Tag Archives: eggs

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!

 

 

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 ladle of batter!
  11. Right as you ladle 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!

Paleo Eggplant Lasagna at Christine’s

paleochrisnmePaleo Eggplant Lasagna at Christine’s

The crusty almond flour coating on the eggplant helps to soak up the meaty bolognese goodness getting ooey, gooey and decadent. Like making you feel warm all over on a winter’s day. That’s how my friend, Christine, describe’s her Paleo Eggpalnt Lasagna that we made at her house last week! She hit it right on the money.

It was Christine’s cross-fit community that introcuced her to this fresh Paleo way of living. Even though It did take a year before fully committing she has been following it for a couple of years and really loves it. Paleo refers to foods eaten during the Paleolithic times so basically if the cave man didn’t eat it, neither can you. There are different levels of Paleo, but true Paleo doesn’t allow any dairy or legumes. Not sure if being a true Paleo is exactly for me since I live for cheese and cetainly wouldn’t give up beans. Although, there are certain aspects of Paleo I think are wonderful like the fresh way of eating, nothing manufactured or processed! Like Christine say’s, everything in moderation.

This Paleo Eggplant Lasagna is definitly a guilt free dish that shouldn’t taste this darn good! You don’t even miss the cheese here because every bite is luscious! I highly recommend that you to get on the ball and check out this fresh Paleo way of eating. You won’t regret it one bit and may find yourself with a big ole smile on your face!

While you are on a freshness roll you may want to try my Guacamole, Pulled Beef and Mango Salsa, Salmon B.L.T Sliders, Seared Sea Scallops or Sweet Potato Fries with Green Goddess Sauce!

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Ingredients:

  • 2 large eggplants
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 recipe tomato-basil sauce (30 minute sauce) adding in an extra 28 oz can of puréed whole peeled tomatoes to the recipe OR Slow Cooked Old Style Italian-Tomato Sauce 101
  • 1 lb. ground pork
  • 1 lb. gound veal
  • 1 lb. ground lamb
  • 1 pkg. almond flour
  • s & p
  • coconut oil spray
  • grapeseed oil for sautéing the meats

Directions – Pre-heat Oven to 350º

  1. Make tomato- basil sauce and leave simmering on low, ready for the meats to be sautéed and added
  2. Sauté the pork, veal and lamb separately and drain the oil from each of the meats after each sautéing, this will take about 5 minutes each
  3. As each meat is finished draining stir it into your tomato sauce
  4. Peel and slice 2 lg eggplants approx. 1/8″-1/4″ thick
  5. Whisk 5 eggs in a medium bowl
  6. Add 3-4 cups almond flour in another bowl for dredging the eggplant
  7. Cover cookie tray with foil and spray with coconut oil
  8. Dip each eggplant slice into the egg, then dredge into the almond flour flipping a couple of times to get a good coating on there
  9. Then begin to lay the coated eggplant slices on the cookie trays
  10. No need to spray the tops of the slices
  11. Pop them into the oven for 20 minutes, just until tender
  12. Note: the tops of the eggplant slices will not turn golden when baked
  13. Begin to layer the pre-baked eggplant slices in a 13″ x 9″, 12″ x 8″ approx. baking dish
  14. Spray bottom of baking dish with coconut oil
  15. Begin with a sauce layer, then eggplant slices, meat sauce, eggplant, meat sauce and so on until you reach the rim of the baking dish ending with a meat sauce layer completeing the Paleo Eggplant Lasagna
  16. Change foil layers on cookie tray to clean foil
  17. Place the Paleo Eggplant Lasagna onto the foiled tray and bake for approx. 35 minutes still on 350º until bubbly all over
  18. As with a traditional lasagna you want to let it sit for 10-15 minutes before slicing after you take it out of the oven…Mangia, mangia!!

Drunk Blondies & Bourbon Caramel Sauce

Drunk Blondies & Bourbon Caramel Sauce

IMG_6622Drunk blondies are a dessert that will have you and your guest’s reminiscing for days! These drunk blondies are a buttery, chewy cookie bar made with bourbon, butter, toasted coconut, pecans and semi-sweet chocolate chips…could it get any better then that! They get even more decadent when you serve them with vanilla ice cream, homemade bourbon caramel sauce, whipped cream and extra toasted coconut to top it off. In fact, I wouldn’t serve them any other way. You will feel like you are in dessert ecstasy!

