Artichoke Frittata

If you’re having a busy week, no need to drive threw those tasteless burger places for dinner, you know which ones I’m talking about! Why not go home and whip up a frittata?

Frittata’s are quick and easy to make, you can put just about anything you want in them, and it’s a great way to use up some leftover veggies or meats.

Great for a light dinner or a fancy brunch, frittata’s are pure comfort food for me and the Hubby!

In this recipe all I used was 1 bag of frozen artichokes, ( I’m putting in another plug for Trader Joes, they have the best frozen artichokes, I can’t live without them!) which I quickly defrosted in my microwave. While it was defrosting I turned my broiler on, took out my saute pan quickly drizzled it with olive oil, sauteed some green onion, diced red pepper, and thinly shaved garlic. I also tossed in the artichokes (which were gently squeezed of any water) just to flavor them up.
After they were sauteed in the olive oil a little, I took them them back out of the pan, and set aside.
In the meantime beat some eggs with a little milk, add a generous amount of grated romano cheese, salt, pepper and whatever herbs you want, if any.
Pour egg mixture into the pan, now arrange your artichokes cut side up around the frittata, and slowly let the eggs set, about 10 min’s. When set, sprinkle top with more grated cheese and stick the whole thing under the broiler till golden brown. Garnish with fresh parsley and more cheese if you want.

After it cools off a little I think the flavors really come out, with every bite you’ll taste the cheese, and that hint of the shaved garlic, and lets not forget the star of this dish, the artichokes!
Have a good weekend and Buon Appetito!!
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Mezzanotte!!! (Midnight)

Pure decadence! That’s how I describe this amazing coffee cocktail called, “Mezzanotte”.
This is something you’d would want to make for a very special occasion. Dark chocolate, espresso, vodka, and coffee liqueur, make up this little treat! Who wouldn’t want to sip one of these? It’s like having your espresso and dessert all in one!

Consider making these for a very special occasion, I know I am! In case you haven’t heard, there’s a big bash going on in the blogosphere. Susan, over at Sticky, Gooey, Creamy, Chewy, is celebrating her 1 year blogiversary, and we’re all invited to her virtual cocktail party!! If you haven’t already met Susan, please go over and check out her wonderful blog, It’s full of family stories that will bring tears to your eyes, and snippets of her life that will make you laugh out loud, along with all her glorious food!!

I’ve decided to bring this cocktail as my contribution to her party. It’s going to be a long night, and I figure we will be sipping these well past midnight!!

Mezzanotte Cocktail
2 oz. Vodka
2 Shots of Espresso ( 1 oz. each)
1 oz. simple Sugar
1/2 oz. of Coffee Liqueur ( Kahlua, Godiva, or Starbucks)
Chocolate Syrup
One Stick of Dark Chocolate
Chocolate Shavings
Sugar the rim of a martini glass. Swirl chocolate syrup inside the glass. Pour your Vodka, sugar, espresso, and coffee liqueur, into a shaker with ice. Shake vigorously. Strain. Garnish with chocolate shavings and a chocolate stick.
Cin Cin!!

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Risotto Primavera Cake!

I’m beginning to see a trend in my cooking. I’ve noticed I have a fondness for molded foods! No really! Check it out! Here, here, here, here, and here. And now I’m adding this one to my list! I must surely have a problem!!!

I started molding risotto about 10 yrs ago in my green Tupperware Jello mold, you know the one with the whole in the center. I read it somewhere in a magazine many years ago and I thought it was the coolest idea, especially for a dinner party as a side dish, I just liked the idea of cutting off a piece that was all contained, it has a nice presentation.
Believe me I don’t do this all the time, we like our risotto the normal way, slathered on our plates too, but for something a little different and out of the ordinary, you might want to give this a try.

The other thing I like about this is the fact that you can make your risotto the day before, have all that stirring done, and your kitchen cleaned up! Use any combination you like, you know risotto’s a personal thing. Put together the ingredients and flavors you enjoy!
I did a primavera, because I had alot of veggies I wanted to use up. In mine I used zucchini, yellow squash, red and green pepper, mushroom, onions, and pea’s. I added to it, fresh parsley and basil, salt, pepper, and grated romano cheese.

The key here is that you use a little less liquid than normal, so it will have a drier consistency, but still be very moist and creamy. The other thing I do is saute my veggies first in another pan and set aside. I don’t like my veggies overcooked and mushy, so when the risotto is finished absorbing all the liquid, thats when I’ll fold my veggies in.
Grease your mold, here I used a springform pan. Pour your risotto mixture into it, make sure you press it down with the back of a spoon, then wrap in foil and refrigerate it! If you’re making it the same day, still keep it in foil, but bake it in a 400 degree oven for about 30 to 35 min. Let it sit for about 5 min’s, then un mold. You can serve this hot, cold, or at room temperature.

The important things to remember are, for every 1 cup of rice use 2 1/2 cups of stock, and don’t forget to deglaze with a shot of wine, finish it off with a little butter, and the cheese. and don’t forget you’re going to bake it for about a half hour.
Other than that you could use any risotto recipe you like.
Any one else seeing a trend in their posts?
Buon Appetito Everyone!!

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Adoring Dolcetti!

There’s still an abundance of peaches out there and this is a great way to use them up. In fact a whole platter of these is a great thing to bring to a party, trust me I’ve done it! You can grill them ahead of time either outdoors, or like I did here right here, on my indoor grill.
Cut them in half, scoop out the pit, grill face down, just till you get some grill marks on.
Put a dollop of mascarpone, chopped pistachio’s, and a good drizzle of honey!

Do you have any banana’s that are starting to look sad? No problem! Wrap them in some tin foil and throw them on the grill, either inside or out.
Let them cook till the skin gets brown and soft in the center, about 20 min’s.
In a small sauce pan melt some butter, about 2 Tbl. Now add 1/2 cup of toasted and chopped hazelnuts, a squeeze of lemon juice, and a few Tbl. of light corn syrup.
Pour the warm sauce over your warm banana’s with a scoop of vanilla ice cream sprinkled with cinnamon!

Both of these desserts are very quick and so, so, easy to make!! They taste very decadent! and your family and friends will adore you for serving these!

Have a nice weekend, and Buon Appetito!

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Balsamic and Herb Grilled Chicken Breasts with Roasted Red Pepper and Basil Salsa!!

Even though Labor Day is long gone, there’s still plenty of time left for grilling!
The flavors in this dish go so well together, I hope you’ll give it a try before grilling season is over.
Marinating the chicken is the key here, so you’ll want to do it for at least 2 hours.

In a Ziploc bag place 4 chicken breasts, 2 crushed garlic cloves, herbs of your choice, I used rosemary, oregano, and thyme, you can use fresh or dry. 1 tbl. of Dijon mustard, 3 tbl. of olive oil, 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar, plus some salt and fresh ground pepper.

When done marinating, place on your grill to cook.

While your chicken is marinating grill your red peppers. Peel, seed, then cut them into a dice.
Place in a bowl along with some crushed garlic, lots of fresh basil, red wine vinegar, olive oil, salt and black pepper. Let everything sit together at room temperature.

When your chicken breasts are done grilling, you’ll want to spoon this roasted red pepper salsa on top. You won’t believe how good these flavors taste together! So please, fire up your grill and give this a try!

Buon Appetito Everyone!

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Cannoli Filled Cream Puffs!! August Daring Bakers Challenge

This months Daring Bakers challenge was taken from a book called, Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Herme’.
I knew I was going to like this the minute I saw the recipe, because it only had 3 elements to it! Choux pastry, or cream puff dough, some kind of pastry cream, and a chocolate glaze.

Then there was the fact that our dear Host’s MeetaK and Tony Tahhan, kindly gave us culinary leeway to choose what ever filling we wanted, along with the size and shape of our choice, which made it even better!!

Of course my choice was to stuff these little mini babies with cannoli filling. The filling consisted of ricotta, which was made smooth by putting it into a food processor, along with some powdered sugar for sweetness, after which I added some rum, grated orange rind, just the slightest hint of cinnamon, and mini chocolate chips.

