Simply Prime Rib

Prime Rib Roast

I hope you are all having fabulous feasts for the holiday season!
We enjoyed a very simple Prime Rib Roast with Vegetables for our Christmas meal. Usually I cook a traditional Italian feast with Bracciolle, Manicotti, Meatballs, Sausage, Salad and Vegetables, but instead we opted for a simple dinner and decided to do something totally out of the ordinary for this Italian girl.. an American Feast with Prime Rib. I'm glad we did, it was simple and fabulous and it allowed me to spend more time enjoying my family instead of them having all the play time without me. :)

Sage Peppered Prime Rib
with Sage Madeira Cream Sauce

The roast was so easy to prepare, trimming some of the fat and dressing it with fresh herbs and spices was the simple preparations I made. I sat my roast on vegetables to infuse more aromatic flavors and made a Sage Madeira Sauce for an accompaniment. We also had horseradish on hand for those of us who desired.

Button Mushrooms
Sauteed in White wine, Lemon, Thyme & Butter

Asparagus with Hollandaise Sauce

As long as I can remember my husbands favorite side dressing to eggs and vegetables is hollandaise sauce. It really dresses up vegetables nicely! I can't wait to share the recipes this on coming week, sauces are so easy to make and a must for enhancing meats as well as vegetables!

Red Potatoes
Sauteed in Sage Butter

This was so simple but tasty! My kids usually ask for mashed potatoes but this was an elegant alternative with much kid appeal.

Chocolate Tiramasu

I gave the traditional Tiramasu a twist by grating fine bitter chocolate and sprinkling it on top of the zabaione filling while layering the dessert, it added to the already rich dessert a wonderful chocolate flavor without bringing to much sweetness to the Tiramasu.

Buon Appetito and looking forward to a Happy New Year!


A sweet and spicy gourmet treat for the adventurous chocolate lover….

Who doesn’t like chocolate.. rich and creamy decadent morsels of fine truffles or the traditional hot cocoa beverage, it is given as the gift of love or taken as a monthly medicinal concoction to enhance moods. Always satisfactory and hardly ever leaving the mind for a quick sweet pick me up. So to say the least, an opportunity to review chocolate is by far the easiest task I may ever have!

My first reaction was delight! I hadn’t even taken a bite of the truffles but was so charmed by the beautifully decorated red box with the black ribbon tagged with tiny silver cowgirl boots. It is a keeper and it's not even the keepsake box that is specially fitted in leather that you can see on the Cowgirl Gifts page on their website. I really think they marketed this product well, those in the industry know, there are certain desired characteristics you want to achieve in selling any product, first impressions count like curb appeal or a house with the scent of fresh baked cookies. You want to buy!

Inside the box were confectionaries wrapped in colorful foil, which if I had first read the leaflet I would have known these to be color codes. But instead, I impatiently unwrapped the first sweet which happened to be the Buckin’ Hot Habanero Caramel. Don’t let this be the first candy you try. I was a bit shocked and not ready to make the same mistake twice. I gave myself some time to recoup before I set out to give the rest a go.

Instead of being the lone taste tester of these treats I decided to recruit my family and friends. The color coding was separated into two categories, spicy and mild. Under the mild category are, Double Dark Chocolate, Milk Chocolate, Ivory Orange and Raspberry Lemon.

I tried the Double Dark Chocolate and the Raspberry Lemon. The dark chocolate was smooth in texture and just a hint of cayenne pepper. This was an unmistakable flavoring. It gives a tiny bite but doesn’t leave an after taste. You barely experience the heat with the mild chocolates, which allows you to really experience the quality of the chocolate. The creamy texture reminds me of a Lindt Lindor chocolate but not as buttery. I liked it. The second mild chocolate I tried was the Raspberry Lemon. The lemon flavoring overpowered the raspberry and left a bit too much twang for my preference and could just be the cowgirl kinda thing. My daughter tried the Ivory Orange, her comment was, “I love the tangerine taste!” This is good in itself because my daughter is very picky and the most finicky eater of us all. My son enjoyed the milk chocolate and was looking forward to his next experience. The consensus for the mild flavored chocolates was good and just a small underlying flavor of spice.

After my experience with the Habanero Caramel, I approached the Spicy chocolates with caution. No need to though, it turned out that the Buckin Hot Habanero Caramel was by far the spiciest and most intimidating.
Even the Habanero Dark Chocolate didn’t leave my mouth burning. It could be the combination of the butter solids that temper the heat and leave a more enjoyable experience. The Hazelnut and Cappuccino were enjoyed by our friend Twyla who has quite a bit of experience with hot and spicy Asian cuisine. She savored it slowly and came to the conclusion if served these at a party she would definitely go back for seconds. Her observation was that the heat was tame and mild. I wish she could have been the one to have tried the Buckin Hot Habanero Caramel! ☺

I looked forward to trying the Raspberry Dark Chocolate. The combinations of berries with chocolate usually draw me every time. Again, there was the unmistakable flavor of lemon. I don’t know if this is a misprint and it should have read Raspberry Lemon, or if it is a flavoring substance that leaves a sharp and acidic undertone, but this one wasn’t my favorite.

My favorite though has to be the Double Dark Chocolate Spicy Truffle. It had the right combination of heat and flavor with a creamy smooth texture. It is one of those chocolates that in the right mood would be the only thing to satisfy a craving for a very unique and deliciously sweetened delight.

I would most definitely buy these chocolate confections for an adventurous friend or a Foodie with a Spicy fetish. I applaud Marilyn Lysohir for her creativity and talent! I hope good fortune and cowgirl fame for her, she is also a very talented ceramicist.. my other passion, which makes her a mud slinger and painter of fine chocolates!

Congratulations Cowgirl Chocolates and Good luck to you!

