No Bake Chocolate Nutella Avalanche Cookies

December 1st, 2016

No Bake Chocolate Nutella Avalanche Cookies

The Thanksgiving holiday is over and everyone is back to their usually scheduled program. Thanksgiving was a great celebration with close friends and family. Dinner was a success, though I actually made too much food. Mostly the standards: To start was a crudité with Green Goddess Dip, an assortment of cheeses and nuts, and my friend Juliet brought something we call “heart stoppers”. Long slabs of bacon wrapped around a crunchy water chestnut and smothered in some kind of sweet delicious sauce. Perhaps I can coax her into giving up her secret recipe. Not too much to start off with, but enough to stave off the wolves until the turkey gets carved. For dinner I served Green Beans with Cream of Portobello Mushroom Soup and Crispy Fried Onions, thank you Trader Joe’s for taking an American Classic and kicking it up a notch! Then sweet potatoes with marshmallows on top, Bourbon Sweet Potatoes (thank you Cindy), three kinds of stuffing: traditional stovetop, Shitake Mushroom and Butternut Squash (made this on the fly with some gorgeous hand-picked shitake mushrooms from the Pleasantville Farmer’s Market), and the one stuffing that Thanksgiving would not be complete without, Citarella’s Sausage Stuffing (hand delivered by my friend Chris), Roasted Cauliflower with Chickpeas (Juliet again), Agata and Valentina Roasted Root Vegetables (special thanks to Roberta and Fred), cranberry sauce, and gravy. Whew! Oh wait then there was dessert. My favorite is always a stunning cheese cake from Simply Recipes (http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/perfect_cheesecake/), Chocolate Bread Pudding (Cindy you are my idol), brownies (Sara they were perfect), Avalanche Cookies from Cookies and Cups (see my fun twist on this recipe below), Vanilla Melt-Away Sprinkle Cookies (adapted from Taste of Home), Chocolate Pudding Pie (Galloways Bakery), Levain Bakery Cookies (Brenda you have a lifetime invitation to Thanksgiving dinner), Apple Mosaic Tart with Salted Caramel from Smitten Kitchen https://smittenkitchen.com/2012/10/apple-mosaic-tart-with-salted-caramel/, and the best Apple Pie in New Jersey straight from the Ritz Diner (Madi your one-finger cooking never fails). I realize that this is a giant run on paragraph but somehow that seems appropriate for a Thanksgiving dinner description!

These no-bake Avalanche cookies were 100 times better than I expected. They are lighter, easier to bite into and more delicious than at first glance. I used semi-sweet morsels instead of white chocolate, swapped out the peanut butter for Nutella and added some pretzel pieces. Here is the original recipe from Cookies and Cups http://cookiesandcups.com/no-bake-avalanche-cookies/. I also plan to try a version with soy butter so that I can make these with my Young Chefs club.

img_7117 img_7118 img_7120 No Bake Chocolate Nutella Avalanche Cookies

INGREDIENTS: (makes 12 large cookies)

1 cup Rice Crispy cereal
½ cup mini marshmallows
½ cup pretzel pieces (I use the Glutino pretzel sticks)
1-cup semi-sweet chocolate morsels
¼ cup Nutella

DIRECTIONS:

Line a rimmed baking sheet with a Silpat or parchment paper. In a medium sized bowl mix together Rice Crisp cereal, marshmallows, and pretzels. In a microwave safe bowl, melt chocolate chips. Start at 20 seconds, stir, and then continue melting/stirring at 10 second intervals. When melted add in the Nutella and stir well. Pour the chocolate mixture over the cereal, marshmallows and pretzels. Mix to coat. Using 2 spoons, drop tablespoon size mounds onto the prepared cookie sheet. Refrigerate until chocolate is set. Store in the refrigerator.

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Lasagna Roll-ups

November 15th, 2016

Lasagna Roll-ups

I have been making Lasagna Roll-ups forever. I have taught this in classes for kids and adults for the past several years. I have sent countless friends and family to my website for this easy, delicious recipe. And I just realized it’s not actually on my website. Ooooops!

