Friday, July 30, 2010

Garlic Bread

I'm a huge fan of delicious buttery garlic bread. I've never had a good recipe for it before, but have always enjoyed it at restaurants paired with a big bowl of pasta. It's a great accompaniment to a meal and the perfect addition to a dinner party menu.

Before I found this recipe, I always buttered bread and threw it under the broiler. Something as simple as that brings back so many warm memories. Warm buttered bread is what I grew up loving. It was a specialty my grandmother always made for her grandchildren when she babysat us day during the week while our parents worked.

I have memories of her making her homemade bread in the kitchen: kneading the dough on her kitchen table, the squishing sounds of the water being worked into the dough. She made everything with love.

I'd always check on the bread in the oven for her. Watching it rise and anticipating when it would be done. My favorite part was when it came fresh out of the oven. She would slice it in half, spread butter in the middle, and wrap it in a napkin. We'd eat it while it was warm and steaming.

I love that food evokes such amazing emotions and recalls such wonderful memories.

Taken by Ashley DaCruz
My grandmother in her kitchen preparing a Sunday lunch for the family

Now onto the garlic bread...

Mince the garlic and chop the parsley and oregano.

Transfer all ingredients except for the butter into a saute pan and saute for about 10 minutes. Remove sooner if garlic appears to be browning, but with that amount of oil I've found the garlic doesn't brown so I saute them until I think the flavors have infused.

Cut a loaf of bread in half and butter one side of the bread with butter. Then spread the other side or both sides with the garlic mixture.

Wrap the bread in foil and bake at 350 degrees for 5 minutes. Remove foil and bake for another 5 minutes. Then slice the bread and serve!

Garlic Bread
Adapted From Ina Garten
(Printable Recipe)

6 large garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh oregano leaves
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup good olive oil
1 loaf french bread
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place the garlic in the bowl of a food processor and process until minced. Add the parsley, oregano, salt and pepper and pulse twice. If you don't have a food processor like me, you can chop the garlic, parsley, and oregano by hand.

Heat the olive oil in a medium saute pan and add the garlic mixture. Remove the pan from the heat. Slice the french bread in half horizontally, and spread the butter on 1 half. Spread the garlic mixture on the other half of the bread, and put the halves together. Wrap the bread in aluminum foil.

Place the bread in the oven and bake for 5 minutes. Open the foil, and continue baking for an additional 5 minutes.

Recipe Tips:
  • DO use fresh herbs instead of dried
  • DON'T use ciabatta loaf of bread (as pictured above)- it's best with a large, doughy french roll)

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Sausage Meatball & Vegetable Carbonara

My sister came over last night for dinner. We were meeting my mom and a friend at the movie theater later and only had about an hour to make dinner. Allie came across this recipe online and it was above and beyond what we expected to whip up in such a short amount of time! It was SO yummy and we decided would actually be a great party dish. What more can you ask for in a party dish- excellent rich flavors, decadent appearance, and EASY to make!!

We made a few changes to the recipe and when we make it again we might revise it even more. The original recipe called for 4 slices of bacon, diced, but we didn't have bacon on hand. Regardless, the dish was still full of flavor. We used 2 oz. of cheese instead of the 4 oz's the recipe called for, which we think was plenty. Allie thought we could have put less lemon zest, but I really enjoyed it. It's a flavor you don't usually get with Carbonara that I thought enhanced the recipe, but you can prepare it however you like!

Here's how we made it:
Start off by boiling water for the pasta and cook according to the instructions on the pasta box, approximately 8-10 minutes. Meanwhile, slice the zucchini into small chunks and set aside.If you'd prefer to add more vegetables or replace the zucchini with a different veggie go right ahead! Any mix of vegetables will do. Then form small meatballs with the ground sausage by rolling a small amount of meat in the palm of your hand into a 1" diameter ball.

Heat a skillet with olive oil and cook the meatballs until browned. Add the zucchini and bacon and saute until cooked through.

While the meatball mix is cooking, combine egg yolks, cream, lemon zest, parsley, and Parmesan cheese into a bowl and whisk.

