Malto Mario


The Lady & Sons

1,000 Italian Recipes

Thursday, May 31, 2007

I am a Browniebabe! I am!

Did you guys know I won the very first Browniebabe challenge? I DID!!! I KNOW!! How exciting is that?? squeeeeeeeeeee!

So after fearing that my brand spanking new "Browniebabe" embroidered apron had ended up in a painful death somewhere in the US postal system, I emailed the lovely Myriam with my fears.. imagine my embarrassment the very next day when it arrived. Doh.

But now I have my prize, which is a lovely fit (it's HUGE - Thanks Myriam, and my hips thank you too!) and I've been wearing it proudly although I'm scared to get it dirty so I fold dish towels around it so it will be safe. Kinda defeats the purpose, I know - but I NEVER win anything and I'm going to keep my first prize in pristine shape as long as I can. :D A picture will be shared in the near future, but I'm waiting until my own personal trainer gets here (Am so excited!! More on that later) so that I can maybe work those hips down a tad before sharing the horror. heee!

Chocolate Crunch Brownies

Anyhoo.. for my submission to Browniebabe Round 2 there was a lot of pressure. Pressure I put on myself, of course. I wanted my 2nd submission of delectable brownies to be as droolworthy as the first, so I spent most of our allotted time researching recipes and writing down ideas. Although I don't feel that this month's brownie packs as much punch as last month's.. I can confidently say, if you like super rich, super decadent and complete unnecessary over indulgence, then these are the brownies for you.

When I say, cut the brownies into 1" by 1" squares, I'm not kidding. These babies will guarantee a 2 pound weight gain and your teeth will beg mercy from the sweetness if you go much bigger. They are almost like candy.. seriously.

I'm a big fan of chocolate and crunch. I love chocolate covered pretzels, potato chips, celery, grasshoppers, etc. 'kay not so much the celery and grasshoppers, although I can't imagine either not benefitting from a dunk in chocolate. Hello? Chocolate makes ANYTHING better. These brownies start with a chewy brownie base, then they are covered in sweet and melty marshmallow topped off with a mixture of melted chocolate and peanut butter combined with corn flakes. Yes. Corn flakes. The kind you pour into a bowl and cover with moo juice. Those corn flakes. Yes.

Chocolate Crunch Brownies

I know!! Weird, eh?

But ohhhh sooooo good.. and sooo very very bad.. hee! They are already packed up and ready to go to work to be devoured by the sugar fiends in a matter of minutes. Thank the baby Jebus.

Chocolate Crunch Brownies

I made some alterations to this recipe, which I found on my favorite The first thing I changed was the recipe called for only 6 TEASPOONS of cocoa powder in the brownie base. Huh? The batter wasn't even brown after I mixed the original amount in. So I threw in a few more HEAPING TABLESPOONS to get it to the color and taste of a fakkin brownie. The next change I made, was it called for 12 oz. of semi-sweet chocolate chips. I only had a 9 oz. bag of chocolate melts (the bigger, flatter, nickel sized chips which are a new product from Baker's Chocolate) so I improvised the last 3 oz. with milk chocolate and peanut butter Nestle chips I've had hanging around for God know's what. And finally, I didn't have the originally called for puffed rice cereal in the house, so I used corn flakes. And frankly, without even trying this with the puffed rice, I know the corn flakes made it even better. The crunch is much more pronounced and that's what I'm talkin' bout. ;)

Chocolate Crunch Brownies

Many thanks to Nancy Alexander and Country Woman magazine (the recipe is available online, but you must be a subscriber to read it so I couldn't link), as well as Recipezaar for sharing this recipe. =)

Chocolate Crunch Brownies
Chocolate Crunch Brownies

The recipe below is written with my changes. Go here for the original recipe.

Serves 36

1 c. butter, softened
2 c. sugar
4 eggs
1/3 c. baking cocoa
1 c. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. vanilla extract (I used vanilla paste)
1/2 tsp. salt (I used 3/4 tsp. to give it a lil more saltiness with all that chocolate)
1 (7 oz.) jar marshmallow creme
1 c. creamy peanut butter
2 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips (12 ounces)
3 c. corn flake cereal

Preheat oven to 350º F. Grease (or spray with Pam w/flour baking non-stick spray) a 9" x 13" x 2" Pyrex baking dish, set aside.

In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar; add eggs. Stir in cocoa, flour, vanilla, and salt.

Spread into prepared baking pan.

Bake 25 minutes or until brownies test done.

Cool. Spread marshmallow creme over cooled brownies.

In a small saucepan, melt peanut butter and chocolate chips over low heat, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; stir in the cereal. Spread over marshmallow layer.

Chill before cutting.

Chocolate Crunch Brownies

My Notes: The brownies rose as if they were going to be cake-like in the oven. But once they started to cool, they flattened out and were of the chewy variety, as I was hoping for.

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Monday, May 28, 2007

A Quest for Thinner Thighs.. Hips.. Tummy.. Elbows.. ect.

