Monthly Archives: December 2014

Eating Healthy in the New Year…Brussels Sprouts!


Brussels sproutsIt’s hard to believe that 2014 is about to draw to a close. I feel like the year has just flown by. It was an eventful year for us…new jobs, travel, and excitement. Oh, and I started this blog, which has been a ton of fun. So, now as the year comes to a close, if I believe all of the January issues of magazines, and every commercial since Christmas, we’re supposed to focus on healthy eating and taking care of ourselves. With that in mind, I thought I’d share a this “healthy” recipe. Of course, it combines delicious Brussels sprouts cooked in butter with a creamy rich Parmesan cream sauce and toasted pumpkin seeds. But it’s a vegetable…so it has to be healthy…right??? 😉

blanchedTo ring in the new year, we’re heading to the new home of our friends. There will be about 10 of us, and everyone was assigned something to bring for dinner. Of course, I was a little disappointed that I was assigned a side. After all, how can I let my cooking talents shine with just a side. However, this recipe is a keeper, and it’s incredibly easy. Surprisingly enough, the recipe comes from the November 2013 issue of the Spirit Airlines inflight magazine. Who would have thought a recipe from an airline magazine would be so good, but this one surprised us!

To start, blanch 1 1/2 lbs Brussels sprouts in boiling water for about a minute. They’ll become bright green and soften a little. Drain, and soak in ice water until cool to stop the cooking. Once they’re cool, drain again and cut into quarters.coolingdrainslicedIn the meantime, heat 2 cups heavy cream in a saucepan over medium high heat until simmering. Allow to simmer for about 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the cream reduces by half. Make sure you keep an eye on the cream, as it could boil over. Once the cream has reduced, remove from heat and add 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese. Stir to combine, then set aside.creamboilingcheesesauce readyHeat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread out 2 oz pumpkin seeds on a cookie sheet. Toast the pumpkin seeds in the oven for about 10 minutes until brown. You’ll want to check on them frequently, and shake the pan to stir. Set aside once toasted.beforeafterIn a large saute pan, heat 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat until melted. Add the Brussels sprouts and cook until toasted, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.butteradd sproutsbrowned sproutsTo serve, pour the toasted Brussels sprouts into a serving dish. Top with the Parmesan cream and sprinkle with the pumpkin seeds. The Brussels sprouts are buttery and flavorful, the sauce is creamy and salty from the cheese, and the pumpkin seeds are nutty and crunchy. It’s the perfect mix of flavors and textures, and I’m sure it will wow the crowd tonight.

Whatever you are doing to celebrate the new year, whether it’s a huge night out, quiet celebration at home, or an early evening in bed, have a safe night. And have a very happy, healthy, and prosperous 2015! Happy New Year!

It Wouldn’t Be Christmas Without Homemade Pizzelles!

recipeI think I’ve mentioned this before, but I come from an Italian-American household. And, as you can imagine, there are a lot of traditions, and, specifically, a lot of food traditions. There was always the Feast of the Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve, soup and pasta always made an appearance with the turkey on Thanksgiving, and, for almost any celebration, pizzelles took center stage. Thankfully, pizzelles still take center stage for Christmas.

In case you aren’t familiar with pizzelles, they are a delicate, waffle-like cookie, usually flavored with anise seeds, anise extract, or anisette. They are made in a pizzelle iron, similar to a waffle iron, cooking 2 at a time, and they are delicious.

Once again, for the recipe, my great-aunt isbutter and sugar the winner. My mom has a lot of different recipes. If you look in her file box, you’ll see cards for Mommom Phil’s pizzelles, or Aunt Antoinette’s pizzelles, or Mommom Bobbie’s pizzelles, but, I have to admit, Aunt Angie’s is the best. You may remember her as the excellent baker with the killer pie crust recipe!

To start, cream 1 cup softened butter with 1 1/2 cup sugar. Next, add 6 eggs, 1 at a time, mixing to combine before adding the next. Then, add 1/2 cup vegetable oil, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and 1 teaspoon anise seeds. eggsoilvanillaanise seedsAnd now, a note about anise seeds. For my mom and most of my baking relatives, there is no question, anise seeds are the way to go with pizzelles. They give the cookie a subtle liquorice flavor. However, if you prefer, you could use anise extract (although use it sparingly) or anisette. You could also add more anise seeds if you prefer, but I find the teaspoon works well.

baking powder and flourOnce the wet ingredients are all combined, add 4 teaspoons baking powder and 4 1/2 cups flour. I usually add the flour in 2 stages so I don’t make a huge mess, but feel free to combine however you prefer.

