Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Cheese Stuffed Dates

A couple of months ago, some friends had a house warming party.  They served this appetizer.  They went fast!  I recreated them for something to snack on on Christmas day, while we were cooking and waiting for dinner.  I made half with the prosciutto and half without.

1 pound dates
4 ounces goat cheese
4 ounces marscapone cheese
10 fresh basil leaves, torn
Salt and pepper to taste
Prosciutto (optional), cut into 1 1/2 inch strips

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Slice the dates length wise and discard the pits.  In a small bowl, combine the cheeses, basil, salt, and pepper.  Stuff the dates with the cheese mixture.  If you choose to make this vegetarian, skip ahead to the baking instructions.  If not, wrap each date with a strip of prosciutto. 

Place the dates on a baking sheet (lined with aluminum foil makes clean up very easy).  Bake for about 8 minutes, or until the cheese is slightly melted and the prosciutto is crispy.  Serve while warm.

Creamy Pasta with Sun Dried Tomatoes and Mint

I was in charge of the veggies and whatnot for Christmas dinner, while my brother cooked all the meats.  I decided to have a vegetarian main dish in the form of a creamy pasta dish. 
*Sun dried tomatoes aren't shown in the picture due to a food allergy...No one's getting sick because of my food!

1 bunch of asparagus, ends trimmed
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Break the asparagus in about two inch pieces.  Then toss with the olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Roast for about 10-15 minutes, until the asparagus is just beginning to crisp.  You can also put them on a grill pan instead (or if you have a "real" grill, you can just toss them on there).  Remove from heat and set aside.

1 pound whole wheat pasta
4 ounces goat cheese
4 ounces Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint, separated
1/8-1/4 cup pasta water
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook the pasta until al dente. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the cheeses,butter, 1/4 cup mint.  Slowly add pasta water until the desired "creaminess" is achieved (don't add too quickly or sauce will be runny).  Then add salt and pepper to taste.

When pasta is cooked, drain and place in a large serving bowl.  Add the cooked asparagus, and sauce.  Toss well.  Add sun dried tomatoes for extra flavor and top with rest of mint.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Feast of the Seven Fishes!

The title of this post may be slightly off...should really be Feast of the Four Fishes (how's that for alliteration??).  Feast of the Seven Fishes is a southern Italian tradition.  It is mainly celebrated here in the United States by Italian Americans. In theory, seven fish dishes (often heavy in the shellfish department) are served on Christmas eve.  It takes hours and hours to do all the cooking and eating.  Typically, food comes in shifts.  Cook a little, eat a little, cook some more, eat some more.  Since it was just me and my father this year, we did an abridged version of four fishes instead.  (Seven seemed a bit ambitious to eat by ourselves.)  We still ate in shifts.  We cooked two of the fishes and ate them...then while we were making the next dishes, we were making room in our bellies for more.  Good system!  Here are the recipes from the night!  Oh, a pleasant surprise was the calamari.  I had always been intimidated to make it, but wow!  So light and delicious...and easy to make.  *There isn't a picture for the stuffed jumbo shrimp only because we went a little overboard with the couldn't even see the shrimp.
Baked Scallops

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
4 tablespoons flat leaf parsley, chopped
6-8 bay scallops
Salt and pepper to taste
4 tablespoons breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Spray a small baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.

In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, parsley, and salt and pepper to taste. Add the scallops and toss to coat. Allow to sit for 5-7 minutes to marinate.

Then place the scallops into the baking dish in one layer. Top with the bread crumbs and cut butter. 

Bake for about 15 minutes, until bubbly and the topping is golden.  *Check the scallops at the 10 minute mark.  If they are drying out, add a couple of tablespoons olive oil to the top and return to the oven to continue cooking.

Fried Calamari

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons dried parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
1 pound cleaned squid (tentacles too!) bodies cut into 1/3- to 1/2-inch-thick rings

Canola oil (several cups)
Lemon wedges for serving
Marinara sauce for serving

In small bowl, combine the flour, parsley, and salt and pepper.  Toss well.  Set aside.

Cut the squid into 1/2 inch rings. Leave the tentacles intact.

Meanwhile, place enough oil in a large saucepan to reach about 2-3 inches.  Heat over medium-high heat.  Make sure the oil is hot before you start (I had a "sacrificial tentacle" to test when it was hot enough.)  Place the squid in the flour mixture to coat.  Be sure to coat the entire ring (inside part too).  Then in small batches, add the squid to the oil.  Cook for about 1-2 minutes until golden brown (any longer and they get chewy).  Transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel.  Hint: cook the rings together and cook the tentacles together.  They cook at a slightly different speed so it's easier to keep track if you keep them separated.
Serve with lemon wedges and marinara.

