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Sunday Sauce with Meatballs and Sausage

Sunday Sauce with Meatballs and Sausage

Slow cooked Sunday sauce or gravy with ultra tender meatballs and sausage will delight and impress friends and family!

Sour Cream Coffee Cake with Espresso Pecan Crumble

Sour Cream Coffee Cake with Espresso Pecan Crumble

Sour cream coffee cake with an espresso pecan crumble is perfect for brunch, tea time or an after dinner treat.

Shrimp Scampi

Shrimp Scampi

Shrimp scampi with crusty bread to soak up the garlic, butter, and wine sauce is my new favorite dinner for entertaining. It’s special, easy to prepare, doesn’t require all day tending to, and is sophisticated while still remaining approachable. I’ve been making shrimp scampi for ages, serving it tossed with pasta. It’s always enjoyable, but this year, I nixed the pasta and chose to serve the scampi with a warmed loaf of ciabatta. Why haven’t I been doing this all along??? It’s insanely delicious! When the scampi is tossed with pasta, the flavor becomes less concentrated. The shrimp absorb more flavor from the sauce when served this way as well, taking them from ordinary to extraordinary. And, there is plenty of that amazing sauce left on the platter, ready to be mopped up with warmed, crusty bread.

There are two other components to this recipe that set it apart from common scampi recipes. First, briefly marinating the shrimp in olive oil and garlic… it’s a must. This way the garlic flavor penetrates the shrimp, not just sits on top of it. Second, making a simple shrimp stock from the shells and adding it to your sauce, adds another element of delightfulness! Seriously! The first couple of times I made this recipe, I didn’t think to do a reduced shrimp stock and although still a noteworthy recipe, with great flavor, I was questioning what else I could do to enhance the sauce. But the next time… as I completed the peeling of my last shrimp, I thought, I should make a shrimp stock reduction and add it to the sauce. I’ve done a reduced shrimp stock every time I make another of my favorite recipes for shrimp (shrimp, and grits), so why not with this recipe? The shrimp stock reduction was the ticket! Love when that happens!  Your guests will not be able to pick out why your scampi is better than any they’ve eaten in the past, but you can bet they’ll notice a difference. Taking the time to do the additional steps, will reward you with a dinner you’ll want to recreate again and again.

I mentioned that I’m a fan of entertaining with the shrimp scampi as an entree. But, it’s also an awesome addition to a tapas menu or casual gathering where appetizers make up the menu. Guests love harassing the cooks in the kitchen, don’t they? If they’re going to be in there anyway, why not fill their mouths and bellies and keep them out of your hair while in the final stages of cooking. Invite everyone into the kitchen, Setting out cold appetizers such as a cheese board with the accompaniments of olives, nuts, and various cured meats and allow guests to chat, eat, and drink. Have the shrimp marinated and the shrimp stock made so that you’re just minutes away from serving this fabulous dish to your adoring fans.

This is certainly not a low-fat dinner option, having a hefty amount of butter. But, personally,  I have 0 issues with high quality, grass-fed butter. Using real ingredients is what matters most to me.  At the time of writing this post, we are still a couple of days away from the New Year, so… technically, we’re still in the glutinous eating time frame. Plenty of days ahead for counting calories. For now, enjoy and celebrate with loved ones and great food!

Serves 4 (as the main entree), easily doubled for more guests.

Ingredients:

Shrimp Stock

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • Reserved shrimp shells from 1 lb. of shrimp
  • 1/2 cup onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1/4 cup celery stalk, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup carrot, roughly chopped
  • 1 small handful of Italian flat leaf parsley, stems included
  • A few sprigs of fresh thyme and oregano  (optional)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • water to cover shells

 

Shrimp Scampi

  • 1 lb. large shrimp, peeled and deveined (shells reserved for stock)
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced paper thin
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • Pinch or two of red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup dry, white wine
  • 1/4 cup reduced shrimp stock
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley leaves, chopped

 

Instructions:

Shrimp Stock

Peel and devein the shrimp, reserving the shells. Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a large saucepan. Add the shrimp shells and cook, stirring frequently about 5 minutes. Next, add the remaining ingredients for the stock, except water. Stir to combine and cover, reducing heat to low. Allow to cook for about 10 minutes, concentrating the flavors. Pour in water, just to cover shrimp shell mixture, and reduce over medium-low heat, uncovered for about 30 minutes. Pour through a fine, mesh strainer into a bowl and set aside until needed.

