Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Veal Saltimbocca

Prepare to wow your taste-buds people because this recipe will knock your socks off!  When the name of a dish ("saltimbocca") means "jump in your mouth" you know it has got to be good!
Don't you just love it when someone introduces you to a new favorite recipe?  My dad never disappoints in this department!!  Every time I am home he is always showing me a new dish he has stumbled upon.  This time the recipe comes straight from the kitchen of Cake Boss Buddy Valastro.
The first time my dad made this recpe my mom raved about it for weeks.  Weeks, people!!  So when my god-parents came over for dinner this past weekend I knew I wanted it on the menu!
Tender veal is layered with creamy mozzarella, slightly peppery sage and salty prosciutto, sauteed until golden brown and then topped with a tangy wine sauce.  (I veered from the original recipe and added a little lemon.  Who doesn't love a little lemon??)

Adapted from Buddy Valastro 

  • 8 slices (about 1 pound) of veal cut for scallopine
  • 8 ounces fresh mozzarella, thinly slices
  • 8 large sage leaves (or 16 smaller sage leaves)
  • 8 slices of prosciutto, thinly sliced 
  • 8 wooden skewers
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • The juice of one lemon, plus lemon wedges for serving
  • salt & pepper
  1. Preheat a serving platter in an oven set to 200ºF.
  2. Pound out veal slices between two pieces of plastic wrap. Salt and pepper each side.  Arrange mozzarella slices on each piece of veal, then sage leaves, and finally prosciutto.  Gently weave skewers through the meat to secure everything together.
  3. In a large skillet, over medium-high, heat olive oil and butter.  Once butter is melted and foaming add the veal slices, prosciutto side down first, in batches of four.  Saute veal on high for about one minute until prosciutto is browned and then flip, cooking about one minute more until veal is cooked through.  Transfer to the heated serving platter in the oven to keep warm.  Repeat with remaining batch.
  4. Once veal is cooked and warming in oven add flour to pan.  Stirring frequently, cook flour until slightly browned.  Slowly add wine and stock to the pan, making sure to scrape up any brown bits stuck to the pan.  Cook over medium-low heat until sauce has reduced by half.  Stir in lemon zest and lemon juice.   Pour sauce over veal and serve.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Chester County Mushroom Soup

MMMMmmm.... mushrooms.  Those spongy, knobby, earthy gems are some of the many reasons why I love visiting my folks in southern Chester County, Pennsylvania.  As you have all read in my post about stuffed mushrooms, I partially grew up in the Mushroom Capital of the world.  So when I was home this last week I stopped by a local mushroom farm to pick up some fresh fungi!
Sher-Rockee Mushroom Farms is one of dozens of mushrooms growers in southern Chester County, PA.  Established in 1981, this farm produces the tastiest white button, crimini, portabella, shiitake, oyster, and maitake mushrooms in the country.  
While Sher-Rockee Mushroom Farms produce 'shrooms for grocery stores, restaurants and whole-sellers, they also have a cute "outlet" store for locals to come by and stock up on a pound or two of their favorite fungus.  For this trip, I was in need of three pounds of button, shiitake, and oyster mushrooms destined for a delectable and earthy mushroom soup.
As you can imagine, you don't have to go far for good mushroom soup in Mushroom Country.  While many restaurants have their own special recipes, the Terrace Restaurant in Kennett Square has my absolute favorite!  Located in the middle of lush Longwood Gardens, people travel from hours away to sip on this soup. Sweet tarragon heightens the earthy mushrooms while a little bit of cream rounds out this dish.  Make this recipe at home or visit Longwood Gardens and the Terrace Restaurant to get a bite of what southern Chester County has to offer!!

Courtesy of the Terrace Restaurant (Longwood Gardens, Kennett Square)
Makes 4 large servings

  • 1 carrot
  • 1/2 onion
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 1 tablespoon butter, plus two tablespoons melted butter
  • 2 pounds washed white button mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 pound washed shiitake mushrooms, stemmed removed and roughly chopped
  • 1/2 pound washed oyster mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh tarragon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper
  • 3 pints chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 pint heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoon flour
  1. Mince carrots, onions and celery in a food processor and saute in a heavy pot with oil.  In batches, mince the mushrooms in the food processor, adding to the pot along with the tarragon, salt, and pepper.  Cook for about 15 minutes, stirring frequently to ensure the mushroom mixture does not burn.
  2. Add stock and cream to the pot and bring to a boil.  In a small bowl mix together the melted butter and flour.  Using a whisk, whip into soup until fully incorporated and soup begins to thicken.  Bring soup back to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper to taste before serving.  Enjoy!!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Painting with M&Ms

Calling all crafty moms and teachers.... I have a fun, unique and sweet project for your kiddos!  Painting with M&M's!! 

