Cauliflower and Sausage Stuffing

cauliflower stuffing

Thanksgiving is only a couple of weeks away so it’s time to start talking and planning the big meal and side dishes. Do you have anyone you might be serving this Thanksgiving who is gluten free, keto or doing low carb, if so this is a great option.

Last year I made this cauliflower and sausage stuffing for a gluten free family member, not only she enjoyed it but everyone that tried it loved it, it definitely satisfies your stuffing desire.

It’s made similar to my traditional stuffing with all the same flavors going on except cauliflower florets replace the bread, but the nice thing is you’ll still get crispy bits along the edges ( my favorite part), with fresh and dried herbs mingled between the sausage and all the veggies.

low carb stuffing

I’ve always added breakfast sausage to our stuffing, preferably one flavored with extra sage, it’s tradition over here, so that’s what I’ve added in this cauliflower stuffing.

Feel free to add your favorite type of sausage or eliminate it all together. I do however suggest that you add in some mushrooms as I did to punch up the flavor and give it more bulk.

 

gluten free stuffing

There’s a little bit of prep before like browning the sausage and a quick saute of the veggies, but as far as the cauliflower goes you can toss it in raw as long as the florets are in bite size pieces.

Everything then goes into as buttered casserole dish, like a traditional bread stuffing. This can all be prepped a day or two ahead then popped into the oven with the rest of the other sides on the day your serving it.

cauliflower and sausage stuffing

When it comes out it looks like this, crispy and golden. The cauliflower takes on all the traditional flavors of a bread stuffing but without any bread!

A delicious option for all to enjoy!

Cauliflower and Sausage Stuffing
 
A nice option for those who are gluten free and those preferring to eat less carbs.
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 good size medium cauliflower cut into bite size florets
  • 1 lb. breakfast sausage like Jimmy Dean or Bob Evans, in bulk
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 4 or 5 celery stalks, diced
  • 8 oz. baby bella mushrooms, sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 stick of butter
  • ½ to ¾ cup of chicken stock
  • handful of chopped parsley
  • dried sage, thyme, poultry seasoning (optional) salt and pepper to taste
  • Fresh sage leaves for garnish
Instructions
  1. Butter the inside of the casserole role dish you'll be using
  2. In a large skillet place remaining butter until it melts then saute the onions, garlic and celery until soft, then add the sliced mushrooms for a couple of minutes.
  3. Place all the sautéed veggies into a large bowl.
  4. Next brown up the sausage in the pan, breaking it up with a wooden spoon and cooking it until you see no pink.
  5. Drain the sausage on paper towels then toss it into the bowl with the sautéed veggies.
  6. Fold into the bowl the bite size cauliflower, raw. If you think its to big you can toss it into the skillet for a couple of minutes to take the rawness away.
  7. Add in the chopped parsley.
  8. Add in the spices, dried sage and thyme and poultry seasoning if using into the mix. Start with 1 teaspoon each and then taste for your preference, adding more if you like plus the salt and pepper.
  9. Place everything into the buttered casserole dish, then distribute the broth all around.
  10. Top with a few fresh sage leaves for garnish.
  11. At this point it's all prepped and you can refrigerate it 1 to 2 days ahead.
  12. When you’re ready to serve, heat oven to 400 degrees.
  13. lightly foil the dish for 15 minutes then remove the foil and continue roasting until cauliflower is tender, golden, the sausage edges have crispy bits.
  14. Ovens do vary so keep checking every 15 minutes or so, you can also stick it under the broiler for a few minutes at the end to get desired golden look if needed.

 

Signature

Kabocha Squash With Parmesan Cream And Thyme

4 squash

I can’t think of a better side dish to have this fall, one that includes kabocha squash. Have you tried it yet? Kabocha is a rich tasting squash and it tastes like a cross between a sweet potato and pumpkin, it’s vitamin rich and even low in carbs.

This dish is foolproof to make, when the squash is cut into quarters and the seeds scooped out ( which you can roast) it becomes the perfect vessel to hold the parmesan and thyme cream sauce.

This can easily be served during the week or set out on a platter for the holidays.

market squash

You might be intimidated and think how am I going to cut this! Well you definitely have to be safe. One way is you can stick the whole squash in your microwave for a couple of minutes to soften it, doing that will make it much easier to cut.

What I often do is take my knife, make a slit then cover the top of the blade with a tea towel, then take a mallet and pound it until it breaks through, it’s very safe that way and no fingers are involved.

parmesan cream sauce

When parmesan and thyme meet together it’s a match made in heaven, the flavors meld together perfectly!

cream and thyme

Of course this sauce would work with acorn, honey nut and butternut squash as well but if you haven’t tried kabocha, I urge you to give it a try.

5.0 from 1 reviews
Kabocha Squash With Parmesan Cream And Thyme
 
The perfect fall side dish
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 kabocha squash cut into quarters, scooping out the seeds and pulp. Follow instructions on blog post above for a safe way to cut it.
  • ¾ cup heavy cream
  • ¾ cup of grated parmesan
  • 12 sprigs of thyme
  • salt and pepper
Instructions
  1. Cut the squash into quarters then drizzle all sections with olive oil and sprinkling of salt and pepper. Place squash cut side down onto a parchment lined baking sheet and roast at 375F oven. When you see a rich golden color on the outer edge flip the squash over.
  2. In the meantime mix together the heavy cream, the parmesan and some thyme leaves.
  3. Then I like to transfer the squash into a baking dish where they fit somewhat tightly together, right side up, then gently spoon the cream sauce into the cavities.
  4. Place thyme sprigs all over each filled quarter.
  5. Place back into the oven until cream thickens and squash is tender.
  6. Depending on the size of your squash time varies , keep checking it.
  7. You made have leftover cream sauce or not enough again according to the size of your squash.
  8. Scoop and enjoy!

 

Signature

How To Make A Star Shaped Stuffed Crusted Pizza

star pizza

Impress your friends and family my making this star shaped pizza. This pizza is shaped into an eight pointed star and each point is stuffed individually with a mix of cheese hidden inside, not only is it visually striking it’s the ultimate stuffed crusted pizza as well!

star pizza

Don’t be intimidated, this pizza is easy to make, just take your time and go over my tips and instructions a couple of times.

cut dough

You’ll need a half a pound of pizza dough to make one pizza, that will result in the look of a nicely shaped star, so just think from one pound you can make two of these beauties!

You’ll want to actually roll this dough out with a rolling pin, no pressing down with your fingers like a traditional pizza. The dough has to be flat all the way to the end for best results with the stars tips.

stuffed star points

Aim for a ten to twelve inch circle, I like rolling my dough circle on parchment, then I just plop it over onto my lightly oiled and slightly dusted with cornmeal, pizza pan.

Then using a sharp knife make eight two inch slits from the end of the circle towards the center, be careful not to go more than two inches, it won’t look as nice, plus you need room in the center for your toppings as well.

So again you want eight cuts all together like the marks on a clock.

Within those eight sections is where you’ll place your cheese for the crust. I used a mix of shredded mozzarella and ricotta. Keep in mind cheese when melted spreads, so less is more to protect it from breaking open and oozing out all over.

stuffed crust pizza

Here’s where you can get creative, use whatever mix of cheese you want as well as the toppings you prefer in the center.

pizza

This pizza was a simple margarita style with tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella in the center with a nice drizzle from my stash of basil pesto that I have in my freezer.

corner piece pizza

A fun pizza to make and eat, just grab an end and share it with the people you love!

5.0 from 1 reviews
How To Make A Star Shaped Stuffed Crusted Pizza
 
Margarita style star shaped pizza
Author:
Ingredients
  • ½ lb. of prepared pizza dough, room temperature
  • ½ cup ricotta and ½ cup of shredded mozzarella mixed together with salt and pepper to taste
  • tomato sauce for center of pizza, a cup or so
  • 2 or 3 slices of fresh mozzarella, torn up
  • 1 or 2 tablespoons basil pesto or fresh torn basil
  • olive oil
  • dusting of cornmeal or polenta for pan preparation
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 500F.
  2. Prepare your pan by drizzling olive oil all over and a dusting of cornmeal or polenta for a crispy crust.
  3. Roll your dough out on parchment into a 10 or 12 inch circle, flat all the way to the ends.
  4. Then pick up your parchment and plop the dough round onto prepared pan, straightening it out if need be.
  5. With a sharp knife make an incision 2 inches long 8 times, like the marks on a clock face, be careful to not go over 2 inches.
  6. Within those 8 sections place a scant teaspoon of the ricotta and shredded mozzarella mixture, be careful not to overstuff because it will be hard to seal each point. ( see post for visual )
  7. Then pick up the corners of each section that is filled and start pinching the dough together from the point to the center to form a triangle. The edge of the triangle shape should point outwards, and as you continue doing it you'll create an 8 pointed star shape all around.
  8. Then fill the center with your sauce and fresh mozzarella and a quick drizzle of olive oil on top.
  9. Place into the hot oven for around 15 minutes.
  10. Garnish the pizza with basil pesto or fresh torn basil.
  11. Pull apart and share!

 

Signature

Butternut Squash Pasta With Sage And Parsley Breadcrumbs

pasta and squash

This is an easy fall dinner meal using my favorite butternut squash, it is after all squash season. It’s amazing how many meals you can create using squash, it’s so versatile, I never tire of it, plus meatless meals are good for you!

cooked squash

I had a medium sized butternut squash that I peeled then cut into one inch chunks, drizzled with olive oil, salt and pepper and roasted in a 400F oven til golden and pretty much of the moisture gone.

Now if you do this a day ahead or early in the day this meal can be on your table in no time, which I recommend.

pasta ingredients

Then your going to grab a good handful of fresh parsley as well as fresh sage leaves, and nicely chop them up.

breadcrumbs

Then take a sauté pan and add a nice dollup of butter and a healthy swirl of olive oil. Add one or two crushed garlic cloves along with roughly 2 cups of (preferably) homemade bread crumbs. Toast them up really good then add in your chopped herbs along with a generous half a cup or so of grated parmesan cheese.

Taste if salt and pepper is needed, set aside in a bowl, you’ll be tossing them in at the end and you’ll want them to stay crispy.

Please don’t worry about exact measurements!

breadcrumb pasta

Then boil the pasta of your choice, I used 1/2 pound of  linguine but you can use any shape at all. Chunky rigatoni, orecchiette, ziti, pappardelle, what ever, I just wouldn’t use tiny shapes.

squash and pasta

Lastly take the sauté pan that you toasted the bread crumbs in, drizzle it with olive oil, warm up your cooked squash if need be then toss in your cooked pasta and maybe a little pasta water to loosen it up.

Shut off the heat, top and toss the crispy breadcrumbs right in, add some more parmesan and a nice drizzle of olive oil and garnish with some fried sage leaves for a nice presentation, serve immediately.

It’s really very quick and simple to do and so delicious!

 

Enjoy

Signature

Mushroom Galette With Roasted Garlic And Thyme

galette

A galette is a rustic, freeform pie/tart which can be savory or sweet. They’re super simple to make and the finished results are very impressive!

This savory tart is filled with roasted cremini and oyster mushrooms with a bulb of roasted garlic smashed into it with hints of fresh thyme. There’s also a three cheese mix of asiago, parmesan and mozzarella melted into it.

Keep in mind you’re free to use any mix of mushrooms you like as well as any mix of cheese you prefer, that is the fun thing about making galettes, do your own thing, make your own combo, this is just a guideline for what I used, which happened to be very successful and delicious!

You can make your own pie crust or even buy a good quality one to make life easier. I’ll let you in on a little secret…  I used a Trader Joe pie crust for this, but every time I use it I make sure to ball up the dough first then I roll it out to the size I want, I never just take it out of the package and use it as is.

If you prefer to make a homemade crust, here’s one that I make that would go very well with this mushroom galette.

roasted mushrooms

Roasted mushrooms always produce great flavor and even more so when you squeeze and smash roasted garlic into the mix.

roasted garlic

The garlic you can roast ahead of time, keeping it in the fridge and using it for multiple dishes as well as this one, it’s a nice treat to have tucked away.

mushroom galette

Another reason I’m such a fan of galettes is that you always get a nice, crispy crust all the way around and on the bottom with each and every slice.

sliced galette

The flavor combination of this rustic, stress free dinner is out of this world good, so good we couldn’t wait to have the leftovers the next day!

I hope you make this heavenly mushroom galette, it’s the perfect fall meal!

5.0 from 2 reviews
Mushroom Galette With Roasted Garlic And Thyme
 
Rustic, freeform and super impressive!
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 pastry pie crust, either homemade or good quality store bought
  • 1- ½ lbs. of cremini mushrooms, sliced and roasted
  • ½ lb. oyster mushrooms, sliced and roasted (Can use all of one kind or a mix of others)
  • 1 whole bulb of roasted garlic
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella
  • ½ cup shredded asiago
  • 2 heaping tbl. grated parmesan, plus a little extra for garnishing
  • thyme sprigs
  • olive oil
  • 1 egg for egg wash
Instructions
  1. Pre-roast your garlic ahead of time by cutting off the top portion of a whole bulb, placing it in tin foil and dowsing it with olive oil, some salt and pepper and a couple of thyme sprigs. Wrap it up and place into a 350F. oven around 30- 40 minutes or til golden and soft.
  2. Pre-roast mushrooms in 400F. oven sprinkled with thyme leaves and drizzled with olive oil, roast until all the moisture is out and they start to caramelize.
  3. When mushrooms are done and while the pan is still hot, squeeze and smash in the whole bulb of roasted garlic, tossing gently til incorporated, taste if salt and pepper is needed.
  4. On a piece of parchment that will fit a baking sheet, roll out your pastry to around 12 inches, then place the whole thing onto a rimmed baking sheet.
  5. Sprinkle the cheese mixture on the bottom of the pastry leaving an inch and a half border all around, reserve 2 tablespoons of the cheese mixture to dot on top of galette.
  6. Spread the mushrooms all around the top of the cheese mixture, covering it completely.
  7. Fold up the edges of the dough all around the filling.
  8. Put reserved tablespoons of cheese on top of mushrooms dotting it in sections. ( it just makes it look pretty when finished).
  9. Whisk egg then brush the folded up edge with it, you'll have leftover egg for sure.
  10. Sprinkle some thyme on the crust edge along with grated parmesan and black pepper.
  11. Top galette with 2 or 3 sprigs of thyme and pop it into a 400F. oven for around 30 to 40 minutes or until deep golden on bottom and crust, all ovens do vary.
  12. Serve warm or at room temp.
  13. Enjoy!

