• Thai Quinoa Salad

Smoothie Demo at Funktion Fitness!

Smoothie Demo at Funktion Fitness!

Giving my favorite “Mango-Kale Smoothie” demo for the staff and members at Funktion Fitness this past Thursday morning was tons of fun! The best part was seeing all their smiling faces after taking the first sip of my Mango-Kale Smoothie. They really loved how refreshing and fruity the smoothie was. Like I always say, if it wasn’t green you wouldn’t even know there was kale in it!

In my opinion, finding a balance is the key to everything in life. Getting my dose of endorphins thru spin class at my gym, Funktion Fitness, is just as important to me as having a healthy go to energy drink. And not just any old healthy energy drink but one that’s as delicious as my Mango-Kale Smoothie! The best thing is attaining these things and enjoying yourself to the point where it just doesn’t seem like work at all!

Having an awesome motivator, like my spin instructor Heather Theriault at Funktion Fitness, is half the battle. She has so much enthusiam for life and that work ethic of hers making your workout super tough but so gosh darn fun it goes by in a flash…can’t ask for anything better then that!

So it’s up to you to find some kind of exercise outlet that makes you happy, and gets you your weekly dose of mood boosters, endorphins. As for the healthy energy drinks, I’ve you covered with my scrumptious smoothies to give you those weekly boosts helping you to keep powering thru your day with a smile…enjoy!

CLICK HERE TO FIND THE RECIPE, INGREDIENTS AND DIRECTIONS TO MY MANGO-KALE SMOOTHIE ! You can get really creative with your smoothies and I show you how in one of my other smoothie shows “My Energy Smoothies 101. You’ll want to take a jump over to my Mango Salsa Recipe page as well and don’t forget to make my Best Guacamole Ever Recipe … never any left over where ever I take it!

Energy Smoothies 101

 

 

 

 

Mango-Kale Smoothie!

 

 

 

Best Guacamole Ever and Crostini with Skirt Steak & Guac!

 

 

 

Mango Salsa with Pulled Beef Tacos

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes at Ellen’s

Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes at Ellen’s

Guinness chocolate cupcakes are moist and full of flavor with a whole bottle of guinness in this delectable batter! Topping these cupcakes with a rich Viennese Chocolate frosting brings it to another level of gourmet chocolate indulgence.

Just recently, I had a wonderful day meeting and baking with Ellen McMahanon, a true recipe afficionado, where she turned me on to her amazing Guinness chocolate cupcakes. Ellen has been collecting her precious recipes most of her life making very detailed notes of dates, with whom and where she was when acquiring a new favorite one. With hundreds of favorite recipes at her fingertips she still remembers the details like she was there yesterday!

You are definitely going to want to try these Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes with the Viennese Chocolate Frosting and the timing couldn’t be more perfect with St. Patrick’s Day right around the corner. Looks like you may need a super awesome appetizer that will make use of that left over corned beef too like my Arancini Reuben Balls with Homemade Thousand Island Dressing … always has everyone raving!

You could stay on the road to gourmet with my Chicken Piccata for the main event before serving these Guinness Chocolate cupcakes with Viennese Chocolate Frosting! Or go for the Lobster Mac & Cheese if you’re looking for fish. Now that we’re talking fish you can really turn some heads with my Swordfish and mango-black bean salsa ! One of my other favorites are the Salmon B.L.T. Sliders with homemade aioli.  Which ever one you choose it will be great with these rich Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3/4 cup dutch cocoa
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 stick of butter (1/2 cup butter) melted and cooled
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • 1 bottle Guinness -12 oz.
  • 3 lg eggs
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 recipe (below) Viennese Chocolate Frosting cooled

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Make 1 recipe Viennese Chocolate Frosting – cooled
  2. Pre-heat oven to 350º
  3. Line muffin tins with paper liners
  4. In medium bowl whisk together dry ingredients:  cocoa, sugar, flour, baking soda and salt
  5. In another large bowl combine wet ingredients: whisk melted butter and vanilla
  6. Stream in 1 bottle of Guinness beer into butter and vanilla
  7. Begin whisking side to side adding in 1 egg at a time to the Guinness
  8. After whisking in all the eggs, add in the sour cream and whisk to combine til smooth
  9. Add dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in 3 stages, stirring to just combine after each addition
  10. using a scoop fill the cupcake liners to 3/4’s full
  11. Bake for 15 minutes
  12. Wait 5 minutes, then remove cupcakes to cookie rack to finish cooling
  13. Frost with Viennese Chocolate Frosting