To make it less dense, I folded in some freshly whipped cream.

After glazing the top with chocolate, I finished it off with some chopped pistachio’s.

The biggest problem I had was working with the pastry bag! Everything was squishing out the top, I think my bag was too small. So after one attempt with it, I quickly switched to a gallon size Ziploc bag. I would appreciate any hints to working neatly with a pastry bag!

Other than that only issue, everything else was a breeze! I would definitely make these again!

For the complete recipe please click on our Host’s link above.

And please go check out some of the other Daring Bakers creations here.

Buon Appetito!!

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Family, Friends, and an Evening with Tony Bennett!!

This past Saturday our family and friends joined together again for our annual trek to Ravinia Festival, for the Tony Bennett concert.

Ravinia is one of the oldest outdoor music festival’s located in Highland Pk. The venue is a gorgeous park like setting with old trees, a sprawling open lawn area, an open air pavilion where Tony Bennett actually performs. Scattered along the grounds there are wine bars, espresso bars, ice cream stands, food areas where you can pick up some gourmet treats and baked goods, and even a sit down restaurant.

If you live in the Chicagoland area and haven’t been to Ravinia, you are missing out on one of the best times!! You just have to go! I repeat!….”Go to Ravinia!” Stealing a quote from my son, “It’s just not summer unless we go to Ravinia at least once!” And it’s so true!

The whole thing about Ravinia is the picnicking that takes place on the lawn. Yes, the lawn seating is the best! But there’s a strategy to it, you have to claim your spot quickly,you must have all your plans thought out ahead of time. And when the gates open, send in your best runners to claim your spot, all you have to do is lay out your tarps and mats, and then the fun begins. We have our “secret ways” and it works every time! Did you check out the crowd?
As far as the picnic fare, you will see a whole spectrum of things, humble eating straight from a pizza takeout box, to a turkey dinner on china with candelabras. It’s fun to walk around and see the different picnic’s going on, We actually saw a small wedding reception picnic there with the bride still in her wedding gown.

This is the Pavilion where the artists perform, it’s open, and there is seating for 3200 people, but you will pay at least $75.oo per ticket. Lawn seats are $15.00 per person and you will hear Tony being piped out from all the speakers they have set up in the trees. We always manage to get near the stage where the sound is great and if we want too, we can walk up to the fence and take a look at Tony performing. Many times you will see couples dancing on the lawn.

By the way, can I just say that Tony Bennett still sounds amazing! You’d never know he was in his 80’s! He’s as sharp as a whistle, and doesn’t miss a beat! He talks to his audience, and makes sure he plays all there favorite songs. Needless to say, “Chicago” was sung!

For our group of 14, we had 3 tables that we put together to make a buffet. We had a separate table that was for our beverages where homemade Sangria was made. The gates opened at 5:00 and Tony performed at 7:30, so we had 2 1/2 hours of ” grazing” before the concert started. Everyone all chipped in a brought something! The only thing we ever buy is coffee at dessert time.
For Appetizers we had:
Brie and fig, Goat cheese with Lavender, Spinach and Artichoke Dip, Olive Salad Dip, Salsa and Chips, Feta Dip, Baba Ganoush, Hummus, and Pita Chips.

Main Courses:
Chicken Kabobs, Falafel, Spinach and Artichoke Quiche, Mini Prosciutto and fresh Mozzarella sandwiches, Breaded Chicken Fingers, Tortellini Pasta Salad skewer’s, Spicy Capicola and Mozzerella skewer’s, Mini Pizza’s of Caprese, and a Gorgonzola and Artichoke one, Stuffed Tomatoes, Roasted Veggies, Cucumber Salad, and, an assortment of Olives.

This is my son Tony, going in for the desserts which consisted of:
Chocolate Dipped Strawberries, Oreo Truffles, Mini Cheesecakes, 2 kinds of Brownies, Banana Bread, Lemon bars, and 2 different Fruit Kabobs!

It truly was a great evening had by all! Thanks everyone!

This is something I made which is great for a party, sort of a deconstructed pasta salad. In this case it is pre-cooked Tortellini that was marinaded with lemon and olive oil for 30 min’s, then skewered with fresh basil, sun-dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, and fresh mozzarella. Grate some fresh cheese over top. Mmmm!!

And finally, I just want to mention that this post makes it my 100th post!! Woo Hoo, I finally did it!
Buon Appetito Everyone!!
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Grilled Scallops with Roasted Tomatoes and French Beans!


If you love scallops, I’m certain you will love this dish! Every time I make it you will hear sounds like “Mmmmm!” “Oh, Wow!” “Yummm!” around my table, (me included).
Believe me, it isn’t any skill on my part, it’s very simple to make, it’s just that the flavors go so well together. You have the intense concentration of the tomatoes which have been roasted, balanced with the sweet and slightly smoky flavor of the grilled scallops, added with it all, are those thin french beans that still have a little bite to them, I’m telling you, it’s a match made in heaven!

The other great thing about this dish is the fact that the tomatoes and beans can be done ahead of time, even the day before. Scallops take no time at all, so I actually recommend you doing that, this way when the scallops are done, everything comes together so quickly.

Roasting the Tomatoes:

You must use those little tomatoes on the vine! I used the Campari ones from Costco, but you can get them almost any where. They have such terrific flavor already, and when you roast them they get even better. Take a foil or parchment lined baking sheet, cut each tomato in half, over a bowl lightly squeeze a little of the juice out, place cut side up , drizzle with olive oil, s&p, and crushed garlic. Roast in a hot 400 degree oven till they shrivel up and have a deep red color with still a little moisture.

Forgive me, I’m not sure how long it takes, I know its less than an hour and more than 20 min’s.

Again it depends how much moisture is inside, just keep checking. Let them cool, and gently lift them off with a spatula and pack them into a container till ready to use.

Scallops:

Good quality scallops, big ones, that are dry, you don’t want to put a wet scallop on the grill it just won’t sear right. So place them between paper towels to get any moisture out. Toss them with some olive oil, salt and pepper, and cook them on a very hot grill and don’t flip them till you get some good grill marks. I can’t tell you exactly how long they take, it depends on how thick they are.

But don’t over cook them OK!

French Beans:

Cook till crisp tender, rinse in cold water, put them into a Ziploc bag till ready to use.

Now when you’re ready to eat, take a large saute pan, cook some shallots and more garlic in olive oil till tender. Now take your roasted tomatoes, place them in the pan and heat then gently through, as well as the beans.

When scallops are done, just incorporate everything together! That’s it!


Buon Appetito!!!
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Winner of my Blogoversary Giveaway!

As you can see, Michelle, of Le Potage is the winner of my Blogoversary giveaway! I only wish I could send you all a gift. Michelle, send me your address in an email, and I’ll send the gift right out to you. Also, if any of you are not familiar with Michelle’s blog, please go there for a visit! Le Potage means soup in French, and boy can she cook up some great pots of soup, among other things! In fact her tortilla soup is on my to make list.

I was overwhelmed with all the comments and enjoyed reading each and every one!
Thanks Again,
xoxo, Marie

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Grab A Cannoli, And Come Share My Blogoversary with me!! (And a Giveaway)

Well it’s finally here, the 1st anniversary of Proud Italian Cook! I can’t believe a year has gone by already. I remember before I started this blog, I would browse the Internet and check out all of the food blogs out there, looking at all the beautiful photo’s and reading great stories , and learning about different cultures and food traditions. Having a passion for cooking I wanted to have my own blog but thought it would be impossible for me, how would I start it? How did they get those pictures on line? Remember, I’m from the non-techie generation!

One day my daughter was over and I was showing her some of my favorite blogs and I was saying to her that I wish I could have one of my own. Of course her response was,”I can set you up in about a half hour with your own blog!” What? really? I said. “Yeah, pick a name for it” In the meantime she was typing faster than the speed of light asking me what color background, what font, etc and all the other things you have to do to set up a blog.” Come on Mom! Pick a name I gotta go home” Are you kidding me? You’re just going to leave now? I said. As soon as I came up with Proud Italian Cook she was done with everything else. ” It’s all done, see? I gotta go now”. “Read up on it Mom, you can do it, Bye!”