 

Signature

Squash And Ricotta Rustic Tart

squash tart

As soon as the weather starts to change into cooler days and nights, I’m in the stores buying squash. Squash of any kind is so versatile and you can create so many healthy and delicious meals with it.

Tarts are the perfect way to showcase winter squash, it can be served as a meatless main dish or a tasty appetizer or side, either way you can’t go wrong!

delicata squash

For this tart I paired creamy ricotta with delicata squash, delicata is easy to work with because the skin is nice and thin and totally edible, but you can certainly make this with butternut squash you just have to peel it first.

The crust is homemade ( which is a breeze to make in the food processor) and has the addition of polenta which gives it the ultimate crunch factor. As much as I like to buy pre-made crusts nothing compares to this one.

Topped with crispy sage and toasted pepitas, this tart screams FALL!

tart dough

I used two delicata squash, sliced them into half inch rounds then scooped out the seeds. Placed them onto a baking sheet and roasted them beforehand.

pre baked tart

Ready for the oven with a quick drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of parmesan before baking.

delicata tart

A crunchy crust with the creamy, cheesy filling of ricotta, topped with the sweet rich flavor of the delicata squash, it’s the ultimate combo!

If you want to try another version, here’s one I did a few years back, using different veggies with the same delicious crust.

squash tart

I hope you make this amazing tart and serve up a slice to your family and friends this fall season.

5.0 from 2 reviews
Squash And Ricotta Rustic Tart
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 2 delicata squash, cut into ½ inch rings with the seeds scooped out
  • FILLING
  • 1 cup ricotta, drained of moisture
  • 1 finely minced garlic clove
  • 2 eggs, 1 for the filling and 1 to brush on top
  • ½ cup of grated romano or parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • DOUGH
  • 1 cup of all purpose flour (unbleached)
  • ½ cup of instant polenta or fine cornmeal
  • ½ teaspoon of salt and a pinch of black pepper
  • 6 tablespoons of cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • ¼ to ½ cup of ice water
  • fresh sage leaves
  • pepitas (optional)
Instructions
  1. Pre-heat oven to 400F
  2. Place rings of delicata onto a baking sheet drizzled with olive oil, salt and pepper, roast til lightly golden on each side, then remove and let them cool down.
  3. Prepare the dough in a food processor by pulsing the flour, polenta, salt and pepper together. Add the butter and process until combined. Then while the machine is running add the ice water down the tube a little at a time until the dough starts to come together in a ball. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for ½ hour.
  4. Meanwhile mix up the ricotta in a bowl along with the grated cheese, garlic, salt, pepper and 1 egg.
  5. Remove the dough from the fridge, let it sit at room temp for 15 minutes the on parchment roll it out to about 12 inches in diameter. Take your time rolling then place the whole thing onto a baking sheet.
  6. Spread the ricotta mixture onto the dough leaving a 2 inch border all around. Place your roasted squash on top all around. Fold the edges up and pleat where needed to seal it in good.
  7. Brush the crust with the remaining egg, you won't use it all.
  8. Sprinkle the edge with grated cheese, black pepper .
  9. Drizzle the top with olive oil.
  10. Bake around 35 minutes at 400F or until crust is deep golden and ricotta is set.
  11. To garnish the top, drizzle a bit of olive oil in a small pan and crisp up the sage and toss in pepeitas to get golden and arrange all over the finished tart.
  12. Enjoy!

 

Signature

Summer’s Last Hurrah With Fresh Figs

fig salad

Fresh figs are in peak season right now and if you’re a fig lover it’s time to take advantage of them as summer winds down. I’m sharing my two favorite ways to showcase them in a non-cook way with no recipe needed!

fig and burrata

Find yourself any variety of fresh figs that are available in your area, I used black mission here for this delicious salad of figs, prosciutto and burrata.

Grab a pretty platter and arrange prosciutto slices all around, next take a couple of balls of burrata cheese, gently break it open and dot it all around.

Place sliced figs, longwise on top of the prosciutto and burrata, drizzle with olive oil and balsamic glaze and top with sliced almonds and fresh basil leaves.

A little salt and pepper and that’s it!

 

figs

I promise you that you and your guests will enjoy every last bite!

fig boardfig appetizer

For a fun and very easy appetizer you must make this version of stuffed figs with goat cheese and ribbons of prosciutto. It’s finished off with a sweet honey drizzle and topped with a walnut piece. It’s a dreamy one bite delight!

fig and prosciutto

Cut the figs cross-wise from the top, halfway down the fruit and gently open it up like a blossom. Place some softened goat cheese right into the center, I used a honey goat cheese but you can also use gorgonzola and even ricotta works well, then tuck a piece of torn prosciutto right on top.

Place them onto a platter with some scattered leaves of arugula, top each fig blossom with a walnut piece or any nut of your choice then give a good drizzle of honey all over each fig, oh my this is so good!

fig and honey

Figs are said to be the nectar of the gods, I believe they are, enjoy them while they’re still here!

Signature

Summer Tomato Salad With Whipped Ricotta

whipped ricotta salad

It’s late August and summer tomatoes are in major abundance, all vine ripened and at the height of their flavor. Tomato salads have been a consent in my house, I’m either buying them or having them dropped off at my house by family or friends who have gardens of their own and their crop is overflowing. Believe me I’m not complaining, fall will be here before we know it!

There’s some salads that just stick out in your mind, I’ll be dreaming about this one in the dead of winter. What’s so special about this salad besides the vine ripened juicy heirlooms gracing the top, is that the base of this salad is a layer of whipped ricotta which has a hint of lemon zest and herbs folded into it.

tomatoes and ricotta

On top of the whipped ricotta there’s a salad layer of lemony arugula. One thing is certain, you must have crusty bread when you eat this! I’m telling you it’s a meal in itself!

whipping ricotta

You want to look for a dryer type ricotta, not one that has a lot of moisture, if that’s the only kind you can find then I would drain it for a couple of hours in a strainer.

Less than a minute in a food processor and the ricotta takes on a beautiful smooth consistency with a touch of olive oil drizzled in.

smooth ricotta

Parsley, basil and lemon zest was folded in for additional flavor.

tomatoes and whip ricotta

Slice up some colorful heirlooms and mix them in with other varieties and use the best extra virgin olive oil you have.

summer tomatoes and ricotta

I added some sliced red onion and olives to round it all out, it’s outrageous! Put this on a big platter and watch it disappear .

whipped ricotta

I hope you make this, but don’t forget the crusty bread please!

zucchini and whipped ricotta

If you find yourself with an abundance of zucchini, here’s another use for whipped ricotta, I did a post on this a while ago, zucchini ribbon salad with whipped ricotta.

Summer Tomato Salad With Whipped Ricotta
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • A variety of summer heirloom tomatoes, sliced. Enough to cover the ricotta. A variety of colors makes a nice presentation
  • 2 cups ricotta, on the dryer side, if too wet drain it for a couple of hours
  • Good olive oil for drizzling and to add to the ricotta
  • the juice and zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 cups arugula, roughly
  • sliced red onion
  • olives for plating
  • parsley and basil a heaping tablespoon each, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • a loaf of crusty bread
Instructions
  1. FOR THE WHIPPED RICOTTA
  2. Place ricotta into the bowl of a food processor and add in 1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon of olive oil, process for 30 seconds, or until smooth.
  3. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Scoop out into a bowl and fold in the zest and chopped herbs.
  5. Toss the arugula with lemon juice and olive oil.
  6. Spread whipped ricotta mixture onto a platter, drizzle top with olive oil, then topped with arugula salad, sliced tomatoes, sliced onions.
  7. Sprinkle the tomatoes with salt, then a good drizzle of olive oil all over, place olives all around.
  8. Place slices of crusty bread all around the platter.

 

Signature

White Pizza, Four Cheese With Summer Corn

summer dinner

Nothing screams summer more than fresh corn on the cob and beautiful summer garden tomatoes. I love a good white pizza, meaning no red sauce on top, it’s actually my favorite type of all, but I must confess in my years of making pizza I have never had or made a corn version, until now!

Yes, I have seen many photos of blogger friends ( Stacey Snacks) sitting in restaurants eating gorgeous summer pizzas showcasing fresh corn which I was very envious of because it’s not something I see here in the midwest at all.

Recently a family member dropped off some fresh corn from Wisconsin so I thought this would be a perfect time to make a white version of a corn pizza, and I’m so happy I did, and to say we loved it is an understatement!

  summer tomatoes

I also made an heirloom tomato salad to go along with it and it turned out to one one of our favorite summertime meals that I will repeat again and again!

corn pizza

At first glance this pizza may not look so fancy but don’t let that fool you, this pizza has so much flavor and texture. Nice crunchy dough topped with a combination of four cheeses, mozzarella, fontina, dreamy burrata and Parmesan, melted together it’s the perfect union!

summer pizza

The burrata cheese is scrumptious as it is, but when mingled with the corn it’s outstanding, but remember always use fresh shucked corn, never ever frozen.

corn and cheese pizza

I’ll look forward to making this pizza every summer, it’s now a top favorite and before this summer ends I’ll be making it again and again while corn is still at it’s peak.

If you’ve never had a corn pizza stop what you’re doing and make this now!

4.0 from 1 reviews
White Pizza, Four Cheese With Summer Corn
 
Recipe adapted from The Original Dish
Author:
Ingredients
  • 16 " round pizza pan
  • cornmeal for dusting pan along with olive oil
  • 1 pound ball of pizza dough, homemade or good quality store bought
  • 3 ears of fresh shucked corn, uncooked
  • 4 oz. shredded fontina cheese
  • 2 balls (not large) of burrata cheese
  • ¾ lb. of shredded mozzarella
  • a generous handful of grated parmesan, enough to spread all over the pizza
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • fresh basil leaves
  • red pepper flakes optional for garnish
Instructions
  1. Note: First and foremost it's important to get your dough to room temperature so it's easy to stretch out into the pan.
  2. Coat the bottom of your pizza pan with olive oil and a dusting of cornmeal, it keeps the bottom nice and crunchy.
  3. Stretch your dough onto the pan and place it into a hot prepared oven at 480 degrees for only 5 minutes, then remove it.
  4. If it bubbles up when you take it out pierce it a few times with a fork.
  5. Now add and spread all around your fontina and mozzarella cheese, then sprinkle your grated parmesan generously all over.
  6. Open up your burrata cheese and place dots of it all over the surface.
  7. Sprinkle the fresh, uncooked corn kernels all over the top, evenly spreading them all over the pizza surface.
  8. Season with salt and pepper and a drizzle with olive oil.
  9. Bake at 480 for around 15 minutes or until bottom of crust is deep golden and cheese is all melty.
  10. Garnish with fresh basil all around and optional red pepper flakes.
  11. Enjoy!

 

Signature

Summer Corn and Shrimp Fritters

fritters

Tis the season to make fritters! It’s summertime and everyones garden is bursting with fresh vegetables as well as the farmers markets and grocery stores. I’ve been seeing all sorts of fritters being made of broccoli, cauliflower, but the most popular in the summer are ones made with zucchini or corn.

Today we’re pairing shrimp with corn in a fritter. Summer fresh corn and shrimp go really well together and are the perfect combination, it takes on a high end kind of flavor experience.

 

shrimp and corn fritters

Crunchy on the outside, creamy on the inside with pops of sweet corn in every bite. Serve these for a midweek dinner and if you have leftovers they heat up well and are delicious for lunch, I’ve even made them for a fancy girls summer dinner party.

corn and shrimp

This recipe makes quite a few fritters, ten to twelve depending on the size. You can prep and form them early in the day then stick them into the fridge to get chilled before you pan fry them, these are not deep fried but rather requires just enough of a drizzle of oil to cover the bottom of a pan.

uncooked fritters

You can up the seasoning on the inside with smoked paprika, a cajun spice, some Old Bay seasoning or just leave it as in with the basic recipe, either way it’s all good!

shrimp and corn fritter

Golden brown and crispy ready to be dipped into a sauce of your liking. I’ve served them with a spicy and sweet chili sauce, a lemon aioli, a mango and peach chutney, believe me it’s all good!

Summer Corn and Shrimp Fritters
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 lb. shrimp, raw, peeled and deveined and patted dry
  • 3 medium ears of corn, shucked
  • 3 eggs, whisked
  • 3 green onions, sliced with a little bit of the green not all
  • 1 cup of AP flour
  • ¾ cup of shredded cheddar
  • 1 smashed garlic clove, large
  • basil and parsley a heaping tablespoon each, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Optional spice like smoked paprika, Old Bay, cajun, maybe a heaping teaspoon
  • olive oil for pan frying
Instructions
  1. Take ⅔ of the shrimp and place it into a food processor and pulse it into a paste, remove it with a spatula and place it into a large bowl.
  2. Take the remaining shrimp and roughly chop it into small pieces, then add to the bowl.
  3. Then add in the eggs, garlic, parsley, green onions, basil, seasoning, flour and cheddar, mix well then add in the shucked corn continuing to incorporate it all.
  4. Form the mixture into patty's.
  5. Refrigerate them for a couple of hours.
  6. When it's time to cook them remove patty's from fridge.
  7. Drizzle olive oil on the bottom of a heated non stick skillet and pan fry each side until nice and golden and fully cooked inside.
  8. Serve with your favorite dipping sauce like a lemon aioli, or a sweet and spicy chili sauce or even a peach or mango chutney.
  9. This recipe I was able to make 11 fritters, so anywhere between 10 and 12 you should yield.

