Malto Mario


The Lady & Sons

1,000 Italian Recipes

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Holy Caramel, Batman!

And not just any caramel.. salted butter caramels!

Salted Caramels

I DID IT!!!!!!

Thanks to my wonderful friend, Helene and her fantastic recipe, for the first time in my life, I conquered the hot sugar jeebies!

Salted Caramels

You might notice that mine are not chocolate like hers were.. and there's a reason for that. I honestly didn't think it would work for me and I sure as hell didn't want to waste good chocolate! Well, I proved myself wrong. I'm stunned, quite frankly. ha!

Click on the link to her recipe and get out your sugar, your good butter, your carton of heavy cream and that little stash of fleur de sel that you keep for your Korova cookies and whip yourself up a batch.. they are heavenly. =)

Caramel Caramel
Salted Caramel

I know my purchase of a good candy thermometer made all the difference this time. No trying to figure out the temperature by judging the color or trying to decipher if that lil smoodge of brown stuff you just dropped into the water is forming a ball or are those lil threads?? I got mine at Target for like $15.00 - quite reasonable and well worth the cash. Dudes! I got caramels! MUAHAHAAAA!

Salted Caramels

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Monday, March 26, 2007

The Cake That Had Me Seeing Red...

Acckkkk!! Updated! Author misplaced her mind while writing this post for the second time!! Please excuse the mental vacation!! I forgot one of the Daring Bakers (I need to be shot!) ELLE!!!! The gal who I always picture smiling!! I am so sorry sweetie.. EVERYONE CLICK OVER TO ELLE'S SITE RIGHT NOW FOR YET ANOTHER FABULOUS RED VELVET CAKE POST - HURRRRRRYYYYYYYY!!!

'kay well they don't call me the Queen of Dorkdom for nothing. :P

Red Velvet Cake

Know what time it is? Yep! Time for another baking cross-post - WOOO! hehee I love when I go all Arsenio.

Anyhoo.. we've got some changes this month, some new members and a brand new challenge. The first change is we've all decided (finally!) on a name for our lil group - The Daring Bakers! Yep, that's because each month is a challenge - we are daring ourselves to get over our baking fears, whatever they may be. The second change is something that I'd like to tell you about at the end of this post.. =)

Okay first off, I have to introduce you to our five SIX new members - starting with my dear friend, the beautiful Morven of Food, Art and Random Thoughts; next we have the gal who, despite a very, very busy lifestyle, formulated for me an easy recipe for a certain type of bread that I was craving.. uhh.. just because I was craving it! Bless her cotton socks! And that would be the very talented bread chick, Mary of The Sour Dough; followed by the lovely half of the duo who does their Writing at the Kitchen Table, Freya; then we've got the very talented and lovely baker from Canada, Jen; and last, but certainly not least, a gal who knows what she's doing in the kitchen and coming to us from Brazil, Valentina.

In case you are new to the blog the rest of the Daring Bakers can be found to your right on my sidebar. A lovely group of women, if I do say so myself! =)

This month's challenge is a traditional southern dessert, one not had by many of us.. the Red Velvet Cake. We kind of veered off the course this month and decided to use whichever recipe that we preferred, simply because so many recipes were suggested. So for all of you Red Velvet Cake lovers, who don't have a go-to recipe yet, you'll find many to choose from by clicking on each Daring Baker's blog.

Red Velvet Cake

Myself, well I had picked the recipe I was going to use back at the beginning of the month. It came from a trusted friend who has never steered me wrong in way of her recipes yet. There was only one small problem with the recipe and it was the frosting - I just wasn't sure about how it was made. And so, I went in search of a different frosting recipe. One of the first places I thought to check out was the Food Network's website to see if the light of my life, the apple of my eye, the future mother of my children, Paula Deen, had a recipe posted. I figured I couldn't get more southern than Paula, eh? Not only did she have a recipe posted for Red Velvet Cake and it's version of frosting, but it was her Grandmother Paul's recipe to boot. And so.. at approximately 5 minutes before gathering my ingredients to bake this cake yesterday afternoon, I upped and changed my mind. I decided to go with Grandmother Paul's recipe for the frosting AND the cake. Maybe it was a show of faith in my true love of all that is Paula. Maybe it was because the frosting had marshmallow in it. It could have been the 1/2 pound of butter in the cake.. or maybe it was because her grandmother had the same name as my favorite Secret Square on Hollywood Squares (he occupied the center square if anyone knows what I'm referring to). Who knows? But at the very last moment, fate took a different path...

Grandmother Paul knows her stuff! This cake was very good. It was moist and I could taste the small amount of chocolate in it. It was a heavy, dense cake though.. not sure if they are all like this, but it made me think that's why they call it Velvet - because it was very velvety on my tongue. But let's talk about that frosting. Holy hell.. I've never had a cream cheese frosting that was sooooo good. So good, in fact, that I might or might not have had to make another 1/2 batch of it due to eating spoonfuls of the first batch, possibly... nevermind, it was really, really good!! I had no idea the addition of marshmallow would make such a difference, but it did.

Would I make this cake again? Probably not - unless I was asked to bake something for a red themed party or invited to Shelby's wedding. It was a very good cake, but just not the type of cake I'd crave when I'm craving cake. Cuz we all know, when I crave cake - I crave The Ultimate Chocolate Cake, to which I haven't exactly found yet. But I'm happy with the experience, I've brought 1/2 of it into work and the guys are loving it, my mom is waiting for the other half and as always I had fun reading about the other DB gal's reviews of it.

I'm looking forward to next month's challenge already. =)

Red Velvet Cake
Grandmother Paul's Red Velvet Cake
Courtesy of Paula Deen, Grandmother Paul and the Food Network website

2 cups sugar
1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
2 eggs
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 ounces red food coloring
2 1/2 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon vinegar

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese
1 stick butter, softened
1 cup melted marshmallows
1 (1-pound) box confectioners' sugar
1 cup shredded coconut (omitted)
1 cup chopped pecans (omitted)

Red Velvet Cake
Red Velvet Cake (crumb coat!) Red Velvet Cake
Look Helen! I did the crumb coat! hehee

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a mixing bowl, cream the sugar and butter, beat until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and mix well after each addition. Mix cocoa and food coloring together and then add to sugar mixture; mix well. Sift together flour and salt. Add flour mixture to the creamed mixture alternately with buttermilk. Blend in vanilla.

