Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Treats Truck Baking Book Peanut Butter Cookies

It’s that time of year when everyone is on the lookout for unique holiday gifts to give family and friends.  Maybe you need an idea for the aunt that has everything.  Or maybe your looking for something for your favorite neighbor.  Whatever the situation I think the Treats Truck Baking Book by Kim Ima would be a good fit.

Ima is the creator of the Treats Truck; one of the first baking trucks in NYC.  She describes her goodies as “fun to eat and fun to bake” which shows in her new book.

The Treats Truck Baking Book includes recipes for old fashioned goodies like peanut butter cookies, caramel brownies and the original rice crispy square. Although the recipes aren’t anything a seasoned baker wouldn’t already know it does provide a fresh look at these yummy classics.  And for the novice among us this book makes baking easy; with detailed instructions and lots of tips.

I think The Treats Truck Baking Book would be great for anyone on your Holiday list. 

*****For your chance to win a copy of this whimsical little baking book all you have to do is leave a comment on this post telling me what your favorite old school treat is. Deadline to comment is midnight EST 12/6/2012*****

Peanut Butter Cookies
(adapted from The Treats Truck)

2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups smooth peanut butter no sugar added
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup crushed roasted peanuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 325. Grease a baking sheet. In a small bowl combine the eggs and vanilla and set aside.  Place the peanut butter in a large bowl and pour in the egg/vanilla mixture. Stir with a sturdy spoon until combined.Add sugar and salt and mix well.

Scoop the dough with a spoon and roll it into balls with your hands. The size is up to you; depending on the size of the cookie you want.  The dough will not spread. Place the balls about 2 inches apart on the cookie sheet. Slightly flatten and top with crushed peanuts if you desire.

Bake for about 10 minutes or until centers look as light and baked as the edges. Cool completely before removing from the pan. 

Monday, November 28, 2011

Phoenix Area Food News & Marx Foods Winner

Just a couple of Phoenix area food updates I wanted to share:

Nicolli's Deli
Have you heard that Nicolli's Italian deli now has a dining room? Stop by and enjoy all your Italian favorites in their new seating area. Perfect for those out of the area shoppers who want to grab some lunch while picking up their Italian supplies.

Aunt Chilada's
On November 29, Aunt Chilada's in Tempe will be hosting its first-ever Holiday themed Twitter party! Think of a Twitter party as a moderated chat room where your discussions are all public. Share how your holiday season has been so far and what plans you have in the next month. You'll be rewarded with goodies from Arizona Grand resort just for joining in.

Here's how it works:

First, RSVP on Twitter. There will be a door prize of a 2-night stay to a random Twitter user who RSVP’s with this: I'm going to the @ArizonaGrand Aunt Chilada’s Twitter party November 29 at 6pm/5c! Are you?
#auntchilada   Throughout the hour, @ArizonaGrand will be asking questions about your holiday season, and people who answer will be randomly selected throughout the chat to win prizes from Arizona Grand Resort!

Remember--add #auntchiladas to your Tweets, and happy chatting!

Have you been to the new Salumeria on 7th st. & Thunderbird?  They're serving all the great Aiello classics in a more casual atmosphere.  Worth a stop for sure.  More importantly Aiello's is your seafood connection this holiday season.  Order your baccala and other specialties now.

Congratulations to Monet from Anecdotes & Apple Cores; she is our Marx Foods winner. Please stop by her blog and congratulate her.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Thanksgiving Virtual Potluck & Marx Food Giveaway

Do you remember me telling you about Virtual Potluck: that special group of bloggers working together to give you cool information on all sorts of food related products.  Well we’re at it again. This time all 12 of us volunteered to work with Marx Foods to put together a Thanksgiving meal that will make your mouth water.  The turkey is made.  Our job is to fill in the rest of the dinner with cool recipes inspired from ingredients provided by Marx Foods.  We also have giveaways and discounts for our readers. (see below for more info)

Marx Foods is an online food store selling gourmet foods in bulk at wholesale prices.  They are the go to site for hard to find ingredients; selling things like Geoduck and fiddlehead ferns.  The ingredients we were sent included 2 different types of dried mushrooms, 2 types of dried peppers, vanilla beans and risotto. 

