Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Soft Snickerdoodle Cookies

Snickerdoodle is such a funny word. I just love saying it! If you know me very well, you know that I like to make cookies, but until a few weeks ago I had never made snickerdoodles. I love cinnamon so I really liked them, but I knew they were really good when my husband enthusiastically approved. He is my number one food critic, and I can always trust him to give an honest opinion. If he doesn't like a recipe it most likely will not end up on my blog.  I hope you enjoy these snickerdoodles as much as we did!

Soft Snickerdoodle Cookies

1 cup butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
2 3/4 cups flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons sugar
3 teaspoons cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350°F.
Mix butter, 1 1/2 cups sugar and eggs thoroughly in a large bowl.
Combine flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt in a separate bowl.
Blend dry ingredients into butter mixture.
Chill dough, and chill an ungreased cookie sheet for about 10-15 minutes in the fridge.

Meanwhile, mix 3 tablespoons sugar, and 3 teaspoons cinnamon in a small bowl.
Scoop 1 inch globs of dough into the sugar/ cinnamon mixture.
Coat by gently rolling balls of dough in the sugar mixture.
Place on chilled ungreased cookie sheet, and bake 10 minutes.
Remove from pan immediately.


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Timballo di Riso/Rice Timbale

This recipe comes from the Italian cooking school that I attended in the spring. When we arrived at the school each day we would go to a classroom where the head chef would brief us on the dishes that we were going to prepare. Sometimes between the briefing and walking to the kitchen the recipes would change, and we would make a totally different dish than we were told about. After "graduation" the school gave us a cd with all the recipes in Italian. This recipe was on the cd, but we never actually made it in class.

This was probably the most challenging Italian recipe I have cooked so far. It wasn't that the actual dish was difficult, but trying to translate the recipe was challenging. Since my Italian is not good, I rely on Google Translate to translate the recipes. It was also confusing since the recipe is for four rice timbales (english for timballo), but it has you prepare enough meatballs for about 20 timbales! But as the Italians say, "va bene" which loosely translates "all is well". My kids loved the meatballs (which are inside the rice) so they definitely were eaten. 

I had to do some research on timbale recipes since I had never heard of them and didn't have a clue what I was cooking. Then after making this dish a friend mentioned to me that her Italian neighbor had recently taught her how to make it, and I read about it in a book on Sicily.

Timballo is an Italian dish that consists of  baked pasta, rice, or potatoes stuffed with meat or vegetables. One popular Sicilan way to make it, is to line a bundt pan with fried eggplant and then layer with rice and vegetables. After baking, dump out the pan and you have a nicely molded eggplant timbale.

A timbale is a kettledrum and looks like this:

You can purchase molds in the shape of a kettledrum, so I assume that is why it is called Rice Timbale. I didn't have any timbale molds so I just used some ramekins that I already had.

I have not perfected this recipe. I just want you to see how this recipe translates and why it was so difficult for me. This dish was quite delicious so perhaps one day I will try it again, rewrite the recipe, and share it with you.

Rice Timbale
with Heart and Smooth Tomato Mozzarella

Carnaroli rice 200 gr
onion 80 gr
vegetable broth 50 gr
olive oil 50 cl
minced beef 200 gr.
eggs 2
grated parmesan 150 gr.
parsley bunch
bread-crumbs 150 gr.
peanut oil .300 lt
tomatoes .200 kg
mozzarella 100 gr.
garlic 1
aluminum cups 4

Chop half the onion fry it in a saucepan over low edge, add the rice, toast, sprinkle with white wine to evaporate off and let stand. Take the remaining clove of garlic, add onion and brown in a saucepan combine the tomatoes, salt and pepper and cook. Apart from taking the chopped beef put in a bowl combine eggs, bread-crumbs, parsley, grated Parmesan, salt, pepper, and knead, form small patties and fry in a pan. In a saucepan, prepare the vegetable broth. Turn the pan with wet rice with vegetable broth and bring to cooking the meatballs and add a ladle of tomato sauce with grated cheese mix into the molds lay at the center include a diced mozzarella, sprinkle with grated cheese and grill in the oven at 180 degrees for 5 minutes.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Award Winning Chili Recipe

I am pleased to share this awesome award winning chili recipe! My husband won first place at a Sunday School party chili cook off with this recipe! The best part is that it is super simple.  

Now that the weather is cooler or freezing, depending where you live, this is the perfect time of year to enjoy some yummy chili!


1 1/2 lb. ground beef
1 tsp. minced onion
1/4 tsp. minced garlic
2 (8 oz.) cans tomato sauce
1 (8 oz.) can water
1 can dark red kidney beans
1 can red beans (ranch style)
1 pkg. chili season
1 small can green chilis
1-2 can refried beans to thicken (optional)

Brown meat. Drain well. Add remaining ingredients. Simmer for about one hour.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

You'll Go Bananas for this Monkey Bread


Do you love the taste of cinnamon rolls, but don't enjoy all the work that goes into making them from scratch? If you answered yes, then I have a recipe for you! This monkey bread is so easy you might even decide that you like it better than homemade cinnamon rolls. It is pretty too when baked in a bundt pan.
Do you have a super easy breakfast bread recipe? Please comment and share! I would love to hear about your recipe.

Grands Monkey Bread

1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cans (16.3 oz. each) Pillsbury® Grands!® Homestyle refrigerated buttermilk biscuits
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, if desired
1/2 cup raisins, if desired
1 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup butter or margarine, melted


Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease 12-cup fluted tube pan with shortening or cooking spray. In large food-storage plastic bag, mix sugar and cinnamon.
Separate dough into 16 biscuits; cut each into quarters. Shake in bag to coat. Arrange in pan, adding walnuts and raisins among the biscuit pieces.
In small bowl, mix brown sugar and butter; pour over biscuit pieces.
Bake 28 to 32 minutes or until golden brown and no longer doughy in center. Cool in pan 10 minutes. Turn upside down onto serving plate; pull apart to serve. Serve warm.