Red Velvet Cake

In a small bowl, combine baking soda and vinegar and add to mixture. Pour batter into 3 (8-inch) round greased and floured pans. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from heat and cool completely before frosting.

Blend cream cheese and butter together in a mixing bowl. Add marshmallows and sugar and blend. Fold in coconut and nuts. Spread between layers and on top and sides of cooled cake.

Red Velvet Cake

And lastly, behold our new logo!


Is that not gorgeous? Are you not jealous? You are.. admit it. =) The Daring Bakers are an extremely lucky group of gals as the uber talented Ximena of Lobstersquad agreed to create a one of a kind logo for us. She also created a small button that's adorable as well - well here, look!


I, personally, can't say THANK YOU!!! loudly enough to Ximena. Your artwork has always amazed me and I still can't get over how you do this on a computer, when I can barely draw a stick figure on paper! heee! You listened to what we wanted and you exceeded our expectations in the final product. And a small word(s) of advice kids.. if you want your blog to look hella cool, I can assure you, you will not be displeased by hiring Ximena and allowing her to work her magic! She truly is one talented hot mama! =)

No no.. I'm not done yet.. sit back down. God.

I also want to thank my interweb Sis, the gal I share a brain with, Veronica - for commissioning Ximena to do this for us. We all owe you a great big loud THANK YOU!!!!! as well!!

Okay.. the moosh is over.. go start clickin on my side bar to see all the other gal's versions of the Red Velvet Cake, ya'll. =)

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Sunday, March 25, 2007

Cookbook Spotlight: Ships of the Great Lakes Cookbook

Oh jeez, it's been two months now (time flies!) since I saw Mary's post about these yummy looking Walnut Bars.. and yeah they really did look that good, because I can't stand walnuts but the picture had me drooling =) As I read the post, I was so intrigued by the book that the recipe came from - it was a gift to her from her parents and it contained information and recipes from the stewards (the ship's cook) on the big freighter ships that travel on the Great Lakes.

I was so intrigued by the book, mainly I think, because these huge ships have been part of my life for, well, all of my life. I've lived no further than 2 miles (currently less than 1/2 mile) from Lake Erie my whole life, so these ships are a common occurrence in my neck of the woods. So common, in fact, that they become part of the background. I don't even really notice them all the time when I'm looking out on the lake.. just like someone who lives near a busy street or near a railroad crossing, sooner than you realize, you just block out the noise and you forget it's there.

Well thanks to my new friend, Mary, I started thinking about all of those ships and the people who live/work on them. And the more I got to thinking the more curious I was about what they ate. I left her a comment on that post and that was the beginning of many conversations between us. As it happened, Mary and sweet Sara were in touch with the publishers of Ships of the Great Lakes Cookbook


with the idea of this book being the next Cookbook Spotlight. I received an e-mail from Mary asking if I'd be interested on reviewing the book.. oh hell yes, I'd be interested! I was tickled she asked me and just as excited to read the book.

A few weeks later a package arrived containing the book and a very cool nautical themed book mark! Maritime Book Threads to be exact - check them out, they are very cool (I got the anchor thread and it rocks) Okay so a cool cook book and some cool book bling - what's not to like about this deal, eh? =)

I think my first perusal of the book was more concentrated on the ship's stories and background info - also to see if there were any mentioned from Northeast Ohio (there was).. I really couldn't take a detailed look at it because I had a certain fisherman type person nagging me the whole time, "I wanna see!" "Can I look now?" "C'mon! My turn!!" Ugh. And so, I gave up the book for a few hours.

When I finally got it back, I started taking note of some recipes I wanted to try. There are many really good sounding recipes in this book - and most of them are easy to make, down home recipes that you'd expect from this kind of book. Although there is a french pastry recipe tossed in here and there ;) The only one thing that bummed me about this book was that I'd happen upon a recipe that sounded so damn good and I'd get all, "Oh yeah, I'm making this for dinner this week!!" and then it'd be a big let down because the recipe served like 97 people. Hello? I'm pretty confident in my skills to cut a recipe in half.. even thirds.. but from 97 to uhhmm maybe 4? Yeah, that's a lil too much friction for my wee brain cells, if yanno what I mean?

And that really is my only bitch about the book. The lay out is nice and it's the kind of cookbook that doesn't bother me with it's lack of pictures. I like how so many freighters, Coast Guard vessels, tall ships, passenger vessels and the old retired ships - some of which have been turned into museums - have been highlighted. Not only is there a picture of the ship, but information on what it carried, how large it was, who the key personnel were and actual menu's are printed too. There is just so much more to this cook book than recipes. I would recommend this book to just about anyone - I can't imagine someone not being able to find a few good recipes as well as not learning anything from the book's stories.

Now as for the recipes I made.. well, not to keep using this as an excuse, but it seemed that during the time from my mom's fall, through all of her follow up doctor appointments and just generally caring for her, my opportunities to actually cook or bake the recipes I wanted, just kinda of slipped by. I did manage to make two though! Although one was scarfed down so quickly by myself, hubbs and my little sister that when the thought surfaced to grab the camera there was pretty much an empty pan sitting in front of us. And that was the morning I made Cinnamon Rolls courtesy of the fine cooks on the Schooner Manitou, docked in Michigan. All I can say is they were the first yeast rolls that I've ever made and they were easy and soooooooooooooo delicious. All warm and gooey what with the cinnamon/sugar between the layers and the vanilla icing on top.. *swoon* I will be making them again and I will photograph how pretty they came out. =)

The second recipe was thought about for quite some time - especially when I saw that one of the loves of my life, that sexy Laura Rebecca had made my first two choices.. the roasted potatoes and braised pork chops with cabbage. I shall still make them, especially from seeing how gorgeous hers turned out.

