Pumpkin Marsala Spice Cake
with a Cheesecake Surprise

Happy November to all my friends.. Holiday preparations are here! I'm in the kitchen testing out some new recipes.. I have been playing around with finely ground almonds in my cake batters. By eliminating some of the flour, and replacing it with the almond meal it adds such nice texture and eliminates some of the density from the gluten, at the same time creating a very moist cake. Almond meal in Italian baked goods is very common anyway.. and so delicious!

This cake is similar to the Pumpkin Cake with a Cheesecake Swirl that I have previously shared.. I played with the cheesecake layer a bit and added a bit more pumpkin to this recipe. My family.. as well as my picky eldest daughter LOVED the taste and moistness of this cake. I hope you do too!

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
18oz pumpkin, canned

Cheesecake Surprise Ingredients
1/2 pound Philadelphia Cream cheese at room temperature*
(*Very important for smooth filling)
1/4 cup sugar
1- tablespoons flour
1 teaspoons bourbon vanilla
1/4-cup sour cream
1 egg

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

Pumpkin Marsala Spice Cake with a Cheesecake Surprise

Make Cake
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 3/4 of the way into prepared pans.
Put dollops of cheesecake filling onto pumpkin batter till 1/4 of the pan is left free from batter. Push cheesecake dollops down into the pumpkin batter a bit.

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. Test doneness of cake by piercing it in the center of the cake with a toothpick. It's finished when the toothpick comes out clean.

Buon Appetito, Abbracci e Baci!

Cashew and Garlic Pesto “Kale Chips”

Gluten Free, Potato and Corn Free, Soy Free, Dairy Free, SUGAR FREE!!
Snacking just isn’t what it used to be.. but that doesn’t mean it has to be non existent and un-enjoyable! I have come to really enjoy food oddities, like crunchy seaweed, plantain banana chips, fried garbanzo beans and my favorite.. kale chips!

In my quest for non-dairy goodness, leaving out the cream and cheese for that creamy element, has been a work in progress, but, I have found that “something creamy” by way of cashews! I have been completely surprised.. and enjoy it in dairy free cream sauces too!

This is a quick and easy recipe to make.. hope you enjoy!!

Cashew and Garlic Pesto “Kale Chips”

2 Bunches Kale

1 cup raw cashews
½ cup olive oil
2 garlic cloves
2 tsp. fresh lemon zest
A dash of Cayenne Pepper
Salt if needed

Preheat oven to 275˚
Remove ribbing from kale and cut into 2-3 inch chunk sizes. Wash and spin dry to remove all water! Set aside in large mixing bowl.

In food processor, add remaining ingredients, except salt.. add only if needed.
Process until creamy. Pour pesto a little at a time over the kale, mix well. Be careful not to over drench the kale.. it will be too heavy to bake evenly! Spread evenly between two baking sheets, bake in pre-heated oven for 25-30 minutes, till crispy.
The kale will shrink quite a bit so don’t be shocked! 

Enjoy!! Xo


Apple Dumplings in a
Warm Crème Anglaise Sauce

We love comfort food in all shapes and sizes.. but for me a true comfort food has to be warm and include something creamy. It wasn't till I first met my husband that I had ever had the pleasure of enjoying an apple dumpling. We used to go to this wonderful little bakery in Belmont Shore, Long Beach and indulge in the most wonderful sweet treats. This is where I first had my dumpling. But to be honest with you, it still didn't give me that warm comfortable feeling that I got when I had hot peach or apple pie ala mode. So this is where the Crème Anglaise comes in. If you have never had apple dumplings with a warm crème anglaise sauce you have never really enjoyed apple dumplings the way you should! :)

This is a perfect fall dessert and dressed up in this custard sauce it makes quite an elegant holiday presentation!

Apple Dumpling Ingredients
2 cups water 
1-1/4 cups sugar 
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
1/4 cup butter
2 cups all-purpose flour 
1/2 teaspoon salt 
2/3 cup shortening 
1/3 to 1/2 cup half-and-half, light cream, or whole milk 
2 tablespoons chopped walnuts 
1 tablespoon brown sugar 
2 tablespoons sugar 
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
6 small cooking apples (about 1-1/2 pounds) 
1 tablespoon butter or margarine

1. For sauce, in a medium saucepan combine the water, the 1-1/4 cups sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Add the 1/4 cup butter or margarine. Set aside. 

2. Meanwhile, for pastry, combine the flour and salt. Using a pastry blender, cut in shortening until pieces are the size of small peas. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the half-and-half, light cream, or milk over part of the mixture; gently toss with a fork. Push moistened dough to the side of the bowl. Repeat moistening dough, using 1 tablespoon of the cream or milk at a time, until all of the dough is moistened. Form dough into a ball. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough to an 18x12-inch rectangle.* Using a pastry wheel or sharp knife, cut into six 6-inch squares.

