Saturday, September 4, 2010


My boys are coming for a visit next weekend, and I am beyond excited since I haven't seen them both for over four months. Much too long from a mother's perspective. One of their favorite treats are these Ginger cookies that I used to bake for the cafe'. Everyone seemed to gobble them up, and they're equally great with milk or a steaming cup of coffee.


4 ¼ cups of all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon ginger
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon allspice
1/8 teaspoon cloves
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1 ¼ cups sugar, plus an additional ½ cup for coating
1 cup canola oil
¾ cup molasses
2 eggs
¼ cup finely chopped crystallized ginger

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Combine flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, allspice, cloves, and nutmeg in a medium bowl.

In a large mixing bowl, beat together 1 ¼ cups sugar, oil, molasses, and eggs just until smooth. Add chopped ginger to combine; fold in flour mixture. Refrigerate dough for about 15 minutes.

Place ½ cup sugar in a small bowl. Using a large ice cream scoop (about ¼ cup equivalent), make mixture into balls; roll each in sugar to coat; place on parchment-paper lined baking sheets, about 3 inches apart. Bake for about 18 minutes, or until golden. Remove cookies to wire rack to cool completely. Once cooled, these cookies freeze well.

Makes about a dozen-and-a-half.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Coconut Rice Pudding with Chocolate Shavings

1/2 cup Basmati rice, soaked in cold water to cover for 1/2 an hour
13 oz. can coconut milk (Not Cream of Coconut)
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon coconut extract
1 vanilla bean, split--seeds scraped and saved
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
1 ounce dark chocolate, shaved

Drain rice from water; transfer to 2 quart heavy saucepan along with coconut mil, heavy cream, sugar, extract, vanilla bean seeds, and nutmeg. Bring to a simmer; continue simmering for 25 minutes, stirring on occasion. Remove pan from heat; transfer mixture to bowl; let cool; then gently fold in shaved chocolate.

Pour into individual serving dishes; chill until ready to serve. Can be made up to 2 days ahead.

Garnish with additional shaved chocolate and/or toasted coconut if desired.

Makes 4 servings

Monday, August 9, 2010

I say Brasciole.... say Rouladden.

Growing up in an Italian family with Italian food as the mainstay of our table, I was intrigued when dining at my future husband's house where his mother served Rouladden. Let me tell you, the aromas were wonderful! Bacon, onion, and mustard filled the top round meat rolls that would be browned and simmered until fork tender. My mother-in-law accompanied these gems with mashed potatoes, burnt green beans (an inside joke--mom ALWAYS burned the beans), and spoonsful of delicious gravy. My husband, his father, and sister would count the toothpicks at the end of the meal to see who ate the most and which person deserved the last....and this remaining rouladden on the platter usually got split or speared by the fastest fork. I've now made these for many a Christmas dinner, since my sons enjoy them, too.

This weekend, I had an urge for brasciole. They are the Italian equivalent of Rouladden, or vice-versa depending on your ethnicity. Mom always used egg and breadcrumbs in hers; I omitted the egg and used a filling of chopped sundried tomatoes, freshly grated Parm cheese, fresh breadcrumbs from an Italian loaf, and pesto. I combined the rolled and browned rolls in the "gravy" (The Italian word for sauce), along with some country pork chops. Though I've come to love Rouladden, there's just nothing like the aromas coming from a pot of gravy....and knowing that this homemade Italian staple would be served with my Eggplant Parmigiana. An antipasto started this meal that was truly a delicious comfort food for me.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Tommy Bahama

Had a great dinner and a fun time at T.B. in Naples last night. John and I enjoyed the young couple next to us celebrating their daughter's birthday...their son looked appropriately bored, but a good sport nevertheless.

The musician entertaining the diners had a playlist sure to satisfy everyone there, even if John did request AC/DC's "Hell's Bells." We "settled" for Tom Petty and The Eagles.

Our dinners came with sides of swarming flies, but that's to be expected when you're eating outside. The restaurant made every attempt to diminish the effects....lemon oil, citronella lamps, tiki torches, but to no avail. John's scallop slider appetizer seemed to attract more than a fair share of intruders, and although he was afraid of chomping on one, he seemed to avoid a mouthful. My Loki Loki Tuna Poke was exempt from the attackers, and I devoured every last bit. John had the snapper for dinner; I had the flatiron steak. The flies didn't really diminish our appetites or spirits. Speaking of spirits, my two Tommy 'Tinis with blue-cheese stuffed olives satisfied my tastes quite nicely, thank you very much.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Chocolate Wine?