But now we are having some especially lovely weather and I'm in the mood for a picnic, which led me to choose Marinated Focaccia Bread Sandwiches. The description reminded me of a muffuletta, a sandwich I've always wanted to make anyway. Unfortunately, I ran into a snag when purchasing the ingredients I'd need. We went to two different shops for focaccia bread (there was no way I could make my own) and struck out both times. So at the 2nd shop, I opted for Monterey Sour Dough. And as I was making the sandwich, I thought with just the meats and cheeses, it might be a little dry so I added a layer of roasted red and yellow peppers and also a layer of mild banana pepper rings. I made the marinade as per the recipe and used the salami, proscuitto and Provolone that was called for. I wrapped it tightly in plastic wrap and placed in my fridge. When I took it out the next day, my fridge smelled really quite good!

Marinated Sandwich
He's sticking his tongue out at me.

I cut the sandwich up into smaller, easier to handle portions and served this with a buffet of nibblers that we enjoyed on our "picnic" in front of the tube watching Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe *swoon* We both enjoyed this sandwich very much, but we agreed to try a different bread the next time and to double the marinade because it lended wonderful flavor but the bread was still a little dry. The addition of the roasted peppers and the banana peppers was spot on - they really went well with this sandwich. It was super easy to make, and was quite huge - plenty to serve 4 easily.

Marinated Sandwich
Marinated Focaccia Bread Sandwiches
Courtesy of Ships of the Great Lakes Cookbook, published by Creative Characters Publishing Group, 2001

2 (14 inch) Focaccia flat breads, homemade or purchased at an Italian bakery (Bobbi also works)

1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
2 TBS. fresh basil
1 tsp. dried oregano
2 TBS. onion, finely minced
2 TBS. garlic, finely minced
2 TBS. green olives, finely minced
Salt & Pepper to taste

1/2 lb. salami, sliced
1/2 lb. proscuitto, thinly sliced
1/2 lb. Provolone cheese, sliced

Marinated Sandwich

Combine ingredients for marinade and set aside. Cut a very thin top layer off each bread to expose bread and allow marinade to soak in. Spread 1/2 marinade on the cut side of 1 of the flat breads. Layer cheese, proscuitto and salami on marinated side of bread. Spread remaining marinade on cut side of second flat bread; place on top of layered filling ingredients. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Unwrap cut into squares and serve.

Marinated sandwich

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Monday, March 19, 2007


My dear, sweet friend, Ellie, is holding a one off Nostalgia event in hopes that everyone will share a story about a food that brings back memories.. so how could I let her down?

Well duh. Of course I couldn't let her down. Sheesh.

I've blogged a lot about my favorite dishes enjoyed in the years growing up but somehow this one slipped my memory - maybe because I'd never tried to replicate it in my own kitchen. I was sitting at the kitchen table with Hubbs discussing this very subject. Wondering out loud what the hell I was going to write about. And as we were going back and forth about favorite foods from our childhood (because that's what I wanted to hit upon) I stunned myself by actually "misplacing" this dish in the recesses of my memory! How could I forget it? It's not like my mom made this every once in a while - hell no, it was a staple in our family's weekly dinners and I love it! My mom's chicken & noodles.. you can't get more simple and delicious than this dish.

I can't really say that I associate this dish with one memory only - instead, thinking about this stick to your ribs, comforting meal reminds me of many occasions. For example, this was the first dish that my youngest sister ate as a solid food and didn't actually spit out and fling back into my face. I remember her tasting it, as I instinctively held my hands up in front of my face, and her smiling and doing this grunt thing that she did when she was pleased with her food. That might have been the first feeding where I came out unscathed.

I remember this being dinner the night our part of the state received the worst ice storm in it's history.. sittin' all cozy, eating this yummy chickeny noodley concoction in front of the tube - most likely getting my fix of The Fonz, Richie, Potsie & Ralph Malph (what can I say? I was a sucker for the bad boys, the good lookin but vacant boys and red heads!).. and then an hour or so later, no power. Dead of winter, nothing but inches upon inches of ice outside and us with no power for 2.5 days. I will NEVER forget the kind of cold you feel INSIDE your body when you've spent over 48 hours with no heat. And this is also the reason why, I give as much money as we can to Ohio's homeless funds.. I can't even imagine how those people survive our winters. *shudder*

And finally, although the memories go on and on, the last one I want to share is that this was one of the last dinners my dad requested before he left us.. my mom came home from work (by this time, we'd shut the restaurant down and she had taken a job at the local Rite Aid) checked on him and then made this for him. And blah dee blah blah blah I can't write any more without getting all blubbery.. so yes! How could I forget this dish??


So without further ado.. I'll share this recipe.. make it one night when you want something comforting - use whichever chicken part you'd like.. change up the egg noodles for klusky noodles or whatever floats your noodle boat.. add more veggies or substitute a vegetable for the sweet peas.. whot evah. Just make it, I'm pretty sure you'll like it. =)

Mom's Chicken & Noodles
Mom's Chicken & Noodles

The recipe below will feed 4 people with generous portions

8 chicken thighs, skin on & bone in
1/2 c. flour
Salt and pepper
Enough oil to just cover the bottom of your pan
4 c. chicken stock + enough water to make enough gravy - can't give an exact measurement, you'll have to "eyeball" it.
Enough flour to thicken the gravy - I think I end up using 2-4 TBS. ?
1 can sweet peas
3 sm. cans of sliced mushrooms
1 lb. bag of egg noodles
Garlic powder to taste
Salt & pepper to taste

Heat the oil in your electric fry pan, or very large skillet if you don't have an electric fry pan. I set mine on 350º F.

Mix the flour with the salt & pepper in a shallow bowl or plate, dredge the thighs in the flour mixture. Place the thighs in the hot oil and brown on both sides. Remove and set aside.

Add the stock, water and flour to the pan and bring to a boil, stirring often, until as thick as you desire. Add the peas and mushrooms. Allow to simmer for a few minutes.

In the meantime, or even ahead, cook your egg noodles until al dente in salted water.

Mom's Chicken & Noodles

Once your gravy is thickened and your noodles are cooked, add the chicken and noodles back into the fry pan and mix well. Heat this mixture until warmed all the way though - about 10 to 15 minutes. Done!

Mom's Chicken & Noodles

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Sunday, March 18, 2007


Just wanted to let you know.. very muchly long overdue - I updated my blog roll --> over there -->

Close your eyes and click.. doesn't matter where you land, you won't be disappointed. =)



Hey Hey It's My First Donna Hay Day!

