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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

Creamy and decadent tiramisù cheesecake is the perfect dessert for all your gatherings.

Quick Tomato Basil Sauce

Quick Tomato Basil Sauce

In my grandparents’ kitchen, this sauce was called 10-minute sauce, in reference to the cooking time. It was a staple in their kitchen, as it is in my mother’s, brother’s, aunt’s, uncle’s, cousins’, mine, and the list goes on and on. Not once was it called a marinara, even though… it is. In fact, the word sauce was often removed from its title, and it became 10-minute. Pasta and 10-minute would often be served with grilled, hot Italian sausage (my favorite), but 10-minute is also great used in an eggplant parmesan or over chicken cutlets that are then topped with grated Romano, fresh mozzarella and baked.

As with my rigatoni and meat sauce recipe, it’s extremely important to use quality ingredients! I cannot stress this enough. You have 5 ingredients for this recipe (not including salt and pepper). If bland, unsweet tomatoes are used, that’s what your sauce will taste like. One of these days I will write about my blind, canned tomato taste test. Until then, take my advise and try either Muire Glen, organic whole peeled tomatoes or RedPack whole peeled tomatoes. And, no, they don’t pay me, they were the consistent favorites of the blind taste test. These brands are sweet with a ripe tomato flavor. There will be no need for sugar in your sauce if you start with a sweet tomato. On the subject of canned tomatoes, you may be wondering why you should purchase whole peeled instead of crushed or pureed since the whole tomatoes are blended or crushed for this recipe. Well, to me it’s about quality and control.  When You open up a can of whole tomatoes you can see the quality, who knows what kind of tomatoes were put into the can of pureed tomatoes, just saying.😬  The consistency of your sauce is also within your control when you purchase whole tomatoes. Chunky sauce, smooth sauce, it’s all up to you.

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So, chunky or smooth sauce? As a kid, I most often remember watching my grandfather making the 10-minute sauce.  A healthy amount of olive oil would go into a large skillet along with garlic and red pepper flakes. When the garlic had softened, the whole, peeled tomatoes went in with any accumulated juice in the can. He would then crush the tomatoes in the pan with the back of a fork and allow to cook and break down even more. But my grandmother, in her later years, didn’t seem to remember this and purchased…gasp, crushed tomatoes. Wanting to please the boss lady, but not wanting to use pre-crushed tomatoes, I started blending the whole crushed tomatoes until smooth. Honestly, I prefer my sauce this way now too. Either way, the sauce is perfection!

Of course,  as with many of the recipes from our grandparents, there is no formal recipe. And up until the creation of this blog, I never measured anything for this sauce either. I worked on figuring out the measurements and testing and it’s now ready to be recreated in your home! we enjoy this sauce over penne pasta, but it would also be great over ravioli, gnocchi, or rotini.

 

***Note

I made this sauce the other night using the recipe I had tested tons of times and I was questioning my salt content. It tasted like it needed more. Odd. It took me a minute to figure out why, but I did. I always use sea salt in this recipe. The other night I grabbed kosher salt and used it without thinking. kosher salt is less salty, resulting in my sauce not tasting right. So, it’s worth noting, if you use kosher salt, you may need to use a bit more than if using sea salt. As I’ve said before, salt and pepper content is subjective. Add about half the recommended salt, taste, and repeat until you are happy.

Serves: 6 (as an accompaniment to pasta)

 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 cloves garlic, sliced paper thin
  • A pinch or two of hot pepper flakes
  • 2 (28 oz.) cans whole plum tomatoes, pureed in a food processor or blender (or crushed with the back of a fork/ hands)
  • 3 teaspoons sea salt (may require more if using kosher)
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Large handful of fresh basil, roughly torn

 

INSTRUCTIONS:

Heat a large, 12″ skillet over medium-high heat. Pour in olive oil and add sliced garlic. Sautee until softened (1-2 minutes), but do not brown. Add a pinch or two of hot pepper flakes and tomatoes that have been processed or crushed by fork/hand.  Allow to cook over medium heat for 10-20 minutes (no more). Remove from heat, Finish with salt and plenty of freshly ground pepper. At this point, you could allow the sauce to sit until you are ready for it or serve immediately, adding freshly torn basil to the sauce right before you serve.

