A brilliant idea crossed this kat’s path recently–cheesecake batter baked between a layer of CCC (that’s chocolate chip cookie) dough with more dough dropped over the top. Two great tastes that taste great together–all in one easy pan! And the crumbled cookie dough on top adds a delightful layer of crunch in contrast to the creamy cheesecake. As an added bonus, letting cookie dough drop through your fingers kinda feels like making a sandcastle. A showstopping, scrumptious sandcastle you can eat!

Oh, did you notice the sunny yellow hue of the cheesecake layer? That sunshine comes straight from New Hampshire where my friend Michele’s hens lay the most phenomenal eggs on the planet. They take these straight to eleven on a scale of 1 to 1o. So, turn it up and let’s get things started!

CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE CHEESECAKE BARS

CCC layer
1 stick butter (salted), softened
1½ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup turbinado sugar
¾ cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1 large egg, room temperature
½ cup dark chocolate, chopped (I love my Valrhona Guanaja feves)

Cheesecake batter
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sour cream
1 egg
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Butter and line an 8 x 8″ pan. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

For the CCC layer
Cream the butter and the sugars until light. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add lightly beaten egg and vanilla; mix just till egg is incorporated. Scrape down the bowl again.

Sift flour, baking soda and salt into a separate bowl. With mixer on low, slowly add dry ingredients. Mix only until combined: do not overmix. Fold in chocolate chunks.

Separate dough into roughly two halves–a little more dough for the bottom works nicely so you can cover a lined/buttered 8 x 8″ pan with ease. Pat down evenly. Put the pan in the fridge while you work on the cheesecake layer.

For the cheesecake layer
In your mixer, combine cream cheese (I used Neufchatel, lower-fat), sour cream, teaspoon of vanilla, egg and 3 tablespoons sugar. Spread cheesecake batter evenly over CCC dough.

With the remaining CCC dough you set aside, drop it in small pieces through your fingers. Got that sandcastle feeling going? If so, you’re doing it right.

Time to bake now–into the oven for 35 to 40 minutes. In my oven, it was 37 minutes on the money. Look for pieces of the dough starting to turn golden brown and the center of the cheesecake part should be set (not jiggling). When it’s finished, it should look like this.

Cut, cool, store in the fridge. These are WOW at first bite. I know because it was the first word out of my mouth after my first nibble. Funny enough, hours later, didn’t my mom take a bite and say the exact same thing? 🙂 Enjoy, amici!

Something about marshmallow treats brings me directly back to being a kid–piano recitals, playing hide ‘n seek and marshmallow treats. Low energy days call for an update to classic comfort. Brown butter, more marshmallows, and a combination of Rice Krispies and crushed Golden Grahams make these treats extra special EXCELLENT. Not only do they come together quickly, but they just might make you want to break into a happy dance, like our old friend Snoopy.

BROWN BUTTER MARSHMALLOW TREATS WITH GOLDEN GRAHAMS

4 cups Rice Krispies
2 cups Golden Grahams cereal, lightly crushed
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 stick salted butter, browned
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 10-oz. bag mini marshmallows
2 cups (additional) mini marshmallows–keep these separate

Butter an 8 x 8″ baking dish.

Gently crush (in a Ziploc bag, roll with a rolling pin or bottle) the Golden Grahams cereal so it becomes roughly the same size as the Rice Krispies. Combine with Rice Krispies and salt. Set aside.

Brown the stick of butter over medium-low heat. Once the butter melts, stir and watch carefully to be sure it gets just a bit brown and nutty–like so.

Stir in the 10-oz. bag of mini-marshmallows and 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla till it’s nice and melted. Now, remove from the burner and stir in the cereal. Once the cereal is combined and evenly coated, add the final 2 cups of mini marshmallows (these won’t melt all the way–that’s our goal) and press into the buttered baking dish.

Cool, cut, happy dance! It’s that easy!

Have you heard about chicken crust? It’s a carb-free way to make a pizza. Now, as a woman of Italian-Irish heritage, carbohydrates and I go waaaay back–particularly with pizza! So, while I have no intention of abandoning a traditional crust, I wanted to play with this idea.

First, let’s take this in a proper Italian direction and use hot sausage instead of ground chicken as our base. Next, instead of ordinary red sauce and toppings, let’s roast some vegetables and let those be our sauce. Ah, brillante! Let’s make the magic happen, amici!