I had no idea who this Donna Hay gal was until my dear friend Morv filled me in.. come to find out she's the Aussie version of Martha? Say what you will about The Martha, but I heart her - oh yesss I do - so I knew I'd like Donna very muchly. Unfortunately, though, I've never submitted to the HHDD event - until one of my partners in crime, Gracie won the event last month with her beautiful souffle. I knew this month, I could not let her down.

'kay well I almost let her down.. life comes at ya fast, as the saying goes - and my life has been runnin full speed these last few weeks, so I almost ran out of chances to make my cheesecake. Thank the baby Jebus, Peabody gave me a day's grace.. so I'm posting my submission today. You rock, Gracie! :D

Okay.. cheesecake, cheesecake, which one shall I make?? I read mountains of cheesecake recipes - cookbooks strewn everywhere; online recipe sites hit once, twice, thrice; magazines flopped open all over my office - in search of the perfect cheesecake. Stunned, I realized not one damn recipe floated my boat, tripped my trigger or knocked my cotton socks off, so to speak. I was bummed.. I wanted a different kinda cheesecake for this event.. something that would live up to my growing reputation as an Evil Culinary Genius. (Laura Rebecca, you mark me larf out loud) I don't really agree with the genius part, but I'm okay with the Evil part.. it suits me. har!

So as I was sitting in one of the many, many doctor's waiting rooms earlier this week, I started thinking about the cheesecake I ALWAYS order at The Cheesecake Factory. I realize that TCF kind of bastardizes cheesecake with all of their sinful additions and kooky concoctions - but I just can't help it.. their "Adam's Peanut Butter Cup Fudge Ripple" sends me into orgasmic shock each time. I know! It's barely a cheesecake what with all the luscious caramel and peanut butter swirled through, not to mention the huge hunks of Reeses Cups and Butterfinger bars embedded in the rich and creamy cheesecake base.. oh and can I forget the peanut butter frosting layer on top? Oh hells no.. No I can not.

Thank God, I don't get to TCF often. *sigh*

So.. there I had it.. I wanted to recreate my favorite cheesecake abomination in my own lil kitchen - but I wanted to make it my own as well. And I think I accomplished just that.

PB Cheesecake

My version of this decadent cake is a chocolate cookie crust, covered by a rich layer of dark chocolate cheesecake, covered by a thick layer of peanut butter cheesecake dotted with crushed up Butterfingers and a butterscotch-caramel swirl throughout. If that weren't enough Evilness, I've also made a peanut butter sauce to drizzle over each slice. I know! I AM Evil, aren't I? MUAHAHAHAAA!!

My evil version of this already sinful cake was most delicious.. and if I am allowed to pat myself on the back a lil.. I think it's even better than TCF's version. Only for the simple fact that the one thing I don't like about their version is the big hunks of candy.. if you aren't paying attention you could break a damn tooth on a rock hard chunk o'Butterfinger! (not that that's stopped me from devouring a slice) So I decided to pulverize my Butterfingers. The flecks of the crushed up candy give the cheesecake a nice texture that's still melt in your mouth good. The dark chocolate layer isn't as sweet as the peanut butter layer, which makes a nice combination that won't send shivers through your teeth. Although not necessary, but the sauce? Well.. okay, let's just put it this way. I'd put this sauce over broccoli and it'd still be delish. hahaa!

As for a recipe, I ended up just making a basic cheesecake from bits and pieces of various cheesecake recipes that I found in cookbooks and online, flavoring the base recipe as I liked. Again, I'm VERY happy over how this cake turned out, but I think next time I decide to make the batter from different recipes, I should put a lil more thought into it - as I ended up making wayyyyyyyy too much batter for a 9" springform pan. Oops! Luckily for me, I got to break in my brand spankin new tiny lil springform pans, leaving me with 2 mini cheesecakes that I will freeze for a later date. Keep this in mind if you'd like to make this cheesecake.. you might want to cut the recipe down to a 1/3rd for a 9" springform pan, or leave recipe as is and bake in a 11" springform pan. Party on peanut butter lovers! Party on!

I'd like to thank Barbara for starting this terrific event and Gracie for not only hosting this month, but for coming up with THE BEST THEME EVER. I can not wait for this round up.. I suspect that I'll never have to go in search of a cheesecake recipe again after seeing everyone's delicious creations. =)

PB Cheesecake
Lisa's Decadent and Ohhh So Evil Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate Caramel Ripple Cheesecake - or LDOSEPBDCCRC.
(I should at least win for the longest named cheesecake!)

For the crust:
2-3 c. chocolate wafer cookies, crushed finely (I like a lotta crust)
1/2 c. salted butter, melted + butter for greasing pan(s)

For the cheesecake:
2 lbs. cream cheese, softened
1 1/3 c. white granulated sugar
4 eggs, room temperature
1 c. sour cream
1/3 c. whipping cream
1 tsp. vanilla
1 c. peanut butter
10 mini Butterfinger bites, crushed in food processor
1/2 jar of store bought butterscotch-caramel ice cream topping
3.5 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, melted

PB Cheesecake

For the peanut butter sauce:
1 can of sweetened condensed milk (Whenever I make this sauce [great for apple dipping!] I use the fat-free sweetened condensed milk and it works well.)
1/3 c. peanut butter
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. cinnamon (optional)

PB Cheesecake

Combine milk & peanut butter in a heavy sauce pan and cook over low heat, stirring often until thickened. Remove from heat, stir in vanilla and cinnamon. Drizzle over cheesecake slices. Leftover sauce can be refrigerated for up to 3 weeks in an airtight container.

Either crush the wafer cookies in a food processor or put the wafers in a large ziplock bag and beat the bejesus out of them with a heavy rolling pin, such as I did. =) Set aside. Repeat process with the mini Butterfinger bars, crushing them as finely as you'd like - I went for a very fine texture.

Preheat the oven to 350º F. Place a rack in the middle of the oven. Grease 11" springform pan with butter. Double layer foil wrap the bottom of the pan.

Mix the crushed wafer cookies with the melted butter and press into the bottom and up the sides of your springform pan. Set aside.

Blend the cream cheese until it's creamy. Gradually add the sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, and only blend until each egg is incorporated. Add the sour cream, whipping cream and vanilla. Remove 1 1/2 c. of the cream cheese mixture and set aside in a bowl. Add the peanut butter to the original mixture and blend until incorporated. Add the crushed Butterfinger bites.

