Biscotti di Vino

Biscotti di Vino is really just a fancy name for wine biscuits.  I love these little treats with a cup of coffee in the morning or as a snack in the afternoon… they always seem to hit the sweet tooth spot.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  •  Optional: 1/2  – 1 1/2 tsp  ground black pepper
    • Adds a nice little bit of spice – but if you’re making it for kids, I’d leave it out
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup dark red wine, the darker the better
    • You could also use white, but I think that the red gives them more flavor

HOW TO MAKE IT

  • Combine the dry ingredients
  • Add in the oil and wine and mix until it just forms a dough
  • Roll a small ball of dough out into a small cylinder and tie into a knot or just pinch into a round circle
  • Line up the biscuits on an ungreased baking sheet about an inch apart
  • Bake on the middle oven rack at 350°F for 20-25 minutes or until the bottoms are golden brown

Olive Cheddar Balls

It’s time to start making Christmas hors d’oeuvres around here… and I’m kicking it off with one of my Godmother’s recipes.  These are a great appetizer to have around for the holidays since they can easily be made ahead of time and frozen until you need them. 

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/4 lb. Cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • Approximately 30 Pimento olives

HOW TO MAKE IT

  • Combine all of the dry ingredients and blend well
  • Mix together the softened butter and grated cheese and then pour in the dry ingredients
  • Mix the dough together with your hands; if it seems too dry and crumbly, put it in the microwave for about 30 seconds to soften the mixture up
  • Take a spoonful of dough into your hand and roll it into a ball and then flatten it out
  • Place the olive in the center of the dough and wrap the dough around it
  • Round the dough ball out by rolling it in between your palms until it’s a perfect sphere
  • Bake on a greased baking sheet at 350°F for approximately 20 minutes or until the dough looks crackled and cooked and the edges are slightly browned

Oven Roasted Cauliflower

Now that we’ve all been binging on Thanksgiving food for the past few days, it might be time to eat something that’s a little lighter and not such a carb-overload.  It’s actually amazing how tasty cauliflower can be when it’s cooked like this – fitting into the post-holiday diet plan is a bonus.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • Olive oil
  • Kosher salt

HOW TO MAKE IT

  • Rinse the cauliflower and remove the florets – you can leave a good amount of stem attached to the floret
  • Brush or spray a baking sheet with olive oil (I’ve got the Misto and it works well)
  • Lay out your cauliflower florets into one layer
  • Spray the florets as generously (or not) as you desire
  • Sprinkle with salt, to taste (remember, you can always add…)
  • Broil on high for approximately 45 minutes – you’ll want to flip them over about halfway through to make sure they’re evenly browning

Twice Baked Potatoes

These twice baked potatoes take all of the tasty ingredients you’d see in a ‘loaded potato skin’ and put them inside the potato… not gonna lie, they’re hard to resist.

INGREDIENTS

  • 5 large Russet potatoes, scrubbed and pricked all over with a fork
  • Approximately 1/3 cup sour cream
  • Approximately 1/3 cup milk (add it in slowly, and stop when you’ve reached your desired consistency)
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded (or more if you desire)
  • 5 strips of bacon, chopped
  • Handful of chopped fresh chives
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Olive oil

HOW TO MAKE IT

  • Preheat the oven to 450°F
  • Rub with potatoes with olive oil and put them on a baking sheet, bake them in the oven for 1 hour
  • While the potatoes are baking, fry the chopped bacon in a skillet until it’s crispy and transfer onto a paper towel-lined plate
  • When the potatoes are done, let them cool off and then cut a large wedge out of the top of the potato and carefully scoop out the inside of the potato, leaving about 1/4 in. border of the potato inside the skin
  • Mash the scooped potato with a potato masher or ricer and add in the sour cream, milk, butter and and cheddar cheese
  • Season with salt and pepper and throw in the freshly chopped chives and bacon bits in the end
  • Fill the potato skins with the mashed potato mixture – you want the filling to be mounded up over the skins
  • Place the potatoes back on the baking sheet and put them back in the oven (still heated at 450°F)  for 15 minutes or until heated through

Maple Twist


This dessert is another one that can easily get away with being justified as a breakfast food.  It’s basically a glorified homemade cinnamon bun that looks really pretty (before it’s devoured).  It requires some time to make, but it definitely pays off.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup warm milk
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 package dry yeast (1/4 oz.), dissolved in 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 5 cups flour
  • 1 tbsp maple flavoring

