Malto Mario


The Lady & Sons

1,000 Italian Recipes

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Hey You!! Check Out My Buns!

I wonder how many post titles will reference checking out someone's buns today..

Surprise! It's the September Daring Baker challenge day! WOOO!

Actually this month, I made the challenge at the beginning of September - like a day or two after the recipe was announced. That's not like me, kids. Not only am I the Queen of Dorkdum, but I am also the Court Jester of Procrastination. True story.

So it was kinda cool to be the first of the DB'ers to get her challenge done - even gave my fellow baking friends a sneak preview of how they turned out. I was feeling kind of efficient there for a minute. =)

Here's the rub.. I don't remember jack shite about my baking experience this month. Do you know how many days ago that was?? I can't remember what I wore yesterday and I'm suppose to recall baking something a month ago? Shhhaaahh. As if.

The good news is.. I documented my experience - or rather the hour or so before I started baking - on our private Daring Baker blog. And yeah.. going back and reading what all happened slightly frightened me. I found it mildly amusing. And yep! I'm pretty much completely embarrassed. *blush* But this is me.. Imma dork.. there's no denying it - so I'm going to allow you, dear friends, to peek inside my head when I've had no sleep - am in excruciating pain - and have decided to drink lots of caffeine with a pain killer chaser.

Oh yes.. this would be the time to clear the children from the room.


Sunday, September 2
Good morning Kmart shoppers!!

'kay that title makes no good sense but I have been up since 2:30 this morning due to the most exquisite FUBARED back EVER in the history of FUBARED backs EVER.

But do not pity thy pain.. this too, shall pass. Ugh. To compensate, I've had 2 pots of coffee and a glass of iced tea (it's now 6:30ish) along with some sinfully delicious prescribed narcotics! Holy crap I'm ZINGING. Right now? My brain is like a fart in a frying pan.. *ting* *ting* *zip* *ting*

What the hell to do with all of this chemically induced energy?? Why bake cinnamon and sticky buns, OF COURSE! Because this would be THE BEST time to work with yeast! I'll have conquered my fear of it and not even remember it in a few hours! PARTY ON, WAYNE! NO!!! PARTY ON, GARTH!! SCHA-WINNNNNNNNNNGGGG!

Okay so I've read the recipe about ELEVENTY kazillion times.. go ahead - ask me a question about it. Quiz me!! I KNOW THE ANSWERS!


I have questions :P

Firstly - The husband type person is going on a fishin trip with his brother today - therefore the unlucky bastard is NOT going to get any fresh from the oven buns. Everyone.. all at once.. "AWWWWWWWWWWWWWW" So, being the kind-hearted wife type person, I thought I'd freeze half the buns for him to enjoy another day.. So first question is.. do I treat this dough like my pizza dough and freeze it after the first "fermentation" and the cutting/shaping of the buns but BEFORE the 2nd proof? Or should I freeze them after they've proofed? I would think it's before.. ?

Secondly - couple things in the recipe weren't quite clear.. I'm pretty sure I know how I'm going to bumble through this as I doubt any of you more experienced bakers will see my PSYCHOTIC post before I get to work.. but I figure if I'm a tad confused, there might be someone else in the same boat.

But before I ask.. HI NEWBIES!! Welcome! Are you SO EXCITED over this month's challenge?? I am! I've asked Marce to have my babies because SHE ROCKS. Ohh and be sure.. your one half of the founding duo truly is not always THIS AWAKE. Fear not, young bakers. =)

Okay on to the other questions..

Firstly, or make that secondly as I've already used up my firstly question (see above)

Secondly, how long are you suppose to cream the sugar, salt & butter when making the dough? Until it's light and fluffy? Or just until it's all mixed together? (I'm going for light and fluffy but ONLY because it's a light and fluffy kinda day!)

Thirdly - The recipe specifically says to loosely cover the sticky buns before the 2nd proof.. but does not say to cover the cinnamon buns.. so.. do I not cover the cinnamon buns or do I cover? (hopefully someone will answer this burning question by the time it's ready to proof)

And lastly.. no wait. Thirdly was lastly. Sorry.

Thank you SO MUCH for your advice and direction.. I am forever grateful!


UPDATED: Why does it say I posted this at 6:24 when my computer says it's 6:51?? ALSO and much more importantly.. don't forget La Festa al Fresco!!! DUDES you MUST attend.. we made favors for everyone.. those wee plastic shoe shaped lil containter type thingies - full of CHICKLETS. Yes CHICKLETS. Now how long has it been since you've chewed on a fruity Chicklet? I KNOW! Forever, isn't it?? Well if you come to the party your Chicklet cravings will be taken care of! Not that we're trying to bribe you into coming.. but kids? It's CHICKLETS. :P


Posted by Lis at 6:24 AM

Aren't I preshus? Mmm hmm.. let this be a lesson to you all! DO NOT blog while hopped up on caffeine & narcotics! I'm pretty sure you can bake that way though - hopped up on caffeine & narcotics, that is. I have no mysterious bruises, cuts or burns to speak of - so it must have went well, yes?

So on with it..

Mise en place
You start by putting all of this stuff in a big silver bowl and then you..

Cinnamon/Sticky roll dough
apparently use this thing to mix it all up

Dough right after kneading
And then when your done, you get this ball of dough that you put into a totally different bowl - I'm assuming it must be blue? And then you leave it alone for a while.

Cinnamon/Sticky buns
Once you wake up from your drug induced nappy, you throw that ball on a counter top and use your rollie thing to make it oddly mishapen and flat..