 

Signature

Summers Magic Sauce, Basil Pesto Cream

summer basil

It’s no secret that I have fondness for fresh basil, I look forward to summertime when I can walk out into my garden and pick my own. This season has been particularly great for growing it as you can tell by my beautiful bounty pictured above, at least 2020 was good for something…

It’s mid July here and so far I’ve used my basil in so many different meals, plus I’ve already made pesto a couple of times, some for me and some for family and friends. I like making pesto, it can be used to enhance so many dishes, it’s so intense in flavor, I love it!

 

pesto swirl

One of my absolute favorite treats whenever I make basil pesto is to turn it into a cream sauce. Ok, let’s stop here and let me say that if you’ve never tasted a basil pesto cream sauce, you’re really missing out!

It’s beyond decadent and creamy and so delicious with seafood, meats, veggies, pasta, I could go on and on, and the best thing is, it’s super simple to make.

It’s definitely summers magic sauce!

homemade pesto

It all starts with the making of your own homemade basil pesto, very important, homemade. Here’s how I do it.

It’s so delicious because it’s filled with fresh basil leaves, quality parmesan cheese, garlic and toasted nuts. I guess you could use store bought in a pinch as long as it’s a good quality one, but I really recommend you making your own, it really makes a difference.

basil cream

There are very few ingredients used to make this luscious sauce, just your homemade pesto and some heavy cream, how easy is that?

Grab a pint of heavy cream, it must be heavy, pour it into a saucepan and simmer it low and slow until it starts to thicken, you’ll begin to see the cream bubbling along the edges of the pan.

When it thickens turn off the heat and start adding your prepared basil pesto, tablespoon by tablespoon whisk it in, it should be a nice balance between the pesto and the cream.

No need to add any other seasoning, it’s a wonderful marriage of the two. If you end up with some leftover sauce it heats up well the next day just put it on a low flame and maybe add a little more cream to loosen it up, but making it the day you’re going to use it is best.

basil cream scallops

I recently seared some scallops and placed them into a puddle of this scrumptious sauce, no words, pure deliciousness!

Think of it smeared on salmon, into your favorite pasta shape, roasted or grilled veggies and different meats, like I said, the possibilities are endless. I hope you make this magic sauce!

 

Signature

Creamy Polenta With Summer Garden Veggies

summer veggie polenta

Since I started this blog way back in 2007 ( next month will be 13 years!) I have posted many different polenta recipes, needless to say we adore polenta in our house.

If you do a search here on my blog you’ll find polenta muffins, polenta biscotti, a polenta tart, croutons, grilled polenta and many different ways to serve it with meat, eggs and various vegetables that are highlighted during the seasons.

 

polenta with veggies

Today I made a creamy polenta that showcases all the summer garden veggies like corn and zucchini that are readily available right now. It’s a fun and very delicious way to highlight both.

polenta ingredients

I use instant polenta which takes no time at all to cook up, and if you prep a few of the other ingredients ahead of time, this comes together quickly.

I roasted a pint of cherry tomatoes the other day and I had some grilled corn leftover from the weekend so I added zucchini and yellow squash and picked some fresh basil from my garden. Just a few ingredients makes such a spectacular meal, but this can also serve as a side dish with something you cook up on the grill.

I also like to serve this up alongside grilled shrimp, it’s such a nice combo!

whisking polentapolenta and veggies

So all you have to do is whisk up some creamy polenta, top it off with julienned strips of zucchini, smokey charred corn along with sweet, juicy roasted cherry tomatoes. Polenta tends to firm up after it sits for a while so if you have leftovers no problem, cut it into wedges and serve it like a pizza!

A summertime dish you won’t forget!

Creamy Polenta With Summer Garden Veggies
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 2 ears of grilled corn with planks cut off the cob, make some planks along with the kernals
  • 1 small zucchini, julienned
  • 1 small yellow squash, julienned
  • a squeeze of fresh lemon
  • 1 pint of cherry tomatoes, rainbow colored
  • 2 green onions, sliced
  • fresh basil
  • olive oil
  • FOR THE POLENTA
  • 1 cup of instant polenta
  • 3 cups of chicken or vegetable broth preferably, or water
  • ½ cup parmigiano cheese
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons of chopped basil
  • additional ¼ cup or so of water to thin it out a bit if needed at the end
Instructions
  1. Prep your tomatoes by placing them whole on a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil. Drizzle generously with olive oil all over and sprinkle with salt and pepper, if made the day before just warm them up a bit the day of.
  2. Roast at 400 until they burst and all the juices mingle with the oil.
  3. Grill both ears of corn cutting the kernels off the cob and making some into planks, it looks nice when placed on top of the polenta.
  4. Julienne both zucchini and yellow squash then place into a bowl and add a squeeze of lemon and a little olive oil just to wilt them down a bit.
  5. MAKE THE POLENTA
  6. In a medium saucepan add the broth or water, get it to a boil and whisk in the polenta, now turn the heat down and let it cook til it thickens, it doesn’t take long.
  7. Shut off the heat and stir in the butter, chopped basil and parmigiano, taste for seasoning adding salt and pepper, maybbe more cheese.
  8. When polenta is finished pour it into your serving dish and "decorate" the top to your liking with all the ingredients including the green onion and extra sprinkle of basil and cheese for finishing. You'll probably have some leftover ingredients, especially the roasted tomatoes.Be sure to spoon some of the tomato oil on too.
  9. Serve immediately and enjoy!

 

Signature

Spice Encrusted Chicken Thighs With White Peaches

chicken with peaches

This is a quick summer dish to make when you see peaches starting to appear in the markets. Crispy, spice encrusted chicken thighs balanced with the sweetness of peaches creates such a wonderful flavor combination, and it’s made all in one pan!

I like using bone in, skin on chicken thighs, they stay nice and juicy even if you overcook them a little bit. But if you’re not a fan of thighs you can make it with chicken breasts, but again I would only recommend bone in and skin on, it really makes a difference in flavor.

white peaches

I was lucky enough to come across these beautiful white peaches the other day. White peaches have a creamy white flesh and taste just as sweet when they’re firm and crunchy as well as tree ripened.

Open up your spice cabinet and pull out some of your dried spices because that is what you use primarily for this dish, with a little fresh basil for garnish.

I usually make beer can chicken during the summer out on the grill,  I make it a couple of different ways but my family likes it when it’s all spiced up the best.

By spiced up I mean a blend of different dry spices rubbed all over a whole chicken, it’s delicious because the spices create a smoky, savory crust but it can get very messy while prepping it because you’re rubbing the spice mixture all over a propped up ( on a beer can) and vertical whole chicken.

 

spice encrusted chicken

In this version you’re using the same spice mix and placing it on top of the skin of the thighs, which results in that same crispy, smoky, savory crust and it takes about a half an hour or so to cook in your oven!

So grab some peaches when you see them, and of course you can sub in the classic yellow peach or even some sweet nectarines if you want, but if you do happen to come across some white peaches I hope you give them a try.

Sweet and spicy is always such a perfect combination!

5.0 from 1 reviews
Spice Encrusted Chicken Thighs With White Peaches
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 6 bone in skin on chicken thighs
  • 5 peaches, pit removed cut into quarters
  • SPICE MIX
  • 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon each of oregano and thyme
  • ½ teaspoon each of granulated garlic, onion and salt
  • ¼ teaspoons fresh black pepper
  • fresh basil for garnish
  • olive oil
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 450 F.
  2. Mix up your spice blend in a small bowl and have it ready to go.
  3. Drizzle the bottom of a baking dish with olive oil.
  4. Place thighs in pan, skin side up and brush top with olive oil.
  5. Spoon the spice mix on top of each thigh covering the skin completely and using all the mix.
  6. Do a quick drizzle on top of each thigh.
  7. If you can, let it sit for 15 minutes or so to permeate the meat.
  8. Place pan into the oven and roast for 15 minutes then take out pan and place the cut peaches all around, then back into the oven for another 15 to 20 minutes or until temp insides reaches 165 to 170.
  9. The crispier the better, so a few minutes more won't hurt it at all, if using thighs.
  10. Let it rest for 10 minutes then garnish with a generous amount of fresh basil.
  11. Enjoy!

 

 

 

Signature

How To Grill An Herb Stuffed Pork Loin

pork roast

Grilling season is in full force and Father’s Day is just around the corner and so you might be thinking of something special to make, may I suggest grilling a pork loin. A pork loin is excellent to make on the grill if you’re having a small or large group, you can feed a crowd with a pork roast being the main course and then just  have some wonderful side dishes to serve along side it.

A pork loin has a much richer flavor because of the marbling throughout, as opposed to a very lean pork tenderloin.

A grilled pork loin that’s smothered with fresh herbs inside and out is easier than you think to make, plus it can be stuffed, rolled and tied a day ahead or hours before which makes for a stress free day of entertaining.

grilled pork roast

 

Ask your butcher what size roast you should get according to the amount of people that you’ll will be serving. Look for a pinkish red color when picking your fresh roast and one with some marbling, because as we know, fat = flavor.

herb paste

I used three herbs for my rub, sage, rosemary and thyme along with garlic and olive oil of course!

herb filled pork roast

If you have a smaller roast, two to three pounds, you can cut it down the center, lengthwise with a sharp knife, being very careful not to go all the way and cut through the bottom, then gently open it up like a book.

Cover the meat with plastic wrap and beat it all over with a meat mallet until it’s about a half inch thickness. If you have a larger roast, four to five pounds, you’ll have to be a little more precise in opening it up.  Here’s a good visual for details on the cutting.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s2Vl78vJMJ8

rolled and tied pork roast

It’s best to get the roast all prepped and ready for the grill ahead of time so all the flavors can marinate together as it sits in the fridge.

 

herb filled roastgrilled roast

The smell when it’s grilling is out of this world, your neighbors will be so jealous!

grilled pork roast

Each bite is jam packed with flavor and the pork retains all it’s juices.

Happy Grilling!

How To Grill An Herb Stuffed Pork Loin
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 3 lb. fresh pork loin
  • meat mallet
  • butchers twine
  • a small handful each of rosemary, sage and thyme plus extra branches for decorating the roast, and your platter.
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
Instructions
  1. To Make your herb paste:
  2. On a cutting board or a small food processor place the herbs, garlic, a pinch of salt and pepper.
  3. Chop or pulsing the herb mix then drizzle in some olive until the mixture becomes a loose paste, set aside.
  4. To open up the pork loin take a sharp knife and cut down the center, being care not to cut all the way through.
  5. Open the roast up like you do a book.
  6. (If roast is bigger, refer to the youtube link I provided in the post, and double the herb mixture.)
  7. Lay some plastic wrap on top of opened meat.
  8. Take your meat mallet and pound all over the surface, you want it to be about a half inch thick all around.
  9. Remove plastic wrap and smear all over the surface, reserving enough for the outside of the roast.
  10. Have your butchers twine cut and ready to tie the meat
  11. Now roll up the meat as close and tight as you can and secure it with the twine in 2 inch intervals.
  12. Rub the outside all over with remaining herb mixture and add a branch of each herb under one tie.
  13. At this point you can place in a fridge overnight or you can place in fridge for a couple of hours before grilling, you want the flavors to mingle for a while.
  14. FOR A GAS GRILL
  15. Take roast out of the fridge at least 30 minutes before grilling.
  16. Sear both sides on a medium high flame for a few minutes then lower it down to medium, around 350 until internal temp reaches 140. You will have to move it from time to time checking it and watching your temp but other than that it's hands free, and of course cover your grill.
  17. Remove roast and let it rest under loose foil for 15 minutes.
  18. Cut the twine off and it's ready to slice!

 

Signature

Roasted Eggplant Artichoke and White Bean Dip

creamy dip

If you’re looking for an easy and delicious appetizer or snack to serve up this summer, I have just the thing! My roasted eggplant, artichoke and white bean dip.

This wonderful dip is like an Italian version of hummus.

It’s full of flavor and quite healthy and comes together quickly using canned cannellini beans and a jar of marinated artichoke hearts, with no tahini required! ( I never was a fan).

 

pricked eggplant

The only cooking you’ll be doing is roasting your eggplant, this can be done a day ahead of time, just pierce the skin and roast it whole.

roasted eggplant

The eggplant will eventually collapse and become soft, when it cools down you’ll be able to slice and scoop out the nice creamy flesh inside, which is a key component in your dip along with the artichoke hearts, white beans.

dip

Perfect for entertaining with a beverage of your choice. Serve it swiped on crusty bread, crackers or even veggies.

Follow me on Instagram to see what else I’m cooking up during the week.

Roasted Eggplant Artichoke and White Bean Dip
 
An easy to make summer dip, snack or appetizer!
Author:
Ingredients
  • 2 medium/ small eggplant left whole, roasted with flesh scooped out
  • 1 jar of marinated artichoke hearts, drained
  • 1 can of cannellini beans, drained
  • 1 or 2 small garlic cloves
  • small handful each of basil and parsley
  • ¼ cup olive oil, extra for top garnish
  • lemon zest
  • a small pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
  • Small jar of roasted red peppers drained, which you will use for garnish only
  • TO GARNISH THE TOP
  • a few olives
  • a swipe of roasted red pepper paste easily made by draining a jar of roasted red peppers and swirling them in a food processor into a thick consistency.
  • olive oil
  • extra chopped herbs
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375
  2. Line a baking sheet with foil.
  3. Poke fork holes all around the whole eggplant skin, then roast until eggplant is soft and collapsed.
  4. Let the eggplant cool down and then scoop out the flesh.
  5. In a food processor add the artichoke hearts, the beans, the eggplant pulp, olive oil, basil, parsley, garlic cloves, lemon zest and pulse slowly to desired consistency. ( I like to see some of the artichoke bits). Taste for salt and pepper.
  6. Place dip into a serving bowl and make a swirl on top with a small spoon, drizzle in some olive oil into the swirl, add the red color of the roasted red pepper.
  7. Sprinkle with herbs.
  8. Serve with toasted bread, crackers or veggies

 

Signature

Roasted Pepper Salad with Castelvetrano Olives

roasted peppers

You’re in for a real treat when you make this smoky flamed roasted pepper salad. It tastes nothing like the peppers that you can buy in a jar, not in the least!