VINNESE CHOCOLATE FROSTING:

  • 6 oz – 1/2 bag Ghiradelli chocolate chips
  • 1 stick of salted butter
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 4 egg yolks – slightly beaten
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp SIFTED confectioners sugar

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Add chocolate chips, butter and water to a heat proof glass bowl
  2. Microwave 20 seconds, stop & stir, then microwave 10 seconds more til melted & creamy.
  3. Let cool to rm temp then stir in egg yolks and vanilla
  4. Whisk in SIFTED confectioners sugar
  5. Chill this mixture in the frig for 1-2 hours til thickened
  6. Using a mixer for 30 seconds bring this thickened frosting to a creamy consisitency
  7. Top each cupcake with a small scoop of this Viennese Chocolate Frosting, then smooth with a knife…,,,!

 

 

Eggplant Timbale at Adele’s

Eggplant Timbale at Adele’s

When Adele first told me about her lovely dish I was very excited to get this on camera for you. Actually seeing this eggplant timbale being unmolded when you release the sping form pan its baked in is a whole other story! It really is one of the prettiest dishes I have ever seen not to mention it’s absolutely delicious. The pasta filling is exactly like my “Lazy Mans Lasagna” and then you have the outer wrapping of the fried eggpant slices that bring the flavors to another dimension. 

I love this dish beacuse it’s fairly easy to make if you can plan ahead. Now if you have not been frying eggplant your whole life as Adele and I have there certainly would be no shame whatsoever in going to your local Italian deli around the corner and buying already fried eggplant slices! While you are there you can pick up the meatballs too. Then all you will need to do is assemble this magnificent dish. Taking advantage of this convenience allows for last minute planning here which can be a godsend! Trust me you will have as much fun as Adele and I did putting it together. When you present this eggplant timbale at your next holiday dinner the ooh’s and aah’s alone will have you sold!

When you make this eggplant timbale for your next holiday dinner you’ll need some easy holiday appetizers like Baked Asparagus Wrapped in Prosciutto, Crostini w/Gorganzola, Tomato & Basil, and Goat Cheese, Fig Jam, Fresh Pear & Mint in Pre-Baked “Fillo” Cups! My Gourmet Caesar Salad is a must, and some Zucchini Torta would be a nice surprise for your guests also! This Chocolate Pecan Pie is to die for and don’t forget my chewy chocolate chip cookies for the kids.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

INGREDIENTS for Eggplant Timbale:

  • 1 lb. rigatoni
  • 8 meatballs broken up into 3/4″ pieces
  • 9 prepared/cooked eggplant parmesan slices (w/o sauce)
  • NOTE: If you are making your own eggplant you can switch out the bread crumbs to flour-either way will be delish….she dips her eggplant slices in flour first, then egg and then she fries the eggplant same as in my eggplant parm recipe except she doesn’t use bread crumbs
  • 2 cups shredded part skim or whole milk mozzarella, plus 2/3 – 1 cup for topping (use the packaged mozz. here not fresh)
  • 2 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 2/3 cup grated Reggiano Parmesan
  • 3 extra lg eggs whisked
  • 8 cups tomato-basil pasta sauce (4 cups to mix in with pasta, 2 cups to top timbale and 2 cups to serve on the side for extra)
  • (1)- 9″ spring form pan

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 450º
  2. Cook 1 lb. rigatoni pasta until ADENTE, a little firm because you will continue to cook the pasta when you bake it in the oven
  3. Drain the aldente pasta BUT do not rinse!
  4. Add cooked pasta to a large bowl
  5. Add in whisked eggs, ricotta, mozzarella, Parmesan and mix to combine
  6. Now pour sauce in and mix gently to combine again
  7. Add in broken up meatballs and gently mix
  8. Spray spring form pan with Pam
  9. Lay prepared eggplant slices all around pan meeting in the center like a flower with edges folding back out of pan
  10. Add pasta mixture into the center of the eggplant drapped spring form pan
  11. Fold over the eggplant slices covering the pasta filling
  12. Add the last 9th piece of eggplant to cover the opening in the middle where the eggplant doesn’t reach
  13. Pour 2 cups sauce over the top of the eggplant timbale, sprinkle with parm & then 2/3 – 1 cup sliced mozzarella
  14. Put timbale into pre-heated 450º oven and bake 5 minutes
  15. Turn oven down to 400º and bake 20 minutes more until bubbly
  16. Take out and let sit 15 minutes…very important to do this
  17. After 15 minutes release spring-form pan from eggplant
  18. Carefully slice timbale and serve with a sprinkle of Parmesan and a side gravy boat for extra sauce

Tortellini at The Gulla’s

Tortellini at The Gulla’s

You know this labor of love is so worth the effort when you taste how tender and flavorful these homemade tortellini are! The delicate, circular shaped pasta are stuffed with a purée of sundried tomato, mozzarella, and Reggiano Parmesan and served in one of my all time favorites, a tomato-cream sauce.  I introduced Steve to another easy and scrumptious sauce, Gorganzola Dolce-Cream Sauce that’s garnished with fresh thyme and a drizzle of truffle oil! 

