Thursday, September 30, 2010

Recipe Inspired

I am thrilled to share with you how a friend took one of my recipes from this blog and was inspired enough to create her own version. Michelle is the step-mom of a very special young lady whom I had the pleasure of having in my 6th grade class a few years ago.

The recipe I am referring to is the spaghetti squash casserole. Instead of mussels, she used boneless chicken breasts. First she sauteed them in olive oil, shallots, garlic, and white wine. Then she added the tomatoes and threw in pesto and spinach at the end. For the rest of the recipe, scroll down to the post entitled "These Days I'm Loving Leftovers."

Michelle reports that her family loved it! Clean plates, and full bellies all around! Thanks for sharing this, Michelle, and I definitely plan on trying your version. It looks delicious!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Big Event

Well, it finally arrived. The big event, my sister's wedding. Those of you who know me well are aware of how long I have been planning, changing, planning again, stressing, and obsessing over this one. Everything went well and I was very happy with the result, but there were some last minute changes along the way.

I ended up making the tiramisu cake as planned, but instead of cutting the two layers, I made four separate layers to make it a larger cake. I decorated the outside of the frosted cake with the rolled wafer cookies and a ribbon around it, but the colors were so.... BROWN. So- I looked over at the sugared flowers that my daughter Carly did for me (she just started culinary classes so was excited to come and help with the baking!) and it occured to me to place them on the top of the cake. They were originally meant to garnish the limoncello cupcakes but as it turned out, they were a bit too big for the cupcakes so this was perfect. It's amazing how that little bit of color on top of the cake made it extra special.

The cupcakes recipes went through a sort of evolution through all of this. I knew I wanted an Italian theme to go with the tiramisu, so the first one I picked was a limoncello. There were several recipes to choose from, but in the end I decided to make the cupcakes from Jamie Oliver's website and the frosting and garnish from a website called "Tartlette." (I also borrowed the idea of using the nut cups from that site, instead of using cupcake liners. Second, I knew I wanted to do something with Nutella, so I found a recipe for a cupcake with one of those hazlenut truffles- Ferero Roche baking right into the cupcake. Then I decided to frost it with the Nutella buttercream frosting from This is the site where I get most of my cake and frosting recipes. And last but not least, I wanted to make a Sicilian cassata cupcake and since it doesn't seem to exist, I had to invent it myself!

I made a cassata for my dad's 70th birthday party and it got rave reviews, so naturally I thought all I needed to do was to make the cake and pour it into cupcake liners, fill it with the ricotta filling, frost it with chocolate and garnish it with candied citrus and pistachios. Wrong. The cake recipe (originally Emeril's...) does not lend itself to cupcakes AT ALL, so I had to start all over. So I went to my tried and true and made their wonderful yellow cake as a base. I fully intended to fill it with ricotta but then I realized that I had a whole bunch of mascarpone filling leftover from the tiramisu cake so I decided to use that instead. I didn't like the looks of the candied citrus peels at the store, so Carly and I made them ourselves. That was a lot of fun! And when it is done, you're left with a citrus simple syrup. So I cut out the center of the vanilla cupcake, drizzled the hole with the syrup, filled with the mascarpone filling, replaced the top, covered it with the "glazy" chocolate from the original cassata recipe and topped it with the candied citrus and a few pistachios. I invented a cupcake!

Perhaps the biggest surprise in all of this is that I made the cupcake display from stuff I found at JoAnn Fabrics. Now, other than knitting, I am NOT a crafty person, and I had no idea what I was doing. But sometimes I just jump right in even when I have absolutely no experience or knowledge. Thankfully it turned out well (this time anyway....).

I will say what I said after I made the baby bump cake for my niece Jamie's baby shower. SO MUCH WORK BUT SOOOOOO WORTH IT! I don't think I could ever do this for a living like my talented friend Jill, but to cook, and bake and create for the special people in my life I truly care about-- it's a labor of love.

Monday, September 6, 2010

These Days I'm Loving Leftovers!

These days I'm loving leftovers. That's when I've been venturing out of my recipe comfort zone and becoming more inventive.

Over the weekend, we had a family cookout and I had asked Tim to make his famous, mouth-watering mussels. Well come to find out, only a few people in my family care for mussels. So although the mussels were thoroughly enjoyed by my mom, my sister Jen, her husband Dave, Carly, Tim, and me, I don't think anyone else even tried them. And so we were left with lots of mussels and the delicious sauce he makes them with.

Before I continue with my post about leftovers, I need to take a little jaunt to describe how these mussels are made. Several of my friends have asked for the recipe, but Tim rarely uses a recipe and the mussels are no exception. So I've pinned him down to explain the process. First, he sautes garlic and shallots in oil and butter (more butter than oil). Then he throws in the mussels and about a cup to a cup and a half of dry white wine, and steams them until they open. He finishes it off with his homemade pesto (I'll have to share that another time, but let me say it is so good he should bottle the stuff!!) and some grape tomatoes. He gives it a stir, allowing the tomatoes to heat. That's it! We usually dunk a hearty whole grain bread in the sauce which makes it even more enjoyable!

So as I was explaining, we had mussels and sauce leftover. Typically, I would just make whole grain pasta the next day and pour the mussels and sauce over it- and that is really delicious, but Tim and I wanted to avoid the heavy pasta the day after the big cookout, so my wheels started spinning.

This is what I came up with: I started with spaghetti squash, which we have substituted for pasta before. If you've never done this, you really should try it! You feel like you are eating pasta but instead you are getting a nutritious vegetable! I roasted the spaghetti squash in the oven on 375 for 40 minutes. You'll need to cut it in half lengthwise, scoop out the pulp and seeds like a pumpkin and put the two halves cut side down on a baking sheet. After the squash was roasted and somewhat cooled, I stripped it into long strands with a fork and transfered it into a glass baking dish. Next, I dumped all of the mussels (we'd removed them from the shells the night before) and sauce (with the grape tomatoes)into the dish. I mixed in some thawed spinach which I had LEFTOVER from a turkey recipe a few nights before and some dallops of ricotta cheese. I sprinkled some grated pecorino over the top and baked it in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. Five minutes before it was ready I topped it with a few fresh mozzarella slices.

What do you know? I invented a recipe! And it was delicious. AND I used food that may have remained unused and eventually thrown out.

But that's not the end of the leftover story. We also had a huge gallon-sized bag of grilled chipotle lime chicken leftover after the same cookout. (There is always too much food at our get-togethers!) So I cut some of it up to equal two cups, exactly what I need for my chicken enchilada recipe. I labeled that and put it in the freezer since we've had the enchiladas recently. It will be ready for next time! And now we still have plenty of chicken to use for sandwiches during the week.

So as you see- I'm the leftover queen lately!