Monday, March 29, 2010

40th Birthday Cookies

Recently I tried a new cookie design, 40s, for my very first client! I made these for a surprise 40th birthday party.

My friend Alison needed these for her cousin's birthday party and she said they were a big hit! Below is the finished product.

Book Club Wine and Pizza

Once a month we get together to "discuss" a great book that we all read. This past month was my turn to host. On the menu was:
  • Goat Cheese Bruschetta
  • Mixed Green Salad with a Dijon Vinaigrette
  • Caramelized Onion Pizza with Gorgonzola and Arugula with Whole Wheat Pizza Crust
  • Cheese Whole Wheat Pizza with "Almost" Fat Free Tomato Sauce
My friend Alison brought a delish desert of low cal chocolate cupcakes with Cool Whip and fresh strawberries, a great ending to our meal!

Goat Cheese Bruschetta with Basic Vinaigrette
from Real Simple

Basic Vinaigrette
Yield: 3/4 cup

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (about 1 or 2 lemons)
1 teaspoon honey
1 small shallot, minced
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon crushed black pepper

Whisk together lemon juice, honey and shallots in a small bowl. Slowly add olive oil in a thin stream, whisking constantly, until emulsified. Season with salt and pepper.

This can be made a few hours ahead of time and refrigerated so its ready just before serving.

Goat Cheese Bruschetta
from Real Simple

The recipe says it makes 6 servings but I found that it makes more than that. For book club I actually made 12 pieces. I use a round loaf of french bread or wheat bread. I am making it again for Easter dinner and I'm going to change it a bit and make them smaller more bite size pieces. To toast the bread I put it in the broiler on High for 5 minutes on each side, you can judge by how much you like them toasted.

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoon fresh chopped herbs such as dill, parsley, or basil (I use basil)
Toasted country or other bread
Goat Cheese (to make 12 servings I used 2 4 oz packages of goat cheese)

Add the the balsamic vinegar and fresh herbs to the Basic Vinaigrette. Drizzle over toasted bread and spread with goat cheese. Finish with another drizzle of vinaigrette.

Tastes great with a glass of wine!

Mixed Green Salad with Vinaigrette
from Cooking Light

Combine 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper in a medium bowl. Gradually add 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, stirring constantly with a whisk. Drizzle dressing over 4 cups mixed micro greens and 2 cups trimmed watercress; toss to coat.

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough
from Cooking Light
Yield: 2 12-inch pizza crusts

I was a little nervous about making dough from scratch but this recipe is really easy anyone can do it. It just takes patience and time to let the yeast rise and then the dough.

1 package active dry yeast ( 2 1/4 teaspoons)
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 cups warm water ( 100 to 110 degrees)
2 1/2 to 2 3/4 cups all purpose flour, divided
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
cooking spray

I add 2 teaspoons of garlic powder for extra flavor

Dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water in a large bowl; let stand for 5 minutes. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups, level with a knife. Add 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, oil and salt; stir until well blended. If you use a mixer make sure to use a dough hook. Turn dough onto a floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes); add remaining flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to hands (dough will feel sticky). I recommend putting flour on your hands before taking the dough out of the bowl too.

Place dough in a large bowl, coated with cooking spray, turning to coat top. Cover and let rise in a warm space (85 degrees), free from drafts, 45 minutes or until doubled in size. Gently press 2 fingers into dough. If indentation remains dough has risen enough. Punch dough down, cover and let rest for 5 minutes. Divide in half, roll each dough half into 12 inch floured surface.

Note: To freeze, follow directions for kneading dough and shape into 2 balls. Coat with cooking spray and place in freezer in a zip lock bag. To use in them, thaw in a refrigerator overnight. Cover and let rise in a warm space (85 degrees), free from draft, 1 1/2 hours or until double in size. Gently press 2 fingers into dough, if indentation remains dough has risen enough. Shape as instructed.

Caramelized Onion Pizza with Gorgonzola and Arugula
adapted from Cooking Light
Yield: 4 slices (serving 1 slice) I cut them smaller so I was able to have 8 slices

2 teaspoons olive oil
2 1/2 lbs of yellow onions
1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 recipe Whole Wheat Pizza Dough
Cooking spray
1 tablespoon yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup (2 oz) crumbled Gorgonzola, blue cheese, or feta
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped walnuts
1 cup trimmed arugula

Heat oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium high heat. Add onion, and saute 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary, salt and pepper. Continue cooking 15 to 20 minutes, or until onion is a deep golden brown, stirring frequently.