So what does one make with this array of pantry staples to bring to Thanksgiving dinner? I was initially thinking dessert…maybe a spicy vanilla rice pudding.  But I was really intrigued by the mushrooms and decided to do something savory; an appetizer or a small first course.  After much deliberation I decided on to make arancini stuffed with a spicy wild mushroom sauce.   For those that don’t know arancini are deep fried balls of rice usually stuffed with a meat sauce and cheese.  They are a delicious treat but not easy to make. 

Have you ever tried rolling cooked rice into a ball and stuffing it???  Well I have and it's tough but the end product is so worth it. If you have the patience I would recommend trying it; you won't be disappointed.

Let’s talk about the mushrooms I was sent a package of dried black trumpet and matsutake mushrooms.   Dried mushrooms are great…they store well, are easily reconstituted in warm water and add lots of flavor.  I like to add them to sauces or soups for that little something extra.  The matsutake variety have a very intense pungent piney flavor.  A little of these goes a long way.  They are very dense and meaty similar to portabellas.  Black Trumpets are a more delicate variety. The flavor is almost buttery, with a slight hint of smoke.   I can’t say which of these I liked more… they were both such a treat.

If you want to see what the others are bringing to dinner and have more chances to win cool food products head over to Cookistry 

Arancini Stuffed with Spicy Exotic Mushroom Ragu

For the Rice
5 cups water
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups arborio rice
4 large eggs
2 cups Pecorino Romano, grated

To Coat and Fry the Rice Balls
2 eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups fine dry breadcrumbs
⅔ cup vegetable oil
⅓ cup olive oil, plus extra for frying

For the Ragu
2 cups favorite sauce

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 ozs chopped dried mushrooms reconstituted
½ teaspoon red pepper, crushed
1 cup frozen peas

1 fresh mozzarella ball, cubed 

Make the rice. Bring the water and 2 tablespoons olive oil to a boil in a 3-quart saucepan. Stir in the rice, return the water to a boil, then adjust the heat to simmering. Cook the rice uncovered, until al dente, about 12 minutes. Drain the rice and spread out on a tray to cool to room temperature. When the rice is cool, scrape it into a mixing bowl and beat in the 4 eggs and the grated cheese. 

Meanwhile make the ragu.  Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Saute mushrooms until soft. Add your favorite tomato sauce and cook down until thickened. Add frozen peas and crushed pepper. Simmer until peas are cooked through.

Forming the Arancini
Take a handful of the cooled rice mixture and shape it into a small ball in the palm of your hand. Make a well in the center of the ball and drop in 1 tablespoon of the ragu and a piece of cheese. Work the rice so that it completely encloses the ragu, and re-form the rice into a smooth ball. Continue forming arancine with the remaining rice and ragu.

Whisk the 2 eggs in a mixing bowl. Spread the flour on one plate and the bread crumbs on another, in an even layer.

Dredge a few of the rice balls in the flour to coat all sides. Tap off excess flour. Roll the rice balls in the beaten egg to coat, allowing any excess egg to drip back into the bowl. Finally, roll the rice balls in the bread crumbs, pressing lightly to coat evenly with the crumbs.. Remove to a clean baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining rice balls.
Pour the olive oil into a deep skillet. When the oil comes to temperature, carefully slip about a third of the rice balls into the oil. Fry, turning as necessary with tongs or a slotted spoon, until golden brown and crisp on all sides, about 4 minutes. Remove to the paper towel-lined baking sheet, keeping them hot in the oven if you like. Fry the remaining balls. The arancine can be served hot or at room temperature.


****Give Away Details:  Marx Foods has given me some extra habanero peppers to share with one lucky reader.  All you have to do is head over to Cookistry pick one other blogger, check out what they're bringing and leave a comment on this post telling me what you think.  Contest ends midnight 11/27****

****Shopping Discount Details: Want to shop at Marx Foods between 11/21-11/27...Enter the word "Potluck" into the coupon code section and receive 10% off your entire order*****

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Virtual Potluck....Are You A Cookbook Winner?

