Archive for October, 2011

Every year my little Grandson (David) has a request for his birthday cake.  This year he turns 4 and he had a hard time picking between Power Rangers and Sponge Bob. So, to make my little man Grandson happy, we decided on a Power Rangers Birthday cake and Sponge Bob and Patrick Cookies. (Which by the way, the cookie cutters for Sponge Bob and Patrick are available here, at Karen’s Cookies.  Look for Thomas the Train, Hello Kitty, Sesame Street, and I also know that Mickey Mouse is available at Copper Gifts.  Although, out of stock at the moment.)

My Grand kids had fun helping decorate the cookies.  My daughter Barb, (David’s Mom) as always, did a fantastic job on the Birthday party. The kids had so much fun and got to do Trick or Treating after the party. She lives in Howell and they had The Legend of Sleepy Howell weekend, with trick or treating in downtown Howell sponsored by downtown businesses. Here they are all dressed up.

Does your hometown do special events and trick or treating where you live?

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You know it’s rare to find a cookbook that inspires you to want to make every recipe in it!   The recipes are simple, easy to follow, with most ingredients readily available at your local market, producing spectacular results.  (Sources are listed for the few ingredients that might require a specialty store.) Beautifully photographed, well written, and inspiring, this book will turn you into an Italian Dessert Guru:  Dolci:  Italy’s sweets by Francine Segan.

Francine Segan is an acclaimed food historian and author of four cookbooks, read more about her here.   In Dolci: Italy’s Sweets, Segan introduces us to the real Italy.  None of the recipes in this book are actually hers.  She gathered recipes from all corners of Italy.  Her recipes come from hip young food bloggers, grandmas in remote villages, from important Italian pastry manufactures and pastry chefs at small cafes. From thousands of recipes, she has selected the very best – a list that includes both the classics and desserts that contemporary Italians prepare in their homes today.

Chapters Include; Cookies & Bite sized sweets, Cakes & Sweet Breads, Refrigerator Cakes, Pies, Freezer Desserts, Spoon Sweets, Weird & Wonderful, unique & Unusual Desserts, Holiday Traditions, After Dinner Beverages, and last but not least; Basics.

While the book is beautifully photographed, the down side is the number of pictures.  There is not a lot of pictures, and for most of the recipes you’ll have to make it to find out what the finished product looks like.  I personally do not find this a deterrent. While I love to see more pictures in a book as most of us are visual, the book will still inspire you to make the contents within. With or without pictures.

Chocolate & Jam “Little Mouthfuls”

Filled with chocolate, ground almonds, and grape jam, these tiny, two-bite pies have an intriguing combination of flavors.  If the idea of making pie crust seems daunting, you’ll love this recipe.  Unlike most dough for pies and tarts, this one doesn’t require rolling or chilling and is just pressed into molds.  Made with olive oil, not butter, these mini pies are healthy as well as tasty.   Like so many dish in Italy, bocconotti vary from region to region.  This recipe is from Abruzzo, where they are filled with either a cooked reduced dessert wine called “Vin Cotto” or with a jam made from the local exquisite Montelpuciano grapes.  In Calabria, they are filled instead with just marmalade, and in the Lazio region, with sweetened ricotta. – Francine Segan

From: Dolci: Italy’s Sweets


Makes about 3 Dozen

Region: Abruzzo, Calabria, and Lazio

6 Large Egg Yolks

1/2 Cup (100g) Sugar

1/2 Cup (120 ml) Olive or other Vegetable Oil

1/2 tsp. Pure Vanilla Extract

Grated Zest of 1 Lemon

1 7/8 Cup (225g) All Purpose Flour

3/4 Cup (180ml) Grape Jam

1/3 Cup (45g) Almond flour or very finely ground blanched almonds

2 oz. (55g) Dark Chocolate, grated on a cheese grater

Pinch of Ground Cinnamon

(click pictures for another view.)

Preheat the oven to 350 Degrees F. (180 Degrees C.)  In a medium bowl, combine the egg yolks and sugar and beat with an electric mixer until golden-yellow and creamy.  Add the oil, vanilla, and half of the lemon zest and beat until combined. Gradually add the flour, mixing until a dough forms. Set aside.

In another medium bowl, combine the jam, almond flour, chocolate, cinnamon, and remaining lemon zest and stir until well combined.

Lightly oil 36 mini muffin cups or 2 inch (5 centimeters) tart molds.  Press about 1 rounded tablespoon of the dough into the bottom of each mold.  Top with a heaping tablespoon of the jam mixture.  Take another tablespoon of the dough and press it flat with your palms.  Top the filling with the disk of dough and press it flat with your palms.  Top the filling with the disk of dough and press it into the edges of the mold to seal  Sprinkle with sugar.  Bake until golden, about 20 minutes.

Verdict:  These little tarts are delicious. Easy and fun to make, they come together fast. The best part?  Eating them!   If you have the time, homemade jam would be best here.  If not, store-bought works just as well.  I see no reason these couldn’t be made in whatever flavor jam you might like.  I also plan on making them with the sweetened ricotta filling.


This beautiful, high quality, inspiring cookbook will attract all dessert lovers, especially, with its simplicity of the recipes, and in the ease of obtaining such spectacular results. This is a book that I will reach for over and over.  Recommended?  Highly! This book will not disappoint.

Full Disclosure:  I was given this book in exchange for a review.  The above review is my honest opinion of this book and the contents with in.

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Recently, I was sent Anita Lo’s new cookbook “Cooking without Borders”.

