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Warmer weather calls for easy dishes that come together quickly and take advantage of what’s fresh and may be even growing outside your door. For a pasta salad that practically screams TAKE ME TO A PARTY! look no further than this easy recipe. 🙂 And for a simple summer supper at home, just halve the recipe and enjoy.

CAPRESE PASTA SALAD

Dressing
good handful of fresh parsley, chopped coarsely
2/3 cup olive oil
1 garlic clove, pressed
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
zest of 2 lemons (and juice of 1 lemon)
Optional: a couple of thyme sprigs

Pasta Salad
1 pound pasta, cooked/drained (I used bite-size rigatoni; double elbows would be great, too)
2 pints grape tomatoes, halved
3/4 pound ciliegine (small, cherry-sized fresh mozzarella), halved
1/3 pound peppered salami, sliced about 1/4″ thick, then cubed–about two slices
1/4 cup basil (I used a combo of Genovese and lemon basil), chiffonade

Whisk together dressing ingredients to let the flavors meld. Just before I started cooking the pasta, I let the tomatoes hang out in the dressing a bit.

Cook pasta according to package directions. Right before you’re ready to add the pasta, combine dressing, tomatoes, mozzarella, salami and basil–mix well. Drain pasta, add to other ingredients, making sure everything is coated/combined. Serve warm. Leftovers go in the fridge, of course. GNAM GNAM GNAM. Mangia! Mangia!

 

 

 

carrot cake cookies

As a carrot cake lover, I was intrigued when I started seeing carrot cake cookies. Not a fan? It might help to think of these cookies as a convenient delivery system for my very best and favorite frosting: bourbon salted caramel. I halved a recipe from Land o’Lakes and adapted ever so slightly, adding coconut and my own frosting. I’d rather bake, share and enjoy a small batch than drown in cookies. Though, if I had a choice, drowning in these cookies wouldn’t be so bad. At all.

CARROT CAKE COOKIES WITH BOURBON SALTED CARAMEL FROSTING

1 stick butter, softened
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup coconut
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup carrots, shredded (you’ll need about 2 medium carrots to shred 1 cup)
½ cup pecans, finely chopped

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. In your mixing bowl, combine butter and sugars. Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until creamy. Add egg and vanilla; beat till well incorporated. Sift (or whisk) together flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Add dry ingredients to wet. Beat at low speed, scraping bowl often, until well combined. Stir in carrots, coconut and pecans.

I used my Zeroll #60 (pink) scoop to portion the dough. Barring a scoop, drop by rounded tablespoons onto greased cookie sheets. I baked mine 6 minutes on the upper rack of the oven, then swapped front to back and top to bottom for another 6 minutes, for a total of 12. I found the cookies easiest to move to the cookie rack after letting them sit a minute or so after taking them out of the oven. As the cookies cool, let’s make the frosting.

BOURBON SALTED CARAMEL FROSTING

First, make the salted caramel. In a small saucepan, over medium-high heat, whisk together:

1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1 tablespoon heavy cream
1 tablespoon butter
good pinch of salt

Continue to whisk till sugar dissolves, then cook for one more minute. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, get the rest of the frosting together.

3 oz. cream cheese (I got away with Neufchâtel, so can you), softened
4 tablespoons butter, softened
½ teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons bourbon
1 ½ cups powdered sugar

Cream together butter, cream cheese, bourbon and vanilla. Gradually blend in powdered sugar. Then blend in salted caramel. This makes plenty of frosting, so you can frost generously and should still have some extra frosting to enjoy on a spoon or your fingers!

Enjoy with a cuppa tea, a glass of milk and/or a good friend.

carrot cake cookies and a cuppa

 


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
ž 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
ž 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 jalapeĂąo jam, as I have previously. That is, till I remembered the peach jalapeĂąo 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!

my-fichi-bring-all-the-girls-to-the-yard

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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