Saturday, March 30, 2013

Cannoli (Ricotta) Pie

Ricotta Pie is a traditional Easter dessert in many Italian households.  That is when it was introduced to me.

This is my take on the classic ricotta pie.  With a swirl of cinnamon and mini chocolate chips, it tastes like a cannoli.  Yummers!

Cannoli (Ricotta) Pie

1 Prepared Pie Crust, Raw
1 1/2 Lbs Of Ricotta (I use low fat)
3/4 Cup Sugar
5 Large Eggs
1 Tablespoon Vanilla
1/2 Teaspoon Cinnamon
1 Teaspoon Lemon Zest 
1 Cup Semi Sweet  Mini Chocolate Chips

It is important that the ricotta cheese is drained well so that you get a nice firm filling.  Drain it overnight in the fridge or a couple of hours before you put it together.

Press crust into a 9-inch pie pan. Crimp the edge, prick the bottom, and chill while making the filling.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. 

In a large bowl beat the ricotta with the sugar until very smooth. 

Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla, cinnamon, and lemon zest.  Stir in chocolate chips. 

Pour the filling into the pie shell. 

Sprinkle the top with cinnamon and swirl it with the tip of a knife.

Bake the pie for 45 minutes, or until ricotta is set and toothpick comes out clean. 

Turn off the oven and leave the door open.  Allow pie to slowly cool in the oven for about an hour.  Then chill completely in the refrigerator before you serve it.


Friday, March 29, 2013

Firewater Friday - Aye Carumba Cafe

Patron XO Cafe is a blend of tequila and coffee. This rich coffee liqueur is wonderful all on its own but in a cup of coffee?  Aye Carumba!!!  

Mmm, sounds like a little piece of caffeinated heaven to me!

Aye Carumba Cafe

1 1/2 oz Patron XO Cafe
Brewed Coffee
Sugar (if desired)

In a heated coffee mug add Patrón XO Café. Add half-n-half and sugar (if desired).  Fill mug with coffee.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Make Ahead Soft White Bread

There's nothing better than fresh bread.  

Sometimes I want to get a jump on things and bake bread in the morning.  But who's got time for that?  I know I don't want to get up a 0'dark:30 even if it mean hot, fresh bread start the day with.

Did you know that the prefered method for making bread is a slow, cold rise?  The bread is better textured and has much more flavor.  

Make the dough as normal and take it out in the morning to rise.  Bake it and you have lovely loaves of bread and you'll be a hero to your family!

Soft White Bread (makes 2 loaves)

1 Cup Hot Water
½ Cup Milk 
2 Tablespoons Sugar
2 Teaspoons Dry Yeast
2 Teaspoons Salt
Approximately 6 Cups All-Purpose Or Bread Flour
2 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter, Softened
2 Eggs

Combine hot water and cool milk.  Mixture should be just warm to the touch.  Add sugar and yeast and allow yeast to proof - about 15 minutes.

In a separate bowl, mix together the salt and 3 cups of the flour.

Add eggs and butter to yeast and mix well.  Add two cups of the flour/salt blend and mix well.  

Add the rest of the flour/salt mixture (and then switch to the dough hook attachment if using the stand mixer), and then keep adding the remaining 3 cups of flour, about half a cup at a time, until the mixture forms a ball and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board and knead for about 10 minutes, or until the dough becomes smooth and elastic.  

Place the dough in a large, lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel.  Allow the dough to rise about 30 minutes.  

Then put plastic wrap over the bowl and put the bowl in the refrigerator.

Whenever you're ready to bake the bread, remove the dough from the refrigerator.  Press out any large air pockets.  

Shape into balls, place in a warm (air-temperature) bowl and allow the dough to come to room temperature.

Lightly grease your two loaf pans.

Press each ball down into an oblong shape about the length of your baking pan, then roll tightly into a log and pinch the edges together tightly to seal.  Fold the ends under and place the dough in a loaf pan, seam side down. 

Cover the pans with a lightly oiled piece of foil or plastic wrap and allow to rise again.  When the dough is about level with the edge of the pan, preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.

