My big fat Italian wedding

March 1, 2019

Italian wedding soup has been always one of my favorite soups. I’ve never really made it before (that I recall, haha) but tonight my daughter asked me to make it and I looked up a good recipe. Of course I found one by Giada that was healthy with no pasta, which defeats the whole purpose. So I used her recipe but then I did add the pasta. The pasta is what really made the dish you could use any small pasta but this specific pasta – Acini de Pepe is really good. Once it cooks the size of the pasta is like little small pearls and it makes the soup creamy and delicious. It was a quick and easy dinner to make and the meatballs were also delicious with the grated onion and garlic – something I don’t usually put in my meatballs. So if you’ve always loved Italian Wedding Soup don’t get a can of it, make your own and you’ll be happy you did!

Italian Wedding Soup

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 small onion, grated
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup Italian Breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano grated
  • 8 oz lean ground beef (I just used 1lb beef only)
  • 8 oz ground pork
  • 12 cups chicken broth (use low sodium if you prefer)
  • 10 oz frozen chopped spinach (I used a bag of fresh)
  • approx 6-8 oz of Acini de Pepe or other tiny pasta (I used half a small 1lb box of De Cecco Acini de Pepe)
  • Grated Pecorino Romano and crusty bread for serving

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. To make the meatballs: Stir the first 6 ingredients in a large bowl to blend. Then add the meat. Shape the meat mixture into meatballs, and place on a baking sheet. I make my meatballs small so there are more of them, but it’s up to you.
  2. To make the soup: Bring the broth and spinach to a boil in a large pot. Add the meatballs (uncooked) and simmer for a few minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure they don’t stick. Add the pasta and continue cooking at a low boil until both the pasta and meatballs are cooked (approx 20 minutes, seems a bit long but the pasta will expand and get tender). Season with salt and pepper if needed. Sprinkle with cheese before serving, if you wish.

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Red Wine Braised Short Ribs

February 21, 2019

After a yummy Valentines tasting dinner with my favorite Valentine, Campy requested some short ribs for dinner. I have never made short ribs before but they seem to be similar to pot roast so I thought I’d give it a try. Pretty much anything with wine in the title is going to be good.

I loved this recipe from Bon Appetit magazine. They are often a good resource for great recipes. This was a bit time consuming to prep but once I had it in the oven it was smooth sailing. I found some gorgeous short ribs at Costco of all places. I didn’t have all the fresh herbs and used dried, other than the rosemary. The ribs came out so tender they fell right off the bone. We served them with garlic mashed potatoes and carrots and it was delicious. So if you are looking for a 5 star restaurant quality dish to make at home, try this satisfying dish. Sorry there is no pic, we ate it all!

Red Wine Braised Short Ribs

INGREDIENTS

5 pounds bone-in beef short ribs, cut crosswise into 2-inch pieces

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

3 medium onions, chopped

3 medium carrots, peeled, chopped

2 celery stalks, chopped

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 750 ml bottle dry red wine (preferably Cabernet Sauvignon) (I only used 2 cups)

10 sprigs flat-leaf parsley

8 sprigs thyme (I was all out, used basil, yum!)

4 sprigs oregano

2 sprigs rosemary

2 fresh or dried bay leaves

1 head of garlic, halved crosswise

4 cups low-salt beef stock

RECIPE PREPARATION

Preheat oven to 350°. Season short ribs with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high. Working in 2 batches, brown short ribs on all sides, about 8 minutes per batch. Transfer short ribs to a plate. Pour off all but 3 Tbsp. drippings from pot.

Add onions, carrots, and celery to pot and cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, until onions are browned, about 5 minutes. Add flour and tomato paste; cook, stirring constantly, until well combined and deep red, 2-3 minutes. Stir in wine, then add short ribs with any accumulated juices. Bring to a boil; lower heat to medium and simmer until wine is reduced by half, about 25 minutes. Add all herbs to pot along with garlic. Stir in stock. Bring to a boil, cover, and transfer to oven.

Cook until short ribs are tender, 2–2½ hours. Transfer short ribs to a platter. Strain sauce from pot into a measuring cup. Spoon fat from surface of sauce and discard; season sauce to taste with salt and pepper. Serve in shallow bowls over mashed potatoes with sauce spooned over.

https://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/red-wine-braised-short-ribs

Mamma Mia Minestrone

November 10, 2018

As the temps start to chill I look forward to the belly and home warming recipes. I’ve always loved making soups as a hearty, healthy and filling dinner. I’ve always loved all of the yummy Italian soup staples – Italian Wedding Soup, Lentil Soup, Zuppa Toscana and of course Minestrone.