This past weekend I was at The Gulla’s house with Steve and his son Maximo making their homemade tortellini. Steve dedicates a few hours every Christmas Eve making these little gourmet bites for his family’s Christmas dinner. Making these tortellini is definitely a labor of love because you are creating each little amazing folded bundle of pasta by hand.

Having a Smart pasta machine like Steve’s really cuts down on the labor of making tortellini as the pasta comes out of the machine in long ready-made sheets in mere minutes. It’s a very cool process putting out smooth sheets of pasta in 3 minutes flat but you can also learn to make Steve’s tortellini using homemade pasta too if you don’t own an Smart pasta machine. I have a homemade pasta recipe below for all of us without a pasta machine who don’t want to miss out on learning how to make these incredible tortellini.

As Italian legend goes on how the shape of the tortellini came about dates back to the days when Venus, the Goddess of Love, was traveling to a small town in Italy between Modena and Bologna. She was staying at a tavern where the Innkeeper was so taken by her beauty he peeked thru the key to her room one night and got a glimse of her navel. He rushed to the kitchen and created a pasta in the likeness of her belly button. And that’s how the shape of the tortellini came about, the belly button pasta! Who Knew?

While you are working hard forming these wonderful tortellini you may need a little sip of something to get you through like a Metaxa Mojito! And for easy nibbles you can pick on some Mango Salsa, Sweet Potato Fries and Green Goddess Dip II,  Best Guacamole Ever or some delicious Mediterranean Layered Dip!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

INGRDIENTS for making PASTA in The Smart Pasta Machine:

  • 3 parts flour
  • 1 part semolina
  • 180 ml OR 3/4 cup of water for 2 lbs flour in pasta machine
  • 1 egg and 1 tsp water whisked in a small bowl – set aside until ready to form tortellini

INGREDIENTS for Sun-dried Tomato FILLING:                                                                                         NOTE: THIS FILLING IS UNBELIEVEABLY DELICIOUS!…try it on crostini OR on crusty bread!

  • 1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup mozzarella – whole milk or part skim
  • 1/4 cup grated Reggiano Parmesan
  • 2-3 tbsp olive oil

Purée these ingredients with an immersion blender or add to food processor and pulse. Start with 2 tbsp of olive oil and add a little extra if needed to purée til smooth texture

DIRECTIONS FOR FORMING THE TORTELLINI WITH SHEETS OF PASTA MADE FROM THE PASTA MACHINE:

  1. Begin to cut 2″ circles with your cookie cutter out of the machine made sheets of pasta
  2. Brush top 1/2 of the circle edge with a whisked egg
  3. Place 1/4 tsp of sun dried tomato filling in the middle of the circle pasta
  4. Fold the circle in 1/2
  5. Press to SEAL the 1/2 circle of pasta…VERY IMPORTANT to SEAL this edge!
  6. Take 1/2 circle and wrap around your pinky having each end meet
  7. Press these two ends together to seal and form one continous circular shape
  8. Fold down top of circular pasta to form tortellini
  9. Place in a bowl as you finish each one until you gone thru all the pasta sheets
  10. Bring large pan of salted water to a boil and add fresh pasta
  11. Cook pasta for 8 minutes, test pieces of pasta for proper doneness
  12. Serve with tomato-cream sauce or Gorganzola Dolce-cream sauce, garnish with thyme and truffle oil … mmm!

INGREDIENTS FOR TOMATO-CREAM SAUCE:

  • 2 cloves finely chopped garlic
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp dried oregano
  • 3 1/4 cup POMI “strained tomaotes” – 1 med box – 26 oz.
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

Sauté finely chopped garlic in 2 tbsp olive oil for 3 minutes, add in POMI strained tomatoes, salt & oregano and simmer for 15 minutes. Add in 2 cups of heavy cream to tomato sauce. Bring to a simmer for 15 miutes more. Serve with cooked tortellini, garnish with fresh thyme (and truffle oil.