I did say oddly mishapen, yes?

Log o'cinnamon/sticky buns
Following the flattening and the sprinkling of the good stuff, you roll it up into a giant cigar like object.

Sliced log o'cinnamon/sticky buns
Next, you take your bench scraper and chop! chop! chop! chop! chop! chop! Chop your bootie! Chop your bootie!

Cinnamon Buns!
Then you've got some options.. you can put your pillowy rolls on a baking sheet (or pizza pan if you are using caffeine & prescribed narcotics) or you can...

Slather a pie plate (or some thing with sides) with the dreamy caramel mixture and then...

Sprinkle liberally with nuts and raisins - or be a rebel and use Trader Joe's "Golden Berry Blend" which includes plump golden raisins, tart dried cranberries and sweet, oh so sweet, dried blueberries.

Raw Sticky Buns
Notice the difference in swirl size? This was the 2nd batch I made - and apparently I decided to revert back to my pot smoking days (har! Ask anyone.. I smoked pot once and puked 4 minutes afterwards) or maybe I was reverting back to a previous life when I roamed the wild west with just my horse, Ethel, and rolled my own tobacky.. cuz these rolls are much tighter. :P

And then you let them sit there - doing absolutely NOTHING. And you can watch them.. but please, from my own experiences? I'd rather watch a pot of water come to a boil.. it's QUICKER. No wait!! Paint drying! YES! I'd rather watch paint dry.. it's QUICKER. So go curl up on the couch with a big fluffy pillow and a warm comfy heating pad and fall asleep for about 90 minutes.

After you've came to.. toss 'em into a nice warm oven for about 15 minutes and wait for the deliciousness..

Sticky Buns
The caramelly deliciousness..

Cinnamon Rolls
Or the glazed cinnamon-y deliciousness..

Amazingly - my back felt better after eating one of each. Go figure.

If you'd like to make these beautiful cinnamon rolls and sticky buns for yourself, you can get the recipe over at Marce's - She was this month's hostess and dear sweet jebus she did a most excellent job in not only picking a fabulous recipe but in being there for all of our questions and moments of panic. As was the rest of the group - how lucky we are to have so many wonderful members!! Prepare yourself for October kids.. we've got 80 new Daring Bakers waiting in the wings.. all excited to start baking with us! Well.. almost as excited as we are to have them. =)

Sticky Buns

Now fill the rest of your morning with more fantastic stories of cinnamon roll/sticky bun baking by heading for the Official Daring Bakers Blogroll and start clickin'!

Cinnamon Rolls


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Thursday, September 27, 2007

Why yes.. you DO look good in that garlic!

One of my most favoritest gals who just happens to write one of my most favoritest blogs is Danielle of Habeas Brulee. Danielle and her fiance, Dave are known for their creativity in the kitchen. They come up with some fantastic dishes that not only sound delicious but are rarely of the ordinary. Each post she shares features a fresh and new recipe, with a story of how the idea, and creation of, took place. I seriously look forward to reading each new post! I've even been known to try a couple of her recipes out and lemme tell you.. she's not just a excellent writer, photographer and lawyer - she's an amazing cook! (holy crap I haven't blogged about her Cocoa-Nana bread yet! DOH!)

Anyhoo.. when I saw that she has decided to host a one-off event called "Yes, Of Course You Can Pair Garlic With That!", I knew I'd be participating. The premise of this event is to use an ingredient(s) that you'd not normally associate as pairing well with garlic. It's a way to be inventive, to play around with you food and quite possibly, come up with something amazing.

Now the burning question was.. what the hell am I going to pair with garlic?

Garlic and Brown Sugar Chicken

Admittedly, I am not too adventurous in the kitchen. I mostly make staples that my mom or dad taught me, I chose recipe bases that are familiar to me - that I can almost taste before actually making it - and my idea of living on the edge is trying a brand new recipe that doesn't call for butter, mayo or chocolate. :P So I was pretty confident that whatever I did try, it wouldn't go too far out of my comfort zone - I mean, hell, I've got the Daring Bakers for that kinda recipe making right? Okay so not too far away from the zone but also something that I've never made before - this had to be a new recipe.. No.. not ice cream. No.. not lavender cookies with garlic chips. No.. not sweet and sour garlic - although, that doesn't sound too shabby. Hmm.. what about brown sugar and garlic? Garlic gets sweet when it's roasted.. brown sugar is sweet but not too sweet. Hmmmm... that's it! I got lucky quickly - I did a search for garlic and brown sugar on my favorite Recipezaar site and found a recipe for Crockpot Garlic Brown Sugar Chicken, with 208 ratings, and 4.5 stars I figured it's got to be good. I had also wondered where the hell have I been my whole life because, obviously, the old brown sugar/garlic combo was not a first. Duh.

Garlic and Brown Sugar Chicken

I did a couple things differently, but I doubt they made any difference in taste to the finished dish. I didn't have Sprite or 7-Up, so I subbed key-lime flavored sparkling water. My chicken was a lot smaller than the recipe called for, since there is just Hubbs and I, so my cooking time was drastically shorter - I think about 4.5 hours on low made my wee bird almost fall apart. And finally, since cooking in a crockpot does not promote crispy skin, I had to transfer the bird from the crockpot to a 450º oven for about 20 more minutes to attain delicious crispedy, lip smackin' & finger lickin' good skin.

