Sunday, September 30, 2007


Inside Mike's Pastry Shop in the North End
Every time I visit Boston, I always make sure I stop by at the North End. When we were there earlier this year, I made sure I took my husband to Mike's Pastry shop. It's probably the most famous Italian bakery in Boston. There are plenty of pastry shops in the North End, but this place just makes the best cannolis. They have both ricotta filling and custard filling. To tell you the truth, the ricotta is the best--so make sure you tell them you want the ricotta filling. Anyhoo, the recipe is very simple if you just buy already made cannoli shells (easily available at most supermarkets or Italian delis) and just make the filling. These cannolis make a great accompaniment to a steaming cup of hot cappuccino.


  • Ready made cannoli shells (12 pack)
  • 1 lb. fresh ricotta (2 cups)
  • 1/4 - 1/2 cup confectioners sugar (to taste)
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
  • Special equipment: pastry bag or a make-shift ziploc pastry bag

Make filling: Beat together ricotta, confectioner's sugar, vanilla extract and cinnamon in a bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed 1 minute (do not overbeat). Chill filling for 15 - 20 minutes.

Spoon filling into pastry bag and pipe some into one end of a cannoli shell, filling shell halfway, then pipe into other end. Repeat with remaining shells. Garnish with chocolate chips and sprinkle confectioner’s sugar over the cannolis.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Czech Beef Goulash

One of my dreams is to open a Czech style pub here in San Diego that serves authentic Czech food and beers, but before anything, I need to learn to cook Czech foods--and I know nothing about bohemian foods. So, I've been searching for recipes and I found this one in one of my cookbooks. Although goulash is actually more Hungarian, the Czech do have their own version. What I'm missing in this recipe are the dumplings, which I still have to learn how to make them (I did make them but they didn't turn out so good). If you have a good Czech dumpling recipe, please send it my way.


  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 lb stew beef or boneless bottom round steaks, cut in 1-inch cubes
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour + more for dredging
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tablespoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon caraway seeds
  • 4-5 small new potatoes, cut in 1/2-inch rounds
  • 2 2/3 cups beef broth
  • 1 ½ cups low-sodium chicken stock or water
  • 1 cup tomato puree
  • sour cream (for garnish)

Season beef with salt and pepper, then dredge the beef in flour and shake off any excess.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches, brown the beef on all sides, making sure not to crowd the pan and set aside.

Add more oil to the skillet (if needed) and heat. Add the onion and bell pepper, reduce the heat to medium, and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the remaining flour, garlic, paprika, and caraway and stir for 1 minute. Remove from heat.

Place the potato rounds in the bottom of a 3 ½-quart slow cooker. Add the beef and vegetables. Pour in the broth, chicken stock or water and tomato puree. Cover and cook on low until the beef is tender, 6-7 hours. Serve with sour cream and don't forget the authentic Czech piva!

Friday, September 28, 2007

Mini-Meatballs over Gnocchi

This is truly a 30 minute meal here, especially if someone else forms the meatballs while you do the sauce. The combo of mini meatballs and gnocchi really works well, but you can also substitue penne pasta or even bowties if you can't find gnocchi. We had this this lightly toasted French bread and boy was it fabulous!


  • 1 pound bulk Italian sausauge
  • 1 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 6 fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh black pepper
  • 1 pound gnocchi, from refrigerated or frozen foods section of market
  • Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Romano cheese
  • Crusty bread to pass at table

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Place bulk sausage in a medium bowl. Roll into mini balls, 1 1/2 inches across, and arrange on a nonstick cookie sheet. Bake at 400 degrees F for 10 to 12 minutes or until firm and lightly golden.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil a large skillet over medium-high heat. To the hot skillet, add the onions and cook for 5 minutes. Then add garlic and crushed red pepper flakes. Cook for one more minute. Add crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce and season sauce with salt and pepper. Simmer sauce for 10 - 15 minutes.

Bring a pot of water to a boil for gnocchi. Drop gnocchi in boiling water and cook 5 minutes or to package directions.

Stir in meatballs and basil into tomato sauce and simmer 5 more minutes, then remove from heat.

Drain gnocchi and arrange on a platter. Carefully ladle meatballs and sauce over gnocchi. Sprinkle cheese over it and serve with crusty bread. So good!

