Thursday, January 23, 2014

Mini Cannoli Cups

I am always on the lookout for easy to make and enjoy treats to be able to put together for a gathering with friends, a nice treat for the family after dinner or treats to take to parties or work. I tried my first cannoli when I was traveling for business in Boston. There was something very satisfying about the crunch of the shell and cool creamy, richness of the filling. I certainly didn't see Cannolis as something that I could undertake, but when I saw a friend share about mini cannoli cups on Facebook, I decided this might be the way for me to recreate this treat at home.

I made them for dessert on Sunday and the family thoroughly enjoyed them. My son even asked to pack one in his lunch the next day. At about 95 calories per cup, they can easily be a portion controlled dessert that allows you to enjoy a treat without too many calories - the bigger challenge is resisting eating more than one.

Mini Cannoli Cups

Yield: 24 cups

1 box refrigerated pie crust (2 crusts)
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 (15-ounce) package ricotta cheese
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup mini chocolate chips


Strain the ricotta cheese, using a cheese cloth or coffee filter. (you can skip this step, but it will give you a thicker filling) Place the cheese into your mixer bowl and add sugars and vanilla. Mix.

Place in a quart size bag and refrigerate. Filling can be kept in the fridge up to 3 days before using.

Preheat oven to 425.

Roll out pie crusts and sprinkle each all over one side with sugar and cinnamon. Roll over dough with rolling pin gently to push cinnamon and sugar into the pie crust.
Using a cup or biscuit cutter, cut out circles in the dough.

Lightly press the circles into ungreased mini cupcake pans to form a pastry cup. Gently prick the bottoms on the cups with a fork.

Bake for 8-10 minutes.
Remove from oven and cool completely.

About an hour before serving, make a small cut across the corner of the plastic bag to fill cups, squeezing the filling into each cup. Sprinkle chocolate chips on top and dust with powdered sugar.


Sunday, January 19, 2014

Caramel Macchiato Biscotti

I never thought that I liked biscotti. Although out of fairness, I hadn't ever tried one either. When I would see them in a display case or the type that come in an individual wrapper, all I could think is that they were dry, hard cookies that you had to dunk to enjoy, well and most contained nuts which I generally don't eat. Then, I got a bag of chocolate chip biscotti at the new Market District store that had opened nearby. I decided that this was my chance to try them - just plain chocolate chip biscotti. They were lighter in color and had no nuts. I found that I enjoyed them, they were crisp, but not hard. Everyone in the family enjoyed them.

We tried to buy them at our local Giant Eagle, but they don't carry them. Since we couldn't buy them, I decided to try to make them at home. And, off I went to search for some options. I tried a chocolate chip one first and then a banana chocolate chip. I really liked the chocolate chip and had found many other recipes along the way that sounded interesting. The chocolate chip ones that I had made were about the right texture and I was trying to find out why they were softer than others and it was in searching for how to make them 'softer' that I came upon this recipe. I opted to skip the glaze that the original recipe called for. I had some trouble finding the caramel bits, but I finally found the Kraft Caramel Bits in the baking aisle at the local super center.

These Caramel Macchiato Biscotti have been a hit with everyone that has tried them. I even used them as teacher's gifts for my son and took in some to all of my team members at work too.

Caramel Macchiato Biscotti

makes about 15 slices

6 tablespoons butter softened
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon fine grind espresso
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 cups flour
1/2 cup caramel bits

Yield: 15 pieces

In a mixing bowl, beat butter with sugar until creamy. Mix in eggs, espresso powder and vanilla. Add flour and baking powder, stirring until combined. Fold in caramel bits. Batter will be sticky.

Form into a flattened log that is about 3" wide.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 25 minutes. Remove and cool about 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 325.

Cut into 1 inch slices and arrange slices upright on pan. Bake an additional 20 minutes.

Cool and store in an airtight container.

Serve on their own, with coffee, milk, tea or hot chocolate.


Thursday, January 16, 2014

Creamy Italian Chicken Tomato Soup

In the wintertime, I love enjoying a nice soup for dinner. One of my favorite soups is tomato soup with grilled cheese. I used to rely solely on the canned tomato soup, but have recently been making my own Tomato Bisque, which I just love. So, when I found this recipe on my friend's paleo board on Pinterest, I decided that it was a recipe that I wanted to try. It has the word Italian in the title, so I figured my husband would be up to trying it. Plus, it is a crock pot recipe - I love meals that I can put together in the crock pot in the morning and they are ready to eat when I get home at night.

I don't follow a paleo diet, nor do I know the requirements of a paleo friendly recipe, but I can tell you that this recipe is very tasty and reasonably low in calories. I used Lite Coconut milk, vs the full fat, and a serving was about 150 calories according to my recipe software.

We enjoyed the soup with a salad and some sliced Italian bread, but I could easily see including grilled cheese as a side to the soup.

