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Thursday, June 30, 2011

The best green thing you've ever seen

There are lots of things my family loves...pasta, wine, cheese...and a big favorite in the vegetable group...


Sorry, but I have to shout it out.  Artichokes are wonderful.  I've been eating them for as long as I can remember...and this recipe is the reason why.

My great-grandmother (Dad's maternal grandmother), otherwise known as Big Grandma, brought this recipe over with her from Italy when she came to the US.  I was fortunate enough to know Big Grandma for a long time - she died while I was in college - and for the most part, she wasn't able to do much cooking since she suffered from Parkinson's starting at an early age.

Fortunately, this recipe has passed on through the next 3 generations...soon to be 4.  It's easy, and delicious, and one to try to convert the artichoke naysayers (how dare they???).  What are your thoughts on artichokes?

Put a little bit of Sicily on your table tonight :)

Big Grandma's Stuffed Artichokes

4 large artichokes
2 cups bread crumbs
1 cup grated parmesan or pecorino romano cheese
1 cup raisins (red or white)
1/2 cup pignoli nuts
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Using a bread knife, cut the top of the choke to level it.  Cut stem off.  Peel stem and reserve to put in pot when cooking artichoke.  
With kitchen scissors, cut the sharp edges off the leaves.

Mix parmesan cheese, raisins, pignoli nuts and bread crumbs with some pepper.  Spread the leaves on the chokes and stuff with mix.  One way to do this: stand the choke in a separate soup bowl and hollow out the center where the thorny leaves are...put a very generous amount of the mixture on the center cavity, spread the leaves and push the mixture into the leaf area.

Using a pot tall enough to cover the chokes and cover, place the chokes in, fill with water and some olive oil to cover the bottom of the leaves (about a third of the way up the artichoke).  Drizzle some additional oil on top of each choke.

Bring water to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.  Cover the pot and steam the chokes for approximately one hour. Pull a leaf and taste for tenderness.  If you like it more tender, steam longer.

Serve immediately.

Linked to:  It's A Keeper
                 Mangia Mondays
                 Side Dish Saturdays

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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Longing for December?

Sometimes, even in the dead heat of summer, you crave something that is more suitable for winter.  Most comfort foods are cold weather foods, it seems...and you need to be comforted year round, right?

This meal is one of the simplest and although it requires turning the oven on, you'll barely be in the kitchen long enough to break a sweat.  It's perfect for the days when you just don't feel like grilling, or when you long for something that reminds you of two feet of snow (in a moment of temporary insanity).

Although, there is one part of this that screams summertime...the fresh parsley from my garden :)  It definitely gives it a lighter, fresher taste.

And next to taste, the best part of this meal is the cost.  Seriously, it doesn't get much cheaper than this.


Baked Chicken Thighs with Red Potatoes
4 chicken thighs, bone in and skin on
1 1/2 - 2 pounds red potatoes (about 8 potatoes), skin on, cut into bite size pieces
10 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
1 cup chopped parsley, loosely packed
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
juice of 2 lemons
salt and pepper to taste

Put all ingredients in a large Ziploc bag and let marinate for at least 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Place chicken mixture in a 9x13 pan and bake for approximately 45 minutes.  Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Yeah, I went there.

All things cake batter make me happy.  

This ice cream made us SUPER happy.  

Consider yourself warned.

Cake Batter Ice Cream
slightly adapted from food. com 

1 cup whole milk, chilled 
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups heavy cream, chilled
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract 
1 cup yellow cake mix 

In a medium bowl, whisk the milk and sugar until sugar is dissolved. Stir in heavy cream and vanilla. 

Stir in cake mix, making sure there are no lumps. Pour mixture into the freezer bowl and mix until it has thickened, about 25-30 minutes. Remove ice cream from freezer bowl and place into a separate container. Fold in sprinkles.  Enjoy immediately or freeze for later.