Now, now... I know this is not a recipe but it does involve food and more importantly chocolate!!
While I am visiting my family in PA, one of my favorite things to do is go to work with my mom.  What??  Why would I want to go to work while I am on vacation??  You see... my mom is a preschool teacher so going to work with her means hanging out with cute three and four year-old kiddies.  Now I know the idea of spending an entire morning with a group of preschoolers might sound daunting to some BUT I love it!  
This week in school my mom has been teaching the kids about the FIVE senses: sight, touch, hearing, smell, and taste.  So when she spotted this craft idea on Pinterest for painting with M&M's she knew she wanted to try it out with her class!
This craft covers all of the senses!
SIGHT - Sorting the M&M's by color.
TOUCH - Describing the texture of the M&Ms while sorting.
HEARING - Listening to the M&M's being stirred in the cups.
SMELL - Smelling the M&M colored water while painting.
TASTE - After the craft was over... my mom let the kids munch on a few M&Ms during snack time.

  • Take a one pound bag of M&M's and empty in a bowl. (The amount of M&M's will vary based on the group size.)
  • Have your kids sort them by color into individual cups.
  • Once sorted, pour enough water to cover the M&M's and begin stirring with paint brushes.
  • Once the color of the water has changed you are ready to paint!!
Check out these beautiful pictures created by some of my mom's students!! 
Painting never looked, smelled, sounded, felt and tasted (afterwards) so good!!  Pretty sweet!!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Aunt Lela's Chocolate Pound Cake

It has been a been a fun couple of days cooking up a storm in my mom's kitchen!  On Tuesday we whipped up Ida Mae's Low Country Biscuits (which I will be posting about soon) and yesterday we made my Great-Great-Aunt Lela's Famous Chocolate Pound Cake!
Lela was my grandmother's aunt.  She lived in Richmond, Virginia and was known for her chocolate pound cake.  (I really wish I had a picture of her!)  I never had the chance to meet my great-great aunt but I have always heard such wonderful stories about her.   Lela was a nurse in the early 1900s until she left her career to take care of her brother's two sons after their mother died.  My mom remembers her as typical Southern woman of that era, a little hard and stern on the outside but tender at heart.  Lela never married or had any children of her own but she was a "mother" to many of her nieces and nephews.  
Aunt Lela's Chocolate Pound Cake recipe is infamous is my family.  (No kidding... my father's mouth started watering when I told him we were making it!)  It is a buttery, dense cake with a wonderful chocolate taste without being too sweet.  She would make it for special occasions and anytime she went to visit someone.  Aunt Lela passed away in 1988 but her recipe for this decadent dessert lives on!


  • 1 1/2 cups butter, at room temperature
  • 3 cups of sugar
  • 3 cups of flour
  • 6 tablespoons of good quality cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 cup of whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla
  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF.
  2. Grease and flour a bundt pan and set aside.
  3. In a mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar with a hand blender or in a standing mixer.  Add in eggs, one at a time, until fully incorporated.
  4. In another bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, salt and cocoa powder.  With the mixer on low, slowly add flour mixture to egg-butter mixture, alternating with milk and vanilla extract.  
  5. Pour batter into cake pan and bake for 75 to 90 minutes (cooking time varies with different cake pans and ovens... mine took 90 minutes) until a skewer is inserted in the cake and comes out clean.  Allow cake to cool in pan for 10 minutes.  Using an offset spatula or a knife, gently loosen to release cake from pan.  Enjoy!!
Note: My family enjoys this cake without icing however I think a nice chocolate ganache or creamy glaze would be a wonderful topper!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Pimento Cheese & Miss Mary's Canned Pimentos

This week I am out East, visiting my parents and brothers in Pennsylvania.  It is always fun to come home because I love to sleep in my old bedroom, visit with my friends from high school and whip up old family recipes! 