"The right chocolate paired with the right wine can create a near-orgasmic experience."  Hmmm.  Certainly something to consider.  Chocovine.  When I saw this creation in Publix the other day, I picked it up--certainly chocolate and wine are God's gifts, but I just couldn't get past the chocolate milk look.  One would have to throw away all knowledge of what a good wine should look like in the glass, as even those of us with limited expertise don't want to see a thick, cloudy beverage in our favorite stemware.  But, perhaps if I can think along the lines of "dessert," I might give this a consideration.  The website lists some interesting cocktails to make using Chocovine, such as a "Treasure Island" with Banana Liqueur and Coconut Rum; and the "Midnight Rush" with Espresso Vodka.  All sound interesting for sure, but I'm not sure about the Cabernet mix....

You know I'm going to try this.  Just for curiosity's sake. 


Sunday, July 11, 2010

Eat Pray Love

This book is a gem.  Written by Elizabeth Gilbert, it's a memoir described as "One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia. 

Well, I've just finished "everything" in Italy, and it was such a pleasure and an enticement to read Gilbert's salivatingly beautiful descriptions of her love of, and relationships with, Italian food, including the name of her new friend, Luca Spaghetti.  From her carpaccio rolled around hazelnut mousse to the "best pizza in Italy," I was ready to book a flight.  I can understand this affection for food, since eating is not just a means of sustaining life in an Italian's more of a religious experience.  It's about savoring the tastes, the textures, and the aromas.  It's about sharing that passion with those you love. 

Yes, the book is primarily about a spiritual journey following her divorce and deep depression, but in her search and brilliant writing, I find myself answering and asking questions about my own life. 

I'm off to India; then Indonesia.  I'm tempted, however, to re-read Italy, since I hate to leave it behind. 

Sunday, July 4, 2010

4th of July Fare

I'll be headed over to my sister's place tonight on Marco Island; we're going to enjoy a few cocktails and probably consume more food than two small-ish women should.  It's the Italian heritage.  I've always said that eating is a sporting event. 

I'm going to make coconut martinis.  Simple recipe:  Van Gogh's Coconut Vodka--about 1 1/2 ounces per drink shaken over ice with 2-3 teaspoons of Coconut Milk.  Strain into a martini glass.  Garnish as desired.  I've had a similar drink that was garnished with toasted coconut, but as coconut can be chewy when eating it, I don't find it a desirable addition to a drink.  Perhaps garnish with a piece of fresh coconut and a sprig of mint. 

Donna is making portobello burgers with roasted vegetables, and I'm making baby back ribs.  She has a Key Lime Cheesecake for dessert if we're not passed out from food or drink by that time. 

Have a great day, everyone!  Happy 4th.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Ode to Anonymous.....Part Deux

I should like to take this opportunity to thank "Anonymous" for his--yes, now I'm sure it's a "he" based on the choice of recent words--comment on my absolutley adorable great nephew.  Though you are, in fact, the only one to offer your congratulatory words and visions of virtual cooing at him, I take no offense, since I have been such an absent and infrequent blogger that I am sure the masses of people reading my snippets of life gave up on me or just fell asleep waiting for the next entry. 

So, I thank you, Anonymous for noticing.  Be well out there in Blogville.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Sweetest Thing

I can't think of anything sweeter for my blog than to announce the arrival of the newest member of our family.

Jackson James Thomas, born today to my wonderful nephew Greg and his beautiful wife, Maggie.  Everyone in our family wishes our new little guy a healthy and wonderful life filled with joys-a-plenty and troubles a-few. 

Welcome J.J. 

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Ridgway Bar & Grill

There is no shortage of enticing restaurants in Naples, Florida.  My sister and I enjoyed a lovely lunch at The Ridgway Bar & Grill on Third St and 13th Ave yesterday.  The atmosphere is comfortable, yet classy; the service was excellent, and the food was delicious.  I decided on the Goat Cheese Tart with Ratatuoille, Greens, and a Roasted Tomato Vinaigrette.  It was light, yet satisfying...the goat cheese melted underneath the finely chopped eggplant and onions. 

The owners, Tony Ridgway and Sukie Honeycutt, have many years of restaurant experience, and Tony's French culinary training was showcased with the pastry tart encasing the perfectly cooked vegetables and goat cheese.  Sukie's expertise is with their extensive selection of wines. 