Preheat oven 500 degrees.

Roll dough into a 12 inch circle on lightly floured surface. Place dough on
a 12 inch pizza pan or baking sheet coated with cooking spray and sprinkle with cornmeal. Crimp edges of dough with fingers to form a rim. Top with onion. Bake at 500 degrees for 10 minutes. Add cheese and walnuts; bake an additional 3 minutes or until cheese melts. Remove from oven, top with arugula. Cut the pizza and serve.

Hint: When the oven is heated, heat the pizza pan or baking sheet to make the bottom crust extra crispy.

Cheese Pizza with Whole Wheat Pizza Crust and Rocco's How Low Can you Go Low-Fat Marinara Sauce

Rocco's How Low Can You Go Low-Fat Marinara Sauce
from Now Eat This! by Rocco Dispirito
Yield: 6 1/2 cups (13 servings)

1/2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 large yellow onion, cut into small dice
crushed red pepper
2 28 oz cans tomato puree
1/2 cup water
1 small piece of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese rind
1 large sprig fresh basil

Heat a Dutch oven over medium heat. When the pot is hot, add the olive oil. Add the garlic and onion, and season them with salt and crushed red pepper to taste. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion and garlic are translucent, about 4 minutes.

Add the tomato puree, water, and Parmigiano-Reggiano rind to the pot. Bring to a simmer. Then cover, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for about 25 minutes.

With the back of a knife, bruise the basil and stir the sprig in
to the sauce. Simmer the sauce, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Season with salt and crushed red pepper to taste, if desired. Serve, or store in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Cheese Pizza
adapted from Cooking Light
Yield: 8 slices
1/2 Whole Wheat Pizza Dough recipe
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 cup How Low Can You Go Marinara Sauce
2 cups shredded part skim mozzeralla cheese
1/2 cup grated fresh parmesan cheese

Pre-heat oven to 500 degrees.

Roll out whole wheat pizza dough and brush lightly with olive oil. Transfer 12 inch circle to baking sheet. Bake on lowest oven rack at 500 degrees for 8 minutes. Remove from oven.

Spread sauce in an even layer over crust, leaving 1/4 inch border. Top with mozzarella and parmesan cheeses. Bake an additional 10 minuted or until crust is golden brown and cheese melts. Cut into 12 wedges.

Monday, March 22, 2010

A few of my favorite things...Green (Happy Belated St Patrick's Day

I know it is after the St Patrick's Day but I found a few cute green items for the kitchen. Some would be great for anytime of year but are perfect for St Patty's Day festivities.

I know I have posted other Emile Henry bakers but I really like their products. This green baker makes summer almost feel like its around the corner!

This china set is great for a tradiitonal Irish dinner on St Patty's Day!

I found these cute green glasses on They would make a great addition to any St Patty's Day tablescape.

My friend Nicole turned me onto this website and they have really cute homemade items for sale. These shamrock napkin rings would complete any SPD table!

Double Chocolate Brownies

Sometimes you are just craving chocolate and usually it is not a very low-calorie option. I found these on the show Healthy Living with Elie Krieger. She was a former nutritionist turned chef so all her recipes are low in fat and high in the things your body needs to loose weight and still enjoy food. Elie has lots of great recipes that satisfy any crazing. These brownies definitely satisfied my sweet tooth!

Double Chocolate Brownies
Elie Krieger for
Seves 24

6 oz bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 cup whole grain pastry flour or (1/2 cup each whole wheat flour and all-purpose flour)
1/4 cup unsweeted cocoa powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
4 large eggs
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup plain low fat yogurt
1/4 cup canola oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cups chopped walnuts (optional)


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with cooking spray.

Melt the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water, stirring occasionally; do not let the bottom of the bowl touch the water.

Whisk the flour, cocoa, salt and baking soda in a medium bowl. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and brown sugar until smooth, then add the yogurt, oil and vanilla and whisk to combine. Whisk in the melted chocolate mixture until blended. Add the dry ingredients and mix until just moistened.