Laurie M. Vengoechea

Onion, Olive & Anchovy
Focaccia Pizza Pie

"Focaccia alla Barese"
Christmas Eve Onion Pie by Nick Malgieri

I wish I could take the credit for the recipe creation of this Pizza Pie, but alas.. it didn't have my name on it at all! There are very few recipes that I repeatedly make preparations for without altering them a tad. Pastry recipes really need to be followed accurately, but they all seem to come out differently. So when it comes to finding the right pie crust or dough that tastes great and comes out perfectly flaky I stick with Nick Malgieri's. Surprising though, he isn't just a great pastry and dessert chef, he's Italian, so that makes him an all around fabulous cook! :)

I recently found this recipe for Focaccia alla Barese by Nick Malgieri. I usually use a basic pizza dough but was looking for something a little different when I came upon this Onion Pie. Everything about it is wonderful! I did rinse the anchovies though and lessoned the amount of salt in the dough by 1/2 a teaspoon because my preference is a little bit less salty. But everything else was perfect! Besides the Onion, Olive and Anchovy pie, I have a Basil and Fresh Mozzarella pie pictured here also. Speaking of pictures.. my husband was breaking ground on a new project this past week and took our new camera with him out of town.. have you ever seen two adults playing tug o war! I really didn't want to post these photo's at all, the quality and clarity is so different. I took a million photos trying to have at least one worth posting. There is one picture below from my new camera.. it was a photo I took the first time I made this recipe a week and a half ago but the pizza was a little overdone
so I never used the pictures, except one! :)
Ciao and Buon Appetito!

3 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 1/3 cups warm water, about 110 degrees
4 tablespoons olive oil

4 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for sprinkling the top of the focaccia before baking
3 or 4 medium (about 2 pounds) white onions, peeled, halved, and thinly sliced
Very little salt
Freshly ground pepper
2-ounce can of anchovies packed in oil, drained and coarsely chopped
1/3 cup black Gaeta olives, halved and pitted
1/3 cup green Barese olives, halved and pitted
1 teaspoon Kosher or other coarse salt for drizzling the top of the focaccia before baking

1 10 x 15-inch jellyroll pan brushed with 3 tablespoons olive oil

For the dough, stir together the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl. Whisk the yeast into the water and then whisk in the oil. Use a large rubber spatula to mix the liquid into the flour. Continue stirring vigorously until the dough is fairly smooth and there are no longer any dry patches. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise at room temperature until it doubles in bulk, about 1 hour.
While the dough is rising, cook the onions. Put the 4 tablespoons oil and onions in a wide sauté pan and place over medium heat. Season very lightly with salt (the anchovies and olives are both salty) and grind over about 5 or 6 turns of the peppermill. Once the onions start to sizzle, decrease the heat to low and cook until the onions are very soft and translucent, about 20 to 30 minutes. Scrape the onions into a bowl and set aside to cool.
When the dough has risen, scrape it into the prepared pan in one piece. Lightly oil your hands and press the dough into the pan to cover it completely. If the dough resists, wait 5 minutes, then pull the dough into the corners of the pan. Cover the dough with oiled plastic wrap and set it aside until it puffs a little, about 20 to 30 minutes. (It does not need to double in bulk.)
As soon as you cover the dough, set a rack in the lowest level of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees.
When the dough has puffed, use a fingertip to indent it at 1 1/2-inch intervals all over the surface, pressing firmly but without piercing the dough through to the bottom of the pan.
Mix the anchovies and olives into the onions and spoon the topping in mounds all over the top of the dough. Use a medium offset spatula to gently and evenly spread the topping on the dough. Drizzle the topping with 1 or 2 tablespoons of oil and sprinkle with the Kosher or coarse salt.
Bake the focaccia until it is well risen and the bottom is well colored, about 30 minutes. Lift a corner of the focaccia with a large metal spatula to check that the bottom is well done.
Use a wide metal spatula to slide the focaccia from the pan to a rack to cool.

Italian Filled Cookies

In my last post I mentioned spending time with my mom baking cookies. This Italian filled cookie is our half Calabrian, one quarter Abruzzi and a quarter Roman rendition of the Sicilian cookie called a Cucidati. The traditional Cucidati is a fig filled cookie with three different nuts, pistachio's, almonds and walnuts, chopped dried and soaked figs, raisins and apricots, orange and lemon peel and many more amazing ingrediants. It's a wonderful cookie and well worth the time it takes to make. We altered it quite a bit and wouldn't even think of taking the Cucidati name for the original, so we just call it an Italian Filled Cookie. This more simplified version is my favorite though, with the bulk of the filling being apple butter, soaked raisins and chocolate pieces, infused with cinnamon, cloves and rum. The memories of Christmases past all rushed back to me with the first bite.
Buon Appetito and Happy Holiday Baking!
Ciao and Hugs,

Laurie's Filling
2 1/2 - 3 cups Apple Butter
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup dark raisins soaked in rum or marsala then drained
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped
1/4 cup dark rum or marsala
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. grated orange zest

Mix ingredients together. Mixture should be thick so it doesn't seep out of the pastry dough when sealed.
Taste and adjust to your liking.

Pastry Recipe by Nick Malgieri
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
12 Tbsp. butter (1 1/2 sticks), cold
2 eggs
2 to 3 Tbsp. milk
pinch salt

Combine the flour, sugar, and baking powder in a bowl and stir to mix. Rub in the butter, creating a powdery mixture. In a small bowl, beat the eggs and 2 T. of the milk and stir this into the flour mixture to form a dough. If the dough is too dry add the extra T. of milk. Place the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead lightly a few times. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill while preparing the filling.

There are a few styles of preparation I use but I am going to give you the most simple procedure here.
Flour the work surface and the dough lightly. Divide the dough in 3, with rolling pin roll out each into a cylinder around 1/8 of an inch thick. Cut out discs with with orange juice sized glasses, egg wash inside edge. Fill with around a teaspoon or so of filling, fold over and crimp with a fork to seal.