When the dough has risen about an inch above the pan, it’s ready.  Remove the foil/plastic wrap and place on a rack in the center of the oven.  Bake about 30 minutes, or until golden brown.  

To check, turn out one of the loaves and tap the bottom - if it sounds hollow, it’s done.  If it’s not done, bake another ten minutes or so and tap again.

When the bread comes out, remove from the pans and allow to cool before slicing.  


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Slovak Easter Cheese (Cirak)

My great-grandparents immigrated to America to escape the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia.  They didn't have a lot when they arrived in the New World.  But they brought with them their culture and traditions.

On such tradition was Slovak Easter Breakfast.  This breakfast includes fresh baked bread, Easter cheese, baked ham, kielbasi, hard boiled eggs and beet horseradish.

This is a custom that I enjoy and maintain.  It's something I look forward to every year.

A primary component of Slovak Easter breakfast is Easter cheese (cirak).  The Easter cheese isn't really a cheese at all.  It's more like a firm egg custard.  It can make a lovely accompaniment to any Easter dish.

I love it and I think you will too!

Slovak Easter Cheese (Cirak)

12 Eggs
1 Cup White Sugar
1/4 Teaspoon Salt
2 Teaspoons Vanilla Extract
1 Dash Ground Nutmeg
6 Cups Milk

Crack eggs into a large mixing bowl and beat slightly. Stir in sugar, salt, vanilla and nutmeg. Set aside.

Heat milk in large saucepan over low heat until almost boiling, do not scorch. Slowly stir in egg mixture, whisking constantly. Cook over low heat, stirring, until the mixture takes on the texture of scrambled eggs.  The whey will separate so there will be a bit of liquid.  

Pour the hot mixture into a cheesecloth lined colander.  OR, what I do is stretch a clean nylon stocking (a knee high or ankle high) over a wide mouth jar or a bowl.

Lift the cheesecloth (or stocking) out of bowl, squeezing to remove as much liquid as you can.  You can make one large ball, but I usually make two smaller ones.  

Be careful, it will be VERY hot.  I always end up burning myself, so fair warning.

Tie cloth up tightly. Let it hang over sink or bowl for up to 3 hours. I make a loop at the end of the stocking and hang it over the sink from a cabinet knob.

Cover with a damp linen and place in refrigerator for at least 24 hours. 

Remove cheesecloth (or stocking) and slice to serve.

Note:  you can save the liquid that drains off.  You can use it as a milk/water replacement for baking.  It's is sweet and goes great in oatmeal and creates a silky textured bread.  

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Red Flannel Hash

Red flannel is a New England tradition.  Nor' Easterners are frugal folk and this dish is made up of mostly leftovers.   Red flannel is made with cooked potatoes, beets, and corned beef.  Red-flannel hash takes its name from the chopped beets that give it that deep red color.

Red Flannel Hash

6 Ounces Leftover Corned or Roast Beef
3/4 Cup Leftover Cooked Potatoes, Diced
1/2 Small Onion, Finely Diced
1/2 Cup Diced Pickled Beets
1 Tablespoons Rendered Bacon Fat
4 Large Eggs
Salt & Pepper or Seasoned Salt

In a bowl combine beef, potatoes, onions and beets.  Season to taste.  Toss to combine.

Melt the bacon fat in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the beef mixture, press down on the mixture with a spatula, forming a large pancake, and cook until well-browned on the bottom. Flip and cook for a minute or two more, again pressing down with the spatula. Remove from the heat and keep warm.

Cook eggs, as desired.  I like mine poached 3 minutes so that the whites are set and yolk is still runny.  

Divide the hash between two dishes and top each with two eggs. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve immediately.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Spicy Garlic Green Beans with Chicken

This is a simple to make meal that explodes with flavor.  And it's healthy, too, if you can imagine that!  So, it's a win/win all around.