CINNAMON SUGAR FILLING

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp maple flavoring
  • 1/4 cup of butter, melted
  • Optional: 1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
GLAZE
  • 1  1/2 cups confectioners sugar
  • 1/2 tsp maple flavoring (or 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract)
  • 2 – 3 tbsp milk
  • Optional: 1 -2 tbsp butter, melted

HOW TO MAKE IT

  • Mix together the dry ingredients: flour, salt and sugar
  • In a small sauce pan, warm the milk and add the butter to the warm milk – keep stirring until the butter has melted then let the mixture cool
  • Dissolve the yeast in 1/2 cup of water and add 1 tbsp of maple flavoring to the water, set aside
  • Add the milk liquid, yeast liquid and lastly the beaten eggs to the dry ingredients
  • Knead the dough with your hands and add in flour a little bit at a time until the mixture is moist but not sticky
  • Cover the dough with plastic wrap and place in a warm place away from any drafts (I always put my dough in the closet that has all the equiment for the TV because it gets so warm in there!)
    • Allow the dough to rise for 1  1/2 – 2 hours (or until the dough has doubled in size)
    • If your dough isn’t rising, it’s probably because the surroundings aren’t warm enough
  • Divide the dough into 3 balls
  • On a lightly floured surface, roll out each ball into 12 in. circles
  • Fit one layer of dough onto a greased baking sheet
CINNAMON SUGAR FILLING
    • Mix the ingredients together using your hands, if you want, to get it really well blended
  • Brush the dough with melted butter and evenly sprinkle 1/3 of the cinnamon sugar filling on top
  • Continue the same steps with the remaining 2 layers of dough (end with the cinnamon sugar filling exposed)
  • Use a small juice glass to mark a 2 in. circle in the center of the dough (be careful NOT to cut through the dough)
  • Make cuts from the outside edge of the glass out to the edge of the dough
    • You want to end up with 16 pie shaped wedges – the best way to do this is cut the circle in half and then keep cutting each section in half until you get 16 wedges
  • Twist each wedge 4 or 5 times
    • Remove the glass once you’re done twisting
  • Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let it rise again for about 1 hour
  • Bake at 325F for 22 minutes or until golden brown
GLAZE
    • Whisk together the ingredients and add more milk a little bit at a time until you reach your desired consistency
  • Drizzle the baked treat with the glaze while it’s still warm (but not too hot – about 5-10 minutes)

Classic Stuffing

This stuffing recipe is savory and delicious.  I’m going to be testing out some new stuffing recipes leading up to Thanksgiving, but this one is an old favorite.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 links of sausage, removed from the casing
  • 2 – 8 oz. containers of mushrooms (porcini, cremini or shitake), finely chopped
  • 1 bunch of scallions, finely chopped
  • 1 bunch of celery, finely chopped
  • 1 stick of butter (Optional: 1 more stick for mixing with the stuffing)
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 4 cups chicken broth (1 store-bought carton)
  • 1 bag of Pepperidge Farm Cornbread Stuffing
  • 1 bag of Pepperidge Farm Herbed Stuffing

HOW TO MAKE IT

  • Melt 1 stick of butter in a large saute pan and add in the chopped mushrooms, scallions, celery
  • Add in the loose sausage meat and saute with the vegetables
  • Saute the vegetables and sausage until the meat is cooked and the vegetables are tender
  • In a large bowl, mix the two bags of stuffing with the two eggs
  • Fold in the sauteed vegetables and sausage
  • Pour in 2 – 3 cups of chicken broth (Optional: 1 stick of melted butter in place of some broth)
    • You basically want to get this mixture to a very moist consistency, but not too wet
  • Butter the glass dish you’re going to bake it in and pack the stuffing into the dish
  • Pour some chicken broth on top or put small chunks of melted butter on top
  • Bake at 350° F for 45 mins covered – uncover and broil on low for an additional 5 minutes or until the top is golden and crispy
    • This dish freezes really well – so you can make it ahead of time (don’t bake it) and defrost it when you need it!

Chicken and Asparagus Wrap

I’m not gonna lie – I pretty much like anything wrapped in puff pastry.  This tasty wrap hits almost all of the food groups and isn’t too bad for you…  

