Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year and a Recipe Round-Up!

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Happy New Year's Eve!! I hope everyone has a wonderful and safe time celebrating this evening. Don't forget to remember all the blessings you have received this year and reflect on yourself to see what changes you want to make for next year. Also, remember to thank and/or say "I love you" to those people important in your life. Even if you think they already know, it never gets old.

2012 was an amazing year for me. I married my best friend, got to explore Bora Bora and Tahiti on my honeymoon, went on my first trip to Las Vegas, grew relationships with some extended family members, my Blog was featured on multiple sites and I learned a ton of new things about myself. I also grew my readership tremendously, so thank you for that.

Here is a round-up of THIRTY of my favorite recipes from 2012 (or a hilarious way to see the evolution of my photography skills):




Thanks so much for reading my blog and investing time in me. I love doing this for fun and I really enjoy all the comments and love you guys give me. I can't wait to see what 2013 has in store for me. See you next year!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Arancini (Rice Balls)

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Rice Balls (or Arancini as they are more formally called) were always my grandmother's specialty. When we used to venture up to New York for the holidays, she would have trays of these little suckers just waiting for us. Now that I've tried to make them myself, I really commend her for making so many. Like well over 50. I'd be lucky if I could make two dozen. They're time consuming to say the least!
This is the recipe I received from my grandmother (Angie). I love how recipes were so uncomplicated back then. Basic instructions with no way to really mess it up. I wish things were still like that.
Instead, I'm now faced with recipes that have at least 20 steps and give me a mini-stroke.

But even though this recipe takes quite some time and can drive you bananas (especially if the balls fall apart while you are frying them) the end result is worth the wait. I suggest making the rice, and then letting it cool just slightly before forming the balls. But make sure you pack the rice really tight or else they will fall apart (trust me). The soft texture of the rice and gooey cheese surprise in the middle is the best. If we weren't eating these on Christmas Eve I would have made the version that included meat and peas on the inside instead of just Mozzarella. Maybe next time. You can also use Italian breadcrumbs in place of the flour for some texture. I'll probably do that next time as well. Enjoy!

  • 2 sticks butter
  • 1/2 lb. Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 6 eggs, separated
  • 2 lbs. long-grain rice (such as Arborio)
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 lb. Mozzarella cheese, cut into small chunks
  • Canola oil, for frying

Cook rice according to package directions. Do not overcook.

When done remove from heat, add salt and butter and stir to combine. Allow to cool slightly. Add Parmesan cheese and 6 egg yolks. Stir to combine.

When cool enough to handle, take a small portion of the rice mixture and firmly pack it in the palm of your hand. Place 1-2 chunks of Mozzarella in the middle and then cover with the same amount of rice. Press firmly to form the ball.

Whisk the egg whites in a small bowl. Add the flour to a separate bowl.

Dip the balls in the egg whites and then into the flour. Shake off any excess.

Add enough oil to a pot so that it rises 4-5 inches in a dutch oven or heavy bottomed pot. Heat the oil so it reaches 350 degrees F. Add 2-3 balls to the oil and cook until lightly browned, about 4 minutes.

Use a slotted spoon to remove the balls from the oil and place on a paper-lined plate to cool. Repeat with remaining arancini.

Serve with marinara sauce, if desired.

Source: My Grandma

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Olive Bread

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Whenever I used to hear of someone making their own bread, I always assumed it was a daunting task that took a ton of time and even more patience. That is until I heard of no-knead bread. It changed my life. If you let it rise overnight like I do, it will take you practically no time at all.

My Dad loves his bread and Olive Bread has always been one of his favorites. Growing up in New York, he would always be able to find the best fresh Olive Bread at the local bakery. Nowadays when we go up north, he finds that they skimp on the olives (how dare they!) making his beloved bread something of the past. So I decided to make some for him myself.
I know Olive Bread sounds a little strange, but if you enjoy Kalamata olives I promise you'll love this. The crust is flaky and crunchy and the inside becomes light and soft. Every once in a while you'll be hit with a salty olive, which is definitely the best part. We usually just eat this bread plain, but I'm sure it would be great as part of a sandwich. Enjoy!

Printable Recipe

  • 3 cups bread flour
  • 1 1/2 cups Kalamata olives, pitted, drained, roughly chopped
  • 3/4 tsp. active dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups cool water

Drain the olives and pat them dry. Roughly chop and make sure that all the olives actually don’t have pits.

Mix yeast and flour together in a large bowl and then toss in the chopped olives Add water and mix everything together using your hands or a large spoon.

Cover this and let it sit at room temperature for 14-18 hours.

Take a large tea towel and sprinkle it liberally with flour and corn meal. If you don’t have corn meal you can just use flour, but corn meal adds a great texture to it.

Scrape dough (you’ll need to scrape it) out onto a floured surface and just fold it a few times, liberally flouring both sides if it is sticking. Eventually you want to form a ball or loaf with it. Turn this onto floured towel with the seam side down on the towel.

Cover with the towel and let the loaf ferment and proof for another two hours.

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees. Let a cast iron pot heat in the oven for at least 30 minutes so it is as hot as can be. Don’t preheat the lid in the oven, just the pot itself.

Once the pot is blazing hot, pick up the towel with the dough on it and roll the dough into the pot so the seam side is up again.