About a month and a half ago, Kelly and I were discussing how miserable it is to be dieting and eating the same old salads over and over again. Granted, a salad is one of the most versatile recipes EVER. You can add almost ANYTHING to a salad. But.. well.. not so much speaking for Kel as I am for myself here, sometimes I just can't think of new and exciting ways to make a salad. For instance, take salad dressings. There are BILLIONS of salad dressing recipes out there and the salad dressing section of my grocery store is now almost half of a whole aisle. Gone are the days of Italian, French, 1000 Island, Catalina, Ranch and Bleu Cheese. Now we have vinaigrettes! We have emulsions! We have creamy, thin, sweet, savory, herby, thick.. Christ we even have Spritzers! Which, I'll have you all know, was invented by my own mom!! Yes it was.. she's been spritzing balsamic vinegar on her salads for YEARS! And all that time I was looking at her as if she had a third eye situated squarely between her brows. Now some other lucky spritzing bastard is a millionaire. Go figure.

Where was I?

Ahh yes.. salads and the varieties of them and their dressing. How's about those pasta types? The seafood salads! The macaroni salads! The potato salads! That green jiggly stuff each and every one of our Aunt Edna's use to make for every single family reunion EVER. Yep, you don't even need to have lettuce to make a salad. It's a beautiful thing!

And so.. we realized that even though there are billions of salad recipes out there - we just didn't trust those cook bookery chefs nor our own grocery market shelves - we want our fellow foodie friends to turn us on to their favorite salads and dressings and what have you that can be called salad! Your opinions are what we count on! So - we're askin'.. can you hook us up? Pretty please?


We're allowing almost a full month before we wrangle up everyone's submissions and put 'em all together for some one stop shopping! ('kay two - Kel and I will split the round up) June 25th is the deadline. Round up will be July 1st. There are no rules to which kind(s) of salads you wanna share - just as long as it can be called "salad". Post your recipe on your blog and send an e-mail to either Kelly or myself with the permalink and the subject: Salad Stravaganza! If you'd like to include a picture, we'd be extremely grateful, but it's not a requirement. =)

Help my hips and thighs out, people! They're begging you!

Many, many thanks!

Kelly & Lisa


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Sunday, May 27, 2007

Happy Belated St. Honore's Day!

Well here we are, challenge post day again. Time flies when you are slingin' molten hot sugar around your kitchen, pipin' out some delicious cream puffs and rollin' rollin' rollin' the puff pastry, eh?

As per usual, I'm not going to reiterate what most of you have already read on my extremely talented Daring Baker friend's blogs.. by now, I'm sure you know what this month's challenge is and who it is a tribute to. I'd bet you also probably know that this month's wonderful hostess, and French pastry chef, was Helene from Tartelette with help from an equally amazing pastry chef, Anita of Dessert First. Thank you for choosing an awesome challenge this month!!

Right off the bat, before I take you all down with me into the fiery depths of pastry hell, (just kidding!) I want to say that I thought last month's challenge was exceptional because it taught me how to make crepes and that ridiculously tasty Italian meringue buttercream. Little did I know that this month I'd be learning how to make Pate a Choux and Diplomat Cream.. not to mention, honing my skills at making puff pastry! Fantabulous challenge this month. Fanfarkingtabulous.

Gateau St. Honore
Okay raise your hand if you were the first to notice I didn't pipe any whipped cream on!! Mmm hmmm.. as with the rings - I also forgot the whipped cream. Who's the Queen of Dorkdum? I so deserve my crown...

A few Daring Bakers and I went a slightly different route this year MONTH.. apparently e-mail is just to slow in getting our panic attacks sent back and forth to each other, (and by "our" I mean "me") so this month we opted for live chat on Yahoo. Unfortunately, I had to get my freakin' grocery shopping done before I could partake in the making of the gateau along with Sara, Mary and Helene, so they had started before me. Actually, go back and strike the "unfortunate" part of that run-on sentence. It was VERY fortunate for me, because I got to once again, reap the benefits of their trials and tribulations. (secret "heeeeeee!" - shhhh!) I learned from both Mary and Sara that our No. 4 tips were way too small for piping cream puffs and drawing concentric choux circles on our puff pastry bases. I learned that you must cook the custard base of the Diplomat cream until it's of pudding consistency or your Diplomat cream could turn out too thin..

And yes, I am fully aware that I'll be receiving my comeuppance, sooner rather than later, for reaping such rewards. Fully. Aware. I'm already envisioning explosions in my kitchen, sunken souffles for the rest of my life and another appearance of the Mothership in the least likely places.

So anyhoo.. I actually did not have many other problems this month. Oh wait.. me with no problems? MUAHAHAHAAAAA!! As if.

First let's start with the puff pastry. Remember those croissants from way back when? Well I do. That process is still fresh in my memory and I did not want to relive anything like it again for quite some time. It's been, what? Seven months since then? Yeah, not long enough yet. I had made up my mind the minute I saw Helene was giving us permission to use store-bought puff pastry that I was going that route. And then someone (I'm sending the evil eye out to whoever it was - even though I can't remember who you are) mentioned that the only puff pastry I can find in these parts is not made with real butter. I was instantly squicked. And now it made sense as that particular store-bought puff pastry leaves a bit of a waxy feeling in your mouth after you eat it. squick! squick! squick!

So, for TWO days, I tried to find a local store that sold another puff pastry that is known for it's use of real butter. As per fakkin' usual, I find out that the bad juju is setting in, and no one sells it any where within a 50 mile radius of me. Fakk. So, what do I do next? I call them at their headquarters to order some to be over-nighted to me. heee! Lazy much?

