Thursday, December 19, 2013

Chocolate-Espresso Snowballs

    So, I'm not sure if I've mentioned it, but........I love the snow!  I just love to watch it falling outside my window, especially if I'm inside baking Christmas cookies!  Now, if there are kids around, snow usually means.....snowballs.  And, that is why these are the perfect cookies to share with you today......that and the fact that they are delicious!!   Flavored with cocoa and espresso powder, laced with finely chopped pecans, and covered with a dusting of snowy white powdered sugar.....all I can say is YUM!!  Give these a try, and see if they don't become a regular on your Christmas cookie baking list.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Italian Pepperoni-Cheese Puffs

    Happy Holidays Everyone!!  I'm sure you're all in the middle of your baking, shopping, and the rest of your holiday preparations.  And many of you are probably finished and just waiting for the celebrating to begin.  I, on the other hand, have not baked one Christmas cookie yet!  Now, granted, the house is decorated and looking pretty festive, but the real baking doesn't usually start until two weeks before Christmas.  I always intend on starting earlier, but somehow, two weeks before the big day, is always when it begins.  Maybe it's because, when I home schooled the kids, we would be doing our school work up until
that time.  Then, when we were on Christmas break, I'd dive into all the baking.  Well, whatever the reason, it always gets done.  Then it's kind of like a baking marathon around here...... I love it!

    Since this is such a busy time and there are so many parties/get-togethers going on, I thought a quick and tasty appetizer idea would be a great thing to share.  These are like mini savory cream puffs, Italian-style!  They're very light and go well with a little pizza sauce on the side.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Italian Pumpkin Strata

    Hi all!  Well, the countdown's begun.  Only 5 more days until Thanksgiving!!  How are you doing with all of your preparations?  Here, at my house, things are moving along pretty well......I guess.  I'm finishing up my Thanksgiving dinner menu, so that I can go to the supermarket early Monday morning. The turkey is in the garage refrigerator, thawing.  At least, I hope it's thawing.  That fridge always acts a little strange when the weather gets really cold.  Nothing could be more frustrating than to go to retrieve the main part of the Thanksgiving meal, only to find a solid turkeysicle sitting there!  You can bet I'll be checking that bird daily to make sure that doesn't happen!

    This will most likely be my last post until after Turkey Day, so let me wish you all a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday with family and friends!  I know things aren't always easy these days, but I, for one, have so many things to be thankful for....a wonderful husband and six children that I love very much, a warm and comfortable home, a loving, supportive mother (you're never too old to need your mom!), five great brothers and sisters and their families (who I really miss), as well as my husband's family, some good friends (you know who you are), and, well, I could go on for awhile, but I guess you probably stopped by to check out the recipe, so I'll sum up my thoughts by saying.....God has provided for me, been faithful to me, and blessed me above and beyond what I really deserve!  And, I'm so thankful!

     Now, onto the recipe....

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Roasted Fennel and Carrots with Pecorino Cheese

    What can you make with a couple of root vegetables, some garlic, fresh thyme, cheese, and olive oil?  A delicious roasted vegetable side dish, that's what!  If I haven't mentioned it before, I love roasted vegetables! Roasting just brings out their natural sweetness and develops such a depth of flavor!  As the days are getting colder, this is a great side dish to go along with a meatloaf or roasted beef or chicken. So, what are you waiting for?  Grab those veggies and get roasting!  

