Pecan Turtles

I mentioned in my Amaretto Chocolate Walnut Biscotti post the decadence of Guittard chocolates, they truly are luxurious and so smooth and buttery. I wanted to use a good quality chocolate for these Pecan Turtles and this happened to be on the shelf at a local market. I hadn't seen it there before and I'm sure they only stocked it especially for Valentines Day, but this company has made me a customer for now on.

I first saw this simple recipe on an Emeril Lagasse show. He places around five pecans down on silpat and then drizzles the caramel over the pecans. I didn't feel the pecans had enough chewy caramel and next time I will mix the pecans in the caramel and then place five or so in a cluster and let cool completely before pouring the chocolate over them. When I do prepare the turtles again, I will also mix small quantities of pecans in the caramel at a time so the caramel doesn't harden while the pecans are still in the bowl. I think leaving the bowl over hot water will keep the caramel liquid enough to work with. I'm hoping! :)

My husband "loved" his homemade turtles and I will definitely make them the year round just for him... and maybe me too!

Ciao and Buon Appetito!

Emeril Lagasse's
Chocolate Covered Pecan Turtles

4 tablespoons butter, cut up, plus more for pans
3/4 pound pecan halves (about 3 1/2 cups), toasted
1 cup evaporated milk
1 cup light corn syrup
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 pound semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 tablespoon vegetable shortening (recommended: Crisco)

Generously butter 2 baking sheets.

On the baking sheets, arrange the pecan halves in snowflake-shaped clusters of 5 pecans each, overlapping the nuts in the center, leaving 2 inches of space between each.

In a medium saucepan, combine 1/2 cup of the evaporated milk, the corn syrup, and sugar and bring to a boil. Add the remaining 1/2 cup evaporated milk and the 4 tablespoons butter, and cook, stirring constantly, until it reaches the soft ball stage, 240 degrees F. Stir in the vanilla and remove from the heat. Let cool to 200 degrees F.

Using a tablespoon, spoon caramel on top of each nut cluster and let harden. (If the caramel becomes too stiff to pour, return to low heat, and cook, stirring constantly, until it returns to the proper consistency.)

To make the chocolate coating, in the top of a double boiler or in a metal bowl set over barely simmering water, combine 6 ounces of the chocolate and the shortening. Melt over low heat, stirring, until it reaches 116 to 118 degrees F, or feels fairly warm but not hot to the touch.

Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining 2 ounces of chocolate. Continue stirring until the chocolate reaches 80 degrees F or feels cool to the touch. Return to low heat and cook, stirring, until the temperature rises to 85 to 87 degrees F, or feels barely cool. Remove from the heat.

Drizzle 1 tablespoon of tempered chocolate over each cluster. Set aside in a cool place to harden. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks, with waxed paper separating the layers to prevent sticking.

Buttermilk Pancakes

If your like me you have a vast collection of cookbooks but keep just a few close at hand. I adore my Italian Regional Cookbook's, my La Cucina, Gourmet and Bon Appetit magazines, my Recipes from a French Herb Garden and my Afternoon Tea book, but none has afforded me the lessons learned and substitution and equivalencies taught as much as my Better Homes and Garden and The Joy of Cooking Cookbooks that I received as a young bride 21 years ago. With pages yellowed, flour imbedded and a stale smell from moisture, I would still die without these faithful companions. I think they are the backbone to basics, the heart of creativity and the foundation to solid cooking techniques and individual food exploration.

My husband has always enjoyed mornings of homemade pancakes, so the rewards of hearing "wow's", "thank you" and "pass me more please" has kept me from buying boxed brands that are quick and easy to prepare. Although.. homemade pancakes are totally easy to mix quickly and enjoy within a half hour. So it totally surprised me when a new pancake from my kitchen was born, the Buttermilk version. I never buy buttermilk so I had never made them until this past weekend. A few cake recipes I have recently made called for buttermilk so it was still on my refrigerator shelf. When I went to grab the milk for pancakes only a few tablespoons drizzled out of the carton, hmm, I promised my Valentine pancakes so I grabbed the buttermilk and my BHG cookbook for a recipe. We were all shocked at how much better the buttermilk version was. They are lighter, softer and less pasty. Really! I can't believe I went all these years not having a buttermilk pancake! :) This is the recipe from the BHG cookbook. I doubled it and wrote the new equivalencies here.

Have you a pancake preference?

Ciao and Buon Appetito!