Garlic and Brown Sugar Chicken

This chicken was delicious but the garlic wasn't as pronounced as I'd hoped it would be. I even added an extra TBS. of minced garlic, figuring I'd make it super garlicky, but no.. not so much. I served it with roasted vegetables in a balsamic sauce and basmati rice. FanFarkingTastic. This dinner will be made again in the near future - with more garlic, a little less liquid and 1/2 the sugar. I have a feeling it will be perfect then.

Garlic and Brown Sugar Chicken

I think Jaden should make it and let us know if I'm correct. ;)

Check out Danielle's Habeas Brulee in the near future for delicious dishes featuring lots of garlic and lots of.. stuff.. that doesn't normally pair up with garlic! Yeah!!

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Monday, September 24, 2007

SHF No. 35 - The Beautiful Fig!

When Ivonne told me, way back when, that she'd be hosting an upcoming, Sugar High Friday, I knew I'd participate regardless of the theme she chose. I knew back then, that whatever she'd choose would be a favorite of mine - and I was right. The fig! I love them! Turned on by my Dad when I was a wee girl, I've ate them often during my 40 *gasp!* years. But I've learned something about the fig through using them in this really pretty and delicious cake.

I don't like figs after all. Go figure.

Okay well that's not entirely true. I love dried figs.. sweet, soft & crunchy. Just yummy - especially a fig stuffed with a lil mascarpone and then wrapped up in a paper thin, buttery slice of Proscuitto de Parma. *swoon* What I realized was, I'd never tasted a fresh fig before! They are gorgeous all dark purple and light green in spots (we're talking Mission Figs here) on the outside and then this amazing mauve like color on the inside.. SO PRETTY! But then when I popped one gorgeous lil slice of fresh fig into my mouth, I kinda stopped dead in my tracks. My jaws seized and my eyes kinda bulged a bit. The gag reflex started and I desperately looked for the garbage can. After I spat that thing out I wondered what the hell did I just put in my mouth? I don't recall dippin' into the litter box for a lil poo-poo platter.. I distinctly remember picking up a lil slice of beautiful fig.. what the hell?

Okay so maybe it wasn't that bad.. but I definitely do not like the slightly musty and otherwise unflavor of a fresh fig. They are not sweet like their lil dried selves. At least the fresh figs that I bought weren't. So I'm curious.. did I get a bad batch or is this the way figs uhh.. don't taste?

Well what the hell was I suppose to do with the lil carton I bought now? I thought about halving the rest and roasting them with a lil honey drizzled on top.. but I didn't want to hurt my honey. It's golden and sweet and nature's candy (oh wait, isn't that raisins?) no way did I want the unflavor to touch it.. of course I called my Guru. Sheesh, I don't think I make a move in my kitchen anymore without calling South Carolina for assistance. hee! I catch her as she, her hubby and her parents are out joy riding on their boat in the middle of the Atlantic, watching dolphins no less! But because she's a sweetheart she took the time to help me think of something to do with the remaining figs. Her suggestion was a sorbet - which was a good suggestion, but we realized I didn't have enough figs for the task. So then I asked, "well, what if I just dump them in the cake? Will the unflavor shine through and ruin it?" She didn't think it would, so that's what I did.

Fig Preserve Cake - the batter Fig Preserve Cake - The Preserves

I also had a bag of dried Mission figs, so I chopped them up and added them as well.. what the hay, right? It's a Fig Extravaganza! so I'd better go all the way, yes?!

Well 45 minutes later, I pulled out a seriously gorgeous dark golden cake from my oven - which, by the way, smelled heavenly. I let it cool for a few minutes, then turned it out onto a plate and made the buttermilk glaze that I was suppose to drizzle over the top while still warm.

Fig Preserve Cake Slice

Heeee that was an experience.. not that it has much to do with this post, but I also, somehow, in my psychotic brain decided that it'd be a good time to finish up making dinner at the same time. I should have taken pics, but I was too embarrased. Firstly, I had decided to double the glaze recipe as I wanted extra to pool onto a plate before laying a slice down (always thinking of the photo!!) BUT I read the recipe wrong and QUADRUPLED the amount of buttermilk it called for.. I kept wondering to myself, "Why the frig is this stuff so thin?? Shouldn't it have thickened up a bit??" Yeah.. well no.. no amount of stirring and boiling was going to make that sauce thicken up. So I poured it down the sink and tried again, this time reading and following the instructions - a novel idea, dontcha think? :P

So I've got powdered sugar EVERYWHERE by now. I've got roasted veggies in a skillet next to the glaze and a big pot of Basmati rice on another burner - with my Garlic & Brown Sugar (because Yes! You Can Pair Garlic with Brown Sugar!) Chicken (that I'll be posting about in a couple days.. look forward to it, because it rocked, friends.. IT ROCKED!) removed from the crockpot and sitting in a roaster so I can crisp up the skin in a 450º oven. Every counter was completely filled with ingredients, a crock pot, dirty dishes, towels.. towels everywhere, and powdered sugar. Fakkin stuff is worse than flour.

Fig Preserve Cake With Fresh and Dried Figs

But I digress.. this post is about the Fig Preserve Cake.. which was mighty delicious. Those fresh figs cooked nicely in the batter and were a tad sweet when I bit into one.. no musty unflavor to speak of. The dried figs added a lovely chew and the texture of this buttermilk based cake was outstanding.. so dense and creamy if you will. I loved it. I spiced the cake up with cinnamon and nutmeg to kick it up a notch and those flavors paired perfectly with the figs. This is a super easy cake to put together and you definitely get a big bang for little effort. As I was telling a friend, this cake is so good that I'll make it again and again using different fruits to suit my tastes. Right now I'm thinking pears or apples and cranberries around the end of November. :D And I'd also love to try this base recipe with smooshed bananas to compare it to my all-time favorite banana cake.