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Sweet Pumpkin Fritters

    Well, it seems that fall will soon turn into winter, as evidenced by our first real snowfall of the season.  That's right.  We woke up to a lovely covering of snow this pretty!  But, snow means cold and cold means we all want hearty, comforting foods.....Things like soups and stews, roasted meats and winter vegetables, like sturdy greens and squash.  And......let's not forget about pumpkin!  You'll find pumpkins around my house, used as part of my fall decorating, and I love to make the usual pumpkin bread, pumpkin cookies (remember this recipe?) and pumpkin pie.  But, this recipe was a bit of a revelation!  I've shared a delicious version of apple fritters with you, but hadn't thought of using pumpkin as a main ingredient instead of apples.  Well, now I know....Sweet Pumpkin Fritters.....a great idea!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Delicious Kale Salad

    I know, I know....... it's the very last day of October and you've yet to find any recipes from The Italian Next Door in your inbox or when you've visited the blog this month.  Well, life got a little overwhelming in October.  We were away visiting family for a bit, my oldest son visited us for about a week after that (all the way from Seattle), and there were some family birthday celebrations to prepare for.  Now, don't get me wrong.....I love visiting and celebrating with family......I just found myself a little worn out.  But, I'm feeling better now so, to get the wheels turning again, I thought I'd share a quick and delicious recipe I saw Daphne Oz (of The Chew) make awhile back.  With the addition of dried currants, toasted pine nuts, and Romano cheese, it has the perfect combination of sweet, salty, and crunchy!  I LOVE this salad and have no problem eating large amounts of it, which is o.k. because it is sooo good for you!  I mean, everybody's talking about kale these days, right?  It's like a nutrition powerhouse!  If you don't believe me, visit here to read a list of The Top 10 Health Benefits of Eating Kale.  Now, onto the recipe.........

Friday, September 20, 2013

Sweet Basil Smoothie

    O.k. all you berry lovin' people, don't hit the "close" or "delete" button yet.  I know this doesn't sound like your usual smoothie, but it's yummy!'s a great way to use some of  that basil you've been growing all summer.  Keep some simple syrup in your fridge and you can whip this up in no time!  Enjoy it as a mid-afternoon snack or, like me, as a quick and light breakfast.  It's delicious and a bit more sophisticated than the typical strawberry/banana combo!

Sweet Basil Smoothie      4 (6 oz.) servings
(recipe from Giada at Home by Giada De Laurentiis)

1 1/4 cups plain yogurt
1 packed cup fresh basil leaves
Lemon Zest Syrup (recipes follows)
1 cup ice

    Combine everything together in a blender until smooth and frothy.  Serve immediately.  ENJOY!

Lemon Zest Syrup

1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 1/2 tsp. lemon zest

    Combine everything in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Bring it to a boil; then reduce the heat.  Simmer the mixture for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved.  Take off the heat and cool about 20 minutes.  Strain into a small pitcher and use immediately or store in refrigerator for later.

For printable recipe, click here.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Cassata Cake for My One Year Blog Anniversary!!

    This is a special post for me...........It's the one year anniversary of the start of "The Italian Next Door"  food blog!  (Well, technically, it was yesterday, but let's not get too picky.)  Yes, it was just one year ago that I decided to launch out on "A New Adventure" ; an adventure that would allow me to indulge my love of cooking and baking in a whole new adventure that would encourage me to be creative in new areas.  I have to say that, over the past year, my computer and I have developed quite a close relationship.  Yes, there have been bumps along the road, but, any relationship that means anything to you will require a high level of commitment and willingness to work it out, no matter what, right?

      Last, but not least, this adventure has been a way to connect to all of you!  I've made some new friends in the blogging world and have really appreciated their help and encouragement.  I've loved sharing some family memories and a little bit of who I am with all of you that read and follow "The Italian Next Door".  I'm looking forward to sharing more recipes, stories, etc. in the coming year but, for now, let's just celebrate with an Italian Cassata Cake!!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Fettuccine with Mascarpone, Toasted Walnuts, and Basil

    O.k. friends......time for some carbohydrates.  This is a rich and delicious pasta dish that goes well with a light salad.  I love the combination of crunchy, toasted walnuts with the creamy mascarpone cheese and the fresh basil!'s really quick and easy, with only 5 ingredients plus salt and pepper!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Green Bean Salad with Red Onion and Prosciutto

    Hi there!  Hope everyone had a nice Labor Day weekend.  Ours was very low-key.....just the four of us hanging around, getting a little work done and then just relaxing.  The weather was nice enough to get outside and fire up the grill, so I cooked up some burgers and, to go along-side, I made a nice Caprese Salad (fresh tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, good olive oil, salt and pepper) and this delicious Green Bean Salad with Red Onion and Prosciutto.  I slightly adapted it from a recipe I saw in a newsletter from Cookies From  It's a great salad!  It's bright and fresh-tasting, and I love the addition of the prosciutto!

