Malto Mario


The Lady & Sons

1,000 Italian Recipes

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Fabulous Fudge Chocolate Cake

Yesterday was the final day in fighting a lil migraine that showed up Saturday morning and decided to spend a few days. Eh, nothing major.. just a buttpain. And by buttpain I mean it ruined my plans on making my first brioche this weekend. =( But I did not let it win.. I've got the brioche scheduled for the weekend after next (this weekend I'm having a few friends over for games, good food and cocktails - yes, the dreaded cocktails. *shudder*) if all goes as planned.

I was also fighting a HUGE craving for chocolate. Alas, I did not win that battle (Party on, Wayne!) and gave in yesterday afternoon. Since finding the ultimate chocolate chip cookie recipe a few months ago, I've thought long and hard on the next "ultimate" recipe I'd like to find. I decided a while back that I needed to find the best chocolate cake recipe out there. Although I haven't really done much about it other than peruse eleventy bazillion blogs and recipe sites, I haven't baked one. So in checking out my bookmarks of recipes found, I decided on one yesterday and went for it. I made a few alterations in my quest for the chocolatiest of chocolate cakes, but all in all this was a great recipe. Not the "ultimate" but definitely pretty darned good. Here's the thing.. this past August we attended my niece, Kyle's, 4th birthday party. Her mom had a cake made by a local baker and in my humble opinion, this cake was the "Ultimate". It had a soft crumb, was super moist and the chocolate flavor was simply stunning. And by stunning, I mean that I felt like a deer caught in the headlights when I first tasted it. I couldn't move. It seemed the colors of the grass, trees and sky became more vivid. The singing of the birds became a symphony and all the people attending the party kind of disappeared from view. It was just me, standing in the middle of their driveway with my slice of perfect chocolate cake and quite possibly, a lil drool on my chin. :D

So now I have tasted the Ultimate chocolate cake - will I ever be able to find the recipe and recreate it in my own lil kitchen? Well it sure won't happen by asking the lady who baked the cake - my friend tried the first time she ordered one and dear, sweet baker lady wasn't giving up anything. Not that I blame her - it's her livelihood, but damn - help a gal out, sistah!! So I am on my own.

Which brings me to last night's effort. Again, very good cake - fudgy as the title says. But not the ultimate. Worth the effort though.. it came close. The texture was close to a brownie - but lighter, does that make sense? There is flour in this cake so it's not like the true fudgieness of a flourless cake (which I also love but they are too dense to be the ultimate). It was extremely moist and the chocolate flavor did stand out (thanks to the alterations I made). My only mistake was frosting this cake. Frosting.. my evil nemesis. I can't frost a cake to save my life in the first place, and this frosting ended up being too sweet in combination with the cake. It was a simple buttercream that was very fluffy and tasty when I first made it, but after it was on the cake it kinda turned not so fluffy and I don't know why? It ended up kinda like a buttery sweet sludge. Regardless, I wish there was a way to get a good taste of a new cake recipe before frosting it so you could know if leaving it plain or maybe just sprinkling it with powdered sugar would suffice. A fine sprinking of sugar would have been perfect for this cake as the cake is delicious on it's own. So if you decide to try this.. keep that in mind!

Okay with that said, the alterations I made where as follows:

The recipe called for 3 (1 oz.) squares of unsweetened chocolate. Not nearly enough chocolate in my humble opinion! So I upped that to 2 (3.5 oz.) bars of Green & Black's bittersweet chocolate bars. I altered the sugar content since I was going with bittersweet, to 2 c. instead of 2 1/2. Another alteration was, the recipe calls for 1 cup of boiling water. To that water I added 1 TBS. of instant espresso powder, which is something I do to anything chocolate that I bake. I really feel that the addition of the espresso helps to bring out the big chocolate "BAM" that I lurve. In lieu of 1 c. of sourcream (which I didn't have) I used 1/2 c. sour cream and 1/2 c. of heavy whipping cream. And lastly, I baked it in a 10" springform pan instead of a 9" x 13" x 2" baking dish, so my baking time was a bit longer. That's all I did, really - it's a pretty good recipe that didn't need much else.

Fudgy Chocolate Cake
Fabulous Fudge Chocolate Cake
Courtesy of Charmaine Brooks and All Recipes

Recipe that follows includes my alterations, to see the original, go here.

2 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. butter
2 c. packed brown sugar
3 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 (3.5 ounce) bars of Green & Black's bittersweet chocolate, melted
1/2 c. sour cream
1/2 c. heavy whipping cream
1 c. boiling water
1 TBS. instant espresso powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat 1/2 cup butter and 2 cups brown sugar until well mixed. Add eggs one at a time. Beat in the vanilla and melted chocolate. Add 1/2 c. of the sour cream and then 1/2 the dry ingredients to the butter mixture until well blended.

Add the 1/2 c. of heavy whipping cream and remaining dry ingredients to the batter.

Stir in boiling water with espresso powder.

Bake in a 10" springform pan for 45 minutes. (I kept checking every 5 minutes after the original time of 35 minutes.)

*Note: The original recipe called for a caramel icing, but I omitted that as I thought it'd be too sweet.

The buttercream frosting I went with is as follows:

1 c. butter
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
4 1/2 c. powdered sugar
2/3 c. milk

Beat all ingredients until light and fluffy.

*Note: The taste of this frosting is very buttery, which I like a lot (ya'll), but seriously, consider not frosting this cake as it really doesn't need much more than a sprinkling of powdered sugar - if even that. =)

Fudgy Chocolate Cake slice

Calling all of you fabulous bakers out there.. anyone got a really good chocolate cake recipe they'd be willing to share? :) Also.. if anyone can tell me why the frosting didn't stay fluffy, I'd appreciate that too! The cake was completely cool.. and the frosting didn't sit for more than 5 minutes before I frosted the cake. Thanks!

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Monday, September 25, 2006

Blog of the Week September 24, 2006

This week I am saluting, Meeta of What's for Lunch Honey? Although I did not discover Meeta's blog during the Festa, it wasn't very long before that I did have the utmost pleasure in meeting her when she held the very popular Blogger Postcards From the World event. From corresponding with her through e-mail a few times, I quickly discovered that I had found a new friend. Her warmness towards me, a complete stranger, made me feel special. In getting to know her and what she does, how she lives and the simple pleasures she takes in life made me feel as if I had known her for many years, and not just a few days. She's a very special gal.. full of energy and love for life. She's a devoted wife and mother who also works from home and is always on the go. Her son, Soeren is absolutely adorable and you can tell from her stories, that he loves what his mom prepares for him.. he has quite a mature sense of taste at his young age, that's for sure! For example, just one of her many fabulous posts was regarding two salsas she made. A tomato based salsa and a pineapple/avocado salsa. When I read about them, I knew I just had to try the avocado one but I'm an adult who doesn't turn her nose up at different and new flavor combinations, whereas many 4 year olds would. But not Soeren - he loved it and dubbed it "pureed frog sauce". har!

Meeta's posts are chock full of information, including nutritional facts, preparation tips, opinions from her family and of course, delightful stories regarding why she cooked which dish. She even lets you know what music she was listening too during her meal! I love that =) Another great thing about Meeta's blog is that she's recently started an online "cooking school" where she shows you step by step how to make delicious meals. I look forward to these posts very much as she has a lot of great tips and information that you may not know. Even if you were familiar with making the dish she's chosen, it's most certain you'll pick up a little gem or two while reading.