Place around a 1/2 inch apart on parchment lined baking/cookie sheets.
Bake the filled cookies in a preheated 350˚oven for approximately 20 minutes, or until they are light golden in color. Cool on racks. Store in tins between layers of wax paper.

Sugar Glaze Cookie Topping
1/2 cup powdered sugar

Colored Sprinkles

Drizzle milk 1 tsp. at a time over powdered sugar whisking well. Glaze should be thin but not watery. Thick enough to brush on with a pastry brush but thin enough to be translucent. Sprinkle confetti on cookies immediately after glazing.

I'm sending these on over to Susan from Food Blogga
for her Season 2 "Eat Christmas Cookies" Event!

Be sure to check out all the wonderful cookies HERE and submit your favorite Christmas Cookie by the deadline!

Butterball Cookies

It's not very often that I'll say I can't wait till all my kids are home from school.. believe me, they are a busy and loud crowd! But this past Thanksgiving holiday I had them home for a whole week.. and "I didn't go crazy", do in part to my husband taking a week off his busy schedule and I not having to drive four kids to three different schools and childhood activities! We had so much fun playing family games and sporting activities (my idea of sporting these days is Wii), baking, cooking and sipping warm drinks by the fire, because we finally had some holiday weather!

I had a wonderful Thanksgiving, very busy, very filling and I'm happy to say we don't have Turkey for Christmas! :)
So this past week began the season of cookie baking and decorating. Tuesday I spent the day at my folks house making some family favorites and reminiscing with my mom of Christmas' past. As my mom had ingredients to go and her arms in dough.. as my dad had said, we had a day filled with holiday cheer.

This cookie recipe is a favorite of not just my Italian family, but there are renditions of these all over the world. This is where I might hear from my Italian amici (friends) that I am calling them by something there not. My mom and sister's call them Butterball Cookies.. so that is what I call them. Although, I found myself wanting to declare them as the perfect snowball.. not like the wet and hard packed kind.. these melt in your mouth and you won't want to toss them!

Please let me know what you traditionally call them and we can all enjoy these butterballs with hot cocoa, tea or espresso!
Ciao and saluto to the holiday season!

1 cup butter at room temperature
½ cup + 4 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 ¼ cups flour
¼ tsp. salt
¾ cups blanched and chopped almonds

Cream the butter and 4 tablespoons of the powdered sugar together. Add vanilla.
Mix together flour and salt. Blend with a wooden spoon into the sugar and butter mix. Mix well. Add the almonds and mix.
Chill dough for half an hour. Prepare a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 350°. Roll dough into walnut sized balls. Place on cookie sheet about a ½ inch apart. These cookies do not expand so you can get many on a sheet.

Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes.
Roll immediately in powdered sugar. When cookies are cool roll in powdered sugar again.

"Get Juiced" Dinner Rolls

These are "a variation on a theme" dinner rolls. The recipe calls for pretty classic dinner roll ingredients with the difference of replacing amounts of liquid with juice, subbing some of the flour with a light corn flour and adding a dash of spice to, well...spice it up! "Experiment with different juices and spices", I think you'll find that these rolls will stay in your recipe box for generations. *Just remember to brush the rolls with juice during the baking process!


6 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup corn "flour" (NOT corn meal)
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 packages yeast
1 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup butter
1 cup pineapple juice at room temperature
3 eggs


In a large bowl, combine 3 cups flour, corn flour, sugar, salt, ginger, vanilla, and yeast. In medium saucepan, heat milk, water, and butter until very warm (120-130F). Add warm liquid, pineapple juice, and eggs to flour mixture. Blend with electric mixer at low speed until well moistened; beat at medium speed for 4 minutes.

By hand, stir in 3 cups of flour to form a stiff dough. On a floured surface, knead in 1/2 to 1 cup flour until smooth, about 5 minutes. Place dough in a greased bowl. Cover with clean towel. Let rise until doubled in size, about 90 minutes. Punch dough down.

This is a very light and tasty dough. It can be shaped into dinner rolls of any shape. After shaping the dough into desired forms, let it rise until doubled in size. Bake dinner rolls in a 350F oven for 15-20 minutes (until golden brown). *During baking process brush rolls with an extra amount of pineapple juice, this gives the rolls a beautiful glossy finish.

Basil & Fontina Custard Tart

Over the summer I bought these darling little tart tins, but you know how it goes, a cupboard full of kitchen nick nacks they soon got pushed to the side and disappeared amongst jars, bottles and tupperware. It wasn't till recently when reading a post by Cynthia from Tastes Like Home that it dawned on me that I hadn't even once used mine. After seeing her beautiful tarts, I quickly rescued my tins and took out a recipe from one of my favorite cookbook collections, "Recipes From A French Herb Garden".

These tarts are a rendition of the recipe Tarte Aux Herbes. Although I added Fontina cheese and lessoned the amount of herbs, all of the other ingredients pretty much stayed true to the recipe.. except for my dough, I used the leftover basil laced pastry dough from my Terrine and it was perfectly perfumed for these Herb Tarts! My family loved these herb and cheesy custard tarts and they were quite satisfying for a Sunday brunch.

Basil Laced Pastry Dough

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
6 basil leaves clean and dried julienned
2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2-teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons ice water
5 tablespoons cream or half and half

Add julienned basil to flour. Blend together flour, butter, and salt in a bowl with your fingertips or a pastry blender (or pulse in a food processor) just until mixture resembles coarse meal with some small (roughly pea-size) butter lumps.
Stir together cold water and cream.
Drizzle 5 to 6 Tbsp ice cold liquids evenly over mixture. Gently stir with a fork (or pulse) until incorporated. Squeeze a small handful of dough: if it doesn't hold together, add more liquid, 1/2 Tbsp at a time, stirring (or pulsing) until incorporated. Do not overwork dough, or pastry will be tough. Turn out onto a work surface and divide into 8 portions. With heel of your hand, smear each portion once or twice in a forward motion to help distribute fat. Gather dough together, with a pastry scraper if you have one. Press into a ball, then flatten into 2 (5-inch) disks and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill until firm, as least 1 hour.