The salad is sweet as well as smoky with just a few ingredients such as garlic, olive oil and herbs, and it’s perfectly accompanied by buttery, mild and lightly brined Castelvetrano olives.   Aaah… Have you ever tried them? Even olive haters are won over by their incredible taste.

blistering peppers

To start out making this you have to prepare the peppers. The skin has to be removed by charring all the sides and it can be done a few different ways.

Blistering the skin takes a little time and you don’t want to hurry the process.

You can use a grill pan inside, a grill outside or you can even place them directly onto the burner of your gas stove while the flame is going.

broiler blistering peppers

Another way which is pretty easy, especially if you’re making quite a few is to stick them onto a foil lined baking sheet and place the pan right under the broiler. Any of the methods you chose you have to be watchful with constant turning making sure all sides of the peppers are blistering.

You’ll know when they’re done, they’ll feel tender to the touch with charring all around.

covered peppers

Then you’re going to place them into a bowl putting plastic wrap over the top so they can steam a bit while they’re still hot, maybe 15 minutes.

seeding peppers

When they cool down the outer skin will peel right off, if you need a little help grab hold with a paper towel. You’ll be left with the meat of the pepper.

Open up the pepper and scrape out the seeds, you might have a few lingering but that’s ok. Now all you have to do is cut them into slices.

peppers and olives

Now here’s the easy part. Grab a bowl, add the sliced peppers and start adding in the rest of your ingredients.

roasted pepper salad

For six peppers I added roughly a third cup of olive oil, 4 finely chopped garlic cloves, a good handful of chopped parsley, ( you could add basil too)  salt and pepper to taste and a generous amount of Castelvetrano olives. Some people add in capers, pine nuts, garbanzo beans.

I say add what you like but I’m more of a purist and want those olives to shine through all the way.

Keep in mind the flavor just enhances the more it sits and marinates all together. So as the saying goes, the more it sits the better it gets!

 

roasted pepper crostini

Grab a platter and serve up this beautiful, colorful pepper salad as a side to anything you put on the grill, or simply served as a crostini on some crusty bread.

Simplicity at it’s best!

Signature

Memorial Day Weekend Grilling Ideas

veggie kabobs

It’s time to bust out your grills, Memorial Day weekend is around the corner and it’s the start of warm weather and enjoying the outside, and quite frankly I’m tired of comfort foods I’m ready for some serious grilling!

Honesty this post could go on for days because there are so many meals you can make on the grill. Pizza is always fun and so is paella and who doesn’t love a good old clambake on the grill!

Today I’m going to focus on a few of my good old standbys, ones that I make throughout the summer. Starting out with rainbow colored veggie kabobs.

Just skewer your favorite veggies together, I love adding chunks of portobello mushrooms on mine. I usually use wooden skewers that have been soaked in water for a couple of hours so as not to burn, if you have metal skewers, even better.

grilled kabob

I usually do a simple olive oil, salt and pepper that’s brushed all over mine I like the individual veggie flavors to really shine through. I have a basil infused olive oil that I sometimes drizzle over them at the end when plated, simple and delicious!

meat kabob

To go along with the veggie kabobs you might as well do some meat ones. I usually do sirloin steak and chicken breast sprinkled with dry herbs and olive oil of course. I have a Greek seasoning that I love to use but I’ve also done some wet marinades as well, like teriyaki.

That’s the fun part just make them the way you want.

grilled meat kabob

You really don’t use a lot of meat when making kabobs because there’s always some type of veggie stuck in between, so they’re very economical to make and great for a party. Yes, they’re a little time consuming to put together, but all that can be done a day ahead.

kabobs

They’re so pretty on a platter and everyone seems to love them, make a couple of sides and you’re good to go.

planked salmon

I love doing fish on the grill, in fact I prefer it. I often make a cedar planked piece of  gorgeous salmon. Again I’m mostly a dry rub girl, the one I used here had a mix of brown sugar, onion, garlic, paprika, cilantro, smoked salt, chipotle and some other spices, but again make it your own, just be sure to soak your planks for a couple of hours so they don’t burn up on the grill.

I’ve even done a whole sheet pan full of cod with tomatoes, olives, lemons, capers and other spices out on the grill which is super simple to do with amazing flavor.

grilled shrimp

Grilled shrimp always a favorite, for this I make a simple marinade of olive oil, fresh chopped garlic, lemon zest, salt, pepper and fresh chopped parsley. Large shrimp is best to use so that you can put them directly onto the grill grates to get all that good charred flavor.

grilled shrimp

Served with lemon slices these shrimp on the barbie always disappear!

grilled meats

Steaks, ribs, burgers and grilled chicken are all front runners in the grilling department.

sausage and peppers

In my family you can count on Italian sausage on the grill always making a reoccurring appearance, tossed with peppers of course.

grilled veggie tray

If you don’t want to skewer your veggies just grill up a whole bunch of your favorite and arrange them on a platter, a healthy and delicious side to any of your grilled meats or fish.

pasta salad

Throw in a good pasta salad or two, this one has a mix of artichoke hearts, garbanzo beans, olives, tomatoes, red peppers, cucumber, red onion, spinach and feta.

pasta caprese salad

Or do this simple caprese pasta salad. Chop up your tomatoes and let them sit with olive oil and garlic til the juices run out and mingle together, then toss into your cooked pasta and add fresh chopped mozzarella with fresh basil.

potato salad

If you prefer a potato salad, here’s one I posted made with fingerling potatoes and a honey, lemon and Dijon vinaigrette.

Most of us will be homebound this summer so we might as well make the best of it, enjoying our outdoor spaces, nice weather along with good food and drink!

Happy grilling!

Signature

Chicken Parmigiana with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

chicken parmigiana

Chicken parmigiana is an intensely flavored dish of crispy, crunchy chicken topped with warm, oozing melted cheese and then garnished with the luscious flavor of roasted cherry tomatoes.

roasted cherry tomatoes

It all begins with a pan of roasted cherry tomatoes, I’m obsessed with roasting tomatoes, I’ve been doing it for years and you can’t beat the flavor.

I like to line my pan with foil so none of the juices dry up and burn, you want every single drop. I always add shaved garlic into the pan and toss in some fresh basil along with dousing the tomatoes with olive oil, salt and pepper.

You’ll want to roast the tomatoes until they burst open and release their juices so that they all mingle together with the garlic and basil flavors.

You can prepare the tomatoes early in the day,  just warm them up before using.

cooking cutlets

Then you want to cook up your chicken. Sometimes I can find thinly cut chicken cutlets but more often I just trim my own by slicing a breast longways into two or three pieces, then you’ll want to pound then flat for even cooking.

The chicken cutlets are dipped in egg first then into a mix of panko breadcrumbs, grated parmesan, granulated garlic, fresh snipped parsley and a touch of paprika.

chicken cutlets

Pan fried in olive oil will give you a nice crunchy crust. Be sure to place them on a rack to keep that crunch after frying, otherwise the bottom might get soggy and believe me you don’t want soggy chicken parmigiana!

parmigiana

Then plop a slab of fresh mozzarella on top, stick the cutlets under the broiler just until the cheese starts to melt. Pull the chicken cutlets out and top them with the warm roasted tomatoes, this is a heavenly combo!

Make this anytime of the week, prepare the tomatoes ahead, then everything else will take no time at all!

5.0 from 3 reviews
Chicken Parmigiana with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes
 
No exact measurements, it will depend on how many cutlets you have. Just mix up your breadcrumb mixture as you go. Start out with 2 eggs.
Author:
Ingredients
  • chicken cutlets, sliced thin and pounded flat
  • ROASTED TOMATOES
  • at least 2 pints of cherry tomatoes
  • 2 or 3 shaved garlic cloves
  • fresh torn basil
  • olive oil
  • BREADCRUMB MIXTURE
  • panko breadcrumbs
  • granulated garlic
  • fresh chopped parsley
  • a handful of grated parmesan
  • paprika
  • 2 eggs scrambled
  • slices of fresh mozzarella
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400F.
  2. Prepare your tomatoes on a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil. throw on the tomatoes, shaved garlic, salt, pepper and torn basil, douse with a generous amount of olive oil.
  3. Roast tomatoes until they burst and juices mingle with the olive oil.
  4. Set up your breadcrumb mixture and scrambled eggs.
  5. Dip cutlets into egg first then into crumb mixture then directly into a pan with the bottom coated with olive oil.
  6. Cook cutlets on both sides til golden brown with no pink inside.
  7. Place cooked cutlets onto a rack to stay crispy.
  8. Place the cheese on top then under the broiler just until it melts slightly.
  9. Remove and place them on a platter and spoon the warm, garlicky roasted tomatoes on top.
  10. Garnish with more basil.
  11. Enjoy

 

Signature

Linguine and Zucchini On Your Table In Minutes

pasta with veggies

We all need a quick go to meal, one that we can put together in minutes without much thought. This recipe uses ingredients that are very inexpensive and easy to find but when put together tastes like a million bucks!

Linguine and zucchini, a match made in heaven, but truth be told you can really use any shape of pasta for this dish, use what you have and like, you can’t go wrong.

Zucchini coins that are pan fried in olive oil gives you the flavor base along with toasted breadcrumbs, pecorino cheese, parsley and toasty nuts and of course my choice, good old fashioned toothsome linguine pasta.

pasta and veggie

Fry up as many zucchini you like, you’d be surprised how many slices you get from just one good sized zucchini. You can go heavy on the veg and light on the pasta amount, or visa versa, it’s up to you.

fried zucchini

When you pan fry the zucchini it goes really fast, it doesn’t take long before you’ll get a nice golden brown color on them. The time it takes you to boil the water you’ll be done with the frying.

 

linguine with vegetables

This is such a satisfying and comforting dish quick to make for mid week or the weekend, I hope you make this linguine and zucchini for your family!

5.0 from 2 reviews
Linguine and Zucchini On Your Table In Minutes
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • Linguine pasta, or any other of your choice, ½ lb. or 1 lb. However much you want to make
  • 1 or 2 zucchini, medium sized sliced into coins
  • 2 shaved garlic cloves
  • a generous handful of toasted walnuts, grated Pecorino or Parmesan along with breadcrumbs, preferably homemade
  • chopped parsley
  • red pepper flakes, (optional)
  • olive oil
Instructions
  1. In a frying pan cover the bottom with olive oil and start frying your zucchini coins, sprinkle with salt and pepper and set aside on paper towels to drain.
  2. Have your salted pasta water going while you’re frying up the zucchini.
  3. When done frying the zucchini, add more oil to the bottom of the pan and toss in the shaved garlic, the toasted nuts and the breadcrumbs, everything should be golden and toasty.
  4. Cook your pasta Al dente, reserve some hot pasta water then drain the pasta and toss it into the pan with the breadcrumb mixture.
  5. Gently toss in half of your zucchini coins, combining well.
  6. If you feel you need to loosen things up add in some of the pasta water.
  7. You can then toss in your parsley, check for seasoning adding salt, pepper, more cheese and maybe an extra drizzle of olive oil, it's up to your taste buds.
  8. Place pasta into your serving dish and top with the remaining zucchini coins for a nice presentation along with a sprinkling of nuts and more parsley.

 

Signature

White Pasta Fagioli

white pasta fagioli

I don’t know about you but I’m still seeking out comfort foods, especially soup. On a rainy, dreary April day this white pasta fagioli is just what you need!

It’s nice to make a big pot and have it ready to heat up for lunch during the week, it’s so comforting and I know we can all use some comfort right now.

Let’s talk about the white version of pasta fagioli or “pasta fazool”which I grew up calling it. You won’t find any tomatoes in this version at all and although I love the tomatoey version, the white is hands down my absolute favorite!

making soup

There’s something about the smokey bacon flavor that goes so well with the beans, garlic, celery and onions, ( yes I use bacon). You could use pancetta if you like, but I prefer using bacon.

No elaborate ingredients go into this dish, in fact probably have some of the pantry items already, boxed stock, pasta and cannellini beans as well as celery, grated cheese, onions and garlic, staples you might have in your fridge.

beans and bacon

This actually takes no time at all to make, before you know it you’ll be enjoying a hot steamy bowl right in front of you, with some crusty bread I hope!

white fagioli

It’s so satisfying and it has that feel good flavor, I hope you find comfort in every bite!

5.0 from 2 reviews
White Pasta Fagioli
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 4 slices smokey bacon, medium dice
  • 3 celery stalks, diced
  • ½ white onion, diced
  • 4 chopped garlic cloves
  • 1 large can cannellini beans, 1 lb. 13 oz or 2 regular sized cans, drain half of the liquid
  • ½ lb. of ditalini pasta or something similar that size
  • a handful chopped parsley
  • a generous handful of grated parmesan cheese
  • chicken stock in a box, or homemade if you have it, not quite a whole quart or depending on desired thickness
  • a pinch of red pepper flakes to taste
  • black pepper and salt to taste
  • olive oil
Instructions
  1. Drizzle olive oil in the bottom of a heavy pot to cover.
  2. Cook the diced bacon until it gets slightly, crispy golden.
  3. If it's too greasy, remove and drain on paper towel, wipe out pan and add more olive oil and return the cooked bacon.
  4. Toss in the the garlic, onion and celery, cook til it softens, add in your red pepper flakes to taste (optional).
  5. Throw in the beans with the remaining liquid in the cans.
  6. Stir well, then pour in the chicken stock.
  7. Get it to a boil then simmer it for 15 to 20 minutes, it should thicken to the right consistency on its own, if it doesn't thicken enough I take my immersion blender and do a quick blitz on the side, not too much, just enough to puree some of the beans to act as a thickener.
  8. In the meantime boil the pasta on the side, a’dente then drain it.
  9. Turn off heat when soup is finished, add a big handful of grated parmesan and chopped parsley.
  10. Add a little bit of the pasta, reserving most of it for your individual bowls, this way the pasta won't blow up in the hot soup and you can take as much as you want for your bowl.
  11. Taste for seasoning on everything.
  12. Ladle into bowls adding a drizzle of olive oil, more cheese, black and red pepper.
  13. Enjoy!

 

 

Signature

Pizza Night At Home, Who Needs Delivery!

