chocolate chip, pecan, pumpkin bread

Why not step it up a notch! No more boring pumpkin bread, adding chocolate chips and pecans will elevate this classic seasonal bread! I doubled the recipe in order to make individual “Thanksgiving” gifts for some family and friends!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 3/4 cups AP flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 1/2 cups pumpkin purée, canned
  • 1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 cup semi-sweet mini chocolate chips, more for topping (1 T flour to coat chocolate chips)
  • 1 cup pecan pieces, more for topping

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan with non-stick spray, set aside. (Note: I doubled the recipe and made 8 (6 in.) loaf pans as gifts).

In a large bowl, whisk flour, baking soda, cinnamon, pumpkin pie space, and salt together until well mixed. Set aside. In another medium bowl, whisk the eggs, granulated sugar, and brown sugar together until well combined. Set aside. In another small bowl, whisk the pumpkin, oil and orange juice and blend. Add the pumpkin, oil and orange juice into the egg and sugars, and whisk until well blended.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and gently mix together using a rubber spatular or a wooden spoon. Do not over mix. Toss the chocolate chips in 1 tablespoon of flour to coat. Gently fold in the chocolate chips and pecans into the batter.

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Sprinkle the a handful of chocolate chips and pecans on top. Bake for 60 to 65 minutes, making sure to loosely cover the bread with aluminum foil halfway through to prevent the top from getting too brown. The bread is done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes our clean. Allow the bread to cool completely. Makes one large loaf pan or 4 small 6 in. gift loaf pans.

PECAN PUMPKIN PIE WITH MAPLE WHIPPED CREAM

Why have two different pies for Thanksgiving when you can have one that blows away any other pie out there! Try this Pecan Pumpkin Pie recipe and impress your family & friends.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 store-bought pie crust

Pumpkin Layer

  • 3/4 cup pumpkin purée
  • 1/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 egg

Pecan Layer

  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup corn syrup
  • 2 tablespoons dark maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup pecans, halved
  • 1/3 cup pecans, chopped

Maple whipped cream

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup powder sugar
  • 1/4 cup dark maple syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place the pie dough into a 9 inch pie pan. Prick the bottom of the pie crust with a fork. Place pie weights or dry beans around the bottom of the dough and place in the oven for 10 minutes. Remove the crust from the oven, remove the weights and set aside. Lower the oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium bowl, with a whisk, mix together the pumpkin purée, sweetened condensed milk, sugar, salt, pumpkin pie spice, ground ginger and egg. Make sure it’s well combined. Set aside.

In another medium bowl, mix together melted butter, corn syrup, maple syrup, sugar, eggs and salt. Mix well and then add in the 3/4 cup halved pecans. Set aside.

Pour the pumpkin pie mixture into the pre-baked pie shell then sprinkle the top with 1/3 cup chopped pecans. (This helps creates a barrier so the pumpkin pie and pecan pie fillings stay separated.) Carefully, ladle the pecan pie filling over top of the pumpkin layer, be careful not to mix the layers.

Place the pie on a sheet tray and bake for 1 hour.

For the whipped cream, whip cream in a stand mixer until soft peaks form. Add powdered sugar, maple syrup and salt. Whip a little more until well mixed.

Serve the pie topped with the maple whipped cream.

ITALIAN SAUSAGE STUFFED MUSHROOMS

A delicious and satisfying two-bite hors d’oeuvres will make you a star when you serve them!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 24 large portobello or cremini mushrooms
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup onion, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 lb. Italian sausage, casings removed, fried and crumbled
  • 1 (8 oz.) packaged cream cheese, cubed and softened
  • 2 tablespoon parsley, finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place a piece of parchment paper or a silicone mat on a large baking sheet. Clean mushrooms with a wet paper towel. Cut stems from mushrooms and chop into pieces. Leave caps whole.

In a skillet, fry Italian sausage until cooked and crumbled. Drain on paper towels, set aside. Wipe the skillet with paper towels, then add olive oil and heat over medium high heat. Add onions and chopped mushroom stems. Add salt and pepper. Cook 5 to 6 minutes, stirring frequently until soft. Add back in the cooked sausage. Add cream cheese, parsley and garlic powder. Stir until the cream cheese is completely melted.

Spoon about 1 tablespoon of the sausage mixture into the mushroom caps and bake 25 to 30 minutes, until mushrooms are soft and filling is heated through. Cool slightly before serving. Makes 24. (Depending on the size of the mushrooms, you may have leftover filling, don’t worry, you can make a great omelette or fritatta!)

LUMP CRAB BITES and STUFFED MINI PEPPERS

LUMP CRAB BITES

Something so elegant taste so delicious! Combining jumbo lump crabmeat with shredded cheese and some other ingredients turns this into a simple and easy appetizer sure to please everyone at the party!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise (I use Hellmans)
  • 8 ounces shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup jumbo lump crabmeat, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons Worchestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped green onions
  • 2 packages Athens Phyllo Shells (contains 15 cups each)

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Use a large cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.

In a small bowl, combine mustard, mayo, Worcestershire sauce and green onions. Add crabmeat and cheese and mix by hand until well mixed.

Take each phyllo cup one at a time and fill with about one heaping tablespoon of crab mixture. Place on the cookie sheet. Repeat until every shell is filled.

Baked in preheated oven for 10-15 minutes. Serve warm.

STUFFED MINI-PEPPERS WITH GOAT CHEESE

INGREDIENTS:

Delicious and easy to prepare, what more can you ask for in an appetizer!

  • 4 tablespoons chopped walnuts
  • 2 (5.3 oz.) goat cheese, room temperature (I use Chavrie)
  • 3 teaspoons dried cranberries, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons green onion, thinly sliced and chopped
  • 2 packages (8 oz.) mini sweet bell peppers, cut in half length wise and cleaned
  • Optional: parsley for garnish

DIRECTIONS:

Bring goat cheese to room temperature.Cut peppers in half lengthwise, remove seeds and caps. Set aside. Place goat cheese in a medium bowl. Finely chop cranberries and walnuts, add to bowl. Thinly slice and chop green onions and add to bowl. Stir all together to incorporate and blend well. Set aside.

Fill peppers with about 1 teaspoon of the cheese mixture and arrange on serving platter. Optional: Garnish with chopped parsley. Keep chilled until ready to serve. (NOTE: you’ll have leftover peppers, just use them in other dishes, makes 30 mini-stuffed peppers)

CORNBREAD STUFFING WITH SAUSAGE AND APPLE

This is a classic Southern cornbread dressing, but it has some special additions that make it my favorite ever dressing! Sweet and savory all at the same time. Goes with turkey, ham, or your favorite meat. Try it, you won’t be disappointed.

INGREDIENTS:

CORNBREAD:

  • 2 (8.5 ounce) packages Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix
  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 cup milk

STUFFING:

  • 16 ounce regular port sausage in a tube (I use Jimmy Dean’s)
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter (1/2 stick) -(more for coating pans)
  • 1 cup celery, diced (4 large stalks)
  • 1 cup onion, diced (1/2 large onion)
  • 1 apple, peeled and diced (I used Figi apple)
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 tablespoon fresh sage leaves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 carton (32 oz.) Chicken stock

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 9 x 13 inch baking pan with butter and coat another casserole dish (9 x 13) with butter, set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together the corn bread mix, 2 eggs, and milk. Pour into baking pan and bake for 20-25 minutes. (When you remove the cornbread, set temperature to 375 degrees). Set cornbread aside to cool. After it’s cooled, break up cornbread into small pieces and place in a large mixing bowl.

To make the stuffing, heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the pork sausage and use a utensil to break it up while cooking. Cook for about 5-6 minutes, until cooked through. Drain on paper towels. Add to the cornbread mixture.

Return the skillet to the stove and add in the butter, heat on medium heat. Add the celery and onions and cook to soften, about 5-6 minutes. Add in the apple, cranberries, sage, thyme, and salt and cook together until well blended. Set aside.

To the large bowl of cornbread and sausage, add in the beaten egg and slowly pour in the chicken stock. Add in the cooked onion, celery, apple and cranberries. Stir to combine well. Pour the mixture into a 9 x 13 inch casserole dish that’s been coated with butter. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes until top is lightly browned. Serves 12

STRAWBERRY NUTELLA PUFFS

This is a super easy yet elegant desert. Easily comes together with just a little effort and is delicious and looks impressive. Using Puff Pastry Shells and adding Nutella and fresh strawberries makes this dessert come together perfectly!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 package Puff Pastry Shells (Pepperidge Farm-contains 6 shells)
  • 1 small jar Nutella
  • 1 pint fresh strawberries, cleaned, stem removed and cut in half
  • powder sugar for dusting (optional: whipped cream for topping)

DIRECTIONS:

Heat oven to 425 degrees and bake Puff Pastry Shells for 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven and take a sharp knife and cut around the top of the shell and set it aside.

Spoon a heaping tablespoon into the shell and top with strawberries. Sprinkle with powder sugar before serving. Serves 6

SWEET POTATO SOUFFLE

INGREDIENTS:

SOUFFLE:

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick), room temperature (plus more for greasing pan
  • 5 medium sweet potatoes
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

TOPPING:

  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup softened butter (1/2 stick)

DIRECTIONS:

For the SOUFFLE: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 2 1/2 quart baking dish with butter.