As my readers know, I often go to FoodNetwork Magazine for new weeknight recipes. I recently saw a different twist on Minestrone in their mag and decided to try it. It came out amazing, it was simple and flavorful, due to the fresh Italian sausage I used. My family is not a fan of kale so I used spinach instead and used pork, not turkey sausage. Other than that I stuck to the recipe. We made it with this moist and sweet corn bread I had had recently at a Halloween event, it was a great pairing. So if you need an easy weeknight dinner that will soothe the soul, check this out!

Also here is the recipe for the cornbread:

Sweet Cornbread

Ingredients
  1. 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  2. 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  3. 1/2 cup Albers® White or Yellow Corn Meal
  4. 1 Tbsp baking powder
  5. 1/2 tsp salt
  6. 1 1/4 cups milk
  7. 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  8. 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  9. 3 Tbsp butter or margarine, melted
Instructions
  1. PREHEAT oven to 350°F. Grease 8-inch square baking pan.
  2. COMBINE flour, sugar, corn meal, baking powder and salt in medium bowl. Combine milk, eggs, vegetable oil and butter in small bowl; mix well. Add to flour mixture; stir just until blended. Pour into prepared baking pan.
  3. BAKE for 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.

Meatballs Marsala

June 1, 2018

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A new busy job has taken some of my free cooking time but not my appetite. I have made this new recipe a few times and I have been meaning to share. It is another wonderful dinner suggestion from Food Network Magazine’s weeknight dinners – my go to for new dinner ideas to get us out of the dinner rut. My family loves the flavors of Marsala when we have it with the typical chicken recipe. But this Meatball Marsala adds a new twist. I really liked how the meatballs have beef and sausage, which adds great flavor. I am a mushroom junkie so I loved the large slice of mushroom – the more the merrier! Also, serving it over mashed potatoes was a delicious twist. The potatoes absorbed all of the yummy marsala gravy like sauce and gave us a break from our usual pasta or rice. I think it would also be good over store bought (gasp! did I say that? ;)) gnocchi too. Anyhow, if you need a quick and easy dinner that takes a meat and potatoes dish up a notch, you and your family will love this! What hubby and kids don’t love meatballs or mashed potatoes? BTW the marsala wine is key to the flavor, don’t take a shortcut there. Most stores have a cheap version by the vinegars but I “splurge” on a $10 bottle from Italy from the wine section and it lasts for many recipes.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • Kosher salt
  • 12 ounces ground beef chuck
  • 12 ounces sweet Italian sausage meat
  • 1/3 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 12 ounces sliced mixed mushrooms
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup dry Marsala wine
  • 1 cup fresh parsley, chopped

Directions

Watch how to make this recipe.

Put the potatoes in a saucepan and cover with water by 1 inch; season with salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer; cook until tender, 20 minutes. Drain and return to the saucepan.

Meanwhile, preheat the broiler. Combine the beef, sausage, breadcrumbs, egg, 1/2 cup chicken broth, 1/2 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of pepper in a medium bowl; mix with your hands until combined. Form into 12 meatballs (about 2 inches) and arrange on a rimmed baking sheet. Broil until browned, about 7 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large pot or Dutch oven over high heat. Add the mushrooms, 1/2 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of pepper. Cook, stirring, until the mushrooms are softened, about 8 minutes. Sprinkle in the flour and stir to coat. Stir in the wine and bring to a boil. Add 1 cup chicken broth and return to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium high and add the meatballs. Simmer, stirring occasionally, while you mash the potatoes.

Add the remaining 5 tablespoons butter and 1/2 cup chicken broth to the potatoes and mash. Season with salt and pepper. Stir the parsley into the meatball mixture. Serve with the potatoes.

Manga!