Spicy Garlic Green Beans with Chicken

1 Pound Green Beans, Trimmed
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 Pound Chicken Breast
Coarse Salt and Ground Pepper 
2 or 3 Cloves of Garlic, Minced
1 Teaspoon (or more) Hot Pepper Flakes

Cut chicken into bite sized pieces and season chicken with salt and pepper. In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 Tbsp oil over medium-high heat. Cook chicken until cooked through, about 6 minutes per side. Removed from skillet and set aside.

In the same skillet, heat remaining oil over medium-high heat.  Stir in garlic and hot pepper flakes.  Cook until garlic softens, don't let it brown.  Add the green beans and season with salt and pepper, toss to coat.  Cover and allow to cook for 10 minutes.  Stir and add chicken.  Allow to cook for another 5 minutes and serve.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Firewater Friday - El Café Miel

A blend of Patron XO Cafe and Vanilla Bean Mead makes for a smooth, delightful cocktail - as elegant as it is lethal.  

El Café Miel

1 Part Patron XO Cafe

Combine ingredients in an ice filled cocktail shaker.  Shake well and pour into a chilled cocktail glass.

Serve and enjoy!


Thursday, March 21, 2013

Banana Maple Oatmeal

In an effort to watch what I eat and head down a healthier path, I try to come with recipes that are not only satisfying but wholesome, as well.

As most of us know, when we're dieting mealtimes can  become somewhat of a  "desperate" time.  When the dinner bell rings sometimes we're so hungry that we need something good and we need it NOW!

This recipe for my Banana Maple Oatmeal fills both of those needs.  

Banana Maple Oatmeal

1/2 cup Quick Oats (150)
1 Cup Water 
1 Pinch Salt (Optional)
1 Tablespoon Real Maple Syrup (50)
1 Small Banana (90)
1/4 Cup Raisins (Optional)(125)

Combine oats, water (or nonfat or low-fat milk), and salt (if desired) in a 2-cup microwavable bowl. Microwave on High for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes. Stir.

Top with bananas (and raisins, if desired) and drizzle with maple syrup. 

You can mix it all up if you want, but I tend not to.  

Alternatively, you can mash up the banana and add the raisins before you cook the oatmeal.  This does not alter the cooking time.


290 Calories (413 with raisins) / 0 grams fat

As far as the choice in oatmeal goes, keep in mind the faster the oats cook the more processed it is.  A less processed oat is a healthier oat.  But, cooking times are effected by the style of oat you choose.  This recipe is for quick oats simply because of the "desperation" factor.  

Also, use real maple syrup.  Despite the price; it's worth it for the flavor and healthfulness.   Pancake syrup is nothing more than maple flavored corn syrup.

Finally,  salt is optional.  If  you're watching your sodium intake then omit it.  However, I love the salty/sweet, so for me it's a must.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Diet Hot Fudge Banana Split

I've been trying to lose weight because, frankly, I really need to.  I've been  exercising and eating more fruits and vegetables,  I've also been severely limiting my intake bread and pasta and whatnot.  

I'm not a huge sweets eater, so cutting back on that isn't really an issue for me.  But, sometimes  I get a craving for a sugary snack that a bowl of grapes or a handful of dried dates just won't satisfy.  

A two-scoop hot fudge sundae is about 550 calories. More than half of those calories are from fat.  Mmmm, tasty. But, realistically, not good for someone trying to shed the unwanted thunder thighs, saddlebags and/or Buddha belly.

My alternative to a big bowl of ice cream with all the fixins is a banana split sans delectable dairy.  You don't get that cream, cold nomminess but it tastes good and hits the sweet spot.  And it's only 210 calories only 10 of which are fat calories.  You could knock off 30 calories by using sugar free hot fudge but I'm strongly against artificial sweeteners.

Diet Hot Fudge Banana Split

1 Small Banana (90)
1 Tbsp Chopped Walnuts (45)
1 Tbsp Hot Fudge (75)

Cut the banana in half and then split the halves.  

Drizzle with hot fudge and sprinkle with chopped walnuts.  

Enjoy. You will, I promise!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Beerific Sweet & Sour Red Cabbage and Sausage

This is real comfort food for me and brings back warm, cozy childhood memories.  

This is very much like the recipe Gramma used to make except I've upped the flavor factor by replacing the water with beer and using Tony Chachere creole spice in place of the salt and pepper.  

