Thursday, December 13, 2012

Panforte di Siena

    Well, Christmas is almost upon us!  I can hardly believe it!!  In just shy of two weeks it will be here!!!  Every year I tell myself  I'm going to get all my baking, etc. done early, but......somehow that never seems to happen.  We usually take our vacation toward the end of October and, when we get back, it's time to start thinking about the holidays.  Well, we have several birthdays in October and November, then there's Thanksgiving, and then Christmas is....well....HERE!  (And this year we didn't get back until two days before Thanksgiving!!)
    O.K., now that I've vented a little about my lack of time to prepare for  this WONDERFUL HOLIDAY, let me say that  I LOVE CHRISTMAS!! 

Friday, December 7, 2012

Veal Meatball and Broccoli Rabe Soup

    I can already hear some of you saying, "Veal meatball and what soup?"  I'm glad you asked.  Broccoli Rabe is a leafy green vegetable that is slightly bitter and very popular in Southern Italy.  It is also known as Rapini or just Rabe.  Although you'd assume it's a relative of broccoli, it's actually closely related to turnips.  It's a very healthy vegetable, loaded with vitamins A and C and lots of potassium. I really enjoy the little bit of bitterness and also the fact that you can do so many things with it.  It's great in soups, pastas, just as a side, sauteed with olive oil and garlic (really, what isn't good sauteed with olive oil and garlic??), or even made into a pesto.

Monday, December 3, 2012

White Chocolate and Cranberry Swirl Cookie Pie what's a girl to do with that last little bit of cranberry sauce leftover from Thanksgiving??  That was my question.  Well, how about swirl it into a cookie dough, add white chocolate chips and slivered almonds, and bake it in a pie dish?  Sounded good to me.
    I had copied down a recipe that originally came from Cassie over at Bake Your Day.  It was for a cookie pie with white chocolate chips and sprinkles and it looked yummy!  I decided to use the basic recipe, but leave out the sprinkles and add cranberry sauce and almonds.  The result....DELICIOUS!!  Try it out and see what you think.  But....don't wait until next Thanksgiving.  

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Oven-Roasted Potatoes Sprinkled with Rosemary and Garlic

    I've been thinking it would be nice to share a simple side dish with you......a dish that no one would say is too complicated or has too many ingredients or different techniques.  And.....who doesn't love potatoes, right??  They are another one of those veggies that can be prepared in an infinite number of ways and I love variety!  My kids adore roasted potatoes, so any time I make them, in whatever variation, they're happy.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Double Dark Chocolate and Ginger Biscotti

    Biscotti have become quite popular in coffee shops these days.  They're the perfect little treat to have with your coffee or tea, mid-morning or late afternoon.  Actually, the Italian word for any cookie is "biscotto" with the plural being "biscotti".  Literally the word means "twice cooked/baked".  In the United States, when we think of biscotti, that's what we are thinking about....the cookies that are first baked in a loaf, then sliced and baked again to make them a little crunchy.  But true biscotti, like the ones made in Italy, are made with no fat besides the eggs, which makes them even crunchier.  Italians like to dip them in sweet wine.  I've never been much of a cookie dunker, but a glass of cold milk would be my beverage of choice!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Eggplant Parmesan Stacks

    I like many different vegetables, but one that I really love, is eggplant.  It's so versatile!  You can stuff it, roll up filled slices of it, layer it with cheese and herbs, make a relish with it, bread it, bake it, broil it, or do like my dad used to do with zucchini ..... fry it up and have it in a sandwich!  DELICIOUS!!
    Eggplant Parmesan is probably one of the most popular ways to eat eggplant.  Although I love it, I haven't loved all the steps needed to put it together.  As I mentioned in my post about apple fritters, I don't like the smell of things frying in a lot of oil and, typically, to make eggplant parmesan, you dredge the slices of eggplant in flour, dip them in egg, then in breadcrumbs, before you fry them in lots of oil!  Some time ago I saw this recipe on the show Mad Hungry with Lucinda Scala Quinn that really caught my attention. 