Toss the spaghetti with the sauce. Transfer pasta to the pan with the meatballs and zucchini. Add the chopped sundried tomatoes and toss. Transfer to a serving dish and serve. Delicious homemade garlic bread is a great side with this pasta dish. Here's the recipe in case you'd like to try it: Homemade Garlic Bread

Sausage Meatball & Vegetable Carbonara
Adapted from Jaime Oliver's 20 Minute Meals and The Parsley Thief Blog
Serves 6
(Printable Recipe)

6 mild or spicy Italian sausages (1 oz. ground sausage)
4 slices bacon, sliced
1 pound spaghetti
4 large egg yolks
2 medium zucchini (or vegetable of your choice)
1 cup heavy cream
grated zest of 1 lemon
4 ounces grated Parmesan Cheese (we used 2 oz's)
5 chopped sundried tomatoes
1/2 cup minced flat-leaf parsley
olive oil

Cook the spaghetti in a large pot of salted water, according to the package instructions. While the pasta is cooking, begin preparing the rest of the dish.
Prep your vegetable by washing and dicing it. If you're using zucchini, trim the ends off the zucchini. Slice in quarters lengthwise & then into small chunks. Roll ground sausage into small balls, about 1" in diameter. Heat a large skillet over medium heat & add a tablespoon of olive oil. Add the meatballs to the skillet & cook for about 5-6 minutes, or until evenly browned. Add the zucchini & bacon to the skillet & cook until the bacon is crisp. Turn off the heat.
In a mixing bowl, whisk the egg yolks, cream, lemon zest, parsley & 2 ounces of the grated Parmesan. When the spaghetti is cooked, scoop out a cup of the cooking water & drain the pasta. Using tongs add the hot spaghetti to the mixing bowl with the sauce. The heat from the pasta will cook & thicken the eggs. Add the pasta & sauce to the skillet with the meatballs & toss to combine. Add a little of the pasta cooking water to thin the sauce, if desired. Add 5 chopped sundried tomatoes. Taste & season with a bit of salt & freshly ground pepper.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Dried Cherry, Walnut, and Parmesan Cheese Salad

I’ve finally developed a go-to recipe that I often serve with dinner. I find a refreshing salad is a great compliment to any meal at any time of the year. I make sure to always have lettuce in our refrigerator as well as the rest of the ingredients I use in this recipe. I’ve added these ingredients to my Pantry Staples list, which makes this an easy convenient meal to whip up any day of the week. It’s one salad my husband and I never get tired of and offers a unique salad option to guests if you’re expecting company. Hope you enjoy it!

Every Day Salad
(Printable Recipe)

Lettuce (Romaine, Mesclun mix, or your choice)
1 cup Chopped Walnuts
1/2 cup Dried Cherries
1/2 cup Parmesan Cheese (preferably shredded)

3/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup vinegar (red wine or balsamic)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 clove minced garlic (optional)

Rinse lettuce and cut into bite sized pieces. Chop about 1 cup of walnuts. Put lettuce, walnuts, 1/2 cup cherries, 1/2 cup parmesan cheese into a salad bowl. Sprinkle with about 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Drizzle olive oil and vinegar to taste. Toss and serve immediately.

If you’d like to make a dressing to keep for the week, put 1/4 balsamic vinegar, 3/4 cup olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and 1 tablespoon minced garlic in a container and shake. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Cheesecake Pops

I made these for my friend Liz’s first annual BBQ. She was also secretly celebrating the launch of her new blog where she’s chronicling her life, fitness, and cupcakes. I knew I needed to bring a dessert that would be worthy next to her chocolate chip cookie dough cupcakes…. which were TO DIE FOR! I’m not sure that my cheesecake pops compared, but they were definitely pretty!

I had never heard of cheesecake pops until I came across She is the queen of dessert pops… searching through her blog makes you want to drop whatever you’re doing and dabble in creating a pop of your own. I knew this was the perfect recipe- something unique with a pretty presentation and without a doubt delicious.