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 lb. – 1  1/2 lb. chicken breast, cut it into 4 pieces and pound it until it’s at most 1/2″ thick – you’re going to be folding these over in 1/2 so they need to be thin enough to do that
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 cloves of garlic, whole but smashed with the heel of your hand
  • 1 large pinch dried thyme
  • 1 large pinch dried sage
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 12 spears of asparagus
  • 4 slices of ham (I like to use proscuitto)
  • 4 slices of sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 sheet Pepperidge Farm puff pastry, defrosted and cut into 4 rectangles
  • 1 egg, beaten + 1 tbsp water (egg wash)
ALTERNATIVE METHOD FOR APPETIZER VERSION 
  • 1 lb. – 1 1/2 lb. chicken breast – cut into approximately 16 pieces, pounded thin
  • Approximately 8 slices of ham, cut in half (I use prosciutto or honey ham)
  • Approximately 8 slices of sharp cheddar cheese, cut in half
  • Approximately spears of 16 asparagus
  • 2 sheets Pepperidge Farm puff pastry, defrosted and cut into 16 pieces
  • Dried thyme and sage for sprinkling
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 egg, beaten + 1 tbsp water (egg wash)

HOW TO MAKE IT

  • Season both sides of the chicken breast with salt and pepper
  • Dredge the chicken in flour and shake off any excess
  • Heat the butter, olive oil, garlic, thyme and sage over medium-low heat in a large frying pan – saute the garlic until it’s very fragrant and begging to brown, then remove
  • Add the chicken breasts and saute for 2 minutes on each side (they will not be cooked through)
  • Set the half-cooked chicken aside in a dish and let it cool
  • Place the asparagus in a bowl of water and put in the microwave for 2 minutes
  •  Lay out your chicken breast and wrap 3 spears of asparagus with ham – place the wrapped asparagus in the middle of the chicken breast and top with the cheese
  • Fold the chicken over so the asparagus, ham and cheese is sandwiched inside and stick a toothpick through it to keep it together
  • Repeat this with the remaining 3 chicken breasts
  • On a lightly floured surface, use your fingertips to spread the puff pastry into the shape you need to wrap it around the chicken breast, while leaving the ends exposed
  • Place the chicken breast on the puff pastry (remove the toothpick) and wrap it with the puff pastry – try to get the seam on the bottom
  • Repeat this with the remaining chicken breasts and then arrange them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (or sprayed with a non-stick cooking spray)
  • Brush the puff pastry with the egg wash
  • Bake at 350°F for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown
ALTERNATIVE METHOD FOR APPETIZER VERSION 
  • Lay out your pieces of pounded raw chicken and sprinkle with salt, pepper, thyme and sage
  • Next, put down the ham, then the cheese and lastly the 2 pieces of asparagus
  • Roll each bundle of raw chicken up and stick a toothpick in it to hold it in place while you prepare the puff pastry
  • Remove the toothpick and place the chicken bundle in the center of the puff pastry; fold the dough over the sides and pinch the ends to seal (basically, wrap it up like a package)
  • Place your chicken “packages” on a parchment paper lined (or greased) baking sheet; brush with the egg wash and bake at 350°F for 25 minutes or until golden brown

Wild Mushroom Risotto

This creamy risotto is full of so much depth and flavor… and making this dish is not as “hard” as it’s cracked up to be.  It’s totally a meal on it’s own, or great in a small dose as a tasty side.

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 cloves of garlic, whole but smashed with the heel of your hand
  • 3 shallots, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup chives, chopped
  • 1  1/2 cups Arborio rice
  • 1/2 lb. various mushrooms (I usually use a mix of 2 different kinds – you can use whatever you like: cremini, oyster, shitake, baby portabella), cleaned and sliced
  • 1 oz. dried porcini mushrooms
    • 2 cups of boiling hot water to rehydrate them
  • 1/2 cup powdered Parmesan cheese
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine (one you would drink)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 6 tbsp butter
  • Salt and pepper to taste

HOW TO MAKE IT

  • Soak the dried porcini mushrooms in 2 cups of boiling water and set aside for 30 minutes
    • After 30 minutes, remove the porcini mushrooms and puree them in a food processor – set aside
    • Pour the remaining water (mushroom stock) through a coffee filter or paper towel – sediment and sand will have settled on the bottom and you don’t want to eat that; put the mushroom stock on reserve, if it’s not quite 2 cups anymore add water to make it 2 cups
  • Pour 4 cups of chicken stock plus the 2 cups of mushroom stock into a small pot and bring to a simmer
  • Heat the olive oil in a medium heavy bottomed pot and add in the 3 cloves of garlic
  • Saute the garlic until it’s very fragrant and beginning to brown, then remove
  • Add the mushrooms and 3 tbsp of butter into the flavored oil, saute until the mushrooms are tender – about 5 minutes, then set aside in a separate bowl
  • Add the chopped shallots into the pot you used for the mushrooms and saute with the remaining 3 tbsp of butter for about 5 minutes
  • Add the cooked mushrooms (and all the liquid) to the shallots and then add in the rice – mix well coating the rice thoroughly
  • Pour in the white wine and cook for about 2 minutes
  • Add in 2 ladles of the chicken/mushroom stock to the mixture and season with salt and pepper – stir and simmer over low heat for 5-10 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed
  • Mix in a heaping tbsp of the porcini mushroom puree
  • Keep adding in 2 ladles of the chicken/mushroom stock at a time, stirring every few minutes – add in a heaping tbsp of the pureed porcini mushrooms each time as well
  • Continue until the rice is cooked through – you want it to be tender but ‘al dente’ and not mushy
  • This whole process should take about 25-30 minutes and you will use all of the liquid
  • When it’s done, the risotto will be creamy and thick, but not at all dry
  • Off the heat, pour in the Parmesan cheese and mix well
  • Lastly, add in the chopped chives and stir

