Monday, February 28, 2011

Chocolate Toffee Dark Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

With all the snow we've been having here north of Boston this winter, our thoughts often wander to warmer times. Thinking of summer my husband and I decided we needed an ice cream maker! We settled on a Cuisinart 2 Qt so that we could make our own half gallon concoctions any time we want! I decided to start with a super easy, no egg, chocolate base and added some toffee bits and dark chocolate chips since I had only a bit more than 1/4 cup of each which wouldn't be of any use for anything other than snacking if I didn't put them into something. Here's the recipe:

Chocolate Toffee Dark Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 3 1/4 cups heavy cream
  • 1 Tbs pure vanilla extract
  • about 3/4 cup total dark chocolate chips and toffee bits

In a medium sized bowl, mix together the cocoa powder and sugars. Add the whole milk and blend together for about 3 minutes using a hand mixer on a low speed until the cocoa and sugars are dissolved. Stir in the vanilla and heavy cream by hand.

Turn your ice cream maker on and pour the mixture into the prepared freezer bowl and let mix until thickened according to your machine's instructions. Add the chocolate chips and toffee bits about 5 minutes before the cycle is complete. Ours finished soft serve after 25 minutes and we transferred it to a sealed container in the freezer to get a firmer set for about 2 hours.

Better than anything we can buy in a store AND we had a whole half gallon, not the 1 3/4 gallons the stores sell now at the half gallon price!


Friday, February 25, 2011

Easy Granola Bars, and TAG! You're it!

My friend Kim from The Farmer's Wife blog tagged me so I'll fulfill my obligations for being "IT" first, then share this fab recipe with you! Growing up in a neighborhood that had something like 64 kids, I got quite good at a lot of the street games. Lets see how I do with this one...

Let's see...says here I've got to answers these 9 questions...fair enough. Here goes:

1.What do you refuse to eat?
Hold the Mayo! HATE mayonnaise, cottage cheese and canned tuna fish.
2. What is the most ethnic dish you have ever made?
The MOST ethnic? Damn, that's a hard one, being Italian American it would be a cop out to post something Italian, and living in a Hispanic community any of those dishes would be a cop out too...I guess it would have to be Chicken Tikka Masala. I don't like curry, but I do like other Indian dishes, and this is one I can get into!
3. Salt or Sweet?
Both! At the same time please!!!
4. What kitchen gadget can you not live without?
My Kitchen Aid stand mixer. When I get into a baking frenzy it's my best friend!
5. Last restaurant you ate at?
That wasn't fast food or a chain restaurant? I think it was the Fireside Pub in Methuen, MA...The last chain was The 99 and the last fast food was Chipotle
6. Where would you like to live if you could move anywhere in the world?
Camden, Maine. it has the wooded mountains and the ocean all in one place.
Heaven on earth to me!
7. What is your blog about?
Food. What's coming out of my kitchen and going into our bellies.
You won't see anything too fancy, but it's always delicious!
8. Do you have pets?
We have 2 dogs (Pugs from the local rescue) and two cats (adopted as kittens from a shelter)
9. What’s the last city you visited?
For work, West Greenwich, RI
For vacation, Mystic, CT

Now I have to tag 4 other bloggers:
Dionne from Try Anything Once
Kristie from Kreated by Kristie
Meghan from Butter Cream Blondi
Mina from Angel Loves Cooking
Tag!! You're it! Now it's your turn to answer these questions! :)

Now for the granola bars! You can make all kinds of substitutions to this recipe depending on what you like and what you have on hand! This is how I made them this time:

Easy Granola Bars

  • 3 cups quick-cooking oats
  • 1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 cup flaked coconut
  • 1 cup sliced almonds (you can add a cup of whatever nuts you want here)
  • 1 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips (you can add a cup of peanut butter, cinnamon, or butterscotch chips here if you want)
  • 1/2 cup sweetened dried cranberries, apricots and raisins (you can add a half cup of whatever dried fruit you want here)
1.Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9x13 inch pan.

2.In a large bowl, mix together the oats, sweetened condensed milk, butter, coconut, nuts, chocolate chips and dried fruit with your hands until well blended. Press flat into the prepared pan.

