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Cappuccino, originally uploaded by The Rambling Rountrees.

Making cappuccino!

Ingredients

1-1/2 cup Strongly Brewed Coffee
1 cup Skimmed Milk
1 tsp Sugar or Splenda

Preparation

Put the sugar in the milk and thoroughly heat it in the microwave oven.
Pour the milk in a blender and blend till it develops a thick layer of froth. You can also use an electric whisk for this purpose.
Brew the coffee till it is strong, and fill only 3/4 of your cup with coffee. Pour in the frothy milk and sugar mixture.
Add in a pinch of cinnamon for a spicy flavor, or garnish the drink with some chocolate.

You have 2 cappuccinos ready to go! Freshly ground coffee can give your cappuccino a fresh and smooth flavor. If you want to add a delicious twist to your cappuccino, add 2-3 tablespoons of caramel or 2 tablespoons of chocolate, or both together, just before pouring in the frothy mixture.

A perfect way to stay warm this winter!

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Bruschetta al Pomodoro

bruschetta, originally uploaded by The Rambling Rountrees.

On our recent trip to Italy we enjoyed this typical dish on several occasions with the world’s best tomatoes.

4 ripe Roma tomatoes, chopped coarsely
6-8 fresh basil leaves, chopped
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons for EVOO
Course Salt and Pepper
8 slices of crusty bread
3 cloves of garlic

1. In a medium bowl, combine the tomatoes, basil, and oil and season with salt and pepper to taste.
2. Toast or grill bread lightly on both sides, then rub the garlic across the bread’s surface am then top with the tomato mixture.

Buon Appetit!!!

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Pizza Margherita

margarita, originally uploaded by The Rambling Rountrees.

Planning for Italy 2010 is well underway! In my dreams each night Italy comes alive once again. 35 more days and sleeps till our departure makes for great dreams!!! I often have the same recurring dream, that our vacation is about to be over and I have not done everything I have wanted to do our our trip. I have the same dream each year before departure……ahhhhh. So today I am day dreaming about the best best pizza on earth!
PIZZA MARGHERITA
Ingredients

* 1 cup crushed tomatoes
* 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
* 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped or julienned
* 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
* 1/2 pound mozzarella, sliced 1/4-inch thick
* Basic pizza dough, rolled out for 2 (12-inch) pizzas, recipe follows

Directions

Preheat oven to 500 degrees F and, if you have one, place a pizza stone on the bottom rack of the oven.

In the bowl of a food processor, combine tomatoes, olive oil, and salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste and process until smooth. Divide sauce between the 2 pizzas and smooth to spread evenly, leaving a 1/2-inch border along the edges of the dough. Sprinkle basil leaves on top of sauce and then top with Parmigiano-Reggiano. Finally, divide mozzarella slices between 2 pizzas, and bake for about 8 minutes, or until cheese is bubbling and the edges are golden brown.
Basic pizza dough — by hand method:

* 1 package active dry yeast
* 1 cup warm water (110 degrees F)
* 2 1/2 to 3 cups flour plus more if necessary
* 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
* 1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

In a large bowl, combine yeast with water, olive oil, salt and stir well to proof. After 5 minutes, add half of the flour and mix well to thoroughly incorporate. Add all remaining flour except 1/2 cup and mix well with your hands. Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface and knead dough for at least 5 and up to 7 minutes, adding enough additional flour as necessary to form a smooth and elastic dough. Dough should not be sticky. Transfer dough to a lightly oiled 2 or 3 quart bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a damp towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, usually at least 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 500 degrees F and if you have one, place a pizza stone on the bottom rack of the oven.

Divide dough into 2 portions (for 2 (12-inch) pizzas) and form into balls. Place on a lightly oiled baking sheet and cover with a damp towel. Let rest for 15 minutes, then transfer to a lightly floured surface, shape as desired and roll out to a thickness of 1/4-inch. Transfer dough to a pizza stone. Mangia!

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Alla Checca

pomodoro, originally uploaded by The Rambling Rountrees.

WOW, 35 more days before we embark on our next Italian Adventure! I must say that I have been a bit lax at blogging over the past month, because of personal issues. But as travel comes closer I love to reminisce about our adventures with food and friends along the way. I always love a fresh pasta dish. What is not to love about pomodori and pasta! Here is a great recipe with fresh tomatoes.

Ingredients

* 5 tomatoes, seeded and diced
* 4 cloves garlic, minced
* 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
* 1/2 cup olive oil
* salt to taste
* 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
* 1 pound pasta

Directions

1. Combine tomatoes, garlic, basil, and olive oil in a non-metal bowl. Stir in salt. Cover with plastic wrap. Allow to sit at room temperature at least 2 hours, or as long as 10 hours.
2. Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Drain. Pour uncooked sauce over hot pasta, and toss. Add grated Parmesan cheese to your liking.

Mangia…..Ciao!!

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Valentine’s Day has always been one of my favorite day’s, yeah call me a hopeless romantic! In fact, my husband and chose to be married at a wedding chapel in Gatlinburg Tennessee on Valentine’s Day. This year will be celebrating our 10th Anniversary! Our 10th Anniversary Trip will be to Italy in June. So I am sharing a dessert to share with your loved one this Valentine’s Day….enjoy!!!