INGREDIENTS FOR GORGANZOLA DOLCE-CREAM SAUCE:

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup Gorganzola Dolce cheese
  • 1/4 cup dry vermouth
  • fresh thyme leaves
  • truffle oil

Add heavy cream, Gorganzola, and vermouth to a small sauce pan and bring to a simmer. When it comes to a simmer whisk the melted cheese into the cream and simmer 10 minutes. Serve with tortellini, garnish with a sprinkle of fresh thyme leaves and a drizzle of truffle oil.

INGREDIENTS for Easy Homemade-Handmade Pasta- (Recipe from “Pasta at Vin’s“)

  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 4 1/2  – 5 lg eggs
  • 1/4 tsp salt

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Put the kneading attachment on your food processor and add the flour
  2. Add the salt and olive oil
  3. Turn on the food processor to slow
  4. Add in 1 tbsp of water
  5. Begin adding in 1 egg at a time with the processor still on slow
  6. Add in the rest of the eggs
  7. Keep the food processor going on medium speed to begin kneading the dough
  8. Let knead for about 8 minutes until the texture turns into a smooth consistency
  9. Remove the pasta dough and place onto the counter
  10. Knead briefly with your hands and let sit for 1/2 hr.
  11. NOTE: Vin does not cover his pasta dough while it sits for the 1/2 so it can begin to dry out  a little bit
  12. Sprinkle some flour onto the counter or work surface and cut pasta dough into 8 pieces
  13. Begin to roll out each piece of dough to your desired thickness, into long lasagna-like sheets
  14. Sprinkle more flour on top of each thinly rolled out pasta piece and begin to cut out 2″ circles with your cookie cutter
  15. Brush top 1/2 of the circle edge with a whisked egg
  16. Place 1/4 tsp of sun dried tomato filling in the middle of the circle pasta
  17. Fold the circle in 1/2
  18. Press to SEAL the 1/2 circle of pasta…VERY IMPORTANT to SEAL this edge!
  19. Take 1/2 circle and wrap around your pinky having each end meet
  20. Press these two ends together to seal and form one continous circular shape
  21. Fold down top of circular pasta to form tortellini
  22. Place in a bowl as you finish each one until you gone thru all the pasta sheets
  23. Bring large pan of salted water to a boil and add fresh pasta
  24. Cook pasta for 8 minutes, test pieces of pasta for proper doneness
  25. Serve with tomato-cream sauce or Gorganzola Dolce-cream sauce, garnish with thyme and truffle oil … mmm!

 

 

#1 Meatball at Kevin & Jori’s

#1 Meatball at Kevin & Jori’s

It was definitely worth the wait to find out how to make Kevin and Jori Smith’s oh so sucullent and flavorful meatballs! It took a little patience to sync our schedules thru this busy holiday season but we were finally able to tape these #1 Meatball winners from the recent competition,  “Lisa & Vin’s 2016 Meatball Throw Down”! It’s a team effort between Kevin and Jori that produces one of the best meatball’s I have ever tasted. Watch out Dan Holzman from “The Meatball Shop” in NYC for these amazing meatballs will turn heads!

Come to find out Kevin and Jori won Lisa & Vin’s Meatball Competition the year before as well! Once you have your first bite into these melt-in-your-mouth meatballs you will know exactly why.

Not only were we eating Kevin and Jori’s amazing meatballs while taping the #1 Meatball show but Vin made is homemade pasta we call “The Trucals” from the show “Homemade Pasta at Vin’s”. Vin makes his pasta with a special roller called the trucal iron hence the name “The Trucals”.  This trucal iron that belonged to his grandfather cuts thick strands of pasta as you roll over it making for a hardy, chewy, yet tender strand of pasta.

If it couldn’t get any better then that Kevin added in an incredible garlic-basil bread and Jori her luscious tomato-basil salad with fresh Burrata cheese! Talk about the perfect meal…OMG! I am truly excited that I am able to bring you Kevin and Jori’s winning meatball reicpe. I know you will love them as much as I do!

You will need to have some amazing desserts up your sleeve to live up to these meatball standards like my Drunk Blondie Bars with a Caramel Bourbon Sauce, Chocolate Crackle Cookies, OR my Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe! Then there’s Death by Chocolate Meringue Pie or a Chocolate Pecan Pie where you’ll always need just one more little fork full! LOL.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Bottom photos courtesy of Gianni Esposito)

Ingredients for #1 Meatball Makes Approx 55 Meatballs:                                                                -Note: this is a large recipe… you can 1/2 the reicpe for a lesser amount of course and remember meatballs FREEZE really  well, raw or cooked!