I look forward to a future visit for dinner, as their menu and location are a perfect combination for an enjoyable dining experience. 

You can read more about this classic destination at:
Ridgway Bar & Grill

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Father's Day

Hoping that all of the wonderful fathers out there are enjoying their day....and to all of you who have lost that special person in your life, I wish you warm and wonderful memories. 

Here's to you, Daddy. 

Saturday, June 19, 2010

It's Electric

There's something about a glass-topped cooking surface that's uninspiring.  I'm so used to real thing, so to speak, that the smooth surface of the stove in my new surroundings leaves me cold.  I just don't feel as if I'm really cooking.  It's as if I'm using training wheels.  Even the oven doesn't bake the same.  I know I'll have to get used to this, as it's the norm down here, but I'm having difficulty.  In a way, it's like learning to bake all over again, since I need to tweak each and every baking time to allow for the change in mode.  Do I sound as if I'm whining?  Guilty as charged.  There are some things one must sacrifice in order to attain others, and although my baking (and cooking) has taken a hit, I still really do love these palm trees...........

Friday, June 4, 2010

Nathalie Dupree

This is one classy, friendly, and learned Southern lady.  She's approachable (one of my Facebook friends) and real.  I think, in many ways, Nathalie Dupree allowed me to feel as if baking mistakes were "OK."  Mom and I enjoyed watching her on tv patch together a rolled-out pie crust....flour and butter attached to her gorgeous diamond ring....and she'd just smile that big smile of hers and explain that once it's in the pie dish, no one would know anyway.  How do you not love that kind of reality?  No stuffy persona for Nathalie.  

She's been on the Food Network, PBS, and the Learning Channel; she's won countless awards including the prestigious James Beard Award; written numerous cookbooks; and if she ran for president, she'd get my vote. 

Nathalie makes it look easy.  She's the kind of woman every woman would like to sit and chat with at the kitchen table.  But although you'd be impressed being with her and soaking in her warmth and knowledge, somehow I believe she'd make you feel as if she were the one privileged to be with you. 

Nathalie Dupree

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Hamburgers and Palm Trees

Raleigh and I had hamburgers for dinner tonight.  Mine had shredded cheddar cheese and gorgonzola; his was plain.  He didn't seem to miss the cheese.  Raleigh, as it turns out, is one of the best dining partners....he's excited at whatever I feed him, and he's awfully cute, to boot.

That I have palm trees outside my window is a real aesthetic plus.  I've wanted a view of these wispy, carefree trees for as long as I can remember.  The never-ending sunshine isn't too hard to take either.  I'm just loving my new digs in Naples.

Prior to dinner, I took Raleigh to Canine Cove, Mackle Park, Marco Island.  We, rather, he...romped around chasing tennis balls to his heart's delight, building up that appetite for the cheeseburgers in Paradise....his sans the cheese.  Canine Cove is just adorable, and I found out that on the last Sunday of every month from 3-5, they have "Yappy Hour."  I don't think martinis are served, however, it's a short drive home to make my drink of choice garnished with blue-cheese stuffed olives.

I hope you are all enjoying a wonderful holiday weekend. 

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

54 Years Ago..., I was born.  I will celebrate, as I do every year, however the most important part of my birthday is no longer here:  My Mother.  It's been fifteen years since her passing, and although I think of her every day, it's on my birthday when I miss her the most. 

When my sons were growing up, I used to tease them when I wanted a favor that I knew wasn't really their "cup of tea."  "I gave you life," I'd say, while they'd roll their eyes, and they'd reluctantly get the job done.  I'd smirk and that would be the end of it.  I'd be joking, of course, but with each year that passes, April 27th is a screaming reminder that my own mom is no longer here....the woman who gave me life.  It's been a great life so far, and I'm looking forward to many more years of memories to be made, but still..... 

......though I'll be celebratory on the outside.......inside, I'll always feel the loss.


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Favorite Comfort Food

Chicken and Mushroom Marengo....definitely, a comfort dinner

I've posted a few of my favorite feel-good, comfort foods, such as macaroni and cheese, grilled cheese, and of course, desserts.....what are some of yours?  Do you have a recipe for it?  Would you like one?  As I'm typing this, I'm remembering some of my favorite comfort desserts, such as Coconut Rum-Raisin Rice pudding or Caramel Flan.....Yum.   