The recipe for these mouth watering cookie bars actually originates from the Back in the Day Bakery CookBook by Cheryl and Griffith Day. I Found this recipe on a fellow food blogger, Adam Robert’s website, called Amateur Gourmet. I haven’t had a chance myself to buy this cookbook but it’s high on my list! Adam serves up these drunk blondies with a bourbon caramel sauce from Food and Wine but I have my own which I love that I share below.

The Drunk Blondie bars couldn’t get any easier to make. You don’t even need a kitchen aid or electric mixer to make these just a large bowl and spatula or wooden spoon! It literally take’s all of a few minutes to combine the brown sugar, eggs, vanilla, bourbon, toasted coconut, pecans, chocolate chips and flour mixture. Then off into a baking dish lined with parchment for easy removal.

This is a great dessert if you entertain a lot because is it’s a total make ahead project. You can make the drunk blondies up to 3 days ahead and the bourbon caramel sauce up to a week ahead. The toasted coconut you want to make the same day or night before. You may burn the toasted coconut on your first try because that cooks faster then you think and you only have 6 minutes of toasting time. Don’t worry, just toss out the first round and throw in a second batch. You will be that much more knowledgeable and ready for the toasty quickness in the next round! Be sure to toast up extra coconut too, because it makes for an incredible addition at the end to sprinkle on top of your drunk blondie sundae’s!

As for my bourbon caramel sauce I have you heat up the heavy cream. This is a necessary step that some recipes don’t even mention.  It’s important to do this because adding cold cream into a boiling sugar mixture will most likely seize up and get temporarily lumpy.  There’s no worries here though. If this does happen just put the pan back on the stove, keep whisking and it will become a smooth caramel sauce in a matter of seconds!

Hope you enjoy the amazing drunk blondie sundae’s with ice cream, bourbon caramel sauce and toasted coconut. If you are putting together a whole meal you could start with an appetizer like crab cakes, spanakopita triangles, my famous Caesar salad, salmon BLT sliders, or move right to a main course like my bolognese sauce right from Urbino, Italy made with homemade spaghetti!

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Ingredients for Drunk Blondies – Makes 12 – 24 bars 

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter – melted
  • 2 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs room temp
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons Bourbon
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 cup (1/2 cup is for sprinkling over the dessert at the end) sweetened flaked coconut, toasted in a 350º oven on a cookie sheet until fragrant and golden brown – about 5 minutesNOTE: you need to stir every 2 minutes with a spatula and then shake the tray to distribute evenly ….watch it carefully- it burns easily
  • 1/4 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips

 Directions – Pre-Heat Oven to 350º:

  1. Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F
  2. Grease a 9-by-13-by-2-inch baking pan and line with parchment, allowing the ends of the paper to hang over two opposite edges of the pan
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside
  4. Put the butter and brown sugar in a large mixing bowl and stir with a spoon until smooth
  5. Add the eggs, vanilla, and bourbon, and mix until thoroughly combined
  6. Stir in the flour mixture, followed by the pecans, coconut, and chocolate chips
  7. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with an offset spatula. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the top is golden brown
  8. Remove the pan from the oven and let cool completely on a wire rack
  9. Cut the blondies into bars
  10. The blondies will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Tip: The easiest way to toast coconut is in the oven. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350º. Spread the coconut on a baking tray and bake for 6 minutes, tossing every couple of minutes. Keep a close eye on the coconut, because it can burn easily.

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Ingredients for Bourbon Caramel Sauce:

  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1/3 cup bourbon
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream HEATED – If you don’t warm up the cream the temperature change will temporarily seize up the boiling water-sugar mixture…BUT don’t fret because all you need to do if this happens is put the pan back on the stove while whisking CONTINUOUSLY and it will all come back to a nice smooth sauce!

Directions for Bourbon Caramel Sauce:

    1. In a medium saucepan, bring the sugar, water and corn syrup to a boil over high heat
    2. You can stir the sugar-water mixture at first just to combine then DO NOT STIR after
    3. Cook until the sugar is dissolved washing down the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush…just once
    4. Continue cooking without stirring until an amber caramel forms – from 5-8 minutes
    5. When it turns the pretty light amber color add in the butter and keep whisking
    6. BE CAREFUL NOT TO GET BURNED HERE because the mixture will rise up a little here at the butter/cream stages
    7. Remove from the heat and carefully stir in 1/2 the cream while STILL WHISKING – it will foam up here quite a bit so whisk it down slightly, then add in the rest of the cream and butter
    8. if it seizes up NO WORRIES all you need to do if this happens is put the pan back on the stove while whisking CONTINUOUSLY and it will all come back to a nice smooth sauce!
    9. Let cool for 1 minute and then stir in the bourbon
    10. Put the pan back on the stove and TURN DOWN the heat to medium and simmer any where from 3-15 minutes…how ever thick you like the sauce (it won’t get any darker at this point either just thicker)
    11. Let the caramel sauce cool slightly and serve warm or at room temperature
    12. NOTE: as the sauce cools it will thicken anyways
    13. The caramel sauce can be refrigerated for up to 1 week.

Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

megordonMasterChef open casting calls and chewy chocolate chip cookies are the highlights of my blogging today. With exhausting life events that have taken place over the last three weeks I was some how able to produce my chewy chocolate chip cookie show for you and show up to my second pre-registered casting call for MasterChef.

Three weeks ago we received horrific news that my brother-in-law, George, passed away at the age of 57 from a heart attack. It was both devastating and unexpected. He was taken from us much too young and will be deeply missed by many. George lead an incredible life having the opportunities to accomplish many wonderful things that so many people wouldn’t have even had the chance to experience.

Bella and Reilly visiting with Brody

Bella and Reilly visiting with Brody

While dealing with the loss of Uncle George our King Charles, Brody, was hit by a car on Wednesday. I had just finished shooting my chewy chocolate chip cookie show when we got news of the accident. My kids and I were running between two vets for six hours for the later part of the day.

Brody didn’t have any broken bones, but a deep open gash on his upper right leg and bruising across his chest causing a profuse amount of swelling. They don’t stitch wounds like this so he got four staples and spent the next few nights at the vets for care and observation. Brody was heavily sedated on Thursday so I began to edit my chewy chocolate chip cookie show and was then able publish it to my YouTube Channel.

A second task now out of the way. My first task, was accomplished earlier in the week on Tuesday making a test run of my “Cold Cucumber-Fennel Soup” for the MasterChef three minute plating part of the casting call. I wanted to make sure the flavors were exactly how I wanted them with the new addition of the fennel to the soup. I was then off to pick up the King Crab legs from Altlantic Seafood in Old Saybrook. This crab will be set up on top of the cucumber-fennel soup in the center with a eatable garnish of fresh dill. The cold soup will also have a drizzle of Sicilian extra virgin olive oil, and fine dice, a brunoise, of avocado, tomato and cucumber scantly decorating the top of the soup around the king crab.

Friday morning was upon us and I was now making the a final batch of my Cold Cucumber-Fennel Soup for the MasterChef open call. Just as I was finishing, Brody’s vet called and wanted me to come for a visit with Brody. I put the soup into the refrigerator and headed right out. I felt that the hour I spent there with him helped so much I brought Reilly and Bella back at six o’clock that night right after picking up the rental car for New York City. I decided on driving this time to MasterChef because the five plus hours of train rides the last time was too draining.

The Veterinary hospital was forty-five minutes away so the kids and I were home by 8:45 Friday night after the visit with Brody. I then finished organizing the ice, the cooler, and chopped up the eatable garnish for the soup. Then I worked on finishing the eight page application to the MasterChef open casting call. Finally, I went to sleep at midnight and that 4:30 am alarm came way too fast.

MasterChef on Camera Shooting in Times Square

MasterChef on Camera Shooting in Times Square

On Saturday morning, the MasterChef crew wanted contestants there at 8:00 for morning filming, so that’s what I did. They filmed us in groups in Times Square chanting “MasterChef”. They then did individual on-camera pieces with every single contestant stating what we did for a living, where we were from and a finish on a “I’m your next MasterChef”, with much enthusiasm! Myself and a few others were then asked sign release forms.

After two hours at Times Square we all went back to the hotel to wait our turn to enter into the “plate-up” room. We met the tasting chefs and the first set of interviewers walking around with clip boards discussing your life and what kind of person you are. Well, I’m ecstatic to say the judges loved my Cold Cucumber-Fennel Soup! My number was announced first once again, as it was in the first open casting call that I attended back in October of 2015. Our group of 9 was on to the next interview part of the casting call and the remaining contestants from our group were dismissed.

At this point it was noon and my energy level was deteriorating fast even after having a coffee at 4:30 am, a mini can of coca cola at 8:00 am and a 1/2 of a coffee at 10:30. But once again, I am there ready to forge on. Worries of Brody are also going through my mind. The anticipation and excitement of picking him up after I leave NYC which also included dropping off Bella to her Tennis match, the rental car, picking up Reilly and then heading to Piper Veterinary to get our boy home!

