Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Buttermilk Pancakes

In honor of National Pancake Day, I thought I would share our family's favorite pancake recipe. These are the best, fluffiest pancakes ever. They are really quick and simple to make. I often modified the recipe and substituted whole wheat flour instead of the all-purpose flour for a healthier option. You can also add 1 cup fruit, nuts, or chocolate chips to the batter for extra yummy pancakes. For the pickier eater, offer different toppings like nuts, fruit or whipped cream so everyone can enjoy their own pancake creation.

Buttermilk Pancakes
Source: Southern Living Ultimate Cookbook
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 3 minutes per batch

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups buttermilk (if you don't have buttermilk on hand you can sub 2 cups milk with 2 tablespoons vinegar. Let sit 10 minutes)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
Maple Syrup

Combine first 5 ingredients; stir well. Combine eggs, buttermilk, and oil in a bowl; add to flour mixture, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened.
For each pancake, pour about 1/4 cup batter onto a hot, lightly greased griddle or skillet. I like to use a large scoop to measure and pour the batter.
Cook pancakes until tops are covered with bubbles and edges look cooked; turn and cook other side.
Serve with warm maple syrup and enjoy!!

Buon Appetito!!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Basil Pesto

If you are looking for a quick, simple, delicious dish pesto pasta is a great choice. The main ingredient in this dish is fresh basil, lots of fresh basil. Pesto is so versatile. It can be tossed with many different types of pasta (spaghetti, linguine, penne, bowtie etc.) and is also delicious as a spread for baguette style bread, sandwiches, or even meat. I love using it in eggs or omelets, too.

Believe it or not, I had never used fresh basil before moving to Italy. Dried basil was always more convenient and I never really thought about using fresh. The smell of fresh basil is wonderful, and I think I will always associate it with Sicily. Pasta, fresh baked bread, olive oil, wine and fresh basil will mentally bring me back to this beautiful island. 

I highly recommend using a food processor for making the pesto. If you don't have a food processor you can use a blender, but it doesn't chop the basil as well.

Last summer I purchased a basil plant, but it didn't grow very well so now I just buy basil whenever I need it. What are some of your favorite fresh herbs? Do you grow them inside or outside? I would love to hear your herb growing tips.

Pair this pesto pasta dish with bruschetta, and a green salad for a quick delicious Italian meal!

Basil Pesto and Pasta


Source: Southern Living Ultimate Cookbook
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 10 minutes
Yield: 6 side dish servings

¼ cup pine nuts or walnuts
½ cup packed fresh basil leaves
¼ cup fresh parsley sprigs
¼ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1 clove garlic, halved
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. pepper
¼ cup olive oil
 6 ounces pasta

·         Toast pine nuts in a small skillet over medium heat 1 to 2 minutes. If desired.
·         Process nuts, basil, and next 5 ingredients in container of a food processor or electric blender 2 minutes or until smooth. (If using a blender, coarsely chop herbs before processing.) Gradually pour oil through food chute with processor running until a paste forms.
·         Cook pasta according to package directions; drain. Spoon pesto mixture over pasta; toss gently, and serve immediately.

Buon Appetito!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Black Forest Trifle

Today's post is short and sweet. I am short and the recipe is sweet, ha-ha! Wait! Don't go! I know that was a bad joke. This trifle dessert is worth sticking around for, I promise.

I just love a trifle dessert. They are typically super easy to make and look so pretty. Served in individual glass compotes or wine glasses, this Black Forest Trifle would make a great Valentine's treat for the romantic dinner that I know you are planning for your sweetheart. It makes a lot so you could simply half the recipe if making it just for two.
glass compote

The "made from scratch" pudding layer is really delectable, and worth the extra time it takes to make. Trust me! I couldn't quit eating it. I have tasted "made from scratch" pudding that I didn't think was worth the time and effort, but this pudding is way better than instant.

Black Forest Trifle
Recipe Source: Prime Meridian

Serving Size  : 8     

  4 1/2  cups milk, divided
  3- 1 ounce squares unsweetened chocolate
  1/3  cup cornstarch
  1/2  cup sugar
  1/4  tsp  salt
  2 tsp  vanilla
  2 cups cookie crumbs (vanilla wafers, shortbread, or chocolate chip)
  1 can cherry pie filling

1. In a heavy saucepan, combine 4 cups milk and chocolate. Cook over
moderate heat until bubbles form on milk around edges of pan. Remove from
heat. Set aside. In a small bowl, combine cornstarch, sugar, salt, and 1/2
cup milk. Whisk until well moistened and smooth. Gradually add cornstarch
mixture to hot milk mixture stirring constantly. Return to moderately high
heat, stirring until mixture begins to boil. Boil 1 minute while continuing
to stir. Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla.