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Happy Birthday, Melissa

Dark Chocolate Cake with a thin raspberry glaze....topped with Bittersweet Chocolate Ganache. 

Happy 21st....goes great with a martini.  But what doesn't?  Cheers, kiddo. 

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Saturday, April 10, 2010

City Winery

My girlfriends and I spent a fun evening in NYC last night at the City Winery, where we were not only treated to a unique dining experience--one in which the wine was center stage to the food--but in the physical and literal sense, Raul Malo performed for a sold-out house. 

We enjoyed a City Winery Zinfandel as well as a Sauvignon Blanc and chose the chef's selection of cheese and charcutiere platters which included Petite Billy and Cabra Romero cheeses and Prosciutto di Parma and Salame Rosa.  Also enjoyed were the Marinated olives, Hummus, and Babaganouj.  Ok, and since it was a long evening--we arrived before 6 and stayed until almost 1AM when Raul finished his concert--we tried the Mini Sliders with Herbed Frites and a Margarita Pizza.  The food, wine, and atmosphere were top notch, but Raul's performance....consistently exceeding expectations.  What a talent. 

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Grilled Cheese

Is there anything simpler to make than a grilled cheese?  Or, more satisfying and comforting?  Well, yes, I can think of a few dishes, namely macaroni and cheese (check earlier post).  I try my best to eat in a healthy way, consistent with low-fat, low cholesterol, low salt or sodium free, but let's face it:  Sometimes we crave the foods that just aren't the best things in the world for us.  I'd rather abstain from real cheese and enjoy it on occasion than use low-fat daily.  That's just me.  So, for lunch today, I'm keeping the yogurt in the fridge, and making a pesto-seasoned, havarti and tomato on whole wheat bread, grilled cheese.  And, I'm going to enjoy every bite. 

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Mussels and Shrimp in White Wine Broth

What to make on Easter Eve?  It doesn't have quite the same ring as Christmas Eve, but I felt that seafood was in order. 

Dinner was just for John and me; Easter dinner the same, but that doesn't mean it can't be special.  So, at the supermarket yesterday, I suggested mussels and shrimp, though not sure what I was going to do with them.  I came up with the following recipe, and the two diners gave it rave reviews.  I hope you enjoy it, and have a blessed holiday.

2 lbs. mussels, cleaned
1 lb. jumbo shrimp (about 10-12), deveined and peeled, tails intact
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon EVOO
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 ½ cups dry white wine
3 tomatoes, seeded, and chopped
3 tablespoons heavy cream
2 teaspoon Singapore seasoning* (Penzey’s Spices)
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon honey
1/3 c mango salsa
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 cup frozen peas, defrosted
Pinch of coarse sea salt
Fresh basil and/or parsley


Melt the butter with the olive oil in a large stock pot; add the garlic and saute’ over low heat for about a minute, being careful not to allow the garlic to burn. Add the wine, cream, Singapore seasoning, and basil; simmer for 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, honey, mango salsa, and lemon juice; simmer for another 5 minutes.

Add shrimp; toss gently; cover and simmer for 2 minutes. Add mussels, peas, and sea salt; toss again to coat with broth; cover and steam for about 5 minutes or until mussels open; stirring once. Discard any that do not open.

Spoon shrimp and mussels onto a large serving bowl; pour liquid over. Sprinkle with freshly snipped basil and/or parsley.

Serve with crusty semolina bread.

Serves 2 to 4 people, depending on their appetites!

*Singapore seasoning is a complex but delicate blend of the following spices:
Tellicherry black pepper, lemon peel, citric acid, garlic, onion, turmeric, coriander, cumin, fenugreek, ginger, nutmeg, fennel, cinnamon, white pepper, cardamom, cloves, and cayenne red pepper.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Straciatella Soup...with Benefits

This could also have been titled: Quinoa, Take Two.

After enjoying a wonderful Straciatella Soup with Spinach on Saturday night (how alliterative of me) and discovering the benefits of Quinoa, I decided to pair the two, and add a few "extras" for this evening’s dinner.

Straciatella Soup has always been a simple chicken broth where a combination of beaten eggs and Parmesan cheese have been added…..slowly….not into a boiling stock. The result is a “little rags or strings” look, hence, straciatella.

Well, if the spinach made that simple soup better, chicken and a few extras would make it great! However, don’t get me wrong. When you need a “sick soup,” or something simple to make you feel better, the original can’t be beat.

