7 Links and More Awards!

Ok, this post is long, long overdue, but Joanna, from one of my favorite blogs, Chic and Gorgeous Treats tagged me for the 7 links challenge, but life just got in the way. Then, another one of my favorite bloggers, Kym from Free Spirit Eater tagged me.  So, now I am finally making some time to do this! I had a hard time picking my 7 links. My blog is only a few months old and I am still learning so much about blogging and photography! I feel like I have so much to learn! Being a newer kid on the block, I don’t have too many recipes to pick from, but I am going to give this a go anyway!

1. Most Beautiful Post

Well, I’m going to go with with my most recent post for Chocolate Whoopie Pies with Pumpkin Cream Cheese Frosting because it was the first photo of mine that got accepted by foodgawker, LOL! I know nothing about photography and our apartment has AWFUL lighting so taking nice pictures is difficult. But, my husband is a video editor so he is helping me with lighting as much as he can! Bit by bit, we are kind of figuring it out!

2. Most Popular Post

This one is easy. Based on my site stats, my post for Nutella Cupcakes is my most popular. People seem to find their way to my page every day for this recipe and I’m so glad they did because these cupcakes were SO good!!

3. Most Controversial Post

To my foodie friends, this isn’t controversial at all, but it was to my husband. When I told him that I was making Blueberry Zucchini Bread, he got a very disgusted look on his face. The thought of putting a vegetable in a sweet bread sounded disgusting to him. I think he expected huge chunks of zucchini. But, after it came out of the oven and I gave him a slice, he said it was actually pretty good!

4. Most Helpful Post

For most helpful, I’m going with my Homemade Manicotti. Making the shells from scratch can be a little tricky, so I tried to give step-by-step instructions on how to make them. Hopefully at least one person will find this helpful!

5. Post That Was Surprisingly Successful

This classic, Pasta Fagioli, has been getting a ton of hits and comments. I guess I didn’t think people would love it as much as they seem to be! But, it is a delicious soup and it is one of my favorite family recipes and I’m glad to see it doing so well!

6. Post That Didn’t Get the Attention It Deserved

Since my blog is new, I think there are quite a few recipes that didn’t get the attention they deserved since I didn’t really try to get my blog out there until  more recently. I can’t really pick one! It’s a toss up between, Pasta Aglio e Olio, Banana Maple Breakfast Quinoa, Pulled Pork Sandwiches, and Cheddar Swiss Fondue

7. Post That You’re Most Proud Of

You are probably wondering why a bowl of guacamole is the post that I am most proud of. This was my first post on my blog. I had wanted to start a food blog for over a year and never did it. I finally decided back in May that it was time for me to start this blog as a way for me to share my favorite recipes and to become a better cook by trying new recipes! I’m having so much fun and can’t wait to see what the future brings!

So, there you have it. My 7 links!!

Chocolate Whoopie Pies with Pumpkin Cream Cheese Frosting


Let the week of horrible eating continue!! I swear, I am taking a major break from baking and sugar. Back to healthy eating next week! But, for now, the sugar rush keeps going! Tomorrow is officially the first day of fall, my most favoritest time of the year! I wanted to celebrate with something special for you all. I’ve never made whoopie pies. They’ve been on my list of things I want to make for some time and I decided it was time to give them a try. I originally wanted to make pumpkin whoopies, but my dear husband wouldn’t touch them and God forbid if I make a baked good and he can’t enjoy it too! So, I opted for chocolate whoopie pies with plain cream cheese frosting for him and pumpkin cream cheese frosting for me. There. We both get our way!

Chocolate Whoopie Pies with Pumpkin Cream Cheese Frosting

Makes approximately 24 whoopie pies
Cake recipe from Martha Stewart

Ingredients for the Cake:

– 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

– 1 1/2 cups natural, unsweetened cocoa powder

– 1 teaspoon salt

– 1 tablespoon baking soda

– 1 teaspoon baking powder

– 1 cups unsalted butter (2 sticks) at room temperature

– 2 cups sugar

– 2 large eggs at room temperature

– 2 cups buttermilk at room temperature

– 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions:

1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Spray whoopie pie pan with non-stick cooking spray. Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt, and baking powder in a large bowl, set aside.

