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!