Oh yes, we are back at the MasterChef interview room facing the last judge with his seductive English accent, a kind of 007 look to him, is now asking me to tell him about myself. What! Really? OK, everything I was hoping to express to him just went out the window and I’m thinking “just try and be your funny self Michel” and all will be okay, but that is not how it worked out. Although I was hopeful that I may still have a chance to get to thru this “personality” phase to my dismay I was not. I know more of me was expected in that last phase then I was capable of giving this time.

Well, I did make a kick ass dish once again and actually enjoyed this round of MasterChef open casting call much more then the first time. You can’t always plan your life events! Life happens as they say and you have to roll with the punches and enjoy every minute. Definite kudos go out to that MasterChef casting call team who were there working their tails off for a good twelve hours. There’s always another chance at the next casting call later this year when MasterChef comes back to NYC!

Hope you enjoy my chewy chocolate chip cookie show and the SECRET to their chewiness. Remember to grab a few for yourself because there are never any left over! If you are looking for some delicious appetizer’s you may want to try my baked sweet potato fries and green Goddess dipping sauce,  my crab cakes, or mediterranean layered dip. For a main course you could venture to my homemade bolognese sauce or even homemade pasta!

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Ingredients:

  • 2 1/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 sticks room temperature butter- salted
  • 1 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp vanilla pure extract
  • 2 lg eggs room temp
  • 2 cups – 1 bag of Ghiradelli Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips

Directions:

  1. Add room temp butter, light brown sugar and granulated sugar to mixing bowl with mixing paddle
  2. Cream butter, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy – a couple of minutes
  3. Add in one egg at a time, thoroughly mixing after each egg
  4. Whisk dry ingredients in a bowl and begin to add dry into creamed sugar and egg mixture
  5. Briefly mix until combined – you do not want to build gluten’s here
  6. Mix in chocolate chips by hand into cookie dough
  7. With a lg cookie scoop scoop cookie dough onto tray 2″ apart
  8. Bake 7- 12 minutes on 375º – I BAKE MY COOKIES FOR 7 MINUTES IN A CONVECTION OVEN
  9. Bake until they are golden around edges and still blonde-pale in the middle
  10. Take out and let sit on tray for at least 5 minute then move then to a cookie rack to finish cooling…enjoy!!

 

Easy Icebox Dinner Rolls

Easy Icebox Dinner Rolls

Laura, my loyal friend and follower making the icebox rolls for the holidays!

2014 – Laura, my loyal friend and follower making the icebox rolls for the holidays!

There’s nothing better than the aromas of homemade fresh baked bread, sweet onion and rosemary to wet the appetite! I was thrilled to find this icebox dinner roll recipe about fifteen years ago and have been making them ever since. The recipe card was from “easytobake” and I have tried to access their website but it doesn’t exist anymore. I have made many different bread dough’s in my life, kneading by hand, proofing, kneading again and it can all be exhausting. The whole idea behind icebox dough is that kneading is not necessary. The flavor and soft, tender texture develops as it proofs right in the refrigerator. Once you see how easy it is to make these melt in your mouth icebox dinner rolls you may never pick up store bought rolls again.

Laura making the icebox rolls for her 2015 Thanksgiving!

Laura making the icebox rolls for her 2015 Thanksgiving!

I have added lots of chopped green onion and fresh rosemary in my rolls but they are just as delicious plain too! It takes all of fifteen minutes to make this dough and can be made up to 4 days ahead. The dough stays in the refrigerator, hence the name “icebox” rolls. You take the dough out of the frig the morning of your dinner party. It get’s formed into dough balls mixing in chopped green onion and fresh rosemary. Then the rolls get lined up on a buttery baking tray and back into the frig.  Two hours before you want to serve the homemade icebox dinner rolls you take them out of the frig and let them rise for an hour and a half to two hours. When they have doubled in size, give them an egg wash for a little shine, then bake.

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Hope you enjoy these scrumptious “easy icebox dinner rolls” as much as our family and friends do.  They will be asking you for the recipe for sure! These homemade dinner rolls aren’t just for holidays they are great for any day. Try them with my turkey stuffed peppers where you can dunk them in the sauce and pepper juices, the Au Jus in my Boeuf Bourguignon, or Bolognese Sauce. After all this savoriness you may need a chocolate fix with my perfectly chocolate chocolate cake or for a light and refreshing sweet try this amazing Pavlova!