Shrimp Scampi 

Begin by marinating the peeled and deveined shrimp. In a large bowl, add the shrimp, sliced garlic, 2 tablespoons of olive oil and salt. Gently stir to combine and allow to marinate, in the refrigerator, for 30 minutes.

After marinating time for shrimp is complete, have all the rest of the ingredients ready to go, finishing the recipe will only take minutes at this point. In a large skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the shrimp, cooking about 1 minute per side. The shrimp should be just cooked through, even slightly undercooked, but not brown. Remove from the pan to a plate with a slotted spoon, leaving behind the oil. Add a pinch or two of red pepper flakes to the pan, sauteeing briefly. Now, the wine, reduced stock, and lemon Juice go in. Reduce this mixture by half over medium-high heat. Add the butter, swirling the pan until the butter has melted and the sauce has thickened ( 5-7 minutes). At this point, check for seasoning, adding salt if needed, keeping in mind the shrimp were salted earlier in the marinade. Return the shrimp to the pan and lightly toss to coat. Remove immediately to a warmed platter, sprinkle with chopped, fresh parsley, and serve with crusty bread or rice.

 

Spicy Gingerbread Cookies

Spicy Gingerbread Cookies

The best gingerbread cookies! They are soft, slightly crisp, full of flavor and retain a beautiful shape for decorating. Perfect for your holiday cookie tray.

Anise Biscotti

Anise Biscotti

My Sicilian grandmother’s anise biscotti recipe is perfect for gifting, entertaining or dunked into your morning cup of jo.

Tiramisù Cheesecake

Tiramisù Cheesecake

 

It’s crunch time for those of us who love to bake during the holiday season. Kitchens filled with scents of cinnamon, ginger, and vanilla. Cupboards and refrigerators stocked with flour, sugar, butter, and eggs.  And those mixers and ovens… working overtime. These are a few of my favorite things. Also on my list? Tiramisù Cheesecake. Although I make it throughout the year, It’s a requirement for Christmas.  It’s special, unexpected and makes everyone swoon.

I have many Christmas traditions I like to follow, mostly centered around charity, values and decorating. When it comes to food traditions, however, they tend to be ever-changing.  I enjoy coming up with new and different menus each year, but there are a few recipes (like this one) that I consider staples. A couple of years ago, I stumbled across a recipe for a tiramisù cheesecake from the magazine, Fine Cooking. What a great idea, two of my favorite desserts in one!  I adjusted the recipe to my taste, making it my own, and it has been putting smiles on faces ever since. It’s creamy, decadent and perfectly sweet. And even though it looks like it took a lot of effort to prepare, it’s deceptively simple.

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Aside from being an outstanding holiday dessert, it also makes for an impressive display when entertaining or treating a loved one to a homemade birthday cake. My dear friend, Jessica recently held a birthday party for her husband, Aaron. Her talents are many, most notably, her party planning abilities. She has opened her doors for gatherings of all sorts, weddings, baby showers and birthdays. Her home is always warm and inviting, the table settings and dishes served, you’d want to pin on your Pinterest boards and all done with such grace and love. Okay, so Jessica is amazing, but why am I bringing this up? Back to the birthday party for her husband. In addition to her party planning skills, she’s also a busy mom to three little ones with a full-time job outside the house. Helping her out by making the birthday cake, was the least I could do. When deciding on what to make, I immediately thought of this cheesecake. It serves many because only a small slice is needed per guest, It’s best prepared the day before, giving you extra time on the day of your gathering and…most importantly, It. Is. Soooooo. Delicious!