Blend the melted chocolate into the reserved 1 1/2 c. batter and then spread evenly over the cookie crust. Pour the peanut butter batter over the chocolate layer and spread evenly. Dollop the butterscotch-caramel sauce over the top and then using a toothpick or the tip of a thin knife, swirl the sauce into the batter.

Place the springform pan into roasting pan then fill the roasting pan with 1 1/2 - 2 inches of hot water. Carefully place roasting pan onto middle rack and bake for 1 hour, 5 minutes or until the cake is set and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Be careful to not over bake. Cool the cake at room temperature for about an hour, then using a very thin knife, run along the edges of cake to loosen it from the springform pan. Remove the ring of the springform and place cake on dish or serving platter and chill over night.

To make the sauce:
Cook the milk and peanut butter in a heavy saucepan over low heat, stirring often until thickened (less than 3 minutes). Remove from heat, stir in vanilla and cinnamon. Drizzle over slices of cheesecake. Leftover sauce can be kept in the fridge for up to 3 weeks in an airtight container.

PB Cheesecake

PB Cheesecake

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Friday, March 16, 2007

Taco Rolls!

When catching up on my favorite blogs, one of my favorite Italian ladies went Mexican and made up some tacos.. tacos and burritos are pretty common in this household but after seeing those pictures, I was crazy-mad craving them.

So the next day I said to myself that this would be a taco night!! And then I realized I had no taco shells. *sigh* No tortillas either. *double sigh* What's a gal to do? Well she spots her package of egg roll wrappers and gets the brilliant idea to do this! Wooo!

Taco Rolls

And so the birth of the Taco Roll (don't mind my messy stove in the background :P). High in calories and fat! Mouthwater parcels of spicy, cheesy goodness! Easy to dip into salsa and sour cream to up the fat and calorie count! WOOO!! 'kay.. seriously, I'm serious. They were delish. No foolin'.. the eggroll wrapper was crispy and chewy. The filling was hot and melty and spicy and yum. But the fat/calorie levels were off the chart.

So once again, I'm posting a recipe (or idea) that needs some major tweaking to fit the lifestyle that I'd like to achieve one day when I'm not starving after work therefore causing my brain to only think of food in my bell-aye right now! But rather, food in my bell-aye after careful consideration of proper preparation! And so, I give to you my careful thoughts regarding how to make this sinful dinner a lil more heart healthy and nutritious.

Firstly, I'd use ground chicken/turkey instead of the cow I used. I'd use fat free cheese - because fat free cheese is actually pretty tasty when it's melted over something spicy like taco seasoned meat. I wanted to add corn to the filling, like Orchidea did, but we had no damn corn in the house - so next time.. corn. I'd also like to try a veggie version of this, substituing refried beans for the meat (even though I hate refried beans, I'm thinking they'd be tasty in these lil guys). And lastly, but not leastly (hee!) I'd bake these suckers instead of giving them the hot oil treatment.

Another cool variation of these, would be to wrap wonton wrappers over a smaller portion of filling and bake (or deep fry if you live dangerously) for a tasty snacker/appetizer.

Taco Rolls

I served mine with light sour cream (Daisy brand.. their light version tastes just like their full fat version) and hot & mild salsa - the chunky kind. I think an enchilada sauce spooned over them would be quite delish as well.. kind of like at home chimichangas only made with eggroll wrappers!

Lisa's Taco Rolls - the full fat version.

1 lb. ground round - browned
1 packet of taco seasoning or 1 tablespoon each of cumin and chile powder + a lil salt and pepper to taste
1 c. shredded cheese (I used a Mexican blend)
1 sm. can of sliced black olives
3 green onions (plus 1 for sprinkling), sliced thin
12 eggroll wrappers
4-5 cups vegetable or canola oil

Brown your ground meat in a skillet and then either follow the taco seasoning packet directions, or mix in the cumin and chile powder. You can then add your olives and green onions, or set them aside to sprinkle on the meat in the eggroll wrapper - whichever you prefer.

The best way to prepare these is to have all of your ingredients set out in front of you so you can assemble them easily.

Slightly lower than the middle of the eggroll wrapper, place 2 TBS. of the ground meat, spreading it to about 1/2 inch from the sides. Sprinkle over the meat, some grated cheese, olives and green onions (if you haven't already mixed them in with the meat). Taking the bottom of the eggroll wrapper, bring it up and over the filling and then fold in each side of the wrapper. Then roll until you've reached the top of the wrapper, lightly moisten the top of the wrapper and press together so it seals. Set each roll aside, but keep under a damp cloth so that the wrapper doesn't dry out. Continue on until you've used all your fillings.

At this point they can be frozen or kept in the fridge for a few hours or over night as long as a damp towel/cloth is kept over them.

When ready to eat, heat oil in deep fryer or at least a 6 quart stock pot until it reaches 350º

Gently place 2-3 taco rolls into the hot oil and fry until they turn golden brown on one side, then flip them over to fry the other side. Drain well and set on a cookie rack that's placed over a jelly roll sheet that's been lined with newspaper, brown bag paper or paper towels. You probably don't want to place them directly on paper towels as they are still pretty greasy and it'd be icky to have them sit in grease while you are finishing up your batch of delicious taco rolls, wouldn't it?

Serve with sour cream and salsa on the side.. or guacamole! or Holy Mother Of All That Is Artery Clogging.. nacho cheese sauce!! Oh my...

My Notes: As stated above.. do your arteries a favor and don't follow my instructions.. bake these babies in a 350º oven (if fresh) or 425º (if frozen) for, I'd say maybe 8-10 minutes on one side, then flip for an additional 5-8 minutes? Or until they are goldeny brown and delicious.

Also.. I absolutely know if you were to prepare these with the ground chicken/turkey, fat free cheese and the cumin/chile powder/salt & pepper seasonings you'd drastically cut back on fat & calories as well as sodium.


Taco Rolls

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Monday, March 12, 2007

Mediterranean Style Orange Roughy

Or is it?