Use whatever kind of beer you like.  I think this recipe is especially good with a lager or a brown, but you can experiment with your favorite style.

This makes for yummy leftovers.  Mmmmm . . . good stuff!

Beerific Sweet & Sour Red Cabbage & Sausage

4 Tablespoons Rendered Bacon Fat
2 Tablespoons Sugar
1 Small Yellow Onion, Chopped
4 Cups Shredded Red Cabbage
2 Granny Smith Apples - Unpeeled, Cored & Sliced Thin
2 Tablespoons Cider Vinegar
1/2 Teaspoon Caraway Seeds
1 To 1-1/2 Pounds German or Polish-Style Smoked Sausages
1 Pound Potatoes, Halved or Quartered
Salt And Fresh-Ground Black Pepper To Taste
1 Bottle Cup Beer

Melt the bacon fat in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the sugar and cook, stirring often, until the sugar browns, about 4 minutes. 

Reduce the heat to medium-low, add the onion, and saute it until it is golden, about 5 minutes. Add the cabbage, apples, vinegar, and caraway seeds, and stir to blend.

Place the sausage links and the potatoes on top of the cabbage mixture. Season with salt and pepper and pour the beer over all. 

Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, reduce the heat, and simmer, covered, for 45 minutes. 

Taste, adjust the seasonings, and serve hot.

Note:  I use raw sugar in place of granulated sugar.  I replace Tony Chachere Creole Seasoning for the salt and pepper.  

Monday, March 18, 2013

Corned Beef Hash

St. Patrick's Day has come and gone.  Perhaps you spent the day drinking beer and frolicking with leprechauns. Maybe you like to dress up like a leprechaun and drink beer.  Or maybe you're just a drunken leprechaun.  Hey, I don't judge.

Leprechauns or no, you might have a hang-over and you probably have left-over corned beef in the fridge.

I can't think of anything better to make with leftover corned beef than corned beef hash.  Hearty enough for any meal.  Delish!

Corned Beef Hash

2 Cups Cooked Leftover Corned Beef
2 Cups Cooked Leftover Potatoes
1 Small Onion, Chopped
1/2 Teaspoon Dried Thyme
1/2 Teaspoon Garlic Powder
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Pepper
6 Pasteurized Eggs
2 Teaspoons Bacon Fat, Lard, or Butter.
1/2 Cup Broth from the Corned Beef And Cabbage (or water)

Dice the meat and potatoes into 1/4 to 1/2" cubes.

In a large bowl, beat combine corned beef, potatoes, 2 eggs, onions, garlic, and thyme. Add the broth and mix.

Preheat a frying pan over medium high heat and add the fat. Roll it around so it coats the bottoms and sides.

Add the hash mix and pat it down with a spatula. Cook until the eggs set and the hash is browned.

Keep warm while preparing poached eggs. Poach eggs using the method in this recipe or used you use an egg poacher insert like this one.

Alternately, you can cook the eggs directly on top of the hash, as follows:  crack the remaining eggs and lay them on top of the hash. Turn the heat to medium. Cover and cook until the whites have set but the yolks are still runny; about 10 to 15 minutes.  Just be careful not to burn the bottom of the hash.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Firewater Friday - Devil's Food

A concoction that is deep, dark and sinful . . . sinfully delicious!  

Imagine a devil's food cake topped with creamy vanilla frosting.  This cocktail is a combination of  bittersweet dark chocolate stout mixed with rich, sweet vanilla bean mead.  

Devil's Food

2 Ounces Sap House Meadery Vanilla Bean Mead
12 Ounces Brooklyn Brewery Black Chocolate Stout

In a 16-ounce glass, pour the mead and top off with the stout.  No need to stir.

Simple but delicious.


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Easy Yeast Bread

There may be nothing on this earth that smells as good as baking bread. It may seem a daunting task but baking bread is easy and rewarding.  

This is a super easy recipe that is good for beginners.  