3.Bake for 20 to 25 minutes in the preheated oven, depending on how crunchy you want them. Lightly browned just around the edges will give you moist, chewy bars. Let cool for 5 minutes, cut into squares then let cool completely before serving.


Thursday, February 24, 2011

Southwest Chicken Salad with Cilantro Lime Dressing

Any way I can get more veggies into my carnivorous boys is good in my book. This tasty salad with it's bold southwestern flavors and a "dressed up" salad dressing was a big hit! I cooked extra chicken breasts earlier in the week when I was baking chicken breasts for another meal and saved them in the fridge for this night which made it extra quick and easy!

Southwest Chicken Salad

  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp garlic salt
  • 3 cooked chicken breasts, shredded
  • 10 oz frozen kernel corn, thawed
  • 1/4 cup chopped red onion
  • 1 bag mixed salad greens
  • 1/4 cup chopped roasted red peppers
  • 1/2 pint grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
Heat non stick skillet on med-high. Add oil, onion, cumin and garlic salt and cook a few minutes until onions are tender. Add corn and saute until corn is lightly roasted. Add chicken to heat through. Divide lettuce, tomatoes and roasted peppers among each of 4 plates. Top with warm chicken mixture, cheese, and *salad dressing. Serve with tortilla chips.

Cilantro Lime Dressing

Mix one cup of ranch dressing with the juice of 1 lime and 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro.


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Monte Cristos with Baked Apple Slices

Monday night is dance class night, so I need to make quick dinners that will fill everyone up without being too heavy for me so I can move through class. Sandwiches are perfect to fit this meal time need. I sliced the apples before baking them so that they would cook faster. I just sprinkled them with some brown sugar and cinnamon and dotted the top with butter and baked at 350 F while making the sandwiches. Here's my quick and easy version of the Monte Cristos:

Monte Cristo Sandwiches

  • 12 slices sandwich bread
  • butter
  • 4 Tbs sour cream(you can use mayo here, but I don't like it) mixed with 2 Tbs Dijon mustard
  • 6 slices Swiss or Gruyere cheese
  • 24 thin slices of deli turkey
  • 6 Tbs flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 cup milk

Heat a skillet or griddle and spray with cooking spray.

Spread each of the slices of bread with some butter, then some of the mustard mixture. Place 4 slices of turkey and 1 slice of cheese on 6 of the prepared bread slices. Top each sandwich with one of the other bread slices each.

Blend flour, baking powder, eggs and milk. Dip each side of the sandwiches in the egg mixture and place on the griddle/skillet. brown both sides.

Serve with apples and maple syrup if you like.


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Tortellini & Sausage Soup

The cold weather is back, and probably will be for some time. This means that we get to have more delicious comfort foods. Nothing warms me up like a great bowl of soup. If there is pasta in it, that's just a bonus! Here's how I made this one:

Tortellini & Sausage Soup

  • 1 lb ground sausage
  • 9oz refrigerated cheese tortellini
  • 28oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 14oz can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 10oz package frozen spinach, thawed
  • 4 cups beef broth
In large soup pot, brown and drain sausage. Add crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, and broth. heat to boiling. Add spinach and tortellini. Turn heat down to a simmer and simmer about 10 minutes or until pasta is done.


Thursday, February 17, 2011

Chocolate Chunk and Cinnamon Coffee Cake

One of the amazing truffles in the box of Godiva chocolates that my husband gave me for Valentines Day was chocolate with cinnamon. This was such a fantastic combination that I just had to make something with it. I thought it would be a great flavor combo in a coffee cake, so here you go:

Chocolate Chunk and Cinnamon Coffee Cake

  • 1 12 ounce package Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chunks
  • 3/4 cup pecans
  • 2 cups sugar, divided
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2 2/3 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups sour cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Mix chocolate, pecans, 2/3 cup of the sugar and the cinnamon; set aside. Mix flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt; set aside.

Beat butter and remaining 1-1/3 cups sugar in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Blend in vanilla. Add flour mixture alternately with the sour cream, beating after each addition until well blended. Spoon half of the batter into greased 13x9-inch baking pan; top with half of the chocolate mixture. Repeat layers.

Bake 40 to 45 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack. Cut into squares to serve.


