Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Caramelized Onion Dip

What can I say about Christmas this year? I almost wasn't ready for it since it was 80 here up until a week before. Then when I thought I was ready for it, it just hit me like a ton of bricks or perhaps a pitcher of pomegranate margaritas.

See, I actually had a little accident in the kitchen. I was stupid & wrapped my whole hand around a meat thermometer which had been in the oven for 50 minutes at 450. Yah, it was kinda hot. So, in an effort to relieve the pain or wait until the aloe vera kicked in I downed a few too many, too quickly. And it hit me. Not exactly what I wanted for a special Christmas with my family. I was actually very sad the 1st few days after the holiday knowing that I'd never get it back but I am focusing on all the good parts before the chaos set in, & I'll be sharing those parts in bits & pieces throughout the next few posts so I can savor a bit of Christmas.

And there still were a few treats from the kitchen I'd like to share with you as well. One being this fantastic dip. Once you try this I doubt you'll ever go back to the boxed onion soup mix/dip again. I will definitely be making this for Super Bowl. I served it with pita chips, crudites such as red pepper & celery & potato chips. So good......................

{Not the best picture but this really is the BEST dip. It's a must make}

CARAMELIZED ONION DIP from Barefoot Contessa

2 large yellow onions
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup vegetable oil *
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup good mayonnaise

Cut the onions in half & then slice them into 1/8-inch thick half-rounds (you will have about 3 cups of onions). Heat the butter & oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the onions, cayenne, salt, & pepper & saute for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low* & cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 more minutes until the onions are browned & caramelized. Allow the onions to cool.

Place the cream cheese, sour cream & mayonnaise in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment & beat until smooth. Add the onions & mix well. Taste for seasonings. Serve at room temperature.

{Food for Thought}

You definitely don't need ¼ cup vegetable oil for sautéing the onions. Just a swirl or two around the pan is good enough. Also, I always caramelize my onions on medium high so I never reduced the heat like the recipe stated. I’d leave the onions alone for a few minutes & then I would give a stir & keep doing the same until you get the nice deep brown color, which brings out their sweetness.

Also, I strongly recommend rough chopping your onions once they are done & before adding them to your cream cheese mixture. This way, no one is getting a huge piece of onion.

And of course I wanted to share a few pics with you which I will be doing for the next few posts:

 {The table was simple but pretty. I used our everyday clear glass plates but placed them over chargers. I also finally invested in a set of my own cotton tablecloths. I placed one of my folding tables perpendicular to my dining room table}

{I took a higher quality white paper napkin & used clear jewelry cord to wrap a tag around the napkin with everyone's name on it, to act as place settings. Each tag was different}

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas Greetings & Eatings!

Merry Christmas........

to you & yours!!!! I hope you enjoy the rest of your year & experience every happiness you deserve!!!!!

While I am happy to say I haven't gotten caught up in the commercial aspect of the holiday, I do get happily obsessed in planning for the Christmas celebration dinner at my house each year. So, I'd like to share my menu since a few have asked.

~ Featured Cocktail ~
Pomegranate Margaritas

~ Starters ~
Caramelized Onion Dip with Crudites
Tomato Mozzarella Salad with Olive Oil & Balsamic
Potstickers with Sweet Soy Dipping Sauce
Brandied Shrimp

~ Main Course ~
Beef Tenderloin (filet mignon) with Red Wine Sauce
Parmesan Roasted Broccoli*
Garlic Smashed Potatoes
Creamed Spinach*

~ Dessert  ~
Chocolate Fountain with Assorted Dippers
Lemon Ricotta Cookies
Vodka Espresso Cocktail
Assorted desserts brought by guests

{ The chocolate fountain shall flow } 

* I normally don't make 2 green veggies but I am purposely making one as an alternative to the other in case guests do not like one of the options. If you care to have any of the recipes above just let me know & I will be happy to forward it to you.

{ Linking Deliciously to Tempt My Tummy Tuesdays }

Thursday, December 17, 2009

White Pizza with Clams

I have over 60 recipes waiting to try, some have been waiting for over 6 months. Not this one though. When I clipped it from a magazine I knew it had to be made right away. After all, I grew up on linguine with white clam sauce & love it to this day!

This was amazing ! I modified it quite a bit to make it even easier & healthier so please look at my notes for my modified version. This has definitely become my go to dish for when I am in the mood for a gourmet type of pizza. You prep it all in the time it takes for the oven to heat up & it’s done in 12 minutes. If you don't like clams I can totally see it with shrimp as well.