2. Spoon 1/3 (approximately 1 1/3 cup) mixture into a 2-quart soufflé dish
or trifle bowl. Top with 1/3 (2/3 cup) cookie crumbs. Set Aside 1/2 cup pie
filing. Gently spoon half of remaining filling onto crumb layer. Repeat
layering with another 1/3 chocolate mixture, 1/3 crumbs, remaining pie
filling and remaining chocolate mixture. Spoon remaining crumbs around top
edge of bowl to form a border. Place reserved pie filling in center.

3. Refrigerate covered 5 to 6 hours or until pudding is well chilled.

I know the pics are not great. Obviously I took them and not my hubby :)

Buon Appetito!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Spigola al Sale (Sea Bass in Salt)

Yesterday I posted on facebook that I was having serious blogging withdrawals. BTW- you can check out my new facebook cooking page here.  It is a simple and quick way to share cooking information and tips. I love the interaction that facebook offers. Sometimes I feel like I am all alone talking to myself in blog land . I am only 2 clicks away from 200 "likes" on my page. I may be a nerd, but that totally excites me.

Ok, back to what I was saying about having blogging withdrawals. It has been about 1 1/2 weeks since my last post. I have been super busy with my volunteer job, schoolwork, and taking care of my family while attempting to keep my house from becoming a pigsty that I haven't had time to blog. I find it rather ironic that I have such a strong desire to write. This is from someone who absolutely can't stand, hates, loathes to write. I have always found it to be so laborious. I don't even like to email, which my friends and family can attest to since I often send short emails and replies. In high school I was supposed to do a research paper, but calculated that I would still get a C without doing the paper so I didn't do it. I am glad that my boys don't read my blog :) Funny how things change! I still don't enjoy writing in general, but I do enjoy cooking and sharing so I guess that overrides the dislike of writing.

I am really excited to share this Spigola al Sale or Sea Bass in Salt recipe with you. I first learned about this technique for cooking fish at the Italian cooking school. We cooked a huge whole Sea Bass stuffed with spices, incased in salt, and then baked. It was super moist and absolutely delicious. You might think it would be salty, but it wasn't at all. The skin keeps the salt away from the meat so there is no salty taste.  I even tried this technique with a whole chicken and it turned out great too!

A few weeks ago I decided to make it at home. This recipe is not an exact science so I will just share with you how I made it.

Spigola al Sale
(Sea Bass in Salt)

3 whole Sea Bass, gutted and rinsed- (Size doesn't matter, but you may need to adjust cooking time for a smaller fish. I think these fish were about 1 1/2 pounds)
3 lb. box of kosher salt or sea salt
 4 egg whites
lemon slices
garlic cloves
spices- I used dried spices for fish. You could use rosemary, parsley, thyme (fresh is best)

Prepare fish by placing whole garlic, lemon slices and spices inside the fish. Not sure if it is necessary, but I used toothpicks to keep the fish closed so the salt wouldn't get inside.

Beat egg whites with either a stand or hand mixer on high speed using a whisk attachment until stiff peaks form. Fold egg whites into the salt until thoroughly mixed and the salt is wet. Spread salt on a baking sheet or dish about 1/2 inch deep.

Lay fish on the salt. 

Completely cover fish with salt.

Bake the fish at 375-400 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let sit for about 10 minutes.

Crack salt and place on serving dish for a great presentation before breaking open the salt.

Remove salt before eating.

We were so excited to try it that we forgot to take any pictures of the meat. I can assure you that it was absolutely amazing! This is the best way to bake fish in my opinion. You can do this technique with Red Snapper, Grouper, Bream, or I venture to say any other whole fish.

Here's the chicken version. The meat is succulent and very aromatic.
Simply put the spices into the cavity of the chicken or under the skin. Cover bottom of a casserole dish or roasting pan with salt mixture then cover chicken with salt. Bake at 450 for 90 minutes. Remove from oven and let sit for 10 minutes.

Crack open salt.

Unlike this picture, the chicken should be place in the pan breast up. It might not look too pretty, but it tasted mighty fine!

Buon Appetito!