     The original recipe calls for regular string beans, but the beans at the nearby grocery store looked terrible, so I decided to go with Haricot vert instead.  Haricot is French for bean and vert is the word for green.  So, that's right.....these are a French variety of green bean.  They are longer and thinner than most American varieties.  And, they're nice and tender!

Friday, August 30, 2013


    Well, summer is quickly winding down and the kids are back in school.  Soon fall will be here and the air  will feel a little cooler.  But, for now, gardeners everywhere are still reaping the rewards of their labor in the form of tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers, etc.  This recipe is a great way to make use of all of those vegetables.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Fig and Pine Nut Tart

    Well, how has your summer been, friends?  Mine has felt like a whirlwind!  I mean, didn't school just end??  Didn't I just plant my garden with hopes of plenty of delicious tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant?? Where did the time go??  I had plans of sharing some great recipes with you throughout July and August, but..... things got a little overwhelming around here.....just life in general, I guess.  

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Pork Filettino

    Today I'm sharing my slight adaptaton of one of Olive Garden's main dish recipes....Pork Filettino.  The pork is juicy and tender and the veggies are sweet and delicious after being roasted.  If the weather is cooperating, go ahead and grill the pork outside; if not, use a stovetop grill.  It works great!
     This recipe delivers a lot of flavor, without using a ton of ingredients.  And you can have it on the table in an hour.  I added a side of sauteed broccolini with lemon and garlic to round out the meal.....DELICIOUS!!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

A Special Surprise and Mulberry Scones

    Well, I had a nice surprise recently.  The kind of surprise that, well, really surprises you!  You know, the kind that makes you wonder....."Where have I been?"......"How did I not see this coming?" 
    Now that I have your attention......

    It was a surprise that probably wouldn't get most of you all that excited, but it was such a blessing to me!  I've shared some about my Italian grandparents' garden here and how I love fresh figs, etc., but I'm not sure I told you about the mulberry tree that grew right near the back corner of their garage.  As we'd run along the side of the building to a back garden area, there it was, right behind the back left corner....The tree with the beautiful, long-ish berries, in shades of mauve and purple.  They were mild and delicious and something special that gramma and grandpa had in their yard that we didn't.  I've always thought it would be so wonderful to have one in my own yard........just another thing to remind me of my grandparents.


Friday, June 21, 2013

Orange Cornmeal Cake

    Today......something sweet!  This cake is delicious and refreshing........a perfect spring or summer dessert!  And, it contains two Italian ingredients you might not expect......olive oil and white wine!  That's right....a little unusual, maybe, but they give this cake a subtle and delicious flavor.  The cornmeal adds a little bit of texture. 
    Now, it's pretty well know around here that I have a real sweet tooth, and chocolate is at the very top of my list of indulgences.  That being said, I found this to be a very nice light, not too sweet dessert, totally acceptable to this "chocolate lover".

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Homemade Cavatelli with Fresh Favas

    Well, we are  fully into spring, with the official start of summer just two weeks away.  The kids have finished the school year, so they're on "lazy" time already.  The garden is planted and I have several other projects waiting in the wings to be completed.  It seems that everywhere I turn there's something else that needs my attention......or someone's attention.  And......since I seem to be the one so acutely aware of all of these lovely "projects", I feel compelled to think about them constantly. when I have a little free time. :)  Sorry, I digress.....

     When I think of spring I also think of certain foods..........fava beans being one of them.  It's another  thing that reminds me of my Italian gramma and her large, thriving garden.  So, when springtime comes I start thinking about favas and where I can acquire some.  (Maybe I'll try to grow my own next year.) As usual, I'm the lone little Italian lady regularly asking my local supermarket to order all sorts of things (like favas) that, apparently, no one wants but me. 