Did you enjoy our first Virtual Potluck?  I hope so....I sure did!  We have several exciting events planned over the next few months so be sure to stop back often.

Want a little sneak peek of what's coming up on Monday?  It involves vanilla beans, chili peppers, dried mushrooms, risotto and a giveaway! That's all I can tell you right now.

As for our cookbook winner:  Congratulations to Stacy @luvchampagne  If your on twitter you should follow her; she's a foodie that loves collecting recipes and cookbooks.

Thanks to everyone that participated in this event.  See you Monday.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Dolci: Italy's Sweets....Strawberry Summer Tiramisu and a Giveaway

I am really enjoying my review copy of Dolci: Italy's Sweets,  (You can read my original review here),  so much so I decided to share with you another recipe I made from this awesome cookbook put out by Abrams publishing.  It's called Summertime Tiramisu and takes just seconds to put together. It calls for peach jam but you can substitute just about any flavor. I went with strawberry and even added some fresh fruit to the mix.  The results were yummy!

Just a reminder this is a Virtual Potluck post and there's a chance for you to win a copy of this book or one of the other books being blogged about this week.  Head over to Cookistry for a full list of bloggers and book giveaways.

Strawberry Summer Tiramisu
16 ounces ricotta cheese
4 tsp sugar
8 heaping Tbs of strawberry jam
1/2 cup warm water
4 Tbs Amaretto
24 lady fingers
1 package strawberries sliced

In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta, sugar and cinnamon and beat with a fork until smooth.  Set aside.

In a shallow bowl, combine the jam with the warm water and the liqueur. Dip the lady fingers, a few at a time, into the mixture until they are nicely moistened. Place 6 on a serving plate, side by side, and spoon some ricotta mixture over them.  Top with sliced strawberries.  Repeat. finish with a layer of ricotta cheese and a fanned berry.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Serve cold.

*****For the giveaway; there are 4 ways to win.  The first two are mandatory*****

1.Leave a comment on this page telling me your favorite Italian dessert.

2. Head over to Cookistry check out all of the other posts; leave a comment on one of them and come back here to let me know.

3. Tweet about this giveaway leaving a comment here letting me know. Use #virtualpotluck in your tweet.

4. Follow me on either Facebook and/or Twitter....and come back here to let me know

Contest ends Friday November 18th at midnight EST.  Winner will be picked by random generator and announced shortly after.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Dolci: Italy's Sweets...Review & Giveaway; Our First Virtual Potluck Event

Welcome to the very first Virtual Potluck. What is VP?  It's a concept that a group of us food bloggers developed; where we'll occasionally work together to post about a specific theme. Generating a true potluck of posts on said topic.  We'll be talking about it on Facebook, Twitter and each of our blogs.  There's a total of 12 of us and we've all got different tastes, focuses and talents. We hope to provide you with interesting content about cool products, recipes, and all things food related.  I suggest you visit all of the blogs during these each one of us will be bringing different things to the table.

So let's get this potluck started.  Our first VP is sponsored by Abrams publishing and being hosted by  Donna at Cookistry.  There are 8 of us participating in this event. What does this mean for you?  8 reviews, about 8 different cookbooks, possibly 8 new recipes and most importantly 8 chances to win.  That's right each of us will be giving away a copy of the cookbook we review; so be sure to check Donna's blog for links to all the other reviews.

If I had to pick one thing to specialize in it would be desserts...Italian desserts to be more precise. So it's only natural that I chose to review Dolce: Italy's Sweets by Francine Segan. This beautiful cookbook is filled with both classic and contemporary desserts for all skill levels. With a gift for making each recipe come to life, Segan shares cherished stories from Italian grandmothers, young and hip foodies, famous pastry chefs, bakery owners and food writers.