Fig Preserve Cake Slice
Fig Preserve Cake with Buttermilk Glaze
Adapted from and @ngdarlen

1 1/2 c. sugar
2 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground allspice (I omitted)
1/2 tsp. ground cloves (I omitted)
1 c. vegetable oil (I used 1/2 c. canola oil & 1/2 c. pear sauce (like applesauce)
3 eggs
1 c. buttermilk
1 TBS. vanilla extract
1 c. fig preserves
1/2 c. chopped pecans or walnuts (I omitted)
I added - about 8 fresh Mission figs, chopped and about 15 chopped dried Mission figs

Buttermilk Glaze
1 1/2 c. powdered sugar
1/4 c. buttermilk
1 TBS. butter
1 tsp. vanilla extract
I added - 2 TBS. Grand Marnier (because my fig preserves had a lil orange in it so I thought the Grand Marnier would be nice.. it was. *hick*)

Combine first 8 ingredients in a large mixing bowl; add oil and eggs, beating well at medium speed with electric mixer.

Add buttermilk and vanilla, beating well.

Stir in preserves, fresh & dried figs and pecans or walnuts, if using.

Pour batter into a greased and floured 10 inch tube pan. (I used a 10 c. Bundt pan)

Bake at 350º F. for 1 hour or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. At 45 minutes, my cake was a beautiful dark golden brown and completely done.

Cool in pan 10 minutes; remove from pan and place on serving platter.

Pour buttermilk glaze over cake while both are still warm.

Fig Preserve Cake Slice

Buttermilk Glaze
Melt 1 TBS. butter in saucepan over low heat, add the buttermilk and the powdered sugar, heat till dissolved, then add 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and 2 TBS. Grand Marnier if using.

If the glaze is to thin or thick add powdered sugar or more buttermilk accordingly until you get the consistency you like.

So here it is, Ivonne! My contribution to Sugar High Friday - The Beautiful Fig! I'm delighted with the outcome and I hope you are too. =)


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Sunday, September 16, 2007

Food To Live By...

Catchy title, isn't it? I didn't come up with it and I can't take the credit.


Food To Live By is the title of an awesome organic cookbook written by Myra Goodman (with Linda Holland and Pamela McKinstry) of Earthbound Farm. Earthbound Farm might ring a bell to many of you.. you might see their organic produce in your grocery stores, or if you are lucky, you might have visited their Farm Stand in Carmel Valley, California.

Myra and her husband Drew, started organic farming as a way to make ends meet. Selling the raspberries that grew on their land, eventually grew into a pretty huge organic salad business. As a matter of fact, did you know that Earthbound Farm is the first producer of bagged salads? Yep.. true story.

Drew and Myra, their family and employees are all very passionate about organic farming. There are no pesticides used in anything they grow and they continually strive to produce the healthiest fruits and vegetables possible. From a raspberry to lettuce business, Earthbound Farm is now the leading producer in over 100 different varieties of organic salads, vegetables and fruits. And this has all happened within the past 23 years.

Because the Goodman's use no chemicals on their crops, their fruits and vegetables are sold at the peak of freshness. Most within 24 hours of picking. Today, having an abundance of left over produce isn't a problem.. but back when they were first starting, there was always lots of left over fruit. What else could Myra do, but learn how to cook with these "leftovers" and over the years her passion for cooking with organic foods has led to the writing of this book, Food To Live By.

So why, dear friends, am I writing about the Goodman's and their organic farming? Well two reasons. The first reason came by chance about 2 months ago when a lovely woman, Lilli, decided to write to me about how she enjoyed my lil blog and had enjoyed reading a post I had just written regarding our garden this year. Lilli was working as an intern at Earthbound Farm this past summer and she offered to send me Myra's book. I couldn't have been more flattered. Of course, I accepted.. how could I not? Soon I'd have more veggies than I'd know what to do with it and a cookbook who's theme is fresh vegetables and fruits would be the perfect cookbook for finding just the right recipes to use up our harvests. And so Lilli sent me this book and I sat down with it that night and was pretty much delighted with what I was reading.

So before I go on with my 2nd reason, I want to thank you, Lilli. For introducing yourself to me, for your lovely comments, for this cookbook that I now treasure and for becoming a friend. I look forward to hearing all about your adventures at college! =)

Maple Almond Granola

Now for my 2nd reason? Well hey it's time for Weekend Cookbook Challenge No. 20 - this time it's back in Sara's talented hands and this month she's chose the theme of "Show and Tell" which she describes as "Pick a cookbook from your collection that you think we should know about. Your favorite, your funniest, your strangest. Whatever. It's your choice."

So you see.. how could I not pick this book.. you guys SO NEED to KNOW ABOUT THIS BOOK! The recipes are completely droolworthy.. the photos? Amazing. Myra's writing? She makes you feel as if you're a close friend.. it's like she's speaking directly to you and sharing with you her experiences.. it is really one of those books that is entertaining because of both the yummy recipes and a good story to boot!