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Pepperoni-Mozzarella Pull Apart Bread of humanity's great inventions!  And pepperoni of my kids' favorites!  So, when I saw this recipe on Facebook awhile ago, I knew I had to give it a try!   Balls of pizza dough dipped in a flavored oil, layered with lots of mozzarella and pepperoni and served with pizza sauce for dipping......really??  Did I have a choice?  This recipe has been calling to me for a few weeks now and finally  made it onto the table, or should I say, the t.v. trays in the living room. (We enjoyed it during a recent "movie night".)  It's really delicious.........filled with salty, cheesy, garlicky goodness!  And it's fun to eat......just pull off pieces and enjoy!  No fork or knife required!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Rosemary and Currant Biscotti

    This is the time when all good Italians are getting their gardens in order......loosening up the soil and planting the seedlings they've started inside over the previous months.  Well, all good Italians but me, it seems.  I mentioned, in an earlier post, that only time will tell if I've inherited the "gardening gene" or not.  Well.....still yet to be seen, folks.  I'm in the beginning stages of learning and always seem to be a little behind where I would like to be.  I have yet to start my plants from seeds indoors but, instead, make trips to  local nurseries to choose the vegetables I want to transplant into my garden.  Let's face gets pretty busy sometimes.  So, for now, I'm satisfied with getting a little jump start from Lowe's or Home Depot.

    Something else I like to grow, besides vegetables, are herbs, which brings me to today's post.  There's something wonderful about being able to step outside your back door and pick a handful of freshness to add to the evening meal.  Besides using fresh herbs in savory dishes, I also enjoy combining them with things that are sweet.  I just think there's something unusual and a little sophisticated about pairing the two together.  Today's recipe is a good example of that.....Rosemary and Currant Biscotti. 

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Prosciutto Wrapped Lamb Burgers

    So, right about now everyone's starting to think about firing up that grill, right?  Well, this little twist on a regular burger would be great for a barbecue!  Pop it into a nice, crusty Italian roll....delicious!!  Now, it's still been a little chilly here, so I cooked my burgers in a pan on top of the stove, but you can bet these will be finding their way onto our grill as the weather warms up!  I like to serve these with a salad of fresh tomatoes, cucumber, onion, and basil with some olive oil, salt and pepper.  And, to make them extra yummy, I drizzle them with some balsamic glaze!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Paccheri al Cardinale

    I've been told that, as a little girl, I had quite a flare for the "dramatic".  If I would begin to carry on about one thing or another, my mom would give me a little look and say, "Alright Sarah".  Why "Sarah", you ask?  After all, that's not my name.  Well, she was referring to Sarah Bernhardt, who was considered the greatest French actress of the later 19th century and one of the best-known figures in the history of the stage.  She had a reputation as a serious dramatic actress.  Now, even as a child, I knew I wasn't  being complimented.  The real message was "Tone it down a little" or "You're being a little over dramatic".

    Today, as an adult, I still enjoy drama, if done well and love things that have something special or unique about them.  This recipe encompasses all of that.  Although I've made and eaten a lot of pasta, in my day, I've never seen any pasta dish done this way before.  Pasta is tossed with a basic tomato sauce, several cheeses, and fresh basil.  Then it's covered with a layer of parchment paper and baked in the oven.  When it comes out, the parchment is cut open and the pasta is served with dollops of fresh ricotta....YUM!

Monday, April 1, 2013

YAY for Printable Recipes!!

    Hey there!  Well, today I finally accomplished something that I've been thinking about for quite awhile now.  Although I usually like to show step-by-step photos with my recipes, I realize, if someone wants to print the recipe, it can be a little troublesome.  Pictures use a lot of ink, after all.