Linked to: What's On Your Plate?
                 These Chicks Cooked
                Sweets For A Saturday

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Monday, June 27, 2011

Small bite, big taste

Burgers.  Can't get enough...especially in the summer.  To me, there isn't much that can be compared to a big, juicy burger right off the grill.

Or, in this case, a small, juicy one.

Pour me an ice cold beer, please!

Cheddar Sliders with Cajun Caramelized Onions
1 pound ground beef
salt and pepper to taste
1 yellow onion, sliced
1 teaspoon canola oil
1 tablespoon cajun seasoning
8 pieces of cheddar cheese
8 mini potato rolls

In a small saucepan, heat oil then add onion.  Top with cajun seasoning and stir to combine.  Cook for about 20 minutes, or until onion is brown and caramelized.

Add salt and pepper to beef and form 8 small patties.  Cook on hot grill until desired temperature is achieved, adding cheese toward the end.  Place burgers on buns, top with onions and serve.

Linked to: Mangia Mondays
                Hunk of Meat Monday

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Friday, June 24, 2011

What are you doing tomorrow?

A friend of mine recently reached out to me about a cause that's near and dear to my heart - helping children with cancer.  Her town is having a bake sale tomorrow for a young boy who passed away a few months ago, and all proceeds are going to funding for research.  I was more than happy to help.

In 1987, I lost my cousin Brian to the deadly disease at the age of 8.  Brian was 10 years younger than me, and more like a little brother.  To see him suffer from something so horrible was beyond awful, and now, almost 25 years later, I can't believe families still have to go through the same.  This awful monster needs to be stopped.  ASAP.

To my local readers - please stop by tomorrow if you can, otherwise check out Cookies For Kids' Cancer to make a donation online.  The location is:

429 Rockaway Valley Road (RVA/RFL Fields - the Future Legends Lacrosse Tournament will be taking place), Boonton Township, NJ, from 8am-6pm.  

Here's one of the two cookies I'm contributing - I'm sure there will be plenty of other yummy treats there, too!

Peanut Butter Cup Cookies
from Real Simple
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 (12 ounce) package small peanut butter cups, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt.  Using a mixer, beat the butter and sugars until creamy. Add the egg and vanilla and beat to combine. 

Gradually add the flour mixture, mixing until just incorporated. Fold in the peanut butter cups.

Drop tablespoon-size mounds of dough 2 inches apart onto the prepared baking sheets. Bake until light 
brown around the edges, 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a baking rack to cool.

Linked to:  Sweets For A Saturday

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Thursday, June 23, 2011

I scream, you scream

Those of you who "like" my Facebook page know that a few days ago, Santa came early and gave me a present.  That present was an ice cream maker.

Until now, I've never made ice cream.  Crazy, right?  Yeah, I think so too...especially after having the two flavors I've made in the past two days.  Deeeee-lish.

My Dad (who, by the way, is Santa in this scenario) has been making it for a long time, so I never felt the need to make my own.  Man, this thing is gonna be dangerous in my house.  Not to mention, the requests have been pouring in...get in line, people!

Being the good wifey that I am, Frank's favorite came first.  This isn't my normal go-to flavor (I wouldn't even say it's in my top ten) but WOW.  Just wow.

There are going to be many, many ice cream, frozen yogurt and gelato recipes coming up on this blog...I can tell you that right now.  So, do yourself a favor - buy this and get in the game.  It's fun :)

Cookies-n-Cream Ice Cream
adapted from Cuisinart

2 cups whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup sugar, divided
pinch of salt
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
5 egg yolks
1 cup crushed chocolate sandwich cookies (about 8 cookies)

In a medium saucepan set over medium-low heat, whisk together the milk, cream, half of the sugar, salt, and vanilla. Bring the mixture just to a boil. 

While the milk/cream mixture is heating, combine the yolks and remaining sugar in a medium bowl. Using a hand mixer on low speed or a whisk, beat until mixture is pale and thick.