Did you already forget about my bad juju? The rather rude phone answerer type person told me they'd have to have a sales person call me back. I mentioned that I was in a time constraint and I wanted to order that day so that I'd receive it by Friday. He assured me, in a rather bored tone of voice, that I'd receive a call in an hour. Mmmm hmmm... that was at 11:30 Thursday morning. At noon on SATURDAY, I started my puff pastry. Fakkers never did call me back. But, I'm happy to say that this recipe wasn't nearly as difficult as the croissant recipe was. But then maybe it wasn't so difficult BECAUSE of the croissant recipe. Either or, I made my own and it turned out wonderfully.

Gateau St. Honore
Actually my Diplomat cream wasn't runny at all.. this is what happens when you leave this gateau out on your counter when you thought you had put it in the fridge 2 hours earlier. Gah.

Moving along to the Pate a Choux.. do you have ANY idea how long I've wanted to learn how to make Pate a Choux so I could make gougeres (cheese puffs!)? A LONG time! I was quite tickled to be put in this position.. I could conquer whatever fear I had about making it because I had the support of the DB's behind me. Party on! Needless to say, Pate a Choux is extremely easy to make and I'm kickin' myself in the ass for not making it years ago. I doubled the recipe and divided it into the cream puffs for the Gateau St. Honore, cream puffs for Hubbs (dipped in chocolate doncha know ;) ) and lil delectable puffs made with gouda cheese, small dice of ham and snipped chives. WOO! I promptly froze those, as I had enough on my plate for one day. :)

Finally it was the cream.. not even going to say much, because I had no problems and it turned out delicious (Thanks Mary! Thanks Sara! *duck*). Actually better than delicious. I guess I did have one problem with it.. stopping myself from eating all of it with a spoon and the scraps of puff pastry I had baked. I flavored mine with Grand Marnier as I did with the Italian meringue buttercream I made last month. It just hit me.. both were so amazingly good, what would be better than a cake made of Diplomat cream frosted with the Italian meringue buttercream! HAHAHA I crack myself up some times.


At this point, both Mary and Sara had finished their cakes. Mary had left the panic session to go pack for her trip back to NY the next day and Sara left to, apparently, wash the molten hot sugar from her hair and extremities. HAHAHAHAA! That post was hysterical. God love her. I still had Helene by my side, and ohhh was she in for 1,000 questions. And, I have to say - even though this post has already ran past the allotted time and the orchestra is now playing the cut to commercial music, Helene did a FANTASTIC job answering everyone's questions this month. Not only did she help me through every step of the process, but it seemed as if she had her laptop hooked to her side 24/7 the whole month, because I can't recall anyone asking a question and her not answering it within a couple hours. She also provided many visual aids that, in my opinion, really helped quite a few of us envision what our final product should look like. Many thanks, Helene, you rock!

Okay.. they are now motioning to me from the wings to get my ass in gear and get off the f'n stage already. Quickly.. my components all came together nicely, even though I might have kinda forgotten to pipe the 4 circles of choux onto the puff pastry. Hmm... I wondered how I ended up with so much Pate a Choux to make 20 cream puffs for the hubby. Doh. But other than that, and 3 tries at making caramel because apparently St. Honore was looking down on Bril and her perfect sugar, instead of concentrating on ME DAMMIT.. *ahem*

Well as you might expect, the boy was not interested in anything but his chocolate covered cream puffs that night, so the cake went in to work with me the next day and it got RAVE REVIEWS! Everyone loved it. I had a small piece and thought it was just delicious.. which I had wondered about from the beginning because I knew the puff pastry and the Pate a Choux weren't going to be very sweet.. but that is a good thing because the cream & caramel were plenty. The other nice thing I enjoyed about this cake was the different textures. That was really, a nice surprise.

Gateau St. Honore
Hi lil thread of sugar that isn' t suppose to be there!

'kay kids, you know the routine by now - start clicking on the Daring Baker list to the right and check out everyone else's amazing posts! You'll be delighted that you did. =)

Ohhh.. sorry! One more thing - a HUGE THANK YOU to all who are so supportive of the Daring Bakers and who want to join up in the ranks! Truly, you guys and gals are amazing Ivonne and I on a daily basis with your interest! As you can see, we are growing steady each month and we look forward to continued growth in the future. But, and there is always a but, due to administrative duties and organization of such a large group of talented bakers, we had to close down membership for June already. But anyone who is interested in joining will be added to the July membership list, just contact Ivonne or I and we'll get you added. Thanks again!


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Monday, May 21, 2007

The First Interview That Didn't Make My Palms Sweat

While reading one of my favorite blogs, Lucullian Delights, I came upon a post by the gorgeous Ilva that was an interview of sorts. She had been reading another a blog where the author had answered some questions from an interview and in return asked her readers if they'd like to be interviewed. Obviously, Ilva asked to be interviewed and she answered some really good questions pertaining to herself, not just some generic questions that have floated through the internets like those adorable (blechhhh) quizzes about yourself that all of your friends need to read to "get to know you". Ugh.