Nutrition Information:
1 Serving: Calories 450 (Calories from Fat 200); Total Fat 22g (Saturated Fat 11g, Trans Fat 4.5g, Polyunsaturated Fat 0g); Cholesterol 30mg; Sodium 890mg; Potassium 170mg; Total Carbohydrate 58g (Dietary Fiber 0g, Soluble Fiber 0g, Insoluble Fiber 0g, Sugars 31g); Protein 5g

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Mexican Dip

I apologize that I haven't been consistently posting recipes lately. I am currently taking four accelerated college classes, so I have been a little busy. My write ups will probably be short and sweet until two of my classes end on November 7.

I am excited to share this yummy Mexican Dip recipe with you! I got this from a good friend when we lived in Meridian, MS. She now lives in Texas, and I am in Italy, but thanks to Facebook we can still keep in touch. I am so thankful for the friends all over the world that the Lord has brought into my life. Each new friend makes my life so much richer, and I am truly grateful!

Mexican Dip

2 pkg. 8 oz. cream cheese (I use 1/3 less fat)
¾ cup mayo (I use light)
3 T. taco seasoning
2 green onions, sliced (set aside 2 T. for topping)
1 cup diced red bell pepper
¾ cup salsa
1 garlic clove, pressed
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can whole kernel corn, drained

Combine cream cheese, mayo, and seasoning until smooth. Set about 1 cup aside, spread the rest on bottom of serving dish and about ½ way up sides. Slice green onions and set aside 2 T. for top. Combine green onion, red bell pepper, salsa, garlic, beans, and corn. Spread ½ of salsa mixture over cream cheese layer. Repeat both layers. Sprinkle 2 T. green onions on top.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Bourbon Chicken

My family LOVES this Chinese inspired dish!! I have to double it whenever I cook it. It is super simple to make, so I love it too!
It calls for 3/4 tsp crushed red pepper and is pretty spicy. The first time I made it, Collin took a drink after every bite! lol! Now, I half the amount of red pepper. It still has a slight kick to it, but it is definitely not too hot.  

Bourbon Chicken
Prep Time: 15 mins
Total Time: 35 mins

2 lbs boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
1-2 tablespoon olive oil
1 garlic clove, crushed
1/4 teaspoon ginger
3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (I half the amount of pepper)
1/4 cup apple juice
1/3 cup light brown sugar
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup gluten free soy sauce

1. Heat oil in a large skillet.
2. Add chicken pieces and cook until lightly browned.
3. Remove chicken.
4. Add remaining ingredients, heating over medium heat until well mixed and dissolved.
5. Add chicken and bring to a hard boil.
6. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
7. Serve over hot rice and ENJOY.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Sun-dried Tomato Pesto

I love pesto! It is really easy to make and so nice to have on hand. It is great as a spread for bread or crackers for a quick appetizer, or tossed with pasta for a quick, simple, and delicious dish.

Pesto is typically made using fresh basil, pine nuts, parmesan cheese, and olive oil. However, there are many variations. I tried this recipe for Sundried Tomato Pesto a few weeks ago and loved it!

It is helpful if you have a food processer when making pesto.  I don't have a food processor, so used the chopper blade on my blender.  It worked just fine.

Sun-dried Tomato Pesto
Adapted from At Home with Magnolia by Sara at Imafoodblog.com
Yield: About 1 Cup

• 1/2 cup packed basil leaves
• 1/2 cup toasted whole almonds
• 4 garlic cloves
• 1 tsp lemon zest
• 1/4 tsp coarse salt
• 1 generous cup packed cup sun-dried tomatoes in oil
• 1/4 cup grated parmigiano reggiano
• 1 cup olive oil

1. Drain your sun dried tomatoes, lightly rinse them, and then pat them dry with a paper towel.
2. Toast your almonds in a dry shallow pan. They will take about 10 minutes, and you will smell when they are done.
3. In a large food processor, combine the basil, toasted almonds, garlic, lemon zest, and salt. Process until coarsely chopped.
4. Add the sun dried tomatoes and parmigianno cheese and process until the tomatoes are coarsely chopped.
5. Now stream in the olive oil slowly and process until the pesto comes together.
6. Serve immediately or store in an air tight container in the fridge for up to 6 weeks.

Buon Appetito!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Eggs Florentine Casserole ~ Tastes Like Christmas

Is there a food that you associate with Christmas? You know what I mean. Whenever you eat a particular cookie or candy recipe, your grandmother's special cake, or your Aunt Trudy's Peanut Brittle it reminds you of Christmas. A couple of weeks ago my sister asked me for the recipe for this Egg Florentine Casserole. I had just been thinking about it when she asked me for it. So I decided, that was a sign that I needed to make it and share it with you too! I realized when I took the first bite that it tasted like Christmas! I have been making this breakfast casserole recipe every Christmas morning for about the past 7 years. I probably haven't made it since last Christmas and was surprised how it triggered Christmas memories.

Traditions are so important. It gives children a sense of belonging and security. It is something they can pass down to their families or simply tell their children about. Maybe you don't have children or your children are grown. Perhaps you live alone. Whatever your current life situation, I would encourage you to continue or even start Christmas traditions. It makes the holidays really special. I know it is early to be talking about Christmas, but it will be here before we know it. Besides, it is never too early to plan.

I would love to hear about your Christmas breakfast traditions! Is there a particular food that you serve on Christmas morning? Please share!

Eggs Florentine Casserole
 Florentine usually means that the recipe includes spinach.

10-oz package frozen chopped spinach
1 cup (4 oz) shredded cheddar cheese
1 pound ground pork sausage
2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
6 green onions (about a cup), chopped
2 T butter, melted
12 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups whipping cream
1 cup shredded swiss cheese
1/4 tsp paprika

Cook spinach according to pkg directions, drain well. Sprinkle cheddar cheese in bottom of lightly greased 9x13 baking dish, spread spinach over cheese. Brown, crumble, and drain sausage; spread over spinach.