Put What's for Lunch Honey? on your blogroll, kids. Because I've just scratched the surface on what you'll find there. It's a fantastic read, an inspiration for all cooks and I suspect you'll end up falling in pure lurve with Meeta as I have. :D



Baked Tortellini Casserole

With no real plan for dinner last night, when the time came I just decided to dump a few ingredients into a baking dish and bake it until it was bubbly and goldeny delicious. At least that's what I had hoped for. Although I found this dish to be a lil rich for my liking, Hubbs loved it and has demanded that I write down exactly what I did so I can make it for him again.

Nothing special going on here.. the usual garlic, onions, herbs and tomatoes sauteed then mixed with some tortellini and fontina cheese. The only thing I thought I was taking a chance on was the addition of prosciutto. I'm kind of a prosciutto "purist" as I only really like it wrapped around something sweet (melon and/or figs) or just plain straight out of the butcher paper. I don't even like it on a sandwich. So adding it to a baked dish was something new. My feelings are, the prosciutto was what made the dish taste a lil too rich. I think if I were to experiment using it again in something I'm cooking, my sauce would be much more light.. like pasta mixed with a lil olive oil with maybe sun-dried tomatoes and prosciutto or just prosciutto and some fresh basil. But not with a tomato sauce. But who am I? Like I said, Hubbs loved it and even had a 2nd helping. He put the remaining casserole in a tupperware and is bringing it to work today for lunch, so mebbe my tasters were off last night? hehee

Baked Tortellini Casserole
Baked Tortellini Casserole

1 pkg. fresh tortellini (the smaller package, not the family sized)
1/2 large vidalia, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 bell pepper, chopped
1 (28 oz.) can quality diced tomatoes (San Marzano is what I prefer)
3 TBS. tomato paste
1/2 tsp. dry oregano
2 TBS. fresh basil, chopped
1/4 c. dry white wine
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground black pepper
1/8 lb. thinly sliced prosciutto, cut in ribbons (optional)
1/2 c. grated Pecorino Romano
4 oz. Fontina, cut into 1/4 inch slabs

Preheat oven to 400º F.

In a large saucepan, bring 5 cups of water to a boil, then salt the water generously. Add tortellini and cook just until they float to the top - you don't want to over cook them as they will be baked later - drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, saute onions, garlic, bell pepper and oregano in a little olive oil until veggies are soft, about 5 minutes. Add the can of diced tomatoes with the juice, tomato paste, 1/4 cup of wine, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Lower heat and let simmer for 20 minutes.

Combine tomato mixture with tortellini, sprinkled Pecorino over top and mix gently then add the slabs of Fontina, mixing some into the tortellini and leaving some laying on top. Bake for 30 minutes, uncovered.

Let set for 5 minutes then serve with a salad and crusty bread.

*Note: I think this is the first time I've made a dish with Fontina baked on top (I've always used Mozzarella) and it was fabulous. So good, in fact, that I am going to sub Fontina for Mozzarella the next time I make my pizzas. :D

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Saturday, September 23, 2006

Gattina's Bread Nugat Pt. II

Ha.. it's "later next week" already! Ohh yes.. I made this again just last night - actually just a few hours ago. I woke up shortly after going to bed with a most delightful coughing fit and couldn't go back to sleep. I caught up on some e-mail, and could barely keep my eyes open so I decided to go back to bed about an hour later. I gathered my furry kids and off we went. I jumped in bed looking sooooo forward to getting at least a few more hours all snuggled up with the cutest pooches in alla world. Until I made full body contact with the bed. It was wet. Not just damp but soaking f*cking wet. I did not witness the act, but by the amount of wet and the size of wet puddle, I have to conclude that Chloe decided to empty her bladder in my bed. I was amazed, confused and more than a little angry. I also had wondered why she was cowering by the door instead of hopping right up like Nigel did.. that was another clue as to who left their mom a present.

She did this one other time when she was a wee lil pup, and I chocked it up to her not having full control over her bladder yet because it was ON my bed and not on the floor by my bed. Well she's got full freakin' control of her bladder now and hasn't messed in this house for years. I don't get it. Was she mad at me for some reason? I let them both out when I got up.. she has fresh water and food and we spent time cuddlin' on the couch before I decided to check e-mail. The hell??

While she cowered behind the sofa (seriously? I barely even yelled at her because of the time - didn't want the neighbors to hear me screaming heee!) showing me her guilt, I spent the next couple hours trying to dry the mattress, febreezing, and washing sheets. Gah. After it was all cleaned up I still couldn't sleep so what does a bone-weary gal do? She decides to bake, of course!

This time these rolls turned out perfectly. And oh yeah, I couldn't resist tasting shortly after they came outta the oven.. Hubbs and I thought the first batch was outstanding even if a lil dark - but these were even better. Makes sense, eh? hehe Too bad Hubbs is away for the weekend at an Ohio State game.. there might not be any left when he gets home. :D

Perfectly baked Bread Nugat

Slice of Perfectly baked Bread Nugat =)
Ooey and gooey even if outta focus :P
Gattina's Bread Nugat

Makes one 8" round pan

1 can Pillsbury plain or butter flavored biscuits
1/2 cup sugar, divided
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
4 TBS. butter
1/8 c. light or dark brown sugar
1/3 c. evaporated milk

1. Pre-heat oven to 350º F. In a bowl, mix 1/4 cup of sugar and cinnamon, set side.
2. Grease an 8" cake pan, cut each biscuit into four pieces, coat each piece with the sugar mixture, place in the pan.
3. In a small pot, heat the evaporate milk, 1/4 cup sugar, brown sugar and butter to boiling, immediately pour it over to the bread pieces.
4. Bake for 40-45 minutes. Serve warm.

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Friday, September 22, 2006

Gattina's Bread Nugat

I wasn't going to post about this until I made it a 2nd time as I slightly overbaked the first time.. but what the hell, I'm all for showing my screw ups! Keeps me grounded. har!

I saw this on Gattina's site. She's extremely talented and such a very loverly gal - am so happy to have found her site months ago, I've enjoyed each entry she posts!

All of her posts are awe-inspiring, but these lil sweet rolls had me at hello. I wanted to follow her recipe to the Tee but I had to omit the walnuts for health reasons and I used sweetened condensed milk instead of the called-for evaporated milk. Why, do you ask? Well let me tell ya'll why. Mmm hmm. I have two pantries.. both of them are seriously over stocked and it's harder than hell, sometimes, to find anything. Case in point. I keep all baking supplies on the 2nd shelf of both pantries - when perusing for the evaporated milk that I knew I had, I couldn't find it to save my life. I moved cans and jars and bags every which way, to no avail. I already had my biscuits cut and coated in the cinnamon sugar and smooshed into my baking pan so I was kinda screwed. I, of course, made a very panicky phone call to my mommie - "What the hell do I do, Ma? Can I sub sweetened condensed milk?" "Ohhhh noooo", she says.. "it will make whatever you are making way too sweet." "Okay well this is a dessert, kinda, so do you think that will matter much?", says panicky me. "Well you could try it, just cut the other sugars down." "'kay thanks, Mommie, buh-bye now!". So she was really no help.. but at that point I was committed in baking these lil wads of yummy dough, so I hadda try the sweetened condensed milk. I cut the sugars in the recipe in half in hopes that my teeth would not start disintegrating the instant I took a bite. The sauce came together beautifully. They looked almost good enough to eat raw after I drizzled it over. But I decided baking would be best and popped them into the oven. Unfortunately, my oven runs hot and I overbaked them. BUT! They were still extremely tasty and the carmelized coating was only "crunchy" around the edges.. the rest of it was heavenly. I've got biscuits on my grocery list for this week and will try this again, keeping in mind my hot oven.