Stuffed Zucchini

These pair perfectly with stuffed grape leaves.  When my mom makes a big pot, she usually combines the two together.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 cup basmati rice
  • 1/2 lb. ground beef
  • Approximately 10 narrow zucchini (cut in half)
  • 1 tomato, sliced
  • Salt and pepper to taste

HOW TO MAKE IT

  • First, prepare the pot
    • Place your slices of tomatoes along the bottom of a small pot – this will prevent the zucchini from burning while cooking
  • Soak the rice in very hot water for 1/2 hour – then strain
  • Mix the rice with the raw ground beef with your hands – season with salt and pepper
  • With a small spoon, scoop out the pulp of the zucchini until they’re hollow, but not open all the way through – leave about 1/8″-1/4″ around the interior wall
  • Stuff the zucchini with the rice and meat
  • Line the pot with the zucchini (if you’re also making grape leaves just randomly mix in the zucchini)
  • Place a small dish on top of the zucchini to add some pressure
  • Dissolve 1 tbsp of salt in 1 cup of water (for every cup of rice you need 2 cups of water) then pour the water into the pot
  • Cook it on high heat until it starts to boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low heat for approximately 1 hour
  • Check to see if the zucchini is cooked – once it’s cooked, pour in 1  1/2 oz. of fresh lemon juice
  • If the rice is not quite cooked, add in more water a little bit at a time (2-3 oz. at a time)
  • Once the rice is cooked, turn off the heat and let the pot settle while covered for at least 15 minutes
  • When you’re ready to serve, put a large round platter face down on the pot and tip the pot over
  • Serve with fresh pita bread and plain yogurt
    • If you have extra rice and meat, cook it in a small pot as you would normally cook rice (roughly estimate how much water you need – rule of thumb is 2 cups water to every cup of rice)

Stuffed Grape Leaves

This Middle Eastern classic is my mother’s specialty.  These barely last through dinner when she makes them…

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup basmati rice
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 jar of grape leaves (or freshly picked grape leaves) – approximately 100-150 leaves
  • 1 tomato, sliced
  • Lamb chops (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

HOW TO MAKE IT

  • First, prepare the pot
    • Place your slices of tomatoes along the bottom of a medium pot – this will prevent the grape leaves from burning while cooking
    • If you want to use lamb chops, brown them 1-2 tbsp of butter first and then place them on the bottom of the pot, too, in between tomato slices
  • Soak the rice in very hot water for 1/2 hour – then strain
  • Mix the rice with the raw ground beef with your hands – season with salt and pepper
  • Boil the grape leaves (jarred or fresh) in water for about 2 minutes – you want them to be tender, but not too tender
  • Place the leaves in the strainer and cut off the stems – if the leaf is too big, cut it in half (ideally, the leaf should be about 3.5 in. wide)
  • Lay out a grape leaf and and place a heaping tbsp of rice and meat in the center of the leaf – form it into the shape of a your index finger up to your knuckle (same size, too)
  • Fold the sides over onto the rice and meat and roll it up like a small cigar
  • As you roll the leaves, line them up in the large pot that you have already prepared
  • Tightly arrange the stuffed grape leaves as you roll them – this can take a bit of time!
  • Place a small dish on top of the leaves to add some pressure
  • Dissolve 1 tbsp of salt in 2 cups of water (for every cup of rice you need 2 cups of water) then pour the water into the pot
  • Cook it on high heat until it starts to boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low heat for approximately 1 hour
  • Check to see if the leaves are cooked – once they’re cooked, pour in 3 oz. of fresh lemon juice
  • If the rice is not quite cooked, add in more water a little bit at a time (2-3 oz. at a time)
  • Once the rice is cooked, turn off the heat and let the pot settle while covered for at least 15 minutes
  • When you’re ready to serve, put a large round platter face down on the pot and tip the pot over
  • Serve with fresh pita bread and plain yogurt