Nutella Cake

December 26, 2017

So for Christmas Day I needed the perfect desert. I wracked my brain for all my favorite treats, should I make cheesecake, pie, cobbler, or brownies? Then it dawned on me, and I heard the Nutella angels sing. I had gotten a couple jars of Nutella as gifts and so I knew that was a sign. I looked online for the perfect recipe -perfect being one that I had all the ingredients for, since it was Christmas Day and I did not want to go out. I settled upon this Nutella cake recipe made by two hot twin Italian chefs, you can’t go wrong with that. Plus this recipe had cream cheese/Nutella frosting which meant it would make Campy happy as well as he loves cream cheese frosting. This cake came out amazing. It was very fudgy and rich but it only used 1/3 cup of flour so it didn’t seem so heavy. Also it had a ground up hazelnuts in the cake so that kind of gave it a nice texture. The cream cheese frosting mixed with Nutella had a little bit of tartness which I really liked. It was such a big hit I even had a slice today for breakfast with my coffee!

Din-spiration

December 16, 2017

So with working full time my dinner mojo is often missing. It seems our weekly menu consist of the same types of items – burger night, pasta night, protein night, taco night, pizza night and more of the same. I wanted to freshen things up and keep my passion for cooking alive, so I found a remedy. I look at my Food Network magazine’s “weeknight dinners” every week to add a new recipe to the mix. I am really enjoying this inspiration. I look forward to a new issue each month. In the past I have struck out with new recipes but lately I have been on a roll. I have made four new dinners, one each week, that have been home runs. It spices up our weeks as it adds something new to the mix. Each of these four recipes were a huge hit with my family. They were all easy to make and quick after a long day. I hope you try them and make your families tummies happy!

Chicken with gnocchi

This recipe was so delectable and using store bought gnocchi on a work night made my life easy. It had the perfect balance of protein and veggies. I made this with the perfect side -homemade Olive Garden breadsticks which were so fluffy and better than the real thing.

Tortellini Stroganoff

All the great flavors of stroganoff were there and this was simple to make. I added some stir fry beef for protein.

Orzo with mushroom

My family was skeptical with the spinach and leeks, but they tore it up, due to the creamy sauce and the chicken breast I added. Campy said: “it was on point!”

Flank and mac

As you can see a theme here, protein, carb, and veggie. I try not to make carb heavy dinners but this trifecta pleases the little people. Flank steak was too pricey so I used another affordable cut. The idea here is the flavors, add your own twists.

That’s what I love about these Food Network recipes, you can add your own ideas. Also if the magazine subscription is too much, get your issues from the library like me, and then google the recipe name and they come up on their website. Also these are all great vegetarian recipes too. Manga!

Tara-misu

September 23, 2017

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Everyone knows I love anything Italian. One of my favorite desserts to order at an Italian restaurant is Tiramisu. If you have never had it, it is a delicious combination of sponge cake soaked with coffee liqueur and a creamy custard like filling, sprinkled with shaved chocolate. It has bitter notes of coffee with sweet notes of chocolate and sugar and it is the perfect marriage of flavors that tingles your tastebuds. It represents Italy in dessert form and there are many versions of it, not all of which succeed. I have always wanted to make it but I was intimidated by it. My mom makes an amazing version and I have her recipe but I decided to use Gabriele Corcos’ version. I have been enjoying lots of his recipes for their simple and authentic Italian flavor. I have a great post about his eggplant incaciata I am going to post soon. So if you are a tiramisu lover and have never attempted it at home I recommend you try his version. It is simple and with impress your guests with its sophistication.

TIPS: I found the lady fingers in the refrigerated section of my grocery store bakery, but you can also use the ones in the cookie aisle. Also I used Marsala wine as he suggested for the liqueur, which surprisingly tasted great, I assumed you had to use something like Kahlua. I used one part Marsala and one part licor 43, a new liquor i found that has over 43 different flavors blended into it, like vanilla and citrus, among other things. Don’t be afraid to mix it up and choose something you like since it is such a small amount, it won’t hurt the flavor. I think even rum would be tasty, like a rum cake.

Tiramisu

Ingredients

  • 3 cups brewed coffee, cooled
  • 2 (8-ounce) containers mascarpone
  • 5 eggs, separated
  • 14 ounces savoiardi cookies (firm ladyfingers)
  • 4 ounces sugar, plus 2 tablespoons or more, for the coffee
  • 2 shots rum or Italian Marsala, optional
  • Pinch salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup shaved dark chocolate, to garnish’

Directions

First brew about 3 cups of coffee and pour it in a bowl and allow to cool off, add 2 tablespoons sugar or sweeten to taste. (I used espresso and watered it down a bit to make it three cups).