At the end of her interview she asked if we'd like to be interviewed and I didn't take more than 1/2 second to comment, "YES PLEASE!" A week or so ago, I received my interview questions from Ilva and have taken the time to think about the answers. This was fun and different, I enjoyed your questions, Ilva. =)

1. I asked Marce this but I just have to ask you too, what do you prefer, baking or cooking?
This one didn't require thinking, I answered it immediately - COOKING. God.
I love being a part of the Daring Bakers - and I am learning so many new things each month (this month kicked ass, kids!) but I don't have the patience. As some of you know, a couple of my challenge posts might give off the impression that I get a lil "stressed" while baking. Baking is precise. Cooking is not.. if I screw something up while cooking, 9 out of 10 times I can fix it.. if I screw something up in baking - I throw it out and try again. Gah. But don't get me wrong, I do enjoy it.. but ask me to make you a crepe cake or spaghetti and you'll be getting spaghetti for dessert. :P

2. Likes and dislikes about blogging please?
The number one thing I like LOVE about blogging is the people I've met. Granted, most of these people I'll never meet in person, and I'm okay with that because we all have to be realistic at least once in our lives, eh? As long as we can chat through e-mail, comments or on the phone, I can live without physically being there, as much as I'd like to be. The thing I dislike is, cyber hugs are really nice.. but I do wish I could give each and every one of you a real hug. =)
Secondly I like LOVE the recipes and the creativeness of my fellow foodie bloggers. You people BLOW ME AWAY! You inspire me to experiment more in my kitchen, you give me more confidence in my kitchen and you make me want to be a better cook. As for my favorite non-foodie bloggers.. you just bring me joy, laughter, tears and you make me think about things I wouldn't normally think about. What I dislike about this is, well nothing really - other than my growing list of recipes I "MUST MAKE" - Dear Sweet Jebus, there is no fakkin way I'll get through that list in my lifetime.
And finally (although I could go on forever I'm sure) what I like LOVE about blogging is expressing myself and having an outlet that allows me to write (I do it badly but I love to write). Journal keeping is nice and I've done it all my life - but it's not as much fun making myself laugh as it is making you laugh. Which is what I hope I'm doing.. at least once in a while. ;) On the flip side, I don't like so much that I can't be completely open. I try to keep my family, friends and work out of my blog as much as possible. Which actually, is probably a good thing after all - or this blog would turn into the biggest ranting and raving blog you've ever read (don't EVEN get me started about work) and not so much about food anymore. hehee

3. Who would be your ideal dinner guest? And your dream guest?
I guess my ideal dinner guest would be someone who really appreciated what I cooked for them. Not just a "that was great" and a burp at the end of it all, but someone who really let me know they appreciated the time and effort I put into it. Oh yeah and of course, they'd jump right up after praising me and wash my dishes. haha! No, not really.. ?
My dream guest.. hmm.. this one is a toughie. I first thought about saying one of the many chefs or foodie bloggers that have inspired and taught me the most.. you know, so I can show them what they've done for me by making them a fabulous meal and a perfectly decorated and delicious cake (this is a dream guest, remember!). But, and don't look now but she got all mooshey on us - my dream guest would be my dad. I never got to cook for him. Sure I made his dinners when he was sick, but he wouldn't eat much more than a plate of garlic & oil spaghetti (up until the day he died, kids! How's that for a dedicated Dago? Garlic to the end!), salads & a sandwich now and again. I never got to make him my lasagna, my version of his linguine & clam sauce, hell any of my versions of his recipes. The sauce! Holy shit, I know he'd pinch himself if he knew I made the sauce now. Yeah.. my dad would definitely be my dream guest - I'd make him a little of everything and I'd tell him how much I love him and I'd thank him for teaching me so much.

4. When you were a little girl, what did you dream of?
hahaha! I didn't dream of cooking, that's for sure!! I wanted nothing to do with cooking when I was younger (pre-teen). Do you know what I thought about? Sharks. Yep.. sharks, rays and skates. I was totally fascinated by them and I read anything and everything I could get my hands on regarding them. I wanted to be an Ichthyologist when I grew up! It was cool, when I was in the 4th grade my teacher noticed what I was reading and she brought me in lots of books on the subject. Eugenie Clark was my idol. I especially loved her books describing what it was like to fall in love with a shark she'd seen at an aquarium and growing up to become an Ichthyologist. But alas, there aren't too many oceans in Ohio.. and then the thought of squeezing my thighs into a wet suit wasn't as appealing anymore.. so yeah, I kinda grew out of fantasizing about swimming with sharks. Boys also had a good deal in helping with that. Bad boys! Bad! :P

5. And I have asked this before to other interviewees but I just love to hear how people met their partners so where and how did you meet your husband?
Well this one isn't much of a story really. We work together. So I met him at my place of employment almost 11 years ago. He was married at the time. And for the first couple years we were the "Hi. Bye. How was your weekend?" kind of friends. I'd say it was my 2nd year there when we found out he and his wife were divorcing. Maybe 8 months or so after that, one of the guys asked me if I'd like to join all of them in taking him out to cheer him up. I agreed, and that night he and I ended up sitting at a table together just BS'ing and we realized we had lots in common - which is kinda weird as he's quite a bit older than I am. So after that night, we started to become better friends.. he'd take me fishing on the occasional weekend. Nothing too shocking, just hanging out once in a while. But as the months passed, we spent more and more time together and I'd say about a year later we decided to take it to another level and here we are today. We've been together now for 7 years. =)

So that's it! My interview is over and I had fun! Thanks Ilva!

Now comes the part where I tell you how you can carry on this interview thing, if you'd like.