Maple Almond Granola

Although I have made a few recipes by now.. the Ziti with Ratatouille; the Garlicky String Beans; Provencal Tomato, Eggplant and Zucchini Tian; and Homemade Chai - all of which have blown us away.. SO GOOD!! I can not blog about them as per the publisher's instructions, but that's okay! Because I got to try another recipe that I've had my eye on from the night I read through the book, but haven't gotten around to making yet and that is Earthbound Farm's Famous Maple Almond Granola. This recipe is approved by the publisher's so I can share this totally addicting recipe with all of yous. :D

Firstly, I have to say.. I took this opportunity to play a little bit.. 2 reasons again. Firstly, I'm not a huge granola cereal lover. I like granola to snack on, as does Hubbs. Secondly, I've got a boatload of dried fruit in my pantry and a couple other odds and ends that I felt would be just way yummy in this granola. So, I followed Myra's instructions to a T.. but I added a lil extra of my own. :D

Maple Almond Granola

One word of advice if you decide to make this.. it makes about 8 cups of granola. Double it. Seriously. I just made it and we've already put quite a dent in it.. it won't last until the end of the week, I can guarantee it. heee!

Earthbound Farm's Famous Maple Almond Granola
Adapted from Food To Live By Myra Goodman
Workman Publishing, 2006

Maple Almond Granola Ingredients

4 1/2 c. (18 ounces) old-fashioned rolled oats (not instant)
1/4 c. (3 ounces) shelled, raw, unsalted sunflower seeds
1 1/2 c. slivered or coarsely chopped raw almonds
2 TBS. ground cinnamon
1 1/4 c. pure maple syrup, preferably Grade A Dark Amber
1/3 c. canola oil
1 c. raisins

Maple Almond Granola Fixin's

My additions:
1 c. chopped dried mango
3/4 c. chopped dried pineapple and papaya
3/4 c. dried blueberries, cranberries and strawberries
3/4 c. dried Oceanspray orange scented cranberries
3/4 c. butterscotch chips
3/4 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 325º F.

Place the oats, sunflower seeds, almonds and cinnamon in a large bowl and stir to combine. Add the maple syrup and oil and stir until all the dry ingredients are moistened.

Spread the granola on a roughly 12 by 17-inch rimmed baking sheet. Bake the granola until it begins to brown, about 25 minutes, then stir with a flat spatula. Let the granola continue to bake until it is light golden brown, dry and fragrant, 15 to 20 minutes longer. Stir the granola at least once more as it bakes and watch it carefully during the final minutes because it can burn quickly.

Maple Almond Granola Baking Maple Almond Granola

Place the baking sheet on a cooling rack, add the raisins (and other dried fruits & chips if using), and stir to combine. Let the granola cool completely. Transfer the granola to a airtight container. It can be stored at room temperature for up to 1 month or frozen for up to 6 months. You can serve the granola straight from the freezer. It doesn't get hard and it thaws almost instantly - just pour on some milk. Or if you are like me.. graze on it by the handful. *slurp*

I didn't go with the extra bowl, my kitchen is a fakkin disaster area thanks to Hubbs and his chili and stuffed pepper extravaganza last night.. so I just dumped all the ingredients on the baking sheet (and pizza pan) and mixed with my hands - was sticky but much quicker and 1 less bowl to clean! =)

Maple Almond Granola

Thanks again.. Lilli! Sara! Myra & Drew! Earthbound Farm!


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Saturday, September 08, 2007

La Festa al Fresco 2007!

Holy cow!! You guys are THE BEST! Thanks to you, our party this year has had to move from the patio out to the back yard because we needed more room for all of this glorious food! heee!

Last year's party was a hoot, to say the very least, as 57 of you generous, gorgeous people joined Ivonne and I in celebrating the end of summer by enjoying the freshest ingredients we could find. From delicious and dizzying concoctions as Kevin's Garden Peach Margaritas (although the BEST margarita we've ever had, we do hope that Kevin can control his urge to yack in my flower beds this year). To delicious nibblers such as Kalyn's savory Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto or Spread and Ilva's incredible Pomodori Ripieni di Zucchine. The big feast featured awe inspiring dishes such as Sher's droolworthy Curry Chicken Skewers with Eggplant Relish and Tomato Chutney and Callipygia's heavenly Peter Piper’s Stuffed Poblano Peppers with Pickled Raisin-Corn Salsa and Chile Mole Drizzle (which also won for the longest named dish at the party! Go Calli! heee). You would think we would have been so stuffed at that point.. but then as ya'll can attest to, us Foodie type people always save room for dessert! Now tell me, how could you pass up Meeta's creamy Panna Cotta or Gracie's it's-amazing-how-many-you-can-fit-in-your-mouth-at-the-same-time-after-you've-had-a-few-peach-margaritas Cinnamon-Sugar covered Cake Doughnuts with Raspberry Skillet Jam!

Yes it was a fantabulous party and one we'll never forget.. you should have SEEN the mountains of dishes the next day!! GOD.

We never imagined another Festa that could top last year's, but by golly, you party animals have made our 2nd annual La Festa al Fresco an even BIGGER success!! Bless all of ya'lls lil cotton socks. ;) This year, as I said earlier, our patio was jam packed with tables and tables laden with the most gorgeous dishes.. why, there was barely enough room to walk between them holding several plates ready for filling! Ohh.. was that just me? *blush* Well I figured with my hostess duties, I might not be able to get back up there for seconds so I took no chances!! I AM NOT A FOOL!!