Once the milk/cream mixture has come to a slight boil, whisk about 1/3 of the hot mixture into the yolk/sugar mixture. Add another third of the mixture, then return the combined mixture to the saucepan.

Using a wooden spoon, stir the mixture constantly over low heat until it thickens slightly and coats the back of the spoon (this mixture must NOT boil or the yolks will overcook – the process should only take a few minutes).

Pour the mixture through a fine mesh strainer. Bring the ice cream base to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate 1 to 2 hours, or overnight.

Turn on the ice cream maker; pour the mixture into the frozen freezer bowl and let mix until thickened, about 20 minutes. When the ice cream is almost fully churned, gradually add the crushed cookies through the top of the ice cream maker; let mix until fully combined. The ice cream will have a soft, creamy texture.

If a firmer consistency is desired, transfer the ice cream to an airtight container and place in freezer for about 2 hours. Remove from freezer about 15 minutes before serving.

Linked to: It's A Keeper
                Tasty Tuesdays
                Sweet Tooth Friday
                Sensational Sunday

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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Summer pasta at its best

I wasn't just blessed with a Mom who can cook...Dad is a rock star in the kitchen, too.  Now that he's feeling better (a new kidney really does wonders for a person) he's been back in there getting his hands dirty.  Lucky us!

This pasta dish makes its way to the table every summer...it's light, refreshing and delicious.  Those of you who are familiar with Sicilian cuisine will recognize these ingredients immediately.  They're typical of the most southern region of Italy, and they're delicious.  

You can eat this as a first course, a main course or a side dish, depending on what else you're serving.  No matter what you choose, it's so satisfying...perfect for a dinner party or a quiet night at home.

Dad's Sicilian Summer Pasta
1 pound perciatelli (sub spaghetti if you like)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tin anchovies, finely chopped
1 large onion, chopped
1 head broccoli, cut into florets
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup pignoli nuts
1 cup raisins, soaked first in water or liquor (rum, vodka)
1/2 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes

Cook pasta until al dente.  Drain and set aside.  

While pasta is cooking, in a large skillet, melt the anchovies in the oil, then add the onions and let them sweat.  Add the broccoli and cook until soft, followed by tomatoes, pignoli nuts and raisins.

Cook all ingredients for a few minutes, then add crushed tomatoes.  Stir until combined, and simmer for a few minutes.  Add pasta to skillet, combine and cook for a few minutes on low.  Top with grated cheese and serve.

This dish can be served immediately or at room temperature.

Linked to: Mangia Mondays

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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Boardwalk grub

Google this:  sausage & peppers recipe.

How many different ones popped up?

That's the beauty of this dish - there are SO many different ways you can make it, and they're all great.  You can change it up year round, or use whatever method is your favorite, and it never disappoints.  Pan, crockpot, grill, oven...which way do you usually make it?

Below you'll see how I usually do, although I've used several different methods.  This is usually what's easiest.  Everything's in one place, the ingredients are always on hand, and the end result is delicious.

Cooking it on the stovetop is especially handy this time of year when you've run out of room on the grill, too.

Don't these remind you of the boardwalk, NJ peeps?  Yum!

Stovetop Sausage & Peppers
2 pounds Italian sausage (I prefer hot, but use what you like), cut into bite size pieces
1/4 cup (approximately) extra virgin olive oil, divided
4 peppers (any variety), ribs and seeds removed, sliced
1 large yellow onion, sliced
5 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 can tomato paste
1 tablespoon basil
1 tablespoon garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste
rolls (or pasta)

In a pan, heat 2 tablespoons oil then add sausage.  Cook until brown.

In a large skillet over medium heat, add 3 tablespoons oil, then peppers, onion and garlic. Cook until slightly soft, then add tomato paste and mix it through the rest of the ingredients.  Add basil, garlic powder, salt and pepper.

Transfer sausage to large skillet and mix until combined.  Continue cooking until sausage is cooked through and the vegetables are soft.  Serve alone, on rolls or with pasta.

