Saturday, October 31, 2009

With a heavy heart....

The stars will be shining much brighter in the heavens as our good friend, Tommy is now smiling down upon us.  His suffering has ended; ours has only begun. His loving wife, beautiful daughters, devoted parents, family, and friends will now have the unthinkable and difficult task of facing our lives without this vivacious and wonderful man.

There will not be a bottle of red wine opened, nor a dish of broccoli rabe and sausage consumed, without thoughts of Tommy.  Dining out on Saturday nights.....sitting around the backyard firepit....."Can't get enough of those Johnnycakes".....songs by the Eagles......NASCAR races....Giants football....."Tommy Tux"....the sound of his booming voice and infectious laugh. 

You will be missed, my dear friend.  More than these mere words can ever express.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Food For Thought

My thoughts haven't been so sweet this past week; a close friend is seriously ill.  It's almost too difficult to imagine this man in any other way than grabbing life and devouring it in the same way he would a great meal.  Food, family, fun, and friends are synonomous with: Tommy.

We take so much for granted in our brief journey through life, and it's only in times of stress and sorrow that we begin to realize the precious importance of normalcy.  Sitting across from a loved one toasting "health and friendship," flows out as smoothly as the wine in the glass, but we really don't want to believe there might come a day sooner rather than later when that toast will really matter. 

My mother always said, "If you have your health, you have everything."  Here's to miracles. 

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Blueberry Scones

Wikipedia describes scones as, "a small British quickbread (or cake if recipe includes sugar) of Scottish origin."  It goes on to explain how they're typically made from wheat, barley, or oatmeal, with baking powder as a leavening agent.  The pronunciation of the word "scone" varies across the United Kingdom from the "o" having a long or short sound.  There is a debate as to the origin of the word, sometimes scones are round, sometimes they're flat, most of the time they're triangular in shape.  They can be sweet; they can be savory.  They can have raisins, nuts, chocolate, can be baked or griddled.  You say potato; I say potahto.  Let's agree on one thing:  There are as many variations of scones as there are shades of OPI nailpolish.  And, then some. 

I like to use whole wheat flour along with all-purpose flour in most of my scone recipes. It does make them crumblier, but I like that flaky, rustic texture.  The ones I baked this morning included dried blueberries, grated coconut, and chopped walnuts.  For those of you who prefer pecans, and you know who you are, please feel free.

This recipe is similar to my Nutty Coconut Scone recipe.

1 1/4 cups white whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup golden brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshy grated nutmeg
1/2 cup unsalted butter, chilled, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 large eggs
1/4 cup half 'n half
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts
1 cup dried blueberries
1/4 cup shredded coconut

1 tablespoon additional half 'n half
1-2 tablespoons Turbinado sugar

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Line a baking pan with a sheet of parchment paper. 

In a large bowl, stir together the flours, brown sugar, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg.  Add the butter, and cut into the flour with a pastry cutter or your fingers (I use my fingers) until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.   In another bowl, mix the eggs, half 'n half, and vanilla; then add to flour mixture.  Don't overmix.  Add the nuts, blueberries, and coconut, just until combined. 

Drop mixture onto parchment paper-lined pan and form into a 9-inch diameter circle.  Brush half 'n half over the top; dust with sugar.  Slice into 8 wedges.  Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick or cake tester inserted in center comes out clean.  Remove pan from oven; reslice wedges; transfer to a rack to cool.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

For Karen

Ok, Karen.  I'm sorry.  I'll begin posting more often again, and I'm so flattered that you enjoy reading my blog. 

I hope my fingers can type after Zumba on Tuesday night.  (But, we're going to be so thin!)  Can we please go on that spa weekend?  Please?

Cafe' World

Hello, my name is Pam, and I'm a Cafe' World addict.  Has anyone gotten involved with this thing on Facebook?  It's not a real cafe', I need to keep reminding myself.  However, I had to rush home from dinner tonight to serve my French Onion Soup, Triple Berry Cheesecake, and begin preparation of the Pumpkin Pie to these virtual customers. 