Saute mushrooms and green onions in butter until tender; spread over sausage.
Combine eggs and whipping cream, beating with wire whisk until blended. Pour egg mixture of vegetable mixture. Top with cheese and sprinkle with paprika .

Bake uncovered at 350 for 40 minutes or until set.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Figure Friendly Chicken Parmesan

Parmigiana originated in Southern Italy. It is a baked dish made with fried eggplant layered with cheese. Variations, such as Chicken Parmigiana or Chicken Parmesan, were developed in other countries where there were large numbers of Italian immigrants.

This recipe is a healthy version of Chicken Parmesan. You don't have to feel guilty when you indulge in this delicious dish. To make this dish even more figure friendly, I use whole wheat noodles. They are a little darker than regular noodles, but I cannot tell a difference in the taste. I really like that each serving is baked in separate dishes. It makes for a nice presentation.

Chicken Parmesan
from: The Complete Cooking Light Cookbook

 Yield 4 servings

4 (4 ounces) skinned, boned chicken breast halves
1/2 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp dried Italian seasoning
1/8 tsp black pepper
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 large egg whites, lightly beaten
2 tsp. olive oil
4 cups hot cooked spaghetti (about 8 ounces uncooked pasta)
3 cups Ultimate Quick-and-Easy Pasta Sauce
1 cup (4 ounces) preshredded mozzarella cheese
Chopped fresh basil (optional)


1. Place chicken between 2 sheets of heavy-duty plastic wrap; flatten to 1/4-inch thickness using a meat mallet or rolling pin.

2. Combine breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, Italian seasoning, and pepper in a shallow dish. Dredge 1 chicken breast half in flour. Dip chicken breast in egg whites;dredge in breadcrumb mixture. Repeat procedure with remaining chicken, flour, egg whites, and breadcrumb mixture.
3. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken, and cook 5 minutes on each side or until done

4. Preheat broiler.

5. Place 1 cup spaghetti in each of 4 gratin dishes. Spoon 1/2 cup Ultimate Quick-and Easy Pasta sauce over each serving. Top each with 1 chicken breast half. Spoon 1/4 cup sauce over each serving. Sprinkle each serving with 1/4 cup mozzarella cheese. Place gratin dishes on baking sheet; broil 3 minutes or until cheese melts Garnish with basil, if desired.

CALORIES 614 (19% from fat); FAT 12.8g (sat 5g, mono 4.8g, poly 1.5g); PROTEIN 49.1g; CARB 74.8g; FIBER 5.4g; CHOL 86mg; IRON 6.1mg; SODIUM 937mg; CALC 375mg

Ultimate Quick-and- Easy Pasta Sauce
You can substitute crushed or whole tomatoes for the diced. Crushed will give you a smooth, thick sauce; whole add a nice chunkiness. Serve this sauce with your favorite pasta.

1 tsp. olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup dry red wine or 2 T. balsamic vinegar
1 T. sugar
1 T. chopped fresh or 2 tsp. dried basil
2 T. tomato paste
1/2 tsp. dried Italian seasoning
1/4 black pepper
2 (14.5 ounce) cans diced tomatoes, undrained
2 T. chopped fresh parsley

1. Heat oil in a saucepan or large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic; saute 5 minutes. Stir in wine and next 6 ingredients, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, and cook, uncovered, about 15 minutes. Stir in parsley. Yield: 3 cups (serving size 1 cup).

calories 126
fat 2.3 grams

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Mom's Famous Cookies

Who doesn't love homemade chocolate chip cookies? There is something very comforting about warm chocolate chip cookies and glass of cold milk. In the past, whenever my family would crave cookies, which was quite often, I would always use store bought refrigerated cookie dough. I admit it was pretty good, but I really hate not knowing what is in the food we eat, so every once in awhile I would make chocolate chip cookies from scratch. They were never as good as the store bought cookies.

When we moved to a new neighborhood a couple of years ago, my neighbor brought us the most delicious homemade chocolate chip cookies I had ever eaten. They were so gooey and soft. When I complimented her cookies, she modestly explained that she simply tweaked the cookie recipe printed on the bag of chocolate chips. As much as I fished for the recipe, she would not share. She did eventually give me the recipe when we moved, but I am sworn to secrecy and can't share it with you. 

After trying her delicious cookies, I really wished I had a good cookie recipe. I came across a recipe for chocolate chip cookies in Southern Living magazine, and knowing that SL recipes do not disappoint, I decided to give it a try. They were really good! They were just as good, almost as good as my neighbor's cookies! Everyone that tried them loved them. So I started baking all my cookies from scratch. One day my son Collin, asked me to make my famous cookies, and that's how the cookies become known as Mom's Famous Cookies.

Here are a few tips to ensure your cookies are as good as Mom's.

  • Use an oven thermometer. Since all ovens cook differently, an oven thermometer will let you know when your oven is at the right temperature for baking.

  • Make sure your cookies are all the same size. I use the medium scoop (2 T.) from Pampered Chef.

  • Bake cookies until they no longer look wet on top. They may not appear to be done but will cook a little more after removing from the oven.

  • Bake cookies on an aluminum baking sheet or stoneware. If you use a dark baking sheet, the cookies will tend to burn. 

  • Let cookies sit for 2 minutes after removing from the oven, and then move to a cooling rack to cool.

  • Cookie dough can be frozen. Form dough into balls and let freeze on a cookie sheet. Once frozen, balls can be put into a freezer bag. When ready to use, thaw completely and bake as directed. If baking frozen dough, add approximately two minutes to the baking time.
All-Time Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookies

Prep: 30 min., Bake: 14 min. per batch, Cool: 15 min. Bake 10 minutes for a soft and chewy cookie or up to 14 minutes for a crisp cookie.