Tart Filling Ingredients
2 Tablespoons shallots (sauteed)
4 eggs
2/3 cup half and half
1 cup shredded Fontina cheese
1/2 cup fresh chopped Basil and Thyme
Sea Salt
Fresh Ground Pepper

Filling Directions
Beat the eggs, add the half and half and continue to beat. Add sauteed shallots. Mix well. Add shredded cheese, continue to mix and add herbs. Stir till well blended. Season lightly with salt and pepper.

Making The Tarts
Press 2 teaspoonfuls of pastry dough evenly onto bottom and up sides of each prepared mini tart tin. Pierce tartlet dough's all over with fork. This can be done ahead 1 day. Cover and refrigerate.

Preheat oven to 400°F. Bake until crusts are cooked but not colored around 10 minutes. Dough will puff up a bit but will go back into place when filled. Turn down oven to 375°F, fill with basil, Fontina custard and bake for an additional 20-25 minutes till custard is baked through and golden on top.

Transfer to rack and cool 10 minutes. Carefully loosen from tins and pop out. Transfer to serving platter and enjoy!

These are great to make ahead. On the morning of Thanksgiving heat them up in the oven so your family has something to munch on while your preparing dinner. I often forget to feed my family during the morning hours because I am so busy in the kitchen. They'll love you for these!

Ciao and Hugs!

Pumpkin Bread with a
Cheesecake Swirl Recipe

Thank you all for your comments and inquiries into the Pumpkin Bread with a Cheesecake Swirl recipe! It meant so much to have such a good response. :) Sorry it has taken so long to post.. hope you enjoy!
Have a "Happy Thanksgiving" week.

Buon Appetito!

Pumpkin Bread Ingredients
2 cups sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
2 1/3 cups flour
1 cup ground blanched almond meal
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves
1 ½ tsp salt
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup Marsala wine
15oz pumpkin, canned

Cheesecake Filling Ingredients
1 pounds Philadelphia Cream cheese at room temperature*
(*Very important for smooth filling)
½ cup sugar
1-½ tablespoons flour
2 teaspoons marsala
1/2-cup sour cream
2 eggs

Cheesecake Filling Directions
Mix cream cheese, sugar, flour, and Marsala with electric mixer on medium speed setting until well blended. Blend in sour cream. Add eggs, mixing on low speed just until blended.

Pumpkin Bread with a Cheesecake Swirl Directions

Make Bread
1. Grease and dust with flour the bottom and 1/2 way up sides of 2 loaf pans; set aside.
In a very large mixing bowl beat sugar and oil with an electric mixer on medium speed. Add eggs and beat well; set aside.

2. In a large bowl combine flour and almond meal, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg and cloves. Combine Marsala and water. Add flour mixture and marsala/water liquid alternately to sugar mixture, beating on low speed after each addition just until combined. Beat in pumpkin. Spoon batter 1/3 of the way into prepared pans.
Put dollops of cheesecake filling onto pumpkin batter till around half way in pan. Swirl around to marbleize. Pour more pumpkin batter on top to around ¾ of the way up pan.

3. Bake in a 350 degree F oven for 55 to 65 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted near centers comes out clean. Cool in pans in the oven with door ajar. When cool, wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Best if prepared a day ahead of serving. Cool completely before removing from pans.

Serve with whipped cream topping.

Pumpkin Bread with a Cheesecake Swirl

When I first thought about this idea, reversing the pumpkin cheesecake and creating a pumpkin bread with a cheesecake swirl I thought I was brilliant! I hadn't been served it before nor had I seen it at Marie Calenders or other restaurant bakeries. Now how could that be, such a wonderful idea that no one else came up with? Well, I was wrong and as I did some online research I found a slew of recipes with this idea of reversing the Pumpkin Cheesecake recipe and making a moist delicious rich and filling Pumpkin Bread with a Cheesecake swirl.

I decided to use my own recipe for cheesecake, which is a New York Style and also my favorite pumpkin bread recipe with a blend of flour and almond meal and Marsala Wine as part of the wet ingredients. I made the cheesecake but instead of using vanilla I used the Marsala. I set that aside and then mixed the ingredients for the Pumpkin Bread recipe. I took a prepared, oiled and floured loaf pan and poured the pumpkin bread ingredients 1/2 way up. I then spooned dollops of the Cheesecake filling and swirled lightly through so as to leave large dollops of cheesecake filling. I then poured more pumpkin filling on top of that leaving around a 1/4 inch room at the top for expansion.

I loved the way the cheesecake rose through the pumpkin bread, it was so pretty and the taste and texture were perfect! We had a slice pretty soon after removing it from the oven, this I wouldn't recommend, you really can't appreciate the different flavors in the bread when it is too hot. I whipped up some fresh cream and added raw sugar and a dab of liqueur. It was just the right topping for the bread. I also sprinkled a dash of cinnamon on the whipped cream. That also was tasty too!

I still had ingredients left from both recipes and decided to make a Pumpkin Cheesecake with a Ginger Snap Cookie Crust.
This was a winning combination but the recipe would have to totally be altered to make this work next time around. The sugar and flavorings were perfect, but the cake came out much to dense. Alone, the New York Style Cheesecake recipe was perfect, but swirling the Pumpkin Bread ingredients through made it much too heavy. When making a true Pumpkin Cheesecake the flour is eliminated from the pumpkin and you are left more with light swirls of pumpkin custard through the cheesecake filling. It makes for a very light Pumpkin Cheesecake.