I've realized that I desperately need to begin a new business.  The virtual cafe' is not exactly cutting the mustard, so to speak.  However, it does make me realize how much I miss my former dessert cafe'.  In fact, after dining on an absolutely fabulous meal tonight, the desserts fell short.  We all agreed that the little place "up the road a piece" would have been a great spot to enjoy a cup of coffee and/or espresso, and one of my homemade desserts.  Now, don't get me wrong.  There are millions of great bakers out there, and in fact, one of the patrons sitting at an adjacent table from us overheard our conversation about the so-so quality of the desserts, and she agreed.  She said hers are better, too.  But, I bake because I love it, and because it feeds my soul.  It's like the olive oil running through my veins.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Rum Roasted Banana Bread Glazed with Foster Cream

I found this great recipe for banana bread in a cookbook called, "Mix it Up!" by Jamee Ruth, and it came with my Kitchen Aid Pro mixer.  I've added cinnamon and nutmeg to her recipe, since I do like a little spice in everything I bake.  I challenge you to not want to eat all of the bananas right out of the pan or to pour them over vanilla ice cream.  This is Bananas Foster meets Banana Bread, and in fact, why not slice a piece of the bread, place in the bottom of a dessert bowl, top with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, then spoon the cream sauce over the whole kit and kaboodle.  Absolutely indulgent. 

10 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 very ripe bananas
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon dark rum (I use Captain Morgan)
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup plain vanilla yogurt
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Grease and flour the bottom of a 9-inch loaf pan, and set aside. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed skillet. Leave ¼ cup in the skillet, and pour the rest into a small bowl. Set the bowl aside. Peel and slice the bananas, add them to the skillet, and saute’ for 1 minute. Sprinkle the brown sugar over the bananas, add the rum*, and saute’ for 2 minutes more. With a slotted spoon, transfer the bananas to a bowl and set aside. Add the cream to the remaining liquid in the skillet, stir, and turn off the heat.
*A very astute reader advised me to inform my fellow bloggers to remove the pan from over the heat when adding the rum, as the alcohol could cause flareups.  We do not wish for anyone to combust.  Spontaneously, or otherwise. 

Combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, spices, and walnuts in a bowl. In the mixing bowl, combine the bananas, yogurt, eggs, vanilla, and the reserved melted butter. Mix on low for one minutes. The bananas should be lumpy, rather than completely blended. With the mixer running, add the flour mixture all at once, and turn the mixer off as soon as the flour is moistened. The batter should look a little dry in places. Using a spatula, transfer the batter to the loaf pan. Tap the pan to distribute the batter evenly.

Place the pan in the oven, and bake for about one hour or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack in the pan for 5 minutes; then turn the loaf out onto the wire rack.

While the bread is cooling, make the glaze: Warm the cream mixture in a skillet; cook for 2 to 3 minutes until it’s thick and creamy. Slice the bread and drizzle some of the Foster Cream over each slice. Serve immediately.


Tomorrow is my good friend, Joanne's birthday.  I won't reveal her age, but to me, we'll always be just silly girls.  She's decided to have a "Zumba" party to celebrate.  For those of you who aren't familiar with Zumba, it's an exercise program that combines Latin dance rhythms with a workout, so that you're having fun rather than thinking about losing inches and weight. 

But, what would a birthday party be without cake?  So, I'm baking a Coconut Cake with a White Fluffy (7-Minute) Frosting; Limoncello Cupcakes filled with Lemon Curd, and an Applesauce Spice Cake.  I might also bake a dozen Brownie Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting.  So, we should probably begin the Zumba today and dance our way clear into tomorrow night so that we can indulge in a a dessert or two. 

Happy "Trip Around the Sun", Joanne!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Mom's Penicillin

When I was a child, back in the dark ages of the late 50’s and early 60’s, we had a family physician, Dr. Ciccone. He actually made house calls and carried a black satchel. However, I honestly cannot remember him ever coming to our house.   It would have taken the plague for my mother to call the doctor. But, when she did, Dr. Ciccone knew someone in our house was really sick.  It wouldn't have been just a case of the sniffles or a scraped knee.  There was one “test” Dr. Ciccone gave my mother early on, and that criteria was the golden rule of which every illness was determined. Listen carefully, this is important for all of you young parents out there in Blogland. Dr. Ciccone’s failsafe determination as to whether or not your child is ill:

“Check the soles of her shoes.”


“Are they scuffed?”

“Well, yes, doctor.”

“Then, she’s ok.”