INGREDIENTS

* 1 pint fresh strawberries
* 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
* 1 cup mascarpone cheese
* 1/2 cup heavy cream
* 2 tablespoons coffee-flavored liqueur
* 18 ladyfingers
* 1/3 cup chilled espresso
* 1/2 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder

DIRECTIONS

1. Cut off the tops of the strawberries and slice the berries. Reserve 2 large whole berries for garnish.
2. In a blender, place 2 cups of strawberries and 2 tablespoons confectioners sugar; blend to puree and set aside.
3. In a medium bowl, combine mascarpone cheese, 1/4 cup cream, 1/4 cup sugar, and liqueur; beat with an electric mixer on medium-high speed for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes until thickened.
4. Place 6 ladyfingers on a serving plate and brush each with approximately 1 teaspoon cold espresso coffee. Spread or pipe out 1/2 of the cheese mixture over the ladyfingers, and layer with half of the sliced strawberries.
5. Repeat with the next 6 ladyfingers, espresso, remaining cheese mixture, and sliced strawberries; top with remaining 6 ladyfingers.
6. In a small mixing bowl, combine 1/4 cup heavy cream with 2 tablespoons sugar; beat with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until just whipped, approximately 1 minute. Spread cream evenly over top layer of ladyfingers.
7. Dust cocoa over whipped cream, and garnish with 2 reserved strawberries. Pour strawberry puree onto two serving plates. Cut tiramisu in half, and place onto puree. Mangia!

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Childhood comfort

This week has been incredibly stressful. I am so happy that tomorrow brings the arrival of February and soon my favorite holiday….Groundhog’s Day.

I love Groundhog’s Day, it is unpretentious. The day warrants for nothing. A brief anticipation of what Punxsutawney Phil will experience when he crawls out of hibernation….I know, I know! In Maine we have little of no expectations of Phil. All I know is that Winter is not yet over by far. So we all go back into hibernation and wait for spring….in the meantime this is dinner tonight. One my favorite recipes for a cold winter night! Homemade Chicken Tortellini Soup or Brodo. Enjoy! Make sure you have some good crispy bread to mop up every last bit!

INGREDIENTS

* 7 3/4 cups chicken broth
* 1 (10 ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed
* 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1/4 teaspoon pepper
* 1 (9 ounce) package of fresh cheese tortellini
* 2 1/2 cups cubed cooked chicken

DIRECTIONS

In a Dutch oven or soup kettle, combine the broth, tomatoes, spinach, Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. Cook for 10 minutes; add the tortellini and chicken. Cook for 5 minutes or until tortellini is heated through.

After dinner we are booking our flights and accommodations to Italy…….wooo hooo!

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Chocolate Cheesecake Bars

Another great holiday recipe to share!!!!! I am known as the “Queen of Cheesecake” If it can be made I will create it. I am a connoisseur of cheesecake, in fact I have made and sold these to friends, and usually whenever I am asked to bring a food item to a party it is usually cheesecake. Enjoy this recipe!

Crust:
20 chocolate wafer cookies
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground coffee beans
1/4 teaspoon fine salt

Filling:
8 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup sour cream
2 large eggs, room temperature

Glaze:
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon light or dark corn syrup
2 tablespoons sour cream, room temperature
1/2 cup crushed candy canes (see Cooks Note)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8-inch square baking dish with foil.

For the crust: Process the chocolate wafers in a food processor with the butter, sugar, coffee, and salt until fine. Evenly press the crust into the prepared dish covering the bottom completely. Bake until the crust sets, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the filling: Put the chocolate in a medium microwave-safe bowl; heat at 75 percent power until softened, about 2 minutes. Stir, and continue to microwave until completely melted, up to 2 minutes more. (Alternatively put the chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Bring a saucepan filled with an inch or so of water to a very slow simmer; set the bowl over, but not touching, the water, and stir occasionally until melted and smooth.)

Blend the cream cheese, sugar, and sour cream together in the food processor until smooth. Scrape down the sides, as needed. Add the eggs and pulse until just incorporated. With the food processor running, pour the chocolate into the wet ingredients and mix until smooth.

Pour the filling evenly over the crust. Bake until filling puffs slightly around the edges, but is still a bit wobbly in the center, about 25 to 30 minutes. Cool on a rack.

For the Glaze: Put the chocolate, butter and corn syrup in microwave safe bowl. Heat glaze in the microwave at 75 percent power until melted, about 2 minutes. Stir the ingredients together until smooth; add the sour cream. Spread glaze evenly over the warm cake and scatter the crushed candy canes over top. Cool completely, then refrigerate overnight.

Cut into small bars or squares. Serve chilled or room temperature.

Store cookies covered in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Cook’s Note: To crush the candy canes, remove wrappers and place in a resealable plastic bag. Use a rolling pin to roll and break the candy up into small pieces, about 1/4 inch or so.
This recipe is from the FoodNetwork.