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Ingredients: Makes 24 Dinner Rolls

  • 4 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 packets active dry yeast (NOT rapid rise)
  • 1 cup warm water (105 -115 degrees)
  • 3 lg eggs (if you use extra large eggs you will need to add a little more flour to compensate)
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 Tsp salt
  • 2 bunches of green onions chopped to 1/8″ pieces -(from white/greenish part to ends)
  • 1/2 cup fresh chopped rosemary
  • 1/3 stick room temp butter to coat the cookie tray or inside of the 10″x 15″ baking dish

Directions:  

  1. Using a KitchenAid mixer OR lg mixing bowl pour in the 2 packets of yeast then add in 1 cup of 105º – 110 º  water.
  2. Then add 1 Tbsp of sugar (from the 1/2 of cup of sugar that you add later) now because it feeds the yeast and really gets it activated.
  3. Let this sit for about 5 minutes and you will see it get foamy.
  4. Add in the eggs, melted butter, sugar, and salt and whisk- make sure the butter is not hot because it can kill the yeast if too hot
  5. Begin to beat in a 1/2 cup of flour at a time using the whisk the whole time until the dough gets too stiff to mix.
  6. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, place the big ball of dough into a large Ziploc baggy and put it into the refrigerator for 2 hours…. up to 4 days.
  7. When you are ready to make the rolls just cut the dough right out of the zip lock with scissors nice and easy…..then turn out the chilled dough onto a floured work surface and divide equally into 24 pieces with a pastry scraper
  8. Roll each piece into a ball then firmly push into the pile of chopped green onion and freshly chopped rosemary and re-roll into a ball again. You can keep some of the rolls plain.
  9. Coat 4 Tbsp of softened butter all over a cookie tray with 1/2″ sides or a 10″ x 15″ baking dish for taller rolls
  10. Place the dough balls into the buttered baking tray, cover with Saran wrap and let them rise for 1-2 hours depending how warm your kitchen is (they need to dbl in size) OR you can put them back into the frig until 1 1/2 hours before you need them then take them rolls back out of the frig and let them begin to rise and double in size
  11. Pre-Heat the oven to 375º
  12. Whisk 1 whole egg with 1 tbsp water and brush a good coating onto the rolls after they rise and before putting them into the oven
  13. Bake for 13-18 minutes until a dark golden color…it depends how warm the rolls got while rising so you’ll need to peak at them to see if they’re golden yet.

 TIP:   It’s a good idea to warm the stainless steel mixing bowl by running hot water into it before you begin so the cold bowl doesn’t take the necessary temperature of the water down.

Amazing German Pancake!

Amazing German Pancake!

This amazing German pancake is an awesome dish to make for your holiday guests! It’s festive and quite spectacular when your guests see how your pancake has puffed to enormous heights when you take it out of the oven. Not only does it make for a wonderful presentation but it’s made with little effort and can be served for breakfast or as a dessert!

A German pancake is really a giant popover. “Dutch baby” is another name for this pancake and rumor has it that the reason behind this name came about when a chef’s young child couldn’t pronounce the German word for German, “Deutsche”. Supposedly, this mis-pronunciation lead German Pancakes to the alternative name “Dutch Babies”. A couple other names that this German pancake has been called are “Dutch puff” and “Bismark”.

My kids get very excited for that moment when this amazing German pancake comes out of the oven! It has a bit of a custard like texture inside yet very light. We love eating these pancakes and have come to the conclusion that they taste like something in between a pancake, french toast and a crêpe!

My Vermont friends turned me on to this recipe years ago and I have been making them ever since. It’s fun for me to play around with recipes and see what works best so to this recipe I have added another egg, some vanilla and a little cinnamon. You can add grated nutmeg instead if you prefer. Originally, these homemade pancakes were served with lemon and confectioners sugar. I like to served them with confectioners sugar, real maple syrup, fresh blue berries and a dollop of my favorite “Wild Blueberry Preserves” by Bonne Maman, a product of France (sold right in our local market at Stop and Shop). German pancakes are so easy to make, taking on the same amount of time as making ordinary pancakes. The wonderful thing here is you are not glued to the stove pouring batter every few minutes.

Using cast iron is the way to go here because it holds in the heat evenly distributing it throughout the pan but I have made them in other oven proof pans and it comes out great. Some recipes have you pre-heating the pan in the oven, pulling out the rack, pouring in the batter, then pushing the rack back into the oven and in my opinion, this is a disaster waiting to happen since the batter can easily swoosh over the sides causing the oven to smoke ! The easiest way to start these homemade German pancakes is on the stove top and then into the oven for the duration. The finished product will make you will feel like a french pastry chef all day. This could also make for a great dessert to an impressive dinner with entrees like turkey stuffed peppers, pulled beef tacos & mango salsa or yogurt-chicken kabobs & tzatziki. Enjoy!