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Shrimp with Linguine

Just in case you thought all I fed my honey for Valentines Day was chocolate treats, I wanted to show you what I made for dinner. I'm not a big fan of fish, but I do like shellfish, so every once in a while I'll make a seafood dish. The original recipe I had for this dish called for mushrooms, but I am deathly allergic to them so I substituted diced tomatoes for them. Feel free to put them in if you want them, just don't serve them to me without a side of epinephrine! I served this with a salad of mixed baby lettuces and sliced strawberries with a vinaigrette.

Shrimp with Linguine

Ingredients:Bulleted List
  • 16 oz uncooked linguine
  • 1 to 1 1/2 lbs medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 4 Tbs butter
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 15 oz can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into slices
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
Cook pasta to al dente according to the package directions, adding the shrimp to the boiling salted pasta water for the last 3 minutes of cooking, then drain.

While the pasta cooks, melt the butter in a large skillet on medium high heat. Add the tomatoes and bell pepper; season with salt & pepper, saute about 4 minutes, then add the garlic.

Stir in the cream & heat to just boiling; reduce heat to low and add thyme, basil and parsley. Stir.

Dump the drained pasta and shrimp into the skillet and toss to combine. Serve hot.


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Cookie Bark

While I was in the festive treat making mood yesterday, I waded through all the wonderful ideas that I saw on all my fellow food blogers to see what else I could whip up with what I had in my pantry. We're still down to one car since my husband's accident so I can only get to the market on Saturday or Sunday but I tried to anticipate what I might need. I came upon this recipe on Amy's Cooking Adventures and had almost everything I needed to replicate it. Oreos are my husband's favorite commercial cookie, so I knew he would excuse all the frilly pink and enjoy them anyway. I love salty and sweet together, so the pretzels make this perfect for me too! My boys are fresh out of college, so they'll eat just about anything! You can see her recipe on the link I provided, and here are the changes I made:

Cookie Bark


24 oz white chocolate chips
4 cups pretzel sticks, broken in half
21 Double Stuff Oreo Cookies
6 oz semi sweet chocolate chips (we ate all the M&Ms...)
candy sprinkles

Line 2 cookie sheets with waxed paper. Spread half the broken cookies and half of the pretzel sticks onto each cookie sheet. Sprinkle the semisweet chocolate chips equally onto the cookies and pretzels.

Place the white chocolate in a microwave safe dish. Microwave for 90 seconds and stir. Continue microwaving for 20 second increments and stirring until it is is completely melted and smooth.

Using a spoon, drizzle the melted almond bark over the cookie and pretzel mix. While the candy is still wet, add the candy sprinkles over the two sheets.

Allow to set for about 20 minutes, then gently break into pieces. Store in an airtight container.

Thank you, Amy, for the inspiration!


Monday, February 14, 2011

Conversation Heart Bark

Happy Valentines Day! I hope you're all spending it with someone you love. Valentines Day has been a sad day at our house for the past 8 years because my husband and I lost a baby we were expecting on Feb 14, 2003, and I really wanted to break this funk and try to spend it being thankful for all the blessings that we do have.

I made a table full of treats this morning and I'd like to share one of the recipes with you today. I saw a conversation heart bark on Bake at 350 (Thank you for the inspiration!) and just knew I had to make my own version of this! Here is the original, and here is mine:

Conversation Heart Bark


2 12oz bags white chocolate chips
2 12oz bags semisweet chocolate chips
2 cups Cocoa Krispies cereal
3 cups mini marshmallows
2 Tbs butter
conversation hearts

Line a cookie sheet with waxed paper. Spray a piece of plastic wrap with cooking spray. Melt the butter and marshmallows in a large bowl in the microwave on high 1 to 1 1/2 minutes (check it every 30 seconds). Stir in the cereal and mix until well coated. Dump out onto the waxed paper, and using the sprayed plastic wrap, press the mix out into a thin layer. Put tray in the refrigerator to set.
In a glass bowl, melt the white chocolate chips in the microwave. Pour the melted chocolate over the cereal mixture. Put the tray back into the refrigerator to set.
In another glass bowl, melt the semi sweet chocolate in the microwave. Pour the melted chocolate over the cereal mixture. Cover with candy sprinkles, and dot with some candy conversation hearts. Put the tray back into the refrigerator to set.
When the mixture is set, break into pieces.


