Sunday, August 31, 2008
Don't worry, this isn't turning into a baking blog, this hardly counts as baking. When I was a teenager I knew I wanted to learn more about cooking and baking. I wanted to try to bake something that wasn't out of the box. I believe this recipe came from one of the baking cookbooks my sister bought me for my birthday. As time passed and my baked goods weren't as good as my cooking I gave up trying to bake anything difficult. Recently I remembered this recipe and how easy they were to make. I looked through every cookbook I had and couldn't find it. So of course, I reached out to my friends at bakespace. Within 5 minutes Cathy of Minnesota came back with three possible candidates. The last one was it! It was called Passion Bars which didn't sound familiar to me but call it whatever you want...this IS the exact recipe! I couldn't wait any longer so last night I made these bars.
Looks like she got the recipe from All recipes, posted by Sue Case. Here goes...
2 cups quick cooking oats
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
3/4 cup peanut butter
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1.Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9x13 inch baking pan.
2.In a large bowl, stir together the oats, flour, brown sugar, salt and baking soda. Cut in the butter to form a crumbly mixture. Reserve 1 1/2 cups of the crumbs, and pat the rest evenly into the bottom of the prepared pan. In a medium bowl, stir together the sweetened condensed milk and peanut butter. Spread evenly over the oatmeal layer. Sprinkle the chocolate chips over the peanut butter layer, then crumble the reserved crust over the top.
3.Bake for 30 to 35 minutes in the preheated oven, until golden brown. Cool completely before cutting into bars.
Thanks so much Cathy! This just proves how wonderful bakespace.com really is!
I love this picture because you can see each layer.
Saturday, August 30, 2008
Friday night is usually pizza night at our house. I picked that up from my Mom who cooked 6 nights out of the week when we were kids. No matter how much we like to cook, we still need a break every once and a while. However, this week I thought it would be nice to use up all the random items I had left in my fridge, which is how "Clean out the Fridge Bean Soup" got it's name. This is not a rigid recipe. You can add practically anything into this soup. I will let you know where things can be switched out or changed up in the directions.
Ingredients I used (this time!)
1 package of diced pancetta
2 links of Italian sausage
4 slices bacon
2 fresh tomatoes
cooked broccoli (from dinner a few nights ago)
2 stalks celery plus leaves
1 large onion
2 cloves garlic
2 bay leaves
1 bag Roman beans, soaked for a few hours or overnight (you can use canned to speed this up)
extra virgin olive oil
small shaped pasta such as elbows or ditilini
Saute pancetta, and bacon in oil in a large pot, when it starts to crips up add sausage. While pork browns chop carrots, celery, onion, garlic, potatoes and tomatoes. Remove pork, and set aside. Add chopped veggies to the pot and finely mince garlic. Add garlic to the top of veggies so they don't burn. Add beans and water. I filled up my big pot because I wanted it to make a lot of soup so I would have leftover. You can add less if you want less juice. Also, you can add more potatoes if you want it to be thicker. Add the bay leaves and let water come to a boil. Once soup reaches a rolling boil, add bouillon and turn the flame down low and simmer and add cooked broccoli if you are using it (If you ware using frozen or fresh put it in with the other veggies). This will take about an hour to cook or more depending on how long you soaked your beans. I only soaked mine for an hour or two so it took about 2 hours from when it came to a boil. Of course, if you used canned beans (and they don't have to be roman you can use cannelini or whatever you prefer) this will only need to cook until the beans warm through and all flavors combine.
I made my pasta in a separate pot because I wanted to freeze the soup (but don't want to freeze the pasta). If I was going to finish this up in the first day or two I would have cooked the pasta right in the pot. The starch in the pasta would thicken the soup which I tend to like better. This way is also perfectly fine and deliciousm, it's a matter of preferance. Hey, you don't even need the pasta if you don't want it but I'm Italian, I'm not turning down pasta!
Serve into deep bowls and top with grated cheese.
Other possible add ins to this soup:
the rind of a chunk of a hard Italian cheese
peas instead of broccoli
pieces of stale bread
couple of tablespoons of leftover tomato sauce or paste
swap out the roman beans for lentils
swap out the pork and add some mini meatballs
The list goes on and on. This dish can be made anyway and anytime. It's simple, easy and delicious.
Thursday, August 28, 2008
No, this isn't a figment of your imagination. I seriously baked and I think I did it well. It's a miracle. I usually mess things up when I bake so on the rare occasion I do it and the even rarer occasion that it works out, I'm really excited and pleasantly surprised.