Spread the batter in the prepared pan and sprinkle with walnuts, if desired. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs. Cool completely in the pan on a rack before slicing.

I garnished my brownies with a little confectioners' sugar.

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

I always thought red velvet cupcakes where good until I tried this recipe from Paula Deen.....amazing! Now I am looking for events to make them for. The are really easy and the icing can be used for anything. They honestly melt in your mouth!

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
Paula Deen from
Makes 24 Cupcakes

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 tbsp red food covering
1 tsp white distilled vinegar
1 tsp vanille extract

For the Cream Cheese frosting
1 lb cream cheese, softened
2 sticks of butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 cups confectioners' sugar
chopped pecan or fresh raspberries for garnish, optional

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 (12-cup) muffin pans with cupcake papers. In a medium mixing bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder. In a large bowl gently beat together the oil, buttermilk, eggs, food coloring, vinegar, and vanilla with a handheld electric mixer. Add the sifted dry ingredients to the wet and mix until smooth and thoroughly combined.
Divide the batter evenly among the cupcake tins about 2/3 filled. Bake in oven for about 20 to 22 minutes, turning the pans once, half way through. Test the cupcakes with a toothpick for doneness. Remove from oven and cool completely before frosting.

For the Cream Cheese Frosting:
In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter and vanilla together until smooth. Add the sugar and on low speed, beat until incorporated. Increase the speed to high and mix until very light and fluffy. Garnish with chopped pecans and a fresh raspberry or strawberry if desired. Cook's Note: Frost the cupcakes with a butter knife or pipe it on with a big star tip.

I recently made these for my friend Lori's 30th birthday they looked great on the cupcake stand.

Lobster Mac and Cheese

I don't always make low fat meals and this definitely might be one of my favorite recipes. Definitely not something to eat everyday but a great treat now and then. Since it is Lent I made this on a relaxing Friday night. The only change that I would make is to toast the panko bread crumbs with a little olive oil before putting them on top of the finished mac and cheese. I also substituted white cheddar with orange cheddar, it added really nice color. It came out great even though I would make a change and the color looks great with the Emile Henri blue baker. Definitely recommend this dish!

Lobster Mac and Cheese
The Neely's: Down Home with the Neely courteous of the
8 Servings

4 tbsp of butter, plus 1 for greasing the dish
kosher salt
1 pound penne
2 small shallots, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tbsp tomato paste
5 tbsp all-purpose flour
1/4 cup white wine
4 cups heavy cream
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp sweet paprika
1 bay leaf
2 cups shredded white cheddar ( I substituted orange cheddar)
2 cups shredded Gruyere
2 - 8 oz lobster tails, defrosted if frozen, meat removed from shell, chopped
1/4 panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup freshly chopped parsely


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and adjust racks to the middle. Grease a 13 by 9-inch baking dish with butter.

In a large pot of boiling salted water over medium heat, add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain the pasta and reserve.

Add 4 tablespoons butter to a large pot over medium heat. Once the butter shimmers, add the shallots and garlic and saute until translucent. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Add the tomato paste and flour and stir to toast, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the white wine and reduce, by half, about 2 minutes. Slowly add the cream, whisking well to remove any lumps. Add the paprika, cayenne, and bay leaf. Bring the cream up to a simmer and turn the heat to low. Let reduce until the cream is thick and can coat a spoon, about 5 to 10 minutes. When thickened, remove the bay leaves.

Stir in the grated cheeses, a handful at a time, combining well after each addition. Add the chopped lobster meat to the sauce and stir well. Add the pasta and stir. Add to the greased baking dish and sprinkle with the panko crumbs and parsley. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes before serving. Sprinkle individual servings with parsley.

A few of my favorite things...Navy

Right now I really LOVE Navy blue. It is such a basic color and can be mixed and matched with everything yellow, green or pink are just some options. So I thought these few things were really cute! These 5 items are great for entertaining as well as great hostess gifts or birthday presents.

I'm a really messy in the kitchen and what every cook and chef needs is a super cute apron. I really love this one from Anthropologie.