All in all, the cheesecake was definitely tasty and edible but you wouldn't want to go for a swim afterwards! :)

Pumpkin Bread with a Cheesecake Swirl

Pumpkin Bread Ingredients
2 cups sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
2 1/3 cups flour
1 cup ground blanched almond meal
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves
1 ½ tsp salt
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup Marsala wine
15oz pumpkin, canned

Cheesecake Filling Ingredients
1 pounds Philadelphia Cream cheese at room temperature*
(*Very important for smooth filling)
½ cup sugar
1-½ tablespoons flour
2 teaspoons marsala
1/2-cup sour cream
2 eggs

Cheesecake Filling Directions
Mix cream cheese, sugar, flour, and Marsala with electric mixer on medium speed setting until well blended. Blend in sour cream. Add eggs, mixing on low speed just until blended.

Pumpkin Bread with a Cheesecake Swirl Directions

Make Bread
1. Grease and dust with flour the bottom and 1/2 way up sides of 2 loaf pans; set aside.
In a very large mixing bowl beat sugar and oil with an electric mixer on medium speed. Add eggs and beat well; set aside.

2. In a large bowl combine flour and almond meal, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg and cloves. Combine Marsala and water. Add flour mixture and marsala/water liquid alternately to sugar mixture, beating on low speed after each addition just until combined. Beat in pumpkin. Spoon batter 1/3 of the way into prepared pans.
Put dollops of cheesecake filling onto pumpkin batter till around half way in pan. Swirl around to marbleize. Pour more pumpkin batter on top to around ¾ of the way up pan.

3. Bake in a 350 degree F oven for 55 to 65 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted near centers comes out clean. Cool in pans in the oven with door ajar. When cool, wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Best if prepared a day ahead of serving. Cool completely before removing from pans.

Serve with whipped cream topping.

Ciao and hugs!

Sweet Filled Ricotta Cookie

Biscotto Dolce Di Ricotta

The filling for this cookie comes by crossing a Sardinian Pardula Easter cookie with a filled Sicilian Cannoli. Pardula's are a holiday traditional cookie that look like the sun and are made with very little sugar but at the end dusted with confectioners sugar. They have a flavor and cookie texture that grow on you and make it very hard to eat just one or two! Cannoli's as you all know are probably the most delectable filled dessert with it's crisp fried cookie horn filled with sweet ricotta, candied fruit and chocolate pieces. Yumm!

I make this cookie using a sweet tart dough and then fill them with ricotta taking components from the pardula's and canolli's and then coming up with this! These too are quite addictive and hard to pass with just one, and they go wonderfully with coffee..or tea! :)

Ricotta Filling

9 ounces ricotta cheese
1/2 cup confectioners sugar (powdered sugar)
3 1/2 Tbsp. Flour
1/4 tsp. baking powder
Pinch of saffron
3 tsp zest of 1 orange
1 egg yolk
1 Tbsp. Marsala Wine
1/2 cup finely chopped dark chocolate

Press the ricotta through a strainer into a large bowl.
Sift the confectioners sugar into the ricotta.
Add the flour, baking powder, saffron, orange zest, egg yolk and Marsala.
Mix until smooth. Gently fold in chocolate pieces.
Cover and refrigerate until ready to fill cookies.

Sweet Tart Dough
recipe by Nick Malgieri

1 cup all-purpose Flour
3 Tbsp. Sugar
1/4 tsp. Baking Powder
1/8 tsp. Salt
1/2 stick Cold Butter (unsalted)
1 large Egg

* I really like this dough recipe, it is very soft (sometimes a little messy to work with), but I always have good results. Tart and pastry dough's can get stiff by over handling. When Making cookies with my kids, this recipe seems to bounce back from all their kneading and re-rolling!

Instructions for Sweet Dough
To mix the dough by hand, combine flour, sugar, salt and baking powder in a medium mixing bowl and stir well to mix. Cut butter into 1-tablespoon pieces and add to dry ingredients. Toss once or twice to coat pieces of butter. Using your hands or a pastry blender, rub the butter into the dry ingredients by breaking it into tiny pieces, continuously pinching and squeezing it into the dry ingredients. Be careful to keep the mixture uniform by occasionally reaching down to the bottom of the bowl and mixing all the ingredients until the mixture resembles a coarse-ground cornmeal and no large pieces of butter remain visible. Beat the eggs in a small bowl and pour over the flour and butter mixture. Stir with a fork, continuing to stir until the dough begins to hold together, but still appears somewhat dry. Scatter flour on the work surface and scrape the dough into it. Press and knead the dough quickly 3 or 4 times, until it is smooth.

To mix the dough in a food processor, combine the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder in work bowl fitted with metal blade. Pulse 3 times at 1-second intervals to mix. Cut butter into 1-tablespoon pieces and add to work bowl. Process, pulsing repeatedly at 1-second intervals, until the mixture is fine and powdery, resembles a coarse-ground cornmeal and no large pieces of butter remain visible, about 15 pulses in all. Add the eggs to the work bowl and pulse ten times or so, until the dough forms a ball. Scatter flour on the work surface and knead the dough into it.

Press and knead the dough quickly 3 or 4 times, until it is smooth. Press the dough into two equal disks. Sandwich the disks of dough between two pieces of plastic wrap and press it into a 6-inch disk. Refrigerate the dough until firm, or until you are ready to use it, at least one hour.

Extra dough for the princess

Preheat oven to 350
Prepare your work surface and sprinkle with flour. Roll out the dough to the same thickness as you would for a pie or tart base. Using a small disc around the size of a half dollar, cut out as many rounds as you can. I use a shape cutter from my finger sandwich set. Keep enough flour on your surface so the dough almost slides around and makes it easy to transfer after filled and sealed. Count out your circles. When it comes time to filling them, you want to make sure you reserve half of them to use as cookie tops.