Poke the sweet potatoes with a fork and bake on a baking sheet covered with foil for approximately 1 to 1 1/2 hour depending on size of the sweet potato. When cool enough to handle, peel the potatoes, place the flesh in a large mixing bowl and either mash with a potato masher or place in a food processor until very smooth. Add the eggs, both sugars, butter, vanilla, milk, cinnamon and salt. Combine well with an handheld electric mixture or food processor. Pour the mixture into the baking dish.

For the TOPPING: In a medium bowl, stir together the pecans, brown sugar, flour and butter until thoroughly combined. Spoon the mixture over the sweet potatoes, making an even layer. Bake the casserole until slightly browned, approximately 40 minutes. Let the casserole sit for 5 minutes before serving.

RICOTTA OLIVE OIL CAKE with Lemon and Almonds

This cake is absolutely amazing! It comes together quickly and all you need is a whisk. The olive oil taste is subtle, and the lemon and almond flavor intensifies the flavor! Do yourself a favor and make this cake. It’s now my go to cake for a great company dessert!

Watch the entire video of making this fabulous cake!

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups of ricotta
  • 2/3 cup of good olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • zest of one lemon
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup of almond meal
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • OPTIONAL: decorate with sliced strawberries, blueberries, or blackberries (your choice). Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream.

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a 9 inch spring form pan with a bottom piece of parchment paper and spray with Pam.

In a large mixing bowl add the ricotta then whisk in the olive oil, sugar, and zest of one lemon. Whisk until completely combined. Add in one egg at a time and whisk until each egg is completely mixed in. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, almond meal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt until combined. Whisk well to ensure there are no clumps.

Transfer the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients a little at a time and whisk together until everything is combined. Pour the batter into the 9 inch spring form pan.

Bake for 60-70 minutes or until browned on the top and firm in the center. Stick a toothpick in the center and make sure there’s no wet batter on the stick before removing from the oven. Set the cake on a cooling rack and let it cool until room temperature.

Optional: When cool, decorate with sliced strawberries, blueberries, or blackberries (your choice). Sprinkle powdered sugar. Serve with extra berries and a dollop of whipped cream.

DAD’S MEATBALLS AND HOMEMADE SPAGHETTI SAUCE

This is a simple spaghetti sauce and easy to make, but what makes this a standout is “Dad’s Meatballs”! Nothing reminds me of my dad then the smell of this delicious sauce cooking on the stove. These meatballs are so flavorful that it will be your favorite meatball recipe like it is mine!

Watch the entire process of making this great dish!

Ingredients:

Spaghetti sauce:

  • 3 -28 oz. cans of San Marzano* whole peeled tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 Vidalia onion, chopped
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 15 fresh basil leaves, julienned
  • salt & pepper to taste (I use 2 tsp. salt and 1 tsp. black pepper)
  • 1 tsp. Italian seasoning
  • pasta of your choice, cooked according to box directions (Always boil your water first, then add salt)

Dad’s Meatballs:

  • 2 lbs. lean ground chuck
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1/4 cup Italian parsley, finely minced
  • salt and pepper to taste (about 1 tsp. each)
  • 1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs
  • 1/3 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano** cheese, graded
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • olive oil for frying
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese for serving

Directions:

Start with the sauce: Add the cans of peeled tomatoes to your food processor or blender and blend until smooth. Set aside.

Add the olive oil to a large pot over low heat and sauté the onions for a few minutes, add the green pepper and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook about 1 to 1 1/2 minutes more.

Pour the puréed tomatoes into the pot. Add salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning. Heat on medium to medium low for a minimum of 1 hour. (You’ll be adding the meatballs as soon as they are fried, so start that process immediately after sauce is simmering). Simmering a little longer helps concentrate the rich tomato flavors.

While the sauce is simmering, place meat in a large bowl. Add garlic, parsley, salt, pepper, bread crumbs, cheese and eggs. Work mixture until well blended. Add the milk and continue to mix (if too moist, add a little more bread crumbs). Shape into about 20 to 24 meatballs (depending on the size you want). Brown lightly in olive oil on every side. Drain on paper towels. Add to the sauce the last 30 min. of cooking (can cook a little longer if desired).

At the end of the cooking process, add julienned fresh basil and taste to see if it needs any more salt & pepper.

Cook your favorite spaghetti according to directions on the box, drain (Reserve about one cup of pasta water). When spaghetti is done (al dente), put back into the pot and add several ladles of sauce into the spaghetti, a little of the pasta water, and toss with a little Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese***. Serve the meatballs and added sauce on top of the flavored spaghetti. Sprinkle with more Parmesan-Reggiano cheese. Optional: garnish with a little chopped basil.

NOTES:

*(San Marzano tomatoes are the most famous plum tomato to come out of Italy. They are grown in the rich volcanic soil of the base of Mount Vesuvius which gives them a sweet flavor and low acidity and are coveted for their firm pulp, deep red color, easy to remove skin and low seed count!)

**(Parmigiano-Reggiano can only come from for a specific region of Italy and is protected by Parmigiano-Reggiano Consorzio and is stamped, regular Parmesan cheese is not protected and could be a copycat or counterfeit.)


***(Right before you’re ready to drain your pasta, always be sure to reserve a cup of the starchy water it cooked in. Add this when you toss your drained pasta with sauce – it will be the binding that “marries” the sauce to the pasta. Another way to flavor your pasta is to finish it in its sauce.
)

Tip: MAKE AHEAD: You can make the meatballs the day before. After you fry them, place them on a sheet and wrap with plastic and refrigerate until the next day. Let them sit on the counter about one hour to come to room temperature then add them to the sauce!

Dedicated to my Dad, Angelo G. Rumore

BAKED CHICKEN CHIMICHANGAS

This is another great recipe that you can use left over rotisserie chicken. You can also use the smaller flour tortillas and make appetizers. With the added toppings, it’s a delicious dish!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 8 oz. package cream cheese, room temperature
  • 8 oz. package shredded Mexican Cheese
  • 2 tablespoons taco seasoning
  • 1 lb. cooked chicken, shredded
  • 8 large flour tortillas
  • Olive oil cooking spray

Toppings:

  • shredded Mexican Cheese
  • Green onions, chopped
  • sour cream
  • salsa

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a large cookie sheet with wire grates on top for circulation.

In a medium bowl, stir together the room temperature cream cheese (if you just take it out of the oven, put in microwave for 20 seconds), Mexican cheese, and taco seasoning. Fold in the shredded chicken.

Place about 1/2+ cup of the chicken mixture in the center of the flour tortillas, fold in the sides, then fold in the top and bottom. Lay seam side down on the wire grates on the cookie sheet. Spray tops of tortillas with the cooking spray. Lightly sprinkle with some of the taco seasoning. Bake for 15 minutes. At the end of 15 minutes flip the tortillas and spray again with the olive oil spray. Bake another 15 minutes. (flip again and put the broiler on and broil top side for about 2 minutes, keeping close eye on them, they can burn fast).

Serve with a dollop of sour cream on top, salsa to taste, Mexican cheese and sprinkle some chopped green onions.

NOTE: I had leftover chicken mixture, and some smaller flour tortillas, so I filled those and baked along side the larger ones, these are perfect for appetizers!

Goes great with Red Beans and Rice, see recipe below:

Red Beans and Rice (quick version)

  • 2 cups cooked white rice
  • 1 cup kidney beans
  • 1/2 cup chopped onions, bell peppers
  • (I used frozen that I keep in the freezer)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 can Ro-tel Diced Tomatoes & Green Chilies (Drained)
  • salt & pepper to taste

Directions:

Cook your rice according to directions, or use leftover rice. Place olive oil in sauce pan and sauté the onions and bell peppers. Add the beans and using a potato masher, mash the beans a little. Stir and add the rice and Ro-tel. Salt & Pepper to taste. Mix well and heat on low-medium for about 4 minutes.

PASTA e FAGIOLI (Pronounced “Pasta Fazool”)

Nothing like a hearty soup to delight your soul! Here’s a family favorite that is full of healthy vegetables and protein rich cannellini beans. Comes together quickly and the entire family will love it!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped pancetta
  • 1 Kielbasa, cut up in 1 inch rounds
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 carrots, finely chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 can, 28 oz. San Marzano whole peeled tomatoes, either hand crushed, or food processor crushed
  • 1 quart chicken broth
  • 4 cans (15.5 oz.) cannellini beans (with liquid)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • pinch of Italian seasoning
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • 3 cups Ditalini pasta (cook according to package directions)
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese (garnish)
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley (garnish)

DIRECTIONS:

Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven. Cook the pancetta and Kielbasa in the oil for about 3 minutes. Add the onion, carrot, and celery and cook for 3 minutes or until it softens. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more.

Pour in the broth, beans (with liquid), and bay leaves. Hand crush the tomatoes in a separate bowl, or place in a food processor for a few seconds. Add the tomatoes to the pot. Add a pinch of red pepper flakes and a pinch of Italian seasoning. Taste and add salt & pepper as you prefer. Cook for 45 minutes on simmer. (remove bay leaves when done).

While soup is cooking, prepare according to package directions. When done, set aside and let it cool. Add pasta to the soup and stir to combine.

Serve in bowls topped with a drizzle of olive oil, Parmesan cheese and a sprinkling of chopped parsley. Makes 4-5 quarts.

LIGHTING OF THE CHRISTMAS TREE CAKE (Pistachio Cake)

In honor of the 10th annual Christmas Tree Lighting Celebration of Tierra Verde, I’ve made a delicious cake in the shape of a Christmas tree. It a Pistachio Cake made with Duncan Hines white cake mix stepping it up a notch with added flavor. I have included the Christmas Tree template for you to print out and use to make your own cake! It will bring smiles and oohs and awwws to your family and friends.