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Ingredients for Traditional German Pancake:

  • 5 extra LG eggs (or 6 large)
  • 1 cup Milk – cold
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 Tsp. salt
  • 1/4 Tsp cinnamon
  • 1 Tsp. vanilla
  • 4 Tbsp butter  -cut up into 4 Tbsp (1/2 stick) COLD

Ingredients for savory German Pancake:

  • 5 extra LG eggs (or 6 large)
  • 1 cup Milk – cold
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 Tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup swiss cheese OR cheddar
  • 1/2 cup thin diced ham OR sauteed mushrooms
  • 1/3 cup green onion OR sauteed sweet onion
  • NOTE: If you are going the cheddar, sauteed mushroom & onion route add 1 cup fresh baby spinach too!
  • 4 Tbsp butter  -cut up into 4 Tbsp (1/2 stick) COLD

Directions:  

  1. Pre-heat oven to 425º
  2. In a medium bowl whisk dry ingredients together
  3. Begin to whisk in milk, vanilla and eggs into dry ingredients just until combined …Note : it puffs more if your milk and eggs are cold!
  4. Put 10″-12″ cast iron pan on stove top on low heat for 1 minute –THIS WILL WORK IN ANY 10″-12″ OVEN PROOF PAN –
  5. Turn heat up to high on cast iron pan, wait 1 minute til pan is hot but not smoking, then add 4 Tbsp of cut up cold butter
  6. When the butter gets frothy add the batter, do not stir
  7. Immediately take off heat and put into oven for 22 minutes until golden and puffy
  8. NOTE: if you are doing “SAVORY German Pancake” …after you remove from heat top with your extra ingredients, do not stir, and place into oven for the 22 minutes
  9. When you take it out of the oven transfer to a plate with a spatula and sprinkle with confectioners sugar.
  10. Slice into wedges and serve with maple syrup, warm fresh strawberry jam/sauce (Recipe BELOW) and whipped cream! …mmm!

Ingrediesnts and Directions for EASY STRAWBERRY JAM/SAUCE:

  • 1 lb. hulled and chopped fresh stawberries
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup fresh sqeezed lemon juice
  1. Finely dice strawberries and add to a wide 8″ sauce pan with 1 cup sugar and lemon juice
  2. Over med/high heat bring to a rolling simmer
  3. Keep an eye on the mixture, keep simmering for 15 min. – make sure it doesn’t boil over
  4. Skim off white foam that accumulates around the edges while simmering as this will make the jam cloudy (its just air bubbles that form in the jamming process)
  5. Remove from heat and serve warm with German pancake
  6. Jar the remaining strawberry sauce and refrigerate as it will thicken into a jam as it cools! It will stay good for 2 weeks in the frig.

 

Best Blueberry Pie!

Best Blueberry Pie!

There’s nothing like fresh blueberries simmering in a buttery, flaky pie crust with aromatic fruit juices getting bubbly and syrupy. It’s tough to let this mouth watering concoction cool for three hours when all you really want to do is scoop some vanilla ice cream over a slice letting the cream melt onto the crispy crust and gooey berries submerging oneself into pie heaven! This might just be the perfect dessert bite!

There are recipes out there that have you use flour as a thickener in some fruit pies but with this best blueberry pie recipe I think it’s important to use cornstarch. Blueberries release so much juice the best one for the job is cornstarch. You can add orange zest or lemon zest to brighten up the flavors and then there’s always cinnamon or nutmeg. Blueberries happen to be one of my favorite fruits and I feel that they are already flavorful enough so I only add one tablespoon of fresh lemon juice to balance everything out. Blueberries are also considered to be one of the healthiest fruits out there offering up one of the highest levels of antioxidants of all fruits and vegetables so I think it’s a win-win here!

Cutting out decorative leaf shapes (or what ever shape you like) from the top sheet of pie crust is a no brainer for me because it’s so gosh darn easy to do, it looks like you spent all day on it and it’s very forgiving. When it bakes in the oven getting golden, crispy and slightly shiny from brushing on the egg wash it’s going to look and taste amazing no matter what!