Pam’s Straciatella and Chicken Soup with Quinoa

1 small onion, diced
1 large carrot, finely chopped
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
2 chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch chunks, sprinkled with
2 tablespoons Penzey’s Singapore seasoning
2 quarts chicken stock
4 eggs whisked with 1 tablespoon semolina and 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
½ cup Quinoa (rinsed)
2 tablespoons pesto
2 cups fresh baby spinach

In a large stockpot, saute’ onion and carrot in olive oil and butter; stir over low heat for 5 minutes. Remove from pan; add chicken in 2 batches, cooking over medium high heat until nicely golden on all sides. (Add a bit more olive oil if necessary). Remove from pan; add chicken stock and Quinoa; bring to a simmer; add chicken and vegetables; stir, then cover, and reduce heat to low. Cook for about 20 minutes, or until Quinoa has softened. Uncover, and add eggs, stirring with a fork to break up. Add pesto and spinach; cook until greens wilt.

Serve with semolina bread and additional Parmesan cheese.

Sunday, March 28, 2010


I'm new to Quinoa, pronounced, "Keen-wah."  (Who knew?)  I've seen it on menus, and I believe I've even ordered it, but I've never prepared it.  From what I've read, the ancient Incas revered quinoa and the leader planted the first seed with a golden shovel.  This is quite a regal rice substitute!  It can be used in breads and soups and even fermented to make a beer.  It's not a grain in the true sense, but is the seed of the Chenopodium or Goosefoot plant. I had never even heard of this prior to doing some research, and believe me, there's much to read about Quinoa.  The reason I even purchased it is because Eric is trying to lean his diet toward gluten-free foods, and Quinoa meets this need.  After rinsing, there are several preparation choices you can make, but I kept mine fairly simple.

I chopped an onion and a carrot, sauted both in a tablespoon of olive oil for about 5 minutes.  Then, I added the rinsed Quinoa and chicken broth with some Tandoori seasoning (Penzey's Spices) and simmered, covered, for about 20 minutes.  I then added chopped walnuts and parsley.  The walnuts added a nice crunch, and the Quinoa went well with my apricot glazed grilled salmon topped with mango salsa. 

Because of the versatility of this product, it's a nice alternative to rice, potatoes, or pasta. 

Friday, March 26, 2010

Lemon Meringue Pie with Hazelnut Shortbread Crust

I'm not a huge Lemon Meringue Pie fan....or perhaps I only enjoy it in the spring....a seasonal dessert.  But, I made this recipe for Eric when he came to house to dog sit last weekend, and of course, I tasted a sliver before leaving for our trip.  Well, I must admit, that it was quite delicious, and in the future, I might not just limit its preparation for a particular time of year.  The only change I made was to use walnuts instead of hazelnuts in the crust.  It's obviously more detailed than the ready-made crust and boxed lemon filling that many are used to, but the results are worth it. 

Here's the recipe taken from the Epicurious site:

•1/3 cup hazelnuts, toasted, husked
•1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
•1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces, room temperature
•1/2 cup powdered sugar
•1 large egg yolk
•1 tablespoon grated lemon peel
•1/2 teaspoon salt

Grind nuts finely in processor. Add flour and blend well. Add remaining ingredients. Using on/off turns, process just until moist clumps form. Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface. Gather dough into ball; flatten into disk. Wrap in plastic; chill until firm enough to roll, about 45 minutes.

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 325°F. Roll out dough between sheets of waxed paper to 12-inch round, turning over occasionally to lift and smooth paper. Peel off top sheet of paper. Using bottom paper as aid, lift dough and invert into 9-inch-diameter glass pie dish. Peel off paper. Press dough gently into dish. Fold overhang under; crimp to form decorative edge. Pierce crust all over with fork. Chill 15 minutes. Line crust with foil. Fill with dried beans or pie weights. Bake crust until sides are set, about 15 minutes. Remove foil and beans. Bake until crust is pale golden, about 20 minutes longer. Transfer crust to rack and cool completely. Reduce oven temperature to 300°F.
1 1/2 cups water
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
6 large egg yolks
5 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons grated lemon peel
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter

Whisk first 7 ingredients in heavy medium saucepan to blend. Using whisk, stir over medium heat until filling thickens and just begins to boil, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat. Whisk in butter. Spoon hot filling into prepared crust.