Christmas Tree Lighting Celebration will be held Sat. Dec. 5th, 2020, downtown Tierra Verde.

INGREDIENTS FOR CAKE:

  • 1 box white cake mix (I prefer Duncan Hines)
  • 1 package (3.4 oz.) Pistachio Instant Pudding Mix
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs

INGREDIENTS FOR ICING:

  • 6 cups powdered sugar sifted
  • 2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 tablespoons heavy whipping cream, room temperature
  • 10 drops green food coloring (or your preference of shade of green)
  • 1 cup pistachio nuts, crushed by pulsing in food processor

DIRECTIONS FOR CAKE:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9 by 13 inch pan with “Pam” for baking, or grease and flour.

Mix the cake mix, pudding, mix, orange juice, water, vegetable oil and eggs in a large bowl. Beat for two minutes with an electric mixer on medium-high. Pour batter into the pan. Bake for approximately 40 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack, 10 minutes, then invert onto a large sheet pan to completely cool. Meanwhile, make the frosting.

DIRECTIONS FOR FROSTING:

Prepare a stand mixer with whisk attachment. Whisk butter until creamy. Reduce speed to low and add powder sugar 1 cup at a time until well blended. Increase speed to med. and beat for 3 minutes. Add vanilla and 2 tbsp. cream and continue to whip on med. for 1 minute. Add more cream as needed until desire consistency is reached (usually about 4 tbsp.). Whip until the frosting is smooth and silky. Take a little of the white frosting and separate in a bowl. Add green color to the icing and whip slightly to blend. Set aside.

DIRECTIONS TO ASSEMBLE AND DECORATE:

Use the template provided above. Place the template on cake and cut pieces with a long serrated knife according to the template. Assemble tree pieces on a large serving platter, attaching the pieces with a little green frosting and frost top part of the tree in green icing. Assemble stump, attaching pieced with a little frosting and frost stump. Cover the stump with the crushed Pistachio nuts (pat them on). NOTE: Place pieces of wax paper around the edges of the cake to catch any excess icing, then remove and discard.

Decorate the tree with assorted decorations. You can also use cherries, M & M’s, or your choice of Christmas candies.

YOU CAN BUY VARIOUS CAKE DECORATIONS ON AMAZON TO ENHANCE THE CAKE

CHICKEN PERLO

This is a classic dish that has been around for years. My husband has fond memories of his mother making it for the family when he was young. It’s a Southern dish with Cajun overtones. It’s absolutely delicious and a one dish meal!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 6 slices thick-cut bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 6 chicken thighs, skin on, bone-in (or 4 chicken thighs 2 breast with bone), sprinkled with Rub* recipe below
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 kielbasa or andouille sausage, cut into rounds about 3/4 inches apart
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 1 medium Vidalia onion, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 cups diced ripe tomatoes (beefsteak or heirloom) (about 2 large tomatoes or 3 small)
  • 2 cups uncooked long-grain white rice, (use Mahatma Extra-long Enriched Rice)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 cups chicken stock (32 oz.)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley, for garnish (Optional)
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Ingredients for Rub:

  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder

DIRECTIONS:

Mix onion powder, salt, pepper, paprika, and garlic powder together in a bowl and set aside.

Set the chicken in a large bowl and sprinkle then pat the rub on both sides of the chicken until coated. Set a fry pan on the stove and add 1/4 cup olive oil. Sauté the chicken on both sides until lightly brown, about 4 minutes per side. Remove from pan and set aside.

Place large pot with a lid on stove and turn on to medium-high heat. Place cut bacon into the pot and cook at medium-high temperature for approx. 5 minutes. Add kielbasa and cook another 5 minutes, until lightly browned. With a slotted spoon, remove from the pot and set aside.

Add 2 tablespoons butter to the bacon grease in the pot. Add the celery, onion, and bell pepper to the bacon grease & butter in the pot and sauté for about 5 minutes. Add garlic and sauté 1 minutes more. Add the diced tomatoes and cook approximately 3 minutes.

Add 4 cups of chicken stock to the pot and bring to a boil, add back in the bacon and kielbasa. Season with about 1/2 teaspoon sea salt & pepper (or more to taste). Add in the chicken. Add the rice into the pot and stir. Cover the pot and cook for approximately 25 minutes or until stock is absorbed. Let sit approximately 10 minutes for any remaining liquid to be absorbed. Serves 6 (Optional, top with chopped parsley when serving).

1890 SALAD (AKA. FILET MIGNON SALAD)

I had this salad years ago in San Francisco and never forgot how good it was. I’ve recreated this recipe from memory and it was just as good as I remembered.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 (6 or 8 oz.) filet mignon
  • 1 bottle 1890 salad dressing
  • 2 sourdough English muffins
  • 4 cups salad greens
  • 4 hardboil eggs, cut in quarters
  • 1 can of asparagus
  • 1 cup black olives
  • 1 package green beans

Cook the filet mignon on the stove or grill, your preference, until medium-well done. Cut the filets in bite-size chunks, set aside.

Cook the green beans on the stove or microwave and set aside. Boil the eggs until hardboiled, cool and peel, then cut in quarters, set aside.

Assemble the salad:

Place salad greens on a large plate. Split and toast the sourdough English muffins. Place 1/2 of the sourdough English muffin in the center of each plate on top of the salad greens. Place 4 hardboiled egg wedges around the plate. Place asparagus on one side of the plate. Place green beans on the opposite side. Add the black olives down one side.

Top the English muffin with a large spoonfuls of filet mignon. Drizzle 1890 salad dressing on top of the filet and more dressing around the plate. Serve immediately. Serves 4

1890 Salad Dressing

LENTIL SOUP-ITALIAN STYLE

I have always loved a warm, nurishing bowl of lentil soup. With fall in the air, it was time to fix this delicious dish and share it with my family. Rich in flavor and so healthy for you. I hope you’ll try it for your family!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cup carrots, chopped in small pieces
  • 1 cup celery, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups brown, green, or red lentils, (rinsed & drained)
  • 2- 15 oz. cans diced tomatoes
  • 1 vadalia onion, diced
  • 56 oz. vegetable broth
  • 2 cups baby spinach, raw
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated plus more for serving
  • salt & pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Sauté the onions, carrots, and celery in olive oil in a large pot until onions are soft, approximately 5 minutes. Add garlic and sauté for 1 minute more.

Add diced tomatoes, vegetable broth and lentils. Cook on medium heat for approximately 30 minutes. Add spinach and 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese. Cook on low heat for an additonal 30 minutes. If it seems too thick, add water. Add salt & pepper to taste. Serve with grated Parmesan cheese on top. Serves at least 10-12 depending on servings. Store in the refrigerator.

Note: can sit on the stove at very low temperature throughout the day for frequent servings!

PUMPKIN BREAD with CHEESECAKE STUFFING

Time to at least start thinking about fall baking. I love anything pumpkin and here’s a twist on pumpkin bread. It’s moist and delicious and makes a great appearance!

Before and after cream cheese stuffing is added in the middle

INGREDIENTS:

Pumpkin bread ingredients:

  • 1 stick melted butter (plus more for pan)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour (more for dusting pan)
  • 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 cup pumpkin purée (not pumpkin pie mix)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Cheese cake center ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 6 ounces cream cheese, very soft

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9” by 5” loaf pan. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together 1 cup flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In another large bowl, whisk pumpkin purée, 1 cup sugar, melted butter, sour cream, 1 egg, 1 egg yolk, and vanilla until smooth.

Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and whisk until completely combined. Set aside.

Make cream cheese filling: In a small bowl, stir very soft cream cheese, 1 egg, 2 tablespoons flour, and 3 tablespoons sugar. Mix with a fork until it’s well blended.

Transfer half the pumpkin batter to prepared loaf pan. Dollop cream cheese filling on top and smooth in an even layer with the back of a spoon. Top evenly with remaining pumpkin purée and spread around.

Bake until deeply golden and a toothpick comes out clean; 1 hour 5 minutes to 1 hour 15 minutes.

When completely cooled, sprinkle powder sugar on top. Serves 10-12

CRISPY BAKED SHRIMP SCAMPI

If you are like me, you are always looking for a delicious yet simple way of preparing shrimp. This recipe will fit the bill. Easy to prepare and really is delicious with lots of lemon and garlic and butter! Make sure you use wild caught shrimp such as Key West Pinks.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 lb. jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted and divided
  • juice from one lemon
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Topping:

  • 3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • Fresh parsley, chopped

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Pour wine and 2 tablespoons of melted butter into a 9 x 13 baking dish. Place in the oven for 10 minutes to let sauce reduce. While baking dish is in the oven, add 2 tablespoons melted butter, garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper to a bowl. Add the shrimp to the bowl and toss to coat.

Remove baking dish from the oven and spread out the shrimp in a single layer, though they should fit snugly together. Pour any leftover marinade on top of the shrimp. Set aside.

Topping:

Mix the panko breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, salt, melted butter and 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley. Spread the breadcrumb mixture evenly on top of the shrimp. Bake until the shrimp are cooked, about 12-13 minutes. It should be toasty brown on top. When serving, sprinkle with a small amount of chopped parsley. Serves 6

QUICHE LORRAINE

What’s wrong with a delicious quiche for dinner? Absolutely nothing!! The rich creamy taste of this quiche will delight your family at anytime during the day!

