Monday, November 30, 2009

Antipasta Salad

Thanksgiving is of course, an American Holiday, but if you're Italian-American your Thanksgiving Feast will not be complete without some sort of Antipasto, which is a first course, served before the pasta course. Most people have platters of rolled up meats, chunks of cheeses and olives and maybe some pickled vegetables. For as long as I can remember our Antipasta (always ended it with an A instead of an O) was always different and I wouldn't have it any other way. My mother told me that my Aunt Carol (from my Mom's side of the family) started this tradition but I have yet to find out the story behind it. Instead of rolling our cold cuts and arranging them on a platter, we slice our meats and add it with the cheese, peppers, artichokes and lots of other good stuff and put it into a large bowl like you would a salad. We add some olive oil and let the flavors blend together overnight.  The result is amazing! Eat this with some good Italian bread and you have a filling meal right here. I hope you try it this way next time!

Antipasto Salad

Serves 12 (or more) as a first course


1 1/2 lbs boiled deli ham, sliced into strips
1 lb genoa salami, sliced into strips
1 stick pepperoni (ask to have it sliced thin)
1 stick soppresata (ask to have it sliced thin)
2 cans black olives, drained
1 jar spanish olives, drained (sometimes we use sicilian olives - use whatever you like or are in the mood for)
1 jar pepperoncini
1  half moon of provolone, sliced into small chunks
6 stalks of celery, peeled and sliced across so they look like half moons
3 jars marinated artichoke hearts with juice
3 jars roasted peppers packed in oil, sliced into strips
2 cans anchovies

*If you can't find soppresata or pepperoni dried sausage (hot and sweet) can be used instead.


Toss all ingredients together in a very large bowl. If the ingredients are packed in oil add to the bowl, if packed it water or vinegar, discard.  Drizzle in some olive oil while mixing to create a nice coating without making it too oily.  Refrigerate overnight.  Serve as a first course with Italian bread.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Maple Agave Syrup

This dish is a great alternative to sweet potato casserole that people often have as part of their Thanksgiving Feast. It's not as heavy since it doesn't have any eggs or cream but has the perfect amount of sweetness without loading it up with sugar. I added some marshmallows on top for presentation but I don't think it even needs that. Leave off the marshmallows and eat this any day of the year.

Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Maple Agave Syrup


5 lbs. sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into large pieces
1 stick butter, softened
salt to taste
3/4 cup Trader Joe's Maple Agave Syrup
mini marshmallows


Boil sweet potatoes in salted boiling water until fork tender and drain well, add drained potatoes back into the same pot. Using a potato smasher (if you don't have one use a fork or wooden spoon)smash potatoes until there are no longer any lumps. Add butter to potatoes and smash them into the potatoes. Add milk a little at a time until it's a smooth creamy consistency. Add syrup (if you don't like it sweet you can leave this out or just add it 1/4 cup at a time and adjust according to your taste) and stir into the potatoes. Season with salt according to taste. Put potato mixture into a large casserole dish, if you want more marshmallow topping use a dish that is long and shallow. *See Note. Add a layer of mini marshmallows and bake at 350 until marshmallows are browned.


*If you want to make this ahead of time, stop here. Cool and refrigerate. Take potatoes out of the fridge and leave on the counter for at least one hour to get the chill out. If it's still cold when you want to bake it. Bake at 350 until heated through. Then put layer of marshmallows on top and bake or broil until browned.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wishing all of you a very Happy and Food Filled Thanksgiving! Next week I'll have all my photos and recipes to share! In the meantime here's a link to some of the dishes I made last year.

Homemade Manicotti

Pumpkin Mousse Roll

Stuffed Mushrooms

Stuffed Artichokes

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Chicken Cacciatore

My mom used to make a simpler version of this dish (without the veggies) often when I was growing up.  This took a little longer but we'd have it from time to tome. Cooking the chicken in the sauce makes it so tender the meat came right off the bone with the slight touch of a fork.  You can change up this dish by adding some crushed red pepper flakes for some kick or throwing in some peas for some added sweetness. 

Chicken Cacciatore

by Michele

Serves 4


1 chicken cut up and cleaned and pat dry
2 red bell peppers, sliced into one inch strips
1 package of mushrooms, sliced
½ cup red wine vinegar or dry white wine
1- 28 ounce can crushed Tomatoes
¼ cup parmesan cheese
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 cubes Dorat frozen basil or a handful fresh leaves
Italian seasoning, to taste
salt and pepper, to taste
oil, for frying


In a wide shallow pan such as a chicken fryer, brown chicken in oil, set aside. Add onion, garlic, peppers and mushrooms and let cook until onion is translucent. Deglaze the pan with vinegar scraping up browned bits with a wooden spoon. When reduced add basil, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper, then and tomatoes, stir. If sauce is too thick, add water to thin in out. Add cheese. Let cook until chicken is tender, about 1 - 1 1/2 hours. Adjust seasoning to taste.

Serve with pasta, potatoes, rice or polenta.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Thanksgiving Fake Out

Last week I was getting a bit anxious for Thanksgiving. Every magazine I read was filled with Thanksgiving recipes. There were brined turkeys, rubbed turkeys, buttered turkeys, Sweet potato pies and hash, and then there was Cornread Stuffing, Apple Stuffing, and more variations than I can remember. I just knew that I wanted to have a little Thanksgiving just the two of us. I wasn't about to roast a turkey but I did have Steve's Nana's Stuffing to try out and I also wanted to try mashed sweet potatoes. So with a little help from the grocery store I had my Thanksgiving fake out. I bought some oven roasted turkey and some gravy (don't judge!!!) and a fabulous Ecce Panis Boule (damn that bread is expensive!) and I was set. I toasted the bread and we had open faced turkey sandwiches with gravy alongside homemade stuffing and mashed sweet potatoes. It was a wonderful dinner that I would make again anytime. I also decided that these two sides will make it to the Thanksgiving menu. Recipes to come!

