Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Southern Comfort

Its chilly, its damp, its time.....for Mac & Cheese.

Being an Italian who grew up in the South, there is a special place in my heart for both comfort food and pasta.

When the weather turns, I just can't ignore my hankering for this rich and luscious recipe.

I hope it wraps you up in a blanket of warm deliciousness......


Macaroni & Cheese with Bacon Crust

1/2 lb. pasta - any type you like
5 TBSP unsalted butter
4 TBSP Flour
3 Cups Whole Milk
Salt & Pepper to taste
1 TSP Dijon Mustard
3 Cups grated cheddar cheese
1/3 Cup Crumbled Bacon

Preheat oven to 350. Butter a 2 QT baking dish and set aside. Cook pasta in well-salted boiling water until VERY al dente (5 minutes or so - it will cook further in the oven). Drain and rinse with cold water. Drain well again and set aside.

Melt 5 TBSP butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and whisk rapidly over medium heat for a couple of minutes to cook the flour and smooth the mixture (be careful not to let it burn).


Gradually add in milk, whisking constantly until thick and smooth, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat and add salt, pepper, Dijon mustard and cheese - stir well.

Add cooked pasta to buttered dish...


Add cheese sauce to pasta, stir to coat...


Top with sprinkling (or two) of crumbled bacon.


Bake until bubbling, about 20 minutes - then broil to brown the top.


You're done!


NOTES:

You can use a combination of any good melting cheese
- Cheddar, Monterey Jack, Fontina, Gruyere, Velveeta (Hey, I'm no snob!)

The bacon topping can be replaced with bread crumbs
- Mix some Panko breadcrumbs with melted butter and sprinkle over mac& cheese before baking for a fabulously crunchy crust.

Monday, November 1, 2010

And the Winner Is.......


The winner of our Halloween give-away, chosen at random, is Amy S.

Congrats, Amy! You'll be receiving a bag of our Chocolate-Dipped Shortbread, baked and dipped especially for you.

Thanks to everyone for participating!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

No Tricks.....Just Treats


Ah, Halloween.....one of our favorite times of year. A carpet of colorful, crunchy leaves on the ground, a nip in the air, jack-o-lanterns, costumes and CHOCOLATE!

It's a perfect time to introduce our first give-away on Life's Short....Eat Cookies! Leave a comment below and we'll choose one at random on Halloween night to receive a chocolate treat from Lisa's Cookie Shop. The winner will be notified by email, so be sure to leave an email address.

These are the choices - which would you choose?

Chocolate-Dipped Crunchy Peanut Bars

Chocolate-Dipped Shortbread


Good luck and Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Apple Picking and a Delicious Result

Apple picking is as much a Fall tradition in our house as Halloween and Thanksgiving - we wouldn't dare end the season without a trip or two to the orchard to pick apples, sample homemade cider and gorge ourselves on apple cider donuts.


This past week-end, we visited a small orchard just steps from our house and picked as many apples as we could carry out of there, all the while discussing what we'd make with them once we got them home.

This Spiced Apple Compote with Currants is our first apple recipe of the season. It's delicious, comforting, versatile and incredibly easy to make - my five year old daughter and I did this one together.

Its great as a side dish with pork chops or cutlets, delicious served over waffles or french toast and satisfying over ice cream or toasted pound cake. It smells and tastes just like Fall......


Spiced Apple Compote with Currants


1 cup water
1 cup apple cider (I used a local hard cider for this)
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 vanilla bean, split in half - seeds scraped out
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg (I used whole nutmeg & grated w/microplane)
Pinch salt
8 large apples (I used Golden Delicious & Macintosh), peeled, cored and diced
Cornstarch
Currants

In a large saucepan, combine water, apple cider, sugar, vanilla bean and seeds, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt - bring to a boil. Boil gently until sugar is dissolved and mixtures thickens slightly, about 5 minutes.

Add diced apples and return to a boil. Lower heat and simmer, stirring occasionally until apples are tender and mixture thickens - about 20 minutes.