For filling the cookies I use a pastry bag without a tip. Moisten the outside of the pastry circles with an egg wash. Fill the circles with ricotta filling. Remember to reserve pastry circles for the tops. Place another pastry circle on the top of the fillings. Press to seal all cookies. For an added decorative touch crimp around the edges the a fork.

Bake in a pre-heated oven for around 20 - 25 minutes until light golden. Remove cookies from sheets onto wire racks. When cookies are completely cool, dust with confectioners sugar.

Buon Appetito!

Pancetta, Fig & Arugala Pizza
With Roasted Tomatoes,
Garlic & Vidalia Onions

The wonderful Daring Bakers blogged pizza this past week, but not any kind of pizza, an authentic piziolla style pizza with high flying tossing and flipping, the way the pro's do it. Did you know there are major pizza tossing competitions in America as well as Italy?

I was looking forward to this challenge and I thought with how often I make homemade pizza it would be a breeze. I should have taken pictures long ago but I kept putting it off and thought to myself I'll do it next week. This past week when it was posting time I was still getting over a cold and wasn't up to playing with the dough, let alone tossing it, so I unfortunately passed on this months challenge. :(

So here it is Friday night, pizza night in our household! I had already planned on the types of pizza I was going to make for the challenge so I went ahead and made those tonight. Besides pizza, I made Panzerotti's, little folded pizza's, simply with cheese and sauce. For one of the pizza's I made my kids' favorite of pepperoni.. my little American traditionalists, and for my pizza I made Pancetta, Fig, and Arugala with Roasted Tomatoes, Garlic and Sweet Vidalia onions. The house smelled so wonderful with the roasting of the vegetables!

For some reason I still haven't been able to get fresh figs in my area, so I used some dried figs I had on hand and reconstituted them in Madera wine. Madera has undertones of raisins, it was a wonderful choice for soaking and softening the figs.

I had my Italian butcher slice the pancetta around 1/2 inch thick and then I cut them into cubes. After browning them slightly they were a perfect size. They continued cooking in the oven while the pizza's were baking. I left the arugala in semi large and whole pieces. Arugala is a peppery leafed salad type green. Very similar in spice to a red radish or horseradish. Very common in Italian cuisine. I also used fresh buffala mozzarella medalions.

I did try tossing my pizza's but that didn't go well. I prefer draping my pizza dough over my hands and then pressing them into the dish. I'm definitely not pizziola pro material. I also pre bake my dough for 15 minutes. I know this is so not the normal way of making a pizza, but when I use heavy ingredients it works better so that an evenly crusted pizza is achieved.

Here in the picture below you can see the little Panzi's.. very traditional in our home. I make panzi's in different shapes and sizes often. On Christmas eve night, we make large Panzerotti's (as well as sea food) and stuff them with sausage, vegetables, sauce and cheese.

I still need to get caught up on reading everyones Daring Baker Challenges!
Have a great weekend Y'all!
Ciao and Buon Appetito!

Baked Salmon and Fingerling Potatoes
with Roasted Garlic, Caper
and Lemon & Thyme Aioli

The secret to this dish is really the Aioli, a garlic mayonnaise which occurs by blending the egg yolks with a thin stream of oil slowly added during processing. Aioli is a common cooking additive in Italy as well as Provence France where yearly they celebrate the Aioli festival.

The salmon is baked here in a foil pouch with a good spreading of Aioli and thyme sprigs in a 400 degree oven for approximately 20 minutes. I use a foil pouch for each separate piece of fish. This timing is pretty acurate, but check periodically for oven temperatures vary. After spreading aioli dressing, seal pouch. When fish is done, open the pouch to reveal the top of fish. Bake till a little golden on top. *This doesn't always look very pretty, but the taste is outstanding!

For the fingerling potatoes I first boil them in a pot of salted water and I add a few cloves of garlic. Can I use too much garlic? :) When easily pierced with a fork, I remove the potatoes and slice in half lengthwise. I toss with a half of a cup of prepared Aioli and lay in a roasting pan. I cook in a 400 degree oven till glazed well with aioli dressing and golden in color.

Roasted Garlic, Caper
and Lemon & Thyme Aioli

2 Cloves garlic
Extra-virgin olive oil
2 -3 sprigs of Thyme
1 tablespoon water
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup Capers
2 egg yolks
3 Tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup light olive oil (*not extra virgin)
1/4 cup mayonnaise

Take paper off cloves of garlic and put in a foil pouch with olive oil, thyme, water, salt and pepper. Seal the pouch around the edges and roast in the oven till garlic is tender, around 15 minutes.
Process eggs, lemon juice, capers, salt and pepper in a blender, add the roasted garlic and thyme from pouch and process. Pour in the light olive oil in a slow, steady stream until the aioli emulsifies. Fold in mayonnaise and lemon zest, adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Garnish with thyme.

Use Aioli on pastas, as dips, topped on scrambled egg in brioche.. the uses are endless! Buon Appetito, Ciao and hugs to you!!

Rosemary & Mushroom Fried Chicken

My kids love fried chicken and this version satisfies even the most discerning of tastes! I boil the chicken legs first in salted water, that way I don't have to fry them for a long cooking time in oil. They are very moist with this preparation and are always cooked through to the bone! We use whatever ingredients we have on hand for a tastey drumstick treat and always make a big batch for next day breakfast and lunch leftovers. Yes you heard me correctly.. I love dinner for breakfast and my mom still recalls me eating cold breaded veal cutlets straight from the fridge! :) For this preparation I sauteed minced garlic, parsley, rosemary and shallots together, then tossed in slices of crimini mushrooms and a few olives I had on hand. When saute time was complete I drizzled a few splashes of a white wine.. not a lot, just enough for some added flavor dimension.