    Just the other day I received a comment after my Eggplant Parmesan Stacks post.  The person loved the recipe but wanted to know if there was a way to copy it without all of the pictures.  Well, that was just the little "push" I needed to get moving and find out how to do it. Google I would go.  I google everything I don't know about, folks!  And that's a lot of googling!

    Anyway, I came across a site called Confessions of an Overworked Mom which had step-by-step instructions on how to make your blog posts printable.  JACKPOT!!  I immediately printed out the instructions and got to work.  By the way, you should check out the site.  She has lots of tips, tricks, and ideas on several topics like beauty, crafts, food, etc.  Tell her I sent you!

    So, from now on, my plan is to provide printable versions of all of the recipes.  You'll be able to enjoy the pictures (You do enjoy the pictures, right?), but you won't have to print them all out along with the text.  Hopefully this will make trying these recipes a little easier, and it will definitely eliminate the need for you to buy stock in Hewlett Packard!

    Also, my intent is to go back and create printable versions of all of the previous recipes.  That being said, it is a bit of a "process", so I imagine that will take some time.  Be patient with me and I'll get to those as time allows.  What is that old saying?  "All good things come to those who wait"?  If there's a recipe that you simply cannot wait to try and must have it printed out , you can leave me a comment after the specific recipe post and I'll do my best to make it a priority. 

    Thanks for visiting my blog!  I hope you're enjoying the recipes and, by the way, if you'd like to "Follow" The Italian Next Door  just enter your email address in the space in the upper right corner of this page, click on "submit", and follow all of the instructions.  Remember to click on the link in the initial e-mail you're sent to confirm your "subscription".  Each time I publish a new post, you'll be sent a notice so you won't miss any recipes!  OR, if you'd rather, you can follow me on FacebookJust go to The Italian Next Door facebook page and "like" it.  Every time I share a new recipe, the link should show up on your news feed.

    Have a great day everyone!  And Happy Spring!!


Saturday, March 30, 2013

Easter Sweet Bread

    Well, since Easter is tomorrow, I thought I would share a traditional Italian food eaten around this holiday.  There are several foods that can be typically found on an Italian table during this time.....what to choose......what to choose.  Now, before I go further, let me confess that I don't actually have many specific memories of foods we ate during Easter that were particularly Italian.......maybe my memory is failing me??

     I decided to ask my siblings for a little help jogging the old brain cells and, wouldn't you know, two of them remembered my gramma making a bread "with hard-boiled eggs placed in the braids, shell and all?"  Isn't it funny how some memories are so vivid and some things just get a bit lost over time?  (Funny, but also a little sad)  Well..... that's the recipe I'm going to share with you.  It's not my gramma's specific recipe, but one of the many that I came across while leafing through  pages in my stockpile of cookbooks.  This recipe is from Michele Scicolone and can be found in "Entertaining With The Sopranos" Now, I never  followed the t.v. series, but the cookbooks are pretty straight-forward and just kind of fun.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Pork Chops with Vinegared Peppers

    Here's another really delicious main dish for you.  Now, I know Easter is just around the corner and this recipe has no connection to the holiday, but,'s just really good and I wanted to share.  The tangy "vinegar-i-ness" of the peppers is a really nice contrast to the richness of the pork!  YUM!!  The recipe comes from "The Italian American Cookbook" by John and Galina Mariani.  I've also made this dish with boneless chicken breasts......DELICIOUS!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Fish Piccata

    O.k.,  today I thought I'd share another lighter dish with that feels like "spring".  You remember "spring", don't you?  That time of year when the temperatures begin to rise and the trees begin to bud; when the flowers start to bloom and you're awakened by the chirping of the birds?  You do remember, right??  I admit, it's been a little difficult around here lately......remembering spring, I mean.  Although, according to the calendar, it's officially here, the weather hasn't played much of a supporting role.  With temperatures still in the 30's (in the teens at night) and even some dusting of snow, it would seem that old Mr. Groundhog was a little off his game this year.  Well, no matter.......we'll just have to be patient a little longer.  SPRING IS COMING!!  MAYBE TODAY!!  For now, I'm just going to enjoy this light, but very flavorful and delicious Fish Piccata and imagine little baby bunnies hopping around in my yard, nibbling on tender shoots of spring grass.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Refreshing Pear Salad in a Tower

