Sunday, November 22, 2015

Italian Cookies

Yes, it is early for holiday baking but it isn't too early to sample and make certain which cookies make the cut!  This cookie recipe certainly makes my cut.  They have a lovely texture, light anise flavor and are not overly sweet.

I had help making this batch of cookies.  I made a recent trip to Seattle.  While there, Sabine and I made cookies.  She helped me measure, level and dump the dry ingredients as well as signal me when the egg had been combined so I could add another.  She is quite the helper and, she is the queen of sprinkles.  We only lost a few this time!

Italian Cookies
adapted from Noble Pig

Yield:  About 50 small cookies (varies by the size rolled)
Preheat oven: 375° F.


1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup shortening
3/4 cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs

3 cups all-purpose flour
5 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp table salt
2 tsp. anise extract (vanilla or lemon may be substituted)


3 to 4 Tablespoons milk
2 cups confectioner's sugar
1 tsp anise extract

Nonpareils for decoration.

In a medium-size bowl sift the flour, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.

In a medium size glass bowl microwave the butter and the shortening together.  (The shortening should be fresh.)  Pour the butter and shortening into the mixer bowl.  Beat the melted butter and shortening together until incorporated.  Add the sugar and mix well.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each, about 1 minute each.  Mix in the anise extract.

Slowly add the flour mixture to the creamed mixture.  Mix until incorporated, scraping down the bowl as necessary.  Do not overmix.  If the cookie dough is too sticky to roll in the palm of your hand, add a bit of flour.  The dough should remain very soft so be careful adding additional flour.

Roll the cookie dough in small balls and place them on ungreased cookie sheets.  Bake at 375° F. for 8-10 minutes.  The bottoms of the cookies should be lightly browned but the tops should remain light in color.

When removed from the oven, immediately transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool.  Cool the cookies completely before glazing.

For the glaze, slowly blend the milk with the powdered sugar and anise extract.  The glaze must be thick enough to adhere to the cookie.  Dip the top of each cookie into the glaze.  Sprinkle each cookie with nonpareils.  Set them aside to dry and set up completely.


These were the perfect little morsels to enjoy with a cup of coffee or tea.  I tried them with both just to make sure!

Beef and Beer Pie

While we are all putting together menus, buying groceries, or busy making turkey stock, don't forget that you must eat between now and Turkey Day...and preferably not poultry!  At least, that is what I am thinking at the moment.  We enjoyed this Beef and Beer Pie recently.  It was just right on the one cold day that we had last cold day, one fire in the fireplace, one delicious savory pie, also known as comfort food!  It was wonderful and cozy.

I found the recipe at All Roads Lead to the Kitchen hosted by Heather.  It was just perfect for us!

Beef and Beer Pie
adapted from All Roads Lead to the Kitchen

1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 - 2 1/2 pounds sirloin, cut into 1-inch cubes
4 Tbsp unsalted butter, divided
2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
1 medium onion, cut in half and thinly sliced
2 large carrots, sliced into 1/4-inch coins
5 small red potatoes, washed, cut in half and quartered
8 ounces crimini or white mushrooms, quartered
1 Tbsp tomato paste
12 ounces dark beer, such as Guinness Stout
2 cups beef stock or beef consomme
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
Small bunch fresh thyme (12-15 sprigs)
Kosher salt
Ground black pepper
1 pie crust (your recipe of choice)
1 egg, beaten

In a large bowl, toss the beef chunks with the flour, salt and pepper, until evenly coated.

In a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat, melt 2 Tablespoons butter and 1 Tablespoon olive oil.  When melted and very hot, add one half of the coated beef cubes and allow to brown on all sides, about 8-10 minutes.  Remove the browned beef to a plate and set aside.  If the bottom of the pots looks dry, add the remaining butter and oil.  Repeat the process with the second batch of beef.

Lower the heat to medium.  Return the beef, that you set aside, to the pan.  Add the onion, carrots, and mushrooms.  Cook, stirring often, until they just begin to soften, about 6 minutes.  Stir in the tomato paste and allow to cook for another 2 minutes.  There should be a base layer (browned bits and caramelized drippings) that has built up on the bottom of the pot.  Slowly pour in the beer, using a spoon to stir and scrape the caramelized bits off the bottom of the pot.

Add the beef stock, Worcestershire and bundle of thyme to the pot along with a few twists of fresh pepper.  Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce the heat to low, just so its still simmering gently.  Let it cook for about 2 hours, until the meat is tender and the liquid has thickened.  Remove the pot from the heat.

Remove the bundle of thyme and any stray stems.  Scoop the filling into a 9-inch deep dish pie plate or small casserole dish.

Preheat oven:  400° F.  Prepare baking sheet by lining with foil.  (This will catch drippings and save you from a messy oven!)