Recipes include favorites such as cannoli, and biscotti to the more specialty items like Sicilian watermelon pudding and a Tuscan sweet spinach pie. With so many fabulous recipes in one book I had a hard time deciding which to try first. 

I decided on the Ricotta Pear Cake.  Although, very time consuming and labor intensive this is probably my new favorite dessert. Two moist layers of hazelnut cake surround a fluffy ricotta and pear custard that keeps beautifully in the refrigerator for up to five days...but trust me it won't last that long.

Ricotta Pear Cake

For the Cake
2 cups  finely ground hazelnuts (toasted)
6 Tbs 00 flour
6 eggs
2/3 cup sugar
7 Tbs butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 350. Butter and lightly flour two 9 1/2 inch springform pans.
Grind the hazelnuts and flour in a mini food processor until very fine.  In a large bowl using an electric mixer with the whisk attachment, combine the eggs and sugar and beat on high speed for 15 minutes, until the mixture has quadrupled in volume.  Gently fold in the hazelnuts and flour with a spatula until just combined.  then add in the butter. Divide the batter between the two prepared pans and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until firm to the touch.  Set aside.

For the Pears
2 pears, peeled, cored & diced (I used jarred)
1/2 cup sugar
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tsp cornstarch
2 Tbs of brandy

In a small saucepan combine the pears, sugar, lemon juice, and cornstarch and simmer over medium low heat until the pears are soft. Remove from the heat, stir in the brandy, and let cool to room temperature. Set aside.

For the Syrup
1/3 cup sugar
4 Tbs brandy
1/2 cup water

In a small saucepan combine the sugar and 1/2 cup water and bring to a boil. Stir in brandy. 

For the Filling
17 ounces ricotta cheese
3/4 cup sugar
1 Tbs vanilla
3/4 cup heavy cream

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the ricotta, sugar and vanilla for at least 5 minutes, until creamy.

Meanwhile, beat the cream until firm peaks form. Using a spatula, gently fold the whipped cream into the ricotta mixture. Fold in the cooled pear mixture.

To Assemble:
Remove one of the cake layers from the pan and place on a serving platter large enough to hold the outer ring of the springform pan. Brush the cake with 1/2 of the syrup to moisten it. Pile the filling in the center of the cake and put the springform ring back over the cake.

Gently spread the filling to the edges and then top with second layer of cake.  Brush the remaining syrup over the top. Cover with plastic wrap and put in the freezer until set, about 2 hours. Remove the springform ring and refrigerate until ready to serve.

*****For the giveaway; there are 4 ways to win.  The first two are mandatory*****

1.Leave a comment on this page telling me your favorite Italian dessert.

2. Head over to Cookistry check out all of the other posts; leave a comment on one of them and come back here to let me know.

3. Tweet about this giveaway leaving a comment here letting me know. Use #virtualpotluck in your tweet.

4. Follow me on either Facebook and/or Twitter....and come back here to let me know

Contest ends Friday November 18th at midnight EST.  Winner will be picked by random generator and announced shortly after.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Chocolate Chunk Cinnamon Espresso Bars

Surfing the internet, looking for something quick to make for dessert, I came across a recipe for Espresso Bars on the Vanilla Sugar blog.   I did a little tweaking, just to change it up a bit, and turned the recipe into:

Chocolate Chunk Cinnamon Espresso Bars
(adapted from Vanilla Sugar)

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
1 TB ground espresso beans
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 cups 70% Dark Chocolate broken into chunks
Preheat the oven to 375 F with the rack at the middle level. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt, set aside.

Line a 10×15 inch jelly roll pan with baking parchment.

Cream together the butter, brown sugar, espresso, and vanilla.

Blend in the flour mixture, until just combined, no over mixing. Stir in the chocolate by hand. The mixture will be very crumbly, with barely enough dough to hold together the chocolate chips.

Use your fingers, palms, and heels of your hands to press the dough evenly into the pan.

Bake 5 minutes, rotate the pan, and bake 10 minutes more or until the edges are just starting to brown.