Ohh yeah.. just as I cut the lid off the sweetened condensed milk? Hubbs pulls the can of evaporated milk out of the 2nd pantry. I almost beat him over the head with it. I know he was trying to be helpful and probably thought if he could find it, he'd beat me to the opening of the other milk, but he was a split second too late. tee! I still went with the sweetened condensed and by cutting the other sugars, I don't feel it made too much of a difference in taste - I'm assuming these sweet rolls were to have a caramel flavor and that's exactly how they ended up tasting.

So all in all, fabulous recipe, Gattina! Thank you so much for sharing! The next time I try one of your recipes I'll make sure to have all my ingredients pulled from their various temporary homes in my kitchen BEFORE I start prepping. heheee!

Below are my pictures.. for some reason I couldn't get a photo of the slice to come out bright. WTF? I'll post more pictures once I try this recipe again, later next week. ;) Please, go check out Gattina's recipe to learn how to make these and to see gorgeous pictures of how they should turn out! heee!

Bread Nugat

Slice of Bread Nugat
It really wasn't baked to a charred, wedge shaped brick, just bad lighting ;)

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Honey-Hoisin Pork Chops

Finally.. the last of the pork. *happy sigh* I think I might have mentioned it once before.. way back in April, Hubbs and I went to the local wholesale place to stock up on some items for him to take back with him to Arkansas. While checking out their meat section, Hubbs found a ginormous hunk o'pork. This loin was easily 16-20 pounds. But it was on sale! We can't pass up a damn sale! So it ended up in our cart.. and then ended up all over my kitchen by the time I cut that sucker up into chops and roasts. Ended up being a damn good hunk o'pork - very flavorful. But I'm not a huge pork fan so getting through all of it took, what? Close to 6 months! This was even after I sent back with him probably a good 8 lbs. of roasts and chops to Arkansas. heee!

Anyhoo.. 4 lil chops left so I cooked 'em up last night. Got out the trusty Cooking Light Annual Recipes 2006 and found a quick and easy marinated/bbq'd recipe for chops. Honey and Hoisin were the main ingredients along with garlic, soy and onions. Quick marinade of 30 minutes and then a quick sear to be followed by a quick 20 minutes in the oven.. they came out juicy and very flavorful and all less than 1 hour from start to finish. Not bad at all ;) Especially when it was Grey's Anatomy season opener last night.. everything had to be done no later than 7:55!! Yeah.. hadda watch the lil special they aired first - any chance to drool over McDreamy, yanno. Although this might have been a mistake - hard to eat your dinner when you are crying and sniveling over Denny's death - AGAIN. He's been dead for like 5 months and I was still a puddle of tears by the time the actual first episode came on. Oh and then when Miranda said her goodbye to him I about exploded with grief. Sheesh.

Where the hell was I? *sniff*

Yes the chops.. quick, easy and mighty tasty.. give it a shot some night ;) Forgive me for the more than usual crap pictures.. I was inna hurry.

Honey-Hoisin Pork Chops
Honey-Hoisin Pork Chops
Courtesy of Cooking Light's Annual Recipes 2006

2 TBS. sliced green onions (Still out - so I used 1/4 c. Vidalia)
2 TBS. hoisin sauce
2 TBS. soy sauce (Recipe called for low-sodium but I only have the high-test)
2 TBS. sage honey (I used clover honey)
1 TBS. hot water
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 boneless pork chops, about 1" thick
1/4 tsp. salt
Cooking spray
1/2 tsp. sesame seeds

Combine first 6 ingredents in a small bowl. Pour 1/4 c. honey mixture into a large zip top plastic bag; reserve remaining honey mixture. Add pork to bag, seal and marinate in refrigerator 30 minutes, turning bag occasionally.

Preheat oven to 400º F.

Remove pork from bag; discard marinade. Sprinkle pork with salt. Heat a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add pork; cook 2 minutes, browning on both sides. Brush 1 TBS. reserved honey mixture over pork; sprinkle with sesame seeds. Place skillet in oven. Bake at 400º for 15-20 minutes or until a thermometer registers 160º (slightly pink) or until desired degree of doneness.

Place pork on platter, let stand 5 minutes. Drizzle with remaining honey mixture.

Yield 4 servings.

Honey-Hoisin Chops

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Thursday, September 21, 2006

I Think Paula Would Be Proud, Ya'll!

Looking in my recipe card box last night for something I haven't made in forever.. searching, searching.. there's a lot of cards to sift through. And then I came across this recipe that was given to me years ago by a friend's mother after they had invited me for dinner and I went bazonkers over her "fried chicken" dish. Which wasn't fried. I was amazed. It was baked - but it was so damn crispedy! And the coating? Like nothing I'd had before. So when I came across it last night I had to wonder if my friend's mom had somehow gotten this recipe from everyone's favorite butter guzzler (also known now as the Baroness of Butter har!), Paula Deen! If she didn't and Paula doesn't know about this recipe - I am so telling her about it when I see her in November (after I get her to sign my pound of butter, that is).

And yes.. did you see? On FoodTV she's got 2 new shows for the new season.. Paula's Party something or other AND The Baroness of Butter! I larfed out loud :D Oh, and btw, Kevin? I think I told you in an e-mail, but not positive.. Nigella is coming to FoodTV too - I can't wait!

Okay where was I? Ahh yes.. the best crispedy baked chicken ya'll have ever had. Your chicken pieces/parts are first dipped into a bath of Mmm Mmm good melty butter, ya'll. And then it's dredged in.. are ya ready? It's dredged in crushed saltine crackers!! Yes, I was amazed too. Saltine f'n crackers.. who woulda thunk it? Okay, so maybe it's not as shocking to some as it was to me. But hell, in my little world saltine crackers were for slathering butter (ya'll) on and dipping into your chili! Or for nibbling on with your raw oysters.. never as a coating for chicken. Up until that point in my life, I had obviously been sheltered, eh?

Okay.. well her recipe was just chicken, butter and saltines. It was delish, but when I made it myself I found it to be a lil bland that first time - so I've since tweaked it by adding different herbs and spices to the saltine coating and I think I hit upon the best combination a few years ago.. I add sage and thyme as well as a good seasoning with salt & pepper (sometimes garlic salt).

Give your arteries notice and then make this chicken - it's quick, easy and for little effort you definitely get a big payoff. Oh and one more thing.. you'll usually have a lil melty butter left over - try not to guzzle it, ya'll - just drizzle it over the already coated pieces. ;)

Crispedy Baked Chicken
Crispedy Baked Chicken

4 chicken thighs, skin on (Or whatever chicken pieces you so desire)
2 c. crushed saltine crackers
1 TBS. fresh or dried sage, chopped
1 TBS. fresh or dried thyme leaves
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
2/3 c. melted butter

Preheat oven to 350º F.