Anita Lo is the owner and chef of the Michelin starred Annisa.  She has been featured on Chopped All Stars, Top Chef Masters, Iron Chef America, the Martha Stewart show and more.  This is her first cookbook.    In Cooking without Borders, she offers more than 100 recipes celebrating the best flavors from around the globe, including chapters on appetizers, soups, salads, main courses, and desserts.   These recipes show home cooks everywhere how easy it is to think globally and prepare creative and delicious food.

What intrigues me and draws me to this cookbook is the combinations of flavorings, tastes and textures.  This book does not reflect the cooking that I have done in the past.  This book was fun, although taking me out of my comfort zone in the fact that so many of the ingredients in this book I have been foreign to and have never tried.  I will continue to use this book to broaden my tastes and experience some of the flavors from around the world.

For my recipe, I have to admit that I did stick to some of the comforts that I know; nevertheless, this dish was intriguing in its ingredients, tastes and textures.  Somethings I subbed.  The recipe calls for sea urchin, and at $55.00 a pound where I live, this ingredient was left out.  I swapped the Chinese Mustard greens for baby broccoli, first because I couldn’t find Chinese Mustard greens, and second, I love baby broccoli.  (Broccoli Rabe was a listed acceptable substitution.) This recipe was used in the Elimination Round in Top Chef.

Pan Roasted Sea Scallops with Uni, Bacon, and Mustard Greens

From: Cooking Without Borders by: Anita Lo

Serves: 4

For our elimination challenge in the first Champions Round of Top Chef Masters, we were each asked to present our fellow competitors with a signature dish – subsequently, one of our opponents would have to reinvent and make the dish his or her own.  As none of my signature dishes could have been done in the two hours allotted, I chose this rich scallop entrée because it’s indicative of my cooking.  The seared golden mollusk sits on a white potato puree, surrounded by a ragout of orange sea urchin, dark mustard greens,  and burgundy-hued bacon.  Although the shellfish is the star, the salty meat is the lynchpin; with the bitter greens, the bacon recalls the Southern collards -and – pork pairing; with the same leaves mustardy notes, it draws on that condiment’s ability to enhance pig parts;  with the briny sea urchin, it calls a chowder to mind; and, with the sweet scallop, it references a staple of New American cuisine.  My Potato puree is based on David Bouley’s . His is composed of fingerlings and butter in equal amounts, plus a bit of heavy cream  I  apply less butter and combine fingerlings with Idaho potatoes, which maintain fluffiness and make for a more foolproof outcome.  When Hubert Keller reinterpreted my dish on that television show, I don’t remember his straying that much from the original, but I believe he substituted  peas for the mustard greens.  Home cooks have a chance to put their own twist on things; for example, caviar could be used in place of sea urchin, or that component could be left out entirely. – Anita Lo

For the potato puree:

1/2 cup peeled & roughly chopped fingerlings potatoes

1 small Idaho potato, peeled & roughly chopped

3 teaspoons salt

1/3 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter

A few grinds black pepper

For the scallops:

1 tablespoon neutral flavored vegetable oil

1 1/2 pounds extra-large sea scallops, connector muscle removed (3 or 4 scallops per person)

1 teaspoon salt

Black Pepper to taste

For the Sauce:

1 tablespoon Cognac

1/4 cup Lobster stock or clam juice

2 tablespoons bacon lardons,  cooked to render fat

1/4 cup wide stem Chinese mustard greens, cut (on bias) into bite size pieces

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter

1 teaspoon chopped fresh chives

Pinch of chopped fresh tarragon

20 pieces sea urchin

1 teaspoon lemon juice, or to taste

1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste

Black pepper, to taste

Make the potato puree:  Put the potatoes in a pot, cover with water, and bring to a boil.  Add 1 teaspoon of the salt and cook until the potatoes are tender.  Drain well and pass through a food mill.  In a small saucepan, heat the cream and the butter over medium high heat until the butter is melted and the cream is steaming, then whisk the mixture into the potatoes until well blended and smooth, do not over whisk, which will make the potatoes gluey.  Season with the remaining salt and pepper. Cover and set aside in a warm place.

Make the scallops:  Heat a pan large enough to hold all the scallops in one well spaced layer.  Add the oil, and when it’s smoking, add the scallops and season with the salt and pepper.  Lower the heat to medium high and cook until golden brown.  Turn and cook to desired doneness.  (I like them medium-rare, about 2 minutes per side.)

Meanwhile, make the sauce:  Heat a small saute pan over medium high heat. Add the cognac, bring to a boil, and cook for 30 seconds to cook off some of the alcohol.  Add the stock and lardons and bring to a boil.  Add the mustard greens and butter and stir to emulisfy.  Add the chives and tarragon, then add the sea urchin and a little lemon juice to taste.  Taste and adjust the seasonings, adding the salt and pepper.

To Serve:  Place the potato puree in the center of each of 4 large serving plates.  Circle the puree with the sauce and try to distribute the lardons and mustard greens evenly.  Top the puree with the scallops and serve.

Serves 4.

Note:  There are endless different kinds of mustard greens and any of them will work in this recipe.  You have, to name a few, the red frilly variety, the green frilly type, and the Chinese type called gai choy that are either small, or as I prefer for this preparation, wide stemmed.  Those stems are often, pickled, or as here, braised.  The cooking process tames the sharpness.  They retain their mustardy bite but won’t overpower the other ingredients.  Although quite strong, broccoli rabe, a cousin of these greens, is a viable alternative, if you use it here, a little bit will be enough. ~ Anita Lo


This is a high quality, beautifully photographed cookbook.  If you’d like to learn some recipes from around the world,  or if you’d like to expand your repertoire, this is the book for you. Now that we have even greater access than ever before to ingredients from all corners of the world, there’s no better time to enjoy these flavors at every meal, presented by one of our country’s most innovative chefs.

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