 

 

 

 

 

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

A bright and fresh salad with Mediterranean flavors, fresh herbs and an easy to prepare dressing.

Salted Almond Butter Cookies (Gluten Free)

Salted Almond Butter Cookies (Gluten Free)

Sometimes the simple recipes are the BEST! Such is the case with my recipe for almond butter cookies. It’s so easy that I hesitated putting it on the blog, fearing there’s not much to teach here, it’s too simple.  But, that’s what makes it so great. This is a recipe for all and I love that! Pushing those who may not think they can cook or bake into the kitchen, is my goal. Seeing success in what you’ve created, with your own hands and real ingredients, hopefully inspires you to try more recipes and keep learning. And, for those more experienced bakers, this is still a great recipe to have in your repertoire.

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Aside from requiring few ingredients, little equipment and being a breeze to prepare, the texture and flavor…perfection!  Soft and chewy, sweet with a slightly salty crunch from the Maldon sea salt. This is what makes them so dangerous. Seriously, If you do not hide these cookies, they will disappear as quickly as they were made. Happens in my house every time. In fact, when I made them for this post, it was dark, natural light gone, photographing would have to be done in the morning. I knew leaving them out on the counter overnight was not an option, I’d be taking pictures of crumbs. I had to stash about 6 cookies away in the depths of my pantry, if there was any hope for a photo shoot in the morning.

So, my 6 cookies survived for their moment in the sun. Aren’t they lovely? The only downside to these cookies?  They are a little pricey. The recipe yields around 20 cookies and you’re using a cup of almond butter. The almond butter I use costs about $8.00 for a 16 oz. jar. quality over quantity, right? That’s my feeling.  The Maldon sea salt is also not inexpensive, but you’ll have it for a long time, definitely worth it. The almond butter and flaked sea salt are the stars of the show and in order for the recipe to work, they really can’t be replaced. Well, not entirely true, If you can’t find the almond butter, you could replace it with peanut butter, it would just have a different flavor. I should mention that you cannot use the almond butter (same goes for peanut butter) that is strictly ground almonds and salt. It just doesn’t work the same. You must use the creamy almond butter that has been emulsified with palm oil or another type of oil. There are a few companies out there using sustainably sourced palm oil, try to find the best you can afford.

I’m so excited for you to try these cookies! I hope you love them as much as we do!

Yields: 20 cookies    Prep Time: 5 minutes   Bake Time: 7-9 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup creamy almond butter (the type that contains palm oil)
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • flaked sea salt for finishing the cookies

 

Instructions:

Preheat oven 350°    Line an 18 x 13 inch baking sheet with parchment paper

In a medium bowl, combine ingredients, almond butter through vanilla extract.  Mix vigorously with a wooden spoon. Scoop out 1 tablespoon of dough and roll in hands, forming a ball. proceed until you have twelve balls of dough, spaced about two inches apart, on your lined sheet pan. flatten slightly by making a cross hatch with your fork. bake in preheated oven for about 7 minutes. Allow to cool on pan for a few minutes before removing to a cooling rack.  Repeat steps with remaining dough.

 

Spelt Flour Pumpkin Muffins with Pecan Crumble Topping

Spelt Flour Pumpkin Muffins with Pecan Crumble Topping

Tender, flavorful pumpkin muffins made with spelt flour and coconut palm sugar, are packed with nutrients, but taste just as heavenly as the ones from your local bakery.

Italian Cutlets

Italian Cutlets

Crisp and tender Italian cutlets made with your choice of pork, chicken or veal. A family favorite!

Flourless Chocolate Cake with Caramel Sauce and Crème Fraîche Whipped  Cream

Flourless Chocolate Cake with Caramel Sauce and Crème Fraîche Whipped Cream

I think the first time I ever made a flourless chocolate cake, I was newly out of college, feeling like an adult and planning a dinner party. I can’t remember what else I made that night, goodness, I don’t even remember who was there, but I remember the chocolate cake! I have always been an avid cookbook reader. I used to ( and sometimes still do) check out stacks of cookbooks from the public library. I’d spend hours on the couch combing the pages and copying down recipes of interest on index cards until my hands ached. The flourless chocolate cake I made for that ancient dinner party, came from one of these index cards. It contained roasted hazelnuts, lots of butter, eggs and chocolate. Um…Yeah, recipe for success, right? I remember feeling like such pro that night, like I couldn’t find better at the bakery. And that’s a pretty awesome feeling for a girl in her  early 20’s with zero formal training.