Prepare the dough.  Roll out the dough to 1/8-inch thickness and the size of the dish or slightly larger. Place the dough over the top of the dish.  If you are not using a pie plate, turn the edges under to fit just inside the dish, press to seal.  Gently brush the top with the beaten egg mixed with 1 Tablespoon of water.

Set the dish on a baking sheet, that has been lined with foil, and slide into the preheated oven.  Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the crust has browned and the filling is hot.  Remove from the oven and allow to sit for 10 minutes before serving.

Note:  After pouring the beef mixture into the dish you may continue or cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hours.  If you refrigerate the mixture, when you are ready to bake, allow the mixture to return to room temperature before continuing.


Great comfort food and easily adaptable.  I love the depth of flavor that a good stout adds to a dish! The vegetables can be adjusted to suit your taste.  For example, the original recipe did not call for potatoes but there were some in the pantry begging to be used.  So....   Easy and delicious.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Carnitas Pizza with Chipotle-Avocado Crema

After making that beautiful pan of carnitas and enjoying some wonderful tacos, the question beckons about what to do with the leftovers.  That was easily solved on Heather's blog, All Roads Lead to the Kitchen, she suggested making pizza!  We were up for that.  It is an easy way to use leftovers and have a tasty dinner.

The best thing about pizza is that you may select your own toppings, so really....anything goes....and any amount is just fine!

Carnitas Pizza with Chipotle-Avocado Crema
adapted from All Roads Lead to the Kitchen

Pizza dough of your choice
olive oil
1/2 onion sliced in half and thinly sliced
1/2 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and thinly sliced
1/2 yellow bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and thinly sliced
1 jalapeño, stemmed, seeded and chopped
1 1/2 cups tomatillo salsa or salsa verde
12 oz. mozzarella cheese, shredded
3 cups Carnitas, warmed
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup pickled banana pepper rings
1 avocado, cut into chunks
Chipotle-Avocado Crema (see below)

Preheat oven:  475° F.

Put a light coat of olive oil in the bottom of the pan.  Roll the dough to the appropriate size.  Set aside.

In a medium skillet over medium heat, heat 1 to 2 Tablespoons olive oil.  Add the onion, bell peppers, jalapeño and sauté about 20-30 minutes until golden and caramelized.

Spread the salsa over the pizza dough, leaving about a 1-inch border all around.  Sprinkle the shredded mozzarella, pickled banana peppers and sautéed vegetables evenly over the crust.

Bake in a preheated oven for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the crust is golden and cooked through and the cheese is bubbly.

When removed from the oven, immediately divide up the warm chunks of carnitas, green onion and avocado chunks over the pizza and then drizzle with the Chipotle-Avocado Crema.

Chipotle-Avocado Crema
2 chipotles in adobo sauce
1 avocado, pitted
1/2 cup Mexican crema
1 lime, juiced
kosher salt, to taste

In a blender combine chipotles, avocado, crema, lime juice and salt.  Puree until smooth.  Set aside.


What a quick and easy dinner and a great way to use up leftovers in the refrigerator.  I can see this easily's pizza....anything that you like goes!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Carnitas....So Easy!

Living in California we enjoy our fair share of Mexican food and we never seem to tire of it.  We love the combination of spices that never fail to tickle the palate.  We never reject a margarita either!

There are Mexican dishes that I have prepared and others that I cannot explain why I have never prepared them.  Carnitas is one of those that I had never prepared until recently.  I was exploring Heather's blog, All Roads Lead to the Kitchen trying to determine which pie recipe I would make and found a recipe for Carnitas Pizza.  Since pizza has been known as pizza pie it seemed a great choice and right up my alley.  To make the pizza, I had to first make carnitas.

Just what are carnitas?  Carnitas means "little meats" and is usually made by braising or simmering pork in oil or preferably, lard.  The process takes a few hours but it is well worth the wait.  The meat is moist and tender with crispy outer edges.  We usually serve it in tortillas with some diced onion, chopped cilantro and maybe some tomatoes and guacamole.  Delicious.

Heather adapted a recipe by Rick Bayless so I knew it was going to be amazing....besides, there was no oil and no lard!  We were not disappointed.  I can see carnitas being made good and so easy.  I have no idea what cut of meat I used as when I went looking for the pork shoulder or country spare ribs, I found some pork labeled "pork for carnitas".  (Guess that could be rather scary!)  I figured I would give it a try.

Slow Roasted Pork Carnitas
adapted from Heather at All Roads Lead to the Kitchen
and Rick Bayless, Mexico One Plate at a Time

3 1/2 - 4 pounds pork shoulder cut into 4-inch slabs
Kosher salt
1/3 cup water

Preheat oven:  375° F.