One of my most favorite fish FINALLY went on sale recently, Orange Roughy. This is a firm, mild fish that's imported into the United States from as close as Nova Scotia and as far as New Zealand. I first tried this fish about 8-10 years ago and instantly fell in love with it. Next to Lake Erie Perch and Walleye, Orange Roughy would be third in my top 5 favorite fish list (4th smelts, 5th tuna - just in case you were dying to know). I usually prepare this fish very simply - a lil melted butter brushed on the filet, followed by a simple sprinkling of very finely minced garlic, salt and pepper. Throw it under the broiler and you've got a mighty fine tasting dinner.

This time I decided to go a different route. I wanted to bake this fish with some fresh flavors that I'd not normally use when preparing any fish. So in search I went. I found this recipe for Mediterranean Style Orange Roughy on and it seemed to fit the bill as I normally don't use tomato or lemon when preparing fish. Although I was a little put off by the sour cream. Sour cream and fish? huh.

Well it ended up that I changed this recipe quite a bit, basically due to what I had and did not have on hand. I left out the capers because the jar I had on hand was pretty damn old. *shudder* and I didn't have any fresh plum tomatoes on hand, so I subbed canned organic fire roasted diced tomatoes. I also didn't add the wine (my sister was here recently, therefore my wine supply is long gone. hee!). And finally, I left out the Feta cheese because I just can't stomach cheese and fish. If I were to prepare my fish like this again (probably not) I would substitute the capers for diced Kalamata olives, leave the sour cream out entirely (even though it gave the fish a nice tang, I believe the lemon would be enough), and definitely use the white wine. The fish turned out very flaky and flavorful - as I said there was a nice tang from the sour cream and the lemon and the combination of the lemon and tomato added that freshness I was looking for even if I did use canned tomatoes. I think I'd also make this even more fresh tasting by sprinkling fresh chopped basil or cilantro over it after it was done baking. This dish needed salt - and I suppose that's what the capers were for, so yeah - definitely add them or Kalamata olives if you were to try this. I think I was disappointed because it was a creamy topping, where I was looking for something a little more simple in flavoring. Yep, I'm kicking myself in the arse for not leaving the sour cream out - what was I thinking? There isn't much sour cream used in Mediterranean cooking anyway, is there?

Anyhoo.. as always when I try something new, regardless if it was a winner or not, I'm glad I tried it. And the more I write about it, the more I do want to try this preparation again - only with the changes I'd like to make. Maybe there will be an update to this post one day. ;)

Mediterranean Style Orange Roughy
Mediterranean Style Orange Roughy
Courtesy of shimmerchk and

4 (6 ounce) orange roughy fillets, 1/2 inch thick
4 ounces feta cheese with dried basil and tomato or plain feta cheese (Omitted)
1/4 c. low-fat sour cream
1/4 c. finely chopped red onions
1 clove garlic, minced finely
3 TBS. capers, drained and rinsed (Omitted, but would sub with Kalamata olives)
2 small plum tomatoes, seeded, and finely chopped (Subbed with 1/2 (10.5 oz) can of organic fire roasted diced tomatoes)
2 tsp. grated lemon zest
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. kosher salt (I always use sea salt when preparing fish or seafood)
1-2 tsp. white wine (optional)

Preheat oven to 400°F. Line baking sheet with foil. Lightly spray foil with non-stick spray.

Season fish on both sides with sea salt and fresh ground pepper.

In a medium bowl combine feta, sour cream, red onion, garlic, capers, tomatoes, lemon peel and oregano and stir until thoroughly combined.

Add wine to feta cheese mixture if desired.

Arrange fish on prepared baking sheet. Spread cheese topping over fish.

Bake until fish is just cooked through, approximately 10-12 minutes.

The way I'd do it next time:
1- Leave cheese and sour cream out
2- Sub Kalamata or another good olive in brine for the capers
3- Add the wine - but more like 2 tablespoons, not teaspoons. (really? what's the point?)
4- Sprinkle fresh cilantro or basil over the fish after it's been baked.
5- I also think I'd sub finely diced shallots in lieu of the red onion - because a red onion can be a little over-powering sometimes.
6- Ohh and I'd keep the fire roasted canned tomatoes in lieu of the fresh plum tomatoes - the fire roasted were delicious!

Mediterranean Style Orange Roughy

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Monday, March 05, 2007

Thai Food - It's a First!

Firstly.. thank you all for the wonderful support and well wishes in comments and e-mail - ya'll are the best, thanks so much for caring about myself and my Mommie. =)

Secondly - FOOD. Let's get back to our favorite subject, shall we?

Not too very long ago, one of my closest friends, Morven, sent me a recipe for Pad Thai. I'd never had it (hell, I've never had Thai food period) but her description of it sounded so good and the recipe looked like something I could pull off pretty easily. So I printed it out in hopes to make it as soon as I had bought the ingredients. Specifically the rice noodles, as my local "mega" mart doesn't carry them. Go figger.

One day after a trip to the farmer's market, we headed to an area in Cleveland that is predominantly Asian, in hopes of finding a Asian market. Low and behold, we got lucky and struck pay dirt. We spent about 2 hours in there just looking around.. it was fabulous. Never before had I been in such a culturally rich environment. Seriously. The wonders of all the food items that I was not familiar with, the smells of so many spices, seafood and fresh produce. It was all new and fabulous. Needless to say, I found several varieties of rice noodles and picked up quite a few of them. We also bought all the ingredients we'll need to make our own sushi - which we are very much looking forward to (it's our new food passion). We left with bags and bags of items and were already looking forward to the next time we'd visit.