Pizza art

Nothing beats the smell of freshly made pizza cooking in the oven and it’s easier to make than you think. You might have a favorite handed down pizza dough recipe from your family, I know I do but honestly I hardly ever use it these days.

Good quality ready made pizza dough can be easy to find nowadays. You can find it in Italian markets, grocery stores and even your local pizzeria will sell you some.

I usually buy a few balls of dough and stick them in my freezer so I have them readily available when we feel like pizza night at home, you can do the same with your homemade dough if you make it ahead and freeze it. I’ll usually take the dough out of the freezer in the morning, as it sits it will defrost but then more importantly it comes to room temperature which makes it very pliable and easy to roll out.

The above photo was a pizza I recently made which was really fun to do and it tasted amazing, I call it pizza art. This pizza needs no sauce or cheese.

  1. I always start out coating my pans with olive oil on the bottom and sides, then I sprinkle the bottoms with a light dusting of cornmeal or polenta.
  2. I used a quarter sheet pan for this with a heated oven at 450F.
  3. Place 1 pound of dough into the pan and make dimple marks all over with the tips of your fingers.
  4. Drizzled olive oil all over making sure it falls into the dimple indentions.
  5. All the vegetables I used in the photo above were uncooked, I also added olives and very thin sliced potatoes.
  6. Drizzle the top of the veggies with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, maybe red pepper, oregano whatever you want.
  7. Bake til golden brown on bottom and sides, maybe 15 minutes or so but ovens do vary so keep an eye on it!

white pizza

One of my personal favorite types of pizza to make is this white pizza with garlic sautéed spinach, oh it’s so delicious!

The topping has no red sauce but rather a mix of ricotta, shredded mozzarella and parmesan cheese and you really don’t need a lot! I also take a nice handful of fresh spinach and wilt it down in a sauté pan with some garlic flavored olive oil, then cool it down and squeeze it til no moisture is clinging onto it.

  • This pizza was made using  1/2 pound of dough, rolled to fit a 15 inch round pizza pan.
  • Prep the pan with olive oil all over and a dusting of cornmeal or polenta on the bottom, preheat oven to 500F.
  • Mix together 1 cup each of ricotta and shredded mozzarella, add in a good handful of grated parmesan cheese.
  • Pre- cook dough for 5 minutes in hot oven, only 5! Then take it out, push it down if it bubbled up and spread the ricotta mixture all over the warm top, then arrange your spinach all around.
  • Bake for around 12 – 15 minutes till golden on bottom and sides. (ovens do vary).

pizza ingredients

When I use red sauce on a pizza I make a simple and light sauce which doesn’t overpower the ingredients but rather enhances them.

  • Open a 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes, a good Italian brand.
  • Right into the can add 1 tablespoon of olive oil, 1 small smashed garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon dried oregano, and an optional pinch of red pepper flakes.
  • Stir it up and that’s it, it’s ready to use!

sausage pizza

My husbands favorite combination on pizza is cheese, sausage, mushroom and onions. The pan and the pre-cooking of the dough was exactly the same as above pizza. By precooking the dough for the 5 minutes it gives the bottom a head start on a nice crispy crust.

sausage pizza

  • The sausage was removed from the casing then browned so there was no visible pink.
  • Spread your fresh sauce on top, then shredded mozzarella, onions, sliced mushrooms, dotting the cooked sausage all around.
  • A quick drizzle all over with olive oil, you can add fresh basil or dried oregano whatever you have.
  • Into the 500 degree oven for around 15 minutes or so.

 

Italian beef pizza

If you’re from Chicago then you’re very familiar with a very popular sandwich here called the Italian beef. It’s thinly sliced beef in a highly seasoned Au Jus, it’s usually served with sweet peppers on top, and hot giardiniera  on the side. It’s excellent and you can also put all the components on a pizza!

  1. Same as above, precook dough on nicely oiled pan for 5 minutes, spread red sauce, then cheese, thin slices of beef and slightly sautéed peppers.
  2. In 15 minutes or so remove and drizzle on the giardiniera on your individual piece.

 

nutella pizza

And let’s not forget dessert! You can make a Nutella pizza and it is sinfully delicious! You may think cooked pizza dough with Nutella on it? Don’t think twice just do it!

I did a step by step post on it here, so check out how it’s done. Feel free to top it with berries of your choice or sliced bananas topped with nuts, you can’t go wrong with any of it!

Enjoy having pizza night at home, it’s inexpensive, it uses few ingredients, it’s so easy to do and the kids can even get involved.

Like I said, you may never order delivery again!

Follow me on Instagram to see what else I’m cooking up during the week.

Signature

Easter Sprinkle Chocolate Dipped Macaroons

sprinkle macaroons

Easter will be quite different for all of us this year but we can still try and make the best of it. I’m thankful for FaceTime, Zoom and all the other video apps where we can chat and connect with family and friends as often as we want while we all hunker down in our homes and pray for this virus to end.

The fact is Easter is around the corner and there are still ways we can make it special. If you’re looking for a super easy and fun sweet treat to make, one that doesn’t require a bunch of ingredients and one that your kids could help you make and eat, try these colorful, sprinkle, chocolate dipped macaroons!

 

coconut and sprinkles

Cute little sprinkles in pastel colors is a pop of brightness after a long winter and it is very spring like.

egg shaped macaroons

This recipe comes from Molly Yeh but I put my spin on it by shaping them into Easter eggs and using pastel sprinkles, but you can certainly use whatever colored sprinkles you have and just scoop them out into round mounds if you like.

egg shaped coconut cookies

And just a note, if you think you might not care for sprinkles in your macaroons, I urge you to take a bite of these, I was hooked!

rack of cookies

They’re soft and chewy in the middle and crisp and toasty on the outside and finished off with a nice dip into chocolate!

chocolate dipped

Just a few ingredients are required and some you probably already have in your pantry, like a jar of sprinkles, a can of sweetened condensed milk, a bag of  chocolate chips and coconut.

single macaroon

Whatever your own spin is on these cookies I know you’ll love them! Who doesn’t love cookies and especially ones with sprinkles!

plated macaroons

Have a blessed Easter, wishing you all safety and good health with the hope that we’ll all be reunited with our loved ones soon.

Follow me on Instagram to see what else I’m cooking up during the week.

Easter Sprinkle Chocolate Dipped Macaroons
 
This recipe is adapted from Molly Yeh's Sprinkle Macaroon's
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 teaspoons, vanilla
  • ½ teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 14 oz. bag sweetened shredded coconut
  • 2 large egg whites
  • ¼ t, salt
  • ¼ cup pastel sprinkles or rainbow of any color, more for topping each cookie
  • 3 oz. of chocolate chips or any kind for melting
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 f. Line a baking sheet with parchment
  2. In a large bowl add the condensed milk, vanilla and almond extract. Mix in the shredded coconut and set aside.
  3. In a separate bowl beat the egg whites with the salt until stiff peaks form.
  4. Fold the egg whites into the coconut mixture and then gently fold in the ¼ cup of sprinkles.
  5. Scoop out about a 2" ball and shape it into an egg, or if not shaping into egg just leave it as that.
  6. Place onto baking sheet 1" apart and sprinkle the tops with more sprinkles.
  7. Bake until golden brown, check at about 18 minutes, remove from oven, let it cool for a few minutes then transfer to a wire rack.
  8. Melt your chocolate in the microwave at 30 second increments, stirring til smooth.
  9. Dip the bottoms of the macaroons into the melted chocolate and place back on parchment.
  10. Let the chocolate on the cookies cool completely at room temperature or in the fridge.
  11. These can be. stored in the fridge for up to a week and still be fresh and delicious!

 

 

Signature

16 Inspiring Frittatas with Helpful Tips and Tricks

breakfast frittata

Frittatas have always been a regular staple in my house, for as long as I can remember my whole married life I’ve been making them. Over the years my technique has evolved and I probably can make them in my sleep now.

What I like about frittatas is that they make a hearty breakfast, they can become an amazing brunch, a very satisfying lunch and a casual and light dinner.

Right now as I write this we are all living in uncharted waters, trying to navigate our lives through this horrible virus that’s attacking the earth. We want to nurture our loved ones and cooking is one of the ways to do that.

Frittatas don’t take a lot of energy to make, and in times of stress that’s a good thing. You don’t need to go out and buy fancy ingredients, in fact you’d be surprised how little you actually need. The key ingredients would be of course eggs, maybe some leftover veggies you don’t want to waste or some odds and ends of cheese wrapped up in the fridge. All these things can be transformed into an amazing meal to feed your family.

I hope to give you some inspiration with some of the ingredients I’ve used. The above frittata was made with a yellow pepper, cherry tomatoes, prosciutto, fontina and pecorino.

 

caprese frittata

My caprese frittata made here with the three basics ingredients of tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and fresh basil, I could eat this anytime of the day.

squash and sausage

Keep in mind if you make these throughout the year like I do, no doubt you’ll be using seasonal veggies as well.

This frittata is a hearty meal of pre-cooked crumbled Italian sausage, roasted butternut squash, a handful of spinach, pecorino and shredded mozzarella.

artichoke and asparagus

I actually made this one the other day with some leftover cooked artichoke hearts that I had, a few stalks of roasted asparagus with some cherry tomatoes.

One ingredient constant in all my frittatas is grated pecorino, to me its like Emeril’s ”BAM !”

tomato feta

This one has a Greek flavor profile with feta cheese, red onion and tomato wedges, feta is fantastic in frittatas!

delicata squash

I love squash and delicata squash is no exception, I make it during the fall and winter a lot by roasting it, and always have leftovers. Here it is with roasted cauliflower and spinach. This time I used cheddar with a mix of mozzarella and pecorino of course, because what can I say, it just enhances the whole frittata!

Oh and yes you can eat the delicate skin on the squash!

 

sheet pan frittata

My go to pan is always an oven safe skillet, mostly 10 inch, sometimes 12 inch but I’ve also made them in a quarter sheet pan which is fun. You can have fun creating a little scene with all the veggies, great if you’re feeding a group, just double the egg amount.

This one is filled with fresh roasted asparagus, a handful of frozen peas, red onion, herbs, cherry tomatoes with pecorino and mozzarella.

spring veg

I call this my spring frittata, it has beautiful melted brie cheese with shaved asparagus, peas and cherry tomatoes. The shaved asparagus gives it a really special look and it tastes amazing!

zucchini feta

Pan sautéed zucchini coins with cherry tomatoes, goat cheese, pecorino and cheddar.

brussel bacon

Hearty and delicious roasted brussels sprouts leaves with cooked chopped bacon, mozzarella and pecorino.

heirloom tomato

When tomato season is here remember this frittata made with sliced heirlooms, cheddar, pecorino and basil.

zucchini flowers

I look forward to making this when delicate zucchini blossoms start to appear along with sautéed zucchini coins, pecorino, basil and fresh mozzarella.

 

spiralized

Speaking of zucchini, this frittata is made with spiralized zucchini, fresh herbs, tomato slices, mozzarella, pecorino and shaved parm on top. 

pepper rings

Roasted mini colored peppers with peas, pecorino and mozzarella with a green salad plopped on top, which by the way is a fun way to eat a frittata.

I often mix up some arugula with just lemon and olive oil and plop it on top of mine.

 

broccolini

Roasted broccolini with red pepper, mushrooms, fresh mozzarella and pecorino.

 

shiitake mushrooms

And lastly an earthy frittata made with shiitake mushrooms, goat cheese and spinach, feel free to use any mushroom you have, leaving some whole for a nice presentation.

HERE ARE SOME OF MY TIPS AND TRICKS FOR MAKING FOOL PROOF FRITTATAS.

  • Always use an oven proof skillet ( 10 inch if you want it thicker, 12 inch if you want it thinner)
  • Have pre-cooked fillings ready ( you can use frozen veggies if that’s all you have, just saute them in a little olive oil for flavor)
  • Use fresh tomatoes and herbs
  • Use various cheeses of your choice ( cheddar, mozzarella, fresh or shredded, brie, feta, fontina, gouda, you get the picture)
  • Use 6 eggs scrambled with a dash of water from the tap ( I never use milk or cream in my frittatas)
  • Start out by drizzling olive oil in the bottom of your pan, if using onions start out sauteing them first then place your veggies all around the way you want your frittata to look, sort of like painting on a canvas.
  • Pour your scrambled eggs gently over the tops of your veg.
  • Heat should be medium lowish
  • Sprinkle with grated pecorino or parmesan
  • Add some salt and black pepper

Heat up your broiler.

When the eggs start to set a little it’s time for the broiler, so shut the flame off the stove. At this time I like to take some tongs and gently lift up some of my vegetables, otherwise they all get buried under the egg mixture and you won’t have a pretty presentation or see any of the veg popping out.

Next you want to strategically place whatever cheese you’re using all around trying not to bury everything, then add maybe a quick drizzle of olive oil and some more pecorino.

Speaking of broiler, I always finish my frittatas under the broiler, I’m not a flipper, I prefer the presentation you achieve from using the broiler.

One important note; don’t leave the broiler! keep opening the door to see how golden it’s getting, ovens vary so don’t leave the scene! You want a nice golden color from the melted cheese.

Test the center to see if any egg runs, if so put it back in for a few seconds.

Take it out and let it rest for 5 or 10 minutes, garnish with herbs if you like.

Frittatas can be eaten warm, at room temperature, or cold right from the fridge.

To round out the meal even more you can add some crusty bread and a salad.

Enjoy!

Follow me on Instagram to see what else I’m cooking up during the week.

 

Signature

10 Inspiring Easter Desserts

limoncello tiramisu

Are you looking for some inspiration while planning for your Easter dessert? Well here are 10 of my favorites! Each and very one I have made for family and friends and all have been a big hit!

Let’s start out with this dreamy Limoncello Tiramisu. It’s bright and delicious and the perfect ending to a great meal. This particular recipe can be made in individual parfait glasses or in a 9×13 inch pan like featured above, all you have to do is double the recipe!

cannoli pie

Cannoli Pie, I call it a pie because it’s actually a take on another Easter pie that I make.