This recipe came from my Mom. She got it about 10 years ago from a woman she used to work with. It's a great way to use up overripe bananas. The recipe is for Banana Bread but the recipe can also be used for muffins with only one adjustment, baking time. The recipe is very versatile and you can add in whatever you like, walnuts, pecans, peanut butter, whatever your little heart desires. Mine desired chocolate chips...and walnuts...but the boss doesn't like nuts so...there you go.
I do have a question for all my baker friends that I think (hope) are reading my blog. When I took my muffins out of the oven they were nice and....perky (for lack of a better word). I left them there on top of the stove for 5-10 minutes and when I came back they flattened on top. What gives? Did I need to remove them from the tins and have them cool on a rack? I'm telling you, I'm not good at this (with the exception of 7 layer cookies at Christmas!). I thought I'd share a picture and post this anyway because even if they don't look right they tasted sooooooooo good!
1 cup sugar
½ cup butter or margarine, softened
¾ cup or 3 ripe bananas mashed
1 ¼ cup all purpose flour
¾ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup walnuts or chocolate chips, optional
Mix all ingredients in a bowl and add bananas and nuts last.
Bake for 50 minutes at 350˚.
If making muffins bake for 25 minutes. Yields 12 muffins.
This recipe was taught to me by a friend's mother years ago. It took me quite some time to get it just right and I have to say it finally tastes just right! Before I get into the recipe let me first apologize to all my ecofriendly friends over at bakespace.com. I really use a TON of paper towels while preparing the eggplant. If anyone can come up with a better way to do it I'd be glad to hear it!
1 Sicilian Eggplant
Parmigiano or Romano cheese, grated
fresh basil leaves
Prepared Marinara Sauce (I used two 16oz cans. Also, you don't want to use a sauce with any meat in it since the eggplant is the star of this dish.)
1 pound pasta (rigatoni, penne or ziti)
So if you are unsure of what a Sicilian Eggplant looks like I can't help you because I forgot to take a picture!!! :-0 I found some pics on the web but I'm afraid to link them since they come from other blogs. I'm still new to blogging so I'm not sure what the proper etiquette would be and I'm to impatient to wait for email replies. Sorry! Anyway, It's a round purple eggplant and I believe it has less seeds than a regular eggplant. I wish I took pictures of the steps but I was in a huge rush (as this takes a long time) and I forgot about taking pictures until I started frying them.
So you start by cutting the ends off both sides of the eggplant like you would a tomato or an onion. We don't peel this because the skin keeps the eggplant from falling apart. I think it looks pretty too. (If you don't like to eat it, no worries, it easily peels right off like the skin on a piece of soppresata when you bite into a slice.) Then you slice it in half lengthwise, place it cut side down (again, like an onion) and continue to cut slices so they look like half moons. I'm estimating, but I'd say slice them about 1/4 of an inch or 1/3 of an inch thick. They will shrink from the salt and the frying so not too thin and if they are too thick they will be hard in the middle. Yuck! So,put eggplant slices in a colander and sprinkle with lots of salt. Make sure each slice has salt on it. Cover it with a plate that fits inside and weigh it down with something heavy. Place a bowl underneath if you are going to put it on the counter because a lot of liquid will come out. Leave it there for 2 hours. Yes, 2 hours....not really an after work dinner...but I did it anyway and we at at 9pm! The purpose of salting the eggplant is to remove the bitterness and I believe the salted eggplant absorbs less oil when it's fried.
This photo was taken when I made Pasta Norma a few months ago. It's the same preparation method but the eggplant is diced so that's what you see peaking out from the plate.
Next step is to thorougly wash the eggplant under cold running water. Make sure you rinse each slice and rub it with you fingers to make sure there isn't any trace of salt left. That was mistake number one when I first tried to make this about 7 years ago. Here is where the paper towels come in. Lay out two layers of paper towels. You'll need a lot of them because you are going to dry them on the towels in a single layer and then top it with another two layers of paper towels. I like to do this early in the day in between doing other things so I know they are very dry. Press down on the eggplant slices with paper towel to absorb the water. This is the 2nd mistake I made that first attempt. They weren't dry enought and absorbed so much water that they were a greasy, salty mess. You live and learn though, right?
Once you are sure your eggplant is dry (it will still feel damp but you'll be able to tell) fry them in a large skillet with canola oil. Make sure the oil is hot or your eggplant will be too greasy. Depending on the size of your eggplant you may have to add more oil to the pan a couple of times. Let the eggplant brown until it's a beautiful brown color...not burnt but definitely with some color. Set the fried eggplant on a (again) paper towel lined plate and continue to layer paper towels between each single layer of eggplant slices.