A few nights later, I took my new Pad Thai recipe out and set to work.. it was quite easy to put together and the end result was what I now refer to as my most favorite noodle dish of all time. I could eat this dish several times a week and be quite happy. Hubbs enjoyed it very much too and requested that I don't wait too long before making it again. I chose to use a wider rice noodle than what the recipe called for, mainly because I pretty much closed my eyes, stuck my hand in the bottom of the pantry and just grabbed a random bag of newly aquired noodles. I made sure to have all of my ingredients measured out and ready to go next to the stove so all I had to do was dump while putting it all together. This particular recipe called for both chicken and shrimp so it was quite a substantial meal. The flavors of rice wine, lime juice and the shrimp was predominant and lovely. There was a background hit of the salty fish sauce and the sweet addition of some sugar. The noodles were soft but firm and I found I really enjoyed the texture of them. I finished the dish off with fresh cilantro and a drizzle of sesame oil - which gave it that fresh factor that really brought out the other flavors. This, to me, was heaven in a bowl. I loved it and I wanna say again - THANKS, MORV! YOU ROCK! =)

I just found out about Ruth's Pesto Pasta Nights and because I think that it's such a great idea (I'll be submitting often!) I figured that the first submission should be a damn good one - and here it is, almost 2 weeks later and I'm still dreaming about this dish - just waiting for a night where I can relax and make it again! So Ruth, if you'll have me.. I'd like to share this recipe for Pad Thai! =)

Pad Thai
Pad Thai
Courtesy of Morven and adapted from Dish It Up by Simon Holst

150-200 grams rice noodles
1 TBS. canola oil
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3 cloves garlic, crushed, peeled and chopped
2 (about 200 grams total) boneless, skinless chicken breasts, thinly sliced
1 tsp. minced red chile/chile paste
200 grams shrimp, thawed and drained if frozen
1 TBS. canola oil
4 spring onions, sliced diagonally
3 TBS. fish sauce
2 TBS. rice (or wine) vinegar
1 TBS. lime (or lemon) juice
2 TBS. sugar
1-2 c. bean sprouts (we couldn't find fresh that day so I used canned - very good)
chopped fresh coriander (cilantro) and roasted peanuts to garnish (I omitted the nuts)

Place the rice noodles in a large bowl, cover with boiling water and soak for 5-10 minutes or until soft and flexible, then drain well. (Check after 5 minutes as different brands seem to soften at different speeds and some get too soft if soaked for too long.)

Heat about 1 tsp. of the oil in a large wok or frypan, then add the beaten egg and cook to form a thin omelette. As soon as the upper surface looks dry, roll or fold the omelette and remove from the pan. Cut into 1 cm. ribbons and set aside.

Add the rest of the first measure of oil to the pan, then add the garlic, cook over high heat until it begins to brown, then add the chicken and stir-fry for 3-4 minutes until chicken has lost it's pink color and is beginning to brown.

Stir in the chile and shrimp and stir-fry for a minute longer, then add the noodles, second measure of oil and the spring onion greens. Toss to combine, then add the fish sauce, vinegar, lime (or lemon) juice and sugar.

My first Pad Thai

Stir-fry until the liquid has almost disappeared then add the bean sprouts and cook for 1 minute longer. The recipe never did say what to do with that reserved omelette, so I just added it at this point as well.

Serve immediately garnished with chopped cilantro and peanuts.

Pad Thai

Pad Thai

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Thursday, March 01, 2007

This has been an interesting few days...

And by "interesting" I mean horrific.

I've been keeping my baking gal pals abreast of the situation - but I've also received many e-mails from wonderful friends wondering where I've been lately. So I figured I'd share my week with you here. :D

I get a call around 9ish Sunday morning - I had actually just woken up, which is so unbelievably rare for me (I'm usually up by 5ish). The caller? My Mom.. my very scared Mom.

A lil background on my Mommie- I moved her from our hometown up here to where we live so she could be closer to me as she gets older. She's been up here now for going on 2 years. After we moved her in, we bought her a computer - thinking she'd enjoy the e-mail and surfing thing once in a while. I had no idea I was creating an online bingo monster.. the first thing I set her up on was Pogo - so she could amuse herself with a few games here and there. Mmm hmmm.. she found the online bingo and that was it. At any given time you will find my Mom planted firmly in front of her PC playing Bingo. And it's not a leisurely pastime any more.. oh hells no. This is a "career" of sorts now. She's discovered "tourneys" as she calls them. Yes, online bingo tournaments. The epitome of life in the fast lane, yes? She's ranked No. 2 you know. If I were to call my Mom to see what's up or to see if she needs anything and she is in a "tourney" at the time.. well - she won't answer the fakkin' phone. No, she won't. She'll call me back either after she's won or has been eliminated. Can you believe it?? She chooses BINGO over her FAVORITE DAUGHTER.

Okay so really? What's wrong with it? It gives her pleasure and she's made a few online friends - gals her age that love to talk about the "good old days".. a nice way to pass the time, eh? Well I'd agree with that mostly, BUT, my Mom's a smoker.. and she's always smoked quite a bit.. but since she's become a PC vegetable - her smoking has gotten out of control - it's over 2 packs a day now! And she doesn't eat (God forbid she miss a fakkin tourney while making dinner) more than once a day but prefers to guzzle pot after pot of coffee. I've noticed the effects just by listening to her wheeze when she speaks. I've begged her to keep snacks at her desk, to walk around her complex when the weather is nice, to leave the damn house on occasion - anything but sit there for 85% of the day (and night) smoking and drinking coffee. Her response to all of my nagging? She's 70 years old, she's raised her kids, ran her business, and has been responsible her whole life. Now she's going to relax and do as she pleases and no one, not even her dear daughter, is going to stop her. And so.. I give up. What else can I do? She's right.. she's earned the right to live out the rest of her days as she pleases - it's her life.

Okay so that's the background on my Mom.. back to that phone call.

Me: "Hello?" (all groggy-like)
Mom: "Lisa?"
Me: "Yes, Mommie?"
Mom: "Are you sleeping???" (all alarmed-like)
Me: "No, just getting up.. I sat up all night watching movies"
Mom: "Oh. Well I don't want to bother you, but..."
Mom: "I fell."
Me: "What do you mean you fell? Where? Are you okay?"
Mom: "I fell outside on the ice and I think I'm okay but I hit my head twice"
Me: "OH MY GOD! We'll be right over - DON'T MOVE" (I panic easily when it comes to her.. can you tell?)
Mom: "NO. I don't want you coming over, it's all ice outside and you'll fall."
Me: "..."
Me: "Mom, I'll be right over - are you in pain?"
Mom: "Yes, my head hurts and my back and my side"
Me: "Okay, just sit there.. we'll be there in 10 minutes."
Mom: "Okay, bye."


We both procede to get dressed in a manner that would be quite comical any other time.. we're rushing and neither of us are fully awake yet so there's a lot of stumbling and fumbling going on..

Just as we're leaving the phone rings again...

