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)

Monday, August 16, 2010

Caponata and Pork Involtini

In February I took a professional cooking course at a local cooking school. There were nine sessions and each session we prepared a full Italian meal, which consists of antipasti (appetizer), primi piatti (first plate) which is usually pasta or rice, secondi piatti (you guessed it, second plate) which is meat, contorno (side dish or salad), and dolce (dessert). We were seperated into groups and each group would prepare one of the courses. I learned alot, but obviously I didn't get to personally make all the dishes so trying to make them on my own may take some practice. We were given the recipes from each class. The only problem is that they are in Italian. So I have to translate them. Using Google translate makes things alot easier, but somethings are lost in translation and can be a little confusing.

I have really not had the time to cook the Italian dishes since alot of the ingredients I need can't be found at the Commisary on base. However, I recently decided that I was going to pick a couple of recipes a week and go shopping for the ingredients.

I did try a pesto a few months ago that we made in class and it was horrible! One of the problems was that I didn't have a food scale. Italians use the metric system and weigh their ingredients instead of using measuring cups. For instance the recipe may call for 30 grams of cheese instead of measuring out 1/4 cup of cheese. So I was trying to convert the metric measurements to our imperial measurements and it didn't work out well. After that fiasco, my husband so kindly ordered me a food scale and it has been very helpful.

I decided last week to make Eggplant Caponata, which is an antipasto. It is probably my favorite antipasto. It consists of delicious marinated vegetables. However, I was very disappointed to learn that all the vegetables are deep fried before they are simmered in the marinade. My Caponata turned out pretty good, but not perfect. It still needs some tweeking so I will not post the recipe until I am happy with the outcome. I plan to try again this week.

This is the Caponata from class:

This is my Eggplant Caponata:

As you can see it isn't quite the same. I really don't remember potatoes or olives in the original one. I think the olives were too overpowering and I didn't like the potatoes in it. 

I also decided to make Pork Involtini, which is thinly sliced pork, stuffed, and rolled. I was very pleased with how the Involtini turned out. It was so good.

Pork Involtini
Serves 4
Pork Roast 0,800 kg
Bread-Crumbs 200 g
Grated Parmasan Cheese 30 g
Garlic 30 g
Cooked Ham 100 g
Parsley 30 g
Extra Virgin Olive Oil 30 DL
Swiss Cheese 100 g
Salt and pepper to taste

Cut pork into very thin slices.

Grate bread or put in food processor and mix with the grated Parmesan, minced garlic and season with salt, pepper, parsley and enough oil so the dough is very wet.

Stuff the meat slices with a layer of bread crumb mixture, slice of ham, and some cheese.

Roll them up in the form of roll and secure with a toothpick. One tip, don't use colored toothpicks unless you want your meat to have some color! lol!

Finally pass the rolls in seasoned breadcrumb mixture and bake in the oven at 350 degrees until done. I cooked mine about 45 minutes.

They were really delicious!!
Buon Appetito!!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

$100,000 Cinnamon Rolls

My husband has been bugging me for weeks to make these $100,000 cinnamon rolls to take to work. I made them several months ago and his coworkers loved them. I have sent several baked goods with him to work, but the cinnamon rolls have been the biggest hit. I even entered them in a silent auction for a charity fundraiser and they sold for $150.

Like I said in my earlier post, I am not a creative cook, so I did not come up with this recipe myself. It is a Southern Living recipe from several years ago. Each year SL holds a recipe contest, and this recipe won the grand prize. I decided that any recipe worth $100,000 must be good. They are the bomb!! They are the best cinnamon rolls I have ever had!! Often when I cook I will alter recipes to make them a little more healthy, but not this one. You just have to embrace the fat and sugar and enjoy the gooey goodness!! Since they are made from scratch and are little time consuming I am not tempted to cook them very often. They are not hard to make at all though.

Sweet Potato Cinnamon Rolls

Adapted from Southern Living Magazine

3/4 cup melted butter
2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
1 cup chopped toasted pecans
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup corn syrup
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla

2 (1/4-ounce) envelopes active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water (100 to 110 degrees)
1 teaspoon sugar
5-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup mashed sweet potatoes
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup melted butter
2 tablespoons grated orange rind
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking soda

Non-stick cooking spray

1. For the filling: Stir together all ingredients until blended.

2. For the glaze: Stir together the sugar, corn syrup, and butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a light boil, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in cream and vanilla.

3. For the rolls: Stir together the yeast, 1/2 cup warm water, and 1 teaspoon sugar in a glass measuring cup; let stand 5 minutes.

4. Combine the yeast mixture and 1/2 cup flour in the bowl of an electric mixer; mix until combined on medium speed using the paddle attachment. Gradually add the mashes sweet potatoes, the next 7 ingredients, and remaining flour until combined. Switch to dough hook and knead for about 4-5 minutes or until elastic and smooth.

5. Place dough in a large bowl that has been coated with cooking spray. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place, free from drafts, for 1 to 1 -1/2 hours or until double in bulk.

6. Punch dough down. Turn dough onto a well floured surface and roll into a 10 x 18-inch rectangle. Spread the filling evenly over surface leaving a 1-inch border. Roll up jellyroll style starting with one long side. Cut into 12 slices and arrange in a 9 x 13-inch baking pan that has been lightly greased. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place, free from drafts for 30 minutes.

7. Bake rolls at 400 degrees for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and drizzle about 1/2 cup of the glaze over the tops, starting at edge of pan and drizzling in a circular pattern; let soak in. Repeat with remaining glaze.

8. Bake rolls for 7-10 minutes more or until lightly browned and a wooden toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

9. Remove rolls from oven and invert onto an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet. Invert again, glaze side up onto a serving platter. Let cool for 20 to 30 minutes. Serve warm.

To make the mashed sweet potatoes, I microwaved them, then scooped out the centers.

After mixing the yeast mixture with 1/2 cup of flour, mix in the rest of the ingredients with the paddle attachment.

Mix just until combined. The dough will be sticky. At this point, use the dough hook.

Knead for about 4-5 minutes. The dough will be smooth and elastic.

The dough should double in size. At this point, it can be turned out onto a floured surface and rolled into a rectangle.

Spread with the filling, then roll up starting at one long edge.

I cut the dough into 16 rolls and divided them up between 2 pans. Let them rice for about 30 minutes, or they can rise overnight in the fridge.

After they have baked for about 10 minutes, drizzle with the glaze, then bake for another 7-10 minutes or until light golden brown.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Beginning

My love affair with food began as a child. I was never a picky eater and as a matter of fact the only food that I can remember not liking was pancakes, which is crazy because I love them now. I loved food so much that I was very overweight until about the tenth grade when a friend dared me to go on a diet with her. That was just the motivation I needed to get control of my eating habits. I eventually lost the weight and have kept it off ever since. Anyway, this blog is not about my weight, but about my love for food and cooking.

People tell me all the time that I am a good cook, but I truly don't think I fall into the category of "good cook". I am just a "good recipe finder" and I follow directions well. When I try a new food that I think is to die for, I get the recipe and put it in my recipe binder. I also have some trusty sources for recipes that I go to whenever I am looking for a good recipe.  I am not someone that can throw ingredients together and create some fabulous original dish. That to me, is the definition of a good cook. 

I also have lived in Italy for the past year and have discovered a whole new world of food and food culture.

I created this blog to share my love of everyday cooking with you. I am no Martha Stewart; she is too complicated for my lifestyle. Although I am from the south, I am no Paula Deen; she uses too much butter. I am definitely no Rachel Ray; she is WAY too perky! I am just an ordinary girl that likes to try new foods and new recipes and would like to share some of my food experiences with you.