{Printable Recipe}

2 tblsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 cans (6.5oz) chopped clams, drained
1 prepared 10 oz pizza crust
1 cup reduced fat shredded mozzarella cheese
½ cup shredded Asiago cheese
½ cup ricotta cheese
1 tblsp parlsey

Heat oven to 400. Heat oil in skillet over medium high. Add garlic; cook for 30 seconds. Stir in clams & cook for 2 minutes.

Place pizza crust on a baking sheet. Spoon clams over top. Scatter mozzarella & Asiago cheese evenly over clams. Dollop heaping teaspoonfuls of ricotta cheese over top.

Bake pizza for 12 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and crust is golden brown. Cool slightly, sprinkle with parsley.

{Food for Thought}

I modified this recipe quite a bit. Instead of using mozzarella & Asiago which I don’t always have on hand I just used freshly grated parmesan cheese. I also added basil, oregano & crushed red pepper to my ricotta. Instead of Boboli I used Naan which is a whole grain flatbread.

I halved this recipe to make a personal pizza on one piece of Naan. I only used 1 tsp of oil, 2 garlic cloves & one can of clams along with 1/3 cup of parmesan & ¼ cup ricotta mixed with the basil, oregano & crushed red pepper. Instead of garnishing with parsley, I used a little extra crushed red pepper.

{ This is what my dinner looked like last night as I was solo. Right on a cutting board with a glass of wine in front of the TV watching episodes of Criminal Minds }

{{ Linking deliciously to Friday Food with MomTrends }}

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Oh Fudge!!!!!!!!!!

How is it that there are only 10 days until Christmas??? This is the first time in my Christmas hosting history that I don't even have my menu finalized. Usually, it's done at least 3 weeks before. How 'bout I commit to sharing it with you this Friday! There, some accountability, a reason to get 'er done!

Until then, lemme share some fudge with you. I made this a couple of weeks ago & brought some into work. Everyone really enjoyed it. It seemed to be a bit softer than the usual fudge but the flavor was wonderful & this was super easy to make. No need to use a candy thermometer for this fudge recipe!

Peanut Butter Chocolate Fudge

{Printable Recipe}

3 tblsp butter
1 ½ cup sugar
2/3 cup evaporated milk
¼ tsp salt
¾ cup peanut butter
2 cups mini marshmallows
1 tsp vanilla extract
¼ cup semi sweet chocolate chips

Bring butter, sugar, milk & salt to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly.

Boil for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.

Stir in peanut butter, marshmallows & vanilla. Stir vigorously for about 1 minute or until marshmallows are melted.

Stir in chocolate chips until fudge appears somewhat marbled. Pour into a lightly greased 8 x 8 pan.

Chill until firm. Cut into squares.

{Food for Thought}

Even though I am not a huge chocolate lover & this fudge has more of a peanut butter than chocolate taste, I do recommend adding more chocolate. Maybe even double it. I plan to next time & see where it takes me.

If you like a little more chocolate in your fudge & a little toffee to boot, try this:

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Penne with Sausage & Escarole

Blogging breaks are necessary but then I get to a point, usually after 5 days, when I feel disconnected from the people who have become a part of my life. So, here I am, I've missed you. And I bring you this dish I made recently which I found in the Today's Show recipe book, a gift for my  birthday in October.

I loved this dish! The ingredients just work so well together. The original recipe called for broccoli rabe which is slightly bitter. I opted for escarole since it pairs beautifully with sausage in a popular Italian soup. It was perfect so I'm sticking with it!!!!!


{Printable Recipe Here}

1 lb hot or sweet Italian sausage links
1 tblsp olive oil
8 oz Escarole, chopped (about 6 cups)
1 large leek, cut into ¼” slices (about ½ cup)
3 cloves garlic, minced
2/3 cup chicken broth
½ cup purchased roasted red sweet peppers, drained & cut into strips
6 oz dried penne pasta
¼ cup snipped fresh basil
½ tsp pepper
1/3 cup shredded parmesan cheese

Fill a skillet with ½” water. Bring to boiling. Add sausage. Cook covered for 15 minutes. Drain. Remove to a cutting board & cut into ½” slices. Return slices to a skillet & cook in oil for 2-3 minutes or until brown. Set aside.

Add escarole, leek & garlic to skillet. Cook, stirring until escarole is wilted & leek is tender.

Stir in sausage, broth & peppers. Bring to boiling. Reduce heat. Cover & simmer gently for 2-3 minutes until escarole is crisp tender.

Meanwhile cook pasta. Add cooked pasta, basil & black pepper to sausage mixture. Toss gently to combine.

Top with parmesan cheese. Serve additional parmesan cheese at table.