I may live in Chicago but I am a southern girl at heart.  Which is funny because, apart from living in Georgia for two and a half years in my early 20s, I did not grow up in the South.  I did, however, grow up surrounded by many Southern women and these Southern women liked to cook!
One recipe that always comes to mind is a creamy, cheesy blend of cheddar, mayo and canned pimentos: Pimento Cheese Spread!  Also known as: "The Pate of the South" and "Carolina Caviar!"
There is some speculation on when and where this southern comfort food was created.  Food historian Emily Wallace says pimento cheese first arrived on the elite Southern social scene in the early 20th century as a decadent and expensive treat (because cheese and red peppers had to be imported.)  Then with the invention of processed cheese and Southern farmers starting to produce red peppers, pimento cheese became a Southern staple for everyone.  On the contrary, food writer Robert Moss says the spread is not Southern at all.  On his blog he writes pimento cheese is really a creation from Upstate New York. 
My great-grandmother Miss Mary
What makes my family's pimento cheese so special is Miss Mary's Canned Pimento recipe.  Miss Mary was my great-grandmother.  She lived in Salemburg, North Carolina and was the wife of a tobacco farmer turned azalea grower.  Her canned red peppers are sweet, spicy and still have a crisp bite which gives the pimento cheese spread a great texture.  Spread some over a few crackers or sandwich it in between two slices of white bread and you might start speaking with a Southern drawl! 


Pimento Cheese Spread
Makes about 3 cups 

  • 2 1/2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, freshly grated
  • 1 pint of Miss Mary's Canned Pimentos (recipe below)
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons of mayonnaise
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  1. Place grated cheese into a bowl and stir in canned pimentos.
  2. One tablespoon at a time, add in mayonnaise until you reach your desired creaminess (I used 3 tablespoons).
  3. Salt and pepper to taste.  Serve on crackers or spread on a sandwich made with squishy white bread.  Enjoy!

Miss Mary's Canned Pimentos
Makes 5 to 6 pint jars

  • 7 pounds red bell peppers (around 10 to 12 peppers)
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 ounce dry mustard
  • 4 ounces white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup flour
  1. Wash and remove seeds from red bell peppers and roughly chop.  Place peppers in a bowl and cover with water seasoned with 2 tablespoons of salt.  Soak overnight.
  2. The next day, add dry mustard, vinegar and dark brown sugar to a pot and heat over medium-high.
  3. Meanwhile, drain peppers and place into a food processor and cover with water.  Process until peppers are finely chopped.  Drain peppers again and add to vinegar mixture.  Cook until peppers are tender, about 30 minutes, stirring often.
  4. Make a paste of flour and few tablespoons of water and slowly add to pepper mixture a little at a time, stirring constantly until mixture is thickened.
  5. Divide pepper mixture into hot sterilized jars.  No need to process if hot.  Enjoy!!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Getting Crafty with a Framed Song

"In my mind... I'm going to Carolina..."  If I close my eyes I feel like I am standing on the porch of my grandparents' North Carolina beach house watching the sunrise over the ocean, hearing the waves crash on the shore and smelling the salty-sweet air.  Thank you, James Taylor!!
Music means memories for me.  My parents have always been huge music lovers so they were constantly exposing my brothers and me to different artists, bands and genres.  Even when my mom was pregnant with me she would put earphones on her belly and play Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff, Peter Tosh and Eric Clapton.  Now, as an adult, I listen to some songs and they bring back these warm, happy memories of my parents and loved ones.  One of those songs is "Carolina in My Mind" by James Taylor.
Topsail Beach, North Carolina is a special place for my family.  My grandparents bought a home there decades ago and almost every summer my aunts, uncles, cousins, second-cousins and other family and friends from all over the country come to gather.  I think it is safe to say it is my mother's favorite place on the planet.  So when it came time to think about what to give her for her birthday I thought this would be a perfect.  A framed song and picture.
To make, all you need is a frame, a picture matte, a favorite song with a photo to match, a ruler, a pencil (with a white eraser), and craft pen.  Using the ruler and a pencil, gently create guide marks about a centimeter apart.  Then using the craft pen, neatly write out the lyrics to the song you have chosen.  I used hearts to separate stanzas.  Then using the white eraser, gently erase the pencil lines.  Secure the photo to the matte and then place in the frame.  
Now this craft project is easier said than done.  It takes a lot of measuring and penmanship but the end product is a special handmade gift perfect for any music lover in your life.  I think it would also be a wonderful anniversary gift for a couple featuring their first dance song.
My mom loved her birthday gift!!  James Taylor's lyrics beautifully surround a picture of a Topsail Beach sunrise.  In my mind, I have definitely gone to Carolina!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Wonton Pizza Crisps