    Thursday, September 27, 2007

    No-Bean Chicken Chili

    It's no secret that my husband (and pretty much all men, I think) cuts the cheese a lot. Often times, the culprits are beans or green veggies or even ice cream that causes this phenomena to him. So I wanted to make a beanless chili so that he could enjoy the Southwestern chili taste without the "tooting," if you know what I mean! I found this recipe (yes, it's another Barefoot Contessa recipe that I modified to work for me) and I have to say that I think it rivals Dave Bagg's chili recipe. I'm thinking Chili-Off!
    INGREDIENTS (makes 4 to 6 servings)
    • 1 yellow onion, chopped
    • 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus 1 teaspoon extra for chicken
    • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
    • 1 red bell peppers, cored, seeded, and large-diced
    • 1 yellow bell peppers, cored, seeded, and large-diced
    • 3/4 teaspoon chili powder
    • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
    • 1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes, or to taste
    • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
    • 1/4 teaspoon paprika (optional)
    • 1 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more for chicken
    • 1 (35-ounce) can whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes in puree, undrained (use canned plum tomatoes is you can't find San Marzano)
    • 6 fresh basil leaves, minced
    • 1 split chicken breasts, bone in, skin on (2 breast halves)
    • Freshly ground black pepper
    • Toppings:
    • Chopped onions, Fritos, grated sharp cheddar, sour cream and cilantro
    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

    In a large pot, cook the onions in 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the chili powder, cumin, red pepper flakes, cayenne, paprika, and salt. Cook for 1 minute.Add the red and yellow bell peppers and then crush the tomatoes by hand or in batches in a food processor fitted with a steel blade (pulse 6 to 8 times). Add to the pot with the basil. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

    Meanwhile, rub the chicken breasts with 1 teaspoon olive oil and place them on a baking sheet. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Roast the chicken for 35 to 40 minutes, until just cooked through. Let cool slightly. Separate the meat from the bones and skin and cut it into 1/2-inch chunks. Add to the chili and simmer, uncovered, for another 20 minutes. Serve with the toppings, or refrigerate and reheat gently before serving.

    Wednesday, September 26, 2007


    My husband has been craving poppy-seed kolaches lately, but when I looked up the recipe, it was a bit too much for me. I'm not a big baker, so I shy away from anything that I have to "proof." Anyhoo, I found a simple recipe for a buttery crust and I figured if I fill it with the poppy-seed mixture he likes so much, it'll be a little bit like a kolache. Oh, who am I kidding, but these faux-laches were pretty good.

    INGREDIENTS (makes 1 dozen)

    • 3 oz. Cream Cheese, room temperature
    • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
    • 1 cup flour
    Poppy Seed Filling
    • 1/4 cup + 2 Tablespoons sugar
    • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
    • 3/4 cups poppy seeds
    • 3 oz. whole milk
    • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract

    For the dough: cream together cream cheese and butter. Slowly add in flour. Blend and shape into a ball. Cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate 3 hours or overnight.

    For the filling: Stir together the sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl. Set the bowl aside. Grind the poppy seeds in a food processor or blender with about half the milk. Place the poppy seed mixture and the remaining milk in a small, heavy saucepan and bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to a simmer and stir in the reserved sugar-and-cornstarch mixture and the almond extract. Simmer, stirring often, until very thick, a matter of 3 - 4 minutes. Set aside to cool.

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

    Assembly: Roll dough out 1/8 inch thick on a floured pastry board. Cut into 2 1/2 inch squares and place 1/2 tsp (approx) of poppy-seed filling. Overlap opposite corners and pinch together. Place on ungreased cookie sheets and refrigerate about 10 - 15 minutes.

    Bake for 10 to 12 minutes in the preheated oven. Cool. Sprinkle lightly with confectioner's sugar and enjoy.

    Tuesday, September 25, 2007

    Best Pot Roast

    I'm not one to brag, but last night I made the best pot roast ever. Actually, it took pretty much all day for the roast to cook in a low oven, so this is a perfect meal to make on a lazy Sunday. I got the recipe from Barefoot Contessa's cookbook, Parties! I cut the recipe in half and I only modified it a little, but it was absolutely delish. My husband even had seconds! Thanks, Contessa!

    INGREDIENTS (serves 4)

    • 3 to 3 1/2 lb. pot roast or brisket (not corned beef), washed and patted dry
    • 1 Tablespoon kosher salt
    • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    • 2 large garlic cloves, finely minced
    • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
    • About 1 cup flour for dredging
    • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
    • 2 carrots, peeled and cut into 2" chunks
    • 3 stalks celery, cut into 2" chunks
    • 1 yellow onion, peeled and sliced
    • 1 teaspoon paprika
    • 3 dried bay leaves (or fresh if you have them)
    • 1 (28oz) can of tomato juice

    In a small bowl, mix the salt, black pepper, garlic and dried oregano. Rub all of this mixture all over the roast. Cover tightly in plastic wrap and let it rest at room temperature for an hour.