Cod with Orange Juice, Chives, and Spinach

1 cod fillet (or other white fish like tilapia)
1 orange, juiced, seeds removed
1/4 cup chives, chopped
1/2 cup balsamic marinade (I used ones you can find at Whole Foods, a substitute can just be olive oil and balsamic vinegar)
1 cup fresh spinach, loosely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil, juice, and chives over medium heat.  Cook for five minutes.  Add the cod (whole fillet is fine).  The cod breaks apart as you cook it.  Cook for 3-5 minutes and then add the marinade.  Stir well.  Add the spinach and salt and pepper. Continue to cook for another 3-5 minutes.  Serve while hot. (Actually does well reheated for lunch the next day!)

Baked Stuffed Shrimp
Adopted from Whole Foods

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, divided

8 jumbo raw shrimp, deveined, shelled, tail left on (if you have a dad standing right there...make him do this part)  :-)
2  large cloves garlic, finely minced
1 cup fresh mushrooms, finely minced (used a food processor...easy smeasy!)
1 cup bread crumbs (I used whole wheat)
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup chopped chives
1/2 cup butter, melted
Salt and pepper
1/8 teaspoon chili pepper
Serve with lemon wedges

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a baking dish with non-stick spray.

Butterfly the shrimp so they lay flat. Place in the baking dish.

In a small saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and mushrooms mushrooms and cook for 5-7 minutes until the liquid is released.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl combine the bread crumbs, parsley, chives, butter, salt and pepper to taste, and chili powder.

When the mushrooms are done cooking, remove from heat and add the bread crumb mixture.  Combine well.  Then top the shrimp with the mixture (again we got a little zealous with how much we added...but it was so yummy!!).

Bake for 15 minutes until the shrimp are pink and the topping is lightly browned.  Serve with lemon wedges.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Coconut Macaroons

One of my favorite indulgences would have to be coconut macaroons.  So much sweetness, great texture...and my personal trainer yells at me, but oh so yummy.  I made these for a Toys for Tots bake sale yesterday.  This was our second bake sale for them and we raised about $1000 for their cause! 

1 cup all purpose flour
1 bag shredded coconut
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 ounces sweetened condensed milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line and grease a baking sheet with aluminum foil.

In a large bowl combine all the ingredients.  Drop the dough about one inch apart (they don't spread).

Bake for 12-15 minutes until lightly toasted.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Roasted Sweet Potato with Rosemary & Garlic

Sweet potatoes was on sale the other day at the market and I think I went a little overboard.  I brought home about 10 pounds of sweet potatoes...for one person.  I have gotten a little bored with just roasting it with a little salt and pepper.  This is a slight twist to keep my taste buds happy.

2 small sweet potatoes, peeled
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon rosemary (fresh or dried)
2 large garlic cloves, sliced very thinly

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Lightly oil a baking dish/pan. 

Cut the sweet potatoes in half length wise.  Make cuts in the potato in diagonals (forming a diamond shape).  Place smooth side down on the baking dish.

In a small bowl, combine the orange juice, oil, salt, and pepper. Brush the sweet potatoes with the juice mixture.  Sprinkle with rosemary over top.  Then top with the garlic.

Bake for 20-24 minutes, until sweet potatoes are soft when tested with a fork.

Scrambled Egg with Parmesan & Herbs

Tonight was definitely a breakfast for dinner kind of night.  This dish only took about five minutes total to make, so dinner was fast on my table (a plus after a long day).

1 tablespoon butter (or margarine)
2 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon dried dill
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 egg

In a small bowl, scramble the egg with a fork.  Add the dill and turmeric.

Melt the butter in a small saute pan over medium heat.  Once the cheese melts, about two minutes, add the egg mixture.  Cook for three minutes, until the egg is cooked. 

Spiced Apple with Caramel Drizzle

I made these cupcakes last week and haven't had a chance to put them up yet. I will be posting often over the next few days to keep up with the Feast of the Seven Fishes (love those Italian traditions...always centered around food).  Tonight's dessert includes handmade cannolis with ricotta, so be sure to check back often!

2 apples, peeled, cored, and chopped small
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup apple juice
1/4 cup apple sauce
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Roast the chopped apples on a baking sheet about 15 minutes, until soft. Set apples aside to cool.  Lower the oven to 350 degrees and line a cupcake tin.

In a small bowl, combine the flour, sugar, spices, salt, and baking soda. Set aside. In a large bowl, add the eggs, oil, juice, apple sauce, and vanilla. Add the flour mixture in batches to the egg mixture. Mix until smooth.  Fold in the baked apples. 