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Apple Cream Tart

    Here's a really good apple dessert, served warm with softly whipped cream or ice cream or even at room temperature.  I LOVE apple pie, so apple tarts and other variations are welcome at my house!  I've never actually had an apple cream tart before but, after seeing recipes in a couple of my Italian cookbooks, I thought I'd give it a try.  This one is slightly adapted from Ciao Italia Pronto by Mary Ann Esposito.   I added a couple egg yolks to the crust and changed the arranging of the apples....other than written. 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Sweet Potato Gnocchi in Sage and Brown Butter Sauce

    Ok, contrary to what you're thinking....I do not eat pasta every day!  It's just that, as I mentioned in an earlier post, this is National Pasta Month and today, specifically, is designated World Pasta Day!  I just had to make another pasta recipe for you! 
    Raise your hand if you've never had gnocchi.  Ok, let me explain what they are.  They are like little pasta dumplings.  Instead of just using  flour, eggs, water, and seasonings, etc. you add potatoes and, in this case, also some sweet potatoes (perfect for the fall season).  I think they're a little heavier than other pasta, but delicious in their own right.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Pasta and Peas in Honor of Gramma

    Well, here's another dish to celebrate National Pasta Month.......Pasta and Peas!  While trying to decide which  pasta recipe to share this time, I pretty quickly thought of this one.  It's a dish I remember having many times as a little girl while at my grandparents' house.  I loved being with them and considered it a treat when I could spend the night.  Now, breakfast at gramma's ..... not my favorite. It usually included a soft-boiled egg somewhere and, as a little girl,  I just couldn't deal with that runny yolk.  On the other hand, the pineapple juice was delicious and seemed rather special served in her sweet little juice glasses with the painted oranges around the outside.  After a morning of playing, having a little visit with their beagle,  Queenie, and "helping" grandpa in the garden, gramma would call us in for lunch.  Then the three of us would sit down at their tiny kitchen table to a nice bowl of pasta and peas.  It was so good!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Spiced and Iced Pumpkin Cookies

   Well, we're into the middle of October already!  Can you believe it?  The holidays will be here before you know it.  I've pretty much decided that fall is my favorite season.  I love the beautiful colored leaves, the crispness in the air, and the fruits and vegetables that start showing up at farmer's markets and in the grocery store.  My taste buds start wanting  foods that are a little earthier, a little heartier, and  those that have the spicy tastes of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, etc... foods  that hint of the holidays to come.  Apples and pumpkins and pears, Oh my!! ( Did I mention that I love fall? )

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Zucchini, Asiago, and Tarragon Stuffed Chicken Breasts

    I discovered this recipe for stuffed chicken breasts years ago in a cookbook called Italian Family Cooking ... Like Mama Used To Make by Anne Casale.  The combination of Asiago cheese and tarragon give the stuffing a little different flavor .... one that I love!  This makes a very nice dish when company's coming, but I've also put this on the table for just the family.  After all, they deserve something special once in awhile, right? 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Rustic Lentil Soup

    Today was a rather dreary day weather-wise.  It was overcast and rainy....the perfect kind of day to cook up a big pot of soup or stew.  I would say that this recipe falls somewhere between the two.  It's hearty and definitely warms the tummy.
    In Italy lentils hold a special significance, especially on New Year's Eve/Day, where they're a required part of the menu.  They symbolize wealth (their shape being reminiscent of tiny coins) and are eaten in hopes that the new year will be a prosperous one.  That has never been a part of our family tradition....I just enjoy them because they're really good and are a great source of protein, iron, and fiber. Try making this on a cold day and see if it doesn't warm you right up.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Macaroni with Broccoli

    Hey guys, October is National Pasta Month!  Did you know that?  While researching on the net I came across some interesting information about it.  Well, interesting to a pasta loving Italian-American like me.  The first commercial pasta plant in the U.S. was founded in Brooklyn, New York in 1848.  By the turn of the century the industry had grown to the point that a large number of members got together to discuss issues concerning manufacturing and marketing.  As a result, the National Macaroni Manufacturer's Association was established.  It wasn't until 1981 that the name was changed to the National Pasta Association.  Now, that makes sense to me because, as a child growing up, I never remember hearing my parents or especially my Italian grandparents, use the word "pasta".  It was always "maccheroni".

