What is it about pumpkin treats that we all love so much (and made me jump for joy when I saw a 3-pack of huge cans of pumpkin puree for sale at Costco recently)?
Anything pumpkin is super comforting. It helps us welcome the chill in the air of the perfect Autumn day and get us through the dog days of Winter. But is is the pumpkin that we all like or all the other things that come along with pumpkin treats, namely the spices? I think it’s all about the spices – cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, all spice. They warm up the insides of our mouths and when they reach our bellies, make up feel all warm and cozy.
That’s exactly what you will feel after your first bite of this bread (which is really a cake in disguise and an excuse to have cake for breakfast). Read more
I’ve gotten a bit of a slow start to 2012 on the blog. I think it’s because I still can’t get over last year. Words aren’t enough to describe just how amazing of a year 2011 was for me. But let me make an attempt here.
Had fun with a coconut and my first from scratch (and super delicious) recipe.
Took my first solo vacation to London and Paris.
Watched one of the world’s top soccer teams kick butt in Barcelona.
Shared a glass of vino with a bestie for breakfast (it was Europe folks).
Tossed coins in Rome’s Trevi Fountain.
Steered a sailboat. Or rather, gave it a really good try. Turns out I’m better at making sure everyone on board has a stiff cocktail.
Shared some of my most beloved savory recipes on this ‘lil ‘ol blog.
Held hands with a bestie while watching July 4th fireworks.
Was featured in a 3-page spread in the NY Daily News (still pinching myself over this). Pardon my “look” in this pic. It was taken right after I bought the paper that Sunday. At like, um, 6:30am.
Took a quick impromptu trip with my husband to Philadelphia that resulted in an incredible culinary experience with food from here, here, here and here.
Baked with a special little girl.
Had the time of my life at the New York Wine and Food Festival.
Bought my very first car. Oh – it was brand spankin new too.
Enjoyed a private plunge pool with the hubs in Mexico.
Caught some beads during a Halloween parade in New Orleans.
Met and had a blast with some amazing gals in Atlanta (photo courtesy of How To Simplify).
If 2012 is only half as incredible as 2011 was, I will be one happy chica. Hope everyone is having a great start to the year. And get ready – because it’s going to be a delicious one around here.
Happy New Year Everyone!
I’ve got a giveaway for you all today that I am super excited about. I’m giving away TWO COPIES of Chef Anne Burrell’s first cookbook – Cook Like a Rock Star.
I have been a huge fan on Chef Anne’s since the first episode of her cooking show on the Food Network and have tried tons of her recipes. My favorites – this pasta and these cookies. Chef Anne’s recipes are chocked full of flavor and easy to follow and her show, complete with grunting and excessive hand gestures, is a pleasure to watch. (Thank you Food Network for not replacing her with some ridiculous cake-making competition show.) As if her show wasn’t good enough, Chef Anne has outdone herself yet again with her first cookbook.
Chef Anne’s infectious personality transcends the pages of Cook Like a Rock Star, with recipes that will challenge seasoned home cooks but also serve as an inspiration for new cooks. She is the real deal folks. Classically trained, she has rocked out some of the best Italian restaurants in New York City and rocked out The Food Network. Now she is going to help you rock it out in your home kitchens with 125 rustic yet elegant recipes, all based on accessible ingredients, along with encouraging notes and handy professional tricks that will help you cook more efficiently.
My husband and I had the pleasure of meeting Chef Anne during her book launch event at the NYC Wine and Food Festival a couple of months ago. And let me tell you – she is just as sweet (if not sweeter) in person as she is on TV. Since I had already ordered a copy of the book, I am giving away the free copies we received for attending the event.
To enter, simply leave a comment on this post letting me know your favorite foodie in your life by 11pm on Monday, December 5th. For their love of good food, two of my favorite foodies are Chef Anne and my mom.
This giveaway is for US residents only. The winner will be chosen at random, notified by email and will have 48 hours to respond.
There are a few things in my cooking and baking repertoire that make me feel like I kick some serious bootie in the kitchen. Among them are this roast pork. And this salmon. And this galette. And this coffee cake. And this pudding.
The latest addition to my greatest hits list is this bolognese sauce.
I’m a comfort food loving kinda girl and let me tell you, it doesn’t get more comforting that a bowl of this pasta bolognese. The recipe is courtesy of Food Network’s Anne Burrell of Secrets of a Restaurant Chef. I’m growing out of love with the decreasing number of cooking shows on the network (and I don’t get Cooking Channel). But it’s personalities like Anne that keep me coming back. She is the real deal when it comes to food and the proof is in this recipe.
But before I get into how to put this sauce together – NOTE – this is not something you can just throw together and have on the dinner table in a half hour. It’s by no means difficult but it IS a delicious 3-4 hour labor of love. And I have made it enough times over the last year so know that it is worth every second of work. So do yourself a favor – read this post carefully and buy the ingredients to make this this weekend. I promise you won’t regret it. You can even prepare by watching a video of Anne making the sauce here. If for nothing else, you’ll get a kick out of Anne’s growling, grunting and other sound effects. (LOVE HER!)