Fill the liners until about 2/3 of the way full and bake for 18 minutes. These tend to cook quickly, so if your oven is hot, be sure to keep an eye on them.

8 ounces softened cream cheese
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups confectioners sugar

Combine all ingredients, adding the sugar until the desired consistency is achieved.  Top the cooled cupcakes. *Optional* Drizzle caramel on top of the cupcakes for extra sweetness.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Bean Burger with Spicy Guacamole

After so many posts on desserts, it is necessary to branch out again. Necessary in the sense that my waistline is suffering.  These burgers have lots of protein and fiber, all while being vegan.  The guacmole adds a great kick; however, if you're not a fan of guac, I'd suggest adding some cayenne pepper to the burgers. 


1/4 cup quinoa, cooked
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 can black beans, mashed
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon cumin
2 tablespoons whole wheat flour
3 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a medium skillet.  Add the onion and cook until lightly fragrant.  Add the garlic, beans, paprika, and cumin. Remove from heat and add to a large bowl.  Combine the quinoa, flour, cilantro, salt and pepper.  Mold into a large bowl and wrap with plastic.  Refrigerate for a half hour.

To cook, mold the bean mixture into a patties.  Heat the skillet and add one tablespoon of oil.  Cook the burgers about four minutes on each side.


1 ripe avocado, peeled and pitted
2 1/2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
Juice from 1/2 lime
1 tablespoons onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1/8 - 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (to taste)

Mash the avocado in a small bowl together and combine all ingredients. Top the bean burger.

Monday, December 12, 2011


I'm a big fan of Mediterranean food.  Greek, Italian, all makes me very happy.  One of my favorite Lebanese foods is tabouleh.  I think when you go out to eat at a restaurant, it's only as good as it's hummus and tabouleh.  Tells a lot about a place. 

1 large bunch parsley, chopped
4 tablespoons bulgur (cooked)
Juice from one lemon
1 tablespoon mint, chopped
1 large tomato, chopped
1 cup romaine lettuce
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and toss well.  Allow to sit for about 20 minutes before serving to allow for flavors to meld.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Chocolate-Raspberry Torte

My very good friend, Mindy, came to visit this weekend.  Rather than run around the city doing touristy things like seeing the monuments or museums, we spent our time eating at a couple of the city's great restaurants.  We went to Founding Farmers - a place where the menu is based on sustainable and local when possible foods - where I had an amazing lemon-pepper fettuccine (note to self: figure out the recipe for this one.  Amazing!) and Zaytinya - a Greek/Mediterranean tapas-style restaurant, fast becoming one of my favorites.  While we weren't engorging ourselves on restaurant food, we were baking at home.  We made pizzelles and a very rich chocolate-raspberry tart.  I had a small piece and wow.  Mindy deserves all the credit for this one.  Thank you Mindy for the wonderful recipe!  My co-workers will be quite happy tomorrow (and my personal trainer will not be as happy with me tomorrow evening).


1 ¾ cup chocolate graham cracker crumbs (13-14 whole crackers)
½ cup sliced, toasted, cooled, and finely chopped almonds
1/3 cup sugar
7 tablespoon butter, melted

Heat oven to 350. Have ready a 9-in. tart pan with removable bottom.

Mix crust ingredients in bowl until moistened. Press over bottom and up sides of tart pan. Bake 15 minutes.


12ounces semisweet or dark chocolate chips
1 ½ cup heavy whipping cream
4 tablespoons raspberry flavored liqueur (such as Chambord)
2/3 cup seedless raspberry jam
2 tablespoons sugar

Heat chocolate chips and 1 cup of cream in microwave until chocolate melts and mixture is smooth. (Tip: heat for 30 –45 seconds at a time, stirring well after each heating. Chocolate chips will hold their shape until you stir them.) Do not cook too long or the chocolate will burn. Once mixture is melted, stir in 3 tablespoons of liqueur and let stand 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, spread raspberry jam over bottom of crust. Pour chocolate mixture over the raspberry jam layer; refrigerate 4 hours or until firm.

Shortly before serving, remove tart from pan. Beat remaining ½ cup whipping cream, 1 tablespoons liqueur, and sugar until stiff peaks form (about three minutes). Serve with tart.


Growing up, my dad would make pizzelles.  They are one of my favorites.  Light, crispy with a hint of anise.  Yum!  For those of you who aren't the biggest anise fans, don't be deterred.  I actually hate liquorish flavors, but it's such a light hint, that it actually compliments the other flavors. 

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 - 1 1/2 teaspoons anise
3 large eggs
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted

In a small bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, and anise together.

Using a mixer, combine the eggs and sugar and beat for about one minute. Then add in the melted butter in a steady stream as you mix.