Ingredients:

  • 1 pre-made pie crust
  • 1 teaspoon unsalted butter
  • 1/2 sweet onion, chopped
  • 6 strips chopped crisp cooked bacon
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese or Gruyere cheese
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • salt & pepper to taste

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place pie crust evenly in a tart or pie pan. Place 2 cups of dried beans or pastry weights on top of the crust and par bake in the oven for 10 minutes.

Turn down the oven to 375 degrees.

Add the butter to a small sauté pan and gently sauté the onions on medium heat for 10 minutes or until lightly browned.

In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, add the onions, bacon, cheese, cream, salt & pepper until combined. Pour the mixture into the par baked crust and make sure to spread out the ingredients in the pie crust. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until lightly browned on top and cooked through. Rest for 15 min, sliced and serve!

CHERRY CLAFOUTIS

Life is a bowl of cherries, so why not make it so! The perfect combination of elegance and taste! It has the consistency of a flan and a very unique taste that is meant to be served warm and dusted with powder sugar. Very popular in France. So if you are looking for a special dessert and love cherries, this is the dessert for you!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 cups pitted fresh cherries
  • 1 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar (separated)
  • 1 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter (for spreading around tart dish)
  • powdered sugar for garnish

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 9” or 10” glass tart dish. Rinse and pit the cherries. Add the cherries to a bowl along with 3 tablespoons of sugar and mix until coated, set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the milk, 1 cup of sugar, flour, salt, vanilla and eggs until complete combined and smooth.

Place the cherries flat into the tart pan and pour the batter over the top. Bake at 375 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes or until browned around the edges, slight browned on top and firm in the center. Cool on a rack for about 20 minutes until it’s room temperature and sprinkle powdered sugar on top. Serve warm.

Beautiful fresh cherries!
My favorite Pitter from Oxo https://www.amazon.com/dp/B008FWD4HQ/ref=cm_sw_r_em_tai_tBqsFbZFTSRTA

BEEF WELLINGTON, Twice-Baked Potatoes, Oven-Roasted Asparagus

What saids elegance more than serving Beef Wellington at a dinner party! This is a classic Beef Wellington recipe and served along side a twice-baked potatoes and roasted asparagus will make even the most discreminating guest rave!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 pound beef tenderloin
  • 1 pound mushrooms, mixture of cremini, shiitake, oysters and button
  • 2 shallots, peeled
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 2 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 frozen and thawed puff pastry sheet
  • 6 slices of ham DI Parma or Proscuitto
  • 2 egg yolks whisked with 1 tablespoon milk for egg wash
  • salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Add the mushrooms, shallots and garlic to a food processor and pulse on high until the ingredients are about the size of rice. Set aside.

Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to a large sauté pan over low heat and add in the mushroom mixture. Stir frequently and do not burn.

Cook for 20 minutes or until the moisture in the mushrooms has evaporated or reduced. Deglaze with wine and cook for 5-7 minutes to also evaporate and reduce the wine liquid.

Fold in parsley, thyme, salt and pepper until combined and then set aside on a plate to cool slightly.

In the meantime, generously season the beef tenderloin on all sides with salt and pepper and brown it on all sides in the pan with olive oil, about 90 seconds per side.

Remove from the pan and generously brush it with the mustard on all sides and let it rest on a plate.

Next, on a clean surface lightly dusted with flour, add the puff pastry sheet and roll it out until it’s about 16 “-18” long by 12” wide.

Overlap 6 slices of ham DI Parma right in the center of the puff pastry and then spread the mushroom mixture over top of the ham and spread around to completely cover it.

Put the tenderloin towards the bottom part of the ham and mushroom mixture and roll it forward completely encrusting the tenderloin

Pick up the beef tenderloin and place it back toward the bottom part of the puff pastry and then roll it forward to wrap it up.

Pinch the seams together and cut off the excess puff pastry from the sides and pinch the seams together or twist it together to make sure it is airtight.

Place on a sheet tray lined with parchment paper and rest in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.

Next, brush the puff pastry outside on all sides with the egg yolk and milk egg wash.

Score with the back side of a knife to make a design and bake at 425 degrees for 18-22 minutes or until a thermometer reads at 125 to 130 degrees internally of the beef (for medium rare). (Make sure you use a meat thermometer and check for 125 to 130 degrees, if the crust is getting too brown and you need to cook a bit more, put a loose tent of foil over the top)

Remove from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes before slicing and serving*.

Serves 6

*You can make this recipe up to 1 day in advance of serving it. After you roll up the tenderloin in the puff pastry, simply place it in the refrigerator overnight until ready to bake the next day, let sit outside the refrigerator for an hour before baking. To reheat, place in a pan with a lid and bake at 325 degrees for 6-8 minutes.

Oven-Roasted Asparagus

Ingredients:

  • 1 bunches asparagus spears, trimmed
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoon lemon juice

Directions:

Preheat an oven to 425 degrees.

Place the asparagus into a mixing bowl, and drizzle with olive oil. Toss to coat and then sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, garlic, salt, and pepper. Arrange the asparagus onto a baking sheet in a single layer

Bake in the preheated oven for 12 to 15 minutes, depending on the thickness. Sprinkle with lemon juice just before serving.

Twice Baked Potato

INGREDIENTS:

  • 6  russet potatoes
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk (or milk)
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 tablespoon sliced chives (or green onions)
  • 6 pieces of bacon cooked crisp and chopped or 3 tablespoons bacon bits
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese , divided
  • salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Wash potatoes and dry them. Rub olive oil all over the potatoes, add a little salt. Poke with a fork. Bake potatoes in oven 1 hour. Allow to cool slightly.

Slice each potato in 1/2 lengthwise. Scoop out the pulp of the potato leaving 1/8” shell.

In a bowl, mash potatoes, sour cream, butter, garlic powder, salt and pepper until smooth. Add butter milk as needed to create a creamy texture. Stir in chives, bacon and 3/4 cup cheddar cheese.

Fill each skin with the mashed potato filling and top with remaining cheese. Bake 15-20 minutes more or until heated through and cheese is melted. Serves 6

TRADITIONAL KEY LIME PIE WITH WHIPPED CREAM AND RASPBERRY SAUCE

Nothing taste as good as a good Key Lime Pie, and I have to tell you, this is the best my friends! Smooth and silky with a tart, yet sweet taste will bring you back to the Florida Keys! A must try!

INGREDIENTS:

Crust:

  • 1 1/2 cups of graham cracker crumbs
  • 5 tablespoons of unsalted melted butter
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar
  • pinch of salt

Pie:

  • 6 egg yolks
  • 2 cans of condensed sweetened milk (14 oz, each)
  • 1/2 cup fresh key lime juice (about 14 key limes)
  • 1 tablespoon of key lime zest

Whipping cream:

  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Raspberry Sauce:

  • 2 cups fresh raspberries
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Have a 10” pie pan ready.

Add graham crackers (or graham cracker crumbs), butter, sugar and salt to a food processor and pulse until combined.

Transfer the mixture to the pie pan and press it into the bottom and sides of a pan using your hand or the back of a spoon. Par bake the crust at 325 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly browned and firm. Set aside and cool to room temperature. Raise the temperature of the oven to preheat to 350 degrees.

Add the egg yolks to a bowl for your stand mixer with the whisk attachment. Whisk on high speed for 2 to 4 minutes until light and fluffy. Next, on medium speed, mix in the condensed milk, key lime juice, and zest just until combined. Transfer the mixture to the cooled pie crust. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes just until it sets.

Cool at room temperature for 15 minutes then place the pie in the refrigerator for at lease 3 hours or until firm.

While the pie is cooling add the heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla to a stand mixer with the whisk attachment and mix on high speed until stiff peaks are formed, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add to a piping bag or keep in a bowl and chill. (You can decorate the cake as seen in the picture, or just add when serving)

Raspberry sauce: Add all ingredients to a small pot over medium heat and cook until thick and jammy, about 15 minutes. Strain through a strainer and chill in the refrigerator.

When serving, garnish the pie with whipped cream and place a spoon full of raspberry sauce on the plate and smear, and drizzle some around the plate and place the pie piece in the center of the plate. Serves 8

BEEF STEW WITH GUINNESS STOUT BEER

Homemade beef stew is jam-packed with flavor. The Guinness Stout Beer gives it a complexity of flavor and the broth is delicious! Good anytime of the year and is truly comfort food!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 tablespoons & 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 Vidalia onion, diced
  • 3 carrots, diced
  • 3 stalks celery, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 lb. beef stew meat
  • 1 can (6 oz.) tomato paste
  • 1 bottle Guinness Extra Stout Beer (11.2 oz.)
  • 40 oz. beef stock
  • 4-5 red potatoes, large diced (peel on)
  • 2 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley for garnish
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoon flour

DIRECTIONS:

Add 4 tablespoons of olive oil to a large pot over medium-low heat. Cook the onions until well browned, about 15 minutes, stirring every 3-4 minutes.

Add the carrots, celery, and garlic and sweat the vegetables for 5-10 minutes or until just tender. Remove the vegetables from the pot and set aside.

Cut the stew meat in half, or thirds if large. Place in a bowl, salt and pepper, and then add 2 tablespoons flour. Stir around to coat the meat in flour.

Wipe the pot with paper towels. Add 1/4 cup olive oil to the pot, heat to medium-low. Add the stew meat and cook for 4-6 minutes or until browned on all sides.

Stir in the tomato paste and coat the meat, sauté for 2 minutes. Add in the beer and cook over medium-low heat for 1 to 2 minutes or until thick and slightly reduced.

Add in the stock and cook over medium-low heat for 45 minutes or until the beef is tender.