7 large egg whites
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 1/8 cups powdered sugar

Using electric mixer, beat egg whites in large stainless steel bowl at low speed until foamy. Beat in cream of tartar and 1 tablespoon sugar. Gradually beat in remaining sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time. Beat at medium speed until stiff glossy peaks form, about 8 minutes. Spread meringue over warm filling, covering completely, sealing meringue to crust edges and mounding in center. Bake pie for 30 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 275°F and continue to bake until meringue is golden brown and set when pie is shaken slightly, about 50 minutes. Transfer pie to rack and cool completely, about 4 hours. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Refrigerate uncovered.)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

San Antonio

John and I just returned from a great trip to visit Adam in San Antonio where he works as a bird handler and trainer for Sea World's new spectacular show, Azul. 

We stayed at The Omni La Mansion del Rio right on The Riverwalk, and it was truly an unforgettable experience.  The hotel was formerly a seminary and is quietly elegant in its Spanish hacienda style and listed in Travel and Leisure's 2010 World's Best Hotels to name one of its honors.  Las Canarias, is their AAA Four-Star restaurant where the food is only equalled by the understated, but attentive service. 

My dessert:  Valrhona Burnt Caramel Creme au Chocolate accompanied by Jivara Ganache Golden Figs and an Orange Creamsicle Root Beer Float.  I must acknowledge perfection. 

For more on Riverwalk, visit the official site:

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Mexican St. Patrick's Day

Everyone was headed to the Irish pubs today in celebration of St. Patrick's Day.  My husband and I decided to take advantage of a gift certificate he received for a Mexican restaurant called, "Tenampa."  We discovered that it lived up to the hype and produced excellent food along with excellent service.  John and I both had the carne asada special which was prepared with bacon, onions, green peppers, and served over spinach with a cilantro cream sauce and garnished with three large shrimp.  Quite good.  I had a caramel flan for dessert; John had fried ice cream. 

As we sat at the table, we did get a good laugh since we were at a Mexican restaurant on an Irish holiday with a bottle of Italian wine, and my husband is German....and because it seemed appropriate, he asked the waiter, "Where's the corned beef?"

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Fruit and Nut Biscotti

A bit more wholesome, because of the whole wheat flour, these biscotti have a nice contrast with their natural crunchiness and the soft chewiness of dates.  If you're looking for a little departure from traditional biscotti, give these a try. 

2/3 cup walnuts, lightly toasted, cooled, and chopped
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
3/4 cup chopped dates

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. 

In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in eggs and vanilla.  In another bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, cloves, and allspice.  Add to the creamed mixture, mixing until blended; fold in nuts and dates. 

Divide dough in half and on parchment lined baking sheet, shape each into an approximately 12 to 14 inch log, spacing them about 2 to 3 inches apart.  Bake in the middle of the oven for 25 minutes or until lightly browned.  Carefully transfer logs to a cooling rack; let sit for 5 minutes, then transfer to a cutting board.  Using a serrated knife, slice on the diagonal into 1/2-inch pieces.  Place the slices upright on the baking sheet and return to the oven for another 10 minutes.  Remove from pan onto cooling rack. 

Store in an airtight metal container.

Makes about 3 dozen. 

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


I love espresso. (With an "s" please; not an "x") And now, I'm able to enjoy it any time of the day and not wait until I'm dining out.  My recent indulgence is the new CitiZ by Nespresso, and let me tell you, that it produces as good a cup of espresso as I've tasted, and that includes the ones we used to make at my cafe'.  This machine is easy and quick with the use of the special pods, produces a lovely crema, and included with my machine were 16 flavor varieties from Ristretto (Intensity: 10) to Cosi (Intensity: 3).  My preference is typically the highest intensity.  The Pure Origin Espressos, which are coffees brought to maturity in the land of their origin (India, Columbia, Brasil, etc.) have unique flavors, and I found myself enjoying the Indriya (Intensity: 10) from India.  This machine can produce a 1/2 Espresso cup; full Espresso cup; Lungo cup; and of course the espressos are ideal for making a true cappuccino.  I had recently purchased a manual milk frother, so did not purchase the electronic frother option with my CitiZ.

I'd highly recommend this machine, and if you happen to have a nice piece of dark chocolate to enjoy while sipping your espresso, all the better.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Creamy French Onion Soup

I've been nursing a cold/cough for about a week and a half. I'll put the violins's winter in the Northeast, and I guess it goes with the territory, so no telethons for me. What does one do when one has a cold? That's correct: Make soup. I didn't want the typical chicken soup, or tortellini en brodo that I made last week. I felt a bit more "gourmet" today, so I decided upon a French Onion. It's quite an easy soup to make, and honestly, the tears you cry while slicing the onions must have some beneficial effect on one's illness.