Anyhoo.. 64 (SIXTY FOUR) tantalizing dishes to choose from this year.. You guys!!! Thank you SO MUCH for joining us.. wow.. 64 of you. =) Ivonne and I couldn't be happier. There's nothing like getting all your friends together with good food, good conversation, lots of laughs and plenty of wine to make you realize just how blessed you truly are.

How many will be staying to help clean up? Anyone? Hello?

Anyone there?


When you're done checking out this half of the round up run DO NOT WALK to the incredibly talented, beautiful and just downright awe inspiring Ivonne's place for the rest of this incredible feast.. what amazing treats ya'll are in for over there!

And quickly, because I just can't NOT say this.. Ivonne.. thanks for being the bestest co-hostess, partner in crime and all around wonderful friend and confidante that you are.. I heart you!

Alrighty then.. I won't babble on any longer. I know ya'll are dyin' to see what's for dinner!


Starting us off is Lorraine from Italian Foodies. Lorraine and her husband, Bruno, own and operate an Italian food take-away restaurant in Ireland. They serve authentic Italian dishes made from traditional family recipes.. why does it have to be so far away from me?? If this Fusilli al Pesto is anything like what they serve at the restaurant then I know for A FACT that life is UNFAIR! Look at that.. so beautiful and inviting! Thank you so much, Lorraine, I can't wait to dig in! =)


Gorgeous Brilynn of Jumbo Empanadas had me standing at the table with my bowl and spoon just waiting for her to set her dish of Smoked Tomato Risotto down so I could dive in. 'kay one word - YUM! Brilynn never fails to amaze me with her inventiveness when it comes to her culinary creations.. way to go, Brilynn, yet another winner! Thank you so much for sharing with us! =)


One of my most favorite bloggers, Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen joined us again with yet another brilliant dish for us to nibble on. Her festive Chopped Tomato and Cucumber Salad was a perfect match of fresh summer flavors. Good for you (which means that after eating Kalyn's salad, we could go shove down some dessert and it would all equal out. No.. really.. it's true!), gorgeous colors and wonderfully crisp and delicious, this is one of my all time favorite salads. We can't thank you enough, Kalyn, you always bring us yummy eats and put huge smiles on our faces! =)


The very sweet Mary of La Tavola, is another gal who brought us some beautiful tomato salad as well as some crusty bread to sop up those juices and my favorite salty Pecorino Romano cheese for nibbling.. It seems that tomatoes were a big theme at this year's La Festa, and I for one, couldn't be more happier.. Mary's picnic was a welcome addition to our Festa table and we were so happy she could join us! Thank you, Mary! =)


Speaking of desserts, the fab Laura of Laura Rebecca's Kitchen, who just happens to be a gal who has a knack for cracking me up when I least expect it, has brought the most delicious Honeyed Zucchini Muffins/Cupcakes? with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting that I've ever had. Moist and flavorful these lil Cuppins are and just the right size for tossing back one or twelve. ;) And thanks to Laura, I will now call all muffins and cupcakes by their new names.. Muffcakes and Cuppins because hot damn I think that is one of the funniest things I've read in a while.. BAHAHAHA! Thanks, Laura, we couldn't be more thrilled and grateful that you've joined us again this year! =)


Now here's a talented cook AND lawyer from the land down under, blogging from Laws of the Kitchen. This sweet gal brings to us a magnificent Lime, Orange and Rhubarb Cake that is jaw-droppingly good! What's more, she's even "sequestered" a nice slice just for myself! har! Get it? She's a lawyer and she squestered me a slice?? Yeah okay.. I'll stick to cooking instead of stand-up. :P Thank you, my dear! We're so happy you could join us and your cake is DELISH! =)


Talk about refreshing! Casey of Margin Notes by Casey Ellis has thoughtfully brought for us to share a heavenly combination of one of my favorite herbs, Lemon Verbena, water & simple syrup.. Lemon Verbena Granita! A recipe given to her by pastry chef, Michelle Polzine of Range in San Francisco, couldn't be more welcome to this end of summer party! Thank you so much, Casey! =)


You might have already seen the first offering that Marie of Marie's Muses and A Year at Oak Cottage brought to the festa on Ivonne's half of the round up. I too am lucky as I get to present her yummy Mini Courgette Frittatas! Yep, not one dish for us to nosh on, but two.. and nosh I shall! I love mini frittatas and I love zucchini (Courgette) so I'm doubly happy to see these lil beauties waiting for me on the Festa table! Thank you so much, Marie! Both the soup and these frittatas are just lovely! =)


Chris, the beautiful and talented cook from Mele Cotte is another of my most favorite blog writers and a fellow Daring Baker. Her creations in her kitchen are so delicious looking and sounding - and her writing always makes me smile (and giggle often to!). We were tickled when she wrote to let us know she was coming AND she was bringing us Georgia Peach Pie! WOO! It was like she was reading my mind.. I've been craving peaches like you would not believe.. but I've yet to find a sweet, juicy peach here in Ohio.. I know there has got to be one SOMEWHERE.. but I haven't found it! Now I don't have to as we've got this luscious pie to enjoy.. thank you SO MUCH, Chris!! =)