Needless to say her phone was ringing off the hook from me, question after question, I even gave her my passwords so she could upload my photos from her house, she’s a night owl and so am I,
so many a night I’d be calling her to help me.

Then I noticed the answering machine going on a little more often then before, Hmmm, was that a hint? I did hear her say she created a monster once! So baby step, by baby step, I slowly learned about blogging.

All that being said, if it wasn’t for her, no way would I have started this! So thank you Vanessa! and the rest of my family, for putting up with me.

Now I want to give a big “THANKS” to all of you, my readers, who have made this year so much fun! You have all have inspired me more than you’ll ever know. I appreciate everyone of your comments, and the awards you bestowed on me! I truely feel I have made friends all over the world! I will be forever grate full!!

Now on to the giveaway, I wish I could give each and everyone of you a little something, but this will be given to the one person I pick out of a hat. Just leave a comment on this post, and next Thursday I will pick a name, OK?

The gift includes… A decorative bottle for your olive oil, 2 dipping bowls, a dish cloth with tomatoes on it, a salt and pepper cellar, and 2 glass candies that I purchased in Venice, in San Marco square, when we went to Italy. Remember, all you have to do is leave a comment!

I’m looking forward to the year to come, maybe I’ll even figure out what bandwith is, or how to do a widget, or even a gadget!!

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Fresh Strawberry Mousse! Something Pink, for the Chicago 3-Day, 60 Mile Walk for Breast Cancer!

This weekend in Chicago was the Susan G. Komen, 60 mile walk for Breast Cancer. My daughter, daughter in law, niece, and a few of their friends joined as a team, and together they walked 60 miles in 3 days along with thousands of others to fight breast cancer.

I did a post here about some of the highlights of it, and the training and fundraising part of it.

Day 1, at 6AM, Team Boob Patrol assembled together all fresh, motivated and ready for their 60 mile walk! some of the team names were hilarious, Babes for Boobs, Titty Commitee, and The Rack Pack, to name a few.
From left to right, Tenley (friend), Vanessa (daughter), Christa (daughter in law), Julie (niece), Elena (friend), Michele (friend).
Before they started their journey there were so many motivational stories they told of those who were walking and why. The loved ones that they had lost to this disease. Moms, daughters, wives, aunts, cousins, best friends, co workers. And then the survivors came in and thanked them all for doing this. Some of the survivors are pictured in the circle here with the flags, holding hands.
To watch over all these walkers there was a wonderful crew looking out for them every step of the way, here was an “angel”all in pink who rode along the walking route.
Day 2, This is one of the cheering stations set up for friends and family to cheer their walkers on. This one family set up a “red carpet” right on the side walk, complete with music as the walkers walked by. Everyone cheering, clapping, and thanking them as they passed. Cars that drove by were beeping there horns in support of the walkers. Police that were directing traffic had pink shirts on. Ambulance and fire department trucks were decorated with pink ribbons and encouraging words.
This is my Granddaughter all decked out to cheer her Mom on. She along with other kids, handed out freeze pops to the walkers as they walked by. Other people had bottled water, licorice, Tootsie Roll pops along the way.

Many of the walkers decorated their own shirts, some had names of those they were walking for on the back. This was done by my daughter in laws crafty sister.

We just loved this sign a man had made for his wife!

I have to say my son and son in law, did a terrific job to encourage and support their wives. They were both there acting as their private crew members for whatever they needed, bandaids a change of socks, shoes, whatever.
Here is one of 6 huge signs that my son placed daily on the walking route so his wife could see it and be motivated to keep going. He blew up pictures of her workmates (pictured here), her grandmother, her parents, and her sisters family, glued them on poster board and with the help of my DIL’s crafty sister wrote encouraging words to her.
These signs were so big he had to hammer them in the ground!
Day 3, The walk completed, hand and hand team Boob Patrol walked proudly into the closing ceremony together, relieved it was over,bistered feet, a little sore, but very proud of what they accomplished, as well as all of us, their family!

The closing ceremony took place in the parking lot of Soldier Field, what a sight to see when all the walkers took off one shoe, and raised it high above their heads in honor of those who have survived breast cancer. Not a dry eye was left!!

Victory to team Boob Patrol!!! You guys did it! Each and everyone of your family members are so proud of you!! Cheers to you!

In finishing, I had to show you a picture of this. Upon arriving home after her 3Day walk, my son had 60 pink flamingo’s placed in the front of their home. One for each mile she walked!

Wasn’t that sweet?
If anyone is interested after reading this post, the mousse I made was simply chopped fresh strawberries,that were sweetened to taste, folded into some freshly whipped cream that was flavored with some Amaretto, and placed into a white chocolate rimmed glass.
The ribbon was made out of warmed white chocolate, piped onto parchment, and immediately decorated with sprinkles.

 

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What to do with an over abundance of veggies!!

I just can’t resist buying veggies this time of year, I’m happy when my frig is stocked full of them, but I think I went a little overboard this past week! Knowing I had a busy week and weekend ahead I knew I had to cook these up, so I decided to fire up my grill.

I call this a Grilled Vegetable Torte, it’s so easy to prepare, it has a WOW presentation, and it goes fantastic with grilled meats. After grilling your veggies, which have all been brushed with olive oil, salt and pepper, layer them into an oiled spring form pan, any size will do it just depends how many veggies you have.

Each layer a different color, a different veg that is topped off with shredded parm or in this case pecorino romano, you might want to put a few basil leaves in between too. Repeat untill you get to the top. Press veggies down.

Cover and wrap the bottom of your pan with foil and place on a baking sheet in a 400F oven.
Bake for about a half hour, giving it enough time to melt the cheese which acts like “glue” and holds the veggies together when you slice it. Let it cool, unmold and eat it at room temperature. Garnish with shredded romano or your favorite cheese on top.

Don’t cut your veggies into small pieces, you’ll want to cut them into nice big slices it’s easier to layer that way.

Believe me it cuts into perfect wedges, just use a sharp serrated knife and take your time, pulling it out with a pie spatula. I would have showed you a wedge but I took this whole thing to a friends house for lunch, minus my camera.

Adding some grilled veggies and ripe tomatoes to orzo pasta along with fresh herbs and grilled shrimp tossed in a fresh lemon and olive oil dressing, makes this a light summer pasta salad.

Tomato Bread, this has great flavor and goes with just about anything! Take a good quality baguette, and scoop out a well down the middle, stick in some grape tomatoes, drizzle with olive oil, and a sprinkling of salt and pepper, place on a baking sheet and bake in a 350 degree oven till tomatoes are soft around 30 min. When the tomatoes pop the juice runs into the bread and flavors it. Garnish with fresh basil.
Hope these ideas help you out a little in using up any of your veggies you have laying around!
Buon Appetito!!

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Italian Style Portobello Burgers!

We all get pressed for time and need something we can cook fast every now and then. This is my idea of fast food!! Something I can take out of the frig, it doesn’t have to be defrosted, I don’t have to mix it with anything, it can all be cooked on the grill, with no pots or pans to clean, and it just takes minutes to cook!

Not only is this super fast, the flavors going on here are so good together, believe me you won’t even miss the meat!

I take everything out to my grill on a baking sheet all sliced and ready to go, cut fairly thick slices of the tomato and onion so it stands up to the grill when you flip it. With the portobello’s I usually clean the gills out, that’s just my personal preference, you don’t have to.


Everything is brushed with an herb flavored olive oil which takes a couple seconds to make by mixing some fresh or dry basil, with a clove of crushed fresh garlic into some olive oil with some salt and pepper. You can tell the portobello’s are done when they shrink and flatten. Be sure to add your cheese so it has time to melt, here I used provolone.