In a small bowl, spoon out about 2 tbsp. of the liquid from the pot and combine with 1 tsp. cornstarch. Add this mixture back into the pot and stir in to combine thoroughly. Let mixture simmer for about 5 more minutes. Take off the heat, remove vanilla pod and add currants.

Serve warm, at room temperature or cold. Note: mixture will thicken as it cools.

Enjoy!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

It's That Time of Year Again.....

Fall has arrived, and even though we're sweating it out in the high 80's here in NY, I couldn't resist breaking out the soup pot.

I'd always been intimated by soups, ordering them in restaurants and wondering what mysteries of the universe could transform such simple ingredients into something so incredibly delicious. All that changed when my brother in law gifted me with an immersion blender and I discovered that rapidly ripening vegetables in your pantry or fridge could be rescued from the trash bin with a little stock and some seasoning. Not only that, but they could be transformed into something unforgettable - without a recipe!

This is one such soup....use the recipe below as a guide, but feel free to substitute ingredients you love. Soups are very forgiving.

Roasted Garlic and Potato Soup

2 whole garlic bulbs
6 slices bacon, chopped into pieces
1 large yellow onion, chopped
olive oil and butter
5 large, white potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 32 oz. container of chicken stock ( I prefer Kitchen Basics in the yellow carton)
salt & pepper
heavy cream (optional)

First roast the garlic. Preheat oven to 400. Slice tops off garlic bulbs to expose the raw garlic inside. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Place upright on a piece of tin foil and then fold edges of foil up & over the top to create a little packet. Roast for about 40 minutes or until you start to smell the garlic.....mmmmm. Remove from oven, open packet and let cool.

In the meantime, fry bacon in soup pot until crisp. Remove bacon and drain on paper towels (reserve the bacon to garnish the soup later).

To bacon drippings in pot, add a tablespoon each of olive oil & butter, all of the onion and some salt. Cook until lightly browned and then add chicken stock, potatoes, a little more salt and pepper and a lid. Bring to a slight boil and then lower to simmer until the potatoes are fork tender (about 20 minutes or so).

At this point you can add the roasted garlic by squeezing the now softened and browned cloves from the bulb right into the pot. Then take your trusty immersion blender and puree the soup to the consistency you like. I like some chunks of potato to remain for texture, but that's just me. Check for salt & pepper and stir in a splash of cream for added richness.

Serve with crumbled bacon on top.

Green onions (scallions), chives, shredded cheese or creme fraiche (or sour cream) also make delicious garnishes for this soup.

Notes:

Roasting garlic mellows out its flavor and sweetens it a bit. It can be used in countless other ways, like spreading on Italian bread for a quick app, added to salad dressings or whisked into sauces for flavor and thickening.

If you don't own an immersion blender, you can puree the soup in batches in a standard blender or food processor.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Few Local Gems

Its been a little hectic in the bakery these past few weeks, so this entry is late. The pics are so gorgeous, I had to post it anyway :)

After pumping out hundreds of bags of cookies last week, I was thrilled to be able to enjoy the picture perfect weather this Labor Day week-end with my family. Instead of joining the throngs of travelers heading to the beach, we opted to stay home and take advantage of what Warwick has to offer. Although we've been living here for seven years, we never fail to discover a delightful, local gem if we search hard enough.

Our daughter has been telling us lately that she wants to be a farmer when she grows up, so we've been trying to expose her to as much of the local farm country as we can. We hit three farms in one day over the Labor Day weekend for a scrumptious country breakfast overlooking the sunflower fields at Rogowski Farm, a milking demo and tour of Bellvale Farms (home of Bellvale Farms Creamery), and a tasty dinner and some local brews with live music at Pennings Farm Market.

It was an awesome way to spend a rare day off "in my own backyard."



Saturday, August 28, 2010

Our Little Adventure

My daughter starts Kindergarten next week and if I'm being completely honest, my feelings are mixed. I am incredibly excited for and undeniably proud of my little girl as she embarks on this new chapter in her little life. I am also heartbroken at the thought of her absence for 6+ hours each day. Selfish, I realize....but I can't deny it.