A little tip on parmesan: Fresh is best!!!!!!!!!!! I highly recommend buying a fresh block & shredding/grating as you need it. It lasts for a while & is perfect for pasta dishes that require only just a few but very fresh ingredients.

Since I find it to be such a pain to grate on the smallest hole (not shown above) I grate on the hole you see above, then I just do a rough chop to get it just a bit smaller that what you see.

{Food for Thought}

The recipe didn't mention taking the casing off the sausage but I did anyway. After it boils & you remove it to a cutting board, let it rest for a few minutes. Then just take a knife & make a slit the long way, removing the casing like a jacket with your hands. Since the sausage & escarole are perfect together I wouldn't recommend substituting chicken but if you're not a meat eater I think turkey sausage would be fine too.

 { Deliciously Linking to Friday Food with MomTrends }

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Drop Dead Lasagna

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving. I don't go crazy during Thanksgiving except to bring a few dishes to my parent's house so it was a good time to take a blogging break. Christmas, however, is a whole 'nother story!

I make this lasagna every year for Christmas dinner at my house. It's special for the holiday in terms of taste & effort & the whole family loves it!

Tyler Florence says this is the old-school lasagna that you find in the Italian restaurants in Brooklyn. Fuggedaboudit! You can assemble the lasagna ahead of time...& it's great for leftovers.


Printable Recipe

1 lb lasagna noodles
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Onion, diced
3-5 garlic cloves, minced
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 lbs ground beef
1 lb ground pork
1 tblsp fennel seeds
1/2 tblsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp brown sugar
1/2 tblsp dried oregano
1 (6 oz) can tomato paste
Salt & Pepper
2 lb ricotta cheese
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
2 eggs, slightly beaten
2 lbs shredded mozzarella cheese
4 cups Marinara Sauce (see notes)
Additional Parmigiano-Reggiano for serving

Fill a large pasta pot with water & place over high heat. Add a generous amount of salt & bring to a boil. Cook the lasagna noodles for only 8 minutes; they should still be somewhat firm, as they will continue to cook when you bake the lasagna. Drain the noodles in a colander & rinse them quickly under cool water to stop the cooking process. Drizzle some olive oil so the sheets don't stick together, then set aside.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat & drizzle with 2 tblsp of olive oil. Sauté the onion, garlic & bay leaf for a couple of minutes, until the onions are translucent & smell sweet. Add the ground beef & pork, stirring to break it up & cook until the meat is thoroughly browned, about 10 minutes. Drain the excess fat. Combine the fennel seeds, red pepper flakes, brown sugar & dried oregano in a spice mill or a coffee grinder, give it a whirl & sprinkle on the browned meat. Stir in the tomato paste until well blended; season with salt & pepper. Take the pan off the heat.

In a large bowl, combine the ricotta & Parmigiano cheeses. Fold in the parsley, basil & eggs, season with salt & pepper. Mix well.

Preheat the oven to 350. Take inventory of the components you should have: slightly cooked lasagna noodles, seasoned meat mixture, ricotta cheese filling, 2 pounds of mozzarella cheese, a pot of sauce & a 13 x 9 inch glass or ceramic baking dish. Let the layering begin.

Start by ladling enough sauce into the dish to cover the bottom; this prevents the lasagna from sticking. Layer 1 -- the noodles: slightly overlap 4 lasagna noodles lengthwise so they completely cover the bottom with no gaps.

Here is a little tip I swear by: if you take 2 lasagna noodles & line the short ends of the pan, they will act as brackets or a wall to give the lasagna support when you cut it (see pic below)

Layer 2 -- the meat: spread half the meat mixture on top of the noodles with a spatula. The meat mixture, being the most solid element, will act as a foundation.

Layer 3 -- the cheese: spread half the ricotta cheese mixture over the meat, smooth out with a spatula.

Note the side brackets of lasagna noodles

Then sprinkle a third of the shredded mozzarella evenly over the ricotta mixture.

Layer 4 -- the sauce: top with a full ladle of tomato sauce, about 1 cup (see notes); smooth it out with a spatula. Repeat layers 1 through 4. Finish with a final layer of noodles, tomato sauce & the remaining mozzarella. Tap the pan lightly on the counter to force out any air bubbles & to compress the layers.

Bake for 1 1/2 hours, until golden & bubbling. Allow the lasagna to sit for 20 minutes so it doesn't ooze all over the place when you cut it into squares. Pass the extra tomato sauce & grated Parmigiano around the table.