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Monday, June 20, 2011

Cheese is still good.

I've been known to periodically discuss my love for cheese.  Every once in a while I feel the need to repeat myself, just to be clear.  When you're eating something like this, it's hard not to spread the joy...pun intended :)

I know that all cheese lovers understand this.

Hello, baked brie...it's good to see you again.

It's amazing how something so simple can be so delicious.

This time around, I used a raspberry red chile ginger jam (from my friend Larry, originally from New Mexico...the same friend who contributed the Walter 45), and it was divine.  I've used so many other types of fillings before...the versatility of this dish is endless.

Grab it while it's hot - it never lasts long.

Baked Brie in Puff Pastry
1 frozen puff pastry sheet, thawed
1 wheel brie cheese
1/2 cup preserves of your choice

Preheat oven to 425.  Lightly grease cookie sheet or pie plate and place cheese on it (leave rind on).  Spread preserves on top of cheese.  Place puff pastry sheet on top of cheese and wrap it around the sides.  Tuck the ends underneath if they reach.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until brown.  Let cool for approximately 5 minutes before cutting.  Serve with fruit and crackers.

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Friday, June 17, 2011

Happiness is...

Ladies and gentlemen, I'm warning you now...I think it may be a cupcake kind of summer.  As you can see from recent posts, they've been taking over my kitchen.

I took a break from them for a while (call it a temporary case of insanity), but I think it's now safe to say they're back.  After all, cupcakes make me happy, and we all need to be happy...right?

Frank and I had a wonderful engagement party and rather than having a typical party cake, we had cupcakes for our guests.  Beautiful, delicious cupcakes.  Happiness.

We threw Bella an amazing 1st birthday party, complete with all of family and friends to help celebrate our little miracle.  Instead of a typical birthday cake, we had (2 very large!) cupcake cakes.  Adorable, tasty cupcakes.  Happiness.

These cupcakes make me happy, too...

How about some cream cheese frosting with that?  Ummm, yes please. 

Fill these babies up with some strawberry preserves, and you've got happiness on a plate.

What kind of cupcakes make you happy?

Strawberry Filled Cupcakes
cake and frosting recipes from Martha Stewart 

For the cupcakes:
1 1/2 cups AP flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs

For the frosting:
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces, at room temerature
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Your favorite strawberry preserves for filling
Fresh sliced strawberries for topping

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a muffin tin with liners.  

In a bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt; set aside.  In another bowl, mix milk and vanilla together; set aside.

In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.  Add eggs one at a time, beating well inbetween.  Turn mixer on low and add half the dry ingredients, followed by milk mixture, then remaining dry ingredients.  Do not overmix.

Fill muffin tin with batter and bake for 20-25 minutes.  Cool for 5 minutes before removing from tin.

To make the frosting:  Place cream cheese in a medium mixing bowl. Using a rubber spatula, soften cream cheese. Gradually add butter; continue beating until smooth and well blended. 

Sift in confectioners' sugar and continue beating until smooth. Add vanilla; stir to combine.

To assemble cupcakes:  Hollow out a small hole in the middle of the cupcakes (I used a baby spoon again) and fill cupcakes with strawberry preserves.  Add frosting and top with sliced strawberries.

Linked to: Sweets For A Saturday

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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Running late? Make this!

This dish was apparently quite popular before I joined the food blogging world.  I made it once before with Velveeta, but thought it would be nice to have a healthier version... preferably one that uses items I usually have on hand (Velveeta is NOT one of them!)

The recipe on Delish was appealing to me, and I made some adaptations.  The result was a great one - Frank loved it, too.  I know we enjoyed the one I made last year, but this was even better and will stay in our rotation for the reasons I stated above.

You can never have too many easy, quick, healthy, don't-have-to-think-much-about-it meals to choose from on busy nights...this is one you need to keep in mind!