Me: "What's the matter, Mom - is the pain worse??" (caller ID ya gotta love it)
Mom: "No, but you can't come over here - the parking lot is nothing but a sheet of ice, you'll fall Lisa!"
Me: "Ma.. quit worrying about me.. I'll be fine - now don't move, I'm on my way."
Mom: "No, you'll fall and then what will I do??"
Me: "Okay ma.. then I'm calling an ambulance."
Mom: "No.. I don't need an ambulance, I just think I'm more scared than anything else."
Me: "Ma, Wayne worked for an elderly man a few weeks ago and on the last day of the job, the man tripped and fell down the last 3 steps and hit his head. He said he was fine.. he died the next day."
Mom: "Okay, call the ambulance."

I called the ambulance as we were walking out the door.

Thank God the rescue squad is about 1/8 of a mile from her apartment complex, so they were there by the time we got there. She was coherent and complaining of back, head and hip pain. Naturally, the MD that I am, diagnosed her with a broken hip. They put her neck in a brace and got her up on the stretcher and Wayne ran outside to salt the parking lot as it was unbelieveably slippery. Oh and by the way, if you were wondering what the hell she was doing out at 9 am on a Sunday morning after an ice storm? Well.. she doesn't watch TV or read the newspaper anymore - you see it gets in the way of Bingo. So she had no idea we had an ice storm and her niece and nephew were coming later in the day so she wanted to run to the grocery store to get lettuce. LETTUCE. As if they'd beat her with a leather strap because she didn't have salad in the house. God.

Okay so they get her in the ambulance and we were to follow after I rounded up her medications and her insurance cards. While I was doing that, he went outside to move the car up closer to her apartment. As soon as he got the driver's side door open, of course he slid on the ice.. to stop himself from falling he threw the keys inside the car and grabbed onto the door - somehow though, while he was getting his balance the door shut. And immediately locked. With the keys inside.

Shoot me.

He came back in and told me what had just happened. I started laughing.. the kind of laugh that I like to refer to as the bathtub laugh. If you've ever seen The Money Pit, then you must remember Tom Hanks' crazy laugh after he poured the hot water into the tub and the tub fell right through the floor? That laugh. Nothing alarms W more than when the bathtub laugh starts. So he was running around looking for my Mom's car keys. And while he's doing that it hits me (in between my manic giggling) - the image of my poor mom, crawling on her hands and knees from the parking lot back into the apartment - clawing into the snowbanks to give her leverage. That is how she got back into the apartment to call me. This would be the point where the laughing stopped and the breakdown started. So he stops searching to console me and then we both look for the fakkin' keys. Needless to say, we didn't get to the hospital until about 45 minutes later.

This story could go on for days people.. DAYS. As a matter of fact, it did. But I shall not put you through the shite my mother went through.. we'll fast forward to the day before yesterday..

She did NOT have a broken hip, she did NOT have an aneurysm, she did NOT even have a broken tail bone. Nope, none of the things that were giving her great pain were broken or on the verge of explosion. Her neck felt fine though. Mmm hmmm.. I never thought I'd see the day that I could announce to anyone this:

My mom has a broken neck. It's not just one broken vertabrae, no. It's two broken vertabrae. Specifically C4 and C7. BROKEN NECK. TWO VERTEBRAE. When she does it up.. she does it up right, eh?

But wait.. it gets better! Come to find out that the neck? It's not that bigga deal, kids. Nope.. they are more concerned about her blood/ox levels. She's only up to 85% and the normal level should be around 92%. She spent 4 days in the hospital because of her blood/ox level. Her neurosurgeon said she could have left the day after she fell. But the pulmonary gal.. huh uh, she wasn't having it. And because they couldn't get her level up - she could only leave if she agreed to use oxygen at all times and to quit smoking. She wouldn't agree to this on the 3rd day - so her ass was stuck there. She did agree to it on the 4th day.

I brought her home last night and she handed over all of her cigarettes (3 CARTONS + 3 PACKS just laying around her house!), all of her lighters and we cleared out all the ashtrays. The medical company that supplies her with oxygen came and set her up with an oxygen making machine and gave her some back up tanks in case the power were to go out. She took a shower and made herself a bowl of cereal (no, she wouldn't let me make her anything - she's the mom you know! She's perfectly capable of deciding all she wants for dinner is a bowl of cereal and she's perfectly capable of fixing herself a bowl of it! Sheesh.) And then I got ready to leave (it was 11ish by that time).. went to say good bye to her, figuring she'd be laying in bed.. found her sitting in front of her PC signing up for a tourney.

What did we all learn from this story?

Let's all say it together now: ONLINE BINGO IS DANGEROUS TO YOUR HEALTH!

WCC No. 14 - Salad

My father made this salad often during his life. He loved to fish and nothing made him happier than (other than, you know, his beautiful eldest daughter) catching his limit of Lake Erie Perch. He wasn't very imaginative when it came to preparing it though - fried was usually the way to go. Well one day he decided to broil the lightly seasoned filets and then throw them into a bowl with his favorite salad mixin's - he scored big that day..

Fish Salad

There really is no recipe here - it's something that YOU make with what you like. Any mild white fish would do - simply season it with a lil salt, pepper and paprika. I like to melt a couple tablespoons of butter and brush over the filets as well. (Imagine that) And while your fish is broiling, make a big bowl of your favorite salad. I have to confess though, I've never had this type of salad with greens.. mostly it's just tomatoes and onions (I had a bunch of baby seedless cucumbers I wanted to use up this time) and peppers - dressed simply in a sprinkle of garlic salt and an emulsion of balsamic vinegar and canola oil. Mix your salad well and let it sit for a few minutes. Once the fish is done allow it to cool for a few minutes and then flake it before throwing it into the salad - give it all a mix and you've got dinner, friends. =)

These are the kinds of meals my father made that I truly enjoyed.. simple ingredients without too much fuss in the process. Delicious.

Fish Salad

I think this is a nice submission for this month's Weekend Cookbook Challenge - No. 14 Salads! This month Sara's event is being hosted by the lovely Tami of Running with Tweezers. Submissions are due by March 5th - so get 'em in to her for the big round up! As always - thanks so much for this fun event, Sara! And thank you, Tami, for hosting and picking a great theme! =)

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