Yield: Makes about 5 dozen


• 3/4 cup butter, softened
• 3/4 cup granulated sugar
• 3/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
• 2 large eggs
• 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
• 2 1/4 cups plus 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 3/4 teaspoon salt
• 1 1/2 (12-oz.) packages semisweet chocolate morsels

• Parchment paper


1. Preheat oven to 350°. Beat butter and sugars at medium speed with a heavy-duty electric stand mixer until creamy. Add eggs and 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla, beating until blended.

2. Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl; gradually add to butter mixture, beating just until blended. Beat in morsels just until combined. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto parchment paper-lined baking sheets.

3. Bake at 350° for 10 to 14 minutes (I bake them 12 minutes) or until desired degree of doneness. Remove to wire racks, and cool completely (about 15 minutes).

Friday, September 24, 2010

Best Ever Banana Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Whenever I have bananas that are too ripe to eat, I will usually bake banana bread. A few months ago I had some ripe bananas, but decided to try something different. I went to one of my favorite recipe sources, http://www.food.com/, and found a recipe for Best Ever Banana Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting. Almost 800 people had given it a five star rating so I anticipated it would be really good. I was not disappointed! It was delicious!

I usually make a 9 x 13 inch cake but a couple of weeks ago decided to try a layered cake. My icing skills need some work so I simply covered the cake in graham cracker crumbs. It covered up the sloppy icing and the graham cracker went nicely with the banana and cream cheese flavors. 
Best Ever Banana Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
Serves: 16 , 9x13 pan

• 1 1/2 cups bananas, mashed, ripe
• 2 teaspoons lemon juice
• 3 cups flour
• 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 3/4 cup butter, softened
• 2 1/8 cups sugar
• 3 large eggs
• 2 teaspoons vanilla
• 1 1/2 cups buttermilk

• 1/2 cup butter, softened
• 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
• 1 teaspoon vanilla
• 3 1/2 cups icing sugar
• chopped walnuts

Prep Time: 15 mins
Total Time: 1 1/4 hr
1. Preheat oven to 275°.
2. Grease and flour a 9 x 13 pan.
3. In a small bowl, mix mashed banana with the lemon juice; set aside.
4. In a medium bowl, mix flour, baking soda and salt; set aside.
5. In a large bowl, cream 3/4 cup butter and 2 1/8 cups sugar until light and fluffy.
6. Beat in eggs, one at a time, then stir in 2 tsp vanilla.
7. Beat in the flour mixture alternately with the buttermilk.
8. Stir in banana mixture.
9. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake in preheated oven for one hour or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
10. Remove from oven and place directly into the freezer for 45 minutes. This will make the cake very moist.
11. For the frosting, cream the butter and cream cheese until smooth.
12. Beat in 1 teaspoon vanilla.
13. Add icing sugar and beat on low speed until combined, then on high speed until frosting is smooth.
14. Spread on cooled cake.
15. Sprinkle chopped walnuts over top of the frosting, if desired.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Brickle Bit Fruit Dip

I received this recipe from my bff about 15 years ago. I always think of her every time I make it. It is a nice change from the typical marshmallow cream fruit dip and is always a hit whenever I take it to gatherings. 

 The recipe calls for brickle bits which I can't get here in Italy, so I crushed up a few Heath candy bars instead. It was delish!

Brickle Bit Fruit Dip

8 oz. cream cheese (I use 1/3 less fat)
1/3 cup brown sugar
¼ cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
6 oz. brickle bits

Combine cream cheese and brown sugar and let set for 15 minutes. Combine rest of ingredients and chill for 8 hours to allow the brickle bits to soften. Serve it with any fruit, but I prefer to serve it with apples.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


You have heard the saying "have your cake and eat it too", but how about "have your coffee and eat it too"? Well, you can when you indulge in one of my favorite Italian desserts, Tiramisu. Tiramisu means "pick me up", because it contains espresso as well as a lot of sugar. Unlike many traditional Italian recipes, Tiramisu is a fairly new food. According to my research the earliest known written recipe of Tiramisu was dated 1981, but most likely was enjoyed several years before that. The simplicity of this recipe definitely qualifies it as an "everyday cooking" recipe.


1 lb. Mascarpone Cheese (for my friends in MS this can be found at Schnucks in the deli)
5 Eggs
1 quart whipping cream
2/3 cup Sugar
Unsweetened cocoa
Pkg. Ladyfingers
1 cup espresso

1. Prepare espresso and let cool to room temperature.
     Most Italians do not own espresso machines. They make their espresso at home using a Moka Pot. They come is several sizes. We have a 1 cup, 3 cup, and a 6 cup Pot. The one pictured is a 6 cup pot.

Moka Pot
 To make the espresso, first unscrew the bottom section and add water up to the steam valve.
Next put on the filter and fill with espresso tapping gently so the coffee can settle. Once the filter is full, top it with a mound of espresso grounds and replace the top.

Place on the stove and heat. The water will boil and espresso will percolate to the top of the Moka Pot. The pot makes very good espresso.

2. While the espresso is cooling, separate the egg yolks and whites. With an electric mixer, mix the egg yolks and sugar until thick and pale. Whip the whipping cream until soft peaks form. Fold in the mascarpone cheese and egg whites to the whipped cream and mix until smooth.

3. Quickly dip the ladyfingers in espresso. Dipping too slowly will cause the ladyfingers to become very soggy. Layer a 9 x 13 inch dish with ladyfingers and half the cream. Layer again with ladyfingers turning them the opposite direction of the first layer. Spread with the rest of the cream. Top with a generous coating of cocoa powder. Refrigerate for about four hours prior to serving.

Buon Appetito!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Sarde a Beccafico

I am so excited to share this dish with you! I first learned of this dish while at the Italian cooking school. This dish is served as an antipasto and the main ingredient is sardines. Yes, I said sardines. I know you are probably turning your nose up about now. I did too, until I tasted it. It was surprisingly delicious! I always assumed sardines were disgusting since the only type I was familiar with were canned. This recipe uses fresh sardines which is nothing like canned sardines.