SAUSAGE CRUST PIZZA WITH ROASTED VEGETABLES

For the crust
1 pound hot Italian sausage (I used Lamberti’s)
1/4 cup grated cheese (I used a Parmesan-Pecorino blend)
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella

For the roasted vegetable topping
1 pint grape tomatoes
1/2 a sweet onion, sliced thin
1 red bell pepper, sliced in strips
4 mushrooms, sliced
2 garlic cloves, smashed with the side of a knife
olive oil to coat everything
1 teaspoon Kosher salt

To top it all off
2 medium sized balls of fresh mozzarella
fresh basil chiffonade (roll it, slice it)

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Let’s work on the veggies first–everything into a roasting pan, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with a teaspoon of Kosher salt. Into the oven for 15 minutes, shake everything around, then send it back for 20 minutes more. At this point, you should have some decent color on the onions and shrooms, and you’ll be able to put a gentle squeeze on the tomatoes to flatten them (let them cool a bit before you do).


Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and combine crust ingredients in a bowl. Form the crust in a circle and pat it out evenly. I covered mine with plastic wrap and rolled a bottle over it to thin it out and keep it even.

Into the oven this goes for 20 minutes. Your cooked crust should look something like this.

Now it’s time to load it up with the goods. Evenly distribute the roasted vegetables over the top of the crust, then top with slices of fresh mozzarella, basil chiffonade and freshly ground black pepper.

Return to the oven for about 10 more minutes, till the mozzarella gets nice and melted. Carefully drain fat from pan. Now your pizza is ready to cut and serve.

I’m sending this recipe out with thanks to my new buddy Mike Jericho Cross across the pond in Manchester, who kept me entertained with music tonight while I wrote. Good food, like good music, is meant to be shared all over the world. CHEERS!

Bada bing brownie

Buongiorno, amici! I’ve missed baking and sharing new things. Hope you’ll find these Bada Bing brownies (a.k.a. triple threat brownies, sex you up brownies) were worth the wait! Their original name is slutty brownies (GEEZ!), but why should any homemade, made-from-scratch treat wear a shameful name or label?! I like to think it’s because the original recipe is made from boxed brownie mix and cookie dough in a tube (PFFF! Fuggedaboutit!). As always, we can–and will–do better than that. And it’s so much sexier this way.

Bada Bing brownies

Thanks to my friend Suzan for helping me find my way back to doing something new after introducing me to the concept of these brownies recently. Word on the street is, they might even elicit an unexpected “I love you.”

I’m using my favorite brownie recipe, modified from the Ghirardelli canister, and a modified version of my favorite CCCs to make these the most Bada Bing (bada boom) brownies EVAH!

BADA BING BROWNIES

The CCC base layer
1 stick salted butter, softened
¾ cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
2 tablespoon granulated sugar*
2 tablespoons turbinado sugar*
(*alternatively, use 1/4 cup granulated sugar instead of combining half granulated, half turbinado)
1 large egg, room temperature
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup dark chocolate Valrhona, chopped

You’ll also want to have 16 Oreos on hand.

Cream the butter and the sugars until light. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add lightly beaten egg and vanilla; mix just till egg is incorporated. Scrape down the bowl again.

Sift flour, baking soda and salt into a separate bowl. With mixer on low, slowly add dry ingredients. Mix only until combined: do not overmix. Fold in chocolate chunks/shards with a spatula. Press into lined 9-inch pan. Press in evenly spaced Oreo cookies in a single layer. Cover and send to fridge to rest while you prepare the brownie batter.

Bada Bing first two layers

I used an insert to help keep these in order. Barring that, you could line a 9-inch pan with parchment paper, but I’ve always found that to be a pain in the, um, assets. 😉

For the brownies
2 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), melted
3/4 cup Ghirardelli Sweet Ground Chocolate & Cocoa
2/3 cup unsifted flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup Valrhona dark chocolate, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Using a spoon, stir eggs with sugar and vanilla; add butter.

Sift together the dry ingredients together. Stir dry ingredients into egg mixture. Stir in chocolate chunks. Remove CCC/Oreo layer from fridge; spread the brownie batter evenly over the top.

Bake for 45-50 minutes or till the brownies begin to pull away from the sides of the pan. Using a toothpick to test doneness isn’t really helpful here. Somewhere between 45 and 50 is the magic number in my oven. If I get more scientific about it as time goes by, I’ll come back to modify this recipe and let you know.

Bada Bings how youve grown

These cut easiest and best when completely cooled. Of course, in my family, we love our sweets, hate to wait and dug right in! But you’ll have greater success if you can be patient.

In loving memory of James “Jimmy” Mosca (May 25, 1931-February 13, 2017). Forever in my heart, I will love you always. I miss you every day. Thank you for always looking out for my mom and me.