When you have finished frying the eggplant add a layer of sauce to a plate or platter and sprinkle with grated romano or parmigiano cheese. Top with a single layer or eggplant, arraning the eggplant so they aren't overlapping and almost look like a flower, working your way from the outside of the plate in. You really can arrange it however you want but it always looks so pretty this way. You won't be able to see the pretty arrangement on mine because I made a double batch and fried two eggplants so I had to use a pyrex. On top of the eggplant add sauce, cheese and fresh basil leaves. Continue to layer in this manner until you have used up all your slices.
Serve this room temperature or cold, over pasta or on the side.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
We usually eat these for dinner with a vegetable and some rice but I always picture them served as a first course at a dinner party. Maybe on a bed of lightly dressed arugula and red onion salad with a dollop of the aioli. I'll have to do that!
So here is the recipe taken from the Cooking Light Website...
Spicy Chicken Cakes with Horseradish Aioli
Aioli (ay-OH-lee) is a garlic mayonnaise from the Provence region in France and a popular condiment there for meat and vegetables. It can be made in advance and refrigerated.
Total time: 45 minutes.
2 (1 1/2-ounce) slices whole wheat bread
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast (I use ground chicken breast)
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
3 tablespoons low-fat mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large egg whites
2 teaspoons canola oil
2 tablespoons low-fat mayonnaise
2 teaspoons prepared horseradish
1 teaspoon bottled minced garlic
1/8 teaspoon salt
To prepare cakes, place bread in a food processor; pulse 10 times or until coarse crumbs measure 1 cup (discard remaining breadcrumbs). Set breadcrumbs aside.
Place chicken in food processor; pulse until ground. Combine chicken, chives, 3 tablespoons mayonnaise, seasoning, 1/4 teaspoon salt, egg whites, and breadcrumbs in a medium bowl; mix well (mixture will be wet). Divide mixture into 8 equal portions, shaping each into a 1/2-inch-thick patty.
Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add patties; cook 7 minutes on each side or until done.
To prepare aioli, combine 2 tablespoons mayonnaise and remaining ingredients in a small bowl. Serve with cakes.
Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 2 chicken cakes and about 1 1/2 teaspoons aioli)CALORIES 242 (26% from fat); FAT 7.1g (sat 1.3g,mono 1.8g,poly 1.3g); PROTEIN 29.5g; CHOLESTEROL 66mg; CALCIUM 44mg; SODIUM 749mg; FIBER 0.5g; IRON 1.6mg; CARBOHYDRATE 12.5g
Cooking Light, JULY 2006
Monday, August 25, 2008
My mom has always been my biggest fan and supporter and I haven't given her any credit yet on my blog. Sorry Mom! My mother has a great love for food and unfortunately had to deal with picky children and a picky husband for many years! Sorry Dad (but when are you going to eat like an Italian?!?!) lol When I was a child there were many things I refused to try but my mom was always there encouraging me to taste new things. I got there eventually and now the tables have turned. Now it's me helping my mom to explore her palate...but this is not a fight like it was for me! I can always count on my Mom to sample a new recipe I've made, cook with me, clean up after me and basically be whatever I need her to be in the kitchen. In fact, I hate that she is so far away (1 hour!) and rarely gets to taste my food anymore. (I'd like to think I've gotten much better!)
I've tried making stuffed peppers many different ways, some that I love, some are just okay and some will stay with me forever. This recipe is one of those. My mom's recipe for Stuffed Peppers is one of the first things she ever taught me to make. I've made some very minor tweaks which has only improved (not changed!) Mom's recipe.
So here it is! You're going to love this one! It's like a big meatball stuffed inside a pepper!
Here is my Mother's recipe and below are the additions I have made.
Mom’s Stuffed Peppers
6 red peppers
2 lbs. ground veal, beef or meatloaf mix
locatelli cheese, grated
approx. ¼ cup dried parsley
1 cup cooked white rice
1 can crushed tomatoes
Mix veal, parsley, egg, salt garlic, cheese and rice.
Wash peppers, cut off tops (save for another time), fill peppers with meat mixture. Put peppers in a chicken fryer, pour tomatoes on top of peppers and around them. Sprinkle with cheese. Cook on stove top until peppers are cooked approx. 1 hour. Serve with Rice and peas.
After washing the peppers and removing the tops, I make small cut on the bottom of the pepper. This keeps the peppers upright and provides a hole for the sauce to go into. Be careful not to cut off too much because we don't want the filling to fall out, just enough space for the sauce to get in. I also sprinkle the inside of the peppers with kosher salt and little fresh black pepper.
I saute one onion and 3 cloves of garlic in a small frying pan. Once onions are softened and garlic is cooked (not browned) I set it aside to cool. This gets added to the meat mixture.