Add back in the sweated vegetables and the potatoes. Cook for 30 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. Taste, and add salt & pepper if needed.

Finish with parsley and serve over white rice or noodles. Serves 6.

EASY PEACH CAKE (OR APPLE)

This is a delicious cake that can be made with fresh peaches or fresh apples, whatever is in season. Easy to put together and bakes up to the most delicious cake! It resembles a peach cobbler! Serve with ice cream or whipped cream!

Watch the complete Video

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 ripe peaches, diced into bite size pieces (do not peel)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup orange juice

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray Pam on 1 lb. loaf pan and set aside.

Dice 3 peaches (leave peeling) and add to a medium bowl. Add cinnamon and brown sugar to the peaches and mix together to coat the peaches. Set aside.

Place flour in a larger bowl. Add butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla, baking powder, and orange juice. Stir to combine, then whisk to make a smoother consistency.

Get the loaf pan and spread 1/2 of the batter into the pan. Place 1/2 of the peach mixture on top of the batter. Spread the rest of the batter on top of the peaches then place the rest of the peaches on top and spread around.

Bake for approximately 1 hr. & 20 minutes. Let cool for 20 minutes, invert onto a serving platter and sprinkle with powdered sugar and enjoy!

CHICKEN MARBELLA

This is a classic dish and has a complexity of flavor.  The marinade is the key to the flavorful taste of the chicken.  The sweetness of the prunes mixed with the saltiness of the olives and capers combine to send your tastebuds and senses into pure delight.  Great for your next Sunday dinner!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 whole chicken (cut-up, bone-in, skin on)
  • 6-8 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. dried oregano
  • sprinkle of season salt on chicken
  • salt and freshly ground pepper on chicken to taste
  • 1/4 C red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 C olive oil
  • 1/2 cup pitted prunes cut in half
  • 8 -10 large pitted Spanish green olives, cut in half
  • 5-6 pitted kalamata black olives
  • 1/4 C capers with a bit of juice
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1/4 C brown sugar
  • 1/2 C white wine
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped

DIRECTIONS:

Marinate the chicken:  In a large bowl, combine garlic, oregano, salt and pepper, vinegar, olive oil, prunes, olives, capers with caper juice, and bay leaves.  Sprinkle the chicken with the season salt, then add the chicken pieces to the marinade and mix to coat.  Cover and let marinate, refrigerated at lease 3 hours up until overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Arrange the chicken in a single layer in a baking pan, make sure all the marinade is added to the pan on top of the chicken.   Sprinkle the brown sugar over the chicken and pour the white wine around the pan.

Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, basting frequently with the pan juices.  Chicken is done when a sharp knife inserted into the thigh pieces, at their thickest post, run with clear yellow juices (not pink).

Serve the chicken with pan juices and using a slotted spoon, top chicken with prunes, olives and capers.  Make sure you save any of the juices and put in a gravy boat for the table.

This dish goes great with white rice or polenta!

Serves 4-6

SPICED CHICKEN THIGHS WITH APRICOTS AND RAISINS

A one-pan dinner that hits all the right notes. Fruity and peppery, this dish will lighten up your tastebuds. Dried apricots and golden raisins enrich the flavor n the sauce and this dish comes together great with the chicken! Serve over white rice or couscous.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 6 chicken thighs (boneless & skinless)
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 1/4 cups chicken broth
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
  • 2/3 cup dried apricots, quartered
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • fresh chopped parsley for garnish
  • white rice or couscous as side for serving

Directions:

In a large frying pan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Season thighs with salt and pepper on both sides. Saute chicken until browned on both sides, approximately 4 minutes each side. Set chicken aside. Pour out all the oil in the pan except for 1 tablespoon.

Reduce heat to low and add the onion and garlic to the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally until the onion starts to soften, about 3 minutes. Add the broth, allspice, and red pepper flakes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Add the chicken back into the pan. Add the apricots and raisins. Bring to a simmer and then reduce the heat. Simmer the dish, partially covered for 20-25 minutes. Serve on a bed of rice and garnish with chopped parsley. Serves 6

EASY BEEF STROGANOFF

Such a delicious dinner and everyone will rave! It will come together fast and the family will love it!

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 to 1 1/2 pounds of thinly sliced top sirloin
  • 2 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/2 thinly sliced yellow onion
  • 1 1/2 cups each sliced cremini and button mushrooms
  • 2 finely minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup brandy or white wine
  • 1 1/2 cups beef stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 tablespoon coarse ground mustard or dijon
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley and more for garnish
  • 1 pound wide egg noodles, boiled and cooked according to package directions
  • sea salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste

Directions:

Add the oil to a large pan or pot over medium-high heat and cook the beef until lightly browned, approximately 2 minutes. Set aside on a plate.

Add butter to the pan and cook the onions and mushrooms, approximately 8 minutes.

Add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute before putting the beef back in the pan. Deglaze the pan with wine or brandy and cook until it’s almost gone.

Pour in the beef stock and add in the bay leaves and mustard. Cook on medium-high heat for approx. 8 minutes.

Finish with sour cream, salt, pepper, and parsley (remove the bay leaf).

To serve, place noodles on plate and add a serving of beef, mushrooms, and juice. Garnish with a little parsley. Serves 4

CHICKEN MILANESE with Honey Vinaigrette

This is such a classic dish, but so delicious. It comes together quickly and is really light and fresh for a great healthy dinner.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups seasoned bread crumbs
  • 4 chicken cutlets (Pounded to 1/4 in. thickness)
  • sea salt and pepper to taste
  • finely chopped fresh parsley for garnish
  • olive oil for frying
  • 4 cups baby arugula
  • 1 cup micro greens
  • 1/2 cup sliced cherry tomatoes
  • 1/4 thinly sliced red onion
  • 1/2 cup shaved parmesan cheese
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon honey
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Directions:

Set up a breading station with flour, eggs, and breadcrumbs. Season each ingredient with salt and pepper. Season both sides of the pounded chicken with salt and pepper. One by one, coat the chicken in the flour, shake off. Then dredge it in the egg, drain off, then dredge it in the bread crumbs. Repeat with each piece of chicken. Set aside.

Add about 1/3 cup of olive oil to a large frying pan over medium-low head and add the breaded chicken cutlets. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes per side or until golden brown and cooked through. Drain on a paper towel until ready to serve.

In a large bowl, toss together the arugula, micro greens, tomatoes, and red onions, add some salt & pepper Set aside. In a medium size bowl, add the lemon and honey and slowly drizzle in the olive oil while continuing to whisk until emulsified. Season with salt and pepper and set aside. Right before serving, pour the salad dressing into the arugula mixture and toss to coat evenly.

Serve the cooked chicken Milanese with a nice helping of the salad mixture directly on top of the chicken. Finish with some shaved parmesan cheese and garnish with fresh parsley.

Serves 4

TAMALE CHICKEN CASSEROLE

Another great option for your leftover rotisserie chicken! This is the perfect dish for during the week and something your kids will love, who doesn’t love Tamales! Easy to throw together and enough for a crowd. The sweetness of the cornbread contrast nicely with the coolness of the lettuce and tomatoes, a dollop of sour cream is a must!

Ingredients:

  • 1 package (8.5 oz.) Jiffy corn muffin mix
  • 1 can (14.75 oz.) cream corn
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 tsp. Chile powder
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 2 cups shredded Mexican cheese (divided)
  • 1 1/2 cup enchilada sauce
  • 3 cups shredded left over rotisserie chicken

Optional for toppings:

  • Sour cream
  • diced tomato
  • shredded lettuce
  • chopped avocado
  • more cheese

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly spray a 9 x 3 inch casserole dish with non stick cooking spray.

In a large bowl, combine the corn muffin mix, cream corn, eggs, milk, Chile powder, cumin and 1 cup of cheese. Stir until well mixed and then pour into the casserole dish. Bake for 20 minutes.

Remove from oven and use a knife to pierce the cornbread mixture several times all over. Pour the enchilada sauce all over the top of the casserole. Top with the shredded chicken and remaining cheese. Bake uncovered for an additional 20 minutes.

Let cool for 10 minutes before slicing. Serve with your choice of toppings and a side of shredded lettuce and diced tomatoes & add a little more enchilada sauce on top! Enjoy! (Serves 6-8)

GRAFFITI EGGPLANT PARMESAN CASSEROLE

This is a simple delicious eggplant parmesan casserole made with the small Graffiti eggplant. The Graffiti eggplant has a thinner skin so you do not need to peel it and it also has smaller seeds and cooks quicker. With this no-baked method, it’s healthier too!

Ingredients:

  • 2 Graffiti eggplants, cut into 1/2 inch thick round slices
  • 1 1/2 cups Italian Panko Breadcrumbs
  • 2 eggs, beatened
  • olive oil for spraying
  • 1 cup flour for dredging
  • 1 jar (32 oz.) Marinara sauce (I prefer Rao’s)
  • 3/4 cup parmesan or pecorino romano cheese
  • 1 (15 oz.) container Ricotta (I prefer Galbani)
  • 1 package (8 oz.) shredded mozzarella cheese
  • salt and pepper as needed
  • 2 1/2 qt. casserole dish

Optional: Another jar of Marinara sauce and spaghetti to serve along side!

Directions:

Arrange the eggplant slices on baking sheets and sprinkle generously all over with salt. Set aside to let the bitter juices weep from the eggplant, at lease 1 hour.