  • 6 lbs meat: 2 lb. ground beef 80/20, 2 lb. ground veal, 2lb. ground pork
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh garlic
  • 2 whole heads roasted garlic (Keep garlic heads in foil the whole time for this meatball recipe)
  • 3 cups grated pecorino romano grated cheese
  • 2 3/4 cups homemade ciabatta bread crumbs – 2 loaves of ciabatta – the bottom 1/2’s
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped Prociutto di Parma
  • 4 lg basil leaves
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 7 eggs (Kevin likes 1 1/2 egg per lb of meat)

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 400º
  2. Drizzle 2 heads of garlic with a tbsp of olive oil wrap in foil, place into oven for 35-40 minutes
  3. Slice loaves of ciabatta in 1/2, save tops for garlic bread – recipe for spread below
  4. Cut up bottom havles in small cubes, place on a cookie tray and bake until golden approx. 12 minutes
  5. Cool bread cubes then pulse to a crumb in a food processor
  6. Add ground beef, veal, and pork to a large mixing bowl
  7. Add in chopped prosciutto, salt, Percorino cheese, and bread crumbs
  8. Mix with hands to start combining
  9. Add in 7 lg eggs to meat and again mix with hands to combine, folding meat over and over
  10. Squeeze roasted garlic bulbs out of their sleeves and put into food processor or little chopper with olive oil and 4 basil leaves and purée
  11. Add this mixture to the meatball mixture and again mix folding over and over to combine
  12. Roll into 2″ size meatballs
  13. Pour 1/2″ high olive oil into large sauté pan and heat on med/high – MUST BE OLIVE OIL!
  14. Add in 8-9 meatballs at a time, don’t over crowd pan
  15. Cook on all sides until golden approx 6 minutes
  16. Remove to plate and serve with pasta, you can find Vin’s homemade pasta, “The Trucals” which are sooooo worth the effort!
  17. Serve with garlic bread too…mangia mangia 🙂

Garlic Bread Spread:

  • Ciabatta tops
  • 3/4 stick softened butter
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 cup pecorino grated cheese
  • 4 basil leaves chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves finely chopped

Mix all ingredients above, smear onto ciabatta halves and bake for 12-15 minutes on 375º YUM!

“Big Game” Party Food on CT STYLE!

“Big Game” Party Food on CT STYLE!

With Teresa Dufour & Ryan Kristafer on CT STYLE Set

Showing you some fun and refreshing foods to make for your “Big Game” or Super Bowl party was the first thing that came to mind when I was deciding what to cook on “CT Style” this week. I went with my Crab Cake Balls with Homemade Thousand Island Dressing, Mango Salsa, and Honey Dripping Greek Baklava because they are all scrumptious make ahead dishes! The key words here being “make ahead” are a huge deal when throwing a party because it helps to take the pressure off, let’s you enjoy your guests and maybe have time to whip up some specailty cocktails like yummy Metaxa Mojito’s!

Metaxa Mojito’s

The crab cake balls are actually from my crab cake recipe. We are just forming the crab into 1 1/2″ balls instead of disc’s. It’s a no nonsense kind of recipe without all the vegetable fillers. Chunks of crab, some seasoning and a few binder ingredients is all that make up this appetizer. Letting the crab cake balls set in the frig for a couple hours or even overnight let’s those flavors meld and the shape to really form making it easy to sauté. Then you briefly sauté them in a little butter and olive oil until golden and crispy on the outside.

The Bender Kitchen

You saw how easy it was to make my homemade thousand island when I had Teresa whisk together all the ingredients in just a few seconds. The secret ingredient in my dressing is adding in creamy horseradish to compliment the crab, like a “crab Louie”!

Make sure to buy a few mangoes a week before game day so they have time to ripen fully on your kitchen counter and they will make an amazing mango salsa. While you are at it check out the avocado’s to see how ripe they are and you may want to pick up a couple of those to leave on the counter as well.

Selfie Ritual w/Benny – CT Style Camera Man

As for the authentic Honey Dripping Greek Baklava recipe that comes from my good friend Maria, it’s to die for! It make’s the perfect party dessert cause you cut them up into little triangles…it’s always a crowd pleaser and again you if make it the day before it’s ideal!