This best blueberry pie recipe might just become your decadent dessert ritual for your holiday dinners! Making the “perfect pie crust in 5 minutes” a week or two ahead of time and popping it into the freezer until you need it is a great way to cut down on some of the work that’s involved in throwing a Thanksgiving dinner or any holiday feast for that matter. If you get ambitious you iphone pictures 2419can always add a chocolate pecan pie into the mix. To help save some time with the side dishes you might try these roasted brussel spouts. They are so delicious roasted like this you’ll never eat them any other way. Have fun and enjoy 🙂

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INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 1/2 cups blueberries (that’s after you have sorted thru bad berries…start with 5 cups to have enough)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 corn starch
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • Juice from 1/2 lemon
  • 1 1/2 tbsp cut up cold butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp heavy cream
  • “Perfect Pie Crust in 5 Minutes!” recipe
  • Parchment paper for rolling out pie dough
  • 1 1/2 ” – 2″ pie leaf cut outs or what ever shape cookie cutter you want to dress the top of the pie with instead of using a whole sheet of pie crust dough

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Trace the edge of the pie plate onto both pieces of parchment paper
  2. Roll out 1/2 of the pie crust at a time in between two pieces of parchment with circle drawing on the outside
  3. When the dough is rolled out to approx 1/8″ thick and the proper circle size flip pie dough over with parchment paper into pie plate
  4. Gently fit pie dough into dish without pushing down hard and place into the fridge
  5. Wash and dry blueberries, picking through them to remove any under and over ripe berries and stems
  6. Place berries in a large bowl and add 1/4 cup corn starch, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/8 tsp salt and juice from 1/2 lemon and toss until coated
  7. Put the bowl of blueberries into the fridge
  8. Roll out the other pie dough disc and cut out leaf shapes or what ever shape you want to be the top layer of the pie
  9. Lay down a piece of parchment on a cookie sheet with a sprinkle of flour and place leaf cut outs onto the cookie sheet
  10. Put leaf cut outs into the fridge
  11. Take out pie dish with pie dough from fridge and crimp edges
  12. Pour the blueberries into the pie dish and back into the fridge
  13. Whisk 1 egg with 1 tbsp of heavy cream
  14. Take the leaf cut-outs on the cookie sheet from the fridge and brush with the egg wash
  15. Take the blueberries in the pie dish out of the fridge and dot the pie with 1  1/2 tbsp of cut up cold butter
  16. Begin to place leaf cut-outs on top of the blueberries. Go along the edge of pie all around and then work your way in (you only need to gently push a couple of the edges of the leaf to crimped edges of the pie and to each leaf
  17. Put the pie back into the fridge for 15 minutes while you pre-heat oven to 400º
  18. Place blueberry pie on the cookie sheet that has a piece of parchment covering the bottom in case of spillage and pop into the oven for 30 minutes
  19. Turn the oven down to 350º and bake for another 40 minutes until a golden crust and juices are bubbly
  20. You must let cool 3 hours so the blueberry juicy can thicken properly
  21. Serve with your best vanilla ice cream and you will be one happy camper! 🙂

 

Homemade Pasta at Vin’s

Homemade Pasta at Vin’s

Homemade pasta is something you have to try at least once in your life! You’ll see how satisfying it is when you taste the tender, slightly chewy texture of the fresh pasta. Making pasta has been a part of my life ever since I was young making homemade manicotti with my mother for the holidays. At my Aunt Pasqualina’s, the counters were always covered with fresh pasta drying out on dish towels.

This past weekend, my friends Lisa and Vin, graciously agreed to share their grandfather’s secret family pasta recipe with me. I had the opportunity to try out, first hand, a pasta tool that belonged to Vin’s grandfather which he called the “trucal iron”. It’s a special pasta cutting tool, a roller, made years ago from medal and wood that was eventually passed on down to Vin. The center spiral part of this “trucal Iron”, made of medal, does the cutting as you roll out the pasta. It has Wooden handles which he said his grandfather glued back on a couple of times. Vin also has a newer version of this “trucal iron”, one made of all wood but the wood spirals have begun to chip away from wear and tear. They don’t make some things like they used to. Vinnie also shared some precious memories of his grandfather and father making this homemade pasta for Sunday dinners growing up where his grandfather would creatively hang the pasta noodles from atop the kitchen cabinet doors to dry out.