1. Leave a comment saying, "Interview me."
2. I will respond by emailing you five questions. Beware, I'm not shy of asking personal questions! Please make sure I have your email address.
3. You will update your blog with the answers to the questions.
4. You will include this explanation and offer to interview someone else in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

That's pretty much how Ilva wrote the instructions and I liked the part about not being shy of asking personal questions so I kept it. :D 'kay kids.. let me know that you want to be interviewed and I promise to get your questions to you as soon as I can! =)



Tuesday, May 15, 2007

A Festival of Burgers!

Or.. Paul's Big Burger Ballyhoo of 2007!

When I first read of Paul's (half of the dynamic duo of Paul & Freya's Writing at the Kitchen Table) idea, I thought it to be fabulous - I mean, really, loads of burger recipes at your fingertips? What could be better? I knew I'd be submitting but I wasn't sure which burger I would be passing along to the internets. What appeared to be an easy task, ended up being not so much. As per usual, I didn't think about my standard burger, I wanted something with a lil more pizazz, yanno? And as per usual, I hit my favorite recipe sites and quite a few more when it was all said and done. I found myself 2 burger recipes that I knew would put me in the running for the Goat Saliva that's being offered as a prize. *gurgle* *horf* *beeuuuickkkk* *kurrrdddddddd*

We tried both recipes.. one involved a fried egg! The other involved cheese.. and lots of it. After trying both we realized, ehhh? They were okay but not really our cup of tea. (Although I did love the fried egg - it's just the rest of the burger was so bland)

What we both learned from this experience is that we are pretty much burger purists. We want our burgers to be flavorful without a lot of accessories to "beef" up that flavor. We're not big on lettuce, cheese, tomato, etc. A pickle once in a while is a good thing, maybe a big slice of raw onion too.. but that's about it. And as for the hamburger bun? Unless it's a home made, fresh from the oven bun, we're not too interested. We like garlic bread instead of a traditional bun, actually. Be it thick or thin, as long as it's garlicky, a lil buttery and toasted, we are happy campers!

Ranch onion burgers

And so, my submission is not the big show stopping, goat saliva worth winning burger - it's just our favorite burger that we make 9 out of 10 times. I don't even know if Paul & Freya are going to be able to try out this recipe, as it includes powdered ranch dressing mix and those lil french fried onions that come in little cannisters.. can you even get those items in England? Well.. I hope so! =)

Onion Ranch Burgers
Lisa's Ranch Onion Burgers

Makes 4 burgers

Ground sirloin is just not a good choice for burgers.. it's too damn dry. If you are going to have a burger - then go for a lil fat. It's that moderation thing, right? =)

For the burger:
1.5 lbs. ground round
1 packet of ranch dressing mix (I use Hidden Valley)
1/2 - 3/4 c. French Fried Onions (I believe I use Durkee brand?)
2 TBS. Worchestershire sauce
Pinch of salt
Ground black pepper

For the garlic bread
8 slices of thick or thin sliced Italian bread
4 TBS butter
2-3 cloves garlic, put through a garlic press
1 tsp. dried parsley
1 TBS. grated Parmiagiano or Romano cheese

Heat the grill up to temperature (We usually go up to 350º - 400º and then turn down the heat when the burger are ready to go on). Meanwhile in a large bowl mix all the burger ingredients well. Sometimes when I've got extra time or am feelin' a lil saucy, I'll run all the ingredients through the grinder attachment of my Kitchenaid.
Separate the hamburger mixture into 4 baseball sized hunks and flatten each with the palm of your hand until they are about 1/2 inch thick.

When placing the burgers on the grill, you can brush on a little extra Worchestershire sauce first. Totally optional. Grill the burgers for about 4-5 minutes (guestimate?) on each side, do NOT, press down on the burger - just let it sit there and get all grill-marky delicious.

While the burgers are cooking, mix the pressed garlic in with the butter (roasted garlic paste is also wonderful instead of the raw pressed garlic), then add the parsley & cheese. Spread the garlic butter mixture on one side of each slice of bread and either place butter side down in a hot skillet until golden brown (like you are making a toasted cheese sammich), or broil them, butter side up, under the broiler until goldeny brown. Leave the other side alone, or if you wish, lightly toast that side as well.

Build your burger as you wish - we just like a lil ketchup and a pickle and/or slice of raw onion. Devour.

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Saturday, May 12, 2007

WCC No. 16 - Something New!

When my friend, Sara of i like to cook, announced the theme for this month's Weekend Cookbook Challenge, "Something New" I knew exactly what I'd be submitting. I had actually made this recipe a few days before her announcement and have been saving it ever since.

Originally, what I was going for was kind of shady in my mind. I kept thinking of this concoction my father use to make - it was basically sliced peppers in olive oil with a bunch of spices. YUM. But I wanted something a little more substantial - something with lots of veggies. Something I could spread on crackers, use as a bruschetta topping or serve with crudités. Something that was savory and filling that would be the perfect nibbler during Boston Legal (Ohhh Alan & Denny - you make the best couple EVER) or served to friends who come over for cards or just to hang out.

So this is a "new" recipe, something I've never had before and so far, something that my friends had never had either.. everyone of them has asked for the recipe. It's that good. Although this isn't an oil based antipasto like I had originally thought to make, it is as delicious as my dad's peppers and I just wish he was here to try it - he'd go crazy over this stuff! You've got tons of different veggies, Italian tuna and anchovies bathed in a light tomato sauce. Warm or cold, spread on crackers or a big slice of crusty bread - this antipasto is what I like to rate as "drool worthy" in the spirit of Elaine Benes' "sponge worthy". The flavors all work so well with each other and the tuna and anchovies give it just the right amount of salty goodness.