I know you’ll have as much fun making these party dishes as I did with Ryan Kristafer and Teresa Dufour on CT Style! Just click on the link above and it will take you to the exact recipe page’s! Enjoy and I hope your team wins!

 

 

Lisa & Vin’s Meatball Throw Down

Lisa & Vin’s Meatball Throw Down

Wow! What an impression 9 simmering trays of meatballs made when you walked into Lisa & Vin Esposito’s kitchen this past fall for their 2016 Annual Meatball Competition! There were meatball’s with sauce, meatball’s without sauce, and some topped with hot cherry peppers. All I know is the aroma’s of the meatball’s, tomato sauce, basil, and garlic had you salavating in mere minutes in anticipation of sampling these delectable little morsels.

The Esposito’s actually started this meatball competition about 4 years ago with 22 meatball entries! Realizing that it was difficult to judge with too many to try in order to submit an objective ballot they are now down to 9 meatball entries in the competition.

It took a little patience to get thru the holiday’s to coordinate next week’s show, the winner of “Lisa & Vin’s 2016 Annual Meatball Throw Down” but it was worth it! Everyone loves a great meatball and I’m happy to say I had voted for the winner’s meatball in this competition! I’m excited to get you the recipe!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So be sure to stay tuned next week when I will reveal this 1st place winner and the winning meatball recipe from Lisa & Vin’s 2016 Meatball Throw Down! In the mean time you can check out my Turkey or Italian beef meatballs. Then there’s the giant meatballs with a Secret ingredient in the Meatball Recipe from Glenn’s New Haven Apizza. You could always keep with a beef theme with my Braciole and while you are making all these yummy Italian dishes you will need some Homemade Pasta and a Caesar Salad! Mangia, mangia 🙂

 

 

Girl Scouts Thin Mint Chocolate Mousse Pie

Girl Scouts Thin Mint Chocolate Mousse Pie

This Girl Scouts thin mint chocolate mousse pie is absolutely delicious!  The oh so chocolaty mousse is light and lucious and melts in your mouth. The texture’s of the pie are undenialbly one of my favorite aspects of the pie. It goes from the cool, silky mousse to the crunchy cookie crumble in the crust with subtle hints of mint.

Although you do bake the thin mint crust for a mere 8 minutes, this is a no-bake, no fuss, chocolate mousse filling. The crunchie crust is made with puréed Girl Scout Cookies, butter and sugar. In the same food processor that the thin mint cookies were just puréed, the chocolate mousse starts off with mini semi-sweet chocolate chips, vanilla, and a pinch of salt.  Then boiling heavy cream is streamed into the opening at the top to melt the chips as they spin into a smooth and creamy chocolate delight. This chocolate is cooled to room temperature and folded into whipped heavy cream for the finale. It’s one of those special dessert’s that’s so uncomplicated you’ll find yourself making it more than just once.

Having my daughter’s Girl Scout troop in my kitchen making this thin mint chocolate mousse pie was so much fun! We are very fortunate for our wonderful leader, Jen Swenson, who is generous with her efforts and time with the troop. It’s one of those precious things in life that the girls will treasure always.

Those of you who love the good ole mint-chocolate flavors will go crazy for this dessert. Those of you who aren’t partial to that flavor combo might be surprised how suble and sweet the thin mint crust is …tamed by the butter maybe! And like I told Maisy in the show, you can always just eat the chocolate mousse middle!

If you are looking for some appetizer’s to start off this Girl Scouts Thin Mint Chocolate Mousse Pie extravaganza you should try my Salsa 101 or Best Guacamole Ever!  Maybe you are more in the mood for Zucchini Torta or a main dish like one of my all time favorite’s Stuffed Peppers or Chicken Piccata…both dishes you’ll add to your week day meals once you have your first bite! Enjoy! 🙂

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Ingredients for Girl Scouts Thin Mint Crust Pre-Heat oven to 350º :

  • 28 Thin Mint Girl Scout cookies – 1 3/4 sleeve …(a few left over for nibbling on)
  • 5 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 10″ pie plate, or 9″ spring form pan, OR 9″ pie plate & cups for the extra chocolate mousse you will have

Directions for the Girl Scouts Thin Mint Crust:

  1. Melt 5 tbsp butter, set aside
  2. Add 28 cookies to the food processor and pulse 3-4 times until they are a fine crumb
  3. Pour in melted butter and 2 tbsp sugar and pulse 10 seconds to combine
  4. Turn out crumb mixture into a 10″ pie plate, or 9″ spring form pan
  5. NOTE: If you only have a 9″ pie plate NO WORRIES just add the excess chocolate mousse to cups or glasses, topping with cookies crumble and set the same in the frig for 4-6 hours or even freeze for a later date!
  6. Press cookie crumb mixture all along the bottom and up the edges of the pie dish forming the crust
  7. Put the pie crust into a 350º oven for 8 minutes
  8. Take out and completely cool

Ingredients for Chocolate Mousse:

  • 3 cups heavy cream – 2 cups for whipping the heavy cream/ 1 cup for melting the chocolate chips in the food processor
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 1 bag mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions for the Chocolate Mousse:

  1. Wipe thin mint cookie crumbs out of food processor and add mini chocolate chips
  2. Add vanilla and pinch of salt
  3. Add 1 cup heavy cream to small sauce pan and bring to a boil
  4. Place cover on food processor, turn on and slowly add hot cream thru opening at top
  5. Keep it running for about 20-30 seconds until chips are melted and creamy
  6. Empty out into a bowl to cool, only cool to room temperature NOT COLD because the chocolate will solidify and it will be difficult to fold into the whipped cream
  7. When chocolate is close to room temp add 2 cups heavy cream to a large glass bowl with 1/4 cup sugar and begin to whisk with electric beater
  8. Whisk the cream until stiff peaks, 3-5 minutes
  9. Fold 1/2 cup at a time of the room temp chocolate into the whipped cream until there’s none left
  10. Pour out chocolate mousse into the COMPLETELY cooled baked pie crust and smooth out top with a offset spatula
  11. Sprinkle thin mint cookie crumble over the top and place into the frig for 4-6 hours
  12. Slice and serve with whipped cream…yum!

Saltine Christmas Bark

Saltine Christmas Bark

This Saltine Christmas Bark is the perfect holiday treat made in mere minutes. You get the best of both world’s, sweet and salty plus a crunch from the Saltine cracker base! It starts with crushed peppermint candy (my favorite), or pecans, then a layer of creamy chocolate leading into the slightly chewy toffee which all sets up on a crunchy saltine cracker! Oh my goodness, bring it on!

The fun part about making this Saltine Christmas Bark is breaking up this giant slab of goodness into randon size pieces. You kind of feel like an artist deciding how big and even the shape of the final outcome! Plate them up and voilà your masterpiece. These also make great holiday gift’s that you can fancy up in decorative celophane candy bags with ribbon.

Let your holiday Saltine Christmas Bark making be extra special with my Bolognese Sauce, a scrumptious recipe I developed thru inspiration from a favorite pasta dish where I went to college in Urbino, Italy. If you’re now thinking Italian you should try my chicken Piccata, a savory white wine, capers and mushroom sauce that’s delectable. Maybe Lobster Mac N’ Cheese is more your style! Or you could be looking for a “Steak-House” Creamed Spinach that pairs up nicely with steak or fish! Since we are so close to the holidays what better time to make the most amazing chocolate pecan pie ever!

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Ingredients:

  • 2 pkgs saltine
  • 1 cup butter – 2 sticks
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 cups “mini” semi-sweet chocolate chips (if you can’t get “mini” the regular size is fine)
  • 5 pepermint candies – finely crush peppermnt candy in a Ziplock with a rolling pin – My Favorite!
  • 1 cup finely chopped pecans, walnuts, m&m’s, or …what ever you want to sprinkle onto the melted chocolate chips
  • Non-stick aluminum foil – regular foil works too!
  • 12 x 17 Cookie tray

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 400º
  2. Cover cookie tray with aluminum foil
  3. Arrange 48 crackers on your cookie tray, you may have to break or cut some in 1/2 to get to the edges
  4. Chop up pecans, walnuts or macadamia nuts and set aside
  5. Put candy canes in a ZipLock baggie, cover with a dish towel and give a few hits from your rolling pin to crush the candy to small and powder-like pieces, set aside
  6. Over medium – Med/high heat add 1 cup light brown sugar and 1 cup butter to a deep sauce pan
  7. Stir in the beginning ONLY to combine then leave it alone
  8. Bring to a boil and TURN DOWN to medium and let boil 3 MINUTES
  9. Immediately pour over laid out saltine crackers and spread the toffee with an offset spatula so it covers every saltine
  10. Then pop into oven for 5 minutes
  11. Take out and the toffee will be bubbly, IMMEDIATELY pour “mini” semi-sweet chocolate chips all over the top (if you can’t get “mini” the regular works just as well)
  12. Let the chips sit for about 5 minutes to soften up
  13. Using your offset spatula spread the softened chocolate chips covering all the toffee
  14. Immeduiately after spreading chocolate take your crushed candy cane and nuts and begin to sprinkle over the wet chocolate
  15. NOTE: You want to sprinkle toppings BEFORE the chocolate sets so it STICKS to the top
  16. Pop the whole cookie tray into the fridge for 45 minutes – 1 hour to set OR freezer for 20-25 minutes if you are in a rush
  17. Take out of fridge, remove foil and begin to break up the saltine Christmas bark into what ever size you like…mangia mangia!

