HOME MADE PESTO

After successfully growing tons of Basil this year, and before the first frost comes, I new I needed to get busy and make some pesto. Last year I made it for the 1st time and after a day, it turned a dark green, not to appetizing! So this year I did a little research and found that if I just blanch the basil in boiling water for 15 seconds, then immediately take it out, and put it in an ice bath it stays a vibrant green!! Then all you have to do is squeeze it out, throw it in a food processor, with 1 lg clove of garlic for every 2 cups of basil, 1/4 cup of walnuts (or pine nuts) salt and pepper, and then stream a little EVOO in there and the result is not only delicious, but 4 days later it is sill as green as ever!! It was so easy and so much more flavorful then store bought!! You must try it sometime!!
For an updated version of my favorite pestos and other sauces please check out my new ebook that was launched in 2013, here’s the link.
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CANNOLI CAKE

I decided I was going to to try and make a Cannoli Cake for the 1st time today. Because you see, I have a husband and a Brother-in -Law that are OBSESSED with it!! They are connoisseur’s (so they think!) Whenever they try Cannoli Cake from a new bakery, or a wedding, or whatever, they make comments like “It tastes Blah,” or “not enough rum” “or their famous word is “garbage!”. So believe me, I knew what I was up for. True Cannoli Cake has sponge cake layers, which that alone was alot of work. You had to separate the eggs and fold the whites into the creamed yolks. Bake that, let it cool, then slice into layers. Actually that turned out perfect. But I could see why you need to soak the layers because sponge cake is actually dry, there is no oil, or butter in it. I made a syrup of sugar, rum, orange slices and boiled that down on the stove. Let that cool. Then I had to mix the Ricotta, confectioners sugar, mini chocolate chips and a pinch of cinnamon for the filling. To frost it I made a vanilla buttercream and folded in some whipped heavy cream. When that was all done I proceeded to assemble everything. 1st I brushed on my Rum syrup, I didn’t put enough on, I should have polked holes in it and then brushed it on, it would have penetrated much better, and the FUSSY guys would have liked it better!!

Then a layer of filling , a layer of cake, more syrup, another layer of filling, then frosting all over. For decoration I put crushed cannoli shells on the side. All in all, it turned out pretty good, but it definitely needed more moisture on the cake layers. Would I make it again??!!! Heck No!!! It’s a lot of work with a lot of steps. My kitchen was totalled!!! And besides, there’s a great Bakery about 10 miles from me who makes it just the way they like it… SOAKED with Rum!!!

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THE RAVINIA EXPERIENCE!! A CONCERT AND PICNIC UNDER THE STARS!

If your from the Chicago area and haven’t been to Ravinia, you NEED to go!! It’s located in a Northern Chicago suburb called Highland Park, and it’s one of the oldest outdoor music festivals in North America. The ambience is incredible! It’s a parklike setting on 36 acres with beautiful old trees. It happens every summer between June and September, with popular Artists performing a range of music from Classical and Pop, to Jazz. Theres an open air pavillion with reserved seating, but the main attraction is the LAWN. This year once again my Family and I attended the Tony Bennett concert. It’s just not summer unless we go to Ravinia at least once! My Son says ” It’s like a rite of passage into Fall ” and it certainly is!! Now, before I go on about the picknicking aspect of it all , I have to speak about Tony Bennett, what a class act! In his 80’s and sounds as good as ever! never misses a beat. This was his 23rd season at Ravinia, and the crowd loves him! it was a record night there. When he sang CHICAGO the crowd went wild! With beautiful weather and his voice being broadcast to the lawn audience, well, you can’t get better than that!! Now, about the picnicking, this is not for the faint of heart! This is DIE HARD picknicking that would put Martha Stewart to Shame!! The first time you go there you will be in AWE. Ill never forget the first time I went, I saw a complete Turkey feast on a silver platter no less, with linens and candles, flowers , It put our meager picnic to shame!! Since then,we have upgraded quite a bit, with our special “Ravinia Tables” and a 9×15 Decorative mat to stake our claim on the lawn! Once the gates open it’s a mad dash for the perfect spot! We have our favorite, and manage to get it everytime. ( Thanks to the runners!) Once the mats down we start to set up, as does, the whole crowd. I would say,this years menu was the best so far, we all really pulled it off!! Here was our menu:

APPETIZERS
Crab dip
Spinach and Artichoke dip
Blue and Brie cheeses
3 kinds of Hummus
Assorted crackers and Pita chips
Olives

MAIN COURSE
Pesto Pasta Salad
Mozzerella and garden fresh Tomato Salad
Grilled Chicken Kabobs
Grilled Shrimp Kabobs w/Mango Salsa
Italian lunch meat Stromboli
Grilled Vegetable Stromboli

DOLCI
Lemon Poundcake
Triple Chocolate Brownies
Chocolate Chip Cookies
Fruit Kabobs

Plenty of Red and White Wine , and of course Coffee, for later!

I just want to say “Thanks” to Everyone who made it such a Great Evening!( you all know who you are) and look forward to next years RAVINIA EXPERIENCE!!!

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