        To any of you who have wondered where I've been for the past few weeks, has seemed to get a bit busier.  I'm not sure why, but I just have had a hard time gettin' it together.  It might have something to do with recovering from the enormous sugar high I'd been on in the month of February.  I mean...we're talking A LOT OF CHOCOLATE, people!  Anyway, here we are in the middle of March already.  I thought it was about time to get myself on the computer and reconnect.
    So.....after all those desserts, wonderful as they were, I thought it would be nice to share something light and refreshing; something that didn't list sugar or chocolate as the main ingredients!  And here it is......a delicious salad made with pears, watercress, pecans, and blue cheese, dressed in a honey and Dijon vinaigrette.  And, to make it even more fun, it's served in a rather unconventional way.  It's like a little tower of goodness on a plate!  

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Chocolate Macaroon Brownies

    Well, here we are.....the last day of February and the last chocolate dessert recipe (for now).  To end the month I had to give you something intensely chocolatey and decadent.  These brownies are exactly that!  The brownie and frosting are VERY CHOCOLATEY and the filling is RICH and COCONUTTY!!  If you like Mounds bars, you'll love these!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Chocolate Anise Biscotti

    Well, I'm moving right along here in this month of chocolate desserts.  Today is Dessert #6!  One week left to indulge my chocolate cravings.........then, back to that wonderful place called balance and moderation, and I don't think it will come a moment too soon!  (Feelin' a little chubby today)
    But, for now........for one more week.......I'll do my best to bring you delicious chocolate goodies.  And these biscotti fit the bill.  They have just the right amount of crunch and I absolutely love the anise flavor in combination with the chocolate!  (Actually, I love the flavor of anise, period!)  If you're unfamiliar with anise/aniseed, it's a flowering plant that comes from the eastern Mediterranean region and also from southwest Asia.  Its flavor is similar to fennel (LOVE!!!) or liquorice.  If you've never tried it, this is the time!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Chocolate Cake with Chocolate-Peanut Butter Frosting

    O.K. friends......the object of this post is not to share a complicated or extravagant recipe with you, but instead, to share a very simple, yet delicious cake that has always been one of my family's favorite birthday cakes.....nothing fancy, just plain chocolate and peanut butter deliciousness!  By now, I'm sure you know how popular that combo is around here!
    I found this recipe on the back of a Hershey's cocoa tin years ago, tweaked the frosting a bit, and have been making it ever since.  Our next to the youngest son, Brady, turned 15 today (I really can't believe it!!).  And, although there are plenty of other cakes I could make for such an occasion, this is the one he wanted.  So.....this is the one he got!  And, I have to say, simple as it was, it was yummy!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Chocolate Raspberry Truffles for Valentine's Day!

    So, it's Valentine's Day....the "day of LOVE" !  What could be better to share with your sweetie than some delicious and decadent chocolate truffles?  Pure chocolate goodness rolled into little balls and dipped in more chocolate!   And these are so easy to make!  You only need three ingredients!  THREE!  (Well, four , if you count the second kind of chocolate.) You just need a little bit of time to let the chocolate set up.....then they're ready to wrap up for a nice little gift for the kids or a friend or, like I mentioned, to share with your "special someone".