Rolling Terrain Potholder

If you are taking baked goods out of the hot oven you may as well look stylish while doing it with these matching potholder

Monogrammed Napkins

I found these cute hand painted monogramed napkins on Etsy. My friend Nicole turned me onto this great site. The M is in homage to my maiden name.

Monogrammed Plates

A great gift as shower present or even for baby's first plate!

The Perfect Matching Baker

I just love this Emile Henry ruffled auberge rectangular baker. Denis and I actually have the large and small bakers, as well as the loaf baker and the oval one. It's so nice you can even put it on the table when entertaining.

Baby Shower Cookies

Lately there seems like there is a bit of a baby boom amongst our friends. Most recently little girls! These are some the cookies I made for my friend Annie's shower.

Here are some really cute onesies and baby carriages, both can come in any color....

I got really cute labels from a great website that can customize for you. Here is the finished product.

Happy St Patrick's Day Shamrock Cookies

Denis and I are both Irish and absolutely love St Patrick's Day. Hoboken as a huge party so we had a few friends over to celebrate. I decided to make sugar cookies in the shape of shamrocks with green royal icing, they were a big hit!

Low-Fat Penne with Vodka Sauce with Meatballs

So two of my favorite things to eat are meatballs and vodka sauce but neither are very low calorie. I found 2 recipes which Denis and I love that are so easy and low fat. We have tried a few vodka sauces and despite the fact that this is low fat it is by far our favorite. I made them for my sister Aileen, Denis and I on a really snowy night (during the blizzard of 2010)! It is always nice to have a big pasta meal on a cold night, with a cold glass of wine.

Penne with Vodka Sauce
Weight Watchers
Serves 6

1 tbsp unsalted butter
2 medium shallot(s), minced (about 1/2 cup)
2 medium garlic cloves(s), minced
2 tbsp parsley, fresh, minced
1/2 small sea salt or other course salt
1/4 black pepper, freshly ground
2 tbsp canned tomato paste
2 oz vodka
1/8 tsp table salt, or to taste (for cooking pasta)
12 oz uncooked penne
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
20 leaves basil, fresh, cut into ribbons (chiffonade)

Heat a large skillet over a medium-low heat. Add butter, shallots and garlic; saute until shallots start to caramelize, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add parsely, sea salt and pepper, stirring once or twice. Add tomato paste and mix to form paste. Cook for about 5 minutes, moving paste around pan occasionally; add vodka. Scrap bottom of pan with a spoon and cook for about 5 minutes more.

Meanwhile, bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil. Cook paste according to package directions; drain.

Add cream to tomato sauce; reduce heat to low and simmer for about 3 minutes. Add pasta to sauce and mix to coat; top basil and season to taste with salt and pepper. Yields about 1 cup per serving.

7 Weight Watchers points

Scrumptious Skinny Meatballs
Cook Yourself Thin
Serves 4

2 12 oz to 14 oz jars of your favorite marinara (we love Classico Marinara with Plum tomatoes and olive oil)
2 slices of your favorite sandwich bread
3/4 cup water
1/3 lb ground veal
1/3 lb ground pork
1/3 lb ground turkey
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
1 large egg
1/2 small onion, finely minced
1/3 cup chopped parsley
2 tbsp chopped basil
1 tsp oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

Heat marinara sauce in a large , wide pot over medium heat. Cover to prevent splattering.

Remove crusts from bread, place bread in a medium bowl and pour water over. Let sit 10 minutes, and gently squeeze out excess liquid. Put bread in a large bowl, discard water.

Add all the ground meats, cheese, egg, onion, parsley, basil, oregano, salt and red pepper flakes to bowl with bread. Gently toss to combine, maintaining a light touch to keep air in the meatballs (don't squish the meat too much, or you'll end up with tough meatballs). Roll the meat mixture in your hands to create meatballs slightly larger than a golf ball.

Remove marinara sauce from heat to prevent splattering, gently drop the meatballs in the warm sauce. Return tomato sauce to medium-low heat, bring to a simmer and cook, covered, until meatballs have cooked through, about 30 minutes.

This recipe can also be paired with whole wheat spaghetti. If you choose to make with spaghetti cook 8 oz of whole wheat spaghetti according to package, toss with marinara sauce, and top with meatballs.