Easy Yeast Bread

3/4 Cup Warm Water
1 Package Active Dry Yeast
1 Tsp Salt
1-1/2 Tbsp Sugar
1 Tbsp Vegetable Shortening
1/2 Cup Milk
3 Cups All-Purpose Flour
1 Tbsp Vegetable Oil

In large bowl, add the sugar to the warm water.  Stir until all the sugar is dissolved.  Stir in yeast.  Allow to sit for about 5 minutes until yeast is bubbly.

Add salt, shortening, and milk to bowl. Stir.

Mix in the first 2 cups of flour.

You may not need all three cups of flour.  But, if needed, begin adding more flour, one tablespoon at a time, until the dough makes a soft dough.

Turn dough out onto floured board and knead, adding small spoonfuls of flour as needed, until the dough is soft and smooth, not sticky to the touch.

Add the oil to the bowl.  Put dough in the bowl, and turn over so that is covered in oil. Cover with a moistened towel and let rise in warm spot for 1 hour.

Punch down dough. Turn out onto floured board and knead.

Preheat oven at 375 degrees F. 

Form dough into loaf and set in buttered bread pan. Cover and let rise for about 30 minutes.

Put in oven and bake for about 45 minutes or until golden brown.

Turn out bread and let cool on a rack.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Simple Greek Salad

Simple Greek Salad

1 Head Iceberg Lettuce, Cored And Roughly Chopped
1 Small Red Onion, Halved And Thinly Sliced
1/3 Cup Crumbled Feta Cheese
1/3 Cup Kalamata Olives
1/3 Cup Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
1/4 Cup Red Wine Vinegar
1 Teaspoon Dried Oregano
1 Teaspoon Superfine Sugar
1/2 Teaspoon Kosher Salt
Freshly Ground Black Pepper

In a large serving bowl, combine iceberg lettuce, red onion, feta and olives.

In a separate container, combine the oil, vinegar, oregano, sugar, salt, and pepper, to taste. Shake or stir well to combine.

Drizzle salad with dressing and toss.  Serve immediately.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Firewater Friday - Peppery Bacon Infused Vodka

I like a strip of bacon as a garnish for a nice spicy Bloody Mary cocktail.  That got me thinking.  What about vodka infused with bacon and pepper.  Imagine that in your Bloody Mary!  Oh my!

So, I made it.  

Peppery Bacon Infused Vodka

3 or 4 Slices Smoked Bacon
16 Ounces Good Vodka
8 - 10 Peppercorns

Cook bacon in pan until crisp but not totally crispy.  

Place bacon strips into a jar and fill with vodka.

Place jar in the refrigerator for one week.  

After a week, put the jar in the freezer for an hour to solidify the fat.  

Strain the solids out of the liquid by pouring through a sieve or a stocking lined funnel.  

Pour into a bottle or jar.

For the most bacon flavor, serve at room temperature.  Use as a mixer or a sipper.  


Frolicking with a flat-iron

I have a good friend who grew up in rural Maine.  When she was a young girl life was hard.

Kids today may complain, but they have no clue as to what real hardship is.    

When Betty was a girl there was no television and shoes were a luxury.  She didn’t have dolls and she didn’t have a lot to eat and she didn’t complain about it. 

She once told me a story about how she and her brothers rode one of their pigs for fun.  They rode that poor pig to death, literally. 

That was life and it was what it was.

Don’t get me wrong, Betty had a toy.  A toy.  It was flat iron . . . attached to a string.  I kid you not!  She loved that iron and she dragged Lucivil everywhere she went. 

That’s what she named her pet iron – Lucivil; funny name for a little kid to name a toy. 

As she tells it, there was a stray cat that hung around their home for a while.  Betty’s father told her and her brothers they had better not let that cat in the house because it was a lucivee.    

Okay, so what the heck is a lucivee?

According to early folklorists, Lucivee (or Lusifee) is a malicious wildcat spirit of the Wabanaki.    However, in Indian lore the creature is called Lox (Luks).   Lox shares the characteristic of Lucivee but takes the form of a wolverine and not a cat.  The confusion for may be that lynx, a wild cat, sounds similar to Lox/Luks and the French-Canadian word for lynx, is loup-cervier which sounds similar to Lucivee.   

