Monday, July 9, 2012

july 4th

ahh, summer.  if you read my last post you will know i love summer.  everything about it.  i love the heat, the outdoor activities, the energy, and the food.  the july 4th holiday is a perfect tribute to summer.  i had such fond memories of the holiday as a child.  our backyard neighbors always hosted a neighborhood party.  it was full of delicious BBQ'd food, potluck salads and desserts like you've never seen before.  there were games for the kids, but my favorite was catching fireflies.  running around barefoot capturing one after another and dumping them into a mason jar in hopes they would live until the morning (they never did).  oh and there were fireworks.  glorious loud fireworks.  it first started with sparklers for the kids and then progressed to the large fireworks display where everyone grabbed a chair and oooed and awwwed at the spectacular.  the same guy every year always shouted "it's a beauty!" at every one.  and the crowd would always laugh.  it was great.  it was summer.

each year i hope for a great 4th of july and i always seem a little disappointed.  the fireworks are never like i remembered as a kid.  the food was never in abundance.  it just wasn't the same.  until this year.  we went to our friends house for the afternoon.  it was hot outside, almost unbearable, but just as i remembered as a kid.  the one thing that was noticeably different this year was my son, enjoying himself as an almost two year old.  last year he had no clue and didn't get it.  this year, he still had no clue, but got it.  he and his buddies splashed in sprinklers, squirted each other with water hoses, and squealed with delight all afternoon.

the food was delicious, just what a 4th of july BBQ should be.  my specialty, taco dip, was the appetizer.  and nothing goes better with taco dip than a red white and blue sangria that i made.  the first course was BBQ ribs that had been on the grill all day.  the meat literally fell off the bone.  my son repeatedly said, "mama i want to do it" and took a rib of his own and started gnawing away.  i laughed at him with BBQ sauce from ear to ear, and well, literally head to toe.  but that's what eating ribs is all about, right?  2nd course was grilled skirt steak marinated in my special sauce and grilled shrimp kebabs.  throw in a few "nathan's" french fries and you have a perfect july 4th meal.

what was for dessert you ask?  my friend, sarah, made her special strawberry cake that is the epitome of summertime and i brought these.
chocolate covered strawberries and chocolate covered marshmallows (both dipped in sprinkles for a little added fun).

then it was fireworks time!  sarah's husband, mike, brought out sparklers.  my heart melted.  kids faces were exploding with joy.  there was abundant laughter, squeals, clapping, everything that goes with young kids and sparklers.  there was a line of kids, 4 and under, watching my husband, and his cousins set off "big" fireworks.  i use the term "big" loosely as they were really glorified bottle rockets, but the kids didn't know the difference.  they had a front row seat to a pretty cool fireworks show.

suddenly, the 4th of july was just as awesome as i remember it as a kid.  all it took was for me to have a child of my own and see the holiday through his eyes.


Tuesday, July 3, 2012

60th birthday party

my father in law turned 60 this past week and i swear we've been celebrating his birthday for weeks now, and we're not finished.  i still have to pack my car with my almost two year old and my husband and drive to the cape to spend the weekend with my in-laws for yet another birthday celebration.  don't get me wrong, i adore my father in law, but enough is enough.  the thing is, all he wanted to do for his birthday was have a simple backyard BBQ at our home.  that's all he wanted.  instead his wife planned a surprise party for him at the beginning of the month, a trip to the sagamore and the upcoming trip to the cape.  as sick as i am of celebrating this man's birthday, i still felt obligated to throw him the backyard BBQ that he actually wanted. 

summer is my favorite time of year.  even more so now that my son runs rampant in the backyard playing with sprinklers, toys, balls, pools, the garden hose, anything.  it's great to sit and relax on the patio while watching him play, have a drink, do some BBQing and enjoy the summer air.  since i love being outside so much during the summer, i have really taken to BBQ menus.  i've actually become quite good on the grill, but my husband, being the man's man that he is, won't quite give me the reins.  we are a nice BBQing duo, i plan the menu, prep the food and he does the grillin'.  it works. 

so for this special 60th birthday celebration here is what was on our menu.  try to not drool too much, but it's OK if you do a little.
grilled skirt steak (marinaded in my own special recipe which i will share with you at some point in time.)
cumin spiced grilled shrimp
grilled corn on the cob with cilantro lime butter
lemon pasta salad
gourmet green salad

with all of this, who saved room for dessert, right?  oh there was room for dessert.  yellow birthday cake with chocolate frosting and homemade strawberry ice cream. 