We made this great dish today in young chefs cooking club. This is an adorable group of 5, 6, and 7 old boys and girls. The kids did a great job mixing the filling and assembling the roll-ups. They did an even better job of cleaning their plates, literally eating every last morsel of pasta, bit of tomato sauce and fleck of spinach.

The parents were thrilled to see such exuberant eating. Several of them decided to go straight to the market and pick up the ingredients to make these roll-ups for dinner. I felt that that level of enthusiasm for a recipe deserved prompt attention. So here is the now infamous recipe for Lasagna Roll-ups…

INGREDIENTS:

1 32oz. container of Ricotta cheese
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 bag frozen chopped spinach, drained
1-2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 Jar tomato sauce
1 box lasagna, cooked according to the box instructions
1 8oz. bag of part-skim, low moisture shredded Mozzarella cheese

DIRECTIONS:

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. In a medium sized bowl, mix together the Ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese, spinach, and salt. Lightly coat the bottom of a casserole dish with tomato sauce. Take one long lasagna noodle and lay it flat on a cutting board. Take two tablespoons of the Ricotta mixture and spread it evenly across the entire noodle. Then roll up the noodle and place it seam down in the casserole dish. Continue doing this until the entire dish is full. Then pour some more sauce, making sure all the noodles are covered, and then top with the shredded cheese. Bake this in the oven for about 20 minutes or until the sauce is bubbling. If the cheese starts to burn cover it with some tin foil.

* You may have some extra Ricotta filling. No worries. Either use it as a filling for an omelet (I just bought the Tramontina 80114/535DS Professional Nonstick Restaurant Fry Pan, 10-Inch, Natural Aluminum and I love it. In fact I performed the restaurant flip with my omelet this weekend and earned the momentary respect of my 10 year old son. Need I say more?). Or mix it in with some Israeli cous cous and serve it with a piece of grilled chicken or fish.

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Chocolate Covered Apple Pops (and Mummies too)

November 6th, 2016

The trees right now are an amazing mix of brilliant orange, gold and burgundy colors.  My daughter and I were out the other evening taking a few photographs as the sun set at the end of a wondrous fall day. I was moved by a picture she took of me. She said, “mom, it really feels like you, out here in the freezing cold, racing against the setting sun and doing something you love”. What she didn’t realize, was that the best part of that evening was being out there with someone I truly love, her.  I stood there watching the expression on her face, pure joy, with her red tipped nose and beautiful smile and couldn’t imagine being happier.  I realize as I get older how important it is to recognize those fleeting yet magical moments in life.  This post was supposed to be light and fun, about chocolate covered apple mummies, and yet somehow when I sat down to write this is what came to mind.  There is something poetic and nostalgic about this time of year.

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While Halloween has come and gone, fall is still alive and well. The smell of apples still lingers in the crisp air.  I have really enjoyed apple season this year. I have a new apple cake with crumb topping that has become a cult favorite in my house (adapted from www.spendwithpennies.com). I also made a wonderful applesauce from Simple Recipes and some better-than-expected Chocolate Apple Pops from www.delish.com (Lauren Miyashiro)….

Now chocolate covered anything is usually a hit, but sometimes there’s just too much stuff on a chocolate covered pop, making it hard to enjoy and ultimately better to look at than to eat. But these pops are really good. And easy. And a great treat to bring to a family dinner party. My mother-in-law told me they were so beautiful and professional looking that I could sell them! I’ve made them a few different ways, first the chocolate dipped pop with colorful sprinkles and then the chocolate apple mummies (or ghosts).

Chocolate Covered Apple Pop

Ingredients:

4 large Honey crisp apples, cut into 4 thick slices each or cut into quarters (no core!)
16 Popsicle sticks
1 bag chocolate chips
¼ cup coconut oil or canola oil
1 cup white chocolate chips
Decorative candy: mini M&M’s, pretzel pieces, broken Oreos, candy eyes, chopped nuts, etc.

Directions:

Take the cut apples, lay them flat, and insert a Popsicle stick through the bottom of the apple and parallel to the counter.