Saturday, February 12, 2011

Snow Covered Crunch Bars

Everything around here is still covered in snow so I figured I should make a treat that is too. Check it out:

Snow Covered Crunch Bars


  • 1 (1 pound 1.5 ounce) pouch sugar cookie mix
  • 1 cup butter or margarine, softened
  • 1 egg
  • 1 (12 ounce) package semisweet chocolate chips
  • 2 1/2 cups peanut butter
  • 6 cups Rice Chex type cereal
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar, or as needed


  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Spray 13x9-inch or 2 9'x9' square baking pans with cooking spray. In large bowl, stir cookie mix, 1/2 cup butter and egg until soft dough forms. Press dough in bottom of pan. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until edges are light golden brown. Cool 15 minutes.
  2. In large bowl, melt chocolate chips and the remaining 1/2 cup butter (I used the microwave) until melted and smooth. Add peanut butter; mix until well blended.
  3. Place cereal in a plastic bag. Using your hands, gently break cereal into small pieces. Gently stir cereal into chocolate mixture until cereal is coated. Spread cereal mixture evenly over cookie crust; gently press. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Refrigerate about 1 hour or until bars are set. Cut into bars to serve.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Peanut Butter Granola

I love making my own granola mixes and bars. This week I made a peanut butter version that I really like! It's been my mid morning snack along with some fresh fruit. It's really easy. I hope you'll give it a try!

Peanut Butter Granola


  • 2/3 cup Creamy Peanut Butter
  • 2/3 cup honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 4 cups uncooked rolled oats
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 cup peanuts
  • 1/2 cup dried figs, chopped


  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
  2. In a small saucepan, combine peanut butter, honey and cinnamon; heat through. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Place oats in a large, shallow roasting pan or a 15 x 10 x 1-inch baking pan. Pour warm peanut butter mixture over oats and stir gently until oats are coated. Spread evenly in pan.
  3. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn off oven.
  4. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, cover raisins in boiling water. Let stand for 10 minutes; drain well. Stir raisins, nuts and figs into baked mixture. Return to oven and let dry 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally. Store in covered containers.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Baked Swirl French Toast

Breakfast is, hands down, my favorite meal of the day. When my husband and I first met we had a long distance relationship. I lived in NY and he in MA. The first time I went to visit him over the weekend, he asked me where I'd like to go for dinner. I told him to cook me dinner, but take me out for breakfast. It's a long standing tradition for us on special occasions to celebrate by going out for breakfast!

I love to make special breakfasts at home too, and here is one that is always a big hit!

  • 1 loaf (16 oz) Cinnamon Swirl Bread or Cinnamon Raisin Bread, cut into cubes
  • 3/4 cup dried cranberries or raisins
  • 6 eggs
  • 3 cups half-and-half
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Cinnamon sugar or confectioners' sugar
  • Whipped butter
  • Pure maple syrup
Place the bread cubes and cranberries/raisins in a greased 3-quart shallow baking dish. Beat the eggs, half-and-half and vanilla in a medium bowl with a fork or whisk. Pour over the bread cubes. Cover the dish and refrigerate overnight.

The next morning, uncover the dish. Bake at 350 degrees F for 45 minutes or until golden brown and set in the center.

Sprinkle with the cinnamon-sugar. Serve with the butter and syrup.


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Apples in Puff Pastry with Gingered Cranberry Caramel Sauce

I'm having technical issues with my netbook, so I'm posting today from my old dinosaur of a lap top. They don't make 'em like they used too!

I don't always bake from scratch. As a matter of fact, I'm a huge fan of the "Semi Homemade" school of thought when it comes to making tasty things in my kitchen. This recipe is chock full of short cuts, but it's not short on flavor! I thought they were good enough for my Nana's good dishes! Take a look:

Apples in Puff Pastry with Gingered Cranberry Caramel Sauce

  • 2 packages Puff Pastry Shells
  • 1 can apple pie filling
  • 1 jar prepared caramel sauce
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped crystallized (candied) ginger
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped dried cranberries
1. Bake and cool the pastry shells according to the package directions. Remove the lids and discard (or save for something else)

2. Fill each shell with some of the apple pie filling

3. Heat the caramel sauce, ginger and cranberries in a small saucepan over low heat until the mixture is hot. Serve the turnovers with the sauce.