When everything is done toast up your buns, we like ciabatta rolls so that’s what I used, but use whatever you like, just get them a nice and golden color.

To assemble the “burger” :

Spread some leftover warmed marinara or pizza sauce on the grilled bread.

Layer with some arugula

Place portobello, grilled onions, provolone cheese, and the grilled tomatoes on top and serve immediately!


Buon Appetito!

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Filbert Gateau with Praline Buttercream ( Daring Bakers)

Filbert genoise, praline paste, praline butter cream frosting, sugar syrup, apricot glaze, and a ganache! Phew!! Those were all the components to this months Daring Baker challenge.

I must say It all got off to a pretty good start, I mean my cake itself (the genoise), came together perfectly, it rose nice and I was able to get 3 layers evenly cut.

I think the problem started here, although it doesn’t look that bad, I think I overcooked the sugar which turned into a bitter tasting caramel.

I proceeded to make the praline paste by putting the brittle into my food processor and just letting it go till it turned paste like.

I had no problem with this either, It looks pretty good doesn’t it?

Little did I know at the time that the bitterness of the caramel was going to affect the whole flavor of the cake!

Unfortunately that’s what happened, the whole cake had a bitter taste to it, even my Hubby who has a enormous sweet tooth couldn’t even finish his one piece, believe me, he wanted it to be good!!

So needless to say I was very glad that I halved the recipe. I used a 6×3″ pan, and stuck pretty much to the flavorings.

Oh, and my ganache, well that’s another story, I definitely need help in that department!

Mine never got thick enough it turned out more like a glaze, I probably should have added more chocolate to it, but I wanted to get it done as I was starting to lose day light.

I tried to cover a multitude of sins with my “fancy scroll work,” lol, which I did “Sandra Lee” style, by filling a zip lock bag with the frosting and then snipping the corner like a pastry bag.

Hey, you win some and you lose some! I don’t think “fancy cakes” are my forte’, but that’s what being a Daring Baker is all about, I definitely challenged myself! You should have seen my totaled kitchen, that would have been a great photo! lol

I want to thank our dear host this month Chris, over at Mele Cotte, go over there and you can check out the whole recipe. It was 5 pages long when I printed it out.

And don’t forget to check out the other Daring Bakers cakes, I’m sure there are some gorgeous ones out there!!

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BURRATA!

If You’re lucky enough to come across some Burrata cheese, please don’t hesitate to pick some up. Yes, it’s a little pricey, but worth every single penny! It’s a food experience you’re not likely to forget. I happen to be at the right place, at the right time, the other day when I saw a special display of Burrata set up over at Whole Foods.

Imported from Italy, this artisanal cheese has a very short shelf life of about 2 weeks because it is fresh and not aged at all. This is not something that Whole Foods has in stock all the time, they try to get it in on all the holidays though. Even they were surprised when they got this shipment in. They tell me when it does come in it sells out so fast, so that’s why I said I was there at the right time. Lucky me there was 3 left!
Don’t you just love the packaging!!

The best way to describe Burrata is think fresh mozzarella kicked up a couple hundred notches, with a luscious creamy-like center that’s filled with a mixture of heavy cream and stracciatella (little rags) or curds of mozzarella. When you burst open the center everything oozes out!
This must be eaten at room temperature for maximum flavor and creaminess.
I roasted some Campari tomatoes with olive oil and purchased some spicy olives to go along with it, and of course some warm crusty bread!

I can’t think of a better way to spend a relaxing Sunday afternoon, sipping on some cool crisp white wine to go along with our Burrata treat, al fresco style!

You can also cook with Burrata, you can put it on pizza or any number of things.
But Me… I prefer it in it’s purest form, just like this!! I urge you to seek out this cheese if you’ve never tried it, and savor every bite!!
BUON APPETITO!

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RICOTTA FRITTERS With Grand Marnier and Mini Chocolate Chips!

I’m really not a big fan of frying, but for these I had to make the sacrifice, and I just so happen to have exactly 1 lb. of ricotta sitting in my frig. The key is make sure you’re not alone, and have company over so you can share these while they are still warm. Timing is everything so make sure you have the coffee brewing!

Surprisingly, you don’t use a lot of oil at all and because they cook up so fast, they don’t have a heavy taste at all, in fact they’re crispy on the outside and light and fluffy on the inside.

I happen to love the flavor of chocolate and orange together, so that’s what I used, but you can get creative with the kind of liqueur flavor you want. Most recipes call for brandy and lemon zest, but you could also use rum. I didn’t measure my mini chocolate chips either, I just sprinkled some in the batter. I didn’t want to over power the ricotta.

The texture on the inside is a little like the inside of a souffle, one bite and you’ll be smitten!

The recipe makes about 35 2″ fritters.
I highly recommend you invite some friends over, you might not be able to stop at just a few!!

Here’s the recipe!
3 eggs, lightly beaten
2 Tbl. sugar
1 lb. ricotta
1 cup flour
4 tsp. baking powder
2 1/2 Tbl. Grand Marnier
Zest of 1 orange
Mini chocolate chips
Pinch of salt
Vegetable or Canola oil
Confectioners sugar
Combine eggs, sugar, ricotta, flour, baking powder, Grand Marnier, zest and salt in a medium bowl. Mix well, cover, and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Pour oil into a wide but shallow saucepan, a couple inches deep, and heat over medium-high heat. Drop rounded teaspoons of batter into hot oil and fry, a few at a time, until golden, about 5 minutes. Drain on paper towels, dust with powdered sugar, and serve!

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PRIMAVERA PASTA PIE

Have any leftover spaghetti? Some veggies that need to be used up before they go bad? Then consider making this pasta pie. I always have a few different veggies left over that I didn’t use in other things, it could be one zucchini, or half of a red pepper, a little broccoli, whatever! It doesn’t matter what kind you have, just put them all on a roasting pan drizzle with olive oil and roast at 400 degrees.

Make sure you season and flavor your veggies good, I have a Tuscan dry seasoning I used along with some garlic, fresh basil, salt and pepper. The veggies I had on hand were, eggplant, red pepper, red onion, broccoli, and a few frozen peas I had left in a bag.

Take your leftover spaghetti, mine had a light marinara sauce already on it, but it doesn’t have to have sauce on it at all. If you don’t have leftover spaghetti you can just cook up 1/2 lb. Drain it, and while it’s still warm, add 1 beaten egg, some grated cheese, salt and pepper, then mix this up with your spaghetti. Place everything into your buttered 10″ pie plate, you might not have to use all the pasta just make sure it covers the pie plate, because that will be your “crust”.

Place your roasted veggies on top of your pasta “crust”. In a bowl whisk 3 eggs, grated Romano, and about 1/2 cup of half and half cream, and pour this all over your pie. Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.

Uncover and sprinkle with a little more cheese, and bake for 10 minutes more.

Let it rest for at least 10 minutes before you slice it up. Cut into wedges.

All you need to top this off is a nice salad on the side and your meal is complete!
This is so good, and the best part is nothing went to waste! And in this economy, that’s a good thing!
Buon Appetito!!

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Balsamic Glazed Cipollini Onions, and a HUGE, HUGE Thanks!!

Before I get on to these cute little cipollini’s, I have to share some good news with all of you.

Last week I was contacted by a wonderful woman from the Chicago Tribune, saying that they wanted to feature me as “Blogger of the Week” on their “Chicago’s Best Blogs” website, and would I be interested!! Are you kidding me! Did you say, THE Chicago Tribune?? Needless to say I was in complete shock, I must have read the email 10 times before I responded, called every family member I have in a matter of 10 minutes, and I’ve been buzzing ever since.

I just want to say “Thank You” to the Chicago Tribune, I’m truly honored, and proud to display my badge!

And now on to these little gems!

Cipollini onions, pronounced “Cheep-oh-lee-nee” originated from Italy,but now you can find them all over the states. I’ve seen them in regular and specialty stores, and of course always at my Italian markets around here. Although they can be a little expensive at times, they’re worth the special treat. They have an intense sweet flavor that especially comes out when you roast them. Which is my favorite way to eat them.