After an hour, transfer the eggplant to a colander in the sink and rinse well with cold running water, making sure you get the salt off. Transfer to paper towels on a work surface and blot very well with more paper towels, get as dry as you can.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Use a large cookie sheet with wire grates on top. Spray a little olive oil on the wire. Set up a station with the flour, eggs, and panko breadcrumbs. Add a little salt and pepper to the flour and eggs and mix. Dip the eggplant slices in the flour, shake off, then dip in the eggs, and then the panko. Press crumbs down with fingers to pack and cover evenly. Place in a single layer on the oiled baking grate and sheet. Lightly spray or drizzle olive oil on the eggplant. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes. (No need to flip since it’s on the grate).

When you take the eggplant is taken out of the oven, lower the oven to 350 degrees.

In a 2 1/2 qt. casserole dish, place 3/4 cup of marinara sauce on the bottom of the dish. Place dollops of Ricotta cheese around the bottom and spread around a little with the back of a spoon. Place a layer of the eggplant. Top with another 3/4 cup of marinara sauce, then spread it around with the back of a spoon. Then sprinkle 1/2 the package of mozzarella around the dish.

Repeat with another layer of eggplant and pour the remaining marinara sauce on top, again spreading it around with the back of the spoon. Sprinkle the remaining mozzarella on top and sprinkle with the parmesan cheese.

Bake uncovered for 30 minutes. Serve with a side of spaghetti and top with a little more marinara sauce.

WILD RICE SALAD

This is a cold (or room temperature) salad. It has a complex taste that actually taste better as you eat it. So many fresh ingredients and fresh citrus makes this perfect for any occasion.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup long grain wild rice
  • sea salt
  • 2 navel oranges
  • 2 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 2 tablespoon raspberry or apple cider vinegar
  • 3/4 cup seedless green grapes, cut in half
  • 1/2 cups pecans, chopped and toasted
  • 1/4K cup dried cranberries or golden raisins
  • 2 tablespoons scallions, chopped
  • 1/2 freshly ground black pepper
  • salt to taste

Place the wild rice in a medium pot with 4 cups of water and 2 teaspoons of salt and bring to a boil. Simmer uncovered for 50 to 60 minutes, until the rice is very tender. Drain well and place the rice back in the pot. Cover and allow to seam for 10 minutes.

While the rice is still warm, place it in a mixing bowl. Peel the oranges with a sharp knife, removing all the white pith. Cut between the membranes, cut the segments in half, then add the orange sections to the bowl. Add the olive oil, orange juice, vinegar, grapes, pecans, cranberries, scallions, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and the pepper. Allow the rice salad to sit for 30 minutes for the flavors to blend. Serve room temperature or refrigerate.

RICOTTA ORANGE ZEST CHEESECAKE

Now this is a showstopper! Definitely a dessert for your special company! Not only is it delicious, it’s beautiful with just a little creativity and some strawberries and blackberries.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 32 ounce ricotta cheese
  • zest from one orange (2 teaspoons)
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 18 graham crackers
  • 1 stick butter plus 2 tablespoons
  • 2 tablespoons powder sugar for dusting
  • Optional for decoration: 6-8 strawberries, sliced thin lengthwise and 10 blackberries

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously grease a 10 inch springform pan with butter.

For graham cracker crust: Crush graham crackers in food processor until consistency of bread crumbs. Place crumbs in large bowl. Melt 1 stick of butter plus 2 tablespoons in the microwave. Pour butter into the graham cracker crumbs and stir well to combine.

Pour crumb mixture into the pregreased springform pan. Firmly press graham crackers into the bottom and along the sides of the spring form pan. Press down hard with the palm of your hands and fingers. Set aside.

Sift together flour and sugar in small mixing bowl. In another medium bowl, stir together ricotta cheese and orange zest. Slowly fold in flour mixture with spatula untill well blended and smooth.

Add eggs, one at a time, continuing to blend with spatula. Stir in vanilla extract.

Pour batter into spring form pan and gently smooth top with spatula. Bake for 60 minutes until cake is firm all the way to top center. Cool completely and refrigerate for 2-3 hours to set. Dust top of cake with powder sugar.

Optional: After cheesecake is cool, place 10 blackberries in the center of the cheesecake. Place sliced strawberries around the blackberries to form a “flower”. Refrigerate cheesecake.

PINA COLADA NO-BAKE CAKE

Ready for summer? Well here’s the dessert for you! Make it the day ahead and refrigerate, the next day you’ll enjoy a silky delicious cake!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 Package (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon rum extract
  • 2 cups Pina Colada Drink mix (liquid-divided)
  • 1 package (3.4 oz.) instant vanilla pudding mix
  • 1 container (8 oz.) frozen whipped topping, thawed
  • 1 box (14.4 oz.) Honey Graham Crackers (will have some leftover)
  • 1 can (20 oz.) crushed pineapple, drained well
  • 1 cup sweetened shredded coconut

DIRECTIONS:

(Use a 13 x 9 baking dish). In a large bowl, beat cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar and rum extract until smooth. Gradually beat in 1 cup Pina Colada Drink mix; beat on low speed until smooth. Fold in whipped topping.

Pour 1 cup Pina Colada Drink mix in a shallow dish. Quickly dip Graham Crackers in the liquid, allowing excess to drip off. Arrange the crackers in a single layer in the bottom of the baking dish. Break crackers as needed to fit. Top with about a third of the cream cheese mixture, spreading it around with the back of a spoon. Sprinkle a third of the pineapple, then a third of the coconut on top. Repeat layer exactly the same 2 more times. The third layer is done with the final amount of cream cheese mixture, scattered pineapple and coconut. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator overnight or minimum of 4 hours. Keep refrigerated!

SALMON PICCATA WITH SAVORY ANGEL HAIR PASTA

A delicious way to serve salmon! You’re use to chicken piccata and veal piccata, why not try something a little different. Still the same piccata flavor you crave! Go ahead, enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. angel hair pasta
  • 4 – 5 oz. skinless salmon fillets (wild salmon is best!)
  • 6 tablespoon butter, divided
  • 6 tablespoon olive oil, divided
  • salt and ground black pepper
  • all purpose flour for dusting
  • 4 tablespoons finely chopped parsley, divided
  • 3/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (2 lemons)
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup capers in brine, drained

Directions:

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, then add small handful of salt. Add the pasta and cook according to the directions on the box until al dente (cooks fast, approx. 2 min.). Drain the pasta. Keep the pot on the stove for later use. Set the pasta aside in a bowl.

Season the salmon with salt and pepper, then dust with lightly seasoned flour (salt & pepper for the season, mix well).

Add 1 tablespoon of butter and 2 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet. Heat on medium-high heat. Add the salmon to the skillet and fry, flip over in about 4 minutes, then fry for another 4 minutes, until golden on both sides and just cook inside. Transfer the salmon to a plate, tent with foil to keep warm. Keep the skillet for future use.

In the empty pasta pot, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter and the remaining 4 tablespoons olive oil over low heat. Return the pasta to the pot, add 2 tablespoons of the parsley and toss well to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

In the empty skillet, add the chicken broth, lemon juice, lemon zest, and capers to the skillet. Simmer over high heat, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom of the skillet, until the liquid is slightly thickened. 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and gradually swirl in the remaining 2 tablespoons butter until emulsified. Stir in the reserved 2 tablespoons parsley (keep about 1 teaspoon for garnish) and season with salt and pepper.

Add the salmon to the skillet containing the sauce and turn the salmon to coat or spoon sauce over the salmon.

Divide the pasta among plates, top with the salmon and sauce (sprinkle some parsley for appearance) and serve right away. Serves 4.

ZITI and GROUND PORK IN VODKA SAUCE

This makes a delicious spaghetti sauce and can be used with any type of spaghetti. The pork adds the perfect amount of pazazz to this hearty dish. It’s flavorful and filling. Hope you enjoy!

Ingredients:

Volka Sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 lb. ground pork
  • 1 medium Vidalia onion
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 28 oz. crushed tomatoes
  • 6 oz. tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup vodka
  • 3/4 cup half & half
  • 1/2 cup shaved Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 to 2 tsp salt (depending on taste)
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 2 tablespoon minced fresh basil

Ziti:

  • 1 lb. Ziti Rigati
  • 1 tablespoon salt

Directions:

In a Dutch oven heat the olive oil on medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté approximate 3 minutes. Add the ground pork and break up and sauté until cooked, approx. 5 minutes. Drain excess water and oil (you can blot with paper towels, move around with a spoon, then discard the paper towels). Add the garlic and cook about 1 minute.

Add crushed tomatoes and tomato paste, stir well, place water in the empty small tomato paste can and swirl around to capture all the paste in the can, then put the can of water in the pot. Simmer until heated through, about 3 minutes. Pour in the vodka, stir, and let it come to a simmer for about 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally. (Make sure to keep the lid on because the sauce will splatter a lot).

Stir in the half & half and add shaved parmesan cheese, salt & pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes. Stir everything together and simmer until the cheese is all melted and smooth. Stir in minced fresh basil and let it cook for a minute. Set aside.

Cook the Ziti according to the directions on the box. After you drain the pasta, add 1/2 of the vodka sauce into the Ziti and stir gently to combine. Save the other half of the sauce.

Serve a good helping of the Ziti mixed with the Vodka sauce on a plate. Top with some of the reserved vodka sauce. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and serve hot. Serves 4

WHITE CHICKEN ENCHILADAS

If you always have leftover rotisserie chicken, here’s the perfect “re-purposing” chicken dish for you! I make it in two aluminum square cake pans and freeze one! Makes a delicious lunch or dinner!