2. In a separate bowl, using a hand mixer or stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar. Add eggs, buttermilk, and vanilla. Beat until well-combined. Slowly add in the flour mixture until combined.

3. Drop approximately 2 tablespoons of the batter into each cavity of the pan (or drop directly onto a greased cookie sheet if you don’t have a whoopie pan). Here is where I had an issue. I overfilled mine on the first batch. See:

Here is a comparison of the first and second batch. The first batch is on the left. You can see that they puffed up too much. I didn’t really measure 2 tablespoons exactly the first time around. For the second batch, I did 2 leveled tablespoons of batter and I also tried to spread it a little into the cavity and this made a big difference! After filling each cavity, bake for approximately 9-11 minutes (mine took exactly 9 mins. with the whoopie pan). Cake should be “springy” to the touch. Let cool completely before frosting.

Ingredients for the Pumpkin Filling:

– 1 8-ounce package of cream cheese, softened

– 1/2 cup (1 stick) of unsalted butter

– 1/3 cup can pumpkin puree

– 4 cups confectioner’s sugar

– 1 1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

– 1 tsp. vanilla extract

1. Using a hand mixer or stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter, cream cheese, and pumpkin. 1 cup at a time, add confectioner’s sugar. Add vanilla and pumpkin pie spice. Mix until well-combined. If your frosting seems too liquidy, try sticking it in the fridge before filling your whoopie pies!!

Notes:
– I didn’t stuff too much frosting into my whoopie pies so if you want to add more filling to yours, you might want to make extra frosting!

Dark Chocolate Dream Cookies

I don’t know what happened this week, but I have not been eating well. Ok, I should also include last week in that statement, but hey, you get to eat a little bad on your birthday, right?!! Unless I want to try and argue that this is my birthday month, then there is no excuse for making these cookies. I just thought it sounded like a great idea! As I was perusing the peanut butter and cereal aisle last month, I spotted this:

I’ve professed my love for chocolate and peanut butter many times already on this blog so I probably don’t need to do it again. Upon seeing this, I HAD to have it!! This peanut butter is pretty good, almost like Nutella, but with regular peanuts and not as much of a chocolate taste. I like making peanut butter cookies, so I decided this chocolately peanut butter would be GREAT in a cookie. And I was right! They didn’t come out as pretty as I had hoped they would, but Husband said he wants me to make these more often! I used my best ever chocolate chip cookie recipe as a base for these!

By the way, I’m so excited that I am going to be having my first GIVEAWAY tomorrow! I hope you will all come back so you can enter to win!!!

Dark Chocolate Dream Cookies

Makes approximately 2 dozen cookies

Ingredients:

– 3 cups oat flour (or 2 1/4 cup white flour)

– 1 tsp. baking soda

– 1 cup Dark Chocolate Dreams Peanut Butter

– 1 cup packed brown sugar

– 2 tsp. vanilla extract

– 2 sticks of butter at room temperature

– 2 eggs at room temperature

– 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions:

1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray. Combine oat flour and baking soda in a bowl. Set aside.

2. In a separate bowl, cream butter, brown sugar, and peanut butter together. Add eggs and vanilla extract. Slowly add in flour until all of it is well-combined. Fold in chocolate chips. Refrigerate dough for approximately 10 minutes (of put in the freezer for about 5 mins.) (This will make your cookies come out a little thicker and chewier so if you don’t like that, then skip that step!).

3. Drop spoonfuls of chilled batter onto the baking sheet (I like to use an ice cream scoop to do this!). Make sure each cookie is about 2 inches apart. Bake for approximately 10-12 minutes. Cool on cooling rack.

Notes:
– I was not asked, nor did I receive any compensation from the Peanut Butter & Co. for this post. I just really like their peanut butter!
– Can’t find this peanut butter in your store? No problem! Use regular peanut butter and add a couple of tablespoons of cocoa powder!