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Fudge Brownie Marble Sundae Cheesecake

    Hello again to all you chocolate lovers!  Here's February's chocolate dessert #3

    Since yesterday was my birthday, I wanted to share some of the celebration with all of you.  I don't usually bake myself a birthday cake, but I thought, since I'd promised chocolate desserts this month, I would make something special that I could share.
    This is really like having two desserts in one......a dense, chocolate brownie layer on the bottom and a chocolate-swirled cheesecake layer on the top.......a fun dessert for a birthday party, I think.  This is a recipe I put together years ago when I had a small cheesecake business in New York.  The brownie crust is a slightly adapted recipe from Better Homes and Gardens Homemade Cookies Cookbook and the cheesecake part is just a basic cheesecake filling with some chocolate, melted and swirled through.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Peanut Butter Cup Surprise Cookies

    O.K., here's February's Chocolate Dessert #2.  Peanut butter and chocolate....a classic combination, and one of my family's favorites.  These cookies are really quick and easy to make and very rich!  They're a great alternative to a cake for a child's birthday party.  Just stack them up attractively on a cake plate, put the appropriate number of candles in some of the tops, and there you go!  Each child gets his own individual dessert!  No cake cutting, no kids complaining that someone else got a bigger piece; you don't even need forks!  These are also a fun treat to pop into a lunchbox (for the kids or the hubby), and a great, quick dessert to make for any get-together. THEY'RE JUST FUN!!    

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Groundhog Cake for Groundhog Day!!

    Happy Groundhog Day everyone!  I guess old Punxsutawney Phil didn't see his shadow so, according to this "expert", we can look forward to an early spring.  Well, that remains to be seen.  For now, let's just celebrate with a nice piece of cake! 
    First of all, let me say that I have absolutely no idea why this cake is called "Groundhog Cake".  I came across the recipe years ago on the Food Network.  The original recipe was a loaf cake, baked in a 9x13" pan.  I decided I wanted to make it a little more special, so I baked it as a layer cake and added some chocolate ganache underneath the espresso frosting.  The cake has a bit of a chewy texture from oatmeal that's baked in the batter.  And the espresso frosting, well....what can I say.  It's the same frosting I use on my Italian Espresso, Chocolate, and Cinnamon Brownies.  FANTASTIC!!!  It tastes like espresso fudge!!
So, friends, here's the first chocolate dessert for February.  ENJOY!!

Friday, February 1, 2013

February......It's such a "SWEET" month !!!

    Wow guys, do you believe it's February already?  Now the days will start to get longer.....YAY!.....and before you know it, we'll start to see signs of spring!  ( I might be pushin' it a little.)  Now, don't get me wrong....I've loved some of the blustery, snowy days we've had recently.  It reminds me of home!  Actually, this is nothin' compared to what we used to get in upstate N.Y.  The lake effect snow from Lake Ontario could really pack a punch!!  But, honestly, I liked that it made everything sort of slow down a bit.  I liked that you saw all your neighbors outside, doing the same thing........shoveling themselves out!  We're talking 5-6' snowbanks folks!!  But it gave everyone an excuse, if they needed one, to stay inside, all cozy and warm, and relax with their family (after the shoveling was done, of course).
    O.K., enough of my reminiscing; on to my plans for February.  This is quite a special and celebratory month, at least at my house.  You may not get too excited about the presidents' birthdays, but since I happen to share mine with old Abe Lincoln, the 12th is kind of special to me.  My next to youngest son, Brady, was born on the 17th, so obviously that demands a celebration.  And, let's not forget the 14th...... Valentine's Day..... the day of LOVE!!

    As I thought about this month and all of its "specialness", I could my posts this month express that "specialness"?  How could they express the celebration and love that's in the air?  Well, how about a month of DESSERTS? And since, as I've mentioned in a previous post, I have a deep and long-standing relationship with chocolate, how about all chocolate desserts?  Makes perfect sense to me!  I mean, what's one of the best ways you can celebrate a birthday.....yours or someone else's? Chocolate.  And ....Valentine's Day?.....well, it goes without Chocolate!  So, that settles it!  In all of February's posts I will share Chocolate Dessert Recipes.  ( I'm getting excited just thinking about it! )  I hope you'll be stopping by to share in the celebration and get in on the goodies.  I'll do my best to mix it up a bit....cake, cookies, candy,etc. 

    Well, I'm gonna run now.  I'll leave you to imagine all the chocolatey goodness that's coming.  As for me......I've got to figure out how to step up the old work-out routine over the next few weeks!  See you soon!  