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Italian Espresso, Chocolate, and Cinnamon Brownies with Creamy Espresso Frosting

    I know, I know, another chocolate recipe .... and so soon.  Well, I might as well be honest.  Chocolate and I go way back ..... I mean, waaaaaay back.  And, as far as I can tell, the relationship isn't goin' south any time soon.  I think it will be making somewhat of a regular appearance on my little blog.  All in favor say "aye".  (can't imagine there would be any "nays".)
    These brownies are really decadent!  They're nice and thick and fudgey and are topped with a creamy espresso frosting.  The crunchy hazelnuts add a nice contrast of texture.  I just wouldn't eat these right before going to bed.  Between the chocolate and the espresso these pack a bit of a caffeine punch.  Maybe better for breakfast, huh? ( I probably shouldn't have said that, but I know a few family members that might like that idea.)

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

One Little Tree.....Two recipes

    When I was a little girl I spent a lot of time with my Italian grandparents (my dad's parents).  They had a small house but a yard and garden area that seemed to go on least that's what it seemed like at the time.  They grew all sorts of vegetables and had several fruit trees like cherry, pear, fig, and mulberry.  My grandmother would sell flowers that she had grown.  I remember sitting outside with her, waiting for people to come and buy the plants.  They had a long, narrow hallway at one side of the house that I always thought of as a sun porch because it was lined with windows and was filled with african violets and various other plants.  My grandmother had the greenest thumb I've ever seen.  She even had a miniature orange tree in the dining room!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Italian Sausage, Broccoli, and Provolone Quiche

     Quiche may not be in vogue anymore and I know it's not an "Italian thing", but I still think it's a great option  for a mid-week supper or a brunch on the weekend.  This has an Italian twist (are you surprised?) with the addition of sharp provolone (an aged Italian cheese), roasted red peppers, and Italian sausage.  I've also added a toasted breadcrumb topping for a little crunch.  A Little warning ....this is not light on the calories but quite yummy.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Fudge-Glazed Creamy Peanut Butter Cake

    Today's cake......not an Italian recipe......but sometimes a girl just has to have her chocolate, Italian or not! Throw some peanut butter in there and I'm a happy camper!  A chocolate cake with a creamy peanut butter filling, chocolate ganache topping, and salted peanuts......I mean, come on......really.  This is scrumptious!  Did I mention that chocolate and peanut butter is one of my family's favorite combinations?  (As I type I'm actually munching on a chocolate and peanut butter protein bar.) 
    Anyway, I have so many recipes that have peanut butter and chocolate in them, but this is one I had cut out of an issue of the King Arthur Flour Baker's Catalogue forever ago and hadn't tried yet.  As I was frantically searching for something to make that would quiet the chocolate cravings I came across this recipe and thought....Yes, this should do it!  So, here it is! I hope you'll try it. A big  little splurge now and then won't hurt, right?

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Braised Country-Style Pork Ribs Meet Oven-Baked Creamy Polenta

     Here are two dishes just made for each other!  And talk about comfort food!  The ribs will have a bit of a spicy kick and will be pretty much falling off the bone when they're done. The polenta is nice and creamy and cheesy.  If you've never tried polenta, now's the time.  This is a popular food in northern Italy and, when done right, it's silky and smooth and the perfect thing to soak up all the great juices from the meat.  Just think of it as a variation on mashed potatoes.  Polenta is usually made on top of the stove and needs to be stirred a lot.  The great thing about this recipe is that you mix the ingredients in a baking dish, throw it in the oven, stir once, halfway through the cooking time (all of 30 minutes), and you're done!  How easy is that? 

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Cheese-Stuffed Focaccia

      Focaccia is basically an Italian flat bread similiar to pizza but, unlike its relative, is never served piping hot.  It is made from a simple dough that can be formed into different shapes like rectangular or round, etc.  It can be thin and crunchy, thick and soft, crispy or chewy.  (Today's recipe is a thin and crispy type.)  It can be seasoned in many ways with different herbs, an infinite variety of vegetables, cheeses, etc., or simply topped with the best olive oil and some coarse sea salt.  Oh, focaccia, how do I love thee?  Let me count the ways! You make a great snack and you're delicious with a bowl of soup.  I love to split you open and fill you with meats and cheese or roasted veggies.  You're a nice light lunch when paired with a salad and you make the perfect addition to an antipasto platter.  Oh, sorry....... was I just talking to the focaccia?  How embarassing!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Rigatoni with Red Peppers, Almonds, and Breadcrumbs