There’s nothing like an evening with special friends making homemade pasta! This night of homemade pasta making at Lisa and Vin’s reminded me of how much I really love to do this. Everyone has their own way of making pasta and that’s part of what makes this experience so fun. Now as for this “trucal iron”, there are other pasta tools out there that mimic what Vin’s special pasta tool does like the ones below from Amazon. I have to say, I haven’t used any of those tools from Amazon because I use my KitchenAid pasta attachment which is another great option for cutting the kneaded pasta dough. You could even cut your thinly rolled out pasta into strips by hand with a sharp knife to get the stands of fettuccine, spaghetti, or what ever thickness you might like.

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Appetizers like baked coconut shrimp, baked asparagus wrapped in prosciutto, and, or a nice homemade Caesar Salad might be just what you are looking for to go with this homemade pasta of Vin’s! If you are looking for a meat sauce to go on this homemade pasta you should try my bolognese sauceOf course, there are other options like my Italian beef meatballsor Italian turkey meatballs. Hope you enjoy the show 😉

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INGREDIENTS:

  • 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
  14. Sprinkle more flour on top of each thinly rolled out pasta piece and use the roll cutter below or a sharp knife or a KitchenAid Pasta attachment to get desired pasta strips
  15. Bring large pan of salted water to a boil and add fresh pasta
  16. Depending on the thickness, cook pasta for 4-8 minutes, test pieces of pasta for proper doneness
  17. Serve with sauce and mangia, mangia!


Chocolate Crackle Cookies

Chocolate Crackle Cookies

These homemade chocolate crackle cookies will make you feel like a baker of fine cookies. The snowy white confectioners sugar and the chocolaty brown cookie dough make a beautiful contrast when the cookies bake in the oven and make all those crackle lines.  Now the inside is some what of a surprise when you first bite into it. By the looks you might think its a crunchy cookie. Then you sink your teeth in and that velvety texture hits your tongue, feeling lighter then you thought and then the chocolaty silkiness just melts away.

I have been baking these incredible chocolate crackle cookies for at least ten years and for the life of me I can’t remember where I got this recipe from. All my life I have always written down recipes that looked irresistible whenever I was in a waiting room with an assortment food or cooking magazines. So I unfortunately cannot give credit where credit is due. I did of course change the recipe a pinch with the baking time and chocolate used. It originally said 12-15 minutes but I only bake them for eight minutes with a five minute waiting period before I move them off the cookie sheet to a cooling rack this way they can solidify a bit more. Shortening the cooking time gives them softer, gooier center that melts in your mouth rather then a slightly firmer cookie. I use the confection on my oven because the bottom of my oven runs really hot on “bake” not being conducive for even cooking. The hot air circulates in confection mode in my oven giving a more consistent outcome. As for the chocolate, the recipe had called for Verona chocolate which might be difficult to find last minute so I have been using my Ghiradelli bittersweet or Perugina chocolate bars and those are both scrumptious!

This homemade gourmet chocolate crackle cookie just may become a holiday tradition for you and your family too. Easy to make, oh so chocolaty and melts in your mouth! What more could you ask for in a cookie? Hope you enjoy the show 🙂

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Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
  • 1 stick of butter softened to room temp
  • 1 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 2 lg eggs
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 8 oz. bag of a bittersweet chocolate chips- Ghiradeli

Directions – Pre-heat oven to 350º to bake cookies :

  1. Sift flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt and set aside
  2. Place bitterswewet chips in a pan over double boiler and melt – you can use a microwave – heat 20 seconds and stir and 10 more seconds and stir but be very careful not to burn the chocolate in the microwave
  3. Cream room temperature butter with light brown sugar in your Kitchen Aid mixer
  4. Add in 2 eggs, one at a time and beat well after each addition
  5. Add vanilla and melted chocolate and beat briefly til combined
  6. Alternatively, begin to add dry sifted ingredients and 1/3 cup of milk all awhile mixing
  7. When completely mixed turn out dough onto 3 pieces of saran wrap
  8. Fold up in saran wrap and shape dough into disks, chill at least 2 hrs. – overnight
  9. You can also freeze at this point for a later date
  10. Take dough out and cut into 1″ pieces
  11. Roll each of the pieces into balls
  12. As you shape the dough into balls place them into a bowl full of confectioners sugar and roll around to completely coat
  13. After the balls are coated place them onto cookie sheet 2″ apart
  14. You will need to periodically rinse you hands to remove the dough accumulating on them
  15. NOTE: The dough rolls into balls the easiest when your hands are rinsed and a little damp
  16. Bake for 8 minutes on 350º
  17. Remove and let cool on the cookie tray for 5 minutes before you transfer the cookies to a cooling rack
  18. Let cool completely before to stacking on serving plate