That’s the recipe. It’s very easy, and comes together very nicely. For the next part, you need a pizzelle iron. If you have never used one, they are very easy to use, but it does take some time to cook the pizzelles.

batterStart by plugging in your iron to heat it up. Once it’s hot, add about 1 teaspoon batter to the middle of each form. Press down, and allow to cook for just under a minute. You want the pizzelles to be light in color but cooked through. When you open them, the pizzelles sometimes fall right out. If they stick a bit, just use a fork.

pizzelle ironopencookingdoneThis recipe makes about 90 pizzelles, and trust me, you’ll fly through them.

I hope you enjoy your holiday desserts as much as I’ll enjoy these pizzelles. I’m sure there’s a tradition or two out there…feel free to share. And have a very Merry Christmas! Enjoy the time with family and friends…I know I will!ready to eat

A Great Holiday Gift…Homemade Butter!

readyAs the holiday approach, every year I try to think of homemade gifts I can make. I love to cook, and it just seems that sharing of yourself in that way is the perfect way to say you care. Years ago, I made pizzelles for several people who helped me throughout the year at work. They were a huge hit, and people were generally touched at the gesture, and the thought and time that went into the gift. However, I’m always trying to find something different, not your average cookies or candy. This year, I found an absolute gem, homemade butter.

I know, I know, you’re thinking you need tocream and buttermilk take out the butter churn, and travel back in time about 200 years. But it’s really very easy, and absolutely delicious. The recipe I found was in Martha Stewart Living a few years ago (May 2013), and it comes from Diane St. Clair, dairy farmer extraordinaire! Not only does she have a beautiful farm in Vermont, but she also supplies butter to Thomas Keller and the French Laundry! When I saw that, I knew I had to try this recipe.

The recipe takes some planning, because the cream and buttermilk mixture need to sit for spinup to 24 hours, but it’s worth it. And, those essentially are the only ingredients (ok, and a little salt). The butter is creamy, rich, and delicious, with a bit of a tang. Giving someone butter you made yourself…it’s perfect!

To start, pour 4 cups heavy cream into a medium saucepan. Warm on medium heat until it reaches 70 degrees. Make sure you stir while it’s warming so it doesn’t burn. Pour the cream into a bowl with a lid along with 1 cup buttermilk. Stir, then cover tightly. Leave out overnight or up to 24 hours, and make sure the temperature stays around 70 butterdegrees. That was the temperature in my kitchen, so it worked out really well. And I know this seems strange, but just leave the container right there on the counter. It will be fine.

The next day, stir the mixture. It should be thick. Pour the cream mixture into a food processor and process for 3 to 4 minutes, until small grains of butter form. I have a small food processor, so I had to do it in a few batches, but it still turned out great. You could probably use a blender as well, but again, you’ll need to use small batches. You’ll see the grains of butter and buttermilk separate, then you know it’s done.

removing liquidPour the mixture through a fine strainer. You can save the buttermilk that separates if you like. You’ll be left with delicious butter in the strainer. Put the butter on a clean surface and gather it together into a large ball. I did this in a bowl, just to make sure I didn’t lose any pieces. Rinse it under cold running water. You want to knead it and fold it to remove as much liquid as you can.

I added in a little bit of salt, maybe 1/8-1/4 teaspoon, to enhance the flavor. Now you can pack the butter in small glass jars, and you’re ready to give your gifts. This will make probably 4 small jars. Just be ready to explain the process, as many people will ask if you spent hours churning. I guess you could say you did! 🙂

Happy Christmas Gift Making/Buying!butter

Hot Chocolate…Adult Style!

oh Christmas treeThe halls have been decked. The weather outside is frightful. And I’m ready for Christmas. After a wonderful Thanksgiving, I got right on it and decorated the house for Christmas. We’re very festive over here, and the holiday spirit is running over.

We’ve also been experiencing some chilling rain and messy weather. So, during those days, the perfect drink is hot chocolate, and nothing is better to warm you up than a “grown up” hot chocolate!

chocolate chipsFor this recipe, I took inspiration from Sandra Lee. It’s a creamy, peppermint hot chocolate, with a nice little kick. It’s also incredibly easy! Sandra’s recipe is a slow cooker recipe, but I just made it on the stove.

To start, combine a 12 oz bag semi-sweet chocolate chips with 3 12 oz cans evaporated milk in a sauce pan. Heat on medium-low heat, stirring, until the chips melt and everything is hot and combined. You’ll want to get a little simmer.

liquorOnce you have a creamy mixture, take the pan off the heat. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1/2 cup white chocolate liquor (I used Godiva), and 1/4 cup peppermint schnapps (Dekuyper). Stir to combine, and you’re done.

It’s warm, creamy, and delicious. Give it a try one of these cold nights, and enjoy the Christmas season. Before you know it, it will be gone!hot chocolate