Once peppers are stuffed I put a little extra virgin olive oil in the pan and saute the peppers on all sides for a few minutes, until the skin blisters. I saw this done on a cooking show and it really does add some additional flavor.
Other than those few things I do exactly what the recipe says and they really were delicious!
Friday, August 22, 2008
I know, I know, I've been a bad girl. I haven't posted a recipe in weeks! I've been pretty busy with parties and showers and all kinds of things going on. All happy celebrations so I don't mind it. With all the craziness that went on I did remember to snap a photo so I could blog about this wonderful dish. I made this for Steve's Aunt's Baby Shower last week and everyone liked it which makes me very happy!
Before I go on to post this recipe I just want to say Congratulations Melissa and Salvatore and Congratulations to Dana and Lenny!!! Both couples will be parents for the very first time!!!
Okay so here goes...it's really very easy and you can add as much or as little garlic as you like or even use hot sausage or a mixture of sweet and hot. This recipe was written to feed a crowd but you can certainly make this for one pound of pasta and use only one bunch of broccoli rabe and half the amount of sausage. I hope you like it! I'd love to hear your variation on this very popular dish so feel free to comment!
Pasta with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe
1 lb sweet Italian sausage (6 links)
2 bunches, broccoli rabe
4-5 cloves garlic
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Crushed red pepper, to taste
Salt and peppr
Romano cheese, to taste
2 lbs pasta
1. Remove stems from broccoli rabe and discard. Cut into bite sized pieces.
Boil broccoli rabe in a large pot of salted water for about 8-10 minutes. Drain (reserve 2 cups of water) and put into an ice cold water bath to stop the cooking process and set aside.
2. While broccoli rabe is cooking, remove sausage from casing and crumble. Saute sausage in oil with garlic and red pepper, constantly breaking it up. Once sausage is cooked add in broccoli rabe and toss to coat with oil. Let it cook together with a few minutes so the broccoli rabe picks up the flavors. At this point you can refrigerate overnight or until ready to cook the pasta.
3. Boil pasta (chose one that won’t fall apart such as orrechiette, cellantani, cavatappi, etc.) in salted water while reheating sausage and broccoli rabe mixture. Add some reserved water from the broccoli rabe to moisten the mixture. Add cooked pasta and toss while continuing to add more water as needed. It shouldn’t be soupy but should not be dry. Toss with cheese and a little more extra virgin olive oil.
Saturday, August 16, 2008
Sunday, August 10, 2008
Back when I lived in Brooklyn there was a restaurant we would frequently go to called Joe's of Avenue U. It's very casual Sicilian fare that was inexpensive and delicious. This is where I tried Caponata (sometimes called Caponatina) for the first time and fell in love with it. The best way for me to explain what Caponata is, is by calling it an eggplant stew. It is prepared in the same manner that one would use to make beef stew. The veggies are sauteed in oil and liquid is added to simmer them in. However, this does not take hours to make like a meat stew would, so that makes it even better for me.
The recipe I used belongs to Steve's grandmother Rose. I have never met her but I'm sure she would be happy to know that someone is making her caponata. There are many variations of this dish, some include zucchini or peppers but this one is very simple. I think the next time I make it I will add pine nuts (pignoli) and raisins. I am almost positive that those two ingredients were in the first caponata I have ever had at Joe's. Since then there have been new owners and they do not use the nuts or raisins and it's still good but I love the sweetness that the raisins give the dish. A lot of Sicilian recipes use sweet and sour ingredients together.
Grandma Rose's Caponata
2 lb unpeeled eggplant, cut into 1” cubes
½ cup olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 cup chopped celery
3 ½ oz. tomato paste
1 cup water
1 lb green olives, salted and pitted
2 oz jar of capers, unsalted and drained
salt and pepper to taste
1 heaping tsp. sugar
¼ cup wine vinegar
Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Add onion and celery, cook until almost tender. Remove ions and celery and place in a bowl. In same skillet, sauté eggplant until light brown. Remove. In same pan, over med flame, cook tomato paste and water, stir until dissolved. Add olives, eggplant, capers, onion, celery, salt and pepper. Mix well. Bring to a boil over high flame. Lower flame and simmer for 5 minutes. Add sugar and vinegar. Stir and cook for ½ minute. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
Makes 2 quarts. Sterilize jars before using. Cover tightly.
Keeps in refrigerator for 6 weeks.
There are only a few very minor changes that I made to this recipe.
~ I used canola oil instead of olive oil because the eggplant absorbs the olive oil too quickly. Then have to keep adding oil and you end up with oily eggplant. Just use whatever oil you would normally use for frying.
