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!
Laurie

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”

Ingredients
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

Directions
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

Laurie


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.

Ingredients

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

Directions

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..

Laurie

Pepper Jelly Scones


I'm so happy to share this recipe with you today.. even more so because I've created it using one of my favorite products ever, Mrs G's Hot Pepper Jellies! These unique blends come in three amazing flavors; Ja-Ha (Jalapeño-Habanero), Jalapeño Garlic Lime and Mango Ginger Habanero. 
Handcrafted with the freshest ingredients, Mrs G's artisan hot pepper jellies are produced with great care in small batches in an FDA-certified kitchen to ensure quality and consistently excellent flavor!

Not only is Mrs G a producer of fine products, but she happens to be one of my dearest friends!
I've been fortunate to be able to photograph her products, and at the same time enjoy using these peppery jellies in many of my own dishes. This recipe came from our recent Valentine Day shoot where we had the idea to use spicy jam with yummy scones.. I knew that we could easily infuse the jam right into the baking process as well as smothering it on later. :) These scones are light with a hint of Ja-Ha spiciness. Just the right amount to add that extra something to your Valentines Day!


Pepper Jelly Scones
Recipe courtesy Laurie M. Vengoechea, Dalla Mia Cucina

Ingredients
4 cups flour
2 tablespoons sugar 
2 tablespoons baking powder
2 teaspoons kosher salt
3/4 pound cold unsalted butter, diced
*2 Tablespoons Mrs G’s Pepper Jellies
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup cold heavy cream *minus 2 Tablespoons (Pepper Jelly is replacing the milk)
2 tablespoons milk, to brush on scones during baking



Directions
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Combine 4 cups flour, 2 tablespoons sugar, the baking powder, and salt in an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.
Blend in the cold butter and 2 Tablespoons of pepper jelly at the lowest speed and mix until the butter is in pea-sized pieces. 
Combine the eggs and heavy cream and quickly add to the flour/butter mixture. Combine until just blended. The dough may be a bit sticky.
Place the dough out onto a floured surface, push together till combined. Flour your hands and a rolling pin and roll the dough out to 3/4-inch to 1-inch thick. You will see lumps of butter in the dough. Cut into circles with a 4-inch fluted cookie cutter. Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
Brush the scones with milk. 
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until the outsides are crisp and the insides are done.

Glaze
1/2 cup milk
2 cups confectioners' sugar 
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon Mrs G’s Pepper Jelly

Mix all ingredients together in a small pot till well combined!
Drizzle abundantly over your the scones!! :)


Enjoy!!!
And please don't forget to check out Mrs G's Hot Pepper Jellies website!