To be honest, I don’t know why I thought this recipe would be a piece of cake. It’s very time consuming and needs to be executed in stages. If I had managed my time better and made these in the proper stages it required, I probably would be raving about this recipe. But because I was frantically running around my kitchen trying to finish in time for the BBQ my feelings about it are a little sour. Of course I’m guilty of trying new recipes at the very last minute, usually baking minutes before guests arrive not even knowing if my new recipe is trustworthy. So the blame is all mine! This recipe, if done with the right time management, is actually flawless!

You can’t go wrong with a dessert that is bite sized with a beautiful presentation that kids and adults alike will enjoy. The decorations I used are only one option and can be adjusted to your liking. For example, you can use dark chocolate, milk chocolate, or white chocolate for your dipping chocolate and sprinkle chopped nuts, coconut,or toffee bits for your decorations.

I recommend baking the cake four days ahead. Letting it sit in the refrigerator overnight to set. Then day three, shaping the cheesecake into balls and freezing overnight. Day two can be spent dipping in chocolate and decorating and then put back in the freezer to set overnight again. The final day the pops should be transferred to the refrigerator to be kept cool, but not frozen. Then serve and enjoy! For those of you that can handle the prep work required of these, you will not be disappointed in the results!

Cheesecake Pops
Adapted From:
(Printable Recipe)

16 oz softened cream cheese
½ cup white sugar
2 eggs
½ tsp almond extract
1 tsp vanilla
2/3 cup sour cream
Melted chocolate (dark or milk)
White chocolate to drizzle
Food colouring
chopped nuts and sprinkles to decorate


Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.

Beat cream cheese until smooth. Gradually add the sugar. Add eggs one at a time on low speed. Add vanilla, almond extract, and sour cream. Beat until smooth. Pour into a greased 7" or 8" pan and bake for 45 minutes. Turn off the oven and leave the cake for an additional 1 hr in oven. Refrigerate for at least 24 hours.

To assemble the pops, remove the pan from the fridge. Using either your hands or an ice cream scoop form balls of the desired size and place on a parchment lined pan. Place in the freezer until they have hardened. Melt your chocolates and tint the white chocolate if using. The best way to melt the chocolate is using either a bain marie (place a heatproof glass bowl over a pot of barely simmering water) or in the microwave for small amounts of time on a low setting. Push the sticks into the pops and start dipping the pops. The chocolate will set very fast so be quick if decorating with candy, chopped nuts or sprinkles. Drizzle with white chocolate if using and leave to set. Refrigerate until you are ready to use the pops.


Spaghetti and Meatballs

My Mom always has my Dad's Portuguese family as well as her Polish family over for Easter Sunday. It usually consists of 30 European family members who know a lot about food. The expectations are always high and my Mom's cooking never disappoints.

One of her Easter Sunday staple dishes are her meatballs. I love being at her house while she's making them... they set off a fragrance that takes over the whole house. If you weren't in the mood for meatballs, you are when you smell the combination of bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, and sauteed onions and garlic roasting in the oven.

Not only does it smell so enticing, it's an easy recipe to follow. In fact, it's so easy that I was able to make it in college with my roommates. We weren't exactly experienced in the kitchen so my mom knew the perfect recipe to pass on to us. Her meatballs were an easy yet impressive dish to serve our friends who visited our apartment often.

It's a recipe that has been passed around the dinner table with both family and friends and enjoyed often. I hope you try this recipe and fall in love with it too!

Servings: 10-20 meatballs
(Printable Recipe)


1 small onion chopped
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 lbs ground meat
1 cup grated romano cheese
½ cup chopped parsley
2 cups fine Italian bread crumbs
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Saute onion and garlic in 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl, retaining 1 cup of bread crumbs to roll the balls in before cooking. The mixture should be solid, not mushy. If too mushy, add more bread crumbs. Shape the meat mixture into balls and roll them in the bread crumbs. Lightly oil a baking sheet and lay meatballs on sheet. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour depending on the size of the balls.

Turkey Meatloaf

I love my mom's meatloaf. I find other meatloaf's lack flavor, but my mom's recipe has an amazing sauce on the top that gives it the extra pop of flavor most recipes are missing. It's fast, easy, and most ingredients are pantry staples so I've learned it's a perfect "throw together" meal when you have nothing else planned.