This special dessert is made in a spring form pan which allows you to press broken cannoli shells easily against the wall of the pan in forming the crust. You can  make it a day ahead then adorn the top with all things cannoli, like pistachios, mini chocolate chips and powdered sugar.

easter cookies

Italian Anise Cookies, these are a staple in many Italian homes, usually made often for any type of celebration and holidays. The nice thing about these cookies is the fact that you can decorate them according to whatever occasion it is.

The pastel colors scream winter is gone and spring is upon us! I promise they’ll be the perfect addition to your Easter table.

olive oil cake

Olive Oil Chardonnay Pound Cake with Citrus Vanilla Glaze. This recipe has been on my blog since 2013 and I have to say I have a weakness for this cake.

This pound cake has a bright and bold flavorful glaze that mixes three different citrus zests together, and the texture of the cake is amazing, plus I think it gives a pretty awesome presentation.

Easter Lamb cake

Easter Lamb Cake. Lamb cakes have been a tradition for years and years at Easter time. Yes, you can buy them at bakeries and grocery stores around the holiday, but have you ever wanted to make your own?

I had a dear friend show me step by step how she makes her old school recipe which she’s been making for over 50 years! Get the kids involved in the decorating it would be a nice tradition to start in your own family as well.

Check out her delicious pound cake recipe that she uses.

 

strawberry tiramisu

Strawberry Tiramisu, I love a rich and creamy tiramisu. You can change up the berries using which ones that you like or even do a mixed berry version.

I have a confession to make, I never make my tiramisu with raw eggs, I prefer it without.

limoncello tart

Limoncello Tart. ( Can you tell I love Limoncello?) This one has a crust that’s made with crushed amaretti cookies and it’s served with a blueberry sauce on the side.

It’s an amazing combination and a real show stopper!

ricotta cookies

Triple Zested Ricotta Cookies. Flavors of lemon, orange and lime are tasted through out every bite of this cookie.

They’ll look nice and pretty set out on your Easter dessert table, everyone loves a ricotta cookie, so light and refreshing!

Easter rice pie

Easter Italian Rice Pie with Rum Soaked Raisins. Arborio rice and soaked rum raisins nestled in with a mix of mascarpone and ricotta.

My little twist uses a phyllo crust which is very forgiving.  The contrast between the creamy and the crunchy is out of this world good!

A very traditional Easter dessert with a little updated twist.

Lemon knot cookies

Anginetti, Italian Lemon Knot Cookies. This cookie goes by many names but one thing that remains the same is the taste. Intense lemon flavor with a soft texture to the bite. Another special occasion cookie and just perfect for Easter time.

I hope I’ve given you some inspiration with some of these Easter dessert options.

Follow me on Instagram to see what else I’m cooking up during the week.

Signature

Fingerling Potato Salad with Honey, Lemon and Djon Vinaigrette

potato salad

Easter is around the corner and I can’t think of a better side dish to have sitting next to your Easter ham. It’s a potato salad made with those pretty colored fingerling potatoes. It showcases a special creamy vinaigrette made with honey, lemon and Djon.  The vinaigrette is the perfect compliment to the fingerlings because their light and mild flesh makes the flavors easy to absorb.

The flavors are bright and slightly tangy with a lighter version of a traditional potato salad. This salad can safely sit out and be served at room temperature because it’s made without mayonnaise, so keep this potato salad in mind for future BBQ’s, parties and picnics.

fingerling potato salad

Adding hard boiled eggs, your favorite olives, parsley and sliced green onions round out all the flavors in this hearty potato salad.

fingerling potatoes

Seek out fingerlings that are about the same size because you want them all to cook evenly together, sometimes you’ll see some larger ones in the mix.

boiling potatoes

Fingerlings boil up fast so be careful not to overcook them. You want the tip of a knife to go through easily but not so much so that the potato falls apart when poking it.  Be mindful of that, so keep checking for doneness so they don’t fall apart and get mushy.

honey mustard sauce

The vinaigrette is dreamy, you might want to double the recipe and have extra in the fridge so you can use it for a bunch of other dishes!

balsamic pearls

A while ago I ordered these balsamic pearls on line but never got around to using them, since they were lemon flavored I thought they would be a nice addition to this potato salad. This is totally optional, no need to add it to the recipe at all, but they are sort of fun!

fingerling potato salad

Look closely, you’ll see them sitting on the surface.

potato salad

Feel free to make this salad your own with inspiration of seasonal veggies like asparagus, peas, green beans or even corn, and maybe switching up some herbs and adding some arugula, all would go well with the flavors of honey, lemon and Djon.

I hope you seek out some of those vibrant fingerlings and make this delicious potato salad customized by you!

Follow Proud Italian Cook on Instagram to see what else I’m cooking up during the week.

Fingerling Potato Salad with Honey, Lemon and Djon
 
A potato salad you'll eat all year long!
Author:
Ingredients
  • 2 lbs. vibrant colored fingerling potatoes, roughly same size and cut in half lengthwise
  • 3 or 4 hardboiled eggs halved or quartered, your choice
  • ½ cup or so of sliced olives, green or black
  • 3 green onions sliced on the diagonal
  • balsamic pearls (optional)
  • Vinaigrette ingredients
  • 1 big shallot or 2 small, finely chopped
  • chopped parsley, a handful
  • 3 tablespoons of Djon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons, lemon juice
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons of white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 heaping tablespoon, honey
  • ⅓ cup or so of good olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Whisk together all of the vinaigrette ingredients in a bowl, taste to your liking, maybe you want it sweeter, add more honey, more tart, add a splash more vinegar or lemon juice or even more olive oil, then set aside.
  2. Wash your potatoes really well.
  3. Place them into cold water and let them reach a boil, then turn down heat to a medium simmer.
  4. Test potatoes for doneness you don't want them mushy as stated in the post.
  5. When finished cooking drain them and place the warm potatoes gently into a large serving dish.
  6. Sprinkle in the green onions and olives all around the potatoes and arranging the hard boiled eggs.
  7. Spoon the vinaigrette all over the warm potatoes so that flavors can absorb.
  8. Taste and determine if salt and added pepper is needed, maybe sprinkle in more parsley, onions and olives as well.
  9. Serve best at room temperature

 

Signature

Eggplant Parmesan Veggie “Meatballs”

eggplant veggie balls

Who says meatballs all have to be made with meat? Here’s a great veggie alternative that’s made with eggplant. They’re lighter in texture but full of flavor!

These eggplant balls have a little chunk of mozzarella stashed into the center so they totally take on the eggplant parmesan taste through and through.

eggplant

It’s simple to make with just a few steps like cubing the eggplant then sautéing it with a bit of olive oil and water. You want to  make sure that the consistency is nice and soft.

smashed eggplant

Then you’re going to mash all that eggplant up just to make sure it gets nice and smooth, that’s going to make it really easy to mix with all the other ingredients.

eggplant balls ingredients

When I make traditional Italian meatballs I always add egg, garlic, breadcrumbs, fresh parsley, pecorino and a bit of red pepper flakes, it’s the same with these eggplant parmesan veggie balls, it takes on those Italian flavors perfectly but without the meat!

 

stuffed eggplant balls

Make sure you poke a hole into the center when forming your balls and place a cube of mozzarella inside, this will ensure that the cheese will ooze out just perfectly when you take a bite.

eggplant balls

So delicious covered in a pool of warm marinara sauce, the smells and taste of eggplant parmesan is in every bite.

eggplant balls

Eggplant parmesan that’s all rolled up into a meatball, what’s better than that?  You can eat them with pasta or alone with just a salad and a hunk of bread, or you can make yourself a meatless “meatball” sandwich, it’s all good!

Follow me on Instagram to see what else I’m cooking up during the week.

5.0 from 1 reviews
Eggplant Parmesan Veggie "Meatballs"
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • Eggplant, 2 or 3, depending on how large they are. Slice the tops and bottoms off, remove the skin peeling it off in a striped manner, keeping some on and some off, then cut the eggplant into small cubes
  • 1 cup or more of toasted breadcrumbs
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • ½ cup or so grated pecorino romano
  • a small handful, chopped parsley
  • a few tablespoons, chopped basil
  • ¼ cup water
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • a pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
  • small cubes of fresh mozzarella to stuff inside
  • marinara sauce, 1 quart or less
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 375, spray a baking sheet with olive oil spray.
  2. Drizzle the bottom of a heated skillet with olive oil and place the cubes of eggplant inside.
  3. Season with salt and pepper on the eggplant then pour in the ¼ cup of water tossing until the eggplant is cooked and very soft and tender.
  4. Mash the eggplant mix with a potato masher until you get a nice smooth consistency, then let it cool down.
  5. Grab a large bowl and add the cooled down eggplant, breadcrumbs, parsley, basil, pecorino, garlic, salt and pepper to taste and red pepper flakes, mix well.
  6. If mixture seems too wet and more breadcrumbs.
  7. Roll into balls then poke a whole in the center and add your cubed mozzarella making sure it's well inside and gets covered with eggplant mixture.
  8. When all is rolled out place on oiled baking sheet then into the oven for around 20-25 minutes.
  9. Plop the eggplant balls into warmed up marinara when done baking.
  10. They're ready to serve!

 

Signature

Strawberry and Nutella Dessert Pizza

strawberry pizza

Just in time for Valentines Day, I give you this decadent and delicious strawberry and Nutella dessert pizza! Gooey, warm Nutella slathered on top of pre-cooked, crunchy pizza dough, it’s scrumptious!

This is a fun dessert that you can share together with family, friends or a certain someone. It’s unbelievably easy to make and it tastes like a million bucks!

I was thinking how fun this dessert would be in the summertime cooking the dough out on the grill and finishing it off right on the table, it’s that easy.

dessert pizza

All you’ll need is a jar of Nutella, a good store bought pizza dough, some fresh strawberries and a can of whipped cream. Of course you can make your own dough and whip your own cream but you really don’t need to in this case.

pizza dough

There’s no exact recipe, here’s what you do.

I used half of a 1 pound dough ball so that would be 8 oz.

Roll it out on a lightly oiled pizza pan that is sprinkled with cornmeal.

Brush some melted butter all over the top then sprinkle it lightly with sugar, then prick it all over with a fork so it doesn’t bubble up.

Place dough into a 475F pre-heated oven and bake it for around ten minutes, you want the crust to be golden but not dark.

Nutella spread

Take it out when finished cooking, let it cool down a bit and then while it’s still warm spread the Nutella all over but not on the crust.

nutella pizza

Arrange your sliced strawberries all over in whatever design you like, you can even add bananas as well, but I think it’s good to keep it simple.

You can also add a sprinkling of toasted hazelnuts if you so desire.

strawberry nutella pizza

Adorn it with a dusting of powdered sugar and slice it up just like a pizza!

dessert pizza

I do recommend a nice dollop of whipped cream right before serving, sweet pizza heaven!

I hope you make this easy, scrumptious dessert!

Signature

Orange Honey Garlic and Thyme Chicken Thighs

chicken thighs with orange

This is a one pan dish that I make very often during citrus season. The flavor combinations of orange, honey, garlic and thyme are just amazing and you won’t believe how simple and fuss free this is to make.

Let’s talk about chicken for a minute, the quality of chicken you purchase really makes a difference. I always buy organic chicken, mostly Amish organic when I can find it. Organic chicken is not only healthier but it tastes so much better, therefore it really adds to the taste and quality of the dish.

orange halves

For this dish I would recommend sweet, juicy in season navel oranges or cara cara which is another variety that I love. You want the citrus to taste super sweet so I would not suggest using blood oranges which sometimes have a tangy flavor.

chicken thighs

Bone in, skin on is the way to go for this delicious orange honey chicken. Browning and crisping up the skin is a critical part of this recipe, so make sure you see a deep golden color in the browning process. Also, you want to use a pan that can go from the stovetop to the oven at a high temperature.

Don’t use any non stick type pan, in my opinion you’ll never acquire a deep golden crust on the skin.

A few briny olives compliments the sweetness of the juice which results in a sweet and salty thing going on with the orange honey mix, as well as the savory taste of thyme.

I highly recommend this dish, you can make it quickly during the week or get it together for a nice weekend meal, the flavors are out of this world!

Follow me on Instagram to see what else I’m cooking up during the week.

4.0 from 1 reviews
Orange Honey Garlic and Thyme Chicken Thighs
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 package of good organic chicken thighs, bone in and skin on ( i had 5 in my package)
  • 6 whole garlic cloves
  • 1 big orange for the juice, maybe additional if needed
  • A big squirt of honey, like 3 tablespoons
  • Additional orange slices with the peel on, thinly sliced
  • dried thyme for seasoning
  • a handful of olives, a mix of 2 different kinds with the pits, like Castelvetrano and kalamata
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
Instructions
  1. Pre-heat oven to 450
  2. Heat an oven proof skillet on the stove on medium til it gets nice and hot.
  3. Pat your chicken with paper towel to make sure they are dry.
  4. Salt and pepper both sides of the chicken, then sprinkle dried thyme on the skin as well.
  5. Drizzle olive oil in hot pan then place chicken skin side down and don't move it until you get a deep golden crust on the skin side.
  6. While crust is browning add a little thyme to the other side.
  7. When deep golden flip over chicken, add the garlic cloves, letting them cook til they start to smell nice and garlicky.
  8. Add olives and the juice of one large orange, if not juicy enough squeeze another orange into the pan, you want to see the juice.
  9. Now squeeze your honey into the pan, whisking it into the juice.
  10. Lay your orange slices all around, sprinkle them with a little salt, pepper and thyme.
  11. Brush some of the orange and honey juice on top of each thigh.
  12. Place the whole pan into the oven to finish cooking, (it should only take maybe 15 more minutes but test with meat thermometer to make sure) taking it out and basting it again with the orange and honey mixture, which will thicken in the oven.
  13. Let it rest for 5 minutes then serve.