Yesterday I was looking for a quick and easy snack.  I wasn't craving vegetables or hummus. I didn't want something sweet.  I wanted PIZZA.  Not the healthiest snack choice, I know, but everything in moderation, am I right?
Well I knew I wasn't hungry enough for an actual pizza pie but I still needed to get my pepperoni and cheesy fix.  That's when I spotted some leftover wonton wrappers in the fridge.  BINGO!!  Wonton Pizza Crisps. 
Wonton wrappers are awesome.  You can use them to make wontons (of course), raviolis, pierogies, mini-lasagnas, chips and crusts.  You can steam them, fry them, boil them and bake them.  What can't wonton wrappers do?
The wonton wrappers make a perfect "thin crust" for this pizza snack. I mixed the shredded mozzarella with some Italian seasoning to heighten the pizza flavor.  AND... who can have pizza without pepperoni??  Not me!  I ended up with crispy, melty and spicy bites that satisfied my pizza cravings.

Makes 12 crisps

  • 12 wonton wrappers
  • non-stick cooking spray
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese 
  • 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 12 pepperoni slices
  1. Preheat oven to 375ºF.
  2. Coat a baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray. Arrange wonton wrappers on sheet, making sure the wrappers don't touch. Spray wonton wrappers with a coating of non-sticking cooking spray.
  3. In a small bowl, combine cheese and seasoning.  Sprinkle cheese over the wonton wrappers.  Place pepperoni slices on each wrapper.  Bake for 8 to 10 minutes until wontons are crispy and cheese is melted and golden.  Remove from oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool.  Enjoy!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Mini Mushroom Quiches with Hash Brown Crusts

As you all know, I love breakfast and I love mushrooms!!  Combine the two and you get these cute little mini mushroom quiches with crispy hash brown crusts! 
Ever wonder where the quiche came from?  Most folks would say Lorraine, France because of the traditional quiche lorraine AND that is partially true.  The baked egg dish did originate in that region of world however at its creation the area was under German rule... not French.  
Lorraine, France via Encore! Life
The word "quiche" stems from the German word "kuchen" which means "cake."  The Examiner says quiches have been popular dating back to 1550 and the royal court of Nancy.  Fast forward a few centuries and quiches are everywhere in France and all over the world... served as a light lunch or an appetizer.  In the U.S., quiches are predominately served for breakfast or brunch. 
So back to the mini quiches... I worked off a Martha Stewart recipe for Goat Cheese Quiche with a Hash Brown Crust.  I decided to miniaturize the dish by using a muffin tin.  I also added mushrooms, pancetta and chives.  Believe me when I tell you whoever you make this for will go for seconds and maybe even thirds!!!

Adapted from Martha Stewart
Makes 9 individual quiches

  • 1 pound bag hash browns, if frozen defrost before using
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 4 ounces goat cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 5 thin slices of pancetta, roughly chopped into pieces
  • 1 pound assorted mushrooms, cleaned and thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons chives, finely chopped
  • salt & pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 375ºF.
  2. In a large skillet, add pancetta pieces and heat over medium-high.  Cook until pancetta is crispy and fat is rendered, about 5 minutes.  Remove pancetta to a plate and set aside, reserving the fat in the skillet.
  3. Return skillet to medium-high heat and add in mushrooms and sprinkle with some salt and pepper.  Cook, stirring frequently, until mushrooms are browned and all liquid has been cooked off, about 15 minutes.  
  4. Meanwhile, squeeze out any excess liquid from hash browns and place in a bowl.  Combine with butter and one lightly-beaten egg.  Place 1/4 cup of hash brown mixture into nine regular muffin tins that have been greased with non-stick spray.  Using your fingers, carefully press hash browns down and up the sides of the muffin tin creating a crust.  Place hash browns in the oven and bake for 10 minutes to allow crusts to set and slightly brown. 
  5. In another mixing bowl, whisk together goat cheese, sour cream and remaining eggs.  Stir in mushrooms, pancetta and chives.  Salt and pepper to taste.  
  6. Remove crusts from oven and carefully fill with egg-mushroom mixture.  Return to oven and bake for 15 to 18 minutes until crust is browned and eggs are cooked in the center.  Remove from oven and allow to cool for about 2 to 3 minutes.  Carefully, using an offset spatula or a knife, loosen edges of the quiche and lift out.  Serve warm.  Enjoy!