Now do not get me wrong.. each and every dish brought to us from these wonderful people have been equally droolworthy, delicious and awe-inspiring. I sincerely mean that. But when I laid eyes on this next dessert.. I just.. it was.. Stunning. Just absolutely stunning and never in my life have I desperately wanted maple syrup and pears like I did at that moment. Jenni of Milk and Cookies has whipped up this delectable Maple Crème Flan with Maple-Glazed Pears. Holy cow. It's just.. I can't describe.. *swoon* Thank you so much, Jenni! I believe you've rendered me speechless. =)


hehehe I can't help but to giggle in an almost maniacal manner when talking about this next blog. I KNOW it's got to be an excellent blog, I just know it! Not only is the writer, Valerie, one of the sweetest gals I've had the pleasure of meeting, but her Watermelon Gazpacho is to die for. So why am I going completely nuts due to More Than Burnt Toast? Because every single time I click on it.. I'm redirected to a Dell error page that tells me to look up robots! I've tried everything.. but her blog hates me? I don't think it intentionally hates me.. maybe it just thinks that I'm going to barge in and slurp up all the gazpacho?? It's probably right.. but still.. I'd love to explore more! hehee Anyway.. I hope the rest of you don't have my problem so that you can check out this wonderful blog and drool over this refreshing and unique gazpacho! Thank you so much, Valerie!! =)


The sweet Sara of Ms. Adventures in Italy who has been off traveling still made time for the party! Bringing Fichi d’India - Prickly Pear Cactus Fruit Vinaigrette, which I promptly poured over some garden heirloom tomatoes.. heaven! Thank you, Sara! We're so happy you could join us! =)


Sqeeeee! I was hoping someone would bring a childhood favorite of mine.. and Liliana sure did! Her blog, My Cookbook Addiction is a great read and I've enjoyed her "Culinary Tour of Umbria and Tuscany" very much. Liliana brings us a traditional Caponata. My uncles use to make this often as I was a child and I couldn't wait for big crusty hunks of bread slathered with this eggplant dish. Thank you so much, Liliana! I'll be making trips back and forth to this dish all night long. :D

My creationAcmeHerbSlabs-MyKitchenInHalfCups-Tanna

Tanna of My Kitchen in Half Cups means the world to me.. such a beautiful hearted lady - and absolute joy to know and I'm very thankful that I've had the opportunity to get to know her. =) Tanna loves to make bread and that's exactly what she's brought us! She and Karen of Bake My Day! have each baked us loaves of Acme Herb Slabs or what Tanna prefers to call, "Rosemary's Heaven Scent Bread" (I like that title better too!). Delicious and truly, heavenly in scent - this bread was devoured quickly! Thank you so much, my sweet! =)


Helene, from News in the Kitchen is a lovely gal who lives in Gemany and has travelled all the way to our Festa! She does not come empty handed either.. her Red and Yellow Pepper with Middayflowering Salad is simply gorgeous with those vibrant colors. A truly special salad as I've never seen an edible Ice Plant before, so this was a special treat! Thank you very much for joining us, Helene! =)


Amy, Amy, Amy.. hehe.. oh how you have made me drool and swoon and salivate and every other descriptive for the state of pure bliss you put me in by bringing this awesome Hidden Blackberry Cheesecake! With home made blackberry jam to boot.. So, maybe I did elbow a couple people out of the way.. and maybe I did steal more than half of it to hide in a secret place that only I know about.. I'm not admitting anything.. No. That is not blackberry jam on my chin. Move along people.. move along!!


Without a doubt, one of my most favorite new to me bloggers, Mia of Nosh has brought something exciting to the Festa! Yes! Sauteed Octopus! This dish looks SO GOOD with the tomato and garlicy Octopus and the grilled fresh sardines! Ohhh man! Admittedly, I've never had Octopus, but I am a huge squid lover so I'm pretty darned sure I'd love Octopus just as much. What a beautiful dish! Thank you so much, Mia! =)


Elizabeth of OUR Kitchen has brought with her a delicious Ontario Peach Pie that looks simply wonderful! She and her husband battled wasps at a roadside market to purchase the best peaches they could find for this pie. So a great big thank you for not only bringing us something so delicious but for also taking such a huge risk! Wow! We're tickled to have you at the Festa, thanks Elizabeth! =)


Rosa helped celebrate our inaugural Festa last September and woo weeeeee did she share with us a beautiful mojo verde that was just delicious on fresh fish! This year she's outdone herself by bringing this Pork Chile Verde that I can't seem to take my eyes off.. it smells heavenly, Rosa! Thank you so much for celebrating with us again! =)


My newest, and bestest friend from California this year is Kelly from Sass and Veracity - and I am so lucky to have met her! Such a sweet and sexy mama! This chick can coooooookkkk! Holy hell, she has me drooling over each and every dish she presents on her blog. And I'm not just saying that because I want her to send me wine. No really.. honest! hehehe Nah, just check her blog out to be amazed for yourself =) Lucky for us, she's traveled all the way across North America to join us at the Festa, arms laden with these lil Lemon Soufflettes - bless her. =) So fluffy! So creamy! So lemon zesty! I couldn't be more enamored of such a lovely sweet treat. Thank you so much, Kel! And really, I wasn't kidding.. don't send me wine. The only way I'd accept any is if you hand delivered it and drank it with me. :D

Fried Zucchini-SourdoughMonkeyWrangler-Dylan

This next blogger is an amazing cook and an amazing father.. the love he shows for his family and the foods he prepares is awesome! Dylan of Sourdough Monkey Wrangler has brought to us some fantastic Fried AND Baked Zucchini. This isn't your ordinary fried zucchini my friends.. oh no. This has been take a step further.. kicked up a notch, if you will. After Dylan fries the battered zucchini, he tops them with tomato and grated, dry jack cheese - then bakes until the cheese is all melty and droolworthy. Dear sweet, baby Jebus I will be trying this method with the last of our zucchini - you can betcher sweet petunia on it! Thank so much, Dylan! =)