Sarde literally translates Sardinia. Sardines were named after the island of Sardinia, Italy, where they once lived in abundance. Sardines are a popular ingredient in Sicilian cooking.
Another very popular Sicilian recipe is Pasta con Sarde, Sardine Pasta.

Sarde a Beccafico
(with commentary)

2 pounds of sardines cleaned and open like a book -At the cooking school the chef demonstrated how to clean them. With his bare hands, he pinched of the head, and then with his finger split the fish open pulling out the backbone. I was totally disgusted!! I had never cleaned a fish in my life, and I was about to have to do it without any utensils! My saving grace was that they had some latex gloves that I wore. I don't think I would have been able to do it without the gloves and some deep yoga breathing! At first I was so creeped out, but it became easier with each fish. A couple of weeks ago I made this dish at home and went through the same emotions again, but by the time I finished cleaning the last fish it was no problem.

This is what the fish look like after being cleaned and opened.

5 ounce bread crumbs
4 ounces grated Parmesan cheese
3 T. grated Pecorino cheese- Pecorino cheese is a hard,strong tasting cheese made from sheep's milk. In South Italy it is very traditional to add black peppercorn to the cheese.

3.5 ounces anchovies in oil- I didn't use the anchovies. They smelled awful.
Parsley bunch
1 clove garlic
1 ounce pine nuts
2 ounces Raisins- soaked in warm water approximately 30 minutes, then squeeze out water
breadcrumbs for dipping
2 eggs
Extra virgin olive oil

Heat a little oil in a pan and then toast the breadcrumbs. Add the raisins, pine nuts, garlic, chopped parsley, pecorino cheese, parmesan, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Mix in enough olive oil to make the mixture wet.

Wash and dry the sardines.

Place a small amount of the breadcrumb mixture onto half of the sardines. Place the rest of the sardines on top of each breadcrumb covered sardine. Next dip in egg and then dredge in plain breadcrumbs. Fry in oil (olive, peanut, or sunflower oil). Drain on paper towel.

There are other ways to make these. Another version is after placing the breadcrumb mixture on the filet, roll it and dip it according to the directions. Instead of frying, place them in a baking dish and bake until done.

Fresh sardines are hard to find in the states, but if you ever get a chance to try them I recommend you go for it!! Or better yet, make a trip to Italy and try some authentic Sicilian Sarde a Beccafico for yourself. Free lodging available!!

Buon Appetito!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Chicken Enchiladas

This Chicken Enchilada recipe is another dish that, before moving to Italy,  I would cook often and freeze. To freeze simply assemble as instructed in directions, but before pouring on the cheese, wrap in aluminum foil and place in the freezer. When ready to cook, let thaw 24 hours in the fridge before baking. Pour on cheddar cheese soup and bake according to the directions.

This recipe calls for chicken cooked and chopped. I usually use a whole chicken instead of boneless skinless chicken breasts. Using a whole chicken is cheaper and gives the dish more flavor. Lately, whenever I boil a chicken I make chicken broth at the same time. It is so easy to make and tastes better than store bought. When boiling the chicken simply put a few stalks of celery, a cut onion, and two or three cut carrots in the water. Salt and pepper to taste. Once the chicken is done, remove from broth. Then put the broth in the fridge overnight so the fat can solidify. The next day skim the fat off the top and strain out the vegetables.  Then pour the broth into ice trays and freeze. After they are frozen, put broth cubes in a ziploc bag and keep in the freezer. It is so nice to have chicken broth on hand whenever you need it.

Chicken Enchiladas
Serves 6
This dish goes nicely with a side of Spanish rice, refried beans, or a salad.

4 cups cooked and chopped chicken
16 oz. sour cream, divided
1 can cream of chicken soup
¼ cup chopped onion
8 oz. shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 small can green chilies, drained
12 soft flour tortillas
1 can cheddar cheese soup
1 cup salsa
Preheat oven to 350°. In a bowl combine chicken, half of sour cream, cream of chicken soup, onion, chilies and cheese. Divide mixture evenly among the 12 tortillas. Roll the tortillas tightly. Place in a 13x9x2 inch baking dish. Pour cheddar cheese over all. Bake in oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until bubbly. Top with remaining sour cream and salsa.

Buon Appetito!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Blueberry Streusel Muffins

I do not like buying store bought muffins. Just about everytime I take my son Collin to the grocery store he begs me for Hostess miniblueberry muffins. I can not bring myself to buy them. Number one, they are expensive and number two, they contain way too many preservatives as well as lots of sugar and fat. By baking muffins from scratch, I know exactly what is in them, and they are alot cheaper. Not to mention, way more delicious.

These are the best blueberry muffins I have ever had! I think the grated lemon rind is what makes these muffins so good. Although, I have made them several times without the rind simply because I didn't have any lemons, and they were still delicious. When possible, I use fresh blueberries. Using frozen blueberries will turn the batter blue. Here in Italy I haven't seen fresh blueberries so I unfortunately am forced to use frozen. You can freeze leftover muffins. When ready to eat simply let them thaw, or warm them in the microwave for a quick breakfast or snack.

Blueberry Streusel Muffins
from: The Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook

Prep: 14 minutes Cook: 18 minutes
A sugary streusel caps these berry-filled breakfast muffins.

1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
2 ¾ tsp baking powder
¾ tsp. salt
½ cup sugar
2 tsp. grated lemon rind
1 large egg, lightly beaten
¾ cup milk
1/3 cup vegetable oil

1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries, thawed and drained*
1 T. all purpose flour
1 T. sugar

¼ cup sugar
2 ½ T. all purpose flour
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
1 ½ T. butter or margarine

• Combine first 5 ingredients in a large bowl; make a well in center of mixture. Combine egg, milk, and oil; stir well. Add to dry ingredients, stirring just until moistened.