3. In a small mixing bowl combine the walnuts, brown sugar, 2 tablespoons white sugar and the 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. Set aside.

4. Peel and core the apples. Place an apple on each pastry square. Fill centers of apples with walnut mixture. Drizzle sauce over apples. Moisten edges of each pastry square with water; fold corners to center over apple. Pinch to seal. Place dumplings in a 2-quart rectangular baking dish. Bake in a 365 degree F oven for 35-40 minutes or until apples are tender and pastry is golden brown. 

Crème Anglaise Ingredients
2 cups light cream or half and half 
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise (can be found specialty food stores) or 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup granulated white sugar
5 large egg yolks

*Have a fine medium-sized strainer and bowl ready near the stove.

In a stainless steel bowl stir together, using a wooden spoon, the sugar and yolks until well blended. (Do not let this mixture sit too long or a film will develop on the yolks.)

In a small saucepan heat the cream and vanilla bean (if using) just to the boiling point. Remove from heat and whisk a few tablespoons of the cream into the yolk mixture. Then, gradually add the remaining cream, whisking constantly.

Pour this mixture into a medium sized saucepan and, over medium heat, gently heat the mixture to just below the boiling point (170 - 175 degrees F). You will notice that steam will begin to appear and the mixture will be slightly thicker than heavy cream. Do not boil or the eggs will curdle! Check to see if it is the right consistency by holding a wooden spoon sideways that is covered with the custard and run your finger along the back of the spoon. If the streak remains without the cream running down through the streak, it is ready.

Immediately remove from the heat and pour through the strainer, scraping up any thickened cream that settles on the bottom of the pan. Remove the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds into the sauce. Stir until seeds separate. For maximum flavor, return the pod to the sauce until serving time. (If you are using pure vanilla extract, instead of the vanilla bean, add it to the cream now.)

The crème anglaise can be refrigerated covered with plastic wrap for a couple of days. 

Note: If sauce was overheated and curdling occurs, pour instantly into a blender and process until smooth before straining. If necessary, add a little heavy cream to the mixture before blending.

Makes about 2 cups .

To serve, spoon Creme Anglaise in bowls. Place a dumpling in each. Use reserved sauce for drizzling over dumplings. Makes 6 servings.

Pistachio Beef "Rustico"
Rustic Savory Pastry

It is no secret that I adore pistachios.. this aromatic nut is flavorful and holds its own when combined with meats such as beef and sheep, but is as gentle as a lamb when whipped into a gelato and chocolates or used as a base for my smooth and tasty pistachio pesto and cream sauce. But then again, you will often just find me eating them right out of a plain paper sack, satisfied to snack on instead of the alternative, oily roasted peanuts and potato chips.

I'm always looking for ways to incorporate pistachios into my home cooking, and when I found that I had a couple extra cups the same night I was making a collection of savory pastries I began combining flavors. The pistachio and ground sirloin were definitely the stars, but they combined well with sauteed shallots, fennel and garlic, red pepper, capers and raisins.

I first browned my ground sirloin, then added red pepper flakes as well as cayenne pepper, ground black pepper, salt, capers and raisins. In a food processor I ground my shelled pistachios and then added them to the beef mix.

In a separate saute pan in olive oil I lightly sauteed my chopped shallots and fennel till translucent. Then I added my finely chopped garlic and continued to saute till golden. This was then added to the pistachio beef mix. I approximately used 1 onion, 1 shallot and 3 cloves of garlic. (for added flavor, a minced green and red pepper sautéed along with the garlic, shallots and fennel would also be amazing!)

When all ingredients were combined I then added a few more teaspoons of olive oil, an 1/8 cup of beef broth and a dab of butter plus a few more seasonings for taste.

The "pastry" is a post in itself. Pasta Frolla is the typical Southern Italian pastry for Rustici and Crostata's. It is by far my favorite pastry to use and is not too hard to make. It tastes like a combination of a shortbread crust and pie pastry dough, but in my opinion is better than both and holds up to many a pastry dessert.

I do love Nick Malgieri's pastry recipe's, and his are usually my "go to" recipes of choice.

But this Italian Pasta Frolla recipe is the basic recipe you can find in almost any Italian cookbook or Nonna's kitchen collection.


1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 freshly grated lemons, zest of or 1 oranges
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into bits
1 large eggs, beaten lightly
1 teaspoon vanilla


1.In a bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, and zest.
2.Cut in the butter, until it resembles coarse meal.
3.Add the egg and the vanilla and toss the mixture until incorporated.
4.Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead very lightly, forming into a disk.
5.Chill, wrapped in plastic at least 1 hour or overnight.
6.Let the dough stand at room temperature until softened, but still firm enough to roll out.

Buon Anno and Buon Appetito!!
I hope you and yours enjoy a Blessed New Year,
From My Kitchen..