In light of this momentous change in our lives, I decided to kick off our next phase with a little bonding adventure - just us girls. My daughter and I flew down to Raleigh, NC to visit my closest friend for five days and we had an absolute blast. We spent our week at the kids museum, a butterfly conservatory, weaving our way through a life-sized dinosaur trail, exploring the local farmers market, dancing, swimming and of course, eating!

Season and the pilot of her first ever plane ride!

This week, I saw some delightful traits in my five year old girl. She's an excellent traveler, she dances like no one is watching - any time she hears music, she has the fearless need for speed and she's curious about everything she sees and everyone she meets. No wonder I'm going to miss her.


In my absence, my husband Tom held down the fort and for the first time, did some baking. To ease my mind, he promised to send me a video of his progress. This is what he sent.....


Sunday, August 15, 2010

Welcome to My Obsession......

After a long day of work, everyone needs to change gears, blow off a little steam and relax by doing something they enjoy. Some people read, take a jog, or go shopping. Me, I trade my bakery kitchen for my home kitchen....my flour dusted apron for a fresh one...and I cook. The food obsessed among us should understand.
After a day surrounded by sweets, I start to crave the aroma of garlic sizzling in olive oil or the steam rising off a giant pot of pasta. Make no mistake, I love to bake - its been a passion of mine for as long as I can remember - but I also love the savory side of the kitchen.

My food obsession - my can't live without it food - is pasta. This is the first of many pasta recipes to come and its one of my favorites. Its a riff on carbonara, using wine to not only flavor the delectable sauce, but to lighten it up as well.

"Kinda" Carbonara

2 Raw, Fresh Eggs
1 Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
Freshly Ground Black Pepper
Salt
3/4 lb. Thin Spaghetti
1/2 lb. Bacon
Olive Oil
1 cup White Wine (I use Pinot Grigio)
Chopped, Flat Leaf Parsley

In a large serving bowl, mix together eggs, parmesan cheese and pepper to taste with a fork. Set aside.

Crisp up the bacon in a large skillet (in batches, if necessary) until crisp and drain on paper towels. Set aside.

Meanwhile, bring a pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta. Cook pasta until al dente. Save the pasta water.

Add cooked, hot pasta to the large serving bowl containing the egg mixture. I like to add it little by little, stirring very quickly to prevent the egg from scrambling. Once mixed, set aside.

To the bacon drippings in the skillet, add 2 TBSP. olive oil and 4 cloves of garlic. Saute on med low heat until garlic is golden and soft. To this, add the wine and increase heat to med high. Scrape up any solid pieces with wooden spoon and reduce sauce for about 5 minutes.

Add wine sauce and parsley to the pasta and mix quickly. Add a little reserved pasta water if moisture is needed.
Top with more parmesan cheese, cracked black pepper and crumbled bacon.

You know what to do next........Mmmmmmmm

WARNING:
This dish may not make it from the serving bowl to your plate....as evidenced below.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Happy Summer

Historically, Summer has always been the slowest time of year for our business - it gave us a couple of months to re-group, plan for the holiday season and just relax with the family.

This year, due in large part to our Emmy involvement and resulting press, the Summer has been our busiest on record. I have not yet re-grouped, nor have I planned for the hectic holiday season ahead.

I did, however, sneak in some quality beach time with the family...

A ride on the ferris wheel....

Some dancing on the beach at sunset...

A trip to the lighthouse (and a round-trip 434 stair trek to the top!)

And some delicious walks on the beach with my girl.

Happy summer, everyone!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Moonlighting


Before starting this business six years ago, I worked a corporate job in Manhattan and I spent each moment of my commute fantasizing about starting a family and a business.

When I finally made the transition, my husband Tom not only supported our new family until I got the business off the ground, but he helped me with every aspect of my new venture. For years, he worked triple duty as a union electrician, my baking assistant & business partner and hands-on father to our new daughter.

Almost two years ago, I had the pleasure of returning the favor when he made the decision to leave his day job to pursue his own dream - to be a photographer. Tom Ciriello Photography is now a reality and I'm having a great time moonlighting as his assistant on photo shoots!

These are some shots from a wedding we did this week-end.

If you want to check out more of Tom's work, you can visit his website and blog at www.tomciriellophotography.com.