Their flat and saucer shaped with a thin, paper like skin, just remove the skin and trim the ends.

When you roast these with balsamic, it becomes a rich, syrupy glaze that flavors and caramelizes the entire onion The taste is phenomenal!!

Place them in a hot oven around 400 degree’s, drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper, fresh thyme and a good balsamic vinegar, roast them till tender and caramelized, if the glaze seems to be cooking down to fast, just lower the oven to 350.

Picture a nice grilled steak with these on the side, or some grilled chicken, chops, or even a roast. Either way, I’m sure you’re gonna love them!

Buon Appetito!!

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Fireworks, and Fire Up! (your grill that is!)

Barbecue season will be in full swing this weekend as the 4Th of July is quickly approaching. Many are planning a relaxing summer day with family and friends and there will be cook outs everywhere. The smell of ribs, steaks, burgers and hot dogs will permeate the air!

I thought I’d share with you a few things we like to grill ,and a couple of sides.

Pork tenderloin is great on the grill, it doesn’t take long. the meat is always tender, and if you just slice it open like a book, it can be marinated and stuffed with just about anything. In this case I made an olive tapenade, mixed it with a little Dijon mustard, spread it all over, and then rolled and tied it. Mighty Good!!

Beer Can chicken, if you’ve never tried it, please do! It may not look the most attractive, but the taste is phenomenal, crispy on the outside and super moist on the inside. Just remember to plug the top so all the moisture of the beer stays inside. As far as your choice of spice, the sky’s the limit!! Here I used, paprika, thyme, cayenne, granulated garlic, dry mustard, salt and pepper, cumin, sometimes a little brown sugar too. Mix it all up together and after coating your chicken with olive oil, slather it on.

Pasta salad is always a favorite with my family, you can make it a million different ways, this is an old stand by recipe, I just changed it up with some Cavatappi pasta. Olives, broccoli, shredded carrots, red onions, fresh basil and parsley, granulated garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper, and tons of Romano cheese. This is always a request by my daughter!

Who doesn’t like corn on the cob? Keep the heat out of your house and cook it on the grill. I like to cut the cobs smaller, it’s easier to fit on your plate.
Sometimes I like to spice it up a bit, for a change of pace.

Just melt some butter, have your spices ready, in this case I just mixed some paprika, cumin, granulated garlic, salt and pepper. Dip your corn in the butter, sprinkle with the spice, and grill!
Mmmm, it’s so good!

Cannellini Bean Salad, this is a great side that can be made ahead of time, in fact, it tastes even better as it sits. Canned beans, rinsed and drained, diced tomatoes, red and green peppers diced, a little jalapeno for some heat, crushed garlic, chopped parsley, basil, tossed in a fresh lemon and olive oil dressing.

And last but not least, I can’t take credit for this Blueberry Tart, I actually found it by way of Mile Fiori Favoriti, a blog I visit often. What appealed to me was how she made it sound and the ease of making it, go over and check her out, she has the link to the recipe. I made it last Sunday and it was a real hit!!! I WILL be making this again. Thanks Pat!!

Blueberries, almond flavor, and in my case, ( shhhh, don’t tell anyone) I used a store bought pie pastry dough, you know, the kind that’s already rolled out. Again I’m plugging Trader Joe’s, check it out in their freezer case, it taste’s outstanding.


I hope I’ve given you some inspiration for some good eats ,and good grilling, I would love to know some of your favorites for the summer and the grill.

Wishing you all lot’s of fun and food for the 4TH!!!

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Rum, Raisin, and Ricotta Danish Braid

Daring Bakers June Challenge
Danish Braid

Danish dough, or as it’s sometimes called laminated or layered dough, is a pastry technique. It’s like the beginning steps of learning puff pastry,” but not nearly as complex”, so says the author Sherry Yard of (The Secrets of Baking). By learning this technique you can create a whole slew of different recipes, of course I would be contented just getting through this one!!

Although it was time consuming, it wasn’t too difficult to do, as long as I had my directions close at hand.

Of course I had to put my Italian twist on it, so for my filling I decided to do sweetened ricotta cheese, with rum soaked, golden raisins. I soaked the raisins over night in the rum so they were definitely “drunk”!!

I wouldn’t call this “braided to perfection” by any means. I prefer to call it a, well…. a more “rustic look”.

The recipe called for Cardamon, which I didn’t own, but really wanted to try, besides, I thought that it would go well with the ricotta . I searched a few stores for the cardamon, and ended up getting it at Whole Foods, it was ground, and only $4.99, which I thought was a steal. In my search I even found it as high as $15.00 (ouch!)

I was anxious to try Cardamon, because I’ve been reading that it’s the “new Cinnamon”. I can’t say that I’m 100% sold on it yet, I’ll have to try it again in something else. I do love it in Chai tea though!

The egg wash made for a beautiful golden brown finish!

Can you see the layers? It really worked!
I have a deep respect for bakers, with their exact measuring and patience, something I am learning to do in this group!
A big “Thank You” to our host’s this month, Kelly, of Sass and Veracity, and Ben, over at What’s
Cooking, for helping me get out of my “comfort zone”. Go over and check out the complete recipe on their blogs.
Don’t forget to check out some of the other Daring Bakers braids here.

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LEMON SORBETTO BLENDED WITH MASCARPONE CHEESE

Wandering through the food blogosphere we come across so many fantastic recipes, I’m always inspired by the talent of all my fellow food bloggers. I must have a list a mile long of recipes I’ve bookmarked to try!

Sometimes I come across a concept that is so simple, and I think to myself, what a brilliant idea! I knew back in April when I saw this over at Taste With The Eyes, that it was something I was going to make, lemon with mascarpone a match made in heaven and I could not wait to make it!

What attracted me to this was how simple it was to make but yet the end result was so dreamy and decadent. In fact Lori Lynn’s own words were ” it’s embarrassingly simple”.
All you do is take 1 pint of your favorite sorbet, put it on your counter and let it defrost a little, take out your food processor, and put in the sorbet along with 6oz. of mascarpone cheese. Give it a whirl until all combined and smooth. Spoon it into a pretty glass, and refreeze it. Garnish it with whatever your heart desires, I just used some lemon peel.
The best thing about this is there was no ice cream machine needed, and no one would ever know the difference!!

Slightly defrost before you serve it because that’s when the true flavors come out, then sit down and enjoy every creamy spoonful!
My Hubby loved this so much that now he wants me to try blending an orange sorbet with the mascarpone, sort of like an upscale dreamsicle.
I think the possibilities are endless, don’t you?
Thanks Lori Lynn, for letting us all in on “your little secret”.

WARNING!!! This could become very addicting!!

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Food and a Fundraiser!

This was a busy weekend for me with not much time for blogging I was helping out in a fundraiser for my daughter and daughter in law.
The food that I’m showing is great for a crowd, especially the potatoes which are simply Idaho’s or Russets, cut in planks with the skin on, tossed in olive oil and seasoned with salt, pepper, oregano, granulated garlic, paprika, and generous amounts of grated romano cheese. Bake in a 400 degree oven till crispy.

In August, my daughter, daughter in law, and niece ,will be walking 60 miles in the Chicago Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer 3 Day. Each walker makes the commitment to raise $2,200.00, all proceeds go to benefit the ongoing research to fight this disease, and find a cure.

It’s not an easy task to come up with the money so they encourage the walkers to do some fundraising. We held a 2 day garage sale with things donated by friends, family and neighbors to help them meet their goal. They also held a big poker party that same night with some of the proceeds going towards their team. My daughter in law works in a big office and she came up with the idea ( after clearing it with human resources) that whoever donates $2.00 for the Cause, gets to wear jeans to work, I thought that was a great idea, who doesn’t want to wear jeans instead of a shirt and tie!

Walking 60 miles is no easy feat, you have to stick to their training schedule and build up your miles, otherwise you could really hurt yourself.