you're drooling, aren't you?  i am.  i don't want to spill all of my favorite recipes in my first few blog posts so i thought i would share the one that was a little out of the box for me.  (you'll have to check back later for the others.) 

i had a great childhood and i have great childhood memories.  i want to create the same wonderful memories for my son.  one of my fondest memories as a child was my mother's homemade ice cream.  she wouldn't make it often (probably why i remember it so fondly, because it was for only special occasions), but she always made it on my birthday.  i can still taste it.  i don't know what ingredients she used or how she did it, but it was so yummy.  it was a process too.  i mean like an all day process.  (probably another reason why she didn't make it often.)  but in my own opinion, it was so worth it. 

it recently occurred to me that somewhere in my over packed attic i have an ice cream maker.  believe me, this one is nothing like the one my mother had, and thank goodness for that.  it is compact and makes ice cream in like 30 minutes + freezing time.  amazing.  it comes with a very tiny instruction booklet with a few basic recipes in it.  i took the basic recipe and added in some of my very own goodness.  enjoy.

mama says:  my father in law who just may be my toughest food critic said he thought the ice cream was delicious, as did all the others who tried it.  i on the other hand thought it was little too icy tasting.  however, i can not wait to continue experimenting with the ice cream maker.  i believe the flavor possibilities are endless.
mama's drink:  you might be shocked to hear me say this, but i think i was without drink in hand while eating this ice cream.   

adapted from cuisinart

2 cups sliced strawberries
3 T. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup sugar, divided
1 cup milk
2 cups heavy cream
splash of vanilla extract - optional
white chocolate chips - optional

1.)  In a small bowl, combine strawberries, lemon juice, and 1/3 cup of the sugar.  Let macerate for approximately 2 hours.

2.)  In a large bowl combine milk and remaining sugar.  Using an electric mixer blend until sugar has dissolved, approximately 2 minutes.  Add juices from strawberries.  Then add heavy cream and splash of vanilla extract.

3.)  Pour mixture into Cuisinart ice cream maker.  Mix/freeze for 20 minutes.  After 20 minutes, add the strawberries and chocolate chips if using.  Continue mixing/freezing for another 5 minutes. 

4.)  Freeze.  Remove from freezer 5 minutes before serving to let thaw slightly.


Sunday, February 26, 2012


i've recently started to frequent BJ's Wholesale Club. What can I say? I have a toddler who eats me out of house and home. i buy in bulk. the worst thing one can do when going to these kind of stores is go there hungry. on this particular day i went there starving. not a good idea. when i arrived back home and started unpacking the groceries i realized i bought what seemed to be everything that could possibly NOT be good for you. chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwiches. frozen yogurt bars. graham crackers (i must say, my son will eat these). pasta. cheese slices. veggie chips. and oreos. yep, that's right a big ol' box of oreos. my husband's face lit up like a christmas tree when he came across the box of oreos as it is one of his favorite junk food items. i too love oreos, but having a ginormous box of them in the house is not a good idea.

so naturally i wanted to bake something to at least get rid of some of the oreos. what could be better than an oreo cheesecake? (have i mentioned that any kind of cheesecake is my all time favorite dessert? you'll start to pick up on a cheesecake baking trend as my blog progresses.) i started researching oreo cheesecake recipes and stumbled across a blog, Handle the Heat, which had a recipe for "Cookies and Cream Cheesecake Cupcakes". i've already told you cheesecake is my favorite dessert, but cupcakes are my second favorite, and oreo cookies are my third favorite. JACKPOT! i couldn't wait to make them.

mama says: i always try to take recipes and add my own little flair. for this one, i added white chocolate chips to the batter. i topped each cupcake with whip cream and a fresh raspberry. divine!

mama's drink: you know it...Bailey's Irish Cream! i also think a cappuccino would be amazing with these or a big tall glass of ice cold milk.

adapted from Handle the Heat, originally from "Martha Stewart's Cupcakes"

42 cream filled sandwich cookies, such as Oreos. 30 left whole, 12 coarsely chopped
2 lbs cream cheese, room temperature
1 c. sugar
1 t. vanilla extract
4 large eggs, room temperature, lightly beaten
1 c. sour cream
pinch of salt
1 c. white chocolate chips (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Place 1 whole cookie in the bottom of each lined cup.