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Every Christmas my family insists on me making these cookies. I have spoiled them incessantly!!! I found this recipe years ago and have created these cookies for our Christmas Eve tradition for over 20 years. In fact I have to make a 4 batches of dough to feed everyone. These cookies will keep for a week or two if kept in a cool location. Not a problem here in Maine. Although I haven’t made them yet this year…..I hope to do some baking by next weekend. Perhaps my niece Amy (the other pastry chef) or Nichole *hint, hint* would be willing to take on the responsibility this year. So here is my favorite recipe! Enjoy……

1 pkg. (8 oz.) Cream Cheese, softened
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 tsp. almond extract
2-1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup colored sugar

BEAT cream cheese and butter in large bowl with electric mixer until well blended. Add granulated sugar and vanilla; mix well. Gradually add flour, beating well after each addition; cover. Refrigerate several hours or until chilled.
PREHEAT oven to 350°F. Roll out dough to 1/4-inch thickness on lightly floured surface. Cut into shapes with 3- to 4-inch cookie cutters. Sprinkle cutouts with colored sugar. Place, 2 inches apart, on baking sheets.
BAKE 12 to 15 min. or until edges are lightly browned. Cool on baking sheets 2 min. Remove to wire racks; cool completely.

After they are cooled I usually frost these delights with either a buttercream or cream cheese frosting!   🙂

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November is half over and Thanksgiving is Thursday. A time to be thankful for what we have. It is about family, friends and ones dear to the heart. In my younger years the day was filled with wonderful memories of family coming to our home to enjoy a magnificent feast with my Grandmum, and the rest of my meager family. We did not have that much, but we had each other. Life was happy and without such complications as today.

My mother and grandmum would cook for days before. Warm scents filled the kitchen. Aromas of pumpkin pies, warm bread and other goodies filled the house for days before the big feast. They worked seamlessly to prepare the food for the big event. Family was family, and we stood by each other through thick and thin.

The day before Thanksgiving was also special for my brother and I as we would be let out of school at noon that day. We always had plenty of snow for Thanksgiving, and we would leave for the big sandy hill up the street from our house to go sliding in the snow. We would stay till the last light filled the sky, as the sun set behind us. Then return home cold and wet from our afternoon of activities. That night we would dream of the feast the next day. We would often go to a market across town to purchase an ice cream pie for our dessert as well all the other delights we had in our home.

Thanksgiving morning we all rise early and run for to turn on the TV for the Thanksgiving Day Parades. We sat in front of the the TV and dreamed of being in New York City of the big Macy’s Parade. Time would seem to last forever as we waited anxiously for the feast that was being prepared. Soon aunts and uncles started to arrive, the house filled with laughter. Food was finished and prepared for the table, then we all come running for the feast.

The counter tops and table were filled with dishes reminiscent of the first feast. Roasted turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, gravy, fresh baked bread, squash, turnips, and cranberries. Then we indulged in assorted desserts of pumpkin pie, chocolate cream pie, ice cream pie, apple pies and other surprises. After we stuffed ourselves we would retire to the living room to watch some TV and begin the official start of the Holiday Season. A truly magical time! I wish I could go back to that time of innocence, a time when our family was close and all was right in the world.

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A slower life…

Thanksgiving is right around the corner. A time to give thanks for what we have and what we don’t have. Life has become exceedingly complicated. I desire to go back to a time when life was slower, a time when work involved harvesting the land, growing crops, raising animals. If I had my druthers I’d be living in a cabin in the woods. A secret place where only the forest animals knew my name. My husband and I would only grow and consume what we need to live on. Life would be about working to live, instead of living to work.

In this world everyone craves bigger and better. I must admit, I am a consumer and I do like to shop, but wouldn’t it be easier to only have what one needs to survive? A roof over your head, dinner on the table after a day of work, a warm bed to sleep in and sharing your life with the one you love. Sounds like a fine life to me! A life less complicated but filled with only the things you need. Here is a recipe for my favorite Maple Pumpkin Cheesecake I often bake for Thanksgiving Dinner.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter or margarine, melted
  • 3 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
  • 1 (14 ounce) can EAGLE BRAND Sweetened Condensed Milk (NOT evaporated milk)
  • 1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Maple Pecan Glaze:
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 3/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • whipped cream (optional)
  • pecan halves (optional)

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Combine graham cracker crumbs, sugar and butter; press firmly on bottom of 9-inch springform pan.
  3. With mixer, beat cream cheese until fluffy. Gradually beat in EAGLE BRAND until smooth. Add pumpkin, eggs, syrup, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt; mix well. Pour into prepared pan.
  4. Bake 1 1/4 hours or until center appears nearly set when shaken. Cool 1 hour. Cover and chill at least 4 hours.
  5. To serve, spoon some Maple Pecan Sauce over cheesecake. Garnish with whipped cream and pecans (optional). Pass remaining sauce. Store leftovers covered in refrigerator.
  6. Maple Pecan Glaze: In medium-sized saucepan, combine 1 cup (1/2 pint) whipping cream and 3/4 cup pure maple syrup; bring to a boil. Boil rapidly 15 to 20 minutes or until slightly thickened; stir occasionally. Stir in 1/2 cup chopped pecans. Cover and chill until served. Stir before serving.

Enjoy! 🙂

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