Add the flour in two batches to the egg mixture. Mix only for about 20 seconds.  Don't overmix.

Then using a pizzelle press, add one teaspoon of batter.  Allow to cook for about one to two minutes.  Remove from the heat and allow to cool on a flat surface.  It becomes crispy as it cools.  If you want, replace the anise with one teaspoon of vanilla for canoli shells and cool around rods.  Another thing you can do is cool the pizzelles around a ramican.  The cooled shells can then be used as an edible bowl.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Lemon Cupcakes with Blueberry Frosting

Today is the last day of one of my co-workers.  She is an amazing, talented, and will be missed!  But alas, her fellowship is only so long.  Thankfully she will be staying close.  In true fashion I insisted that she put in a request for a baked good.  She requested lemon cupcakes.  I think these would also be good with raspberry frosting (didn't have any frozen from the summer...only blueberry).

2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
4 egg whites
1 1/2 cups sugar
Lemon zest from one lemon
Juice from one lemon
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat the oven to 350˚F.  Line the cupcake tin with liners.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside. In another medium bowl, whisk together the milk and egg whites until well blended.

Then in another bowl, combine the sugar, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Mix until the sugar is just moistened.  Add the butter and mix until fluffy. 

Taking the egg mixture bowl, add half the flour mixture and mix well.  Then add half of the sugar mixture.  Then add the remaining flour and sugar mixture, alternatively.  Add the vanilla.

Once the batter is smooth, pour into the cupcake tin.  Bake about 18 minutes.

1/4 cup blueberries (thawed if frozen)
1/2 cup  unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon lemon juice
pinch of salt
3 cups confectioners' sugar

In a food processor, puree the blueberries.  Place in a large bowl and add the butter, vanilla, lemon, and salt.  Mix until well incorporated.  Then slowly add the confectioners' sugar, a cup at a time, until desired thickness is achieved. 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Champagne Cupcakes!

I was looking through to gain inspiration for new types of cupcakes to make.  And then (dramatic pause here), I found cupcakes with (another dramatic pause) champagne!  I've had a bottle of champagne in my house for a couple of months and thought with the end of the year, it would be really festive to bake with it.  Okay, I just wanted to see how the whole baking with champagne would go.  It definitely adds quite the sweetness to the cake.  Wow.  Prepare for the sugar rush!  I made them in a "regular" sized cupcake pan, but think these would be great as mini-cupcakes due to their sweetness.  I did add in a pastry creme filling; however, I found that it didn't enhance the cupcakes the way I thought it would.  Frankly, I had people either loving the filling or being the dreaded lukewarm about it.  So, for this recipe, I omitted it. 


1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 3/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup champagne or prosecco

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pan with liners.

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Add vanilla.

In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In a small bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup champagne and 1/2 cup sour cream (mixture will fizz).

Then add the flour and champagne mixtures alternately, beginning and ending with flour. Batter will be thick.

Fill cupcake tin about 2/3 of the way full. Bake for 15 minutes. Set aside and allow to cool.


1 cup plus 1 tablespoon champagne or prosecco
1 cup butter, softened
2 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar

Place 1 cup of champagne in a small saucepan. Simmer over medium-high heat until reduced to 2 tablespoons (will be lightly browned). Transfer to a small bowl or condiment cup and allow to cool.

Then in a large bowl with an electric mixer, combine the butter and powdered sugar until fluffy.  The add the reduced champagne plus the remaining 1 tablespoon champagne.  Mix well.  Frost the cupcakes and enjoy!

Monday, December 5, 2011


I have promised one of my classes that I would make Tiramis├╣ for them.  Since I had been sick with the evil cold turned laryngitis for the last two weeks, I've been putting it off.  This weekend, I was finally feeling better.  I made a huge platter of it and was very tempted to sample it, but my will power won out...until tonight's class when I will engorge myself try a little.

1 1/2 boxes of lady fingers
3/4 cup brewed strong coffee, cooled
1 ounce grated semi-sweet chocolate
8 ounces marscapone
4 egg whites
1 1/2 cup confectioners sugar
2 egg yolks
cocoa powder for dusting

In a large bowl, mix the sugar and yolks together until fluffy.  In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks are formed.

Fold in the marscapone to the yolk mixture.  In batches, fold in the egg whites.  (Fold in, do not mix!)

Briefly dip the lady fingers into the coffee and place in a single layer in a baking dish (close together).  Sprinkle the chocolate over top and then spread half the egg mixture over top.  Put another layer of lady fingers (dipped in coffee) on top.  Spread the other half of the egg mixture on top.  Dust with the cocoa powder.  Refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving.  May be made a day ahead.