Mix the egg yolks with 2 ounces sugar, and mix until you obtain a creamy light mixture. Work the mascarpone in a bowl using a wooden spoon, making sure you eliminate any lumps, then add the mascarpone to the sugar-egg mixture and continue to mix well.

In a separate bowl, mix the egg whites, pinch of salt, and the remaining 2 ounces sugar, until they reach a somewhat firm, but fluffy consistency, then add them to the mascarpone mixture. Stir in the rum, if using.

Dip the savoiardi cookies (firm ladyfingers) in the coffee, and one by one lay them flat into a 7 by 11 pyrex tray (I used 9×13), making sure you do not soak the cookies, as you want to make sure they maintain their firmness (refrigerated ones from bakery got soggy fast, so I might not use those again). Once the first layer of cookies has been laid out, spread a layer of the mascarpone cream on top, and dust with 1 tablespoon cocoa powder.

Now, again, prepare another layer of coffee-dipped cookies, cream and cocoa powder. Garnish the top of the cake with the shaved dark chocolate.

Cover the tray with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 3 hours so the flavors can marry and the tiramisu can settle.

then Manga!

My Quest for Nutella Brownies

March 5, 2017

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Everyone who knows me, knows my love of Nutella Brownies. I have posted recipes before but I was not 100% satisfied with the results. The last one I posted had too much sugar and too much cocoa as well as chocolate chips – which were unnecessary. First of all, Nutella contains sugar and cocoa, so I wanted that to be the ingredient that provided those. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t discriminate when it comes to brownies and I happily eat any result, but the last batch was too rich for me.

So I tried another recipe on my quest. I think this is a valiant and noble quest for a woman of my generation. On my journey I looked for a recipe with less sugar, less or no cocoa, and mainly Nutella to satisfy the chocolate/sugar ingredient. I am thinking maybe in the future I will just experiment and make up my own. But for now, I made the following recipe for a pizza night for friends about a month ago. I was very pleased with the results, the brownies were moist and Nutella-rific, not too much sugar or chocolate tasting and the salt was an extra treat. I think that having less flour made them like a rich piece of fudge. I also liked the salt, as I did in my chocolate chip blondie recipe, it adds a nice mix f sweet and salty. So if you are a Nutella junky like me, check out this recipe for a special treat!

Nutella Brownies

Ingredients:

1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 and 1/4 cups Nutella, divided
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
optional: sea salt
Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line the bottom and sides of an 8-inch or 9-inch square baking pan with aluminum foil or parchment, leaving an overhang on all sides to easily lift the brownies out of the pan when cool. (If using a 9-inch pan, the bake time will be a few minutes less.) Set aside.
With a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on high speed in a large bowl until smooth and creamy, about 1 minute. Add the brown sugar and beat on high speed for 1-2 minutes until creamed. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl as needed. With the mixer running on low speed, add the eggs and vanilla extract. Beat on medium-high speed until combined, then beat in 1 cup Nutella and salt. Mix until smooth and fluffy. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl as needed. With the mixer running on low speed, add the flour, mixing just until combined. Do not over mix.
Pour the batter into prepared baking pan. Drop teaspoonfuls of the remaining 1/4 cup Nutella on top. Using a knife, swirl the Nutella into the batter. Top with a sprinkle of sea salt.
Bake the brownies for 30-36 minutes. Keep your eye on them and test with a toothpick to determine doneness. If the toothpick comes out with only a couple moist crumbs, the brownies are done. The brownies may take a few minutes longer; all ovens vary. Mine took 28-30 minutes, I always cook brownies less because I like them a bit less done, plus I used a 9-inch pan.
Allow the brownies to cool completely in the pan set on a wire rack. Once cool, lift the foil out of the pan using the overhang on the sides and cut into squares.

The best dessert I ever made

January 29, 2017

 

img_0300I have had this blog for a while so I should comb back through my posts to see if this title is worthy. But I really don’t think I need to, as I think it was the best dessert I have ever made. It was simple to make and it combined my two favorite things, chocolate and marshmallows. My mom and I try to make each other amazing desserts on our birthdays. So yesterday I made her this wonderful treat in honor of her birthday. I started off with one word in mind – chocolate, as this is my mom’s favorite type of treat. I looked for decadent chocolate desserts, but did not come up with anything that seemed just right. So I went to my favorite website for desserts – King Arthur Flour, and I hit a home run when I typed in “chocolate desserts” and found triple treat hot chocolate cake. I know my mom likes chocolate and marshmallow just as much as me, so I knew this would hit the spot.