As of today they are all up to about 13 mile walks, but when the actual 3-Day starts, the first day they walk 22 miles, the second day is 20, and the last day is 18.

They did it once before and let me tell you my daughter had to tape her feet to finish, she had blisters like you’ve never seen before! It’s grueling! but so is this disease!!

Last time they walked we attended the opening ceremony where thousands were gathered to start this journey together, many walked all 60 miles holding pictures of loved ones, poster size pictures of mothers and sisters, aunts, cousins, friends they lost to this disease. They wore Tshirts with names on them, they held big banners with names of loved ones as they walked. It is truly an emotional event!
Along the route they walk, people drive by in cars and beep their horns, come out of their homes and offer water or just to say “Thank You”, its that encouragement that keeps them going.

We met them along the way with band aids and Advils, new socks or a change of shoes, but mostly to encourage them to finish. My Granddaughter held up a big sign as her Mom walked by that said…My Mommy Rocks!! I Love You Mommy!! My daughter burst out in tears!!

The opening ceremony is very emotional, but the closing ceremony is even more touching!!
Friends and family form a line, now mind you, there are thousands of people, this was held in Chicago on the lake front at the time and as the walkers walk in together ,they are hand and hand, arm and arm, they all take off one shoe and raise it high above their heads in honor of the survivors, all are crying, there’s not a dry eye anywhere!!!

Here are some of the survivors, many of them walked all 60 miles also, some even being pushed by family and friends in their wheel chairs, believe me it is a sight to see!

As most of you are aware of, their is a fellow food blogger who is fighting this very battle right now, her name is Bri, the name of her blog is Figs with Bri, and through the kindness of fellow bloggers and others, there is a fundraiser going on for her right now to help her seek other treatments, there is a goal to be met and although it is well on the way, it hasn’t been met yet, so any donation big or small would be so appreciated.


Please take the time to read about this courageous young women if you haven’t already done so, just click on the link above to get to know her and learn about the fundraiser going on.

Hopefully Bri will be walking among these survivors one day!!!

I just want to say “Thank You” Vanessa, Christa, and Julie, we are soooo proud of you girls for doing this!!

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AFFOGATO!!

Affogato in Italian means “drowned”, and in this case it’s cold vanilla gelato being drowned by pouring freshly brewed espresso all over it. Add a splash of Amaretto, and you have a wonderful ending to a great summer BBQ.

It’s like having your coffee and dessert all at the same time!

Simply brew up some of your favorite espresso, I happen to like these two, and would normally use either one.
But I just so happen to have one last bag of this coffee that I have been holding on to since our trip to Italy, I decided to finally open it up and use it, I just loved the look of the bag, and the fact that I bought it in Florence.

My espresso pot is a cherished gift that I got from a very special Aunt, a family heirloom that she gave to me because she knows how much I love coffee. I love it, and I thought it would be perfect to feature it in this post.
I don’t know how old it is, but I do know it makes a perfect espresso. When I first received it from her I kept it all packed up and stored away, then I thought, why? I want to enjoy it and use it, so I pulled it out and have been using it ever since!

The recipe calls for gelato, but unfortunately once you try the real thing nothing compares.
I saw this and thought I’d give it a try, sorry Ciao Bella you’re not worth the $$$$!

A good quality vanilla ice cream would work just as well.

This is definitely an “Adult” version of an ice cream float, just scoop some good ice cream in a coffee cup, splash a liqueur of your choice, “drown” it with your hot espresso, and garnish with some whip cream. (optional)
I promise that once you try this, you’ll soon be craving an Affogato!

Enjoy!!

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WINE, FOOD, FUN! …A little more of my vacation

Since I took so many pictures of my recent trip I thought I would share a little more with you.
This was a tour we took in Sonoma of the Benziger family winery, they have been written up in Wine Spectator magazine because of their Green standards. Their estate is one of only a handful of vineyards in North America to be certified Biodynamic. Biodynamics is a holistic farming approach that goes a step beyond organic farming, it requires close attention to the varied forces of nature influencing the vine, along with the elimination of all chemicals.
We took a tram tour up into the vineyards where we learned how geography and weather influence their farming practices.

The Benzingers are leaders in Biodynamic and sustainable winegrowing.

Benzinger’s 28,000 square foot wine cave that stores around 4000 barrels. We learned how different types of oak influence the aging and flavors of wines.
When the tour was over we got to sample their Biodynamic and other award-winning wines.

A visit to DEAN & DELUCA in Napa. Epicurean excellence at it’s finest!!!

Chocolate anyone??

I’ve never knew or seen, so many different kinds of salts.

Parmigiano- Reggiano! the “Queen Mother”, …. I would have loved to tuck her in my suitcase!

Rows and rows of delectable olives!

Any kind of paste you would need, pistachio and almond, the smell was amazing!

Crepes with Nutella, who wouldn’t love that!

Add some fresh strawberries and banana, sheer bliss!!

I Picked these up at a beautiful farmers market set up right on pier 39 in San Francisco. Beautiful golden red Rainier cherries, if you haven’t tried these yet, and if they are available near you, please go out and get some!!

Ruby red, sweet and delicious Bing cherries

The most gorgeous strawberries not one of them blemished!


And finally, those are seals that were sleeping all at the same time, what a sight, what a day, what a trip!

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GRILLED VEGETABLE POLENTA TART

Polenta, you either love it or hate it! I love it, but I also realize that you have to flavor the heck out of it. Please don’t ever buy those round flavorless tubes, the ones that you can cut a slice off. And on the flip side you really don’t have to stir for hours and hours to make a good polenta. (although if you have the patience it’s delicious). Me,I don’t have patience, so I like using the instant kind, it’s readily available, it’s quick, it tastes great, and it comes out nice and creamy. It cooks up in no time, and right at the end you stir in all your herbs, cheese and other goodies.

In this case, I poured the creamy mixture that was flavored with fresh basil, grated Romano cheese, (lots!), pitted kalamata olives, some olive oil, salt and pepper, into a 10′ tart pan. When it cools it moulds perfectly. You can even add sun-dried tomatoes, it’s so good but I didn’t have any on hand at the time. The key is flavor it up!
This makes a great presentation on a cake stand, and is great as a lunch, appetizer or side dish.

The sky’s the limit on what kind of veggies to put on it, whatever you have on hand, or all of your favorites, I used zucchini ribbons, portabella mushrooms, onions, and red peppers. It cuts perfectly into wedges, just finish it off with shaved Pecorino and a drizzle of your favorite EV olive oil.

Buon Appetito!!!

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GRILLED ARTICHOKES WITH LEMON AIOLI!

I confess… I’m an artichoke lover! In fact my whole family is, we can’t resist them in any way shape or form!

Give us a pan of stuffed artichokes and we are all smiles, as we sit around the table scraping each leaf working are way down to the “heart”, by the time we are finished we each have a pile of scraped and discarded leaves on our plates! Now that’s some good eating!!
But now that it’s BBQ season we enjoy eating them grilled just as much. I think the hardest thing about cooking artichokes is the prep, to prepare them for the grill you have to cut the top off,discard some outer leaves and trim up the remaining ones.

You’ll want to cut them in quarters, and remove any fuzzy center and pull out all pointy and scratchy leaves. Immediately after cutting immerse them in lemon water until ready to cook.
Place them in a pot of salted water and cook till tender.

Drain well, and gently squeeze out excess water, set aside in a bowl.

A couple of hours before they are ready to be grilled, toss them in some extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar and crushed garlic, salt and pepper.

The lemon aioli is whipped up very quickly with a good store bought mayonnaise, a little crushed garlic, fresh lemon juice, along with the rind, and salt and pepper to taste. Just make sure the consistency is good for dipping.

I actually like to grill these in my indoor grill pan, I feel have more control because they are a little fragile, and besides the marinade flavor seems to not burn off. But you absolutely can put them on your grill outside, just make sure your grill is super clean, you don’t want to take on any other flavors.
These are great appetizers to start off a meal, or to have as a nice side dish.