• Combine blueberries, 1 T. flour, and 1 T. sugar, tossing gently to coat. Fold blueberry mixture into batter. Spoon batter into greased muffin pans, filling two- thirds full.

• Combine ¼ cup sugar, 2 ½ T. flour, and cinnamon; cut in butter with a pastry blender until mixture is crumble. Sprinkle over batter. Bake at 400° for 18 minutes or until golden. Remove from pans immediately. Yield: 1 dozen.

*If using frozen blueberries, thaw and drain them, and pat dry with paper towels. This will prevent discoloration of batter.

Per muffin: Calories 219, Fat 8.9g

Beef Noodle Supreme

This recipe is one that I used to cook often when I did a lot of  freezer cooking. I used to plan my meals two weeks to one month at a time. Then I would prepare and freeze them. Whenever I needed a dish, I would simply pull it from the freezer, let it thaw, and then bake according to the directions.  Before moving to Italy, we got rid of our deep freeze, and since our freezer space here is so small I have not done much freezer cooking in a while.

Our whole family enjoys this casserole and I think you will too.

This recipe makes 2- 9x13 inch  or 4- 8x8 inch casseroles.

Beef Noodle Supreme

2 lbs. ground meat
4 T. margarine
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. sugar
4-8 oz. cans tomato sauce
2-8 oz pkg. cream cheese
2 cups sour cream
12 green onions, including green part, chopped
2-8 oz. pkg. noodles
2 cups cheddar cheese, grated

In a skillet brown meat in margarine (I never use the margarine). Add garlic, salt, sugar, and tomato sauce; simmer about 10 minutes. Soften and blend thoroughly cream cheese and sour cream. Add onions and set aside. Boil noodles until tender; drain. In baking dishes, layer noodles, cream cheese mixture, and meat sauce. Repeat Layers. Sprinkle cheese on top. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

To freeze-skip baking step and freeze unbaked. Unthaw and then bake. Makes several freezer meals depending on your size family.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Sweet and Sour Chicken and Chocolate-Peanut Bars

I love church cookbooks, especially southern church cookbooks! These cookbooks include recipes that are tried and true. The recipes are compiled from women in the church and you can trust that almost any recipe from a church cookbook is gonna be good. 

This recipe is from Carriage Hills Baptist Church Women's Ministry Cookbook. I attended Carriage Hills while living in Southaven, MS. The recipe is super easy and really good!

Sweet and Sour Chicken
serves 4-6

2 to 3 lb. chicken breasts
12 oz. jar apricot preserves
1 pkg. dry onion soup mix
8 oz. Russian salad dressing

Place chicken in a shallow baking pan. Mix soup mix, dressing, and preserves and pour over chicken. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 1/2 hours. Serve with white rice.

Chocolate-Peanut Bars
This second recipe is one that I have had in my recipe binder for over a year, and finally got around to making. I had everything on hand except the vanilla wafers so I substituted crushed graham crackers instead. This recipe is also super easy and really delicious!!

Chocolate-Peanut Bars
Yield: Makes about 4 dozen

1 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 cup crunchy peanut butter
1 (16-ounce) box powdered sugar
1 1/2 cups vanilla wafers, crushed (about 45 cookies)
1 (12-ounce) package semisweet chocolate morsels
1/2 cup whipping cream


Beat butter and peanut butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until blended. Add powdered sugar and vanilla wafer crumbs; beat until blended. Press mixture evenly into a lightly greased 13- x 9-inch baking pan lined with wax paper.

Stir together chocolate morsels and whipping cream in a medium saucepan over low heat until melted and smooth. Spread evenly on top of peanut butter mixture. Chill 1 hour or until firm.

Remove from refrigerator, and let stand at room temperature 10 minutes or until slightly softened. Cut into 48 bars.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Tomato and Basil Bruschetta

Bruschetta (pronounced brusketta in Italian) is an appetizer that originated in central Italy and consists of toasted bread rubbed with garlic and topped with extra virgin olive oil and salt and pepper. The most popular variety outside of Italy is topped with tomatoes, garlic, basil, and sometimes mozzarella.

I discovered this easy recipe a few weeks ago. It is especially good using garden fresh tomatoes you can find this time of year. Also, using fresh basil instead of dried makes a huge difference in taste. The smell and taste of fresh basil is divine and I have thoroughly enjoyed cooking with it.

Tomato and Basil Bruschetta
6 roma tomatoes, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 1/4 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
8 slices Italian bread, cut about 1 inch thick
2 tablespoons grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese

Directions:Prep Time: 10 mins
Total Time: 45 mins

1 Whisk together chopped garlic, vinegar, salt, pepper, and basil.
2 When combined slowly drizzle in oil.
3 Add tomatoes and let sit for 20 minutes at room temp.
4 Meanwhile, toast the bread.
5 This can be done either in the toaster (if it's got really wide slots) or under the broiler (if using this method watch closely so it doesn't become a brickette).
6 When the bread is toasted rub each piece, on one side, with the whole garlic pieces.
7 Place the bread on a cookie sheet and top with tomato mixture.
8 Sprinkle on a little cheese and broil till the cheese melts (you can skip that last broiling bit and it's equally as wonderful).
9. Serve immediately.
10. The tomato mixture also makes a wonderful vinegrette for an antipasto salad.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Mushroom and Asparagus Risotto

Risotto is a very popular Italian dish. I had never heard of risotto until we moved to Italy. There are many variaties of risotto dishes and they are all delicious. It is easy to make, but does require a lot of attention while cooking, but it is so worth it!

Here is a pic of uncooked risotto. As you can see it is different than long grain white rice.

Mushroom and Asparagus Risotto
Serves 4

(the cubes are frozen broth)

 1 3/4 cup  Carnaroli rice (400 gr)
1 1/3 cup  sliced mushrooms (300 gr)
7 oz. cut into pieces asparagus (200 gr)
1/2 cup chopped onions (100 gr)
3/4 cup chopped ham (170 gr)
 1/2 cup grated Parmasan cheese (100 gr)
1/2 cup butter (100 gr)
1 tablespoon fresh parsley (15 gr)
 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (57gr)
Vegetable broth
Chop the onion and fry in a pan with extra virgin olive oil add the rice and toast.
Add mushrooms, asparagus, and ham to rice. Add broth a little at a time while stiring constantly until soaked in  rice. Continue the process until rice is cooked.