Dry your pieces/parts and then dip a piece into the melted butter. Season both sides with salt & pepper and then dredge in the saltine/herb mixture. Place in a baking dish. Repeat this process with all your pieces/parts.

Bake for 1 hour in pre-heated oven. I baked for 70 minutes because I used bone in thighs - darker meat takes a bit longer. For boneless breasts, I'd check them at 45 - 50 minutes.

*Note: For the herbs I used the sage and thyme that I had dried out in my dehydrator from my garden. If you are going to use dried, store bought, you might want to use a little less (especially if your sage is ground, then I'd suggest maybe just a teaspoon). If you are using fresh, then I'd go for even a little more - maybe an additional 1/2 - 1 tsp.

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Wednesday, September 20, 2006

I've been tagged for a Meme!

Squeeee! I've been tagged for a Meme by the incredibly sweet Meeta!! Yes, this excites me.. I love these things, and I don't know why! Probably because they usually come in list form? I loves me my lists! :D Thank you for thinking of me, Meeta sweetie :D

I am thinking about: How I should be making dinner but I can't because I'm so excited to be filling this out. teeee!

I said: "Dude! You suck!" apparently quite often at work.

I want to: Save enough money (or win the lottery, that would work as well) to visit Italy before I hit 45. (that only gives me 6 years people!!)

I wish: That there would be no snow or ice this winter in Cleveland.

I regret: Leaving the restaurant business.

I hear: 80's rock playing on the radio - go hair bands! go! :P

I am: A major dork.

I dance: Only after I've drank 1/2 a bottle of whiskey.

I sing: Loudly and completely out of tune! It makes Nigel nervous.

I cry: When I'm extremely angry. I hate that I do that.

I am not: Going to stay at this dead-end job forever. I am not! I am not! I am not!

I am: Going to the IX Center in November to meet Paula Deen, ya'll! I'm going to bring a pound of butter and have her sign it. ;)

I write: On my blog and in my journal.

I confuse: Hubbs. Often.

I need: To find a vacuum that will keep up with Chloe's shedding. Seriously. And don't believe that jerkwad, Dyson. His vacuum cost us more than 3 of my car payments and it gets clogged with hair alla time. And don't even get me started on how I've yet to see it do my laundry or paint my house, because believe you me.. for that kinda money I should have gotten something for the screwing I took. :P Did that come off as bitter?

I tag: 'kay you are only suppose to tag 3 but I'm cheating with 4! - Ellie, peabody, Kevin (it'll give ya something to post while you are waiting on the spinach green light) and Morven. And anyone else who would like to participate!


Pepper Steak - Lisa Style

Yesterday, it was officially chilly! Party on! The leaves are starting to turn colors as well.. happy! happy!

I think the cooler weather had something to do with the little extra energy I had left after another long day at work - so I decided to make a nice dinner. One of Hubbs' favorites, my pepper steak. Originally I made this with just beef, peppers and tomatoes. But one day I had quite a few veggies laying in my crisper drawer of the fridge and decided, "What the hell", and just chopped them all up and threw them in.. and then I discovered all the lil goodies in the ethnic aisle of my grocery store and dumped them in as well - so I don't know exactly what you'd call this dish now. It's more than a stir-fry because of the rich brown sauce, but it's definitely not just peppers and steak anymore! heeee! It's the best pepper steak we've ever had though - and it rivals any good Asian restaurant that Hubbs has had pepper steak in (it's all he'll order most times).

Prep for Pepper Steak

The only bitch of it is all the chopping. At least it might be for someone.. chopping/dicing is very relaxing for me.. especially since I bought a good knife last year - now I don't mind mincing garlic and chopping onions anymore ;) If you have the means, I totally recommend the Füri Gusto Grip 7" East/West knife. I noticed Rachel using it on her shows and how she just whipped through everything she was chopping so I bought one and I'm glad I did.. it's a great knife, in my humble opinion. ;)

This "pepper steak" needs no added soy or salt - the amount of soy used in the marinade for the steak and what's used for the sauce is plenty to season the dish - and I like that a lot as I'm not fond of adding extra sodium to Asian dishes which include soy. The sauce turns thick while it boils and the taste is just awesome.. rich and yummy! The veggies turn out perfectly cooked, slightly crisp and the beef is extremely tender. Now that would likely depend on which cut of beef you are going to use. The better the cut of meat the better your pepper steak will turn out. Duh. I use sirloin steak, but one day I discovered something called "Spencer steaks" - to this day, I'm not sure exactly what cut of beef this is, but it's economical and very tasty, and I'll use it when the store doesn't have a good selection of sirloin in the meat case (am so picky). I cut the fat off the little spencer steaks and then into bite sized chunks. You stir-fry the beef first - and at that point I just cook them to rare. You'll then add it back in after the veggies have cooked for a few minutes and while the sauce thickens, which will not allow your meat to cook to well done and get tough.

Steak stir-frying Veggies in the Wok
Finished Pepper Steak
Pepper Steak - Lisa Style

2 tsp. beef bouillon granules
1 c. boiling water
2 TBS. cornstarch
1/3 c. soy sauce + additional soy sauce
1 lb. boneless sirloin steak, cut into bite sized chunks
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. minced ginger
1 tsp. ground black pepper
2 TBS. vegetable oil, divided
3 bell peppers, cut into bite sized chunks
1 c. sliced carrots
1 c. sliced celery
5 green onions, sliced into bite sized pieces
1 c. sliced mushrooms (doesn't matter which kind, I use shitake)
1 can baby corn
1 can bamboo shoots
1 can diced tomatoes (or 2 fresh tomatoes, diced)
Hot cooked rice

Toss beef with garlic, ginger and enough soy sauce to coat. Set aside for 30 minutes to marinate.

Dissolve bouillon in water. Combine cornstarch and soy sauce until smooth; add to bouillon. Set aside.

In a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat, stir-fry beef in 1 TBS. of vegetable oil until cooked as desired. Remove from heat and keep warm.

Heat remaining oil; stir-fry veggies until crisp-tender. Stir soy sauce mixture and add to the wok; bring to a boil. Cook and stir for 2 minutes. Return beef to pan and heat through. Serve over rice.

Pepper Steak with Rice

*Note: Add whatever veggies you like. For instance, the pepper steak last night also had one lonely little zucchini that needed to be used and I didn't have green onions so I subbed 1/2 of a vidalia. This will make a boat load of pepper steak - most definitely at least 4 generous servings. Since it's just the two of us, I freeze what's left over (sans rice) and heat up for a quick meal another night. It really freezes well.

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Tuesday, September 19, 2006

For Lack of Anything Better.. I'll Go With Lame!

Although I enjoy my little blog for really nothing more than the fun of usually makin an arse of myself on the internet, when I don't post often I kind of feel guilty. Not being able to cook much because of time constraints or when "life" takes over doesn't so much make me want to get back in the kitchen to nourish myself and Hubbs.. but because Holy Shit! I haven't blogged in like 5 days!! hehee Okay well no, not really - I cook because it's my passion and I get cranky when I don't get to relax in my kitchen (but my wee blog is always in the back of my mind).