I'd say the only drawbacks of this recipe is that it's kind of expensive to make - but you do get a BOATLOAD of it. The original recipe made 15 pints. FIFTEEN. So it all evens out in the end. I halved this recipe, as the only other drawback is space. I don't can things, I'm afraid of it.. I tried tomatoes one time and it was just a disaster - especially 2 months later *shudder* - so I chose to freeze the bulk of this and even with 3 freezers, it's hard to find room for 8 bags of antipasto. hehe

And one other thing, before I share the recipe, is that if you decide to make this delicious antipasto, don't make the same mistake that I did by cutting the veggies too big. You definitely want to spend the extra time in dicing most of the vegetables. (you can get more on the cracker that way.. heehehe)

Courtesy of Derf and Recipezaar

Recipe makes 15 pints

2 large green peppers (I used yellow because they're my favorites)
4 large carrots
2 cans pitted black olives
1 (16 oz.) jar broken green olives
2 (12 oz.) jars pickling onions
2 (4 oz.) jars pimientos
1 (48 oz.) jar sweet pickles (I substituted these with asparagus tips)
1 large cauliflower
8 oz. olive oil
5 cloves garlic, smashed
2 (15 oz.) bottles ketchup
1 (15 oz.) bottle hot ketchup (I omitted this as well, didn't know what it was)
1 cup red wine
2 (5 1/2 oz.) cans tomato paste
1 TBS. dried oregano
2 (14 oz.) cans artichokes
2 (10 oz.) cans mushroom pieces
2 cans anchovies, chopped (Even when halving the recipe, I only used 1/2 of 1 jar)
3 (7 oz.) cans Italian tuna

Chop green peppers, cut carrots into julienne strips.

Chop ripe olives, green olives, pickled onions, pimiento, sweet pickle and set aside.
Break cauliflower into bite sized pieces.

Put 2 oz. of olive oil into frying pan and add 2 cloves garlic, add cauliflower and saute. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a large pot add remaining olive oil and saute the remaining 3 cloves of garlic, add ketchup, wine, tomato paste and oregano.

Add chopped vegetables, pickles, olives, artichokes, pimiento, cauliflower and mushrooms.

Simmer for 10 minutes, stirring frequently.

Add anchovies and tuna to mixture and bring to a boil, stirring constantly to prevent sticking.

Serve for use immediately, refrigerate for up to 2 weeks, place in containers for freezing or place immediately in hot sterilized jars.*

*Note: If you are going to can this recipe, I suggest you read the comments on the recipezaar site - it could be dangerous canning low acid foods such as olives and seafood. If you've got the room, I recommend freezing - this way you'll have no worries. =)

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Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Italian Tuna and Pasta - Killer Combination!

When I saw this dish on one of my most favoritest blogger's blog I knew immediately that I'd be making it this week for dinner. The favoritest blogger? The extremely talented Patricia of Technicolor Kitchen! The dish? Pasta Shells with Italian Tuna and Artichokes! The verdict? Delish!

Pasta shells w/Italian tuna, spinach, tomato & hearts of palm

Now being me, I hadda fiddle with this just a lil to give it an Italian spin and because of some personal preferences. And how easy it was to add and/or take away from what is a magnificent base recipe for my playing around fun. I had to omit the artichokes, as he won't eat them - so I subbed sliced hearts of palm instead. I had a lovely bag of baby spinach and some grape tomatoes that were screaming to be used so I tossed them in as well.. Ohhhhh God was this dish is a winner!

Granted, you must like canned tuna to dig this dish, because you really taste it. I think that was my favorite part, because to me, Italian tuna in olive oil is a special treat - especially when used in this way where it's one of the main ingredients.

Italian tuna & olive oil

The sauce on it's own was very light and flavorful. It really needed nothing else, but again.. me being me.. I added a handful of Pecorino and a few ladles of the pasta water. It made the sauce just the right kind of creamy while still keeping it light. Delish!

And so it is with great gratitude that I express my thankfulness at being lucky enough to have seen Patricia's post featuring her friend, Terry, who is the author of this recipe. After making a recipe of Patricia's and cross posting about it, this time it was Terry's turn to provide the recipe and well.. Thanks to you too, Terry! :)

Pasta shells w/Italian tuna, spinach, tomato & hearts of palm

Below is my take on this light and super easy pasta dish - as well as my submission to this week's Presto Pasta! hosted by the lovely, Ruth of Once Upon a Feast. =)

Pasta shells w/Italian tuna, spinach, tomato & hearts of palm
Pasta Shells with Italian Tuna, Grape Tomatoes & Baby Spinach
Adapted from the recipe, Pasta Shells with Italian Tuna & Artichokes by Terry & Patricia

2 6 oz. cans imported Italian tuna in olive oil
1 10.5 oz. can of hearts of palm, pre-sliced
¼ cup capers, drained (I had to omit the capers in mine as I couldn't open the damn jar!)
1 large garlic clove, minced
2 tsp. olive oil
1 bag of baby spinach
1/2 of carton of grape tomatoes (about 10-15)
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 c. of grated Pecorino Romano cheese
12 oz. medium pasta shells

Bring a large pot of water to boil to cook pasta. While water is coming to a boil, in a large enough skillet to accomodate all ingredients (including cooked pasta) saute the garlic in a 2 tsp. of olive oil, over medium low to medium heat, until lightly golden. Add the tuna with the oil, hearts of palm & tomatoes and saute until the tomato skins slightly wrinkle, about 3 minutes.