Chicken Farfalle with Low-Fat Alfredo Sauce


Happy Friday everyone!! I’m so glad it’s the weekend! Tomorrow is my birthday and I am looking forward to a fun and relaxing weekend with my family and friends! If you’ve read my blog, then you’ve probably heard that I hate going to the grocery store. Husband and I like to go once a week on the weekends and get everything we need for the next week so we don’t have to go back until the following weekend. This usually means that we have to have our meals planned out for the week which sometimes works out really well, and sometimes it doesn’t! This week is a good example of it not working so well. On Tuesday, I decided to just grill up some chicken. Yeah, it burned! The coating on my grill pan must have completely worn off because in just 5 minutes, our chicken was black! Husband was so sweet. He said it wasn’t too bad and ate some of it. I couldn’t bare the sight of it. He had to go and buy us dinner. Oh, and did I mention I have been sick all week? Yup. I have a lovely sinus infection so Wednesday’s dinner was homemade chicken noodle soup and grilled cheese.

Then this morning I realized that we had no meal planned for Thursday night. To the fridge and pantry I went to see what I could come up with. We had lots of chicken, bacon, asparagus, and pasta. DONE! I decided to try my hand at making a low-fat alfredo sauce. My husband loves chicken alfredo. I think it’s okay, but what I don’t like about it is how fattening it is! I made my own low-fat alfredo sauce using skim milk. The other thing I don’t really like about traditional alfredo is that it doesn’t have a lot of flavor to me, so I also added some white wine and lemon juice. We loved this dinner! Husband said I knocked it out of the park so it’s a definite meal that I will make again soon! This dish is great because you can toss in whatever you happen to have on hand. Any type of pasta, meat/fish, or veggies would be good!

Chicken Farfalle with Low-Fat Alfredo Sauce

Serves 4

Ingredients:

– 4 chicken breasts, cooked and diced into bite-size pieces

– 1 lb. farfalle pasta

– 1 1/2 tbs. butter

– 1/3 cup all-purpose flour

– 1 1/2 cups, skim milk

– 1 tsp. garlic powder

– 1/3 cup white wine

– 1 lemon, juiced

– 1 tsp. salt

– 1/2 tsp. black pepper

– Parmesan cheese

Directions:

1. Cook chicken breasts (I sauteed mine with a little olive oil and salt and pepper) and set aside. Cook pasta while cooking the chicken and set aside.

2. In a sauce pan, melt butter. Add flour and stir in with butter, cook for 1 minute. Whisk in milk, salt and pepper, garlic powder, lemon juice, and wine. Bring to a boil, constantly whisking. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 5 more minutes. Sauce should thicken.

3. In a large saute pan, add pasta, chicken, and any other desired additions. Heat pan on medium heat. Add alfredo sauce and toss with pasta. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and additional salt and pepper (if needed) and serve!

Notes: This recipe made more sauce than I really needed, but I liked having extra. This way, you can add as much sauce as you prefer!

Pumpkin Pizzelle Cookies


Being Italian, registering for wedding gifts was a lot of fun because I had list of items I needed to make my family recipes. The item I was most excited about was of course, a pasta maker. But, another item I knew I had to have was a pizzelle press. If you have never heard of these cookies before, they are basically Italian waffle cookies. My grandma makes pizzelle cookies every holiday and they are so simple, but they are truly one of my favorite cookies! Now that my pizzelle press has been sitting in the closet for well over a year still in the box, I decided it was finally time to bust it out! My husband requested some traditional pizzelle cookies (a recipe I will post soon!), but I had another idea in mind, how about PUMPKIN pizzelle?! I was going to try to wait for fall to “officially” start before posting pumpkin recipes, but I am not a patient person, so here is the first of many pumpkin recipes I plan to post this fall!

I thought these cookies were pretty good, but they were a different texture than traditional pizzelle cookies. They were a little thicker because of the pumpkin I believe and seemed to require a little more cook time on the press, so they came out crunchier than the traditional variety, but this was all fine by me!

Pumpkin Pizzelle

Adapted from VillaWare

Makes approximately 40 pizzelle

Ingredients:

– 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

– 3 eggs, room temperature

– 1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled

– 3/4 cup granulated sugar

– 2 tsp. baking powder

– 1 tsp. vanilla extract

– 1 tsp. anise extract (optional)

– 1/3 cup canned pumpkin

– 2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

Directions:

* You will need a pizzelle press to make these cookies (see link below)

1. In a bowl, combine flour and baking powder. In a separate mixing bowl, beat eggs and sugar and add in the pumpkin puree. Add vanilla, butter, pumpkin spice, and anise. Add the flour slowly to the egg mixture. Your batter should be thick, but not so thick that you can’t drop it by a spoonful.