So nothing has really changed here lately. Working long days and then visits up at the hospital to see Wayne's mom.. leaving me no time to do much in my kitchen other than heat up something previously frozen or firing up the grill before exhaustion takes over and I pass out on the loveseat while trying to catch up on my taped Project Runway episodes. The good news is, she's doing much better and they've moved her to a different hospital where she will have physical therapy for the next few weeks - yay! I'm so happy she pulled through this.. she gave us all quite a scare!

Itty Bitty lil bell peppers.. awww!

This particular post is regarding these adorable lil bell peppers I found at the supermarket.. teeny tiny versions of the normal bell peppers that are a staple at my house. Red, orange and yellow mini's that I could not pass up regardless of how many times I picked them up and put them back when I looked at the price tag - almost $4.00 for the package! Gah. But in the end, the cuteness won and I bought them. Now what the hell to do with them?? Not like they are going to feed us as a main dish, eh?

Itty Bitty lil pepper poppers!
Itty Bitty lil Pepper Poppers

har!! I went with stuffing them with onion & chive cream cheese then laying a piece of bacon on top before baking for 20 minutes in a 375º F. oven. What rule did I forget about bacon?? Yes.. yes indeedy I forgot that bacon will shrink when it's cooked. So what I thought were big slabs being laid on top ended up being well.. hardly there! Well regardless of how they looked (teee!), they turned out quite delicious and made a nice dinner of nibbles paired with some previously made and frozen Hand-Hacked Pot Stickers. Quick and easy and very tasty, indeed. :D


Sunday, September 17, 2006

Blog of the Week September 17, 2006

It's been a slow week in the kitchen.. Hubbs' mother fell out of bed early last week and broke her hip, 3 ribs and her humorous bone. =( So we've been at the hospital every night checking in on her. By the time we get home, I really don't have time to make dinner - so it's just been steaks on the grill or past dinners I've made and frozen, heated up. Which does not make for good blogging.

I'm happy to be posting this morning though.. and bringing back the Blog of the Week! La Festa al Fresco has brought to my attention so many gorgeous and wonderfully written blogs to add to my blogroll! I've noticed in comments that most of you have discovered these great blogs as well, but just in case you haven't, I'm going to highlight some in the next few weeks.

Starting off this week is Peabody of Culinary Concoctions by Peabody. If you haven't added her to your blogroll yet, I seriously recommend it. Her creations are mouthwatering - her stories are hysterical. One of my favorites is a recent story about how she discovered the Monte Cristo sandwich.. how funny!! She shares wonderful recipes and tidbits about her life and her family, which I find so charming. And if you're in to the food porn scene - you won't be disppointed. Her photos will leave you with a sadness that only comes from not being able to taste what she's presenting right then and there.


Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Mmm Manicotti

I woke yesterday with the wish to finally get back into my kitchen since the big party AND with an incredible urge to make manicotti. Funny thing is? I don't think I've ever eaten manicotti let alone made it before. Weird, eh? Stuffed pasta dishes weren't big in our family - other than my father's Christmas ravioli and the occasional offering of stuffed shells on our restaurant menu. So how could I crave them? Ya got me.. but I'm glad I did!!

Not having a recipe made it a lil hard to figure out how to make them, although I had a pretty good idea what I wanted to stuff them with. So off I went to All Recipes as I always do when in search of ideas and or specific recipes. I was not disappointed in finding many recipes for Manicotti, that's for sure. I chose to go with Manicotti Alla Romana submitted by Mark Blau. Although I didn't follow his recipe to the Tee.. it did give me the guidelines I needed for a perfect Manicotti dish.

The reason I chose his recipe was because of the bechamel sauce involved. Although I wasn't sure if I'd include it or not - as my favorite Lasagna Roll recipe from Giada (a/k/a The Head and Mammories) calls for bechamel, it doesn't need it and I haven't included it since the very first time I made her rolls years ago. But this bechamel was slightly different with the addition of chicken bouillon. I found that interesting and decided to try it. It was fantastic! My only change next time would be to try to create this sauce with chicken stock as opposed to the bouillon granules because you could slightly taste it was bouillon. I really feel though, that this addition of bechamel really pushed the dish over the top. So if you decide to try this recipe.. don't skip it. =)

The other changes I made were to leave the spinach out and to substitute 1/2 pound of the ground meat for 1/2 pound of pork sausage. And I added Pecorino to the meat mixture as well.

Garlic & Onions
Is there anything better than the scent of garlic and onions cooking? I think not!

Here is my slightly different version of the above referenced recipe -

2 TBS olive oil
1/2 c. chopped vidalia onion
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 pound ground round
1/2 pound ground pork sausage
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
14 manicotti shells (1 package)
2 c. ricotta cheese
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 c. Pecorino Romano cheese, grated
3 c. marinara sauce (divided)
2 TBS. butter
2 TBS. all-purpose flour
2 TBS. chicken bouillon granules
2 c. half-and-half
1/4 c. fresh chopped parsley
2 TBS. fresh chopped basil
1/2 c. Parmigiano Reggiano

Preheat oven to 350º F.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Saute onions until translucent. Saute garlic for 1 minute and stir in ground beef and pork sausage. Cook until well browned and crumbled. Season with salt & pepper and set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil, then add a generous amount of salt. Add manicotti shells and parboil for half of the time recommended on the package (5 minutes). Drain and cover with cool water to stop the cooking process and prevent the shells from cracking.

To the ground beef/pork sausage mixture add the ricotta cheese and Pecorino Romano. When the mixture is cool, add the beaten eggs. Spread 1/4 cup marinara sauce in the bottom of a 9x13 inch baking dish. Gently drain the manicotti shells and carefully stuff each one with the meat and cheese mixture; place shells in prepared dish. Lightly cover the dish with plastic wrap or a clean, damp towel to prevent shells from cracking. See Note.

Prepare the white sauce by melting the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir in flour and chicken bouillon. Increase heat to medium-high and cook, stirring constantly, until it begins to bubble. Stir in half and half and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in parsley. Pour or ladle the sauce evenly over the stuffed shells.

Carefully pour or ladle marinara sauce over the white sauce, trying to layer the sauces without mixing. Sprinkle the basil over the marinara sauce.

Cover and bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven, uncover and sprinkle with Parmigiano cheese. Bake, uncovered, for 10 minutes more. Let sit for 5-10 minutes so the manicotti will set a bit.

*Note: After stuffing the Manicotti, I placed them into a plastic container that has a tight fitting lid. I used wax paper between the layers to prevent sticking and froze 8 Manicotti and only baked 6. Two manicotti per person is a generous portion.. unless you are Hubbs and eat 4. har!


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Sunday, September 10, 2006

BIG party last night. 15 crashers. Vultures - all of them vultures. Made enough food for an army, but the army wouldn't have had a chance against these people. All gone. NO food left. Never in the history of Lisa parties have I under cooked. NEVER. Booze. Lots and lots of booze. Send help. Sweaters.. little sweaters on my tongue cant. get. them. off. Dying.. hopefully. Head's pounding KABOOM KABOOM KABOOM. I can feel my heart beating in my eyes. MY EYES.

No pictures. Vultures.

Crawling back to bed now. Literally.


Saturday, September 09, 2006

Blogging by Mail.. OMG!