Creamy Italian Chicken Tomato Soup
Serves: 6

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 small onion chopped
2 cloves garlic minced
1 (14-ounce) can Coconut Milk
1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes including juice
1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
1 cup water
2 chicken bouillon
1 1/2 tablespoons Italian seasoning
1 tablespoon basil
sea salt (to taste)
ground black pepper (to taste)


Combine everything but the chicken in your crockpot and stir. Add the chicken. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours.

Remove chicken and shred. Return to crock pot.



Monday, January 13, 2014

dare I say - The Perfect Grilled Cheese

If you had asked me to provide examples of 'recipes' that I would likely never do a post about, I think that grilled cheese might have been amongst them. Sure there are hundreds of ways to make grilled cheese, as you can mix up your bread, your cheese and even add other toppings like tomatoes or ham. I know that there are entire restaurants devoted to the grilled cheese sandwich. (as an aside, there is a cereal restaurant too that allows you to 'custom' mix your choice of cereals - wonder if they are still around)

I have been making myself grilled cheese for years and was very content with my method. It was never as good as those that you would have out, but it was still satisfying and the perfect mate for a bowl of soup on a cool day.

Then, the other day, my friend shared this article with me about how to make the perfect grilled cheese sandwich. So, when I was home with the kids enjoying a snow day, I decided to give it a try. Let me confirm that it did not disappoint. It was crispy and yummy!

So, really at the end of the day, this recipe is less about the components and more about the technique. I have made it with "regular" sliced bread and Italian bread from the bakery. I have made it with American Cheese and Jalapeno Cheddar Cheese. I've left it just cheese and added bacon to my sandwich. I imagine it will work well with most types of bread and cheese. I'm thinking Texas Toast with Feta and Bacon is on my list to try soon.

1. Select your bread - whatever is your favorite or you have on hand will work.
2. Butter both sides of your bread. (the second side can be tricky, I usually wait until I have it in the pan to do the other side)
3. Brown both sides on a griddle/in a skillet.
4. Transfer the bread to a sheet pan.
5. Top each side with your cheese.
6. Bake at 350 for about 5-10 minutes, until your cheese melts.
7. Flip one piece on top of the other to build a sandwich.
8. Cut in half (aren't they just better that way).
9. Enjoy!

The resulting sandwich is just wonderful. It is crunchy on the edges. It is soft and gooey on the inside. It has that subtle taste of butter.

I don't think I can return to my old style of making a grilled cheese.

What type of toppings do you like on your grilled cheese? What combination will you try first?


Sunday, January 12, 2014

Chicken Paprikash with Dumplings

I am always on the hunt for new ways to enjoy familiar favorites. Lately, I have been doing a lot of my exploring of new recipes on Pinterest. For the most part, I look at what my friends are posting and check them out.

The other day, when I was scanning through recent pins by my friends on Pinterest, I came across a post for Chicken Paprikash. Anytime I hear the words Chicken Paprikash, I can't help but think of scene from When Harry Met Sally when they are talking funny and he says that there is too much pepper in my paprikash. Can you believe that movie is 25 years old this year? I need to not know things like that, it makes me feel old!

Anyway, I don't know that I had ever had Chicken Paprikash and after reading the recipe, I decided I would give it a try. I changed things up a bit when I prepared it. I started making my dumplings in the water, but they say seemed to lack flavor, so I decided to just prepare them directly in the broth/gravy. I also used less sour cream than the original recipe called for.

Chicken Paprikash

Serves: 8

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small vidalia onion
2 tablespoons paprika
1 whole chicken, cut into pieces
4 chicken bouillon
1 cup light sour cream
1/4 cup flour
2 teaspoons seasoned salt
3 eggs
2 1/4 cups water
4 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt


In a large pot, or pressure cooker, saute the onions in the olive oil over medium heat. Cook until transparent. Stir in the paprika. Add the chicken and brown on each side. Add water and simmer for 30 minutes (or cook in pressure cooker). Remove the chicken to a strainer to allow to cool. In a small bowl, combine sour cream, flour and seasoned salt. Whisk in to the broth at a low heat and allow to thicken. Separate the chicken and put back into the broth. Raise to a medium heat. Combine eggs, water, flour and salt in a bowl. Drop by the spoonful into the boiling broth. Allow to cook about 10 minutes. Ladle into bowls to serve.

The dish was enjoyed by my husband and I. My son made a comment, before even tying a bite, that he didn't like chicken, so my daughter immediately decided she didn't like it either. That is okay, I will make it again, as I am confident that they like son ate a good portion of his. When I packed up the leftovers, there was a lot of the broth/gravy, so I froze that and will add cooked chicken to it for a future meal.

I also came upon this recipe, when I found the YouTube video above. It incorporates tomatoes, which I think could be interesting.