My husband loves this meatloaf too. He isn't a condiments person. He hates the thought of mayonnaise and orders his burgers plain- yes, without ketchup or mustard! Can you imagine?! So the fact that he loves this meatloaf with the condiment topping says a lot about its incredible flavor.

Hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

Mom’s Meatloaf
Cook Time: 1 hr
Serves: 6 servings
(Printable Recipe)

2 eggs
¾ cup milk
½ cup fine dry bread crumbs
¼ cup finely chopped onion
2 tablespoons snipped parsley
1 tsp salt
½ tsp ground sage
1 ½ lbs ground beef or turkey
¼ cup catsup
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tsp spicy mustard

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine eggs and milk; stir in crumbs, onion, parsley, salt, sage, and 1/8 tsp pepper. Add beef/turkey; mix well. Pat into a 8x4x2 inch loaf pan and cover with foil. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Keep a cookie sheet or piece of foil below the loaf pan to catch drippings as it cooks. Combine catsup, sugar, and mustard; Remove meatloaf from oven and spoon excess fat off of the top. Spread the sauce over meatloaf and return to the oven for 10 minutes.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Red Velvet Cake

My sister and I made my mom this cake for Mother's Day. She's always been the baker of the family so when I contemplated what cake to make I wanted to choose something she's never made before and something she would be excited to try. Red Velvet Cake was the perfect choice! She couldn't believe we made the holy grail of cakes...

Red Velvet cake is one of those desserts that you hear people talk about as if it's a delicacy. As if its the most difficult cake to pull off... how do you turn it red?! It's magic! Or just food coloring... I was surprised at the simplicity of this recipe. I thought it was going to contain rare ingredients that would explain the craze, but all I noticed was a whole lot of food coloring and a splash of vinegar.

Despite my slight disappointment to the hype, the cake was still delicious and easy! The flavors and consistency of the cake were perfect- it was rich and moist... melted in my mouth. One slice of this cake will definitely satisfy all of your sweet cravings! I would definitely recommend this recipe. It is sure to be a crowd pleaser- no one needs to know the lack luster of the ingredients. For all they know it really is magic!

Red Velvet Cake
Adapted From Bobby Flay

Serves: 1 (9-inch) cake
(Printable Recipe)

Ingredients (Cake)
3 3/4 cups AP Flour
3 tablespoons Dutch processed cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 1/4 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cups vegetable oil
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon red food coloring
1 1/2 cups buttermilk, at room temperature
Frosting, recipe follows

Directions (Cake)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour 2 (9-inch) cake pans and line each pan with a round of parchment paper.

Whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt in a small bowl. Cream the butter, sugar and oil in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl and beat until incorporated. Beat in the vanilla, vinegar and food coloring.

Add the flour mixture to the batter in 3 batches alternating with the buttermilk, mixing well after each addition. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans and bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until a wooden skewer inserted into the center comes out with a few moist crumbs. Cool on a baking rack for 15 minutes before removing the cake from the pans. Let cool completely before frosting. Slice each cake into 2 layers and frost.

Ingredients (Frosting)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1/2 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
7 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups superfine sugar

Directions (Frosting)
Combine the cream, milk, vanilla bean and seeds in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Remove the vanilla bean and discard. Add the flour and cook, whisking constantly, until thickened to a paste, about 2 minutes. Scrape into a bowl, cover and refrigerate until verycold, at least 2 hours.

Combine the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat until the mixture is very fluffy and the sugar is totally dissolved, about 6 minutes. Add the cold paste, a few tablespoons at a time to the butter mixture and whip until light and fluffy.

Chicken Cacciatore

I got married in August 2009 and immediately after my husband and I bought our first home together :) In fact, we signed the contract in the parking lot of the church on the night of our Rehearsal! We had been looking for about 6 months prior and found our house 3 days before the wedding. Talk about a stressful situation!

Following our closing we spent the next 3 months working on the house- did lots of painting, refinished hardwood floors, tiled, etc. Needless to say- we were eating a lot of takeout. So I decided I was going to make a New Years resolution: cook and bake more often. I wanted to make a conscious effort to make sure something sweet and homemade was always in the house for my husband :) I've never been one to keep a New Years resolution, but I actually kept this one! It turned into something much greater than I had expected- a new hobby!