 

Signature

Orange Citrus Tart with Mascarpone Custard

orange tart

This orange citrus tart is the perfect remedy for the doldrums of winter. It’s bright, citrus-y and it looks like sunshine! If you want a nice light dessert, here’s your answer! Yes, there is a custard made with creamy mascarpone cheese, but it doesn’t require much, just enough to give the sliced oranges a delicious, creamy base.

orange tart

I made this tart using a prepared pie crust which made it quite easy to pull together. If you have a Trader Joe’s near you, that’s the one I use (not sponsored).

tart ingredients

Because there are so few ingredients in this tart make sure you use quality mascarpone and good quality vanilla. I made a batch of my own vanilla back in September and I just started using it now.

I also love the flavor and quality of vanilla bean paste which is easy to find, just don’t get any thing that says “imitation vanilla”.

As far as what type of oranges to use, that’s your choice. I always have a surplus of citrus laying around this time of year so I used some navels along with cara cara and a Sumo orange, if I had a blood orange I would have added that because of it’s gorgeous color!

orange tart

Keep in mind this is not a rich dessert, it’s fresh and light tasting, so if you’ve had a heavy meal you can end it on a light note with a slice of this orange citrus tart.

tart slice

Calling all orange lovers, this one’s for you!

Follow me on Instagram to see what else I’m cooking up during the week.

5.0 from 2 reviews
Orange Citrus Tart with Mascarpone Custard
 
Bright and citrusy and brimming with bright flavors!
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1- 12 inch tart pan
  • 3 large oranges, outer peel and pith removed then sliced for layering. You can mix up any variety you like
  • 1 pastry crust, you can also use puff pastry and phyllo but all crusts need to be placed into a tart pan for stability
  • 3 eggs beaten
  • ¼ cup sugar plus 2 tablespoons to sprinkle on top
  • ¼ cup plus 2 heaping tablespoons of room temperature mascarpone cheese
  • 1 heaping teaspoon of good quality vanilla or vanilla bean paste
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest
Instructions
  1. Pre-heat oven to 375
  2. Place your crust into your tart pan. ( if using phyllo use 6-8 sheets brushed with butter in between the layers). Then place the tart pan onto a rimmed baking sheet for easy in and out of the oven.
  3. FOR THE CUSTARD
  4. In a bowl add the mascarpone, grab your hand mixer and make sure there are no lumps, then add in ¼ cup of sugar and mix in 1 egg at a time then the vanilla and zest.
  5. Pour the mascarpone mixture all over the pastry crust then place your sliced oranges all around, single layer.
  6. Sprinkle remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar all around.
  7. Place the tart into the oven until the top is slightly golden, the mascarpone mixture sets and the crust is nice and golden. 30 minutes or so, but ovens do vary so watch and test it.
  8. Let it cool down completely before serving, refrigerate any leftover.
  9. Optional: While still warm you can brush on a thinned out orange marmalade all over the oranges.

 

Signature

Easy Roasted Vegetable Lasagna with No Boil Noodles

slice of lasagna

This delicious vegetable lasagna is easy to make, full of flavor and showcases a superabundance of roasted vegetables. It’s also meat-free, light and fresh and very customizable.

whole lasagna

By customizable I mean there’s no specific veggies you need to use, I actually went through my fridge and roasted every vegetable I saw. Of course if you like certain vegetable combinations together like spinach and mushroom or whatever just do it, it will work!

vegetable lasagna

Don’t stress about certain combinations, use what you like or have available like I did.

roasted vegetables

This is what I had in my fridge, I like roasting vegetables every week any way and I usually buy a lot. I’ll have some for lunch, use them as sides for dinner and in the morning with eggs but this time I decided to also make a veggie lasagna with some of them.

I had three Japanese eggplants, a few carrots, two red peppers, a small head of cauliflower, one yellow squash, one bunch of kale, a small butternut squash and some brussel sprouts (that I did not use in the lasagna). All veggies were roasted on sheet pans separately at 425 degrees drizzled with olive oil, salt and pepper, roasted til slightly golden.

All the roasting of the veggies can be done a day or two ahead of time.

no boil pasta sheets

I have to admit I wasn’t a fan of the no boil noodles, ones that I’ve tried in the past did not impress me at all. But the Delverde brand really caught my eye, I liked the ridges and I knew that their pasta was good so I thought I’d give them a try. This time I have to say at least with this brand, I’m a fan, and this isn’t sponsored!

The pasta sheets weren’t paper thin, they still had a nice texture and bite to them and they weren’t heavy tasting at all.

One thing I never liked about the no boil pasta was trying to spread sauce and ricotta on a dry stiff noodle, it’s weird to me because I always used the curly lasagna sheets that had to be boiled first.

But I found that if you just wet them one by one in a quick dip of warm water, they become a little pliable, easier to spread sauce and cheese onto, and easier to press down on them after the layers are formed, so that’s what I did.

lasagna ingredients

All the veggies you see in the container above I actually used, ( except for the brussels) but I chopped them up so they would be easier to eat and be more bite sized pieces in the lasagna.

making lasagna

In between the layers I added thinly sliced raw zucchini. Zucchini cooks up so fast there was no need to roast it ahead of time as long as it was thinly cut.

making lasagna

I like using a mix of shredded and fresh mozzarella cheese along with the ricotta and grated pecorino.

lasagna

Top it off with some pine-nuts and bake it all together!

lasagna

Simple comfort food adapted to whatever vegetables you have on hand transforms into a very special meal.

lasagna slice

A worthy treat for yourself, your family and your guests to enjoy!

Follow me on Instagram to see what else I’m cooking up during the week.

 

5.0 from 1 reviews
Easy Roasted Vegetable Lasagna with No Boil Noodles
 
Use any mix of veggies you like, just have them pre-roasted ahead of time.
Author:
Ingredients
  • at least 4 cups or more, ( I would go with more just in case and depending on the size of your lasagna) of a mix of roasted veggies, any combination you like cut into bite sized pieces, roasted at 425 until slightly golden, refer to my post
  • 2 zucchini sliced thin, kept raw
  • no boil pasta sheets, enough for 3 layers to your lasagna either for an 8x8 pan or a 9x13
  • 1 lb. good ricotta, drained well of all liquid
  • 2 eggs
  • roughly 1lb. each of fresh and shredded mozzarella ( you might not use it all).
  • marinara sauce, good quality or homemade
  • grated pecorino or parmigiano cheese
  • fresh chopped parsley and pine nuts for garnish
Instructions
  1. Dip each pasta sheet into warm water to slightly soften, one by one.
  2. Mix ricotta with the 2 eggs and a handful of grated cheese, salt and pepper. Combine til incorporated.
  3. Butter casserole dish and ladle sauce all over the bottom.
  4. Add enough noodles to cover the bottom of the pan.
  5. Ladle sauce all over noodles.
  6. Spread mixed veggies all over the noodles.
  7. Sprinkle with grated cheese, shredded cheese and dot it with torn, fresh mozzarella.
  8. Layer the zucchini strips to cover first layer.
  9. Add more sauce on top of zucchini.
  10. Spread ricotta mixture all over, you probably won't use all of it but spread a nice amount because this is the only layer you will do it on.
  11. Repeat with all the other ingredients until you reach the top.
  12. Spoon sauce all over, add shredded cheese and slices of fresh mozzarella, chopped parsley and pine nuts.
  13. Drizzle with olive oil and place foil over pan.
  14. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.
  15. Take foil off and bake for 10 more minutes. Sides should be bubbling.
  16. Place under the broiler for a few seconds to get the cheese extra golden.
  17. Let it rest for ½ hour before cutting.

Signature

Versatile Spaghetti Squash My Two Favorite Ways

spaghetti squash and eggs

Versatile spaghetti squash, a healthy winter squash that can be used in so many dishes. It’s a mild flavored and neutral tasting squash, so it’s able to take on the flavors and spices that you use to cook it with.

I’ve cooked with it many times in the past and even posted several recipes on this blog like here and here.

These two recipes posted here today are my current favorite ways to eat it. I’m sure as time goes on there will more!

You’ve heard of eggs in purgatory, well I make that every time I have some leftover strands of cooked spaghetti squash. Delicious to eat for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Seasoned browned butter squash that I made the night before lays as a base to hold eggs that sit in a puddle of flavored marinara, it’s out of this world good and so comforting!

roasted spaghetti squash

There are many different ways to prepare your spaghetti squash, I simply like to roast it. I also like my strands to be al’dente. Overcooking the squash results in mushy clumped together strands, not very appealing.

I like to slice the squash in half, ( be very careful), scoop out the seeds and place the 2 halves on a parchment lined sheet pan. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees, salt and pepper each half and give it a light drizzle with olive oil. Place cut side down and pierce a couple of times with the tip of a knife. Roast 30-40 minutes depending on the size of your squash. Let it cool down then fluff the strands with a fork. 

brown butter squash

Now you’re ready to make this!

Spaghetti squash strands tossed into a garlicky browned butter and sage sauce. Then it’s showered with a very generous amount of Parmigiano Reggiano and toasted hazelnuts.

browned butter

Just grate some fresh garlic into your nutty brown butter and sage sauce, it smells amazing and takes the dish over the top!

butter and sage infused squash

 

squash with eggs

Be sure to save some of the leftovers so you can make this eggs in purgatory version with spaghetti squash for breakfast the next day, it will become one of your favorites, like mine.

Follow me on Instagram to see what else Im cooking up during the week.

Signature

Perfect Baked Stuffed Clams

baked clams

Typically when we’re at an Italian restaurant and there’s baked clams on the menu we order them. Baked clams are the perfect starter to a nice Italian meal.

clams

Have you ever wanted to make them at home? They’re very easy to make and personally I like them much better home made. They’re a lovely appetizer for a special meal. I recently made a full tray of baked stuffed clams for Christmas Eve, and not one of them were left, they really go fast, in fact I could have made more but then no one would have eaten anything else! New Years Eve is almost here, so grab a bottle of wine and start your party off with a tray of delicious baked stuffed clams.

So much flavor packed into one bite, the stuffed clams are tender and sweet, the breading crispy, cheesy, zesty, garlicky, I could go on and on, but let me show you how easy it is to make them.

clams soaking

First of all whenever you buy clams and they say they’re cleaned just ignore that, you’re going to find sand in there and they will be gritty if not soaked and drained a few times.

I had five pounds of fresh clams that I picked up at Costco. I let them soak in cold water for around twenty minutes in a strainer with a bowl underneath so I can see any sand that comes out when I drain them. It usually takes three times of soaking and draining.

Then give each one a gentle scrub and discard the broken shells with exposed clam, I had three, trust me you’ll always have some to discard, so count for a few bad ones when buying them.

steamed clams

Next you’ll want to poach or steam your impeccably cleaned clams in a liquid of water, white wine, some garlic cloves and a bay leaf, letting them simmer in a covered lid on the pot scooping them out as they open, one by one. If doing a large amount don’t overcrowd them do half at a time or get another pot going.

Place the steamed opened clams into a bowl so they can cool down. The best thing about this method is that you don’t have to do any shucking to the raw clams, this makes the whole process so easy! Once they cool down just wiggle off the top of the shell so you have an open half shell, how easy is that!

cleaned clams

Some clams have that little rubbery black thing attached that you see above, it’s part of the neck, just snip it off with a pair of scissors, it takes a second.

prepped clams

For five pounds of clams I ended up with forty five clams on the half shell. A few were broken and a few never opened up when they were steamed, those have to be discarded as well if that happens.

Place you half shells on a foil lined sheet pan drizzled with olive oil. At this point if you were making them for a crowd you could prep this all the day up to this point and then refrigerate and proceed with the stuffing the next day.

You can stuff the clams before your guests arrive so you’re ready to place them into the oven when everyone is ready to enjoy, you want to eat them hot.

clam filling

The stuffing recipe will be below, I recommend making your own breadcrumbs if possible, but if not buy some good quality ones that are plain because you’ll be flavoring them up yourself.

stuffed clams

Each clam gets about a heaping teaspoon of stuffing.

stuffed clams

Then a quick drizzle of olive oil over top of each stuffed clam and into the oven they go to bake, you can also add somee clam juice and a touch of white wine.

 

baked clams

A light crispy bite with a ton of flavor that enhances the tender clam below!

baked clams

Serve it with a little hot sauce and lemon slices on the side, I promise, you’re going to love these!

Follow me on Instagram to see what else I’m cooking up during the week.

5.0 from 2 reviews
Perfect Baked Stuffed Clams
 
Refer to step by step on blogpost
Author:
Ingredients
  • 5 lbs. fresh, little neck clams could yield 4 dozen depending on size and discards, cleaned, scrubbed and sand removed as outlined in blogpost
  • POACHING LIQUID
  • water, 1 cup white wine, a few whole garlic cloves, a bay leaf and a small bunch of parsley, just enough to cover the clams.
  • FILLING
  • 2 cups homemade or good quality bread crumbs
  • 4 tablespoons each of unsalted butter and olive oil
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 3 or 4 garlic cloves grated on a microplane
  • a handful of chopped parsley
  • ½ cup of grated pecorino romano cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • lemon for garnish
  • hot sauce optional
  • bottled clam juice and a little wine for liquid at the bottom of the pan, (optional).
Instructions
  1. Clean clams according to step by step on blog post
  2. Steam clams as stated in step by step on post.
  3. Prepare the half shells as pictured in post for a visual.
  4. In a small saucepan, melt butter and olive oil together.
  5. Stir in grated garlic and simmer until it's infused but not golden or dark.
  6. In a bowl add the breadcrumbs, zest, cheese, parsley, salt and pepper, mix together then pour in the melted oil/butter with garlic mixture and stir together until it looks like wet sand, if too dry add more melted butter and olive oil.
  7. Fill each half shell with a heaping teaspoon of the stuffing mixture and place them onto a foil lined sheet pan.
  8. Drizzle the tops with olive oil and place into a pre-heated 450 degree oven for around 8 minutes, you cqn add. some clam juice and white wine to the bottom of the pan as well, it's optional.
  9. They should be medium golden brown when finished, also nice and crispy.
  10. Serve immediately with lemon slices and hot sauce on the side.

 

Signature

Christmas Tree Shaped Cheese Ball

cheese ball

Cheese balls, they’re the perfect party food! You can make them into the shape of a round ball, a log, I’ve seen them shaped as footballs, pumpkins, birds, reindeer, snowman I could go on and on.