When water comes to boil, salt it generously, then cook pasta according to package directions, until al dente. Right before your pasta is ready, add the baby spinach to the tuna mixture and fold until the spinach is wilted.

Using a pasta spoon or slotted spoon, transfer the shells and add them to the skillet with the tuna mixture. It's okay if you don't drain the shells completely with each transfer. Alternately, you can drain the shells in a colander, just keep a 1/2 cup of the starchy pasta water to make the sauce. Once you've transferred the shells, sprinkle the Pecorino over everything and stir until sauce is creamy. If it's dry, add a little of the pasta water in small amounts, you don't want to use so much water that it washes out the wonderful flavors of this dish. Finish the dish with a sprinkling of black pepper or a few turns of a cracked pepper mill.

This makes enough for 4 servings, or 2 generous servings and a kick-ass lunch the next day! :D

Pasta shells w/Italian tuna, spinach, tomato & hearts of palm

*Note: Patricia and Terry did not cook the tuna mixture, but mixed it in a separate bowl big enough to accomodate the cooked pasta. Once the pasta was done, it was mixed in with the tuna mixture, or as Patricia calls it, the salsa cruda. I decided to saute all my ingredients over med heat so that my tomatoes would cook down a little and to make sure my spinach wilted properly. So either way you want to prepare this dish, you'll get excellent results.

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Monday, May 07, 2007

A Taste of Yellow

When I first read Barbara's A Taste of Yellow post, I knew immediately that I'd be participating. For I am a cancer survivor. I kicked it's ass and I'm quite proud of it. I had to give up the option of ever having kids, and although that saddens me at least twice a day, it was a small price to pay for being able to still be here with my family and friends.


In November of 2005, I was called back in to see my doctor after having a routine pap smear. The first one I'd had in 4 years.* I was then sent to my OB/GYN who did a biopsy, which came back positive. 'kay so I just wrote two paragraphs of what I went through and deleted it.. suffice to say that after all attempts at saving the cervix failed, my only option was to have a radical hysterectomy including removal of the near-by lymph nodes.

Amazingly my bout with cancer lasted 2 months only. It's amazing how far some cancer treatments have come. When first diagnosed, I thought for sure I'd be dealing with this for at least 6 months. This past December, I had my 1 year check-up and all results came back negative. =)

So you see, I am eternally grateful for people like Lance Armstrong and his LIVESTRONG Day as well as Barbara of Winos and Foodies and her A Taste of Yellow event - these are survivors who take action, who try to make a difference. I don't believe for a minute, that cancer treatment and cures would be where they are today if it weren't for people like Lance and Barbara raising awareness about cancer issues. And that's a true statement.

It is with great pleasure that I can participate in such a worthy cause, even if it's just with a simple recipe that took no more than 30 minutes of my time. To even be a miniscule part of helping to make people aware, is a great honor. Thank you to Barbara for organizing this wonderful event! =)

Well.. my yellow food, she ain't yeller. But she smells yellow and she tastes yellow - so that counts right? Months ago as I clicked on one of my favorite blogs, Danielle's Habeas Brulee, I found a post she had written about finding a piece of scrap granite that was hers for the taking, and all the ass pain she went through to get that free slab of stone home.

Lemon Chocolate Chip Cookies

Although Danielle's post was fun to read, it was the cookies that stayed in my memory these past 5 months. I KNEW I'd make them at some point. It may not have been immediate, but I knew they wouldn't sit in my "Must Make" pile forever. The cookies are called "Lemon Chocolate Chunk Cookies" and the photo she shared of them was extremely drool-worthy. Oh yeah, baby.

I had found an excellent opportunity to make these cookies, as they were a pretty shade of yellow and fit the requirements of this event perfectly. Now, I followed Danielle's recipe - my only change was to use chips instead of chunks of chocolate (as I had depleted my stash of good chocolate on The Martha's Crepe Cake) - but mine did not turn out looking even remotely like hers. Mine look like your normal chocolate chip cookie, with maybe a slight twinge of lemony color. But what's fabulous about them is you can smell the lemon and when you take a bite, the lemon flavor stands out. It's wonderful.. truly. And as we all know.. I'm all about the chocolate/citrus combo these days, eh? (DUDES! I'M THE FIRST BROWNIEBABE! WOOOOO!!)

I'm copying Danielle's recipe exactly as she has it on her blog, but I really urge you to go check it out for yourselves. You'll see what I mean about total drool worthiness. Not to mention, this gal can cook! If you haven't been reading Habeas Brulee yet - do yourself a favor and click on over there and read, read, drool, read!

Lemon Chocolate Chip Cookies
Danielle's Lemon Chocolate Chunk Cookies
Courtesy of Danielle of Habeas Brulee

1/2 C unsalted butter
Zest of 4 lemons
3/8 C granulated sugar
3/8 C packed dark brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 egg
1 1/8 C all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 C chocolate chunks

Preheat the oven to 375º.