Ingredients:

  • 10 soft taco shells
  • 2 cups cooked, shredded chicken
  • 2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese.
  • 3 Tablespoons butter
  • 3 Tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 can diced green chilies (4 oz.) (Not hot)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Use one 9 x 13 pan, or 2 square cake pans, lightly spray Pam on the pan.

Mix chicken and 1 cup cheese. Roll up the chicken mixture in the tortillas and place, bottom side down in the pan. (I put 5 rolls in 2 separate pans).

In a sauté pan, melt butter and stir in flour, cook for 1 minute. Add broth and whisk until smooth. Heat over medium heat until thick and bubbly (about 6 min.). Stir in sour cream and chilies. Take off the burner, you don’t want to curdled sour cream.

Pour sauce over the enchiladas and top with the remaining cheese. Bake 22 minutes, then turn on the broiler and broil for approx. 2-3 minutes. Keep a good eye on the dish, you just want to lightly brown the top. Serve immediately. Serves 5 (2 each)

RICOTTA MARBLE CAKE (ITALIAN LAYERED CHEESECAKE)

This is an old Italian recipe and I have to say, it’s scrumptious. I would say it’s “semi-homemade” and comes together to form a complex and absolutely delicious dessert. Serve it cold, out of the refrigerator, you can make it a day ahead and store in the refrigerator for any dinner party. Trust me on this one, it’s a winner!

Top layer, pudding & coolwhip

Ingredients:

For bottom layer:

  • 1 Duncan Hines Marble Cake Mix.
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil

For middle layer:

  • 2 lbs. ricotta cheese (32 ounces)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 4 large eggs

For top layer:

  • 1 small instant chocolate pudding
  • 1 cup milk
  • 8 oz. cool whip

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Prepare a 9 x 13 pan with Pam spray or a little butter and flour.

Make the Marble cake according to directions on the box. Pour cake mix into the prepare pan.

Mix ricotta cheese, vanilla, sugar and eggs in a bowl with a large spoon. Pour ricotta mixture on top of the Marble cake in the pan and spread around.

Bake in the preheated pan for 1 hour and 10 minutes.

Cool completely.

Mix the instant chocolate pudding, milk, and cool whip in another bowl with a whisk or large spoon. Once the cake is completely cool, spread on the top of the cake. Refrigerate for at lease an hour and serve from the pan. (Keep refrigerated, serves 12)

If you can’t find this at the grocery store, Amazon has it!

CRISPY CHICKEN THIGHS WITH MARY’S SECRET SPICE RUB (Oven Roasted)

This is a delicious way to prepare chicken! If you want white meat chicken, cook it a little longer, by about 10 minutes. This spice rub works with anything, the smoked paprika blends with the other spices to give a sweetness along with the savory. I make extra spice rub to always have on hand!

Since most of the grease drips to the bottom while cooking this is a healthier version of chicken thighs!

Mary’s Secret Spice Rub

  • 1 Tablespoon Himalayan Pink Salt
  • 1 Tablespoon Italian Seasoning
  • 1 Tablespoon Smoked Paprika
  • 2 Tablespoons Onion Powder
  • 3 Tablespoons Garlic Powder
  • 1/2 Tablespoon ground black pepper

Mix all the above ingredients in a bowl. Set aside

Crispy Chicken Thighs

  • 8 chicken thighs (skin and bone on)
  • 1/3 cup olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Pat chicken with paper towels, (you want to make it as dry as possible). Place chicken in large bowl and pour olive oil over the chicken. Mix with your hand to evenly spread the olive oil on chicken.

Sprinkle about 1/2 of the spice mixture over the chicken. Using your hands, make sure all the chicken is coated with the rub.

Place chicken on sheet pan with rack (keep chicken above drippings, it crisps better). When chicken is on the sheet pan, sprinkle a little more spice rub, pat it down with your fingers into the chicken so it won’t burn (You may have leftover spice rub, save it for future use).

Place in oven and cook for 20 minutes, skin side up. After 20 minutes, turn the chicken around and cook for another 20 minutes.

Raise oven temperature to 425 degrees, turn chicken again to skin side up and cook for another 20 minutes (if large chicken thighs and 15 minutes if small chicken thighs). Serve hot with your favorite sides!

Mary’s Secret Spice

Note: make extra spice rub and use it on chicken, steaks, hamburger, and vegetables, especially hand-cut oven fries (toss in olive oil, sprinkle rub and bake along side the chicken!)

Great for hostess gifts!!

CHICKEN VESUVIO

If you love artichokes like I do, this is the dish for you! It comes together quickly and has a distinct flavor. The chicken and potatoes are tender and pack a delightful punch. Good for weeknight dinners or a dinner party!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 4 chicken thighs with skin and bones
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 4 red-skinned potatoes, cut in quarters
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine
  • 3/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 lemon juice
  • 1 can artichoke hearts, cut in half
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Heat the oil in large ovenproof fry pan over high heat. Sprinkle the chicken generously with salt and pepper. Fry the chicken in the pan until golden brown on all sides, about 10 minutes. When the chicken is browned, take it out of the pan and set aside in a dish.

Fry the potatoes in the same pot (add a little more olive oil if needed) and cook them until they are golden brown, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Add the wine and scrape up any brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Add the broth, oregano, and thyme. Return the chicken to the pan. Add the juice of 1/2 lemon. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil.

Cover the pot and place in the oven until the chicken cooks throughout, about 30 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a platter, arrange the potatoes around the chicken. Place the frying pan back on the stove and add the artichokes to the sauce in the pan. Simmer for about 3 minutes, add the butter and stir until combined, simmer about 4 minutes more. Taste the sauce and add more salt and pepper only if needed.

Place the artichokes around the platter then pour the sauce over the dish and serve. Serves 4

RICOTTA RASPBERRY POUND CAKE

This is a delicious, moist, and flavorful pound cake! Made without a mixer, just whisk and fold! Makes one layer of the perfect dessert. I chose to double the recipe and make small loafs for presents! This is definitely a keeper!

Ingredients:

  • nonstick oil spray
  • 1 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoons salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cup ricotta
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 stick unsalted melted butter
  • 1 cup frozen raspberries

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Use a 9 inch cake pan sprayed with nonstick spray and lined with parchment paper.

Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl until well blended.

Whisk eggs, ricotta, and vanilla in another bowl until smooth; fold into dry ingredients just until blended. Then fold in butter, followed by 3/4 cup raspberries. take care not to crush berries. Scrape batter into prepared pan and scatter remaining 1/4 cup raspberries over top.

Bake cake until golden brown and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean (50-60 minutes. Let cool at lease 20 minutes before removing from pan.

(Note: I doubled the recipe and put it into disposable loaf pans, baked 60 minutes, let cool and wrapped for gifts (made 7 – 1 lb. loaves)

TOMATO CROSTATA

Ingredients:

  • 8-9 tomatoes if using smaller Campari tomatoes (less if vine ripe larger tomatoes)
  • 5-6 tomatoes—Heavenly Village Mariano (or cherry tomatoes)
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup mozzarella, fresh, cut up in small squares
  • freshly ground black pepper and sea salt to taste
  • 1 puff pastry sheet

Directions:

Slice the tomatoes in about 1/2 inch slices. Place slices on paper towels, single layer and sprinkle with salt and let sit at least 15 minutes.

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Have a sheet pan with a silicone mat ready (works best). Mix the sea salt, vinegar, honey, thyme and olive oil in a small bowl and whisk to mix.

Lay the puff pastry on the mat and roll a little with roller or round glass. Make a small line with a knife around the edge of the pastry. Brush the pastry with the olive oil mixture. Blot the tomatoes with paper towels well. Place tomatoes on the pastry in rolls, filling most of the pastry, but leaving about 3/4 inch around the edge. Roll the edges up a little to make a rim. Brush tomatoes with olive oil mixture.

Sprinkle the pieces of mozzarella around the tomatoes, brush again with the olive oil mixture. Sprinkle with a little more salt and ground black pepper.

Bake for approximately 25 minutes, keep an eye on the crostata so it won’t burn. Take it out of the oven, plate, and serve warm! Serve it for lunch or cut smaller for appetizers.

RICE PUDDING WITH GOLDEN RAISINS AND ALMONDS (EASY)

You can make this decadent desert with items you probably already have! I’ve elevated it with the addition of golden raisins and sliced almonds for crunch. It’s easy and really delicious enough for company!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3/4 cup Jasmine rice
  • 1 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups 2% milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 1/3 cup slice almonds
  • cinnamon for dusting

DIRECTIONS:

In a large saucepan bring water to a boil. Add rice and salt and return to a boil. Lower the burner to simmer, cover with lid and cook approximately 20 minutes (until water is absorbed.)

Increase heat to medium low and add milk. Cook until thick and creamy, stirring constantly, approximately 20 minutes. (Keep a good eye on it, because it can overflow). If it looks too thick after 20 minutes, add a touch more milk.

In a small bowl, whisk egg. Add 1 tablespoon of the hot rice mixture (to temper the eggs), whisking constantly. Repeat by adding another tablespoon of the hot rice mixture to the egg, constantly whisking. Repeat one more time with another tablespoon of the hot rice mixture, the egg mixture should be warmed.

On low heat, slowly add the egg mixture into the rice pudding, stirring constantly. Add the sugar and stir. Add the butter and vanilla extract, stir. Add the raisins and almonds and stir. Cook for about 2 minutes more, stirring a little. Take off the burner.

Use a large spoon and divide the rice pudding into individual ramekins, place a few sliced almonds in the middle and dust with cinnamon. Refrigerate for at lease 4 hours or overnight. Serve cold. 6 servings.