Nutella Chip Cookies

I got done with dinner fairly early tonight and decided to bake some cookies. I looked for a recipe that was easy and and had accessible ingredients. I decided on this Chocolate Hazelnut cookie by Giada De Laurentiis. I didn't have any hazelnuts but Steve probably wouldn't eat them if I put them in anyway so I added chocolate chips instead. The cookies are chewy and yummy. They are a little thinner than I would have liked which is probably because the directions said to flatten them with a fork. Other than that these came together very quickly and we both enjoyed them. White chocolate chips would be great in these cookies, too!

Nutella Chip Cookies

by Giada De Laurentiis
see original recipe here

Yields: 36 cookies (I only got 24)


1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup Nutella
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup hazelnuts (or semi-sweet chocolate chips)


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

In a medium bowl combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In another medium bowl combine the butter, Nutella, sugar and brown sugar. Using an electric mixer, cream the ingredients together, about 4 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until smooth, about 1 minute. Using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, stir in the flour mixture until just combine. Add Hazelnuts (or chocolate chips) and stir until combine.

Using a tablespoon measure, spoon out the cookie dough onto a cookie sheet, spacting the mounds about 4 inches apart. Use the tines of a fork to flatten the cookie dough. Bake until lightly golden around the edges, about 10-12 minutes. Use a metal spatula to transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Pumpkin Cake with Cream Cheese Icing

Last week I discovered a new reader, Angelnina, and in turn discovered her blog, Angelnina's Cottage, which is awesome! She makes great Italian dishes and lots of beautiful Italian cookies! I was so excited to find her blog that I spent the whole afternoon going through it. She recently made this cake from a Cooking Light Recipe and the photo was beautiful.  I actually had everything to make it, so I made it this weekend.  It was delicious, moist, and you can't even tell that it was light. I can't believe that there are only 4 tablespoons of butter in this cake. I used regular cream cheese (instead of the 1/3 less fat that it called for) so I can't say if the lighter version of the icing is as good as the full fat one. Maybe if you've used reduced fat cream cheese you can tell me.

Frosted Pumpkin Cake

Adapted from November’s Cooking Light Magazine
and as seen on Angelnina's Cottage.



2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
15 oz can pumpkin puree
Cooking spray


2 tbsp butter, softened
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
8 oz package 1/3 less fat cream cheese
2 cups sifted powdered sugar


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. To prepare cake, weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuirng cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon, other spices,and salt in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk.

3. Combine brown sugar, 1/4 cup butter, and 1 tsp vanilla in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well combined. Add eggs, 1 at a time, to sugar mixture, beat well after each addition. Add pumpkin puree; mix well. Fold in flour mixture. Spread batter into a 13×9 inch baking ban coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until wooden pick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool completely in pan on a wire rack.

4. To prepare frosting, combine 2 tbsp butter, 1/2 tsp vanilla, and cream cheese in a medium bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until combined. Gradually add the powdered sugar, beating until well combined. Spread frosting evenly over top of cake.

Yields 24 servings; serving size: 1 piece

Calories 178, Fat 5.5, Protein 3 g, Carb 30 g, Fiber .09, Chol 32 mg, Iron 1.2mg, Sodium 135 mg, Calc 62 mg

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Pom Royale - Featuring Pom Wonderful Pomegranate Juice

A couple of weeks ago I was contacted by Molly, a spokesperson for Pom Wonderful and was a lucky recipient of a case of complimentary Pom Wonderful Pomegranate Juice.  As a child I used to eat Pomegranates (what Nanny called Chinese Apples) all the time.  Nanny would cut it open, expose the seeds and I would bite into the red jewels and chomp on a mouthful.  I mostly liked the juice and didn't swallow the tiny seed.  After reading up on the fruit on the Pom Wonderful website, I found that there is a much easier way to remove the fruit, which I learned are called the arils.  To see a video on how to do this click here.  I also learned that there are many different ways to use the arils and the juice, not to mention the health benefits.  You can read all about it yourself on their website.  Although eating them with Nanny was always fun, I think I actually enjoy it most now in it's juiced form. 

Yesterday I celebrated my brother's birthday with my family.  Steve and I made a yummy cocktail featuring the pomegranate juice and they were a big hit.  If you don't like strong drinks this one is definitely for you, it's sweet and refreshing and goes down very easy.  This is best in a champagne glass but my parents (who aren't big drinkers) don't have champagne glasses (perhaps it would be a good gift for Christmas) so we used a wine glass.  You don't get as many bubbles but it still tastes great!

Pom Royale

Cooking Light Magazine
November 2009


2 cup water
4 tablespoon sugar
2 cup pomegranate juice
8 cups Champagne or sparkling wine


1. Make simple syrup - Combine water and sugar in a small saucepan; bring to a simmer, stirring until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat. Let cool. Refrigerate.

2. Pour 2 tablespoons pomegranate juice and 1 tablespoon simple syrup into 4 Champagne glasses. Top each serving with 1/2 cup Champagne. Serve immediately.