{Food for Thought}

If you’re like me, you’ll want to have more sauce than just 4 cups. One ladle for each layer seems so little to me so I add more so the lasagna isn’t dry. And I also have extra for passing around. My favorite, if I am not up to making my own, is LaFamiglia DelGrosso. It's expensive but worth it. Last year I got lucky when they had a buy one get one free. Normally, it's $8 per jar.

The use of fennel has also become a bit of a conversation piece in my house since some people do not like it. If you have loved ones who don’t enjoy fennel I recommend cutting down the amount to 1 tsp because you can really taste the tablespoon. Lastly, you may want to increase the ricotta mixture by 50% as well. This way, you have more if you need. And if you have leftover just reserve for another use.

Tastefully linking to Blessed with Grace for Tempt My Tummy Tuesdays!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Mini Cheesecakes with Fruit & a Winner!

Thanks to everyone who entered my Gourmet Cheese Tasting Party Giveaway last week. I enjoyed reading all the ways you slow down & savor the moments in your life. Hopefully, I will put a few of them into play. I am happy to say that Reeni from Cinnamon Spice & Everything Nice is the winner!!!

But no one loses today. Not with these adorable desserts. I've been making these mini cheesecake tarts for a long time now & everyone loves them. They're so quick & simple to make & delicious to boot! I like to make a variety of blueberry, cherry & either strawberry or apple.


(2) 8oz pkgs 1/3 less fat cream cheese, softened
(1) cup sugar
(1) tsp vanilla extract
(2) eggs
(12) vanilla wafers
Pie filling or fresh fruit - blueberry, cherry, apple
(1) pkg cupcake holders

Preheat over to 350. Line each cup of a 12 muffin pan with a cupcake liner & lay a wafer flat side down in each.

Beat cream cheese with mixer until fluffy. Add sugar & vanilla. Beat well. Add eggs one at a time beating after each addition. Spoon cream cheese mixture over wafers. It should almost come up to the top. Bake for 20-25 minutes.

Check with toothpick after 20. Allow to cool completely on a rack.

The middle will collapse a bit & this is perfect to hold the fruit. Fill each tart with fruit. Cool in fridge until ready to serve. I like to take them out 10 minutes prior to serving just to get some of the chill out.

{Food for Thought}

I like to make these a day ahead of time so I'll put the cheesecakes in the fridge & fill them with fruit the day of serving.

I have found that pie filling does not freeze well so if you're not going to use it up I recommend using fresh fruit. For strawberries & blueberries just chop up your fruit, mashing just a few of the pieces, add some lemon juice & sugar & let sit at room temp for 30 min.  This process is called "to macerate." You will have a syrupy fruit. If using fresh apples, just saute in some butter & cinnamon.

~ ~ ~ ~

{ Happily linking to Friday Food with Mom Trends }
Have a great weekend everyone! I have some Italian specials coming up next week.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Slow Down & Savour....

The holidays are upon us & soon we'll all be rushing around preparing for family, friends & celebrations. Now is a good time to talk about how you slow down & savour the right moments. If you do, you’re going to win something delicious right here! But first…

I try to slow down & savour life as much as I can. I’m not always successful but when I am, you can find me sitting outside on a Saturday morning enjoying a cup of coffee under the palm trees. Or bench side, watching my little guy make friends at the park. And of course, in the kitchen perusing recipes & cooking with not only every last utensil but with all of my heart. Cooking something like this….

{Cheese & Apple Gallette}

~ Printable Recipe Here ~

Apples & cheese, tossed with brown sugar & pecans & a bit of butter, baked in a pie crust….oh my…you must make this now -

I received this recipe from Alouette along with an amazing giveaway package. The gallette was absolutely incredible & easy to make. I enjoyed it last Sunday with my best friend over a glass of white wine as we were savoring the last bit of our birthday celebrations from October. I love to drag out savor a celebration.

I have been cooking with Alouette cheese products for a long time & just love them. This Cheesy Zucchini & Red Onion & Flatbread is amazing & one of my favorite appetizers. I don't do many giveaways & will only giveaway what I would want myself...

That's why I was so excited to give away this, courtesy of http://www.alouettecheese.com/:

Gourmet Fall Cheese Tasting Party Giveaway
(Valued at $150)

  • Two toned wooden cheese board with accessories tucked away in 2 swing out drawers. Stainless steel accessories include fork, knife & spreader as well as a corkscrew, bottle stopper & drip ring.