While the soup was in its final simmer, I buttered and toasted a piece of Italian (yes, Italian semolina) bread; then cut it into quarters. When ready, I placed the bread at the bottom of the crock; spooned generous amounts of onions and broth over; and then......the cheese. Hmmmmm. Considering I didn't have Gruyere on hand, I had to decide which of the ones I had might be complimentary to this soup. I chose a thick slab of Brie, then covered the whole deal with shaved Parmesan.

The Brie melted into the broth, leaving the Parmesan to broil a nice golden brown.....but the Brie created a creamy broth, and for my taste, was just awesome. I'd say, give it a try. If I hadn't devoured the bowl after removing it from the broiler......I would have taken a photo. You'll have to trust me on this one.

2 lb onions, halved lengthwise, then thinly sliced
1 teaspoon thyme
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
3/4 cup Pino Grigio
4 cups beef broth (32 fl oz)
1 1/2 cups water
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For each crock:
1 slice, buttered and toasted French or Italian Bread slice, then each cut into quarters
1 thick slice of Brie
2 tablespoons shaved Parmesan cheese

Cook onions, along with thyme, bay leaves, and salt in butter in a heavy stockpot over medium heat, uncovered, stirring frequently, until onions are very soft and deep golden brown, about 30 minutes, making sure they don't burn. Sprinkle flour over the onions, and cook, stirring, about 1 minute. Pour in wine and cook, stirring, another minute. Stir in broth, water, garlice, and pepper and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, about 20 to 30 minutes, or until lightly thickened. Check and adjust seasonings.

Preheat broiler. Remove and discard bay leaves; place bread slices at the bottom of heat-safe crocks; then spoon generous amounts of broth and onions over bread. Top with Brie, then cover the top with Parmesan.

Broil 4 to 5 inches from heat until cheese is melted and bubbly, 1 to 2 minutes.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Boeuf Bourguignon

I watched "Julie and Julia" the other day, since I received the DVD as a Christmas present.  The beef bourguignon scene absolutely leaves me salivating, and so that's what I'm making today.  Adam flies in from Californina in a few hours, and will be leaving for San Antonio in a couple of days, where he begins his new new life with his new job.  I wanted to make something special for him, and this special beef recipe fits the bill nicely. 

I'm following Julia's recipe, since it would seem to be sacrilegeous to use another.  The beef is in the oven for the minimum designated time of 2:30 hours, and I'm now sauteeing the mushrooms and onions for later addition. 

I'd love to invite all of you for dinner, because the aromas wafting from my kitchen are incredible.  There's snow on the ground, the sun is shining, my kitchen smells delicious, and Adam is on his way.  Now, if only Eric were not working, this evening's dinner would be complete. 

Bon Appetit! 

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Comfort Cupcakes

Remember when I said that I needed to bake when I got home from Florida?  This blizzard we're experiencing provided the perfect motivation (not that I really need any to bake) for something with old-fashioned goodness.  Naturally, chocolate immediately enters my thoughts....and cupcakes are always a treat, since everyone gets their own, personal dessert to unwrap and lick those wrappers, since, well, some of the melted....and still a bit liquid....ganache remains on the cupcake liners as well as your fingers.  

So here's what I baked:
Chocolate Cupcakes with Marshmallow Buttercream Filling and Chocolate Ganache Frosting 

I used Rose Levy Beranbaum's "Perfect All-American Chocolate Butter Cake" recipe from her indispensable cookbook, "The Cake Bible."  The batter includes a cup of butter, eggs, and unsweetened cocoa, and produces the lightest cake result, yet rich enough to satisfy that chocolate urge.

The filling is one I've used in my Whoopie Pies, spooned into a pastry bag, then shot into the tops of the baked and cooled cupcakes.  

Nothing is better than a ganache glaze, so after bittersweet chocolate was melted and whisked with simmered heavy cream and a bit of light corn syrup added for shine, I spooned equal amounts over the tops of the cupcakes. 

(You can see my pot of coffee (Italian Roast) along with my milk frother in the background)

May I say, "Yum?"