Creamy Taco Mac - The Healthy Way
adapted from Delish

1 box elbows
1 pound ground turkey
1/2 onion, chopped
1 cup tomato sauce
2 teaspoons cumin
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup light sour cream
3 oz. light cream cheese
shredded cheddar cheese for topping

Cook pasta according to package directions and drain.  Set aside.

In the same pot, cook turkey and onion until brown.  Add tomato sauce, cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper.  Stir and simmer for a few minutes.

Add pasta, sour cream and cream cheese, and stir to combine.  Simmer for another few minutes, then remove and plate.  Top with cheddar cheese before serving.

Serves 4.

Linked to:  These Chicks Cooked
                   It's A Keeper Thursday
                  Skinny Blog Hop

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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Another great way to start the day

Our most recent recipe swap theme was breakfast dishes.  I think it's safe to say I'm not alone in believing that you can never have too many pancake recipes.  So, I was happy to see this one pop up in my inbox.

Carrie from Carrie's Sweet Life (who originally saw this recipe on Cassie Craves) made these pancakes look and sound delicious.  And they were.  Who can resist sweet cream cheese topping on top of fluffy nutty pancakes?  Not me.

Plus, they couldn't be easier to make.  The topping takes less than a minute, and I made the batter the night before.  Can't beat that.

I'm happy to add these to my breakfast collection.  Thanks for a great dish, Carrie!

Banana Nut Pancakes with Sweet Cream Topping
slightly adapted from Carrie's Sweet Life

3 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup whipped topping (I used fat free since that's what I had on hand)
1 cup pancake mix
1 tablespoon sugar
1 egg
3/4 cup milk
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 medium ripe banana, mashed
1/2 cup chopped pecans (I used walnuts)

In a small bowl, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Mix in whipped topping (mixture will be stiff); set aside.

In another bowl, combine pancake mix and sugar. Beat egg, milk and oil; add to pancake mix and mix well. Fold in banana and pecans.

Pour batter onto a lightly greased hot griddle; turn when bubbles form on top of pancakes. Cook until second side is golden brown. Serve with cream topping. 

Makes approximately 8 pancakes.

Linked to:  Mother's Day Blog Hop

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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Daring Cooks: Healthy Potato Salad

I was very excited when this month's Daring Cooks challenge was announced, because I knew immediately how I'd go about it.  We were asked to make a delicious and healthy potato salad, and right away I knew I'd be using my Mom's recipe.  It's always been a HUGE hit, and it feeds a huge crowd.  There are some interesting ingredients, plus there's no mayonnaise...score!

I brought a batch to my cousin's barbecue over Memorial Day weekend, knowing she always has a big crowd.  Although my Mom wasn't there, my aunts and uncles knew right away who made it and where the recipe came from.  What's great is that it can be made the day before (no need to refrigerate, either)...so keep this in mind when you need something that can be done in advance.

DISCLAIMER:  Mom told me to make it clear that the oil and vinegar measurements are approximate.  You really have to eyeball it and see for yourself what looks/tastes best.  It's best to add a little at a time and taste as you go, rather than dumping it all in at once and not being able to take it away.

Please make this at some point this summer and let me know how it's received...I promise, no one will be disappointed!  It's such a great alternative to the usual mayo-laden potato salad.  LOVE it.

Jami Sorrento was our June Daring Cooks hostess and she chose to challenge us to celebrate the humble spud by making a delicious and healthy potato salad. The Daring Cooks Potato Salad Challenge was sponsored by the nice people at the United States Potato Board, who awarded prizes to the top 3 most creative and healthy potato salads. A medium-size (5.3 ounce) potato has 110 calories, no fat, no cholesterol, no sodium and includes nearly half your daily value of vitamin C and has more potassium than a banana!

Mom's Famous Potato Salad
5 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes
1 head cauliflower, broken into flowerettes
1 bunch scallions, chopped
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 lb. assorted olives, chopped
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil (approximately - use your discretion)
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar (approximately - use your discretion)
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup pepperoncini, chopped (optional)

Boil potatoes, cooling them just long enough so you can cut them into bite size pieces.  Cook cauliflower until cooked yet still a bit firm.  