     When it's rainy and cold outside I want to stay in my house, wear soft and comfy clothes, and eat comfort food.  Yes, fall has arrived and brought with it the usual cooler temperatures and a few overcast and rainy days.  I've definitely been in the mood for some homey, comforting dishes.  This recipe really does say "comfort" to me.  I mean, what's better than a big bowl of pasta? (o.k., so we're not doing the low-carb thing right now.  Everything in moderation, I always say.)  Add a nice salad and you've got a great family meal.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

An Italian Market and a tasty Plum Tart

      Where I grew up in upstate N.Y. there is a large Italian population, so there isn't much of a problem finding typical Italian foods and ingredients.  If you go into a grocery store and ask for broccoli rabe or capicolla you won't have a problem.  And there are always the Italian markets, bakeries, etc.  But, in my present location, not so much.  So, after asking around a bit and researching on the internet,  I discovered a great little Italian market called Carfagna's in Columbus, just under an hour away.  We usually make the trip every couple months (when the extra-virgin olive oil gets low. . . we go).  
       Well, Saturday was one of those days.  It goes without saying that there would be quite a bit of time and money spent, but it's something I look forward to.  

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Stuffed Cubanelle Peppers and Radicchio Salad

         Tonight's dinner uses some typical Italian ingredients that can be found pretty easily in your local grocery store.  It can be put together within an hour and is very tasty.  I started with a stuffed pepper recipe in Ciao Italia Pronto by Mary Ann Esposito and then made changes and additions according to what I like.  Here's my version of the recipe. Actually, I make different substitutions each time I make this, according to what I have on hand and what my taste buds are wanting.  So try this out and then change things up if you want to. 

Monday, September 17, 2012

Polpettone ( Italian American Meatloaf )

         Today  there wouldn't be time to make a run to the grocery store but, since I couldn't cancel dinner,  I had to figure out what I could make with ingredients I had on hand.  I found a package of beef, pork, and veal combination in the freezer and thought of meatloaf .  I began looking through a few Italian cookbooks for a recipe and came upon one in Lidia's Italy in America by Lidia BastianichIt looked like I had all the ingredients. . .so. . . meatloaf it would be.  I made some cheesy, garlic, spinach mashed potatoes and a salad to go alongside.  Got a thumbs up from everyone.  Success !!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

A Trip To The Orchard and Apple Fritters

         Well today was the most beautiful day! Sunny.....about 70 degrees....a perfect day to jump in the car with the kids and go to the apple orchard.  Wherever we've lived over the years there's been an orchard somewhere nearby and we've always made it a point to take our kids every fall. I love it! Freshly picked apples, pumpkins, Indian corn, delicious!  Anyway, today we made one of our usual trips and came home with a half bushel of apples, a gallon of cider, and six apple doughnuts. What's not to love!  The only thing that wasn't lovely was the bee sting I received shortly after arriving.  But that's o.k.  I'm fine.  Thank you for asking.
          So, coming home with all those apples gets a girl to thinking. What can I make now?  I fritters!!  ( Don't remind me that we already brought home those doughnuts ) 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

A New Adventure

         Well, I've waited long enough. Time to plunge in and get my feet wet.  Although I follow several other blogs (my "favorites" list is expansive), being an actual blogger myself is totally new to me, as is navigating all the intricacies of the computer.  You see, I am a creative person, not a technical one. So please bear with me as I muddle through learning how to do this.  I'm sure there will be additions, changes, etc. to this site as I figure out how to exist in the blogging world. Consider yourselves warned.  
           But. . . . . my inexperience has not dampened my desire to share with you my love for Italian food, for my Italian heritage, and, really, for all things Italian.  I also just love to cook and bake in general (ok, so I love food and chocolate is my friend) Now that we've established that. . . .I hope you will  join me on this new adventure of mine. I look forward to sharing great recipes with you ( see "About Me" ) as well as family stories and experiences. I hope to post again before too long with my first recipe.  I just have to figure out which one. . . . not an easy task.  Until then. . . . . .  

                                                       A presto !  ( see you soon ! )