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Home From Marco-La-La Land

...and that's just what one feels like in those beautiful surroundings......completely removed from life as we know it in the real world.  But, as the saying goes, "All good things must come to an end."  Sigh. 

Ok, back on Planet Pam, I immediately went to the ovens and baked a lasagna filled with ground turkey and bacon (yes, a little off the normal beaten path, but it was delicious!) and because Karen has been in withdrawals, a pan of Lemon/Lemon Bars.  On top of the shortbread base, I spread about 1/2 cup of lemon curd, then topped that with the egg/sugar/lemon juice/lemon peel filling.  After baking for about 20 minutes, the result was Karen-worthy, as "too much lemon" doesn't compute with my friend.

It's good to be home, but twist my arm, and I'd be back in sunny Florida as fast as you can say, Lemony Snicket. 

Sunday, January 24, 2010

I Can Eat One Potato Chip....

....but I absolutely cannot limit myself to just one spoonful of Double Dark Chocolate Gelato.  As I sit here on the lanai enjoying the beautiful breeze....down a bit from the windy conditions today....and listen to the boats slapping around in their berths while the palm trees sway in unison, I'm indulging in this decadent creation studded with dark chocolate chips.  This is almost perfect............except for these two fur faces, who I'm missing terribly!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Necessity Being the Mother of Invention

Every now and then I get the urge for Stacy's "Simply Naked" Pita Chips.  They satisty that urge to crunch and with the addition of sea salt, have just the right amount of flavor. 

While deciding on what to do with my Orange Roughy filets...rather, filet....for dinner tonight, I thought that "crunch" might be great on the fish.  So I crushed a few chips, dipped the filet in beaten egg, coated it with the crumbs, and sauteed in a little olive oil and butter.  When just about cooked through and nicely browned on both sides, I squeezed a slice of fresh lemon juice over the fish and poured about a tablespoon or two of Pinot Grigio to deglaze the pan. 

What to accompany said filets?  Oven baked sweet potato fries and sauteed Brussels sprouts with just a hint of butter and minced garlic.  The Roughy flaked remained moist, and the outside crunchy coating was a delicious and interesting contrast.

I ended the yummy meal with an oversized scoop of Haagen-Dazs Toasted Coconut Sesame Brittle ice cream.  That's a post in itself. that ever a delicious flavor combination. 

Friday, January 15, 2010

Need to bake

Since I've been in Marco Island for the past couple of weeks, I've not picked up a measuring cup or spoon except when I visited Williams-Sonoma to browse.  I actually contemplated collecting some of my favorite baking tools to purchase in order to supplement this condo kitchen which is sufficiently stocked with saucepans, broiler pans, and few baking supplies, rudimentary as they are, but certainly no where near what I consider essentials in my own home kitchen.  However, if I wanted to juice a grapefruit or two, whip up a pitcher of frozen margaritas, or French press some coffee (my own bring-along), I could do so.  So, life is pretty good here, don't get me wrong. 

But, I do miss baking.  I derive great satisfaction from producing a successful result, but the process alone is therapeutic, as I've mentioned in the past.  Now that the weather is rising to Florida-like temperatures, I'll be spending more time sitting/walking in the sunshine and probably less thinking about baking. 

When I get home, however, I see a decadent chocolate cake in my future.  I've got a few girlfriends who I know won't turn down the invitation. 

One sure can't complain about the sunset.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Plum Sweets and Pinot Grigio

Dinner of champions, I say. 

Somehow, this seems an appropriate meal when one is contemplating life and the sunset in Southwest Florida.  It was a gorgeous day here, when for the past week, folks actually feared they'd see a snowflake or two.  People actually stared at my feet in bug-eyed disbelief as I sported flip-flops instead of closed-in shoes to beat the frigid 50ish temps.  I'm on vacation, darn it, and my toes are ready to be set free from the boots I was wearing in NJ on a regular basis.  I don't care how chilly it is. 

But, the Marco Island sun gods smiled down upon us today and gave us a day to toss those jackets and gloves aside while jockeying for a position by the pool where we could soak in those rays.  Mid-to upper 60's felt glorious.

Life is good. 

But, back to dinner.  Alright, truth be told, I did prepare a spinach salad with sliced avocado, cranberries, nuts, grape tomatoes, and crumbled blue cheese; all drizzled with olive oil and raspberry balsamic vinegar.  The Sunsweet Chocolate Covered Plum Sweets were dessert.  Along with another glass of Pinot Grigio.