Ready for spring and summer, this delicious No-Bake dessert is both simple and elegant. No heating up the kitchen since it does not need baking. You have to make it the day before serving, so it’s great for make-ahead dinner parties too!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cup strawberry jam or preserves (no seeds).
  • 3/4 cup Prosecco or white wine
  • 1 tsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 cup mascarpone cheese (8 oz. container)
  • 1/2 of 8 oz. cream cheese block
  • 3/4 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 pints of sliced strawberries
  • 28 lady fingers
  • 1 tub cool whip

DIRECTIONS:

Have a pyrex glass 11 by 8 casserole dish ready to use.

In a small bowl, combine strawberry preserves, wine or prosecco, and balsamic vinegar.  Whisk until combined.  Set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine mascarpone cheese, cream cheese, cream, sugar, and vanilla.  Beat with an electric mixer or stand mixer on medium high speed for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes, until smooth and thicken.

Dip the lady fingers in the strawberry mixture to coat them (let them absorb some of the liquid).  Line the lady fingers in a single layer in the bottom of the 11 by 8 baking dish.  I used approx. 14 ladyfingers for each layer.  You will have to break a couple up to fit.  Use a spoon and spoon some of the strawberry liquid over the lady fingers on first layer. (just about 4 teaspoons).

Spread half of the mascarpone mixture over the ladyfingers and then layer half of the sliced strawberries on the mascarpone mixture.

Repeat with the remaining lady fingers, making another layer. Next layer with the remaining mascarpone mixture.  Add a layer of cool whip on the top spreading it around equally.  Place the remaining strawberries on top.

Cover with cling wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours or overnight!

Serves 8-10

ORANGE MARMALADE ROASTED CHICKEN

A perfect flavorful dinner if you love orange marmalade as I do  Easy and no frying!  Serve with white rice (with the juice left in the pan) and a nice vegetable, you’ll be definitely pleased!9D13E0A1-411F-49FB-8F8C-4CF05E3AFB40

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INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/2 cup orange marmalade
  • 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
  • 3 teaspoons honey
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoons each salt and pepper
  • 2 oranges, thinly sliced
  • 8 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 3 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 large chicken breast, skin and bone-in, cut in half
  • 4 chicken thighs, skin and bone-in
  • 2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, more as needed
  • salt and pepper to taste

Optional:  white rice for serving (use juice from dish to top rice)

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Make the glaze:  whisk together marmalade, vinegar, honey, chopped thyme, salt and pepper in a small bowl and set aside.

Arrange orange slices in a single layer in the bottom of a large, oven safe, lasagna pan.  Scatter garlic cloves, thyme and rosemary sprigs on top of the oranges.

Rub the front and back of chicken with olive oil.  Season both sides well with salt and pepper.  Arrange in dish, skin side up, on top of the oranges.

Bake for approx. 30-35 minutes, or until the chicken is beginning to brown.  Place about 1/2 of the marmalade mixture into another bowl (in order not to contaminate half).    Generously brush tops with about half of the marmalade mixture using a pastry brush.

Return to oven and bake for another 20 minutes or until skin is browned and internal temperature in the thickest part of the breast is 165 degrees.  Remove from oven and brush with the remaining marmalade glaze that hasn’t been used before.  Serves 4-6

(Great served with white rice, pour some of the juice over the chicken and rice when serving)

MARRY ME CHICKEN

This is so delicious and although there are different versions, after testing, I found this recipe to have the perfect blend of spices, heat, and all out deliciousness!  Go ahead, give it a try, what do you have to loose!F61B8D93-44FB-4D7A-AA7C-1BFA9D03A035

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INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3-4 large chicken breasts, skinless & boneless
  • salt & pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic – minced
  • 2 cups baby spinach
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon thyme
  • 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (to taste)
  • 1 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup sun dried tomatoes in oil, chopped
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • fresh parsley for garnish

optional:  noodles or spaghetti of choice for serving

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  In a large oven safe skillet, heat oil over medium high heat.  Season chicken with salt and pepper on front and back.  Sear chicken in oil about 4-5 minutes per side.  Transfer to plate and set aside.

Turn skillet to medium heat.  Add garlic to same skillet and sauté for 1 minute. Add the spinach and stir for 1 minute more.   Stir in thyme, red pepper flakes,  chicken broth, and heavy cream.  Cook for 5 minutes, stirring often.  Stir in sun-dried tomatoes (make sure and drain the sun-dried tomatoes on paper towels to remove excess oil) and parmesan cheese.

Return chicken to skillet and spoon sauce all over the chicken breasts.  Bake until chicken is cooked through about 15-18 minutes (depending on size of the chicken breast).  Serve over noodles or spaghetti of choice.  Add some of the juice over the pasta.   Garnish with parsley and grated parmesan cheese.  Serves 4

GERMAN-CHOCOLATE RUM CAKE

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INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 Package Duncan Hines German Chocolate cake mix
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup white Rum
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • optional:  candied cherries and walnut halves for decoration

Glaze:

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup white rum
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour 10 inch Bundt pan.  Place chopped nuts in the bottom of the Bundt pan.

Mix the cake mix, eggs, oil, water, and rum in an electric mixer for 2 minutes.

Bake at 350 degrees for approx. 40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

To make rum sauce:  melt butter, run, and sugar in small saucepan for about 2 minutes.

While cake is in the Bundt pan, make some holes with a large skewer stick and spoon some of the rum glaze around the cake.  (Don’t put too much, or it will get soggy, you might have extra)

Invert the cake onto a cake plate.  Using a pastry brush, brush the rum glaze all over the cake.  Top with alternating layers of cherries and walnuts.  Brush again with glaze.  Serves 12

LEMON RICOTTA PASTA WITH GRILLED CHICKEN AND SPINACH

This is a rich, delicious pasta dish and will satisfy your tastebuds with the smoothness of the combined cheeses.  It’s very filling, but worth it, go ahead indulge!42102A48-E638-4F2F-9254-323B26E42BA3

Ingredients:

  • 2 large skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut in half length wise making 4 pieces* Marinate
  • 1 lb. linguine
  • 2 cups reserved pasta water
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 package fresh baby spinach
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • lemon zest from one lemon
  • Juice from 1 lemon
  • 1 cup ricotta
  • 1 cup finely shredded Parmesan, plus more for serving

*Marinate: 2 Tbs. olive oil, 1 Tbs. balsamic vinegar, garlic salt, Italian seasoning, salt, and 9D929A22-BFC2-4A69-87BF-71051615343Epepper.  Cut the chicken breast in half lengthwise.  Sprinkle with the above seasonings, then put in plastic bag with the olive oil and vinegar and let marinate at lease 2 hours.

Directions:

Grill marinated chicken on grill pan on stove (or outdoor grill).  Turning once until throughly cooked, set aside. (At least 5 minutes per side, or until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees)

Cook pasta according to the directions on the package (remember to boil the water, then add salt after it boils).  Reserve 2 cups pasta water before draining pasta.  Drain the water and return the pasta to the pot.  Set pot over medium-low heat and add 2 tablespoons olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, ricotta, 1/2 cup hot reserved pasta water and parmesan.  Toss to evenly coat.  Add more pasta water if desired to thin (it will be thick, so don’t hesitate to add the pasta water).  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Cook and toss about 2 minutes, until ricotta is heated through.  Toss in spinach.  Cut grilled chicken into bite size pieces and add to the pot.  Mix well and stir over low heat about 1 minute.  Serve warm topped with more parmesan cheese.

SHRIMP CREOLE

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Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 sweet onion, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon creole seasoning
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1 (14.5 oz.) can stewed tomatoes
  • 1 (14.5 oz. ) can fire roasted tomatoes
  • 1 (8 oz.) can tomato sauce
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 lb. wild caught shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • Optional:  1/2 to 1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce (to taste)
  • salt to taste

Instructions:

Heat the olive oil in large skillet over medium heat.  Add the green pepper, onion and celery.  Cook approximately 5-7 minutes.  Decrease the heat to low, add garlic and creole seasoning, cook for 1 min. More.  Stir in Worcestershire sauce, stewed tomatoes, fire roasted tomatoes, tomato sauce and brown sugar.  Cover skilled and simmer for 20 minutes.  Take off the cover and add the shrimp.  Simmer for 2 minutes or until shrimp are opaque and cooked through.  Season with Tobasco Sauce to taste if you want it hotter!  Serve over white rice.  Serves 4

EASY 3 INGREDIENTS PEACH NAPOLEON

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1 Package Puff Pastry Sheets (use 1 sheet)
1 Package frozen Sliced Peaches (Publix brand)
1/2 C Orange Marmalade or Pineapple/Mango spreadable fruit

OPTIONAL:
Powder sugar for sprinkling
Whipped cream

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Let one sheet of the Puff Pastry thaw out of the refrigerator for 20 or so minutes. Slice the Puff Pastry in three long sheets. Place on a baking pan and bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown. When golden brown, remove from oven and cut in half. Set aside.

While puff pastry is baking, thaw the frozen sliced peaches in a bowl. After defrosted, add orange marmalade or other sweetener. Mix gently, set aside.

When pastry is cooled, cut the pastry in the middle to have two sides (top and bottom). Put the pastry on your serving dish. Place equal amounts of the peaches on each bottom pastry, then place the top back on. Add a dollop of whipped cream and sprinkle with powder sugar if desired. So delicious!! Serve and enjoy!
(serves 6)

Note: You can make this with fresh peaches too, but this is so much easier. You can also use other fruits such as blueberries or strawberries.

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