{ I love the shape of this cheese board }
  •  Cheese markers (not shown but really cute)
  •  Customized Cheese Rating Cards with Pens for a Party of 10

{ How cool is that? They will say whatever you want them to. }
  •  Alouette recipe cards for entertaining
  •  Alouette coupons
  •  Slow Down & Savour Tips
All you have to do is comment & tell me how you slow down & savour life. For an extra entry, just post about this on your blog & tell me that you did. Giveaway ends on Monday at 12 noon.

In the meantime, go ahead - slow down & savour something good this weekend! 

{ Then Go See Mom Trends Friday Food }

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Bourbon Chicken

I am still behind in reciprocating visits from my SITS day so I've minimized my posting until I'm caught up. I do have a special treat on Friday which involves a wine & cheese party for you & an amazing apple gallette. I am excited so make sure to check in.

In other food news, this dish was wonderful served over Jasmine rice, one of my favorites! While it tasted a little different & healthier than the restaurant version, it was delicious. I will make it again but with the addition of some red bell peppers. Quick & easy yet truly satisfying for a weeknight meal. Since I love cooking with alcohol, I was disappointed to see no bourbon in this but feel free to add about 2 tblsp if you're looking for authenticity.


{Printable Recipe}

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
1-2 tblsp olive oil
1 garlic clove, crushed
1/4 tsp dried ground ginger
3/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 cup apple juice
1/3 cup light brown sugar
2 tblsp ketchup
1 tblsp cider vinegar
1/3 cup reduced sodium soy sauce
1 tblsp cornstarch/1 tblsp water mixed (if needed)

Heat oil in a large skillet. Add chicken & cook until lightly browned. Remove chicken from skillet. Add remaining ingredients, heating over medium heat until well mixed and dissolved.

Add chicken and bring to a hard boil.

Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through. If you prefer a thicker sauce, add the cornstarch/water mixture to reach desired consistency. Serve over hot rice, if desired.

{Food for Thought}

A MUST for me when making this again is to add some red bell peppers. They'll add another dimension to the flavor as well as a crunchy texture, all while enhancing the looks of this dish! Also, you can add 2 tblsp bourbon to the sauce if you prefer.

I lost my source for this recipe, another blog, so if it's yours let me know & I will link you. I have gotten in the habit of emailing recipes to myself so they show up on my iphone, this way I can shop for the ingredients straight from my phone. UPDATED: Thank you, Bake It After All

Friday, November 6, 2009

C-C-C-hristmas is Coming.....

I know....it's not even Thanksgiving & I'm busting out Christmas on you. But you know how fast time flies & it will be here before we know it. I also don't host Thanksgiving at my house & go very big on Christmas so it's time for me to get myself thinking & planning.

Last year I got a lot of "I wish I had thought of thats" so I thought I'd give you a review of last year/preview of this year. Just click on the links for details of my past Christmas ghosts, uh, posts.

Delicious edible gifts:

Decorating Ideas:

This was probably weirder for me to post than some of you to read because I still can't seem to get my head around Fall with 85 degree weather here in FL still. But it's coming!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Have a great weekend everyone!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Fried Spinach Ricotta Rounds

I found this beautiful recipe over at Chef Chuck's. He creates amazing Italian dishes that make my mouth water whenever I visit. I made these during the week as my dinner so that I could forgo the guilt of frying, even though this is not a deep fry. Just about 1/4 " of oil is all you need.

I will definitely be making these again as the combination of spinach, ricotta & garlic just makes me very happy!!!! They were so delicious I didn't need any sauce for dipping!


5 cups fresh spinach
3/4 cup ricotta cheese
1 cup parmigiano cheese, grated
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 eggs
1 cup panko breadcrumbs (I used Italian style)
Salt & pepper to taste
Olive oil for frying
Marinara sauce for dipping (optional)

Wash & dry spinach leaves, chop & set aside. In a large bowl mix ricotta, parmigiano, garlic, 1 egg, 2 tablespoons breadcrumbs, salt & pepper. Add spinach & mix well.

Form into small balls or patties. Dip in beaten egg then breadcrumbs. Updated: With the round in one hand, use your other hand to just smear some egg on each side of the mixture. This will be enough.

Heat oil to 350 degrees & fry a few at at time until golden brown, about 1 1/2 minutes on each side.

Drain on cloth or paper towels, sprinkle with a bit of salt & a little parmigiana cheese & serve.

{Food for Thought}

The original recipe had these formed into balls which I loved. But after forming them & starting to fry them, while starving, I decided to flatten them gently into patties so they'd fry quicker. A ball, well, would take more supervision & turns. I also tore my spinach leaves roughly, just discarding the stems.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Thank you to everyone who shared in my SITS day/Birthday last week. I have been making my rounds to thank everyone & am only half way there. I WILL be by your place so leave the light on!