~ I added a little more sugar and vinegar than the recipe called for. I'm sure Steve's grandmother, like Nanny, didn't use standard measuring cups so the measurements that we have are just a guess. Nanny's measuring cup was a mug. So it's very difficult to get exact measurements but all you need to do is taste and adjust. Not a problem.
~ I also cooked the eggplant at the end for a little longer because either I cut the eggplant too big or the time given was just an estimation. Again, just taste it and you can tell if the eggplant is cooked all the way through.
This dish is best served cold or room temperature with a couple of pieces of good Italian bread for dipping.
Thursday, August 7, 2008
Many thanks to my new friend Lucy from Sweets, Savories, Etc. for nominating me for the Brilliant blog award!
As you know I'm brand spanking new to all the ins and outs of blogging but I've learned that there are some rules I need to follow regarding the award. Sorry Lucy, that it took me so long to post this...I'm slow...but I'm learning! :-)
Here are the rules...(taken from Lucy's blog)
1. Add the logo to my blog.
2. Add a link to my new friend who gave me the award.
3. Nominate other blogs.
4. Add links to their blogs.
5. Leave a message on their blogs to let them know they have been tagged!
There are so many blogs that I've started reading and they are all so great! I want to pass this on to everyone, however, I will stop at three!
I am tagging...
Shane from Culinary Alchemist - He's the Alton Brown of Bakespace!
Sophie from Flour Arrangements - Her blog is the first I ever read!
Jonny and Nikki from Sunday Sauce - Their blog makes me think of home!
Saturday, August 2, 2008
When I was a child there were mornings when I woke up and just wanted to be in Nanny's company. Even before I was old enough to understand why, I knew that Nanny was special. There were days that I'd pretend to be sick so I could stay home from school and hang out with Nanny. That meant special food all day long. One of the special things Nanny made for breakfast was french toast. I bet you're thinking that french toast is not that special. Well, her's was different and that's what made it special to me, my brother and my sister. The main difference in Nanny's French Toast was that you didn't put syrup on it. Nanny never had syrup in the house. There were many "American" things that we liked but Nanny would never touch. Syrup was one of them. Her topping for french toast was the same as her topping on her zucchini flowers. Granulated Sugar. These days since we are always watching our fat intake, a sugar topping just isn't practical. Today though, we are honoring Nanny so this is what she did and this is what I did.
Nanny usually used some white italian bread (loaf style sliced bread with some seeds...never wonder bread) but if she had some leftover bread like I did today, she would use that too. Mix in an egg with some milk, cinnamon, a little sugar and vanilla. I had a leftover round Italian bread from Whole foods and I cut two thick slices. I used two eggs since the bread was thicker. When the bread absorbed most of the egg mixture I fried it in a nonstick pan. Normally, I'd use Pam nonstick cooking spray or if I'm feeling like being indulgent I'd use a little butter. But Nanny never touched either of these things. Butter was a forbidden ingredient in her kitchen. It was very rare that she would use it. She claimed she was allergic but we all know she wasn't. She just didn't like it. Nanny used oil a lot. For most dishes she used Extra Virgin Olive Oil. I guess this is why her skin was always so soft. She never worried about her weight...she used a ton of oil but never had any issues with clogged arteries or high cholesterol. I guess this what they call the Mediterranean diet. So back to the french toast. I fried the french toast in a little bit of canola oil until it was a nice golden color. Sprinkle that with some granulated sugar and you're all set! I figured with all that thick bread I should balance it off with a sunny side up egg. Afterall, Nanny did like the combination of sweet and savory!
Friday, August 1, 2008
So here is what I made. This isn't an exact recipe since things were just thrown together. I hope this will inspire you to come up with something new out of your pantry staples!
Saute 1 sliced onion in extra virgin olive oil. Add 3-4 cloves of sliced garlic. Let garlic lightly toast being careful not to burn it. Add crushed red pepper and italian seasoning. Add two chopped tomatoes that have been seeded. Let them soften. Add 1 can of tomato paste (I used some that I had in the fridge, about 3/4 of a can)and a handful of chopped mushrooms (use as much as you like. I had about 4 shitakes) deglaze pan with about 1/2 cup of white wine. Stir to combine. Add 1 can chicken broth a little at a time to create sauce. Add in one can of drained artichoke hearts (in water not oil) and some sliced kalamata olives. Throw in some torn basil, chopped parsley, salt and pepper to taste. Let cook while spaghetti is cooking. Don't bother to drain pasta, just pick it up with tongs and add to saucepan. Any water left on the pasta will help make a nice sauce.
That's it. Simple and delicious!
Something tells me that Nanny would definitely approve. Wish she was able to taste it!