The recipe starts with a vegetable paste made of celery, onion, carrot and garlic that you season with salt and brown in some olive oil in a big pot. Brown until the bottom of the pot gets a brown “crud” as Anne calls it, which you scrape along the way. Then add your meat, I use ground chuck, and brown the meat. Then add tomato paste and you guessed it, brown some more. The key is to develop flavors during the browning process and every time you add new ingredients to the mix. After the tomato paste, in goes the wine – which gets reduced by half to intensify the flavors. Then finally add water, thyme and bay leaves and over 3 hours or so, stir, reduce and add more water. With the addition of every new ingredient, Anne adds quite a bit of salt as well. I tend to add significantly less as I don’t like my food super salty.
Having made this sauce several times and enjoyed it over several kinds of pasta, I can say the BEST way to enjoy it is with orecchiette, as this little ear shaped pasta has little ridges that help the sauce adhere to it. It also has little pockets where bits of sauce hide for extra satisfaction.
Topped with fresh cracked black pepper and grated parmigiano reggiano along side some crusty bread, it really doesn’t get more comforting than this. Make the entire batch of sauce (it freezes beautifully) and enjoy the comfort again and again and again.
1 large onion or 2 small, cut into 1-inch dice
2 large carrots, cut into 1/2-inch dice
3 ribs celery, cut into 1-inch dice
4 cloves garlic
Extra-virgin olive oil, for the pan
3 pounds ground chuck, brisket or round or combination
2 cups tomato paste
3 cups hearty red wine
3 bay leaves
1 bunch thyme, tied in a bundle
1 pound orecchiette
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Freshly cracked black pepper
In a food processor, puree onion, carrots, celery, and garlic into a coarse paste. In a large pan over medium heat, coat pan with extra virgin olive oil. Add the vegetable paste and season with salt. Bring the pan to a medium-high heat and cook until all the water has evaporated and the paste has browned, stirring frequently, about 15-20 minutes. While stiring, scrape the bottom of the pan to release the brown bits.
Add the ground beef, season again with salt and brownt he beef about abother 15-20 minutes.
Add the tomato paste and cook until brown about 4-5 minutes. Add the red wine. Continue to cook until the wine has reduced by half, another 4-5 minutes.
Add water to the pan until the water is about 1 inch above the meat. Toss in the bay leaves and the bundle of thyme and stir to combine everything. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer, stirring occasionally. As the water evaporates you will gradually need to add more, about 2-3 cups at a time always reducing before adding more water. Stir and taste every 20-30 minutes over 3.5-4 hours adding salt if needed.
During the last 30 minutes of cooking, bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat to cook the pasta. When the water is at a rolling boil properly salt (water should be salty) and add the orecchiette and cook for 1 minute less than it calls for on the package. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water.
While the pasta is cooking remove 1/2 of the ragu from the pot and reserve.
Drain the pasta and add to the pot with the remaining ragu. Stir or toss the pasta to coat with the sauce. Add some of the reserved sauce, if needed, to make it about an even ratio between pasta and sauce. Add the reserved pasta cooking water and cook the pasta and sauce together over a medium heat until the water has reduced. Turn off the heat and give a big sprinkle of Parmigiano Reggiano. Toss or stir vigorously. Divide the pasta and sauce into serving bowls or 1 big pasta bowl. Top with remaining grated Parmigiano Reggiano and freshly cracked black pepper. Serve immediately.
Ever buy bananas with the intention of letting them turn speckly, fugly, soft and mushy? Well if you don’t , you most definitely should. Overripe bananas are an excellent excuse to make banana bread.
This banana bread, courtesy of the folks at Cook’s Ilustrated, has deep banana flavor while remaining moist and light. But I think the best part of it is the chocolate. Yes, I know I’ve said a zillion times I don’t like chocolate but it totally works in this bread. I used a knife to cut up a bar as fine as I could and turned it into something like a chocolate dust. Because it was so fine, the chocolate flavor will not hit you over your head. What it does do is beautifully perfume the bread and give it that extra little umph that takes it over the top. Read more
A few weeks ago the folks at NESCAFÉ Dolce Gusto invited me and a few other New York City food bloggers to Almond Restaurant to introduce us to their line of single-cup coffee brewing machines. I must admit that at first, I wasn’t sure it was “my sort of thing” since I’m not a coffee drinker. But I’ve been known to try everything at least once; so on I went with an open mind. I’m glad I did because I could not have been more pleasantly surprised by these mighty little machines.
Most people buy coffee makers to make coffee, right? Duh! What had me at hello was that NESCAFÉ’s machines, particularly the cute NESCAFÉ Dolce Gusto Piccolo, is that they also make hot chocolate!!! And not just any hot chocolate. It’s a super creamy, velvety and downright heavenly hot chocolate that will have you lickin your lips and beggin for more.