2. With an electric mixer on medium high speed, beat cream cheese until smooth. Gradually add sugar and beat until combined. Beat in vanilla.

3. Drizzle in eggs, a bit at a time, beating to combine and scraping down the sides of bowl as needed. Beat in sour cream and salt. Stir in chopped cookies and white chocolate chips if using by hand.

4. Divide batter evenly among cookie lined cups, filling each almost to the top. Bake, rotating pan halfway through, until filling is set, about 25 minutes. Transfer to wire rack to cool. Refrigerate at least 4 hours. Remove from tins before serving.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012


this weekend was bananas. b! a! n! a! nas! ok, sorry. a little ode to gwen stefani. i'm not a fan of bananas. if, and i stress if, i eat one, it has to be at my definition of perfectly ripe. it can't have an ounce of green on it and if there is brown on it, lightly speckled will only do. it's not worth the hassle to try and find that perfect banana. however, my husband and son, are completely different stories. my husband will only eat banana pancakes and will eat banana breads, banana muffins, banana cookies (are there such things), by the bucket loads. my 17 month old son, has a morning routine where he walks straight into the kitchen, points to the corner where our fruit basket sits and says, "nanana, nanana, nanana" (you get my drift), until i pick the banana out of the basket and peel it for him. in which he then tries to shove the whole thing into his mouth. the rest of the day, he wanders into the kitchen, and the whole scenario repeats itself again.....

needless to say, i buy bananas in bulk. whenever i'm at the store, i pick up a bunch. i can't keep them in stock in my house. this past week, though, the bunch that i bought seemed to ripen really quickly. they were solid brown before i knew it. what do i do with all these bananas? wait a few more days until the weekend and make banana pancakes for the boys? i can't, the smell of overly ripe bananas makes me gag. another loaf of banana bread? nah. seems to elementary. a banana cake? hmmm, now we're getting somewhere. banana cheesecake? bingo! i may not be a fan of bananas, but the one thing i am a fan of, is cheesecake!

i instantly googled banana cheesecake recipes and stumbled across a version of the one below from one of my favorite food blogs, vanilla sugar blog. it called for a topping of caramel rum sauce, which sounds amazing, but i just didn't have the time to make it. instead i bought the caramel sauce for sundaes and drizzled that on top. it was fabulous. my father in law, who is very particular about "his cheesecake" told me i should package it up and sell it.

mama says: also bought in bulk in my house are graham crackers for my son. instead of using graham cracker crumbs, i coarsely ground whole graham crackers. the thick chunks of graham crackers mixed in with some fine crumbs was divine.
along with the store bought caramel sauce, i cut a banana in thick chunks and placed it on top. oh, and of course, some homemade whipped cream.

mama's drink: uh, hello?!? bailey's irish cream! or any coffee based drink will do too.

from Vanilla Sugar Blog

24 oz. cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup white sugar
3 eggs
4 mashed bananas, really ripe
2 t. vanilla extract
1 t. fresh lemon juice

2 cups graham cracker crumbs
3 T. dark brown sugar (i used light brown sugar and it tasted fine)
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
a pinch of kosher salt

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9" springform pan.

2. In a small bowl, mash the ripe bananas and sprinkle the teaspoon of lemon juice on top of them.

3. Mix all ingredients for the crust in the bottom of springform pan. Firmly pat the ingredients into the bottom of pan. Bake for 10 minutes.

4. In a mixing bowl, combine cream cheese and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one a time, beating well after each addition. Then add bananas and vanilla extract. Mix well.

5. Pour into crust. Bake for 1 hour or until center is not jiggly.

6. Cool in oven for 1-2 hours. Remove from oven. Chill in refrigerator for at least 3 hours.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

vanilla custard

have i mentioned yet that i work for an appliance manufacturer? maybe if i ever get my "about me" page up and running i will include that information, but for now, i do. i sell appliances. actually, i don't really sell them, i'm a manager of a high-end appliance gallery. yes, with expensive appliances, we don't call them showrooms, we call them galleries. i'm making jokes about the prices of these appliances, but all joking aside, they are really. amazing. appliances. so amazing that a few years ago i couldn't take coming home to my kitchen with lack-luster appliances anymore, so i convinced my husband to renovate our kitchen. i can now say my kitchen is fully equipped with these really. amazing. appliances.