Put the lid on the pot and cook it for 35 minutes. Then take off the lid (be really careful of escaping steam). Cook it for another 10-15 minutes or so until the crust is a dark, walnut brown.

Let it cool on a wire rack for an hour before slicing it.

Source: Adapted from Macheesmo

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!!

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Wishing everyone a very joyous and merry Christmas!!!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Chocolate Dipped Coconut Macaroons

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I'm finishing up the Christmas cookie countdown with my favorite: Coconut Macaroons. Your teeth will sink into these. And I finished them up by dunking them into melted chocolate, just to make them a little extra special.
Enjoy and Merry Christmas!!

Printable Recipe

  • 1 1/3 cups flaked coconut
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

In a small bowl, combine the coconut, sugar, flour and salt. Stir in egg whites and vanilla; mix well.

Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto greased baking sheets. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.

Meanwhile, melt chocolate in microwave in a microwave-safe bowl for one minute. Stir well and continue to cook in 30 second intervals until completely melted. When macaroons are cooled, carefully dip the bottom half into the chocolate. Dry on a piece of parchment paper. Store in an airtight container.

Source: Adapted from Taste of Home

Friday, December 21, 2012

Poppyseed Bread

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If you've never had or heard of Poppyseed Bread, today is your lucky day. This bread, which is actually more like a super moist cake, has always been one of my favorite desserts/snacks. My mom makes a bunch of loaves around Christmastime, and it's a treasured treat that I just can't get enough of. I usually request extra so I can freeze a loaf or two for later in the year. It's really that good.
It's so, so simple, and SO tasty. It's made with a package of store bought cake mix, but adding vanilla pudding makes it extra moist and the poppy seeds add a level of flavor that you wouldn't really expect. I think it's the texture of this bread/cake that just does it for me. It's extremely soft and pretty much falls over when you grab a piece because it is so moist. It doesn't even need icing or a glaze, it's perfect just the way it is. Enjoy!

Printable Recipe

  • 1 pkg. yellow cake mix
  • 1 large pkg. instant vanilla pudding
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 1/4 cup poppyseeds
  • 4 eggs

Mix all ingredients thoroughly. Grease and flour 2 loaf pans. Bake 350 for 50 minutes.
Source: My Mom

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Peanut Butter Banana Chocolate Chip Cookies

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Here's another awesomely delicious cookie recipe that anyone would love to receive in a cookie swap or as part of the dessert line. I made them a little healthier by using natural peanut butter and light butter, and they were nothing short of delicious.
The banana makes these cookies very moist and the subtle peanut butter paired with the chocolate chips is just divine. I know I'm taunting you with the triple-threat combination, so you should probably do yourself a favor and just go make these yourself. And don't forget to share. Enjoy!

Printable Recipe

  • 2 cups plus 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 8 tbsp. light unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 6 tbsp. natural creamy peanut butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 cup loosely packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 ripe medium bananas, mashed
  • 1 cup milk chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Mix the flour, salt and baking soda in a bowl and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together cooled peanut butter and butter with both sugars until combined. Whisk in egg yolk and vanilla extract until smooth. Add in the mashed banana and mix until combined.

Gradually add in the dry ingredients, mixing just until dough forms. Fold in chocolate chips with a spatula.

Shape the dough into the size of a golfball and place on a nonstick baking sheet about 2 inches apart from each other. Slightly pat down each ball of dough.

Bake for 10-12 minutes, until the edges are golden and the middles are puffy – do not overbake! Let cool completely and then store in an air-tight container.

Source: Adapted from How Sweet It Is

Monday, December 17, 2012

Double-Chocolate Chip Cookies

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One thing that I'm very lucky to be able to say is that my family and Chris' family get along very well. Since Chris grew up with only his parents and sister, it is a huge adjustment for them to face my family, which includes my parents, three brothers, their significant others, and niece and nephew. As if the 12 of us aren't enough, they haven't been around children in years so my niece and nephew add a nice twist to the mix. But they all get along great and it couldn't make me any happier.
My in-laws invited our whole broad over their house a few weekends ago for dinner (bless their souls) and served authentic Cuban food. Since that's what Chris' mom makes every Sunday for lunch, it was nice for my family to be able to experience it for themselves. The meal was delicious and the company was even better, so it turned out to be a wonderful evening.

I made some Key Lime Pie Bars at the request of Chris' dad, but I knew my chocolate-loving niece would be heartbroken if there was no chocolate in the dessert line. About an hour before we were supposed to leave for their house, I quickly whipped up these cookies for her to munch on. They were bite-size and perfectly soft, but still somehow had a little bite to them. The double chocolate really wowed her, so it's no surprise these will be a part of my "go-to chocolate dessert" list. They are perfect for the holiday season as well. Enjoy!

Printable Recipe

  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 egg white
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 tbsp. unsweetened baking cocoa
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • Dash salt
  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
Heat oven to 375°F. In large bowl, beat brown sugar and butter with electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, or mix with spoon. Beat in vanilla and egg white.

Stir in flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Stir in chocolate chips. Onto ungreased cookie sheet, drop dough by teaspoonfuls about 2 inches apart.

Bake 8 to 9 minutes or until set (do not overbake). Cool 1 minute; remove from cookie sheet to wire rack.

Source: Pillsbury