Wake up to a whole new coffee experience with NESCAFÉ’s newest single-cup coffee solution. Here are a few more reasons why you need the NESCAFÉ Dolce Gusto Piccolo in your life. Read more
What follows are the Top 10 Reasons Why Should You Make This Cake -
Most of you don’t know my sweet father-in-law but according to him, this is one of the best things I have ever baked. And yes, he tastes everything I bake. And no, he wasn’t just being nice and polite when he said that. I can’t tell when he’s being “nice” and to his dismay, call him out on it. God bless his tender heart.
I consider myself a pretty good baker but I can’t take the credit for this recipe. It is from the folks at America’s Test Kitchen and if you don’t already know, they are home cooking geniuses.
Becuase the folks at America’s Test Kitchen created this recipe, it’s been tested and retested and restested to make sure you end up with an amazing result.
Forget scented candles – when this baby is in the oven, your home will smell super, uber delicious. Read more
For the past decade, thousands of young chefs have demonstrated their creativity in the kitchen by reinventing the classic peanut butter sandwich with a twist in the Jif® Most Creative Peanut Butter Sandwich Contest™. Now through October 12, 2011, parents can help their kids, age six to 12 submit their creative sandwich recipes for a chance to win a $25,000 college fund. To mark the 10th Anniversary of the contest, this year’s Grand Prize Winner will also receive an additional $10,000 for educational products. A separate contest invites peanut butter fans across America to enter the That’s Why I Choose Jif Essay Contest for a chance to join the judging panel at the final event in New York, where five kid chefs will contend for the grand prize.
Now through October 12, 2011, children can put their creative sandwich-making skills to work for a chance to win money for a college education. Parents can help their children submit their own imaginative recipe online at www.jif.com or www.jifenespanol.com or by completing the downloadable entry form available on both websites. Sandwiches will be judged on creativity, taste, nutritional balance, visual appeal and ease of preparation. Ten semifinalists will be posted on both websites to take part in a nationwide online vote in January 2012. Anyone age 13 and older can vote to help select the five finalists, who will go on to compete in New York in March 2012.
Entries for the Jif Most Creative Peanut Butter Sandwich Contest must be postmarked by October 12, 2011 and received no later than October 19, 2011. Online entries must be submitted by 11:59 a.m. on October 12, 2011. For complete details, Official Rules and the entry form for the tenth annual contest, visit www.jif.com and www.jifenespanol.com. The Jif Most Creative Peanut Butter Sandwich Contest is open to legal residents of the 50 United States and D.C. between six and 12 years of age by October 12, 2011. Void where prohibited.
Peanut butter lovers can also compete for a seat at the judging table for the final event of the Jif Most Creative Peanut Butter Sandwich Contest. Read more
It’s been a bit since I shared something sweet and delicious with you all. Hope I can make it up to you all with cookies. These would not have come out of my oven had it not been for the persistence of my chocolate chip cookie lovin hubs, who has said about 1357 that I don’t make enough chocolate chip cookies. He even offered to be my sous chef in an effort to make sure I made them.
Chocolate chip cookies are great. But I need a bit more, which is why I love this recipe from one of my favorite food network celebs Anne Burrell. It’s a chocolate chip cookie kicked up a few notches with oatmeal, toasted pecans and big chocolate chunks. I’ve said it many times before and I will say it again – chopping a bar of chocolate instead of using a bag of chips will give you a waaaay better cookie. If you don’t believe me, ask my cookie lovin hubs.
As if oatmeal, pecans and chocolate chunks aren’t enough, these cookies are generously topped with some french sea salt. Don’t let the salt weird you out. Read more
It’s no secret that this chica has a major sweet tooth. But a chica can’t live on cookies, cake and ice cream alone. You probably can’t tell from most of my indulgent blog posts, but I have been trying to incorporate small, good-for-me choices every day to help me live a healthier lifestyle. And products like Splenda Essentials make it really easy.
I’m a regular user of Splenda in the office when I sweeten up my afternoon pick-me-up, otherwise known as hot chocolate. And I don’t feel guilty because dark chocolate is good for you and Splenda allows me to add some sweetness without the calories. But now Splenda Essentials also gives me an added boost of essential vitamins and nutrients, like select B vitamins, antioxidants and even fiber. Score! Nothing beats a healthy sweet fix.
What could be sweeter than being rewarded for simply requesting a free sample and sharing your feedback?
Splenda would like you to give the Essentials a try. Currently, when you visit the Splenda Facebook Page and click on the new Essentials tab, they can request a free sample of the new Splenda Essentials product and share with other users what’s ‘essential’ to them. By doing so, you will be entered for a chance to win a travel mug with a $25 Dunkin’ Donuts gift card! Three lucky winners will be announced each day— but that’s not all. For every 10,000 sample requests received, the Splenda team will give away a $1,000 Visa gift card!
Splenda Essentials is the only line of of sweeteners that contains added nutrients in each packet, helping you get more from what you put in. I especially love that they make it in granulated form, which allows me to give an added boost to my bakes treats. Read more