*Doubled from the new BHG Cookbook

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 Tablespoons Sugar
2 Teaspoons Baking Powder
½ Teaspoons Baking soda
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
2 Beaten Eggs
2 ¼ cups Buttermilk
4 Tablespoons Cooking Oil

1. In a large bowl stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In another bowl use a fork to combine egg, buttermilk, and oil. Add egg mixture all at once to flour mixture. Stir just until moistened (batter should be slightly lumpy).

2. For standard-size pancakes, pour about 1/4 cup batter onto a hot, lightly greased griddle or heavy skillet, spreading batter if necessary. For dollar-size pancakes, use about 1 tablespoon batter. Cook over medium heat for 1 to 2 minutes on each side or until pancakes are golden brown, turning to second sides when pancakes have bubbly surfaces and edges are slightly dry. Serve warm. If desired, top with syrup. Makes 12 standard-size pancakes or 40 dollar-size pancakes.

Warm Milk with
Butter, Rum & Nutmeg

While the weather outside is frightful.. inside it's so delightful!

There's nothing like a hot beverage to keep my hands warm and my tummy tickled. Warm milk has always been a favorite, from the time I was a young girl needing a night cap to help me sleep, and even now enjoying a cup with my own children whether it be morning, noon or night.. it still takes the chill out of my bones and makes a great drink over good conversation.

For two servings heat on medium low 16 oz. of milk. Keep an eye on it so it doesn't scald. I like to use a whisk stirring consistently to create a froth. Add two - three teaspoons of butter, two - three tablespoons of rum, 1 1/2 tablespoons of brown sugar (to taste) and a dash of cinnamon. While milk is heating take a room temperature egg yolk, beat it and add 1/4 of a cup of the warm milk in a thin stream. Beat well. Add this back into your heating milk. Cook for 2 - 3 more minutes continuing to briskly whisk. The egg yolk makes for a rich creamy Butter Run Milk. When I am making this for my children I substitute the rum with maple extract or vanilla bean. If you are using extract 1 teaspoon should suffice. When it is heated to your desired temperature ladle into mugs. Sprinkle nutmeg on top and enjoy!

Even though the weather has been cold and wet, I have still had a beautiful display of flowers in the yard. We trimmed back the roses a few weeks ago, and we are already starting to get new buds. I can't wait to see them bloom!

This is growing under the fence from my neighbors yard. Isn't it beautiful! I think it's a blue clematis but I am not quite sure. My clematis hasn't flowered yet and doesn't usually show flora till march and april.

Do any of you know what flower this is?

Cherry Cake with a Marsala Splash

Mom taught me many years ago a cake formula that could be altered with flavoring extracts, liqueurs, fruits, cream, custard or zabaione. The wonderful thing about this cake is that it's all prepared in one pan. So we call it the, "One Pan Wonder". I add all the ingredients in a glass baking dish, blend just until incorporated and bake. Easy clean up for sure!

For this cake I used canned cherry pie filling and Marsala wine for my flavoring. I made a Marsala sugar syrup for the soaking solution and I whipped heavy whipping cream with a few tablespoons of sugar and almond extract for a luxurious topping.

Basic Cake Directions
1 Can Fruit Pie Filling of Choice
2/3 Cups Oil
2 Eggs
2 Tbsp. flavoring or Liqueur of Choice
1 Cup Sugar
2 Cups Flour
1 1/2 teaspoons Baking Soda
1 Cup Chopped Walnuts

Mix all ingredients in order given in a glass baking dish. Add Nuts last. Bake in a pre heated 350˚ oven for 30 - 40 minutes. Until toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Putting it together is easy, after you have prepared your cake, whipped cream and flavored sugar syrup, either tear or cut up pieces of cake and fit into individual serving bowls, drizzle syrup over cake and let macerate for a few minutes. Top with whipped cream and drizzle lightly with a bit more syrup. Serve immediately and I know you'll enjoy! This is an easy and elegant holiday dessert.. we Italians love dunking and saturating our food.. if you haven't guessed so by now! :)
Ciao and Feste Felici!

"True Delights"
Pineapple Rum Cake with a Pineapple Banana Macadamia Nut Crust filled with a Tropical Rum Zabaione

Delightful, delectable.. these are just a few of the words that describe yet again a new and delicious nutty granola bar made by Quaker called True Delights. This month, Foodbuzz' Taste Makers have been given the privelidge of trying a newly introduced and just released on grocers shelves oat, nut and fruit bar that truly is satisfying.