What's your favorite kitchen shortcut ingredient?


Friday, February 4, 2011

Banana Wake-Up Bars

Being an artist I have the luxury of strolling into the studio mid afternoon to start working. I can keep strange hours and nobody would bat an eyelash. I am also a belly dancer, so I actually wake up & get out of bed at 6am every morning during the week with my husband, have breakfast with him & send him off to work so I can stretch, drill and dance for 2 hours before I start the rest of my day. Crazy, eh?!? I really love it, so I make the effort.

Now as I said, I eat breakfast with my husband, but after 2 hours of dancing & then a shower I'm usually starving again! This is when I do my "coffee break" so I make myself a mug of half hot chocolate, half decaf coffee and like to have a good keep your energy up snack. Granola bars, power bars, cereal bars...even a well made biscotti will work here! I found this recipe for Wake up bars on allrecipes and tweaked it a bit to fit what I had in my pantry. They are really good & got me through to lunch!

Banana Wake Up Bars:

  • 1/3 cup peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 ripe banana, mashed
  • 2/3 cup rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a 9x9-inch baking pan.

In a mixing bowl, beat together the peanut butter, brown sugar, and butter with an electric mixer until smooth and fluffy.

Beat in the egg and vanilla extract, then the banana.

Stir in the oats, flour, wheat germ, and baking soda until completely combined.

Spread in prepared baking pan.

Bake in the preheated oven until set and lightly browned, 25 to 35 minutes.

Remove from oven and cool in pan on wire rack before cutting into bars.

They are soft when they are fresh, so if you want to keep them soft wrap them in plastic. If you like to dunk (like me) then just leave them out. The edges will crisp up but the center will stay softer.


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Icing

Totally anticipating that nobody would be going to work this morning because of the latest snow storm, I whipped up a batch of Cinnamon Rolls last night in the bread machine & let them proof on the counter overnight so that I could bake them off this morning. My guys got a nice warm mid week breakfast treat today! Here's the recipe:

Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Icing


  • 1 cup warm milk (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup margarine, melted
  • 4 1/2 cups bread flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons yeast
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup butter, softened
  • 1 (3 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt


Place ingredients in the pan of the bread machine in the order they are listed above (or per your machine manufacturers recommendations. Select dough cycle; press Start.

After the dough has doubled in size turn it out onto a lightly floured surface, cover and let rest for 10 minutes. In a small bowl, combine brown sugar and cinnamon.

Roll dough into about a 15x20 inch rectangle. Spread dough with 1/3 cup butter and sprinkle evenly with sugar/cinnamon mixture. Roll up dough and cut into 12 rolls. Place rolls in a lightly greased 9x13 inch baking pan. Cover and let rise until nearly doubled, about 30 minutes. (I covered them with cooking sprayed plastic and left them on the counter over night and they were fine)

When you're ready to bake them, preheat oven to 400 degrees

Bake rolls in preheated oven until golden brown, about 15 minutes.

While rolls are baking, beat together cream cheese, 1/4 cup butter, confectioners' sugar, vanilla extract and salt. Spread frosting on warm rolls before serving.


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Black Beans and Smoked Sausage Soup

I woke up this morning to find us in the midst of yet another winter storm. There is only one thing to do in a case like this and that's load up something warm and comforting in the crock pot and pray the power doesn't go out!

I foraged through the pantry and fridge and found the ingredients to make a black bean soup with kielbasa. Here's how I put it together:

Black Bean and Smoked Sausage Soup

1lb smoked kielbasa sausage, sliced thin
1 onion, finely chopped
2 Tbs garlic, minced
1 tsp cumin
3 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp oregano
3 15oz cans black beans

Brown sausage & onion in a skillet over medium heat. Drain off fat

In a blender, puree one can of undrained beans.

Add the pureed beans and the other 2 cans of beans (drain one of them) into the crock pot.

Add the garlic and seasonings. Salt and pepper to taste.

Add the sausage and onions and cook (low 6-8 hours or high 4-5 hours)

I'm going to serve this over some cooked rice with a Caesar salad. The house smells amazing and I think the guys will appreciate this when they get home from work! Hope you're weather is better where you are! If not, I hope you're riding the storm out safe and warm!