That recipe was misplaced somewhere during one of my many moves, but no worries,  my current recipe for flourless chocolate cake will not disappoint. It’s even easier to prepare, making it perfect for the novice baker. Seriously. You’d have to try pretty hard to fail at making this cake. The hardest part may be perfecting the caramel sauce. In a fraction of a second, your sugar/water mixture can go from perfect to burnt, so you really need to watch it like a hawk.  If you’re intimidated by the caramel sauce, it’s fabulous, but not necessary. You could serve this cake on its own or simply garnished with some fresh berries and whipped cream and you’ll still be a rock star!

The caramel sauce I use in this recipe comes from the website, Serious Eats, http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2016/09/easy-caramel-sauce-recipe.html. Written by contributor, Stella Parks, of Brave tart. She is an extremely gifted professional baker and equally gifted recipe writer. Not all that exhibit exceptional talent in cooking/baking can pass along their knowledge in a way that is easily replicated. She can. I first discovered her website when looking for a carrot cake recipe. It was the best ever! Still Is. Make it. Okay, back to caramel sauce. It’s simple, contains few ingredients and an amazing accompaniment to many desserts. There are certain recipes that do not need fiddling with, this caramel sauce is one of them. I love that she basically says, any caramel sauce recipe containing brown sugar, is a “sham”. Amen! Agreed. If you’ve never made caramel sauce from scratch, give it a try, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. And finding excuses to put it on everything, trust me.

I have friends who chuckle and give an eye roll when I say, “anyone can make this, it’s soooo easy”. Knowing my propensity for the elaborate, I understand their mistrust. But, this cake, anyone can make. Like I said before, you don’t have to make all three elements, but when you do, it’s divine. The decadent, dense, not too sweet, chocolate cake is balanced by the light, slightly tart, whipped cream and the deep, nutty, caramel sauce with just a hint of salt. Also, it’s naturally gluten-free. With so many going gluten free these days, it’s inevitable that at least one of your guest is GF. This cake will please everyone and you can avoid the comment, “That’s really good…for being gluten free”, hahaha.  This recipe yields one, 10 in. cake, that can feed many. A small slice is all that’s needed for each guest. Make it… and humbly accept all the praise that follows!

Yeilds: 1, 10 in. cake (10-12 sevings)  Cook Time:  40-45 min. for cake

 

Ingredients

Cake:
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, each stick cut into 8 tablespoons
  • 8 oz. quality, dark chocolate
  • 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar, plus 2 tablespoons for dusting the greased springform pan
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 large eggs (room temp.)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Caramel Sauce:

http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2016/09/easy-caramel-sauce-recipe.html

Crème Fraîche Whipped Cream:
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup crème fraîche
  • 3 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

 

Instructions

Cake:

Preheat oven 350° and ensure that oven rack is placed in center.

Butter a 10 in., springform pan and dust bottom and sides with 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, shaking out any excess. In a heavy, large saucepan, melt the butter, chocolate and  instant espresso powder over low heat, gently stirring to combine. Remove from heat. In a large mixing bowl, combine the sugar, cocoa powder and salt. Next, add the eggs and vanilla to the bowl with the sugar/cocoa powder and whisk vigorously. Finally, slowly whisk the melted chocolate mixture into the cocoa powder mixture. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool cake in pan, on rack. when completely cool, run a knife around the edge and remove ring. Can be prepared 1 day ahead, cooled and refrigerated.

Caramel Sauce:

Prepare caramel sauce according to instructions in above link. Can be prepared in advance.

Crème Fraîche Whipped Cream:

Chill the bowl and whisk attachment of a stand mixer in the freezer for a minimum of 15 minutes. Add all ingredients to chilled bowl and whisk on high-speed until medium peaks form. Take caution not to over-mix.

 

To plate:

Place a healthy amount of caramel sauce on dessert plate, add a slice of chocolate cake and a dollop of cream.

 

 

 

 

Unbelievably Good Saturday Morning Pancakes

Unbelievably Good Saturday Morning Pancakes

Tender and fluffy sour cream pancakes are everything you’ve been looking for in a pancake recipe. Easy to prepare and beloved by all!