ll let you know how they are 😉
Hey all, just wanted to ask a personal favor of my readers/supporters! I am entered into a contest for BCBG and would really appreciate your votes and support! And if you wouldn’t mind sharing the link with anyone and everyone you know! Here is the link:
Thanks, I really appreciate it!!
I am sure the last thing most people even want to think about right about now is food! Lucky for me, I don’t have that problem! Today is my first day attempting to return to somewhat normal eating habits…all the amazing leftovers make it way too difficult though! It’s hard to have one thing and not another, and by the end, my plate(s) seem as full as they did on Thanksgiving! Pizza, chinese and Dairy Queen have made appearances the last few days as well, in an effort to take a break from leftovers, but tonight will be a different story! I would like to share a few of our favorite family recipes and turkey leftover recipes with you guys so you don’t get bored eating all that turkey! The first recipe is courtesy of Josh’s family, the tried and true cheesy potatoes…amazing every time! This is no dish for the faint of heart and those ‘watching their weight’ that’s for sure, but it is definitely worth every calorie, trust me!
- 2 sticks of butter
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
- 2 (16-ounce) bags frozen diced potatoes or hash brown potatoes
- 1 medium container sour cream
- 2 cans cream of chicken soup
- 2 packages (or 1 large) cheddar cheese (I prefer sharp cheddar myself)!
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter in large skillet over medium high heat, add onion and saute until soft and translucent, about 10 minutes or so. Meanwhile, mix together potatoes, sour cream, cream of chicken, and half the cheese. Add in onion and butter mixture, spread into a 9X13 dish, top with remaining bag of cheese and bake for 50-60 minutes, until top is golden brown. Ah-mazing!
And now, here are a few of my favorite ways to use up some of that leftover turkey!
Turkey Enchiladas (also courtesy of the Hover clan)
- 2 cans cream of chicken
- 1 cup sour cream
- 1 can chopped green chiles
- 1 package cheddar cheese
- 1 package tortillas
- cumin to taste
- 3 chicken breasts, cooked or leftover turkey
- black olives to top
- 1 pound shells or elbow macaroni
- 2-3 cups shredded leftover turkey
- 1 small onion, diced
- 3/4 cup Frank’s Red Hot
- 2 garlic cloves, diced
- 5 T butter
- 2 T Flour
- 2 t dry mustard powder
- 2 – 2 1/2 cups milk
- 2 bags cheddar cheese, again, I prefer sharp!
And lastly, the most simple, yet delicious way to use up that leftover turkey is to make one fantastic sandwich! Having good bread is key here, as is having good, homemade stuffing (not that I’m bias at all, but my gram’s is the BEST)! Spread two slices of good, hearty bread with mayo, layer on stuffing and turkey, assemble sandwich and enjoy! It is as simple as that and is always great, every time!
And for the record, the pumpkin cheesecake recipe, courtesy of Paula Deen was delicious! Great texture, very creamy and not too rich at all. Her recipe can be found on Food Network or through google…I didn’t change a thing! The only thing I would recommend to do different would be to bake the cheesecake in a water bath. Place the springform pan in a larger dish and fill half way up with water and bake that way. This should prevent some of the cracking that happened to mine! I’ve got to say though, appearance didn’t matter much since it tasted so good! And any cracking was easily disguised with whipped cream anyways!
Buon giorno, my name is Val and I am self-proclaimed food junkie from Chicago. I started this blog as a means to do something I love the most: talk about food! It has been brought to my attention, sadly, numerous times now, how my Facebook page is consumed with comments about food, cooking, eating, etc! This gives me a bit more “counterspace” to elaborate on those posts!
I grew up in a traditional Italian household where food was the center of all family gatherings. It brought us all together regularly and keeps us together today. I had my first baking experience before the age of 3, thanks to my Grandma Rae! She used to let me roll out the dough, decorate cookies, control the mix-master, etc! These are some of my dearest memories, ones I will cherish forever. Thanks to my Gram, my passion is baking and literally, every night, I can be found in my kitchen trying to create something to satisfy my post-dinner sweet tooth! I am always looking for new recipes to try and am willing to share as many of mine as possible, including numerous secrets of a real Italian Grandmother.
Here is a picture of my brother (age 5) and I (age 3) helping Gram bake! Val 3
Since I’ve been baking/cooking for almost 27 years now, I have had my share of disasters and things haven’t always turned out the way I planned! After all, cooking is a learning process, and I hope by reading this blog, you can learn from my mistakes and together we can make some delicious vittles!
To kick things off, here are a few of my favorite quotes about food:
“The only time to eat diet food is while you’re waiting for the steak to cook.” ~Julia Child
“It’s a way to connect to one’s ancestors and tell a story or a family narrative, or to manage bereavement. In other words, food can be who you are, what you want to remember, what you hope for, and what you’ve lost.” ~Women’s Health Magazine, Why We Love Food
“If God had intended us to follow recipes, He wouldn’t have given us grandmothers.” ~Linda Henley
“No man in the world has more courage than the man who can stop after eating one peanut.” ~Channing Pollo