Remove from oven and let cool in the pan…break into chunks and enjoy!

Monday, November 7, 2011

My First Time

I’m excited to share with you the details of my first time.  I’ll admit I was a little afraid…not sure what to expect or how this was all going to go down.  But I have to say it was painless and I’m looking forward to doing it again.

Of course I’m talking about my first time as a Secret Recipe Club Blogger (now what were you thinking).   The idea behind SRC is that you are assigned a blog secretly at the beginning of the month.  Your job is to find a recipe, cook it and blog about your experience on a designated day. (that would be today)

My first assignment was the Vanderbilt Wife blog.  Jessie is a stay at home mom and free-lance writer.  She shares all kinds of cool stories on her blog and lots of yummy recipes.  Be sure to check it out when you have a chance.

I try to eat healthy as much as possible so when I saw her recipe for Chockfull of Healthy Muffins, I knew right away that was what I was making.  Jessie describes them as moist and loaded with fiber.  That they definitely are.

I will admit I wasn’t too fond of the shredded carrots…not sure why…but I would definitely leave them out next time around.  I did add the optional sunflower seeds and raisins to mine…yum.

Well that’s the story of my first time…..looking forward to many more with the Secret Recipe Club.

Chock Full of Healthy Muffins
Adapted from AllRecipes

1 cup all-purpose, unbleached flour
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour (or use all whole wheat, I think it would work fine)
3/4 cup flax seed meal
3/4 cup oat bran
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup brown sugar 
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 T honey
1 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
3/4 cup milk
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla
2 T melted butter 
2 cups shredded carrots
2 apples, shredded
optional mix-ins: 1/2 cup raisins, 2 T sunflower seeds, and/or 1 cup mixed nuts

In one bowl, combine flours, flax seed meal, oat bran, brown sugar, salt, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Whisk to combine.

In another bowl, stir together maple syrup, honey, milk, eggs, vanilla, butter or oil, carrots, apples, and mix-ins.

Add wet ingredients to dry and stir together until just blended. Pour into lined muffin tins. Bake at 350 F for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out dry.

Makes 18 muffins.

Friday, November 4, 2011

BiteHunter App....Review

Interested in finding “dining” deals in your area?  Have an iPhone?  If so there’s a cool free app I want to share with you. 

BiteHunter scavenges the web for all the best deals that restaurants are promoting; whether it be on Twitter, Facebook, blogs, daily deal sites and more and compiles them into one easy to navigate app.  It’s search engine allows you to find deals based on anything from location to time of day to specific kinds of food.

There are options to personalize your dining preferences and a BiteNow option which gives you real-time offers from companies like “Groupon Now” and “LivingSocial Instant”

With the free BiteHunter App you never have to be in the dark again about dining deals in your area.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Orange Table Scottsdale.....Review

Tucked away in the Scottsdale Civic Center Mall is a bright and cheery cafe called Orange Table. The concept is breakfast, lunch & barista bar. The food is "fresh & made to order".

I was recently invited to dine at Orange Table and although it's quite a distance from my house I couldn't resist. I would much rather drive an hour for quality food than eat at the mega chains that abound in my neighborhood. So off we went, my husband and I, to enjoy lunch and a late afternoon coffee.

I was very impressed with my Greek salad. It was piled high with veggies,  feta cheese, and olives. I know what your thinking:  a salad is a salad. What really made this salad special was the house made dressing. It was the perfect balance of oil and vinegar mixed with fresh herbs that could be seen growing on the patio garden.

My husband got the "Rustler".... a grilled chicken breast sandwich topped with provolone, local bacon and made from scratch BBQ sauce.   He said both the BBQ sauce and the bacon made this sandwich one of the better ones he's had.

The real treat came after lunch served in a short martini glass.  The "shakerto" is an Italian inspired iced coffee drink shaken with cream and a hint of orange.  Not quite as frosty as the ones we had on the Amalfi Coast but equally delicious.

Orange Table is a nice little repreive from all of the restaurant chains found around the area. The freshness and quality of food makes it well worth the drive for me.