2. Heat pizzelle press according to it’s instructions (most likely set to medium heat). Drop batter by 2 heaping teaspoonfuls onto each mold of your pizzelle press. Bake until pizzelle turn a light golden brown color. If you want your cookies to be softer, cook them for less time. If you want them crispier, then cook for a little longer. I found that these pumpkin pizzelle needed to be cooked a little longer than traditional pizzelle. When finished, gently remove pizzelle using a spatula. Place to cool and harden on wax paper.

Notes: I use this pizzelle press, but there are so many out there!

Homemade Manicotti

Homemade manicotti is one of the first Italian dishes that I learned how to make. At the time, it was a challenging dish to make. Well, making the shells was challenging anyway. I remember always having to throw away first few I would make. Nowadays though, I can turn out manicotti shells like it’s nobody’s business! In my family, manicotti is typically reserved for holidays and special occasions. But, with yesterday being 9/11, I wanted to make something special that reminded me of the people I love and of course, to share this recipe with all of you! Of all of my family recipes, this is the one I have really wanted to share! This recipe is so special to me because it always reminds me of good times around the table with my family and friends. 

Homemade Manicotti

Serves 4-6

Ingredients for the shells:

– 2 eggs

– 1 1/2 cups milk

– 1 cup all-purpose flour

– butter

Directions:

1. In a bowl, whisk milk and eggs. Add flour and mix. Batter will resemble a pancake batter that is thin enough to be poured into a pan. If your batter seems thick, add more milk. If it seems thin, add flour. It is okay if your batter has some lumps from the flour. Set aside.

2. With a non-stick pan that is approximately 6-7 inches in diameter, heat pan on medium heat. When pan is heated, add a small pat of butter. Use a heat resistant brush to spread butter evenly around the pan.

3. Pour about 1/4 cup of the batter into the heated and buttered pan. Pick up the pan and swirl the batter around the pan so that it covers the base of the pan. You have to move quickly with this step! This can be a little tricky. You have to get the batter spread all around the pan before it starts really cooking. As you continue to cook each shell, you may find that your pan is getting too hot. If this is the case, remove pan from heat and wipe with a damp cloth in between each shell. You can also try to lower the heat.

Cook the shell for approximately 2 minutes and then using a fork, turn the shell over and cook it on the other side. Once the shell turns a light golden brown on each side, it is done! Remove the shell from the pan and put it onto some wax paper to cool. Now you are ready to start the next shell!

Here is what a finished shell looks like!!

The great thing about the shells is that you can make them ahead of time! If you make them more than a day ahead of time, I recommend freezing them. Make sure the shells are completely cooled before freezing. Place a piece of wax paper in between each shell and freeze! Whether you freeze or refrigerate the shells, make sure that they are at room temperature or slightly warmed before you try to roll them with the cheese. If you try to roll a cold shell, it WILL crack! This recipe should make you about 12 shells. Ok, now that you have your shells, you are ready to get rolling and make your manicotti!

Ingredients for the filling:

– 1 lb. ricotta cheese

– 2-3 handfuls of romano cheese

– 1/2 lb. mozarella cheese

– 2 eggs

– salt and pepper

– handful of finely chopped parsley/span>

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine cheeses. Fold in eggs. Add in about a teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of pepper. Mix in parsley.

2. In a baking dish, coat the bottom of the pan with tomato sauce. I made my favorite tomato sauce (you can also make your sauce ahead of time!). One shell at at time, add about 2-3 heaping tablespoons of the cheese mixture in the middle of the shell. Then wrap the shell. Put the filled shells into the baking dish seam side down. Once you are done, top the shells with more sauce and sprinkle with some Parmesan cheese!

3. Cover baking dish with foil and bake for 25 minutes. Remove foil and bake for 5 more minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving! Then, Manga!!

All done!

Nom, Nom, Nom!!