Hooray!!! On Thursday I received a wonderful letter from my secret partner in the BBM event, Morven, who is a lovely lady residing in New Zealand! The letter was an introduction to who she is, with great detail to her life in New Zealand with her hubby and furbaby, Scooter. Morven wanted to participate in the BBM so she created her own blog, Food Art and Random Thoughts, just for the occasion and I'm hoping she's going to find the time to post every once in a while, because it sounds like she's a magnificent cook!

In her letter she also gave me a sneak peek at what would be arriving in my box, with the option of not peeking if I wanted to keep it a secret until it arrived. But hey, what can I say? I'm one of those people who can not resist shaking my presents and/or trying to lift the pretty paper to get a hint of what's in store! ;) So yeah, I peeked and I was just tickled to read about the tasty items she had included! I'm particularly excited that my chosen secret blogger was someone from so far away.. I've the opportunity now to taste some foods from a place I might never get to visit - so this has brought a little piece of New Zealand right into my little Ohio kitchen! How cool is that?? That. Is very cool! :D

The good news is, I didn't have to wait long after the letter arrived! I received my package yesterday afternoon! Happily, I went home for lunch at the right time as my mail lady was ringing our doorbell not 5 minutes after I arrived! I'm pretty sure I either scared her with my squeals of delight or at least convinced her there is a wacko living on her route. teee! Although my time is limited at lunch, I couldn't not rip into the box immediately! It was chock full of very well wrapped items. And in my excitement I can't tell you the order in which I opened.. but suffice to say I was just amazed at the selection...

The bad news is, I've yet to have the time to taste my goodies - we're having our own "festa" tonight so I've been in preparation from the minute I got home from the grocery store last night until 11 pm and will have to get back into my kitchen almost immediately after I'm done posting this morning to continue on so I'm not rushing at the last minute! But tomorrow after all parties are done (both virtual and "IRL") you can betcher bottom dollar that I'll be sampling!

Blogging by Mail

Starting from the back and working counter clockwise, I'm the happy owner of one of Morven's favorite cooking magazines, Taste! Morven and I have very similar food loves and also, the same taste in what we like in our cooking mags.. She says this magazine is full of everyday cooking with some stylish ideas. Exactly what I look for - I agree with her in not being as fond of the more "gourmet" mags as the food is beautiful but just dishes I probably would not make at home. I haven't had a good look at it yet, but from a quick glance through it, this magazine is right up my alley - I can't wait to be able to take the time to sit with it and really read through.

Next we have a jar of Passionfruit pulp, which looks to be a sweet syrup made from passionfruit that would be heavenly drizzled over ice cream or pooled on a plate with a nice slice of cake on top soaking in the goodness.. among many other ways to enjoy it, I'm sure! Huge fan of fruity syrups here, so this is going to make my tummy very happy!

Then there is a very pretty bottle of Avocado oil infused with New Zealand's Horopito peppers. Okay, this is definitely something new to me.. and truthfully - I can not wait to try this drizzled over Meeta's Avocado & Pineapple Salsa that I'm making for the party tonight!

To the right of the oil is a bag of "Dukkah", which Morven says, isn't a traditional New Zealand food, but it's locally made and quite popular. She says that I could use the Avocado oil paired with this mix of nuts and spices to dunk bread in. I'm thinking this might be a nice thing to share with my guests this evening as well! I just bought a beautiful loaf of fresh French bread that I think would be divine for dipping into the Dukkah and oil. Yay!

Situated in front of the Dukkah is a jar of Tamarillo Chutney. Again, I'm not familiar with this fruit but from doing a little research, I can safely say I know I'll enjoy this immensely. I'm thinking this chutney would be perfect as bruschetta - I know what I'll be having for breakfast come Sunday morning! And I'm going to go with Morven's suggestion of adding a slice of good cheddar cheese on top as well.. yum!

Leaning on the chutney are two of the THREE bars of chocolate Morven sent.. Dear, sweet Morven.. I heart you! Yes, you can be sure that I was hoping and praying that whoever my secret partner was.. they'd send chocolate!! WOOOO!!! hahaha! And ohh baby did she send me some chocolate! To start with, I've got two bars of European chocolate filled with Kiwi delicacies such as passionfruit and new to me, Feijoa. Morven says the Feijoa is a fruit that is either loved or hated. I can't imagine any fruit being paired with a good chocolate being bad, so I have no doubts I'll enjoy this bar very much.

Okay now we have the one item that I am embarrassed to say, kinda scares me. hahahaha!! Morven sent me a small jar of Marmite, which is a traditional Kiwi spread. Going from her description in her letter, it sounded interesting.. and then I read what it says on the jar, "New Zealand's Favorite Yeast Spread". Mmm hmm.. I'm kinda squicked. I couldn't resist writing to Morven before I went to bed last night to thank her for my lovely package and to admit my fear of the Marmite. har! She wrote back and told me to not be afraid. tee! She said it has a salty flavor and that I should use it sparingly as it's potent. She also gave me her favorite recipe for eating the stuff:

"Take two slices of soft white bread, butter them. Spread one side thinly with marmite. Layer generously with plain flavoured salted potato chips. Real ones like Lays not Pringles or baked chips. Smash the other piece of bread on top and hold on tight while you eat or else the chips will fall out. Yum!"

Well if that's the way she likes it then that's the way I'll try it. But I might make hubbs try it first :P

Finally, in my box of goodies came another bar of chocolate. Cadbury's Dairy Milk. And although I can get this chocolate here in Ohio, I'm very happy to have an imported bar from New Zealand! I love Dairy Milk bars as they are so much more creamier than your average Hershey bar. I'll be enjoying this one very soon! =)

This was my very first Blogging by Mail event and I can't tell you how exciting it was to receive my letter and package - as well as to make a new friend. =) I can't wait to round up the last items of my own package to send to my secret partner in hopes that she'll be as happy as I was to receive mine. Many, many thanks to both Morven and Stephanie of Dispensing Happiness for hosting this event - and for truly dispensing some happiness here in Ohio. =)

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Thursday, September 07, 2006

Another Spin on Stuffed Flank Steak

You'd think after all that food at the Festa that I wouldn't need to cook (or eat!) again for days.. but alas, Hubbs thought differently. ;)

After trying and loving my first stuffed flank steak back when he was still working in Arkansas, I really couldn't wait to try it again. To my delight, I saw a bunch of our garden green peppers has turned red and decided that I'd roast them, then figured they'd be delicious stuffed into this surprisingly tender cut of meat. I was also thinking about how one day I'd like to try making braciole, although when I do, I'd prefer to go the more traditional route. But the thought of braising this flank steak in tomato sauce was too good to pass up. Luckily, I had two big containers full of Mama Cream Puff's tomato sauce in my freezer and knew it would be perfect for this dish!

This version was heavenly. The meat was so tender and I didn't even pound it much this time as the cut was pretty thin as it was. I'm thinking I might have to try this cut of steak marinated and grilled next time. The roasted red peppers and spinach paired well with the meat and although I lurve garlic it was a little over powering for me as I sliced it thick so the taste of raw garlic really shined through. Next time I'll mince - or even roast it first and then use a thick layer of roasted garlic paste. The tomato sauce was perfect, as I knew it would be, with that background hit of the pork cooked through it, it was rich and wonderful spooned over the pretty slices.