Lastly stir in butter and Parmesan.

Buon Appetito!!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Eggplant Parmesan

I made an Eggplant Parmasan last week using a recipe that I got from the Italian cooking school. I was so pleased with the results. It was better than I expected. I should have known that it would be good since I used all fresh local ingredients. The only problem I ran into was trying to convert the measurements. The recipe calls for 30 DL (deciliter) of olive oil. I figured wrong and added way too much olive oil to my tomato sauce, but it didn't alter the taste any.  Because it was so oily my pics didn't turn out good.

Eggplant Parmesan
Number of servings, 8
Eggplant 1kg (2.2 lb or 1 large eggplant)
Peanut oil 1 liter (approx. 4 cups)
Tomato Pulp 700 gr (3 cups)
chopped fresh basil 50 gr (3.5 T.)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil 30 DL (1/3 cup)
Grated Mozzarella 500 gr (2 cups) I used about 1 ½ cups and had some leftover
Basil bloom
Grated Parmesan cheese 200 gr (¾ cup)
Salt and pepper to taste

Cut the eggplant into slices sprinkle with a pinch of salt and let drain for an hour. Pat dry, flour, and fry slices in peanut oil at 350 degrees. Drain well on paper towel.

Meanwhile, peel tomatoes. Simmer the olive oil, finely chopped onion, tomato pulp, basil, salt and pepper.

In a bowl combine Mozzarella (I used buffalo mozzarella that is packed in water. Discard water and grate) and Parmesan.

Arrange in a baking dish layering eggplant, tomato sauce, and cheese repeat and garnish with basil bloom. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes serve hot.

Easy Peasy Peach Cobbler

This peach cobbler is yummy and oh so easy!

Easy Peasy Peach Cobbler

1 stick butter, melted
1 large can sliced peaches
1 cup milk
1 cup self-rising flour
1 cup sugar

Pour melted butter in 9x13 inch pan. Combine milk, flour, sugar, and pour over butter. Pour can of peaches (or any can fruit) on top. Bake at 400 degrees for 40-45 minutes. This cobbler is extra delicious served with ice cream.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Eggplant Caponata Take Two

Last week I tried making Eggplant Caponata again and this time it turn out great! It was a definite improvement from the first time. I left out the potatoes and peeled the eggplant in stripes instead of peeling the whole thing. I also broke up the olives instead of leaving them whole. This is served as an antipasto (appetizer). I like to eat it with Italian bread. It is a process to make but so worth it.

Eggplant Caponata
EGGPLANT 0,800 kg (approximately 1.5 lb or 1 large eggplant)
GREEN OLIVES 100 g (1/4 cup)
CELERY 100 g (1/4 cup)
ONIONS 200 g (1/2 cup)
PEANUT OIL 0,500 lt (for frying)
RED AND GREEN BELL PEPPERS 800 g (approximately 5 large peppers)
FRESH BASIL 30 g (1 ounce)
EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL 50 DL (for sauteeing)
CAPERS 30 g (1 ounce)
SUGAR 30 g (1 ounce)
WHITE VINEGAR 25 g (a little less than 1 ounce)
SALT AND PEPPER 100 q.b (to taste)
COCOA 20 g

1. Wash eggplant and peel 1/2 the eggplant. Cut eggplant into cubes. Cover cubes in water and add a generous amount of salt. Let sit for one hour. This takes the bitterness out of the eggplant.
2. Wash the peppers, remove seeds, and dice.
3. Fry peppers in peanut oil, drain on paper towels.
4.  Drain eggplant and squeeze out water. Fry in oil. Be careful to use a big pot so the oil doesn't bubble over when placing the eggplant in the oil.
5.Wash the celery and onion then dice. Brown in a pan with olive oil, salt, and pepper and cook for 20 minutes on low flame.
6. Then add the sugar, vinegar, capers, pitted olives, eggplant, peppers, basil, and celery. Add salt and simmer for 10 minutes. Cool. Sprinkle with cocoa and serve cold.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Peppery Chicken Fried Chicken and Spicy Cream Corn

I thought I would share with you a couple of good Southern recipes that our family really enjoys. A few nights ago my son requested fried chicken for supper. I didn't want to go to all the trouble of making regular fried chicken, so I turned to this delicious Peppery Chicken Fried Chicken recipe. It is really good and quick to prepare. Any leftovers go great in a salad.  I never make the gravy in this recipe. I have tried many times to make gravy and it never turns out well so I have given up for the time being. If you try this recipe and your gravy turns out well, please send me comment and share your tips.

Peppery Chicken Fried Chicken
Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 12 minutes
Fry: 15 minutes
Yield: Makes 8 to 10 servings

8 (6-ounce) skinned and boned chicken breasts
4 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
2 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, divided
76 saltine crackers (2 sleeves), crushed
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground red pepper
8 cups milk, divided
4 large eggs
Peanut oil

Place chicken breasts between 2 sheets of heavy-duty plastic wrap, and flatten to 1/4-inch thickness using a meat mallet or rolling pin.

Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper evenly over chicken. Set aside.

Combine cracker crumbs, 2 cups flour, baking powder, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon black pepper, and ground red pepper.

Whisk together 1 1/2 cups milk and eggs. Dredge chicken in cracker crumb mixture; dip in milk mixture, and dredge in cracker mixture again.