2 Pkgs. Chicken Legs
Large Pot of Water
Kosher Salt
Olive Oil
2 Cloves Minced Garlic
1 Tbs. Minced Shallots
1 Large Sprig Fresh Rosemary Chopped
1/2 Cup Fresh Chopped Parsley
7 Crimini Mushrooms Sliced
1/2 Cup pitted Kalamata Olives (optional)
Fresh Cracked Black Pepper to taste
Dash of Cayenne Pepper
Kosher Salt to taste
Sauvignon Blanc

Clean and prepare your chicken ahead of time. Fill stock pot with enough water to just cover chicken. Add around 1 - 2 tablespoons of salt. Taste your water to make sure it's seasoned correctly! You can replace salt with bouillon if you would like more flavor. Boil chicken until cooked through. Drain water from pot and keep chicken warm.

Meanwhile, mince your garlic and shallots. Finely chop parsley and rosemary. Slice crimini mushrooms. If you decide to add olives slice or leave them whole, it really makes little difference. In small sauce pan with a little bit of olive oil saute garlic and shallots, add chopped parsley and rosemary, crimini mushrooms and olives. When ingredients are at a wilted stage drizzle a few tablespoons of white wine. Cook for two minutes, take off heat and set aside.

Heat a large skillet. Add around 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Place chicken in pan and season with freshly ground black pepper and cayenne pepper. There should be enough flavor from boiling the chicken in the seasoned water, so salt probably won't be needed. Shake some paprika on chicken for color.. browning with paprika makes for beautiful color! Toss a sprig of rosemary on top of chicken during cooking process. Cook till a golden crust is obtained all over the chicken. This step is quick and really for the beautiful crust you get on the chicken.. the chicken should already be cooked through.
When browning is almost complete remove rosemary sprig and add the saute ingredients. Cook and toss long
enough to coat chicken well with the ingredients. The smell of mushrooms and fresh rosemary is outrageous! Simple..yes? :) Buon Appetito,

Orange Roughy with
Sauteed Olives, Capers & Tomatoes

"This is my entry into the event supporting
"O Foods for Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month"

I applaud our community of food bloggers with hearts open wide to the needs and concerns of fellow foodies so dear and close Globally! In this day and age, in a world so "Me" focused, it is an honor and privilege to say yes to the call to support a cause like Ovarian Cancer Awareness! Thank you to Jenn of "The Leftover Queen", Michelle of "Bleeding Espresso" and Sarah of "Ms Adventures in Italy", for hosting this event!

And with a special prayer of support for Gina DePalma and her family;
"The Lord bless you and keep you;
The Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you;
The Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace".

This recipe is adapted from a recipe I found in an old Bon Appétit magazine by Chef Candida Sportiello. The modifications I made to this recipe were a reduction of the red pepper flakes eliminating some of the heat, and adding capers and white wine at the end of the saute period! It is such a fabulous and tasty dish I didn't feel it needed much in the way of change at all.. She is quite the chef and restaurateur!

1/4 cup olive oil
2 Orange Roughy fillets
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
4 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cup Kalamata olives or other brine-cured black olives, whole
1/8 cup Capers
6 garlic cloves, minced
3 Tbs. Sauvignon Blanc

Heat olive oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle fish with salt and pepper. Add half of fish to skillet and sauté until just opaque in center, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer fish to platter. Repeat with remaining fish. Add parsley and crushed red pepper to same skillet; sauté 1 minute. Add tomatoes, olives, capers and garlic; sauté until tomatoes are soft and juicy, about 2 minutes. Spash a few tablespoons of wine and season with salt and pepper as needed; spoon over fish.

I had made saffron rice with this but while I was pre paring to take photo's I completely forgot to plate it. :) It also was yummy!

Fish Tacos w/ Chipolte Sauce

I can still smell the salt air and feel the mist of the sea water as the speed of the boat swept across the waves on our trip to Catalina. It was a perfect weekend, undoubtedly easy to come by on any day in Catalina! It started out perfect, staying at the Queen Mary for our Anniversary and then heading out for Catalina looking forward to having some fun in the sun and eating our fare share of the local fish delicacies! I have to say, my husband is a sea food aficionado! As a young man he worked at the oyster bar in some of the best sea food restaurants like The Chart House and Bobby Mc Gee's. So on our quest for a light lunch we walked, and walked and walked till we were satisfied with the menu for a perfect fish taco.

The fish for taco's can be prepared in a myriad of ways. Many establishments bread and fry them, some use a batter and some cook them fresh on the grill. We really like to taste more fish then anything in our taco so we opted for no batter or bread, just the simplicity of the fish being grilled. In addition to the fish, we make our tacos with shredded cabbage, tomatoes, avocado's and Chipolte Sauce!! The sauce, in my opinion, makes it or breaks it when it comes to flavor! This recipe holds punch and pizzaz! You can alter this recipe with sea salt, which I also add, or eliminate the chili powder and instead use a hot sauce like Tapatia, but in the many ways I have prepared this sauce I only stray with this recipe in the addition of chopped cilantro and playing with the heat, depending on who I am cooking it for.

Prep is simple! The Chipolte Sauce ingredients, which I have listed in the picture above, as well as fish, corn tortilla's, shredded cabbage, tomatoes, sliced avocado's, jack cheese and cilantro for dressing it up and lemon and pepper for adding to fish prep. *This is a note from my dear hubby! Mahi Mahi makes the BEST taco ever! It is meaty, has good flavor and doesn't fall a part while grilling! I sometimes, as I did here, pan fry the fish seasoned with paprika, red pepper and lemon.

Buon Appetito!

Winchester Cheese Company

My folder of places visited and restaurants enjoyed has been sitting way to long collecting dust, so far avoiding the cobwebs. Summer has been busy! Visiting elegant restaurants has come few and far between while juggling driving schedules and little feet underfoot. But there are some places worth visiting that even the kiddies can enjoy and stay focused on.