I served it simply with a side of garlic sauted swiss chard.. ohh how I love Autumn and all it's produce! :D

Spinach, garlic & roasted red pepper stuffed flank steak
Spinach, Garlic & Roasted Red Pepper Stuffed Flank Steak

1 1/2 to 2 lb. flank steak
2 small or 1 large roasted red pepper (See Note)
15-30 leaves fresh baby spinach
3 cloves garlic, thick sliced
Salt & Pepper to taste
2 TBS. olive oil
3 c. of tomato sauce

Preheat oven to 400º F.

Pour the tomato sauce into a roasting pan, and set in oven while it comes up to temp.

If your flank steak is thick, you'll need to butterfly it to thin it out for easier rolling and even cooking. Mine was pretty thin, so I skipped that step. Next lay your steak on a piece of plastic wrap and then lay another piece of plastic wrap over it. Proceed to pound the steak using firm (but not heavy) strokes, pound from one end of the steak to the other with the smooth side of the meat mallet. This will help break down the fibers in the steak to assure a tender bite.

Rub the meat with a little olive oil and then season with salt & pepper. Then lay the spinach leaves over the pesto, you can either go with a single layer or double (triple if you wish). Layer strips of roasted red pepper over the spinach and then sprinkle the slices of garlic on top.

Next, starting from a short side, roll the meat over the filling all the way to the end. Don't be surprised if some of the filling falls out, just tuck it back in and continue rolling. To hold the stuffed steak together, it must be tied. Cut five or six pieces of kitchen twine (about 14" each) and tie the steak using double knots, cutting excess twine off. Rub the rolled meat with a little more olive oil and season all sides with salt & pepper.

Heat an oven safe skillet over medium heat until it's good and hot. Sear steak on all sides in olive oil, ending with seam side down. Carefully remove the pan of tomato sauce from the oven and place seared roast in, spooning sauce to cover. Braise steak for 20-30 minutes, or until it reaches an internal temperature of 140º for medium rare. Let set for at least 5 mintues before slicing. Spoon sauce over slices.

Stuffed Flank Steak and Swiss Chard

*Note: To roast the red peppers, I simply placed them over one of my gas burners on the stove top to char the skin, turning so all sides char. Then I dropped them into a brown paper bag and let sit for 20 minutes. After they've cooled I peeled them and sliced. Using jarred roasted peppers would also work just as well.

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Tuesday, September 05, 2006

La Festa al Fresco Round Up Part 1

This has turned out to be an outrageous party - all thanks to you guys and your creativity and total awesomeness! Ivonne and I can not thank you enough for participating in La Festa al Fresco - you have made it the best end of summer party EVER! :D

I also want to thank my dear, dear Ivonne for hosting this party with me.. I, honestly feel that it wouldn't have been the success that it turned out to be without your input, creativity, support, laughter, warmness and thoughtfulness. I think I can speak for all of us.. we're awfully lucky to have you in our lives - even if it's "virtually". Many hugs and much love!

Because so many talented cooks joined in on the festa, we had to split this round up into two parts! I will present part 1 and My favorite Cream Puff will present part 2.

Now, without further ado, let's get this party started..

Honey-Cress Salad with Proscuitto
A tantalizing salad of sweet honeydew melon, spicy watercress and salty prosciutto ham was brought to the Festa by the lovely Julie of A Mingling of Tastes

Grilled Pepper Salads
The very talented Alanna of Kitchen Parade and A Veggie Venture brought to the table wonderful salads made of grilled sweet peppers.. yum!

Garden Peach Margarita
Kevin of Acme Instant Food, who I lurve dearly and is one of the most amazing home chefs, came to the rescue of our parched throats with his Garden Peach Margarita concoction.. to die for!

Plum Kuchen
Plum Kuchen made by Emily of Appetitive Behavior is our first dessert laid upon the Festa table and as you can see, this dessert will go fast! Is anyone else salivating yet? Anyone got a napkin??

Pomelo Salad
Karen, a/k/a Baking Soda, of Bake My Day shares with us this amazing salad made of Pomelos, chicken and bacon served on a fresh bed of mixed greens topped with an Asian inspired dressing.. ohhhhh how good does this look and sound?!

Broad Bean and Sun-dried Tomato Crostini, New England Seafood Soufflé, Sagaponack Corn Pudding and Bon Ton Chicken Marinade
A dear lady by the name of Beverly who is just starting work on her up-and-coming blog, has sent in 4 recipes for our Festa! Yes, I said FOUR! Hehehe They all look completely delicious and I look forward to trying them myself one day!

A Pampering Feast for One
Britt-Arnhild of Britt-Arnhild's House in the Woods pretty much summed up what I think is the perfect way to pamper yourself.. lingering at the market, relaxing at home with delicious, fresh foods and enjoying the beauty of the outdoors. Just a lovely post to read, in my humble opinion! =)

Fresh Peach Tart
LouLou of Chez LouLou brings, what sounds to be, the perfect Fresh Peach Tart to our Festa! I can just imagine the creaminess of the filling and the tart/sweetness of the peaches and berries on top.. Delish!

Beetroot Hummus
Sweet Jasmine (who I hope is feeling better) of Confessions of a Cardamom Addict brings a jewel toned Beetroot Hummus that I think is one of the prettiest dishes brought to our Festa! The color is amazing as I'm sure is the taste!

Plain Cake Doughnuts with Raspberry Skillet Jam
Peabody of Culinary Concoctions by Peabody has decided to make us all *swoon* by bringing these amazingly tantalizing Cake Doughnuts (rolled in cinnamon sugar, no less) with her Raspberry Skillet Jam on the side for dipping (or as I'd prefer, just immersing myself in). I just can not speak. Must. Eat. Now.

Basil Pasta with Mozzarella and Tomatoes
Stephanie (I hope you're feeling better too!) of Dispensing Happiness actually found time between getting over a nasty cold, hosting Blogging By Mail, the monthly Blog Party (which I shall contribute to one day!) and tending to her adorable son to make this incredibly beautiful Basil Pasta! I have never seen such a vibrant green pasta before.. it's gorgeous! I can just taste the fresh basil in it.. yum!

Zucchini Lasagna
Chris, a/k/a Chrispy, of Experimentation of Taste brought along a most tasty looking Zucchini Lasagna! Mmmm Mmmm how I love me some zucchini! Layered in with cheese, pasta and sauce... hello! How could you go wrong? Fantastic!

Peter Piper’s Stuffed Poblano Peppers with Pickled Raisin-Corn Salsa and Chile Mole Drizzle
Not only has Callipygia of Foodchair brought a tongue twister to our Festa, but she's also brought a delicious spicy dish that, to me, looks good enough to justify the licking of my monitor! Not that I really did that *cough* when I saw her dish. Callipygia's blog is new to me.. and is becoming a fast favorite!

Pan di Spagna
Francesca of Francescav brought a most awe inspiring Pan di Spagna that I can't stop staring at. It looks airy and creamy and fruity all at once! I am so happy that you've shared this luscious dessert with us!

A Boiled Dinner
Kristina of From the Branches of an Olive Tree brought one of the dishes that I got really excited over. It is this simple dinner of boiled potatoes, green beans and hard-boiled eggs that brought back so many memories of what my father would cook for us when given the reigns by my mother. Simply dressed and seriously, simply delicious!