Cut the slabs of pork in half.  Salt them liberally on all sides.  Arrange them in a shallow roasting pan or casserole dish without crowding.  It may be necessary to use two dishes.  Pour 1/3 cup water around the meat.  Cover the pan tightly with foil.  Bake for one hour.  (If you are using two pans, pour 1/3 cup water in each pan.)

Raise the oven temperature to 450° F.  Uncover the meat and cook until the liquid is completely reduced and only the rendered fat remains, about 30 minutes.  Roast the meat about 20 minutes longer turning the meat every 7 to 8 minutes until lightly browned.  Break the meat into fairly large pieces.  Serve on a warm platter and sprinkle with salt.

Note:  If the carnitas will be served in a taco or burrito, the meat should be broken down into the appropriate size.

Did I mention that the carnitas were delicious?  Yum!!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Lemon Icebox Pie - Blogger CLUE

What a month....any of you who follow my blog know that pies are my nemesis.  I have tried, over the years, to overcome my frustration.  I have made a few that I think are outstanding....I have also made some that weren't even recognized as a pie.  It's the crust. I seem to fail transferring the crust to the pie plate.  That seems like a small thing to master but one would need to practice and the frequency with which I make pies could not be considered practicing!

So......when I looked at my Blogger CLUE assignment and realized that I had been assigned Heather, "Queen of Pies", at All Roads Lead to the Kitchen, and that the theme for the month of November was pies, well, I took pause.  What to do?  Cherry Crunch Pie was at the top of the list...fresh cherries, not happening this time of year, frozen cherries not available.....on to the next choice....Cherry Pinot Noir Pie....I am fixated on cherries.

How about pizza pie?  Is that a cop out?  Never.  Carnitas Pizza with Chipotle Avocado Crema...that's it!!  Oh how delicious the carnitas were!!!  But, I didn't want to make that my choice.  How about Beef and Beer Pie?  That  pie was also delicious....even if I didn't have a pie bird and cut my fall leaves into the crust poorly.....delicious!  Then, I spied lemons...a Lemon Icebox Pie...the lights flashed and I ran outside to checkout out our lemon trees.

This was a super easy dessert and one that I know I will make again and again.  I used graham crackers instead of Maria Cookies as I couldn't find the cookies.  I also added some Lemon Oil and a sprinkle of lemon zest on top!  We loved the Lemon Icebox Pie as did our neighbors!  Delicious.

Lemon Icebox Pie
adapted from All Roads Lead to the Kitchen
and Recipes and Dreams by Tessa Kiros

4 1/2 oz. crushed graham crackers or Maria Cookies
2 to 4 Tbsp brown sugar (omit if using graham cracker crumbs)
9 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
pinch of sea salt

1 cup heavy cream
12 oz. sweetened condensed milk
2 large lemons, juiced, zest of one lemon
1/2 tsp lemon oil
pinch of sea salt

Line a 9" X 5" loaf pan with a long sheet of parchment paper and set aside.

Put the cookies into the food processor with the brown sugar (Start with the lesser amount and add to adjust the sweetness to your desired preference.) Pulse until there are fine crumbs.  Add the melted butter and salt.   Pulse until mixed.  Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and press into an even layer into the bottom.  Set aside.

Whip the heavy cream to stiff peaks.  Add the sweetened condensed milk and whip again to incorporate.  Add the lemon juice, lemon oil, and sea salt.  Whip to combine. The mixture will be thick.

Transfer the mixture over the crust and level the surface.

Sprinkle lemon zest over the top of the pie.

Cover and refrigerate until set, at least two hours.  Cut into squares and serve.


Heather loves food and cooking.  She has so many recipes from which to choose.  Perusing her blog was fun and I did make the Carnitas and the Beef and Beer Pie....both of these will be posted later this week.  I will be going back to make the cherry pies.

Take a look at the recipes that other group members selected.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Breakfast for Dinner: A Bacon, Potato Omelet! - SRC

At our house when I don't feel like cooking....when I am at a loss as to what I should prepare....I usually turn to breakfast for dinner.  I love a big breakfast but it is way too much food for me in the morning so moving breakfast to dinner takes care of the craving and I don't feel as though I "had to cook!"  

I hate to say it, but, when I got my Secret Recipe Club assignment, I wasn't really feeling as though I wanted to cook. That is nothing against my blog assignment, it was a reflection of my level of energy at that moment in time.  And, yes, I had the whole month, but I also knew we had to eat dinner so on this day, I went directly to the Breakfast section of my assigned blog, The Tasty Cheapskate maintained by Jean.

Jean says that she didn't grow up cooking even though her mom was a cost-conscious cook and always prepared meals for the family.   Jean said that "whole foods" were lost on her and that she only ate foods that were fat free.  Today, she cooks and prepares healthy foods while maintaining the cost-consciousness that she learned from her mom.