In my package were two of each flavor; "Dark Chocolate Raspberry Almond", "Honey Roasted Cashew with Mixed Berries" & "Toasted Coconut Banana Macadamia Nut". Are you all saying "Wow"? These bars are filled with yummy goodness and hearty ingredients. The cashews, almonds and macadamia nuts were truly a delight in there whole state instead of everything being ground and undetectable. The chocolate was premium and the fruit was chewy with a pleasant flavor of honey and oats throughout.

The excitement of this particular product review is in the invitation to create a recipe utilizing the Truly Delightful bar of our choice. I wanted the ingredients to be tasted true to there original form as possible but still at the same time, utilize what makes Dalla Mia Cucina cooking and baking unique to my Italian heritage. I incorporated some of my favorite dulce ingredients
like a Zabaione, infusing it with a tropical flare by adding pineapple to the rum for a velvety smooth custard filling that all melded so wonderfully with a crust on the bottom of the cake made by crumbling the Coconut Banana Macadamia Nut Bars.
It all came together so nicely and topped with fresh whipped cream and coconut flakes it made for a truly delightful dessert!

I highly recommend you try True DelightsTM Granola Bars by Quaker©!

FYI Nutritional Information;
140 Calories
Zero Grams Trans Fat
Cholesterol Free
3 g Fiber
For only $3.49 a box (5 bars per box)

Pineapple Rum Zabaione Filling

4 egg yolks
2 tablespoons sugar
5 tablespoons pineapple juice &
3 tablespoons rum blended together and ready to go

1. Boil some water in a sauce pan.
2. Separate the yolks from the whites and place the yolks in a heat proof bowl. Discard the whites.
3. Add the sugar and whisk (or mix with an electric mixer) until the mixture turns light yellow.
Place the bowl with the egg mixture on top of the pan with
boiling water. Continue whisking. Do not allow the bowl to touch the water.
4. In a thin stream, SLOWLY add the pineapple rum liquid to the egg mixture as you keep whisking.
5. Keep beating the egg mixture until it has doubled in volume and is fluffy and light...about 10-15 minutes.
6. Take off heat. Place a piece of plastic over it and keep in the refrigerator till time to fill cake.

True Delights Crust
3 Quaker “True Delights”
Toasted Coconut Banana Macadamia Nut Bars crumbled
Break apart the True Delight bars and crumble onto the
bottom of your prepared pan. Set aside.

Pineapple Rum Cake
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs separated and left to come to room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated white sugar
1/2 cup light olive oil
½ cup pineapple juice
1 ½ Tbsp. Rum
1 16 oz. can (2 cups) crushed pineapple (liquid squeezed out and set aside)

Preheat oven to 350˚
Grease a cake, bunt or loaf pan. Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit on the bottom if you are using a pan that is not a bunt.

Break apart the True Delight bars and crumble onto the bottom of your prepared pan. Set aside.

In a bowl, sift flour together with baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In a blender with whip blade, add egg yolks with sugar. Whip till eggs become light in color and sugar has dissolved. Add oil, pineapple juice and rum till well combined. Scrape this mix into a separate large bowl. Clean mixing bowl and dry, making sure the bowl is not greasy at all. Add egg whites and whip till soft peaks form. When egg whites are ready, carefully fold them with a spatula into the egg yolk sugar mixture. Using half of the quantity at a time.

Take your flour mixture that you previously set aside and carefully sprinkle and fold this into your wet ingredients. Add in ratios of a cup at a time. Remember to fold not stir! When ingredients are just incorporated fold in the crushed and squeezed pineapple.

Pour into prepared baking dish or pans on top of the crumbled True Delights bars. Bake 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Depending on your pan size and whether or not it’s coated, the cooking time may greatly vary. Start checking your cake at 35 minutes.

After 10 minutes of resting, release cake and let cool on platter. Make sure cake is cool before decorating it with whipped topping.

When cake is cool, slice to make two halves. Fill the middle with zabaione. Replace top.

Coconut Whipped Cream Frosting

2 Cups heavy whipping cream
3 Tablespoons sugar
2 cups Coconut flakes

Whip cream with sugar till stiff peaks form. After spreading it over the cooled cake, press coconut flakes onto the cake.

Enjoy this Dalla Mia Cucina specialty cake. I think you’ll love the pineapple rum zabaione filling when eaten in conjunction with the whipped coconut cream topping and the wonderful crunch of the True Delight’s Coconut, Banana, and Macadamia nut bar crust. We all enjoyed it immensely!
Ciao and Buon Appetito,

Can you see the nutty granola crust. It had such a nice affect and it was still chewy like it's original form.