Summer Fruit Compote
The incredibly talented Gattina of Gattina brings a sinful looking dessert that I suspect might not be so bad for you. At least I hope not, because I believe I could eat buckets full of this gorgeous fruit with honeyed walnuts! I absolutely love her hard caramel decoration as well.. just beautiful!

Tomato Tart
Sara of i like to cook, found time to make us lucky party goers TWO tasty treats for the Festa table! The above pictured Tomato Tart, which I think is quite beautiful and also a Double Tomato and Prosciutto Panini that sealed my resolution to finally buy that Panini grill I've always wanted!

Chicken Penne with Creamy Pesto Sauce
My dear friend Ed of Is it EDible? (who I'm trying to talk into adopting me) created this seriously tasty pasta dish when he combined two sauces together - how cool is that? My mouth waters each time I think of the creamy bechamel sauce mixed with vibrant basil pesto - I am so packing my bags and moving in! As a personal aside.. Happy Birthday to you! Happy Birthday to you! Happy Birthday dear Eddddddddddd Happy Birthday to you! And many mooorrrrrre! (am so happy you can't hear my terrible singing voice)

Rainbow Salad with Basil Vinaigrette
Stacey of Just Braise brought her stunningly colorful Rainbow Salad to the Festa table. The ingredients in this salad: peaches, avocado, green beans - just to name a few - scream summer deliciousness! I'd like seconds, please!

Red Wine Beef and Avocado Salad
My dear, sweet Ellie of Kitchen Wench, created this beautiful and truly delicious salad for our Festa table! This incredibly adorable gal from Down Under definitely knows the way to my heart, err.. stomach! Chunks of tender beef marinated in all kinds of goodness then combined with fresh tomatoes, cucumbers and avocados is a meal all unto itself! A perfect summery meal that I can't wait to dig into!

Muffins au chocolat blanc — White Chocolate Muffins
Béa, the awe-inspiring chef of La Tartine Gourmande, decided to bake for us. And ohhh did she bake.. White Chocolate Mini Muffins will have every last party-goer begging for more. White chocolate muffins, white chocolate slathered on top with a sprinkling of fresh pistachios, and they are of the mini size therefore I can eat a dozen all. by. myself.

La leche helada è latte freddissimo aromatizzato con cannella e limone
Cannella of La Zuccherierait responded to the call from her friend Ivonne with this rich and oh, so satisfying gelato! Oh so creamy! Oh so sweet but with a hint of lemon! Oh so, where the heck is my spoon?! Although I can not read Italian, I am a true ice cream/frozen custard addict and I can tell that this gelato would become one of my favorites.. if I could just find that damn spoon? Anyone?

Shrimp with Tomato and Basil over Polenta
Another dear friend of ours, Laura Rebecca of Laura Rebecca's Kitchen brought this delicious plate of salty-sweet shrimp cooked in a sauce of tomatoes, basil and garlic spooned over creamy polenta.. this gal does it right! I'm thinking I'm going to need a bigger dish or would it be rude of me to to have several dishes full to the brim with all of this amazing food? I'd be forgiven, right? Right?

La Festa al Fresco Frittata
Yes, we've had a frittata named after the Festa! Anni of Life is a Banquet has created, what I think, is the fluffiest frittata I have ever seen! Now fluffy is one thing.. but how do you suppose this tastes? Just by looking at that incredible photo and her list of ingredients, this is most definitely a frittata that I'd be willing to nosh on morning, noon and night!

Pomodori Ripieni Di Zucchine or Zucchini Filled Tomatoes
The incredibly talented Ilva of Lucullian Delights, brings to our table these tomatoes stuffed with zucchini. Personally, I think they couldn't possibly taste as good as they look. They are too pretty!! But, for the sake of quality control.. I will test my theory and taste one (or 15).. and get back to you.
No really, I have to hold onto the platter, in the name of all that's holy and for the goodness of Quality Control, leave me and my platter of tasty zucchini stuffed tomatoes alone!!

Summer Fruit Oat Crumble
The gorgeous Dianka of Na Zdravi! is going to make many a party goer happy with this dessert! This isn't your ordinary crumble, kids! There be rum in this fruity delight! How much do you want to bet that Kevin will be standing over this dish most of the night? ;)

Somen Salad
Kat of Our Adventures in Japan has created a most interesting salad made up of so many wonderful components.. there is the Somen (which is a very thin spaghetti type noodle), scrambled eggs, char siu (chinese roasted pork that I lurve) and something I'd never heard of called kamaboko which is, and I quote Kat: "a fish cake paste that is steamed onto a board or bamboo rod" along with many other yummy items.. The colors are beautiful and the tastes have got to be outrageously good! Now this is what I call "big D little licious" ;)

Peachy Caprese
Bree who is the fantastic co-author (along with her lovely sister, Devorit) of Peanut Butter and Purple Onions a fantastic blog which I so look forward to reading with each new post, has went outside the "box" and found a way to enjoy a Caprese salad although she is not fond of raw tomatoes. What is a girl to do when faced with such a beautiful dish of fresh mozzarella, basil and garden tomatoes that kinda squick her? She substitues fresh, juicy peaches for the tomatoes and voila! She's got herself a unique Peachy Caprese that sounds just heavenly.. Sweet peaches.. vibrant basil.. salty and creamy fresh mozzarella.. *swoon*

Wilted Vlita with Feta Cheese
Susan of Porcini Chronicles has introduced me and I'm sure a few of you to a wonderful warm salad of wilted Vlita and Feta Cheese. I have never had Vlita before but Susan says it's comparable to spinach - and I loves me my spinach! A simple preparation to let the fresh ingredients shine through, this salad would be fantastic on any table - but especially our Festa table!

Mojo Verde
And last, but not least on this first list of amazingly beautiful and delicious dishes, comes Rosa of Rosa's Yummy Yums! bearing a big bowl of her Mojo Verde or "green sauce" that is traditionally served with fish. The ingredients are many, including green peppers, herbs and spices and toasted bread all mashed together to create this spicy condiment. Rosa says that this sauce is so good that it goes with just about anything and not just fish. Quite frankly, it looks so good to me that I'd be happy to pair it with just my spoon!

Speaking of which.. I still haven't found the damn thing yet! Anyone? Has anyone seen my spoon? No? Well then.. I'm headin' over to Ivonne's to check out the 2nd part of this Festa - maybe she's hiding my spoon? I know we've already been fighting over more than one or 57 (FIFTY. SEVEN.) dishes presented to our table(s)! So it wouldn't shock me a bit ;)

Ohh.. wait a minute.. *blush* I forgot one.. teeee! Then there was me.. the dork from Ohio.. it's the hunger I tell ya! I blame the hungerrrrr!!

Fresh Garden Tomatoes & Shrimp Linguine
The very lovely and talented and sweet and gorgeous and lovely and complete dork, Lisa of La Mia Cucina presents her dish of Fresh Garden Tomatoes & Shrimp Linguine for your dining pleasure. Lisa (the lovely Lisa) considers this dish the ultimate in comfort foods as the aromas, taste and preparation brought her memories of her parents cooking in the cavernous kitchen of their restaurant when she was a child.. And then the linguine was al dente and the shrimp was opaque and she forgot about everything else except the delicious dish in front of her and her fork! Thank God for the fork and not that freakin' spoon! ;)

See ya at Ivonne's!