so working for this company and loving to cook, allows me a few perks. one of them being i get to try out recipes. what could be better, right? they actually WANT me to cook while on the job! i cook for the fun of it and i cook for people. the other night we hosted a dinner. i was the head chef. the meal was simple. we try to show off the appliances, not the food. however, dessert, while still simple, was divine. it could very well be the simplest dessert i have ever made and yet so impressive.

mama says: a couple of notes here. 1.) the appliance this dessert was cooked in, was a steam oven. i'm going to assume most of you don't have a steam oven. the unfortunate part is i have yet to try these desserts in a standard oven using a bain-marie. why would i when i have a steam oven in my own home and a steam oven at work? i promise, once i experiment in the standard oven, i'll let you know. until then, do yourself a favor and buy a steam oven! 2.) the recipe calls for 4-6 oz. ramekins. i used martini glasses. the presentation was absolutely stunning.

mama's drink: if you still have some red wine left in your glass from dinner, continue to sip. if it's after dinner drink time, nothing goes better with these custards than Bailey's Irish Cream. or for those of you who aren't so, indulgent, a good hot cup of coffee will do too.

*Serves 12

1 quart heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
6 large egg yolks
1 large egg
3/4 c. granulated sugar
Fresh Blackberries and Mint (for garnish)

10-12 oz frozen blackberries
1 c. seedless blackberry jam
1/4 c. water

  1. Pour the cream into a heavy saucepan. Using the tip of a knife, split the bean lengthwise, then scrape the seeds free from both sides of the bean if using, into the cream and add the pod. Heat the cream over moderate heat until bubbles begin to form around the edge of the pan but do not boil. Remove from heat and discard the vanilla pod.
  2. Whisk together the yolks and egg and granulated sugar in a large bowl until well combined. Add hot cream in a slow steady stream, whisking constantly until combined. Pour custard through a fine-mesh sieve into a large measuring cup to remove any lumps.
  3. Divide the custard evenly among twelve 4-ounce ramekins. Place ramekins in two perforated steam trays. Carefully slide trays into steam oven. Select CUSTOM or COOK mode at 212° F. Steam for 25 minutes or until custard are just set in the center. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to 2 days.


  1. Heat frozen blackberries, water, and jam in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for 10 minutes or until berries become soft.
  2. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a medium bowl, pressing on solids to extract as much liquid as possible; discard solids. Refrigerate sauce until ready to serve.
  3. Just before serving, pour 1 to 2 tablespoons of blackberry coulis over custard, garnish with fresh blackberries, mint, and whip cream.

Recipe courtesy of

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

roasted roots

ok i was contemplating what dish to feature in today's blog as i made the most amazing dinner EVER last night. i mean a real, this dinner is totally going to get me laid, kind of dinner. it was actually a shame it was only for me and my husband. i think i was forcing the leftovers on my nanny today. and if i get home and find she didn't eat ANY i'm going to be pissed! ha! i'm totally joking, i'm not going to be pissed. but this meal was just too good to not be shared with others.

i was still debating whether to share the salad, the risotto or the roasted turkey recipe until today when i created another dish using my leftovers from last night. another dish so scrumptious i almost (and i mean almost) forgot about last night's dinner altogether.

roasted root vegetable salad with diced roasted turkey breast and warm goat cheese patties. i know, not what one would call a "catchy title", but it is what it is. i first started making the basic part of this salad, courtesy of Giada DeLaurenteiis, a few months ago for the in-laws and loved it. then i made it again for my family over the holidays and loved it. i added a few additional ingredients and we had the leftovers the next day for brunch. last night i took the base of the original salad, made a few adaptations, brought it to work with me today, made the goat cheese patties, and called it a day.

mama says: use any kind of root veggies you have available to you. the original recipe calls for parsnips and carrots. last night i bought a package of already cut veggies that contained beets, parsnips, butternut squash, and fennel. i added slices of red onion. (ps. the red onion slices take less time than the other veggies therefore they got really crunchy and tasted just like the fried onions you buy in a can, but healthier...and better.) also, i topped this salad with diced pieces of leftover roasted turkey breast. this was a great addition to the salad, but by no means necessary.

mama's drink: last night i used a st. francis chardonnay in my risotto and of course poured myself a glass (or two) with my dinner. today during lunch, although i was wishing i had another glass of chardonnay, i just had water.