Combine the potatoes and cauliflower in a large bowl.  Add olive oil while veggies are still warm so it can be absorbed.  Add the rest of ingredients, toss together and enjoy immediately or leave out before eating later.  

If you choose to refrigerate it, be sure to bring it to room temperature before enjoying it.

Serves an army :)

Linked to:  What's On Your Plate?
                  These Chicks Cooked

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Monday, June 13, 2011

Happy Birthday to my love.

The truth is, my wonderful husband's birthday isn't until this Saturday, but since we have a wedding to attend that day, he asked to have his cake this past weekend.  I thought I knew what he'd pick, but he surprised me with a combination that I had to bust his chops about for being "childish".  Well, it may have been childish, but the adults loved it as much as the kids!

Once again, I used my favorite yellow cake recipe, like I used for a few other desserts here, and the amazing chocolate frosting recipe I've used several times as well.  

As for the filling - well, I took the easy way out, but it didn't matter.  Chocolate pudding in a flash = Jello Instant Pudding Mix and whole milk.  Chill for around 10 minutes.  Done.  Delicious.

The combination of the three was really, REALLY good.  The only thing I was missing was a tall cold glass of milk :)

Heather from Hezzi-D's Books and Cooks is this month's What's Baking host, and chose layer cakes as a theme.  Lucky for me, my husband chose this instead of tiramisu :)

Happy Birthday to my best friend!

Frank's Birthday Cake
(see previous links for cake and frosting recipes)

Bake cake as directed (using two 8 inch round pans) and cool completely.  Make pudding as directed (use a large box - 5.9 oz.) and chill in refrigerator while making frosting. 

Place bottom cake layer on serving dish, then add ALL the pudding on top, mixing in some sprinkles as you go.  Follow with the second cake layer, then frost the top and sides of the cake.  Finish it off with more sprinkles.  Refrigerate until serving.

Linked to: These Chicks Cooked
                 Sweet Tooth Friday
                 Sweets For A Saturday

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Friday, June 10, 2011

Beating the heat, part two

The next best solution to a homemade meal without turning on the oven = crockpot.  Who says it's just for cold weather?  Not me...

Once again, I broke my rule for using a recipe that required cooking meat before putting it in the slow cooker, but it was only on the stove for about 5 minutes :)  The end result was totally worth it.

I also used london broil instead of flank steak (what can I say...it was on sale that week) and again, got a fantastic end result.  It shreds very nicely when slow cooked so it definitely works when making "old clothes".

And a big oops - I forgot to add the tomato sauce!  No matter - pardon my echo - the end result was still delicious.  But, just incase you don't have any on hand, you can still make this dish and be very pleased.

Ropa Vieja
adapted from Allrecipes

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 pounds london broil
1 1/2 cups beef broth
1 1/2 cans (12 oz) tomato sauce
1 large onion, sliced
1 green pepper, seeded and sliced
5 cloves garlic, chopped
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

Add vegetable oil to a hot skillet, followed by meat.  Cook for about 3-4 minutes on each side.

Place meat in crockpot, then pour in tomato sauce and beef broth, followed by all other ingredients.  Stir until well blended.  Cook on high for about 4 hours, or on low for about 8-9 hours.

Remove meat, shred and serve with rice.

Serves 6-8.

Linked to: Sensational Sunday
                Mangia Mondays

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Thursday, June 9, 2011

Beating the heat

I took Bella to Sesame Place yesterday for the first time.  So much fun!  The day was long, HOT and exhausting.  I had all intentions of ordering in (Frank actually suggested he pick up burritos)...no way was I turning the oven on in 100 degree weather.

Then I remembered an old favorite that's perfect for beating the heat.  All it requires is turning on the stove for 10 minutes, cutting up some veggies and opening a few cans.  It's the perfect recipe for the weather we've been having, and since today is supposed to be a repeat of yesterday, I thought this may help someone out who's looking for an easy meal without working up a sweat.