 

Crêpes 101- My Trick to EASY French Crêpes!

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Crêpes 101- My Trick to Easy French Crêpes!

Buttery, paper thin crêpes filled with raspberry jam, topped with maple syrup, fresh berries and whipped cream is an amazing way to start your morning. Not only are these French crêpes a cinch to make but you can totally make them the night before. Re-heat them in your toaster oven wrapped in foil and they taste like you just made them! A real energy saver and perfect for all those holiday guests staying over.

The word “crêpe” actually means pancake in French, although they are quite different from the all American pancake. Now is it French crêpe or Swedish pancake? Well, they are really very similiar in the way that they are both paper thin compared to that well known Amercian pancake. Over the years I have found that French crêpes can be savory OR sweet while the Swedes like their swedish pancakes strictly with sweets, jams, ice cream or yogurts. The Swedish pancake also has a considerable amount more sugar in the recipe where as most crêpe recipe’s don’t have any sugar at all in the batter.

manicotti3My trick to keeping a recipe as easy as possible is knowing how to save time with a proven method of preparation without foregoing the quality or taste. That’s what I do with my crêpe recipe here, the order in which you whisk your ingredients in the batter is crucial and saves you energy and time so you don’t have to strain the batter! This method of mixing is exactly how I make my Homemade Manicotti Pasta Crepes.

IMG_2536If you are big on breakfast you will definitely want to try my mouth watering  Gourmet Frittata where you use what ever your favorite veggies are or my German Pancake that puffs to amazing heights coming out of the oven getting lot’s of ooh’s and ah’s! If your heading to lunch time try my Secret Family Zucchini Torta Recipe that also makes great appetizers! Another delectable brunch item to make are Homemade Gravlax, the best I’ve ever had, or my Pasta Fagioli that will have you going back for seconds! Hope you get to eventually try them all…you won’t be disappointed! Enjoy! 🙂

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Ingredients for French Crêpes- Makes 12 Crêpes:

  • 1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1 1/3 cup, plus 1 tbsp whole milk  (If you like them thinner add 2 tbsp milk…NOTE:  if too thin they will tear)
  • 2 ex-lg eggs
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 2 tbsp melted butter
  • NOTE: If filling your crepes with sweets add 1/4 tsp vanilla, if savory omit
  • Maple syrup
  • Favorite jam
  • Confectioners sugar
  • Fresh berries, raspberries, blue berries black berries
  • Whipped cream
  • 8″ non-stick pan OR sauté pan OR crêpe pan

Directions:

  1. Melt 2 tbsp butter and set aside to cool slightly
  2. IMPORTANT: My Trick is – MUST MIX IN THIS ORDER then you won’t have to strain batter …saving time!
  3. Add flour and salt to a large mixing bowl
  4. Pour in milk and whisk until smooth
  5. Whisk in 1st egg until completely combined, then the 2nd egg
  6. Whisk in melted cooled butter until combined
  7. Tip for removing air bubbles – Gently stir the crepe batter with a large spoon to help remove any air bubble as these will cause tears in the crêpe
  8. You can make this up to 1 day ahead keeping in the fridge
  9. Put 8″ saute pan on medium heat
  10. TIP for EASY pan coating…Peel back one end of a whole 1/4 stick of butter and rub open end across pan just to coat right before pouring in laddle of batter!
  11. Right as you laddle in 1/4 cup of crepe batter QUICKLY lift pan off the heat and SWIRL to spread batter evenly
  12. Put pan back down on heat and cook for 35-45 seconds, then flip, 10 more seconds cooking
  13. Turn out cooked crêpes onto a dish or cookie rack
  14. They will not stick together
  15. OPTION: Cool a pinch and then stack them on top of one another and into fridge for the next day
  16. Serve warm crêpes with you favorite fillings and roll up or fold and then top with syrup, confectioners sugar, fresh berries and whipped cream …YUM!