Pour oil to a depth of 1/2 inch in a 12-inch skillet (do not use a nonstick skillet). Heat to 360°. Fry chicken, in batches, 10 minutes, adding oil as needed. Turn and fry 4 to 5 more minutes or until golden brown. Remove to a wire rack in a jellyroll pan. Keep chicken warm in a 225° oven. Carefully drain hot oil, reserving cooked bits and 2 tablespoons drippings in skillet.
Whisk together remaining 1/2 cup flour, remaining 2 1/2 teaspoons salt, remaining 1 teaspoon black pepper, and remaining 6 1/2 cups milk. Pour mixture into reserved drippings in skillet; cook over medium-high heat, whisking constantly, 10 to 12 minutes or until thickened. Serve gravy with chicken.

I got this Spicy Cream Corn recipe from my mother-in-law. We always have this corn at Thanksgiving. It goes great with fried chicken too.  My younger son is very picky but this is one of his favorite foods.

Spicy Cream Corn
4 cans White Shoepeg Corn
8 oz. block cream cheese
approx. 2 Tbsp chopped jalapenos from a jar- you can adjust the amount of peppers depending on how spicy you want the corn.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Market food

Every Wednesday the nearby town of Motta San Anastasia has a market. The market is very small compared to other area markets, but it is the closest to us and usually has everything I need. I try to buy my fresh fruits, vegetables, and eggs for the week at the market. The eggs are so fresh there is often chicken poop still on them! Isn't that appetizing?

This is what I bought at the market yesterday. Doesn't it look good?

There is a corner store in Motta that sells fresh produce, wine, vinegar, fresh bread and a few other grocery items. I always stop by the store after leaving the market. The owner is super nice and speaks very good English.

Here is what I bought yesterday. I always buy two liters of red table wine as well as fresh bread; often the bread is still warm. Brandon really likes the wine. It is made locally and is only about $6 a bottle. I also bought some fresh basil and mushrooms yesterday.

Buon Appetito!

Boiling hotdogs. How difficult can it be?

My son's birthday party was last weekend. I decided to serve hotdogs since they are so easy to prepare and a change from the usual pizza. I prefer my hotdogs grilled. However, my husband was out of town and I didn't want to have to mess with the grill so I decided it would be easiest to just boil them. I put the water on the stove, but I didn't wait for the water to come to a rolling boil before I put the hotdogs in the water. Once it came to a boil, I put the lid on and set the timer for 4 minutes. When  I took the lid off, my hotdogs looked like this:

 Ugh! I was so frustrated with myself. Obviously they were in the water too long. Thankfully I was not serving adults, but only kids. I just put the busted side down on the bun, and the kids had no idea.

I hope this gives you some encouragement  and maybe a good laugh! I know you are capable of boiling hotdogs. I mean really, how difficult can it be?

Lightened Chocolate-Coffee Cheesecake with Mocha Sauce

Here is another $100,000 Southern Living recipe. This recipe is a slighter lighter version of the original. I have never tried the original version, but the lighter version is delicious! The next morning after making this cheesecake all I could think about was lunchtime and eating more cheesecake. I am not even a huge fan of cheesecake, but oh my this is yummy!

 I did alter the recipe some.

We don't have chocolate graham crackers here in Italy, so I used regular graham crackers.
I didn't use reduced-fat butter
Instead of the coffee liquer and instant coffee, I used 1/4 cup espresso
Instead of bittersweet chocolate, I used semisweet chocolate chips melted
For the mocha sauce, I used brewed espresso instead of regular coffee

Here is a pic of my cheesecake. This is only the second time I have ever used a springform pan so you can see that my crust still needs some work. This time when I made the cheesecake it cracked in the middle, meaning that it was overcooked.

Lightened Chocolate-Coffee Cheesecake With Mocha Sauce

Prep: 20 min.; Bake: 1 hr., 10 min.; Stand: 30 min.; Cool: 1 hr.; Chill: 4 hrs.
Yield: Makes 10 servings (serving size: 1 slice cheesecake and about 1 tbsp. mocha sauce)
2 cups crushed chocolate graham crackers (about 18 crackers)
1/3 cup reduced-fat butter, melted
Vegetable cooking spray
4 (8-oz.) packages reduced-fat cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup coffee liqueur
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon instant coffee granules
4 large eggs
4 (1-oz.) bittersweet baking chocolate squares
Mocha Sauce

1. Stir together crushed graham crackers and melted butter; press mixture into bottom and up sides of a 9-inch springform pan coated with cooking spray.

2. Bake at 350° for 10 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. Reduce oven temperature to 325°.

3. Beat cream cheese and sugar at medium speed with an electric mixer until blended. Add liqueur, vanilla, and coffee granules, beating at low speed until well blended. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until yellow disappears after each addition.

4. Remove and reserve 1 cup cream cheese mixture. Pour remaining batter into prepared crust.

5. Microwave chocolate in a medium-size, microwave-safe bowl 1 minute or until melted, stirring after 30 seconds. Stir reserved 1 cup cream cheese mixture into melted chocolate, blending well. (Mixture will be thick.) Spoon mixture in lines on top of batter in pan; gently swirl with a knife.

6. Bake at 325° for 1 hour or until almost set. Turn oven off. Let cheesecake stand in oven, with door closed, 30 minutes. Remove cheesecake from oven, and gently run a knife around outer edge of cheesecake to loosen from sides of pan. (Do not remove sides of pan.) Cool 1 hour on a wire rack. Cover and chill at least 4 hours.

7. Remove sides of springform pan. Serve with Mocha Sauce.

Nutritional Information
Calories:464 (46% from fat)
Fat:24.8g (sat 13.7g,mono 2.9g,poly 0.4g)
Mocha Sauce
1 cup semisweet chocolate morsels
1/4 cup half-and-half
2 teaspoons reduced-fat butter
3 tablespoons strong-brewed coffee

1. Cook first 3 ingredients in a small heavy saucepan over low heat, stirring often, 2 to 3 minutes or until smooth. Remove from heat, and stir in coffee. Serve warm.

Nutritional Information
Calories:92 (54% from fat)
Fat:6g (sat 3.7g,mono 1.9g,poly 0.2g)