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Here are some tips to keep in mind when making this cheesecake:

  1. The cream cheese, mascarpone, and eggs need to be at room temperature.
  2. Once eggs are added to the batter, beat slowly and do not overwhip. Overwhipping will put too much air into your cheesecake and cause cracks.
  3. Remove cheesecake while it still has some jiggle to it.
  4. The cheesecake must be completely cooled (preferably refrigerated overnight) before serving.

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One more note before diving into the recipe. I am lucky enough to have a cousin who is the Director of Coffee for Dave’s Coffee in Rhode Island. He gave me the coffee syrup I used in this recipe as a gift. Coffee syrup, if you’re not from Rhode Island, may be foreign to you, but Rhode Islanders regularly put this delicious syrup in milk (as you would chocolate syrup) for a special treat.  I love it, it’s like a sophisticated chocolate milk. I have been wanting to use it in a recipe and thought it would be perfect in this cheesecake. And…it is! The syrup is easily purchased online through Dave’s website and Amazon as well. You will find many uses for your syrup, such as, adding to whipped cream or ice cream, yum! Put some Dave’s coffee in your basket while picking up your syrup, it’s awesome!!! P.S. a fun fact about my cousin Adam, the Director of Coffee, he chose the name for this food blog. I immediately fell in love with the name, that was it, done! It pays to have a younger, hipster cousin, who won’t admit he’s a hipster but totally is. Now, go make this cheesecake and bring happiness to a bunch of people by doing so!

Yields: (1) 9-inch cheesecake    Serves: 12-14    Special Equipment: 9-inch springform pan

Ingredients: 

Crust

  • 1 (9 oz. package) chocolate wafer cookies (like these), finely crushed or processed in a food processor
  • 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons sugar

Cheesecake

  • 3 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 (8 oz.) tub mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup coffee syrup (like Dave’s) or 1/4 cup coffee liquor
  • 1 teaspoon instant espresso granules
  • 1 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
  • 4 eggs, at room temperature

Garnish

  • cocoa powder
  • sweetened whipped cream placed in a piping bag fitted with a star tip
  • cocoa dusted almonds or chocolate covered espresso beans

 

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 375°
Place rack in the center of the oven
Lightly grease a 9-inch springform pan
In a medium-size bowl, mix together the wafer crumbs, sugar, espresso powder and melted butter. Stir with a fork to combine well. Dump mixture into your prepared springform pan and press evenly along the bottom and up the sides (about halfway up the sides of the pan) with the bottom of a glass. Place springform pan with pressed crust onto a parchment lined cookie sheet and bake in the preheated oven for about 8-10 minutes. Remove, and allow to cool on on a rack. Decrease oven temperature to 300°.
Fit a stand mixer with the paddle attachment. Beat the cream cheese, mascarpone, flour and salt on medium speed until smooth, this will take about five minutes, stopping and scraping the sides, bottom of the bowl and paddle with a spatula a few times. Add the sugar and continue to beat well for about 2 minutes more. Ensure there are no lumps before adding the coffee syrup, espresso powder, and vanilla, mix briefly. Finally, the eggs go in one at a time, mixing on low speed after each addition, until completely combined. Remeber, you do not want to whip air into your cheesecake at this point, it will only lead to cracks. Pour the filling into the cooled crust, place back on the lined cookie sheet and bake in 300° oven for 60-70 minutes. The cheesecake will be slightly puffed around the edges and still jiggly in the center. Remove to a cooling rack, and cool completely. Refrigerate for at least 8 hours prior to serving.
For optional garnish, I place 1 tablespoon of cocoa powder into a small mesh strainer and lightly dust the entire surface of the cake. I then beat 1 cup of chilled heavy cream with 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and 2 tablespoons powdered sugar until you have firm peaks, being careful not to overbeat. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a star attachment with beaten whipped cream and pipe large rosettes around the edge.  To complete, I place a cocoa dusted almond or chocolate covered espresso bean on each rosette. That’s it, you’re done, and your cheesecake is now dressed to impress!