Since we’re deep into the holidays right now I made this festive looking cheese ball that’s shaped into a Christmas tree.

muffuletta salad

The key ingredient in this cheeseball is muffuletta salad, it comes in a jar and it’s pretty easy to find. Jars may vary ingredients but normally they’re filled with things like Kalamata and green olives, red peppers, cauliflower, carrots, garlic, capers and some spices. If you can’t find muffuletta salad you can sub in an olive salad which is similar and just as good.

cheese ball ingredients

You’ll want to drain the salad of any excess oil really well, then add it to a mix of cream cheese and mascarpone.

Honestly when all is blended together there’s no need to add anything else except some fresh chives if you like.

cheese ball mixturecone shape cheese ball

After everything is blended together shape it all into a cone for your “tree”.

Cover loosely with plastic wrap and place it into the fridge for a few hours so it can harden up again. Then you can fine tune your tree with an offset spatula to shape it better and make it smooth all around when it comes out of the fridge.

tree shaped cheese ball

Press chopped parsley onto the cone shape to make it look like a tree, then begin to decorate it by added nuts, peppers or whatever your creative mind wants to do, there’s no set rules, make it your own.

xmas tree cheese ball

I placed a star on top made of cheddar cheese, just do it freehand. At this point if I loosely drape it with plastic wrap it can sit in my fridge for a couple of days ahead to serve at a party and it will be just fine.

One thing to keep in mind is that you’ll want to serve this cheese ball with fairly sturdy crackers to hold up to the dipping, flimsy crackers just won’t do.

Start your holiday party off with this festive Christmas tree cheese ball, it’s a showstopper, it’s fun to eat and you and your guests will love it!

Christmas Tree Shaped Cheese Ball
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 2 8oz, packages of full fat cream cheese, room temp
  • 1 16oz, container of mascarpone cheese, room temp
  • 1 heaping cup of muffuletta salad or olive salad, drained well of excess oil
  • 3 tablespoons of FINELY grated cheese like cheddar or mozzarella
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • snipped chives, optional
  • chopped parsley, enough to go around the "tree"
  • 1 piece cheddar cheese to make a star shape
  • almond slices, chopped red peppers and whatever else you want to decorate your cheeseball tree with
Instructions
  1. Combine the mascarpone, cream cheese, grated cheese along with the muffuletta salad and chives into a large bowl.
  2. With a hand mixer on low speed blend everything together.
  3. Taste for seasoning or if you want to add more of something else.
  4. on a small cookie sheet or tray place a sheet of wax paper down and then plop the cheese mixture onto that.
  5. Place plastic wrap over your hands and start to form the cone as best you can. Check your hight and width.
  6. Keep the formed cone shape on the pan and place the whole thing into the fridge loosely covered with plastic wrap and let it harden for a few hours or even overnight if you want.
  7. Remove from fridge and on the same tray press in the chopped parsley all over your cone.
  8. Decorate it with the nuts and peppers and make sure you cut out a star with cheddar cheese for the topper.
  9. If loosely draped with plastic wrap this can stay in the fridge for a couple of days before serving.
  10. When ready to serve place a large spatula underneath the tree and lift it onto your serving platter.
  11. Scatter sturdy crackers all around.
  12. Enjoy!

 

Signature

Italian Anisette Cookies for Christmas

anise cookies

Sweet childhood memories seem to come up often when people see these Italian Anisette cookies on a platter at Christmas. These cookies are inspired by my mother in law who made them every year for her family. Just the scent of them baking brings back warm memories.

baking cookies

Anisette cookies have a soft interior with a warm licorice-like flavor of anise. You can form the dough into balls, braided knots and even rings. The shiny frosting can also be flavored with a little anise and then sprinkled with your favorite nonpareils. You can definitely have fun with all the different holiday sprinkles that are available this time of year to make them look very festive.

frosting cookies

These cookies will stay light in color when baked but have a nice golden brown bottom with some characteristic cracks on top.

anisette cookiesanise cookies

This recipe is adapted from the Cooking with Nonna website, sadly none of my husbands family had a complete recipe of their moms cookies but I knew this would be as close to hers as any, and it was.

I doubled the recipe because you’ll want to make a bunch like I did and I changed up the way the cookie gets mixed because it was one less step for my lazy self, and I’m happy to say it all worked out!

xmas cookies

Placed on a pretty platter these anisette cookies scream Christmas!

christmas cookies

They’re simple to make and the perfect addition to your holiday cookie trays.

Christmas cookies

Grab a cup of coffee, tea or espresso and enjoy this Italian cookie classic this holiday season, you still have plenty of time to make them!

5.0 from 1 reviews
Italian Anisette Cookies for Christmas
 
Adapted from The Cooking with Nonna website.
Author:
Ingredients
  • COOKIE DOUGH
  • 5 cups all purpose flour, un-bleached
  • 6 large eggs
  • 2 cups confectioner's sugar
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons anise extract
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • ICING
  • 3 cups, confectioner's sugar
  • 6 tablespoons half and half or cream, adjusting if you need a little more or less. Icing should have a nice flow when stirring it with a little thickness but not runny
  • 1 teaspoon anise extract ( or if you prefer another extract like lemon, almond or orange)
  • nonpareils for decorating
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and place parchment paper onto rimmed baking sheets.
  2. In a separate bowl add the flour, baking powder and salt and whisk until incorporated.
  3. In a large mixing bowl with your electric hand or stand mixer (preferably a stand mixer with paddle) add the softened butter and confectioners sugar, beat on medium speed until well combined.
  4. Add the eggs one at a time along with the extracts, beating until all is incorporated.
  5. Lower the speed and add in all your dry ingredients a cup at a time, dough ball will form and pull away from side, the dough will be sticky.
  6. Form your balls either from a rounded teaspoon or a small cookie scoop which I used. Remember you can roll your dough and form them into a knot or a ring if you like as well.
  7. Keep them 2 inches apart on the lined baking sheet and pop them in the oven for 12 minutes total, bottoms will be golden and tops still pale with some cracks.
  8. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  9. MAKING THE ICING
  10. Stir together in a bowl the confectioners sugar, extract and half and half.
  11. Dip or brush the tops of the cookies into the icing then immediately add your sprinkles ( over a bowl so they don't fly all over your kitchen).
  12. Let the icing dry completely on a rack before you store the cookies away.
  13. NOTE;
  14. You can bake these ahead of time and freeze if you don't frost them, I would recommend frosting them just a day or two ahead before you'll be serving them, otherwise the frosting won't look as nice and fresh.

 

Signature

Warm Robiola Cheese with Cranberry, Hazelnuts and Pistachio Dust

holiday cheese appetizer

This luscious appetizer is perfect for the holidays, it uses Robiola cheese and if you haven’t had it you’re missing out. It has a festive look topped with homemade cranberry sauce, toasted hazelnuts and pistachio dust which is then warmed ever so slightly until the cheese starts to ooze out. Crusty bread served alongside it is a must so you can smear all that warm and gooey cheese all over it, it’s divine!

 

robiola cheese

Robiola Bosina cheese from Italy is made with both sheep and cows milk. Robiola is rich and creamy with a slight nuttiness, perfectly balanced with an edible rind that melts right into the cheese, you don’t even know you’re eating it!

In my humble opinion it gives Brie a run for the money, and I like Brie, but this, this is out of this world, and worth every penny!

It’s not easy to find, you have to seek it out, ask your favorite cheesemonger it’s so worth the effort. I got mine at my favorite Italian market but it’s not something that I see often, but of course if you can’t find it you can always substitute Brie.

 

holiday cheese appetizer

I slathered the top with homemade cranberry sauce which I highly recommend doing then added some toasted hazelnuts and sprinkled the top with pistachio dust which is made by taking whole pistachios and grounding them up in a mini food processor.

Then place the adorned cheese in an oven proof vessel in a pre-heated 375 degree oven for five to seven minutes, it doesn’t take long before it becomes warm and gooey and ready for dipping.

 

holiday cheese appetizer

Just remember to toast up plenty of bread ahead of time, I drizzle mine with olive oil then stick them under the broiler for a few minutes on each side, don’t walk away it goes fast!

 

cheese toast

Its hard to describe this delicious bite, it’s like the best fondue you ever had on a plate, it’s amazing cheese, seek out some Robiola and make this appetizer during the holidays!

Follow me on Instagram to see what else I’m cooking up during the week.

Signature

Italian Christmas Torta Made With Pandoro

torta

I came across this Italian Christmas Torta at the end of the Christmas holiday last year and although I did make it I never posted it on my blog, well now is the time!

As we get closer to Christmas I’ll be posting some of my favorite cookies, cakes and desserts. This torta or cake is a fun dessert to make that requires no baking at all, it can be a nice little project that you can do with the kids and you can get as creative as you want.

pandoro

The star of the show is a Pandoro cake, you can find them in most supermarkets and Italian markets almost everywhere this time during the holidays. Pandoro is basically Panettone but without the raisins and candied fruits inside, but that rich, eggy, sweet dough remains the same.

I love using Pandoro to create the look of a Christmas tree as I did here and here. It’s fun and easy to do and very impressive as a centerpiece on your holiday table.

That’s why I was drawn to this recipe when I saw it in a one minute video on Chef Club Italia. I kept watching it over and over until I finally got it!

 

whipped custard

You need a filling for the cake, in the past for my Pandoro Christmas cakes I used a mix of heavy whipped cream with mascarpone and lemon curd folded in.  I’ve also used the same mix with Amaretto liquor as the flavor mixed in. If you want to make it  easy, you can use vanilla or chocolate instant pudding with whipped cream and mascarpone folded in as well, or even a traditional tiramisu filling.

For this recipe and because it was my first try I used a box of instant vanilla mousse and folded it in the mixture of whipping cream and mascarpone. I like using the combination of the two because the mascarpone helps to stiffen and stabilize the whipped cream so it doesn’t get runny.

paper star

The next thing you’ll need is an image for the top of  the Italian Christmas Torta, you can either draw it freehand on paper or find an image on the Internet and print it out as I did. I picked a star but you can do a Christmas tree, a bell, snowman whatever you like, that’s the creative part.

 

sliced pandoro

You’ll be slicing the Pandoro horizontally and placing it on the bottom of an eight or nine inch spring form pan, which ever it fits in best. Make sure to use the biggest slice of the whole cake on the bottom of the pan.

Each slice you use, ( a total of three for the whole cake) should be brushed with either a liquor of some sort, like limoncello if using a lemon filling, Amaretto, espresso, or just a simple syrup to make it kid friendly, but it’s important that each layer be brushed to moisten and flavor it.

sliced pandoro

The other two slices will be cut on a diagonal and that will be for the sides of the cake, again brushing them before fitting them into the pan.

sliced pandoro

So again in total you’ll need three slices cut about one inch thick, the biggest for the bottom and the next two biggest for the sides.

pandoro

 

pandoro

I used some of the leftover Pandoro and stuffed it into the spaces that are between the side and bottom, as shown in the previous photo.

cream filled pandoro

Next you take the cream filling that has been whipped up and mixed together and spoon it in until you reach the top of the cake.

cream stuffed pandorastar cut out

Now place the cut out image of your choice and place it on top of the cream then sprinkle cocoa powder liberally all over it.

coco dusted

Then find an edge of your design and lift it off gently starting it with the tip of a knife to help lift it up, you should see the image perfectly!

christmas torta

When you lift it off and the design shows you can now decorate it even more with sprinkles or whatever else you choose or leave it as is.

christmas torta

This cake is best made the day before, which is nice prep for a party and because it has to be refrigerated well overnight.  So cover the top with tented foil and stick it in the fridge to chill and meld together. You can also wait till the morning of to place your image and cocoa powder on, that works also.

christmas torta

The next day you can pop the spring on the pan and remove the band and cut the cake into wedges to serve, by then it will be all melded together.

Another fun, no bake Italian Christmas Torta to make this holiday season, I’ll be making it again this year, I hope you give it a try!

5.0 from 1 reviews
Italian Christmas Torta Made With Pandoro
 
Refer to the blog post for a step by step with some added suggestions. This is a NO BAKE dessert that must be made the day before for best results.
Author:
Ingredients
  • 8 or 9 inch spring form pan
  • 1 cut out design for top of cake ( refer to blog post )
  • 1 large box of Pandoro, Italian cake
  • 3 large 1 inch slices of Pandoro sliced horizontally, one will be kept whole and the other two will be cut on the diagonal for the sides.
  • 1 envelope of vanilla instant mousse, made according to directions. ( there are other variations you can use, refer to blog post)
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1 cup mascarpone, room temperature
  • 2 Tablespoons, powdered sugar to sweeten the cream
  • simple syrup, Amaretto, Limoncello, espresso to moisten the cut slices of pandoro, ( refer to blog post for ideas)
  • cocoa powder for dusting and garnish
  • additional sprinkles if needed
Instructions
  1. Make three 1 inch Horizontal slices on the Pandoro
  2. Take the largest slice and lay it in the pan.
  3. Brush and moisten the slice with liquor or simple syrup.
  4. Slice the other two pieces diagonally as shown in blog post, make sure to moisten them as well.
  5. With point facing down place them around the sides of the cake, they will fit between the points of the bottom layer.
  6. Fill in the open spaces with remaining Pandoro.
  7. Make mousse or pudding according to package and set aside.
  8. Whip the cream with the mascarpone until stiff, then fold in some of the mousse, you might not use it all, make sure the mixture still keeps shape and not be runny.
  9. You can also add flavoring at this point if you like, any liquor or espresso, taste to your liking.
  10. Fill the prepared cake to the top with the cream mixture.
  11. Add your cut out image by placing it on top of the cream and sprinkle liberally with cocoa powder.
  12. ( you can do the image placing the next day after you've refrigerated it if you prefer, it doesn't matter)
  13. Please make this a day ahead of time so you can refrigerate it overnight.
  14. Gently remove the image after dusting of cocoa powder and if need be add a few sprinkles of your choice.
  15. Slice in wedges and serve.

 

Signature