Awww my special friend.. my house guest and the gal who I call my "Baking Guru", Helene of Tartelette. What can I say about Helene that I've not already said? I'm sure most of you know she has my heart =) And how could she not? Have you seen what this gal bakes?? Hello?! She certainly did not disappoint at this year's Festa either! Her Walnut & Honey Tartelettes look amazing. Wow.. just Wow! Thank you, sweetie!! =)


Okay when I went to check out this dish after reading Deborah's email, I had to ask Hubbs to leave the room. You see, Deborah of Taste and Tell, made us Stuffed Bell Peppers - his favorite. And I knew, without a doubt, that if he had seen that awe-inspiring photo, he wouldn't leave me alone until I made them for him. heheee! I'm kinda hoping there might be one left after the party, so I can sneak it home for him. ;) Thank you, Deborah! They look AWESOME! =)


After looking at the above photo, can ya'll guess what I'm doing next weekend? Mmm hmmm.. thanks to Lydia and her slow roasted tomatoes, I'm going to be starting lovingly at my oven for 10 hours next week while my own tomatoes are roasting. And yes, you guessed it.. I'll be making myself my own batch of this DROOLICIOUS Slow Roasted Tomato Bruschetta. *swoon* Thank you so much, Lydia.. it's perfect! =)


Katie's blog, Thyme For Cooking is quite a beautiful blog with lots of delicious recipes and photos. I've really been enjoying getting to know it, so I'm very happy that she joined us for this year's Festa! Katie brings along one of my most favorite vegetables, the zucchini, or courgette. Her's are yellow, sauteed beautifully and then topped with toasted walnuts, thyme and basil.. Mmmmmm! Thanks so much for the perfect vegetable dish, Katie! =)


One of my most favorite people, Valentina of Trembom has been able to make some time to come relax on our patio - Yay! Bringing with her a slightly unusual salad, that sounds, looks, smells and tastes FABULOUS! Her Summery Fennel Salad features, why.. fresh fennel! How I love the taste of fennel and in this salad it's just perfect! Thanks Valentina, sweetie!! =)


Ahhhh my sister. The woman who shares my brain and vice versa. We seem to be on the same wavelength more often than not, so it was no surprise to me that the absolutely beautiful Veronica of Veronica's Test Kitchen would bring a dish containing some of my favorite ingredients.. corn and shrimp *swoon* Her creamy Swami (Shrimp with Corn) has me drooling. I've bought all the ingredients to make this and I can't wait! Thanks Sis.. you so rock! =)


Here we go with peaches again! I'm certainly getting my fix at this party! Woo!! Jennifer of Weekly Dish has created for all of her friends this refreshing salsa made with peaches! Sweet and savory, light and refreshing with a nice little kick.. perfect for dipping fresh tortillas or as a wonderful topping to grilled fish or chicken.. this one is definitely a keeper! Thank you, Jennifer! =)

RoastedGardenMelangeSauce-Sarah Reid- WhatSmellsSoGood

This wonderful garden fresh sauce called Roasted Garden Melange Sauce made by Sarah of What Smells So Good? had me at "long roasting" and "perfect for hearty pastas, eggs, seafood and fish" Is there anything better than a multi-tasking tomato sauce? I think not! This one is absolutely jam packed with flavor and is completely delish.. so glad to have it here at the party! Thanks so much, Sarah! =)


Sweet Meeta would not let us down.. heck no! She's arrived with bells on and a basket full of these gorgeous jars filled with delicious Tomatoes in Agrodolce! I love pickled vegetables and have never had such a good pickled tomato! Sweet and zesty and just perfect for snacking! You've outdone yourself (again!) Meeta! Thank you sweetie =)


Barbara of Winos and Foodies has brought with her a lovely platter of the most divine smelling Rosemary Honeyed Oranges I think I've ever experienced. Sliced thinly and covered in a warm honey dressing that has been steeped with fresh Rosemary.. ohhhh so good.. SO GOOD! The only problem is that I couldn't get my hands on a full platter for myself.. dammit. Thank you and thank you, Barbara! They are as pretty as they are tasty! =)

LinguineWCherryTomatoSauce-Ivonne Peperonata-Ivonne

And finally.. saving the best for last.. and yeah, I might be just a lil biased here, is my partner Ivonne. =) She writes this lil blog called Cream Puffs in Venice. Ya'll might have heard of it? If you haven't.. just keep clicking rights until you come to a gorgeous lil brown pastry shop full of gorgeous photos, artful culinary creations and writing that's just a joy to read. You'll know it when you get there, trust me. =) So Ivonne has laid upon our Festa tables not one but two delicious dishes - one of her own creation called Linguine with Cherry Tomato Sauce and her mother's (Mama Creampuff) recipe for the most gorgeous Peperonata I've ever had the sheer pleasure of tasting. Two traditional Italian dishes that are light and flavorful. Thank you, my sweet friend.. for everything. =)

There it is kids.. my half of La Festa al Fresco 2007. Are you stuffed? Need help being rolled to your cars? Wanna just stay over and we'll have breakfast in the morning? We've got the room and you are more than welcome! Thank you all for being so generous and for helping to celebrate yet another perfect summer! If by chance you happened upon my half of the extensive list first, please don't hesitate to click on over to Ivonne's half.. but here.. don't forget your napkin!