And last but not least, I want to thank my Florida house guests that were staying with us a couple of weeks ago, they gave me this beautiful blue oval platter ( for my blog!!) I don’t think the picture does it justice you can’t see how huge it is! I thought the green artichokes would look nice on it, what do you think?
Anyway, thanks again, Angie and Pat, Diane, Donny, and of course Lindsey and Lauren.

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I’M BACK!!!!!

I’m back from my wonderful vacation! I hope I don’t bore you, but I wanted to share some pictures with all of you. In all it’s wonder the beautiful Golden Gate Bridge, fog and all!!

Boudin bakery at Fishermans Wharf, home of the famous sourdough bread. Friendly baker putting on a show for us.

He created all different shapes of bread, I bought a turtle.

We visited Muir Woods and saw the majestic redwoods!

Aren’t they beautiful?

Steaming crabs right outside on the wharf!

Yummm!!

A little clam chowder and a seafood sandwich!!

Napa Valley vineyards, looks like Italy dosen’t it?

Lots of the Italian vineyards have deli’s in them where you can buy lunch. Gourmet sandwiches, cheese, salads, and wine to be packed up an eaten right on the gorgeous grounds, we did that quite often!


Check out all the cheese!

I had that for lunch….. delicious!

A little shopping at the Le Creuset outlet! I was in heaven!


Of course I had to buy something for the blog!!! It’s being shipped.

Yummy crab cakes


Fresh halibut

Hubby ate this delicious pasta

Mumm Champagne tasting, the views were breathtaking!


I could have sat out there all day!

Can I tell you how excited I was to go here!

CIA Greystone Napa, Only 101 lucky students get to go here. Of course the big one is in New York. Chef Cat Cora was there the day before we were arrived. Many celebrity chefs visit and teach here.

If I didn’t know better I would have thought I was in Tuscany!

Viansa winery, the grounds and views were beautiful.

A view from Viansa.

Ahhhh, La Dolce Vita!!!

Back to reality! I have a lot of catching up to do with all of my blog friends, see you soon!!

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ROASTED GARLIC PESTO SALMON

As you read this I am still on vacation, I decided to set up and try Bloggers new scheduled posting. I have full confidence that it’s going to work, it’s really pretty simple, even for a non-tech person like me!
I’m posting this salmon dish because its simple, easy to do, and the flavor is so intensely good!
My Hubby was never really crazy about salmon, he would eat it because I made it, but he would never request it at all. Until…. I made it this way!! Now he craves it and wants me to make it often.
Hey, and its even good for you! Did you know that according to Web MD, a 3oz. serving of salmon has more vitamin D than 1 cup of milk? So it’s a great way for all of us to increase are calcium intake, not to mention all the other health benefits!

Have you ever tried roasted garlic basil pesto? I made this just like regular pesto, only I used roasted garlic instead. The flavor goes wonderful with the salmon.
Of course you can use your favorite jar of pesto also, there are some great ones out there that you can buy.

Simply brush the pesto all over your salmon, which is placed on a foil lined baking sheet, that’s it!! How fast is that?
Now here is the important part… Along time ago I saw Ina Garten talking about the key to cooking salmon correctly, she said always roast in a hot oven, around 500 degrees.
Roast salmon 18-20 min, or about 12 min. per inch at the thickest part. Remove it from the oven , wrap with foil and let it rest for about 15 min.

Can I tell you it comes out perfect every time! Perfect! Moist! never dried or overcooked, if you just follow her directions, I guarantee it will turn out for you.

Susan over at Food Blogga is hosting an event this month called Beautiful Bones, it’s to help bring awareness to osteoporosis, which not only affects women but men too! Please go over to her wonderful blog and read her post on this, it is filled with important information for all of us.
I am entering this salmon dish into her event because it is a calcium rich food which will help us in the fight against osteoporosis!!

Thanks Susan, for hosting such an important event!!!

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GET YOUR GRILL ON!!

And make an EGGPLANT BRUSCHETTA

Simply brush a loaf of ciabatta bread with olive oil, and grill it till crisp. In the meantime, mix together your favorite goat cheese, along with some mascapone, to even out the tang.Mix in some lemon peel and fresh herbs, I used basil and parsley, set aside.

After you have grilled your eggplant that was also brushed with olive oil, salt and pepper, lightly toss it in a balsamic vinaigrette. ( a very important step!)

Now spread that creamy mixture over that crispy ciabatta and layer your eggplant on top, oh yeah, I also grilled up some red pepper for a little color and added flavor! Serve at room temperature. I hope you eggplant lovers try this!!

GRILLED ZUCCHINI RIBBON SALAD

This recipe is adapted from Michael Chiarello. Take a mandoline or a vegetable peeler and make length wise strips of zucchini. Toss them in some olive oil and place on grill, he suggested cooking only one side, but I did both. It cooks up fast so watch it, you just want it lightly wilted with light grill marks. Place them all on a platter. In the meantime, whisk together a fresh lemon and olive oil dressing, adding some crushed garlic, just a hint! of course salt and pepper to taste.

Now add fresh basil and parsley roughly chopped and toss into the zucchini ribbons. Pour the lemon dressing all over.
Top it off with some shaved Pecorino and toasted pinenuts! Can I just say, Yumm!

LILAC’S FROM MY GARDEN

Lilac’s are popping up everywhere here in Chicagoland! They are in full bloom right now, and the smell is incredible! These were taken from a big bush I have in my backyard. Thought I’d share this bouquet with all of you.
Note to all my blog friends… I will be gone on vacation for 1 week, we are flying to sunny California, ( Napa Valley & San Francisco, Woo Hoo!!) I will be sure to come back with plenty of pictures to share, after all it is a foodie lovers dream trip! So with that being said, I won’t be around to visit you till I come back, don’t worry you are all in my reader, I’ll look forward to catching up when I get back.
See you soon,
Marie

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ROASTED TOMATO AND RICOTTA TART

This is such a great summer appetizer, side dish, or even a light lunch. Savory ricotta on flaky puff pastry that is studded with vine ripened tomato slices that have been roasted with a hint of garlic, thyme and olive oil. Now pour yourself a glass of your favorite crisp white wine, and your good to go!

Lay parchment paper on a baking sheet, add your sliced tomatoes, fresh thyme, ( you can use fresh basil also, but add it later you don’t want it to get brown) ) salt, pepper, crushed garlic, and drizzle them all with EV olive oil. Roast at 400 degrees till juices are more concentrated. These could be done ahead of time until ready to use.

Next mix up your ricotta with salt and pepper, egg and lots of grated cheese, I used Romano, because it has a more intense flavor. This also can be done ahead of time.

Place 1 sheet of puff pastry on a parchment lined baking sheet, and with a small knife form a 1″ border around the pastry and slice diagonally all around like it is shown above. Be care full not to cut through. With in the frame, poke with fork all over, and lightly brush border with olive oil.

Place ricotta mixture within the frame, now layer the roasted tomato slices all over.

Bake for around 20 minutes at 400 degreesF, till golden brown. Let it rest for a while before you cut into it. Serve warm.
Buon Appetito!!

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Hotdogs, Tamales, Italian Beef and a Wedding!!!!

Over the last few days we have had relatives from Florida staying with us to attend a family wedding, so I haven’t had much time for blogging and visiting my favorite blogs. Don’t worry, I’ll be back to normal shortly! I just wanted to share with you some of their favorite foods they crave when they come to Chicago.
One of their traditions is Portillo’s Italian beef, always consistent! perfectly spiced! Never a disappointment!

A tamale from Portillo’s. Yes, these are not traditional tamales you make wrapped up in corn husks, but there’s something about the taste of these steamed goodies!!

And of course who can resist a Chicago style hotdog? Nobody in my family can!!!

And last but not least, I wanted to share with you a picture of my precious Granddaughter who was the flower girl at the wedding.
I know I’m a little biased but isn’t she beautiful? 🙂
Can’t wait to see what all of you have been up to!
Talk to you soon,
Marie

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ROSEMARY LEMONADE (SPIKED!!)