What's great about this salad is that you can use whatever you have on hand.  I've made it many times and rarely has it been the same.  The recipe below is last night's version, but again, sub what you like/have.

Soooo good.  And light.  And cool.  And easy!  Try it tonight.

Tuna Pasta Salad
1 pound rotini pasta, cooked, drained and cooled
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1 cup green beans, cooked and cooled
1/2 cup edamame
1 cup chopped red onion
2 cans solid white tuna packed in water, drained
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon garlic powder
juice from half a lemon
salt and pepper to taste

Put all ingredients in a large bowl and mix until combined.  For best results, chill at least one hour before eating.

***Other ingredients I recommend:  peas, peppers, olives, broccoli, artichoke hearts, garbanzo beans, celery, carrots.  But really, anything goes!

Linked to:  These Chicks Cooked

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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

No surprise here...they're awesome.

Another great recipe for you to consider when BBQ hopping this summer!  I brought these to a friend's house  recently and as usual, they were a big hit.  My mom has been making these FOREVER...I love how easy they come together, and of course, how droolworthy and yummy they are.

Feel free to use another type of nut or chip...anything goes.  Just enjoy them.  And watch everyone else enjoy them, too.  You'll be the hit of the party!

Surprise Bars
from Mom

1/2 box graham crackers, crushed (or 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs)
1 stick butter, melted
chocolate chips
sweetened coconut flakes
chopped walnuts
1 can sweetened condensed milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine the graham crackers and butter in a bowl, then cover the bottom of a 9x13 pan with them.  Add remaining ingredients (enough of each to spread evenly around the pan) and add the milk last, pouring it over the top.

Bake for approximately 25 minutes.  Cool before cutting.

Linked to:  Sweet Tooth Friday

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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Need a new summer drink?

Look no further, my friends...here it is.  Refreshing, tasty and easy to make...everything a summer cocktail should be.

Introducing - the Walter 45.  Named after this past weekend's yard sale location.  Courtesy of my friend Larry.  And please, don't wait until 5PM to have it - we most certainly didn't.

Walter 45

3 parts tonic water
one ripe nectarine

Muddle some of the nectarine in the bottom of a shaker.  Add the St. Germain, tonic and ice. Gently shake or stir.

Strain and pour over more ice.  Best enjoyed outdoors.


Monday, June 6, 2011

Another goodie for the grill

I've been baking different stuffed cupcakes lately, so why not continue the trend with my cooking, too?

I love me a stuffed burger.  What could be so bad about yummy cheese oozing out of tender, juicy meat?

Nothing.  Nothing at all.

Bacon, Onion & Cheese Stuffed Burgers
adapted from Allrecipes

1 pound ground beef
4 slices bacon
1/2 onion, chopped
cheese of your choice (I used gorgonzola in one burger, shredded cheddar in another)

Form meat into 4 patties and set aside.  In a pan, brown bacon.  Remove (save fat in pan) and set on plate with paper towel to blot off fat.  Once cooled, crumble into small pieces.

Cook onion until brown with reserved bacon fat in the same pan.  Remove and combine with bacon.

Place bacon mixture on one patty, followed by cheese.  Top with another patty.  Repeat with the remaining two.  Place on hot grill and cook to your liking, flipping once.

Makes 2 burgers.

Linked to:  What's On Your Plate?

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Friday, June 3, 2011

Down by the (Mexican) sea

Do you love tacos?  We do.  Not hard shell ones - I mean, we like them, but we prefer soft shell.  So really, it's more like a burrito...but taco always seems like the term people use when referring to them when fish is involved.

So, yeah, we love fish tacos.

It doesn't get much simpler than this.  A cast iron pan, a little canola oil, tilapia, Old Bay seasoning.  Throw some tortillas in the microwave to warm up, add some guacamole, and top with some shredded cabbage.  Done - and in less than 10 minutes!

