Thursday, December 31, 2009

Farewell 2009!

Here is a perfectly sweet ending to another amazingly sweet year. In 2009, I welcomed a new niece and nephew into my immediate family, had my one year wedding anniversary, saw my best friend get married, saw my little brother graduate form college, had an amazing year at work, traveled to some very fun places and my husband and I made extremely exciting plans for our immediate future! I am truly thankful for all of the great experiences we had this year. Have fun tonight and be safe. Wishing everyone a Happy New Year!

Chocolate Chip Irish Cream Pound Cake
Adapted from Cooking Light April 2007

  • 1/3 cup semisweet chocolate minichips
  • 1 teaspoon cake flour
  • 2 3/4 cups cake flour (about 11 ounces)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 ounces at-free cream cheese, softened
  • 10 tablespoon butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup Irish cream liqueur
  • 1/4 cup half and half
  • Baking spray
  • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 325°.

Combine chocolate chips and 1 teaspoon flour in a small bowl; toss.

Lightly spoon 2 3/4 cups flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt.

Place cream cheese and butter in a bowl;

beat with a mixer at high speed to blend. Add granulated sugar, brown sugar,

and vanilla; beat until blended.

Add eggs, 1 at a time; beat well after each addition. Beat on high speed 1 minute. Whisk together Irish Cream and Half and Half.

With mixer on low, add flour mixture and liqueur alternately to sugar mixture,

beginning and ending with flour mixture; beat well after each addition. Fold in chocolate chips.

Pour batter into a 12-cup Bundt pan coated with baking spray. Smooth the batter evenly with a spatula.

Bake at 325° for 55 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes on a wire rack; remove from pan. Cool completely on wire rack. Sift powdered sugar over cake.

Slice and serve. This cake become increasingly more delicious each day after it is baked. I highly suggest making it 1 to to 2 days before you plan to serve.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Petite Pinna

I used the suggested pasta shape in this recipe as well. This particular recipe called for orecchiette. Orecchiette is a type of pasta whose shape resembles a small ear. In Italian, "ear" is orecchio, so this translates as "little ears". I have heard my favorite Italian chef, Giada, define this translation several times. Every time she mentions the small pasta I can't help but think of my best friend Amanda. Amanda has the littlest ears. I mean really extremely small teeny tiny ears.

The funniest story about Amanda's little ears is that one time I aided her in a very poor earring choice for our other best friend's wedding. You see, Amanda is really fun and flashy. She likes bold statement pieces when it comes to clothing and jewelery. So when our friend Lauren got married and dictated the bridesmaids must wear pearl studs, Amanda felt limited. I told her not to worry and that we would find pearl studs to fit her style. We went to the department store together and I found a pair of earrings that Amanda swears were the size of the golf balls. What can I say? - she likes to stand out. But considering the minuscule size of her sound detecting organs, huge white spheres may not have been the best choice. The earrings literally drooped down on her lobes and were visible in every photograph that Amanda appeared in that day. Lauren has been married almost five years now and Amanda still reminds me consistently of my fashion misdirection. I learned a valuable lesson that day - bigger isn't always better!

Crawfish Mac and Cheese

Adapted from Emeril Lagassse


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/3 cup diced pancetta
  • 1/2 cup small diced onion
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 3 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups half-and-half
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1 pound cooked and peeled crawfish tails, with any fat
  • 1 pound orecchiette pasta, or small shell pasta, cooked al dente, drained
  • 1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 2 cups grated white Cheddar
  • 2 cups grated fontina
  • 1/3 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon Essence, recipe follows


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Cook pasta 10 minutes, drain and set aside.

Set a large, wide-mouthed 6-quart pot over medium heat. Add the olive oil and pancetta to the pot and cook the pancetta until lightly browned, 3 to 4 minutes.

Add the onions and garlic to the pan and cook until translucent, 3 to 4 minutes.

Add the butter and flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes.

Add the half-and-half

and whisk until smooth.

Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to a simmer. Season with the salt, white pepper, cayenne, and nutmeg and cook for 3 minutes. Add the crawfish to the pot and stir to combine.

Remove from the heat and fold in the grated cheeses.

Once combined, stir in cooked pasta. Stir to combine well.

Transfer to a 3-quart baking dish such as a 9 by 13-inch casserole. In a small bowl, combine the bread crumbs with the Essence and sprinkle over the top of the casserole. Pour the last 1 tablespoon of melted butter over the breadcrumbs.

Bake uncovered until golden brown and bubbling, 40 to 45 minutes.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Particular Pasta Persuit

Sorry for the lack of posts during the last couple of weeks. I have been in Louisiana for a wedding and for the holidays. I had a lovely time, but have missed my little blog dearly. I am happy to be back in my own kitchen and back to my regular blogging schedule. I cooked quite a bit over the last couple of weeks, but mostly things that I have made before and previously blogged. Christmas is a great time for me to redo some recipes that I found to be a huge success and can't wait to try out again on my family and friends in New Orleans. So even though I was busy cooking over the holidays, I didn't make any new recipes that would be potential blog material.

I prepared this dish a few weeks ago and am excited to finally share it here. It was really easy and delicious. The hardest part was finding bucatini. Bucatini is a thick spaghetti-like pasta with a hole running through the center. I have made recipes before that called for the unique pasta and simply subbed a flat long noodle like linguine. I was determined to find the bucatini this time since I revel in unique ingredient searches. I finally found the bucatini at Dean and Deluca in Georgetown. I love specialty markets and could spend hours browsing their shelves. I saw this recipe in October and didn't find the particular pasta until about two months later. It was well worth the wait and I can't wait to whip up another dish with this pierced pasta!

Bucatini with Mushrooms
Adapted from Cooking Light October 2009

Yield: 4 servings

  • 1/2 cup dried porcini mushrooms (about 1/2 ounce)
  • 2/3 cup boiling water
  • 8 ounces uncooked bucatini
  • 3 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped shallots
  • 2 (4-ounce) packages exotic mushroom blend, coarsely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons dry marsala wine
  • 2 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided
  • 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • Basil sprigs (optional)

1. Rinse porcini thoroughly. Combine porcini and 2/3 cup boiling water in a pot; cover and let stand 5 minutes while continuing to boil. Remove pot from the heat and let stand 25 more minutes.

Drain in a sieve over a bowl, reserving 1/4 cup soaking liquid. Chop porcini.

2. Cook pasta with 1 tablespoon salt in boiling water 10 minutes or until al dente; drain in a colander over a bowl, reserving 1/4 cup cooking liquid.

3. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add shallots, mushroom blend, and garlic; sauté 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

Stir in porcini, wine, and 1/4 teaspoon salt; cook 1 minute or until liquid evaporates.

4. Finely grate 1 ounce cheese; crumble remaining cheese. Reduce heat to medium. Stir in pasta, 1/4 cup reserved cooking liquid, 1/4 cup reserved porcini soaking liquid, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 cup grated cheese, cream, chopped basil, and pepper; toss well to combine.

Place about 1 1/4 cups pasta mixture on each of 4 plates; top each serving with about 1 tablespoon crumbled cheese. Garnish with basil chiffonades, if desired.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Domino Effect

A representative from Domino Sugar contacted me with a lovely holiday offer. Each week Domino Sugar chooses a select group of food bloggers to receive a $20 gift card to use toward purchasing ingredients to make holiday goodies and gifts. I was honored by their offer and excited to select a recipe from their website. After a fun search through their recipe section, I settled for this delicious peanut butter recipe. I tweeked the ingredients a bit by adding peanut butter with honey to play up the sweetness factor. These muffins were scrumptious and packed with peanut butter flavor. These are a must for all you PB lovers out there.