Roasted Root Salad with Warm Goat Cheese

*Serves 1-6 people (depending on how hungry you are)

A variety of root vegetables, peeled and diced
12-18 peeled red pearl onions or 1 red onion thinly sliced
2 T. extra-virgin olive oil (I eyeballed it)
3/4 t. herbes de Provence
3/4 t. kosher salt
1/2 t. freshly ground black pepper
a mixture of lettuces (Arugula is a must)
1 ripe pear, halved, cored, cut into thin wedges
handful of golden raisins
Apple Cider Vinaigrette, recipe follows
1/2 cup chopped nuts

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

In a large bowl, combine the veggies. Add the oil, herbes de Provence, salt and pepper; toss to coat evenly. Scatter the vegetables on a large nonstick rimmed baking sheet and roast for 20 minutes. Turn the vegetables over and roast until tender and beginning to brown, 15 to 20 minutes longer. Set the vegetables aside.

In a salad bowl, combine the lettuces, pear slices, raisins and roasted vegetables. Add the Apple Cider Vinaigrette and toss until coated. Sprinkle with the chopped walnuts. Plate salad, top with warm goat cheese patties and serve.

Apple Cider Viniagrette
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

In a medium bowl, whisk the vinegar, honey, salt and pepper until blended. Gradually whisk in the oil. Yield: about 2/3 cup.

Warm Goat Cheese Patties


Goat cheese (you decide the amount)

1 egg lightly beaten

Plain bread crumbs

Kosher salt

Herbes de Provence

1 T. olive oil

Heat olive oil in a heavy non-stick skillet. Meanwhile roll goat cheese into balls, flatten into a thick pancake-like shape. First roll patty in egg then in separate bowl dredge patty in bread crumbs seasoned with salt and herbes de provence. Place patties in skillet. Turn patties after 3-5 minutes or until golden brown on each side.

Monday, January 23, 2012

cozy meals

it's january in NYC. it's cold. and over the weekend we received our first snowfall of the winter! did i mention it is cold? nothing makes me happier in the winter than cooking a hearty, warm, comfy meal. you know the meals that warm you up as you eat them? a meal that goes perfectly with a glass of red wine and a fire. well, then again, in my humble opinion, what doesn't go well with a glass of red wine and a fire? this weekend i cooked soup.

i found this recipe on my new favorite food blog and it's so worth making. who doesn't love mexican, right? and in a soup form? brilliant! it's simple, i had all the ingredients in my fridge and pantry (i made a few adaptations) and it took no time at all. it makes a large batch so fill your tupperware containers and save/freeze for leftovers.

mama says: instead of using russet potatoes as the recipe calls for, i used more butternut squash. (i had plenty of squash as i had planned on making butternut squash soup until i found this recipe.) i also used a can of fire roasted tomatoes, drained of their liquid, that i had in my pantry instead of the tomato sauce.

mama's drink: i know i said a cold winter's night meal is best served with a glass of red wine, but tonight i sipped on a skinnygirl margarita while eating this soup.

The Best Chicken Enchilada Soup

recipe from Mel's Kitchen Cafe

*Serves 8

2 quarts (8 cups) low-sodium chicken broth
2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 3-4 chicken breasts)
1 (3.5 ounce) can chopped green chilies
1 large yellow onion, peeled and quartered
4 medium russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded and cut into large chunks
3-4 cups butternut squash cubes (from about 1/2 of a medium butternut squash, peeled and cut)
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
1 cup sour cream, light or regular
1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
2 cans white beans, like Great Northern, rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons taco seasoning (homemade version here)

In a large pot, add the chicken broth, chicken breasts, green chilies, onion, potatoes, pepper, butternut squash, garlic, salt and cumin. Bring the mixture to a boil and simmer, covered, until the chicken is cooked through and the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes. If there doesn’t seem to be enough liquid for the vegetables/chicken to boil in, try adding in 1-2 cups water but don’t add too much extra liquid or the soup won’t be as thick as it should.

Remove the chicken from the pot to a cutting board. Let it cool slightly before shredding or dicing. Ladle the remaining vegetables and broth into a blender (in several batches, if needed) and puree the broth and vegetables until smooth. Take care not to overfill the blender since the mixture will be hot and will expand as it blends! Pour the pureed soup mixture back into the large pot. Whisk in the sour cream and tomato sauce. Stir in the taco seasoning, beans and cooked chicken. Cook until heated through.

Serve the soup with additional toppings: tortilla chips, sour cream, shredded cheese, avocado, pico de gallo or salsa, etc. The options are endless!