Nothing screams summer-time more to me than a nice cold glass of lemonade! It’s refreshing and it really quenches your thirst on a hot afternoon. Now, add a savory and subtle kick of rosemary, and you have a fantastic twist on this traditional drink!
We all know how good lemon and rosemary pair together in cooking, but who knew it would be just as good in a drink? So, if you like these two flavor combinations, please give this a try, one sip and you’ll be smitten!!!

But now wait! theres more! by simply adding one shot of Limoncello to this tasty lemonade you’ve now created a crisp and delicious summer cocktail fit for any special occasion, or a special treat just for yourself. 😀

You’ll need a cocktail shaker to combine the juice of 1 lemon, 4 TBL. of sugar (or less), a pinch of rosemary leaves, some ice cubes, and enough cold water to fill. If using Limoncello, pour one shot into the shaker also. Shake well and pour into a tall glass lined with thin slices of lemons.

Garnish with a fresh sprig of rosemary, and a thick slice of lemon. Serve immediately!
MAKES 1
Cin Cin!!

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PASTA SALADS!

ORZO WITH GRILLED SHRIMP AND FETA
INGREDIENTS
Grilled shrimp (marinate the shrimp in lemon peel, lemon juice, olive oil, crushed garlic, then grill)
Cooked orzo pasta
Diced and seeded English cucumber
Diced red onion
Crumbled feta
Fresh lemon and lemon peel
Mint, parsley, a little oregano
Make a vinaigrette by whisking olive oil, fresh squeezed lemon juice, a little crumbled feta, salt and pepper,and white wine vinegar, and a crushed garlic clove. Taste it to your liking either adding more or less.
Place all ingredients in a bowl, adding all the herbs, more feta, (make sure it’s in small crumbles)pour your vinaigrette over all the ingredients, taste it and make sure you have enough of everything! Adjust it to your liking.
BOWTIE CAPRESE
INGREDIENTS
Cooked bowtie pasta
Grape tomatoes sliced in half
Fresh mozzarella cut in chunks ( I used a dry pack)
Fresh basil
Place everything in your bowl and coat with good olive oil, salt and pepper
The juices will come out of the tomatoes and flavor the oil and give a great taste to the salad.

These salads are great for any party, lunch with the girls (or guys), BBQ’s, and picnic’s.
Hope you give them a try!
Buon Appetito!!

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CHEESECAKE POPS! ( Daring Bakers)

This happened to be a very timely challenge for me, because yesterday my daughter and I hosted a personal shower for my neice. I thought “what a great idea, I’ll make these for the shower!” Considering I had a bunch of other things to cook and bake for the shower, this might not have been such a good idea! Doing something new and unfamiliar, then dipping and decorating them, and of course taking pictures! Well you know what I mean!!
Thursday night I baked the cheesecake which by the way, took me 65 min. to bake. My oven is only 2 years old and very accurate, so I set the timer for the 35 to 45 min. that the recipe called for, but it just didn’t set. Other than that, I had no problems at all!

Here is the perfectly set and cooled cheesecake!

This months challenge of these DECADENT Cheesecake Pops, was hosted by two ladies, Elle, of Feeding my Enthusiasms and Deborah, at Taste and Tell. Go over to their blogs to check out the whole recipe. I have to admit these little pops were quite a hit at the shower, I got alot of “Ooooh’s” and “Ahhhh’s” A big thanks to them both!

As far as the melting of the chocolate, I did mine in the microwave, stirring every 30 seconds, it turned out nice and glossy and stuck to the frozen cheesecake balls perfectly.

I decided to decorate the lolipop stick with pipe cleaners, they were super easy to bend around, and I liked the color it added. Great for a Girlie shower!!

I got a little carried away with what I decorated them with. Here is what I used:

Mini chocolate chips

Sprinkles

Coconut

Chopped pecans

Crushed Oreo cookies

Plain chocolate

Crushed Skors toffee bar

Crushed Biscotti ( of course I had to get something Italian in there!)

These one bite wonders are perfect for any party, trust me, they’re worth it!!

Please check out some of the other Daring Bakers amazing Cheesecake Pops here.

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GRILLED CHICKEN OREGANATO

This past weekend the weather was beautiful, which prompted me to fire up my grill for dinner.
Since I was going to be grilling chicken I knew exactly how I was going to make it. I got my inspiration for this from eyeing Amy’s huge jar of Marinata Diavola, over at Familia Bencomo.
What a great idea to have this on hand in your frig during grilling season. Go over and check out her recipe here, I had to change mine up a bit because I didn’t have any fresh rosemary, so instead I used dried greek oregano, hence the title…Chicken Oreganato.

What ever herbs you use trust me it will be delicious! Its simply a mixture of fresh lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, crushed garlic cloves, sea salt, and pepper, and cayenne pepper. ( I only had red pepper flakes). Put it all in a jar, shake it up and use it as a marinade or just brush it on grilled meats, all kinds of fish, and your favorite veggies.

I didn’t make enough, so I’ll be making lots more. I love having it readily available in my frig, and the longer it sits, the better it tastes. 🙂

I even brushed it over my lemons that I grilled. If you have never grilled a lemon, you have to try it, it’s sweeter and super juicy! I squeezed it all over my chicken, mmmm was it good!!

If you haven’t had a chance to visit Amy’s blog, or gotten to know her yet, please stop by for a visit, one conversation with her and you’ll think you’ve known her for years! Really!!!
Thanks Amy!

Happy Grilling!!

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CONTORNI (SIDE DISHES)

The other day while I was visiting some of my favorite blogs, I came across a post by Peter of Kalofagas Greek Food & Beyond. He was talking about how he was going to try and feature more side dishes. He felt that sides got little attention compared to the main course, we as bloggers often feature. My thoughts exactly!!! In fact in my house we’re all about the sides! Especially with grill season starting its fun to get creative with different sides to have with your main course. Below are a few of our favorites, and as grilling season gets reved up I’ll be posting more!

VEGETABLE GIARDINIERA
Cook in salted boiling water for 3 min. cauliflower, sliced carrots,and celery. With a slotted spoon, transfer to a tray lined with paper towels. Cool vegetables.
In a large bowl add green and your favorite black olives, drained artichoke hearts, minced garlic, drained eggplant salad, chopped red onion, and all of your cooled down veggies.
Make a vinaigrette of red wine vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, season with salt and pepper, dried oregano, lemon juice, and lemon peel. Refrigerate till cool.
FRESH GREEN BEAN SALAD
Precook your green beans, make sure they still till have a bite to them. Drain and cool them down.
In a large bowl add cooled beans, kalamata olives, red onion, garbanzo beans, and chopped fresh tomato’s. Toss like a salad with red wine vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, oregano, salt and pepper, and granulated garlic. Delicious at room temp, or chilled.

STUFFED TOMATOES WITH RICE
I use the tomatoes on the vine, slice a little off the top, scoop out the pulp and place in a bowl.
arrange scooped out tomatoes on a baking tray lined with foil. Set aside.
Smash up the pulp a little, add to that your cooked risotto, parsley, basil, garlic, olive oil, and salt and pepper, mix well.
Spoon filling into prepared tomatoes, drizzle olive oil all over them, roast until tender and soft.
Depending on how big your tomatoes are it could take up to 40 min. at 400 degreesF.
Serve at room temp.
STUFFED ARTICHOKES
Prepare artichokes by trimming leaves and stems, then steam them just until the leaves pull off easy. Set aside.
In a bowl add flavored dry breadcrumbs, or fresh, add garlic, fresh chopped parsley, grated romano cheese, salt and pepper, moisten mixture with some olive oil.
Stuff each leave with the mixture, take your time go all around the artichoke. Place them in a baking dish and place them in a 375 degreeF. oven till heated through. Garnish with lemon.

Hopefully this will encourage all of you to “show your sides”! I’ll be looking forward to seeing all of your creations!

BUON APPETITO!!
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