So this week I was trying to think of a dinner I could make with the ingredients I had available. I had chicken thighs in the refrigerator, cans of tomatoes and chicken broth and thought lets make a chicken cacciatore stew! I googled it on the Food Network website and came across Giada's version. I liked the ingredients she listed and thought this could turn into something good! I added a few extra ingredients here and there, but I give Giada all of the credit! It was so flavorful and even better the next day.

Chicken Cacciatore
Adapted From Giada De Laurentiis
Serves: 4 servings
(Printable Recipe)

4 chicken thighs
2 chicken breasts with skin and backbone, halved crosswise
2 teaspoons salt, plus more to taste
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
1/2 cup all purpose flour, for dredging
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large red bell pepper, chopped
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3/4 cup dry white wine
1 ( 28-ounce) can diced tomatoes with juice
3/4 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
3 tablespoons drained capers
1/4 cup chopped olives
1 cup chopped broccoli
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano leaves
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil or parsley

Sprinkle the chicken pieces with 1 teaspoon of each salt and pepper. Dredge the chicken pieces in the flour to coat lightly.

In a large heavy saute pan, heat the oil over a medium-high flame. Add the chicken pieces to the pan and saute just until brown, about 5 minutes per side. If all the chicken does not fit in the pan, saute it in 2 batches.

Transfer the chicken to a plate and set aside. Add the bell pepper, onion and garlic to the same pan and saute over medium heat until the onion is tender, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the wine and simmer until reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes with their juice, broth, capers, olives, broccoli and oregano.

Return the chicken pieces to the pan and turn them to coat in the sauce. Bring the sauce to a simmer. Continue simmering over medium-low heat until the chicken is just cooked through, about 30 minutes for the breast pieces, and 20 minutes for the thighs.

Using tongs, transfer the chicken to a platter. If necessary, boil the sauce until it thickens slightly, about 3 minutes. Spoon off any excess fat from atop the sauce. Spoon the sauce over the chicken, then sprinkle with the basil or parsely and serve. Recommend serving over white rice.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Chocolate Covered Macaroons

Hi and welcome to my blog! I recently made Chocolate Covered Macaroons for a housewarming party I went to. My family has always cooked and baked from scratch for every occasion. So when I'm going anywhere and offer to bring a dish, I try my best to take after my relatives and make a dish from scratch. I haven't acquired a recipe repertoire yet so when I have a dish to prepare I go straight to the web... and often times end up with Ina Garten- my inspiration! I was in a random mood for macaroons and thought- why not?! These cookies were delicious! They were easy to make with a delicate and impressive appearance. The macaroons were moist and chewy while the chocolate was perfectly rich. The chopped nuts were the final touch that finished them off. They were a party hit! I hope you enjoy the recipe as much as I did!

Chocolate Covered Macaroons
Adapted From Ina Garten, Barefoot Contessa
Serves: 20 to 22 cookies
(Printable Recipe)

14 ounces sweetened shredded coconut
14 ounces sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 extra-large egg whites, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup chocolate chips
6 tablespoons cream
½ teaspoon instant coffee
Chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Combine the coconut, condensed milk, and vanilla in a large bowl. Whip the egg whites and salt on high speed in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment until they make medium-firm peaks. Carefully fold the egg whites into the coconut mixture.

Drop the batter onto well greased cookie sheets (greased with butter) using either a 1 3/4-inch diameter ice cream scoop, or two teaspoons. Bake for 22-25 minutes, until golden brown. Remove the cookies immediately from the pan with a spatula onto a cooling rack.

Meanwhile, simmer water in a pot and place a clear bowl over it. Combine 1 cup of chocolate chips, 6 tablespoons of cream, and ½ teaspoon of instant coffee. Stir until chocolate is melted. Remove from heat and continue to stir. The more you stir, the shinier the chocolate will be. Top macaroons with melted chocolate and chopped walnuts.

Refrigerate to cool and serve.