    Preheat oven to 350.

    Unwrap the roast and sprinkle the flour all over the roast; patting away any excess. Place your Dutch oven or heavy roasting pan over the burner and heat to medium-high. Add 2 teaspoons vegetable oil. When hot, add the roast and sear for 2 - 3 minutes. Turn roast over and sear for another 2 - 3 minutes. You want a light golden crust on the roast. Immediately remove roast from pan and set aside; turn heat off.

    To the pan add the carrots, celery, onions, paprika and bay leaves.Place the seared roast on top of the veggies. Pour the can of tomato juice and cover tightly with lid (for Dutch oven). If using a roasting pan, cover the top with plastic wrap first then cover with aluminum foil (the foil doesn't react well with tomato juice).

    Bake for 3 1/2 hours or until meat is tender. Remove about half of the tomato sauce, including the veggies, from roast and add it to your blender (make sure there are no bay leaves). Puree for about a minute. Pass mixture through a sieve. Place sauce in a pan and bring to a simmer. In the meantime, slice meat across the grain. Add the slices to the simmering sauce just to heat through. Serve slices of meat with some of the sauce. I served roasted garlic new potatoes on the side and it was out of this world!

    Saturday, September 15, 2007

    Elaine's Eggs, Chili & Cheese Stratta

    Okay, a strata is basically a fancy word for layered casserole or crustless quiche, if you will. But this recipe is tried and true and it's delicious. Elaine, my other mom, has been making this for several years and it's always a great hit with everyone. This is a great brunch item, too, because you can feed a lot of people and you don't have to do much work. Serve it with a side of fresh fruit--don't forget the mimosas--and you've got yourself a really, really good breakfast!

    INGREDIENTS (serves 8 to 10 people)

    • 10 Large eggs
    • 1 stick butter, melted
    • 1/2 cup flour
    • 2 teaspoons baking powder
    • Large dash of salt
    • 1 pint (16oz) cottage cheese
    • 1 lb. shredded cheese, such as Jack Cheese or mixed
    • 7 or 8 oz diced green chilies (Ortega brand, if possible)

    Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

    Beat eggs with hand mixer and add melted butter, flour, baking powder and salt. Beat until well blended. Add cottage cheese, shredded cheese and chilies by hand and mix to combine.

    Pour into a greased 9x13 dish. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes. Lower temperature to 350 degrees and bake 25 - 30 minutes until casserole is golden brown and knife comes out clean from center.

    Tuesday, September 04, 2007

    Grilled Bacon Wrapped Orange-Chipotle Shrimp

    It has been so unbelievably hot here lately that I've had no desire to cook indoors or outdoors. I was trying to find a recipe where my outside grilling was at a minimum, and of course, I found this excellent recipe that, yes, it is also bacon-themed! Wrapping shrimp in bacon is a very common recipe and quite easy, just make sure wrap each shrimp in half of a bacon piece this way your shrimps won’t overcook and get tough. Seriously, my friend, this is all we ate while sipping super cold Amstel Lights and sitting in front of a fan that we set to go at 90 miles per hour. Stay cool!

    INGREDIENTS (makes 12 jumbolicious scrimps)

    • 12 jumbo, raw, peeled and deveined shrimp
    • 2 Tbsp grapeseed oil or olive oil
    • 1 teaspoon orange zest
    • 2 Tablespoons fresh orange juice
    • 1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder (or to taste)
    • Pinch of kosher salt
    • 6 strips thin bacon cut in half (12 pieces)
    • Skewers

    In a medium bowl, combine the oil, orange zest, orange juice, chipotle powder and salt. Add the shrimp and make sure it is all well coated. Set aside in the fridge for 5 to 10 minutes.

    When you are ready, run outside and turn on your grill on high, for direct heat, then run back into house. Take a zip of your beer and take a breather.

    After 10 or so minutes, wrap a half piece of bacon around each piece of shrimp, then thread the shrimp onto skewers, preferably the long, flat ones or metal skewers. You can also use bamboo, but make sure you soak them in water for at least a half hour first. Drizzle the remaining marinade over the shrimp.

    Now, with all your shrimps wrapped in bacon, quickly take them outside to your hot grill and grill uncovered for 5 to 7 minutes on each side, until shrimp is pink and the bacon is crisp. Make sure you take a cold beverage with you because these will be the hottest 14 minutes of your life. When shrimp is done, run back in and enjoy them with your life-partner...