I can’t imagine why little Betty would have adopted the name of an evil native American animal spirit for her pet flat iron.  Perhaps, she wanted that poor feral cat so badly, she pretended that the flat iron was the kitty.  I don't know.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Spicy Sausage and Balsamic Peppers & Onions Sandwich

This is a sandwich of my own creation.  Sweet, savory, spicy, and cheesy.  It's almost the perfect sandwich.  

It's pretty messy, so I like to make mine open face. But if you don't mind all kinds of awesome juices running down your arms while you're eating then, by all mean, plop a bun on top of that bad boy and have at it!

Spicy Sausage and Balsamic Peppers & Onions Sandwich

¼ Cup Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
1 Large Red Bell Pepper, Seeded And Cut Lengthwise Into 1/2 –Inch Slices
2 Or 3 Jalepeno Peppers, Cut Lengthwise Into 1/2 –Inch Slices
1 Large Onion, Cut Lengthwise Into 1/2 –Inch Slices
2 Tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar
1/8 Teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
¼ Teaspoon Salt
1 Pound Hot Italian Sausage
4 To 6 Fresh Kaiser Rolls
1 Pound Fresh Mozzarella Cheese, Sliced

In a large skillet, stir together the olive oil, peppers and onions over medium heat. Season with pepper and salt (I used Tony Chachere, instead).  

Saute the pepper for 5-7 minutes, until they are tender but still firm. Stir in the balsamic vinegar; cook for an additional 1 minute. Set aside.

Form the sausage into thin patties.  Cook sausage patties in a heavy large skillet over medium heat, about 7 to 10 minutes. Top with mozzarella and allow cheese to melt slightly.

Split the rolls in half lengthwise. Top with a sausage patty and a spoonful of peppers & onions.

Serve open face or top with another bun.  Serve sandwiches immediately.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Strawberry Banana Oatmeal Smoothie

With the exception of yogurt, all raw ingredients make this a super healthy smoothie

Yes there are spinach and tomatoes in there.  Don't freak out. They add goodness but no flavor.   

Yes, it's green. Just try it.  All you'll taste is smooth, creamy strawberry oatmeal deliciousness!

Trust me.  Try it!

Or wuss out and omit the spinach.  

Strawberry Banana Oatmeal Smoothie

1 Cup Strawberries
1 Small Banana
1 Cup Ice (Optional)
1 Single Serving Size Container Non-Fat Vanilla Or Strawberry Yogurt
1/2 Cup Uncooked Oats
1 Small Tomato
1 Cup Spinach

Add the oats to the blender and pulse to grind them up.  

Add the rest of the ingredients to the blender pouring ice in last. 

Blend on high for 30 seconds or until blended and smooth.


Friday, March 1, 2013

Firewater Friday - Homemade Pimento (Allspice) Dram

Pimento dram is a simple liqueur flavored with allspice berries. You may associate pimentos with olives, but those are pimento peppers.  It is called pimento dram because it is made with allspice which is the berry from the pimento tree.  

Pimento dram is strong, dark and spicy.  Unfortunately, it is not widely available in the United States but it is easy to make. 

All it takes is the ingredients and time.  

Pimento Dram

1 1/2 Cups White Rum
1/3 Cup Allspice Berries
1 Pound Brown Sugar
2 Cups Water

Lightly crush the allspice berries.  You can place them in a plastic bag and run a rolling pin over them.  I used an old-fashioned coffee grinder.  

Place the crushed berries in a glass jar along with the rum. Let this infuse for about 10 days to 2 weeks. Strain the mixture through cheese cloth or a nylon stocking.

In a saucepan, add the brown sugar and water and heat until dissolved to create a brown sugar syrup. Allow the brown sugar syrup to cool completely.

Add the brown sugar syrup to the rum, and allow the mixture to rest for another 2 to 4 weeks.

The longer it sits the more mellow it gets.  You can add other spices like cinnamon or clove or cardamom. 

Try it in coffee or apple cider or as a mixer in cocktails!