Triple treat hot chocolate cake was incredibly easy to make, which is rare for a decadent chocolate dessert, and it had ingredients I had in my kitchen. The bottom layer is a melted chocolate sauce – I used 60% cacao Ghirardelli chocolate chips (the only ones I like to buy), which you melt in the microwave with half and half. The middle layer seems to be a very liquid cake batter, but trust me it sets and makes the perfect fluffy cake. The top is made of big marshmallows you add on for the last few minutes, just to soften, and it is the perfect topping. If you like hot chocolate with marshmallows, this dessert embodies that in a bowl. The rich chocolate sauce, moist cake and melted marshmallows sang a happy song in my mouth and my belly. My daughter and husband said it was too rich but for me it had all the elements of a perfect dessert. I think my mom was pretty pleased too as I saw her sneak a few more spoonfuls when she went back through the kitchen. Please excuse the messy picture but I didn’t snap one before we all dug in. It says with the leftovers to nuke them a bit before enjoying, to warm up all the melty layers. So if you have liked the sweat treats I have posted before you have to try this!

Triple Treat Hot Chocolate Cake

Ingredients
BOTTOM
2/3 cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup half & half or cream
MIDDLE
1 cup King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup Double-Dutch Dark Cocoa or other Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 1/3 cups sugar
2 teaspoons espresso powder (I used instant coffee powder)
2 1/4 cups water
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) butter, melted
TOP
24 full-size marshmallows (I might not have counted these, lol)
Instructions
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9″ round or 8″ square pan (I used a 9.5 inch pie dish). Make sure whichever you use is full-sized — at least 2″ deep.
To make the bottom: Combine the chocolate chips and half & half or cream in a microwave-safe bowl, and heat until the chips are soft and the cream is very hot.
Remove from the microwave, and stir until you’ve made a smooth, dark sauce; just keep stirring, you’ll get there. If any unmelted chips remain, reheat briefly.
Spread the sauce in the bottom of the prepared pan.
To make the middle: In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, cocoa, sugar, and espresso powder. If the mixture is lumpy, sift it.
Stir in the water, vanilla, and melted butter.
Gently stir until everything is just combined.
Pour the batter over the sauce in the pan.
Bake the cake for 40 minutes, until the top appears set and the bottom is bubbling (and making the top jiggle).
Remove the cake from the oven, arrange the marshmallows evenly over the surface, and return to the oven for 3 minutes, just to soften the marshmallows.
Remove from the oven, wait 2 minutes, and serve immediately.
This cake is best enjoyed within 30 minutes of baking. For any leftovers, reheat briefly in the microwave.

Box Brownies from scratch

October 26, 2016

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Anyone who knows me, knows how much I love brownies. If I go to a frozen yogurt sundae bar, a brownie is my first choice in my cup. I have written before about how much I love boxed brownies. For someone who bakes most things from scratch that may be odd. But I grew up on brownies from scratch so a box mix at a party was my favorite treat. Though I do love my mom’s brownies, the texture and stickiness of box brownies is my favorite. I have an awesome college friend who shares my love of brownies, my brownie husband recipe is one of her favorites.

I googled homemade brownies that taste like a box mix and found an amazing recipe. I would say I have made it a dozen times since I found it last year. It is perfect for any occasion and people can’t believe they are from scratch. I recently made them and used the Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa instead of regular cocoa and it made them even more decadent. So if you are a closet Betty Crocker box brownie junkie like me, you need to try these! They are super easy and only have a few ingredients instead of ones you can’t pronounce, which is something I always look for when recreating stuff at home.

Quick and Easy Brownies {Like a Box Mix!}

Yield: 12-16 brownies

Ingredients

3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3 eggs
3/4 cup flour
1/3 cup + 2 1/2 tbsp cocoa
1/4 tsp + 1/8 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

Instructions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9×9 square baking pan, or line it with parchment paper.
2. Mix together the oil, sugar and vanilla extract.
3. Add eggs and mix until well combined.
4. Combine flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt.
5. Slowly add to the egg mixture until well combined.
6. Pour the batter into the pan and spread evenly.
7. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out with a few crumbs.

Recipe modified from AllRecipes.com