Saturday, January 26, 2013

Yummy Red Pepper Soup

    Today's recipe may look very unassuming, maybe even plain, but let me assure you, it's really, well, YUMMY!  If you're looking for a spicy-hot red pepper soup....keep looking.  If you only like chunky soups filled with all sorts of meat and veggies....this isn't for you.  BUT...if you love the idea of a rich, creamy, savory-sweet soup and you love the flavor of roasted red're gonna love this!  It makes a great lunch or light dinner with the addition of some great rolls or a grilled sandwich and a salad.  The recipe comes from The Italian American Cookbook by John and Galina Mariani

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Grilled Skewers of Calamari and Shrimp on a bed of Orzo, Artichokes, and Pine Nuts

    Wow, that's a mouthful!  And a delicious mouthful at that!  I tried to shorten the title, honest, but I just couldn't come up with something shorter that would convey all the yumminess of these recipes.  And...we are talking about two recipes here, friends!  They may sound fancy or complicated, but really are pretty simple to prepare and really good.    
    Now, I realize that I'm sharing this in the middle of January, but it would make a great summer meal also.  You can use a grill (indoor or outdoor) or broiler for the seafood (it only takes 4 minutes!) and the orzo dish can be served warm or at room temperature. heating up the kitchen for hours! 

Monday, January 14, 2013

Cinnamon Chocolate Pudding with Pine Nuts

    Chocolate pudding.....for me, another quintessential comfort food.  As a little girl, I remember it being a favorite dessert.  This is a bit more sophisticated with the addition of some cinnamon and toasted pine nuts.   Some  recipes will yield a pudding that has a soft, loose consistency.  This one makes a dense, rich, and intensely chocolate dessert.  It comes from the book Mario Batali Holiday Food
    Sharing Italian customs, as well as recipes, is something I've wanted to do with this blog.  But, I have to admit, that to share or not to share this next custom with you has caused me a bit of anxiety.  It's something I've never been aware of, and it was a bit shocking to me....even a little disturbing.  (Do I have your attention yet?)  I've gone back and forth and finally decided....I'll just go for it.  Learning about different cultures is good, right??

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Rigatoni alla Toscanini

    As I've mentioned before, Italians are pretty frugal.  If at all possible, nothing goes to waste.  Well, I recently found myself with some fresh ricotta in the fridge, left over from a recent trip to an Italian market.  I'd already used some of it to bake an orange ricotta cheesecake but still had a little bit left.
    After looking over my shelves of cookbooks, I decided to pull out one that the hubby had brought home for me quite awhile back and see what I could find.  The cookbook is called La Cucina di Andrea'sIt has recipes from a well-known Northern Italian restaurant in New Orleans.  I pretty quickly found a pasta dish that happened to use the same amount of ricotta that I had left, so.....that would be dinner.  The recipe actually used penne, but rigatoni was in my cupboard so that's what I used.  A little side note.....apparently this dish was named after the famous Italian conductor Arturo Toscanini.  This is some rich, delicious tasting pasta, whoever it's named after.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

A Belated Holiday Wish and ....... Roasted Chicken with Potatoes and Peppers

    First of all, before we talk about this recipe, let me say that I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday time with friends and family.  We were able to visit my family out of state, as we usually do over the Christmas/New Year holiday, and we had a great time, as we always do (even though we were recovering from some sickness).  If it seemed that I was MIA, well...I sort of was. The flu hit our household and so, needless to say, I wasn't the cooking and baking fiend that I usually am around the holidays.  We got through it, although I'm still not feeling 100 percent. Unfortunately, some of the wonderful things I had wanted to share with you all during December didn't make it onto the blog or even onto our table for that matter.  But, sometimes that's just the way it goes.  Now we're into a new year with new resolutions and plans and, I for one, am hoping for and expecting blessings in the coming months.  I know that I have much to be thankful for and want to wish you all many wonderful things in the upcoming year.  Now, on to the recipe.