Rich and Easy Peanut Butter Muffins
Adapted from Domino Sugar

  • 2 cups - all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon - baking soda1/4 teaspoon - salt
  • 1/2 cup - butter, softened
  • 1 3/4 cup - creamy peanut butter with honey
  • 1 cup - Domino® Granulated Sugar
  • 2 - eggs
  • 1/2 cup - milk
  • Chocolate Glaze (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease 24 medium muffin cups or line with paper baking cups; set aside.

In large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt.

In another large mixing bowl, cream butter, peanut butter and sugar.

Add eggs

and gradually add milk and combine well.

Add dry ingredients to peanut butter mixture and mix with a wooden spoon

until dry ingredients are moistened. Mixture will be stiff.

Spoon batter into each muffin cup, filling cup 3/4 full.

Bake 15-20 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool in muffin cups on wire rack for 5 minutes. Remove; cool completely. Frost with Chocolate Glaze using a fork, if desired.

Chocolate Glaze: Add 1/8 cup unsweetened cocoa powder to 1 cup Domino® Confectioners Sugar,

1 tablespoon softened butter and 1 1/2 tablespoons milk. Add more milk, a teaspoon at a time, until mixture is desired consistency for spreading.

Let glaze drip off of fork tines and move back and forth to make a striped pattern on the muffins.

Makes 24 muffins.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Yo Yo MA

My husband and I recently met our good friend Sarah's grandmother, Ma. We have heard a lot about Ma over the years and were excited to finally meet her. She is an 80 something year old spitfire who still lives alone in Northern Maine. As you can probably imagine, Norther Maine isn't the most conducive climate to navigate but Ma does just fine. Her husband was a potato farmer and she still lives on the land they owned while he was alive and she continues to benefit from the crop.

We had a lovely visit with her and when we left she sent us on our way with a care package as grandmothers often do. It was a little Christmas bag that weighed a ton. When Forrest and I peered inside we were tickled with our gift. She had given us potatoes from her farm in Maine - I was elated. I couldn't wait to cook with them. I put a lot of thought into what I should make with them. I thought about Ma and how many potato dishes she has probably eaten over the years. I doubt there would be any potato dish that I could find that Ma hasn't tried.

But then I found this recipe and I was really intrigued. It seemed a little strange, but equally delicious. So I figured it was worth a shot. And it was! It was amazing! Take my word and try this no matter how strange it may seem.

Potato Pie with Tomato and Fontina
Adapted from Food and Wine 1998

Yield: 4 servings

  • 2 1/2 pounds baking potatoes (about 5), peeled and halved
  • 4 ounces of pancetta, diced
  • 1 28-ounce can San Marzano tomatoes, drained and chopped fine
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • Fresh-ground black pepper
  • 3/4 pound grated fontina (about 3 cups)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon of dried red pepper flakes
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan

1. Heat the oven to 450°. Put the potatoes in a medium saucepan of salted water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer until tender, about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, put the tomatoes in a strainer set over a medium bowl. Toss with 3/4 teaspoon of the salt and let drain for 20 minutes.

2. Cook the pancetta until crisp in a small skillet; drain on paper towels and set aside.

3. Drain the potatoes and mash them in the saucepan with a potato masher or a fork.

Cook over moderately low heat, stirring, until the potato starts to stick to the pan, about 5 minutes. Stir in 2 tablespoons of the oil,

the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and a pinch of pepper. Remove from the heat.

3. Oil a large baking sheet. Spread the potato mixture onto the baking sheet, forming two 6-by-11-inch rectangles pressing down with the back of a measuring cup sprayed with cooking spray

for an even thickness.

Top the potato with the fontina,leaving a 1/4-inch border.

Sprinkle the garlic and pancetta over the cheese.

Top with the drained tomatoes

followed by the red pepper flakes,

oregano and Parmesan. Drizzle with the remaining 2 tablespoons oil.

Bake the potato pies in the lower third of the oven until the cheese is bubbling and the edges are golden brown, about 25 minutes.