As I perused the breakfast options I was almost swayed by the German Pancakes and the Healthy Pumpkin Muffins but I was looking for a protein dish.  Refocusing, I considered the Swiss Egg Bake, and the Potato, Bacon and Cheddar Egg Bake....both would have been fine but Mr. T. was "hungry" so I opted to go with the egg bake that had bacon and potato!

As it turned out the recipe Jean made was an adaptation of Ina Garten's Omelet for Two in Barefoot Contessa At Home.  I have a small library of Ina's cookbooks and always enjoy her, I was ready to give Jean's recipe a try....with a few minor adjustments.  I prefer to use onion sparingly in dishes.  To me, it can be overpowering.  Mr. T., also, really likes bacon....really likes in "Don't skimp on the bacon!"  Naturally, I increased the amount.

Breakfast for Dinner:  A Bacon, Potato Omelet!
adapted from Jean at The Tasty Cheapskate 
and, Barefoot Contessa at Home by Ina Garten

Yield:  2-4 servings

4 slices bacon, cut crosswise in 1/2 to 1-inch pieces
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 cup red potatoes, skin on, medium dice
1/4 cup yellow onion, chopped 
5 extra-large eggs
2 Tbsp half and half or milk
1 tsp kosher salt
fresh ground pepper, to taste
3 scallions, chopped, both white and green parts
4 ounces extra-sharp cheddar cheese, diced, plus some grated for the top

Preheat oven:  350° F.

Cook the bacon in an 8-inch ovenproof pan over medium-low heat until crisp.  Drain the bacon on paper towels and discard the fat remaining in the pan.  Add the butter to the pan followed by the potatoes.  Cook the potatoes for about 5 minutes then add the onion.  If an additional tablespoon of butter is needed, add it.  Cook the potatoes and onion until the potatoes are tender, yet firm, and the onion has started to brown.

In a medium bowl, beat the eggs, milk, salt and pepper.  Stir in the scallions and the diced cheese. When the potato is cooked, add the bacon to the pan and pour over the egg mixture.  Place the pan in the oven for 15 minutes, until the eggs puff up and are almost cooked in the center.

Sprinkle the grated cheddar on top of the omelet and return it to the oven for another minute.  Serve directly from the pan.

Note:   The onion cooked much faster than the potato.  I have adjusted the preparation process to allow the potatoes to cook a little prior to adding the onion.

This was a tasty omelet and guess what?  We are having breakfast for dinner tonight...a repeat!  

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Braciole Napoletane aka Beef Rolls Stuffed with Fresh Mozzarella, Capers and Olives

Did I mention that I am going to Italy in the spring?  I am just a bit excited!  I have never been to Italy so this is an adventure that I am eagerly awaiting.   Between now and then I decided that I ought to take a look at some of my cookbooks and do some regional cooking.

The first dish we tried was Braciole Napoletane.  Braciole is a specialty of southern Italy...Naples to Sicily.   It is pieces of thinly sliced beef rolled with a variety of fillings.  The rolls can be grilled, fried or cooked in a marinara sauce.  The first time that I had this dish was years and years ago at a friend's home. It was cooked in a marinara sauce. The meat was so very tender and tasty.  I don't know why it took me so long to search out a similar recipe.

Braciole Napoletane
Beef Rolls Stuffed with Fresh Mozzarella, Capers, and Olives
adapted from How to Cook Italian by Giuliano Hazan

Yield:  Four servings as a main course

1 1/2 pounds thinly sliced sirloin steak
6 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese
12 Kalamata olives, pitted, sliced
1/2 cup fresh grated Pecorino Romano
2 Tbsp capers
2 Tbsp bread crumbs
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Preheat the grill.

Pound the beef slices to 1/4-inch thick.  If needed, cut the slices so each slice is approximately 4-inches wide and 6-inches long.  Lightly season the meat with kosher salt.

Slice the mozzarella in 1/4-inch slices.  Place 2 or 3 slices on each piece of beef.  Place the olive slices over the mozzarella.  Sprinkle the Pecorino Romano on top.  Next, sprinkle on the capers and bread crumbs.  Drizzle a little olive oil over each slice.  Roll the beef slices loosely, just overlapping the ends and secure with small skewers or toothpicks.

Place the rolls on the grill.  Brown on all sides.  Cover the grill and cook for about 5 minutes until the meat is cooked through.  Serve hot.

Note:  The rolls may be assembled in advance but no more than one hour in advance.  Held longer, the rolls will become soggy.


This recipe appealed to me because I love fresh mozzarella and capers!  We grilled the rolls and they were tasty.  I still think of the long ago rolls cooked in the marinara sauce and wonder if stuffed rolls would remain in tact if prepared in the marinara....maybe tied....  We shall see....

I am sharing today at Full Plate Thursday hosted by Miz Helen's Country Cottage.