 

 

Quick Tomato Basil Sauce

Quick Tomato Basil Sauce

Quick tomato and basil sauce ready form start to finish in under 30 minutes.

Southern Buttermilk Biscuits

Southern Buttermilk Biscuits

Southern buttermilk biscuits with their tender, flaky, layers of perfection are a true work of art. Impress your loved ones with this easy to follow recipe.

Mediterranean Chopped Salad with Lemon-Oregano Vinaigrette

Mediterranean Chopped Salad with Lemon-Oregano Vinaigrette

This recipe is one of two salads that are in constant rotation in my kitchen. Its flavors are bright and fresh and it compliments everything from rigatoni and meat sauce to grilled chicken. Topped with a protein of choice, it’s a satisfying lunch option, rivaling your favorite restaurant’s entrée salad, at a fraction of the price. Personally, I like to remove a single serving of the salad before I toss it with the dressing and refrigerate. The following afternoon, I add leftover dressing (recipe makes enough for multiple salads) and a hard-boiled egg. In an instant, lunch is served for this busy mom. Also, great for a light dinner. Did you overeat on Thanksgiving? And the day after, and possibly the day after that? I did. I LOVE a traditional Thanksgiving meal, but I was feeling a bit glutinous after the second day of eating leftovers. I made this salad for dinner, adding sliced leftover turkey and didn’t feel guilty about the amount of pie I consumed for dessert.😇

Let’s talk about the dressing for this salad. It’s so tasty, you may just want to drink it! The fresh oregano combined with lemon, parmesan, and olive oil, will convert even the non-salad lover in your family. It couldn’t be simpler to prepare. Toss all ingredients (except olive oil) into blender, blend, and slowly pour in the olive oil through the opening in the top to emulsify, pour into a mason jar, stirring in parmesan, extra salt, and pepper, if needed, at the end. That’s it. Fresh dressing with healthy ingredients. While on the topic of dressing, I want to mention just one more thing. Have you noticed that salads, dressed and tossed in the bowl, right before serving, just taste better? I have. A light, even coating of dressing vs. a mixture of some veggies swimming in dressing while others remain naked? No contest for me, the salad tossed with dressing…superior.

Aside from the even distribution of salad dressing, another element that should not be overlooked is the addition of fresh herbs to the salad. I once purchased a mix of field greens and fresh herbs from my grocery store. Wow! So delicious! Such a minor addition, but makes the salad much more interesting. I have a perennial herb garden providing me with numerous combinations to add to my salad, but even if you don’t, it’s a great way to use up those fresh herbs just hanging out in your fridge.

Serves: 4-6   Prep Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients:

Salad

  • 2 Romain lettuce hearts, chopped
  • 1 English cucumber, 1-inch dice
  • 1/4 head radicchio, leaves roughly torn
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 1 cup feta, cubed
  • 1/2 cup imported black olives  (Cerignola, sliced in half, are my favorite)
  • 1/2 cup fresh leafy herbs, leaves removed from the stems, but not chopped (I used flat leaf Italian parsley and mint)

Dressing

  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup fresh oregano leaves
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 large garlic clove
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt (1/2 teaspoon added once blended if needed)
  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste

 

Instructions:

Prepare ingredients for salad and place in a large serving bowl. In a blender, add all ingredients through 1 teaspoon Kosher salt. blend a few seconds. Through the opening in the top of your blender, add the olive oil in a slow, steady stream. The dressing should be nicely emulsified at this point. Pour into a 16 oz. mason jar, add Parmigiano Reggiano, ground pepper.  Taste and add extra salt, if needed. The dressing recipe makes more than you will need for this salad but keeps nicely in the fridge for another salad later in the week.  I start with about 1/3 cup of the dressing added to the salad and toss to combine. Adding more dressing if too dry. Do this right before you are ready to eat and not a minute sooner.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Salted Almond Butter Cookies (Gluten Free)

Salted Almond Butter Cookies (Gluten Free)

Sweet and salty almond butter cookies are easily prepared with a short list of ingredients. Treat your loved ones to a dessert that is sure to please.