You can use store-bought chocolate chips for this if you like, but I prefer to take a hunk of good chocolate and cut it into large chunks myself.

Cream the butter, lemon zest, and sugars together until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg and vanilla extract. At low speed, beat in the flour, salt, and baking soda just until blended. Add the chocolate chunks and mix in until evenly distributed.

Prepare baking sheets lined with parchment paper.

Place heaping tablespoons of dough on the baking sheets about 2″ apart.

Bake 10-12 minutes, or until lightly golden and done.

Lemon Chocolate Chip Cookies

*Note: Ladies, please don't be stupid like I was. As much of a pain in the arse it is to get your yearly pap smear done, it's crucial that you do not skip it. Had I not blown my test off for 4 years, the cancer could have been caught in the early, early stages and I'd most likely still have all of my pieces parts. This means the decision to have children or not, would not have been taken away from me, without my having a choice.


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Friday, May 04, 2007

A Good Example of Why a Knock-off is a Knock-off

My friend, Sara, of i like to cook recently posted a fun week of sandwiches. I tend to overlook sandwiches in favor of something more complicated. I know! What the hell is wrong with me? Well after reading 7 days worth of delicious and unique sammies on her blog, I got myself a cravin'.. a bad, bad craving. A "so not on your diet you hog!" kinda sammich. I tried to not give in, but well.. I haven't had chocolate in 4 fakkin' days!! That's FOUR DAYS WITHOUT MY LIFE SOURCE people! Okay well, I guess I just lied again. I did enjoy a handful of mini chocolate flavored rice cakes the other day. And by enjoy I mean, blech ewww puke buickkkkkkk.

My craving was for a delicious Monte Cristo. (I know, could I have picked a worse sammich? I think not.) I had my choice of two recipes. A knock off of Bennigan's Monte Cristo, which I've had and enjoyed quite a bit. Theirs was crispedy, crunchedy and light and airy.. yes, although it is a DEEP FRIED sandwich, theirs was not heavy.

My other choice was a Monte Cristo with a lighter batter and baked, not deep fried. This one was much lower on fat (really, Lis? I never would have guessed.) and had mustard on it. It got rave reviews.. the kind that mostly said, "I've ate a 100 deep fried Monte Cristo sammies and your version is not only healthy but tastes equisite!"

So which one did I go for?





For those of you who guessed the baked one.. you obviously haven't been reading my blog for very long. :P

Bennigan's Monte Cristo

OF COURSE I went for the deep fried version.. Paula Deen IS my idol after all! Hello? Have ya'll been drinking?

And so I began to make the batter and as I was mixing in the huge amount of flour to the lesser amount of liquid, I thought something might be awry.. this was a very thick batter and dipping my triple decker whole wheat, roasted chicken (went with real chicken as opposed to buying pieces/parts deli turkey slices), bavarian ham, swiss & american cheesed sammich was not easy. You know how you are walking on wet ground and you accidentally step in a mud hole? First you are sqicked, but you keep going only to realize that your next step is shoeless? Because the mud sucked your shoe right off your left foot? Yeah well my poor sammich kept getting it's chicken sucked out from the bread because this stuff was so damn thick. But I persevered.. you know me.. where a normal person would thin out that batter before going on, not I. No sir. I'm bound and determined to get my sammich dipped without losing any more scrumptious chicken breast by trying a different technique - you know a different wrist bend angle? To try to "slide" the sammich in under the goop and then twist the wrist to outsmart the goo by giving it a fake left and then rushing the right?

I had a lot of chicken breast to pick outta the batter.

Bennigan's Monte Cristo<

After getting my sammich all battered up I gently layed it in the deep fryer and right before my eyes I watched my whole wheat bread absorb that oil. Mmm mmm good. I figured if I just let it set in there for a while, the sandwich would eventually repel all that oil. That the thick coating of protective goo would shield my sammich from the bad juju of the hot oil.

While taking it out of the oil and letting the excess grease drain, I realized that my sammich had gained about 50 pounds. That sucker got heavy! I laid it on some paper towels to absorb the excess oil (PLEASE DON'T TELL ALTON) and carried on making a second sammich for Hubbs.

Once both were done, we sat down to watch Ugly Betty and enjoy our restaurant knock-off Monte Cristo sammiches. I made it to about 1/2 of a 1/2 of the sammich. He made it to a little over half before we just dropped them back down on the plate and sat there feeling as if someone had poured cement down our gullets while we weren't looking. God.

Bennigan's Monte Cristo

Why am I posting such a crappy sammich? Well.. I'm thinking that this could have potential. Maybe using canola oil for the frying wasn't the right kind of oil? Maybe if the batter is thinned out it'd take less time to get to it's golden brown deliciousness and therefore wouldn't be as heavy, but more like the crispedy, crunchedy light and airy version that Bennigan's serves. But maybe, this post will jar your memory about how good a Monte Cristo can be and you'll all go search out the baked version and try that one instead. ;)

I'm not even going to post this recipe.. if you are adventurous and want to try to make it the traditional way, then check it out here

Bennigan's Monte Cristo

I hope everyone enjoy's their weekend! We've got a brand new group of Daring Bakers for May and I'll have their links up this weekend, so be prepared to go check out some amazing blogs!

Salads.. I'm so about the salads for the rest of the week/weekend!

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