Logic: If the shoes are scuffed, then she’s outside playing, and all is well with the world. Ok. Works for me. I used this rule, more or less, when raising my two sons. Yes, yes, there were the times when they’d heat the thermometer with the blow dryer raising the temperature to miss school.  But, for the most part, when they were home sick, they were sick. Truth be told, I probably made staying home a treat; something to look forward to during the long and dreary days of winter. After all, my mother trained me.  She’d walk up to the A and P and come home with a coloring book and crayons, or the little loom to make potholders (yes, I did), and then, there was the soup. Homemade soup. Chicken and Rice, or the holy grail of soups: Beef Barley. It made being sick, worth it.

Now, I can post recipes for both.  But, honestly, they’re just not the same as mom’s. She put “secrets” in her recipes. I never discovered those secrets….but I think what it amounts to is:  Love.  I have my own version of that love, but it will never replace the uniqueness of my mother's.  So, no matter what I cook….no matter how great it turns out….it’s missing that one secret ingredient that belonged to mom alone.

Eric wasn’t feeling well over the weekend. He’s 28. But I can’t help it. I’m a mom. I’m Italian. I made soup. And, he’s better. I don’t care if he got more sleep than he was getting; it was my soup that made him better. That’s my story, and I’m stickin’ to it.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Bottle it Up

I've had a nice request to post a picture of my finished Limoncello in its gift-giving bottle and wrappings.  I promise to do so when this year's product is finished.  In the mean time, I've posted a sample label on the Limoncello post that I've created in the past, and I stick it right on the bottle.  You can obviously change the size depending on the bottle used, or pick one size. 

As to the bottle itself, well, this is up to your liking.  My favorite style is the one used for Grolsch beer--the swingtop.  However, I like to purchase clear glass so the color of the liqueur shows through.  These bottles seal in the liquid to ensure there's no spillage in the freezer, should you need to lay them down.  Of course, you can use a cork-style as long as its a tight fit. 

One of the many sites on line to find these bottles is:
I've also found pretty bottles at vintage stores, Sur la Table, and Amazon, to name a few.  You can even use washed and dried bottles from other products, but stay away from anything with a strong smell or oily residue.   

For the recipe, use a standard 5" x 7" card, but fold it in half lengthwise, so it's not too bulky looking for the bottle.  Punch a hole in the top; slip a pretty ribbon through--red & green for Christmas--and add a few lemon peels or dried lemon slices.  Be creative! 

Saturday, October 3, 2009

When Life Hands You Lemons.....

My friend, Karen, reminded me that it's time to make the Limoncello.  It just wouldn't be Christmas without Santa's "Ho-ho-ho," and a red-ribboned bottle of my homemade spirit under her tree.  After the presents are purchased, wrapped, and opened; the holiday dinners planned, prepared, and eaten; it's always nice to sit back, relax, and sip a freezing cold cordial glass of sinfully soothing Limoncello. 

I should point out that I'm discussing Christmas in October, since when making this liqueur, the lemon peels need ample time to steep, infusing their flavor and color into the alcohol.
I've used 100-proof vodka in the past for my homemade liqueurs and have had good results, though the purists say one should only use the 151-proof grain alcohol, known most commonly as Everclear.  There's also a 190-proof, but it's not available for purchase in every state because of the high alcohol content.  Even the 151-proof has a limit on its availablity in certain states. 

You'll need one or two (if doubling the recipe) large, glass jars for the initial resting period; then individual gift-giving bottles which should be stored in the freezer for optimal flavor of the Limoncello.


16-18 thick-skinned lemons
1.75 ltr. bottle of 100-proof vodka (Do not use less than 100-proof)
4 cups sugar
5 cups water

Wash and dry the lemons.  Peel the lemons removing only the yellow skin, not the white pith, as this will produce a bitter liqueur. 

Add half of the bottle of vodka to a large, glass jar; add all of the lemon peels.  Cover the jar and let it sit at room temperature for at least two weeks, and up to one month.  The longer, the better, as the flavor will intensify. 

After the initial resting period, combine the sugar and water in a large saucepan.  Heat and cook until thickened, about 5 minutes.  Cool, then add to the lemon/vodka mixture.  Add the remainder of the vodka; stir.  Cover and let the mixture rest for an additional two to four weeks.  Again, longer is better. 

Strain the Limoncello, discarding the lemon peels, and pour into individual bottles.  Keep in the freezer until ready to serve.

If giving Limoncello as a gift, it's nice to print out the recipe, tie around the neck of the bottle with a pretty ribbon, and you can even zest a few lemon spirals to include as a decoration.  I also make labels for the bottles.