A nice drive down Winchester Rd. in the city of Temecula was all it took to get us to our destination, the “Winchester Cheese Company”, home of the "Gouda" (Goudse Kaas) Boere Kaas, which translates into, ”Home made Gouda fresh from the farm”! The Wesselink family has been making Gouda Cheese in the same traditional way as their families back home have made it in Holland for many, many generations, with the exception of the wooden tubs and tools, they now allow themselves the luxury of using shiny stainless steel vats and utensils, but the Taste Remains unmistakably... "Gouda" Boere Kaas!

One of the beauties of this Cheese Company is the dairy and cow farm attached to the facility. They have about 500 Holstein cows on the dairy, which are milked daily and then within an hour’s time are at the cheese making facility being poured into vats, the culture which is imported from Holland is mixed in and the process of making curds and whey is on it’s way!

For our visit we were fortunate to have arrived early enough in the day when they were actually stirring the curds. A view window overlooking their cheese making room allowed us to watch and to even ask questions of the cheese makers. If you aren’t as lucky to arrive at the right time, you can plan ahead with a phone call and be set up with a personal tour.

Cheese can be purchased at the on site facility store or ordered online. The collection of Gouda includes, Mild, Medium Aged, Sharp, Super Aged, Jalapeno, Cumin, Garden Herb Gouda, and Smoked Gouda. While seven of these cheeses have won Gold Medal honors at the LA County fair, the Boere Kaas (farm made) Sharp Aged Gouda won a prestigious Bronze Medal at the World Cheese Awards in London, England and the Super Aged Gouda won First Place at The American Cheese Society contest.

Being new to cheeses from Holland my first purchase was the Medium Aged Gouda.
I really didn’t know how to cook with it since the taste was new to me, so I sliced up a few pieces and baked it in the oven on an onion bagel. Wow, it was and is exceptional!
I am so glad my first try was on a piece of bread, it allowed me to really taste the distinct earthy flavor that went so well with the onion. The texture is a bit like Fontina cheese; it melts well and still retains a good consistency.

Be sure to visit the Winchester Cheese Company near the beautiful Temecula, California. And I highly recommend you walk away with a cheese purchase, you’ll be happy you did!

Laurie M. Vengo…

Winchester Cheese Company
32605 Holland Road, Winchester, California 92596
Phone: (951) 926-4239 • Fax: (951) 926-3349 • Email:

Fried Plantain Bananas

Plantains are firm green bananas, lower in sugar than the common yellow dessert banana. Common bananas are most often snacked on raw, while plantains usually require cooking or other processing. When they do turn yellow they are most often baked and have a wonderful sweet flavor. They are grown as far north as Florida, the Caribbean and Central America, South America in countries like Bolivia, Peru, Cuba, Ecuador, Colombia and southern Brazil, the Canary Islands, Madeira, Egypt, Nigeria and Southern Japan, Taiwan and as far South as KwaZulu-Natal.

My mother in law has enjoyed teaching me many South American dishes such as these Platinos, the dish referred to as Fried Plantains. I have enjoyed these fried treats for a little over twenty years now. My husband prefers them fried when they are fully green and very firm, they definitely are good, much like fried potatoes or chips, but I like them when they are just starting to change their color. They are still firm and fry well, but they have a tiny bit of a sweet taste which is only enhanced the more when salt is added during the frying process.

Choose plantains that are long and hefty, bright green without marks. You will have to slice off the outer peel, they are to tightly wrapped around the flesh to peel off easily. Slice to 1/4 inch thickness. Salt them when you put them in the oil. Salt them again when you turn them over. Fry in hot vegetable oil in medium low just to a golden color on each side.

Remove bananas from hot oil with a slotted spoon. With a heavy mallet or bottom of a flat heavy glass, (I use my mortar and pestle bowl) smash the plantains down and refry them in the hot oil. Watch that the oil doesn't get too overly hot while you are smashing them down or they will fry too quickly and get too brown. I often turn down my heat to low and then tun it back up to medium when I am ready to fry them again. Remove them to a plate with paper towels to absorb excess oil. Check to taste. Re salt if needed. Serve hot as a snack or with a meal.
Ciao and Buon Appetito! Laurie

Cocoa Pizzelles

My friend Gina from the Vitantonio family and I must think alike..because when both of us are asked to bring a dessert to a get together we both show up with a tray of Pizzelle cookies. It is the typical quintessential Italian treat that looks wonderful plated at an elegant dessert table with it's beautiful floral lace pattern and it's crisp texture. It is a quick an easy cookie to prepare that is the talk of the room at many school parties or family get-together's. The traditional recipe calls for anise and anise seeds..yes, like my Spungna Di Biscotti Cake, but also like the Biscotti it works well with many flavorings. During the holidays I'll give Pizzelle cookies as gift's, side-dipped in a chocolate coating and for more of a festive look sometimes sprinkled with fine glittery candies. Pizzelle irons are pretty readily available but if you have a hard time finding one you can purchase one through my Amazon store at the bottom right of my Dalla Mia Cucina blog site.

Buon Appetito!

6 eggs
2 c. sugar
2 Tbs. pure vanilla extract
1 cup vegetable oil
4 tsp. baking powder
3 1/2 c. flour
1/2 c. cocoa
1/4 cup powdered sugar (for sprinkling on finished cookie)

Beat eggs, adding sugar gradually. Beat until smooth.
Add oil and vanilla extract. Sift flour, baking powder and cocoa together.
Blend with egg mixture until smooth. Dough will be sticky enough to be dropped by teaspoonfuls. Preheat Pizzelle Iron. If you have instructions that came with your machine it is a good idea to read them. The pizzelle iron has a light that is supposed to turn red when cookie is done. Don't rely on this light! You really have to time it yourself as you decide what doneness you want your cookie. The cookies crisp up even at the minimal time cooked. Back to the instructions! Hold iron closed tightly until desired doneness. Lift off the hot surface with a thin metal spatula. Lay cookie on counter until cool. Stack, sprinkle with powdered sugar and then store in an airtight container.