Janey and Jimmy

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Maybe you call them bird’s nests. Maybe you call them thumbprint cookies. By any name, they’re very tasty little shortbread cookies, rolled in chopped nuts, then filled with jam.

I intended to fill them with peach jalapeño jam, as I have previously. That is, till I remembered the peach jalapeño jar in the fridge is actually filled with ruby red vodka. OOPS. That left two filling options: smoked pear or fig. And the fig–fichi for figs in Italian–was the clear winner!

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If my fichi don’t bring EVERYBODY to the yard, I’m not sure what will because DAMN, these are DELICIOUS!

THUMBPRINT COOKIES

1 stick (1/2 cup) salted butter, softened
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, separated
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup chopped pecans (I’ve also used a combination of pecans and almonds)
jam of your choice*

*I used Sclafani Genuine Abruzzo Fig Preserves–and will do so from now on!

In the bowl of your mixer, beat butter and sugar till light and fluffy (2-3 minutes). Scrape down sides of the bowl. Add egg yolk and vanilla; beat till combined.

In separate bowl whisk together flour and salt. Add flour/salt mixture to the batter in thirds and beat just till combined. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to an hour.

Adjust oven racks to upper third and lower third. Preheat to 350 degrees F.

In small bowl, whisk egg white till frothy.

I used my small Zeroll 60 scoop (measures two teaspoons) to form even balls of dough. Dunk each scoop of dough into the egg white, then roll in the nuts. Use the end of a wooden spoon or spatula to make an indentation in the center of each cookie.

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Bake 5 minutes, then switch top to bottom/front to back and bake 5 minutes more (for a total of 10 minutes). Remove from oven. Fill with jam. Return to the oven to bake 5-7 minutes more (5 in my oven). Let cookies cool on baking sheet before moving them to a cookie rack to cool completely. Makes about 16 cookies. Yes, there were 16. I tasted one for quality control. 🙂 And it was goooooooooooooood!

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1 pound full-fat cottage cheese, small curd
1 pound full-fat sour cream
8 oz. cream cheese, softened (Neufchâtel is fine and welcome at the otherwise full-fat party)
4 large eggs
12 oz. bag of egg noodles
15 oz. can pumpkin
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 tablespoons bourbon
1 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon salt

Topping
½ stick salted butter for topping
crushed cornflakes on top
2 teaspoons light brown sugar to sprinkle over the cornflakes

Butter a deep baking dish (my 10 x 13″ one does the trick nicely), preheat oven to 375 degrees F and set aside. Be sure your oven rack is right in the middle.

Using a stand mixer, whisk cream cheese with brown sugar, bourbon, vanilla and almond extracts. Add eggs, whisk to combine. Add cottage cheese, sour cream, pumpkin and spices.

In a large pot, boil noodles according to package instructions, drain. Combine noodles with dairy/pumpkin mixture in the large pot.

Fill baking dish with noodle kugel. Crush cornflakes over top. Dot with butter. Be generous–I use almost half a stick. Sprinkle a couple of teaspoons of light brown sugar evenly over the cornflakes.

Bake at 375 degrees F for 1 hour. Take a peek around 50 minutes to make sure the top isn’t burning–just in case your oven runs any hotter than mine. If need be, cover top with foil. I didn’t have to do this–hopefully, you won’t either.

Damn, does it smell fantastic in here! Let us dig in and celebrate the season of pumpkin spice!

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It’s a rainy, blustery Sunday, perfect for baking and warming up the house a bit. Can’t wait to slice one of these up for a banana bread sandwich with cream cheese!

P.S. It smells fabulous in here.

BANANA BREAD WITH PECAN STREUSEL TOPPING

2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons butter (1/2 a stick), softened
1/4 cup oil
2/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup mashed bananas (the riper, the better)
3 tablespoons sour cream
1 tablespoon bourbon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Pecan streusel topping
¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup light brown sugar, packed
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons cold butter
¼ cup chopped pecans
Combine dry ingredients in a small bowl; cut in butter with a knife–or fork together. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease four mini-loaf pans.

Sift together flour, baking soda and salt.

Beat oil, butter and sugar.

Add eggs and bananas. Beat well. Add sour cream, vanilla, bourbon. Beat some more. 🙂 Gradually add dry ingredients (in three or four additions). Combine well.

Pour batter into mini-loaf pans. Top with streusel.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 35 minutes (in my oven, anyway) or till toothpick inserted comes out clean.

I like to think Nanny would be impressed, even though there’s a wee smidge of bourbon in the recipe. She used to make mini-loaves of her own banana bread to sell in the store.