Be sure to wash it down with a margarita!

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Thursday, June 2, 2011

More cupcakes, anyone?

It seems as if I've been on a cupcake kick lately (I have more to blog, even after this post!)...I don't care what anyone says about the "trend" being over - they're always a big hit.  And so convenient to bring to a party, kids or no kids.  People.love.cupcakes.

I was looking for a refreshing flavor to bring to my cousin's BBQ.  Something I hadn't tried before.  Immediately, I thought of key lime...the pie I've been making forever is always well received...so off I went to do some research.


I found a great key lime filling recipe and combined it with a yellow cupcake recipe I found on Food Network (thought I'd try a new one for yellow cake - yum).  Also, I had leftover mascarpone cream cheese frosting from the red velvet cupcakes I made a few days before, so I added a little more cream cheese and sugar to it to stretch it a bit.  Finish them off with some grated lime zest...

Oh my.  I really wish I made more of these.

Key Lime Cupcakes
adapted from Food Network (cake), Hoosier Homemade (filling) and Joy of Baking (frosting)

For the cake:
1 cup unsalted butter
2 cups sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 eggs
3 cups sifted cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a mixer with a whip attachment, cream the butter until light and fluffy. Add the sugar and continue to cream. Gradually add the vanilla and eggs and mix in well. 

  • Sift together dry ingredients; then mix into the butter mixture alternating with the milk. Pour batter into cupcake paper-lined muffin tins filling them 3/4 full. Bake until puffed and firm in the center and light golden brown on top, about 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool.

  • For the filling:
  • 1 box vanilla instant pudding
    1/2 cup heavy cream
    1/4 cup key lime juice
  •  4 drops green food coloring
    1/2 cup confectioners' sugar

  • In a large bowl, beat pudding and heavy cream with a wire whisk for 2 minutes. Let stand 3 minutes. Beat in lime juice and food coloring, then stir in powdered sugar. Cover and refrigerate.

  • For the frosting:  I used the leftovers from this recipe and added more cream cheese and confectioners' sugar to stretch it.  You can use the standard recipe, or white buttercream...either would work just fine.

  • To assemble:
  • Remove cupcakes from pans and let cool completely.  Using whatever device you'd normally use to form a well in the middle of your cupcake (I used a baby spoon!), dig a hole then add filling.  Add frosting and top with lime zest.  

  • Makes 24 cupcakes.

  • Linked to: Sweet Tooth Friday
  •                 Sweet Indulgences Sunday
  •                 Mangia Mondays

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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Rustic goodness

I love salads like this.  Panzanella is definitely way up there on my list of delicious side dishes. We Italians LOVE dunking bread in "juice", sauce, whatever we've got :)   But for some reason, I don't make it very often!  Hmmm.

Well, after receiving this recipe from Mary Ellen's Cooking Creations in a recipe swap, I had no choice :)  I picked up a nice ciabatta loaf from my local market (they have amazing baked goods/breads - yet another reason I love living in NJ).  I adapted the recipe a bit, based on how I've made panzanella before, and served it with grilled pork tenderloin.

SO good.

Grilled Ciabatta Bread Salad
heavily adapted from Mary Ellen's Cooking Creations, as seen on Food Network by Bobby Flay

1/2 red onion, sliced
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
1/2 loaf ciabatta bread
2 cups fresh spinach leaves
1/2 cup grape tomatoes
1/2 cup fresh mozzarella, cut into chunks
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons dried basil
salt and pepper to taste

In a small bowl, put the onion, cilantro and garlic in with half of the oil, and leave in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.  In a large bowl, add spinach, tomatoes, mozzarella and basil.  Set aside.

Split the ciabatta loaf down the middle and spray with cooking spray.  Place on hot grill and cook until brown.  Tear into pieces and add to large bowl, followed by onion mixture, remaining oil, vinegar, salt and pepper.  Toss until combined and serve immediately.

Linked to: Salad Blog Hop
                  Back to Basics

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