In a microwave safe bowl start to melt the chocolate chips. Start with 20 seconds and microwave in 10-second intervals until melted. The chips may be melted but still holding their shape. Whisk in 2 tablespoons of coconut oil until smooth and slightly thinned out. Use a bit more oil if needed. Dip the apple pops into the chocolate, allow the excess to drip off a bit and lay them out on a silpat lined (or waxed paper) rimmed cookie sheet. Put them into the refrigerator for about 10 minutes.

In a clean bowl melt the white chocolate chips the same way as the chocolate chips. Do not over melt. White chocolate is less stable and has a tendency to harden unexpectedly (especially from contact with water or heating too quickly). Whisk in the last tablespoon of coconut oil until smooth. Using a spoon or pastry bag, drizzle the white chocolate over the pops. Decorate with candy, lightly pressing the candy into the chocolate and allow to harden in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.

 

Chocolate covered apple mummies

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Mini Chocolate Chip Cannoli’s

September 27th, 2016

Mini Chocolate Chip Cannoli's

My trip to Italy continues to loom large in my mind. I daydream about the sunny cobblestone streets, the centuries old ruins, and the glorious food that I ate non-stop. I even have a newly expanded waistline to prove it!   I only wish I had been able to stop in Sicily for some truly spectacular homemade cannoli’s. Their fresh ricotta cheese is supposed to be some of the best in the world.

Facebook does a wonderful job of making sure I don’t lose any of the extra weight I gained in Italy. It tempts me with red velvet cupcakes, chocolate covered s’mores, mac n’cheese, and so many more delicious treats. A recipe from Pillsbury recently caught my eye and I though it would be fun to try with my kids cooking club.

Tomorrow is the first day of my kids cooking class. Class begins at 3:10, and somewhere around 3:09 I hear what sounds like the running of the bulls. I should actually take that back as they walk very nicely down the hall to my room. Then they explode through the door with all the excitement of a mariachi band on Cinco de Mayo! Filled with questions and comments and pictures from their day. I dare say my excitement at seeing all those smiling faces almost matches theirs. The most often asked question is definitely what are we making today, followed quickly by 101 ideas about what it could possibly be (I try to save the “big reveal” for once everyone has arrived in class, washed their hands, and settled themselves at the table). So this is a big treat as I am announcing our first recipe in advance….we’re making Mini Chocolate Chip Cannoli’s!

Mini Chocolate Chip Cannoli's

Ingredients:

1 Pillsbury piecrust
2 tablespoons sugar
1-teaspoon cinnamon

1-15oz. container good ricotta cheese (Polly is my favorite supermarket brand)
¾ cup confectioners sugar 9plus a bit more for garnish)
1-teaspoon vanilla
½ cup mini chocolate chips (plus a bit more for garnish)

Directions:

Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees. Place the piecrust on a lightly floured surface. Sprinkle with the sugar and cinnamon. Using a rolling pin, gentle roll the sugar/cinnamon into the dough.

Using a 2½-inch round cookie cutter, cut out about 16 equal circles. Using an ungreased mini-muffin pan, press each round into the pan. If you have round pie weights, put 2-3 in each cup. These cups might puff up a bit but they still work nicely.

Cook for about 8-10 minutes or until lightly golden brown. Cook on a cooling rack.

While the cups are baking, mix the ricotta cheese, confectioners sugar, vanilla and chips in a medium sized bowl. Put in the refrigerator to set.

Before serving, fill each cup with about one tablespoon of filling. Put a few chips on top and sprinkle with powdered sugar. The filling might be a bit looser than traditional cannoli’s, but still delicious.

  • This recipe was adapted from Arlene Cummings at www.pillsbury.com.

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Miso Ramen Noodle Soup

September 19th, 2016

Miso Ramen Noodle Soup

Kids cooking club starts soon and I am working hard to develop new, kid-friendly recipes. Yesterday I made a great Miso Ramen Noodle Soup, Wakame Cucumber Salad and Miso Glazed Roasted Eggplant. It turns out that they all have similar ingredients, though a very different result. They use soy sauce, scallions, a bit of sesame oil and red chili pepper flakes.

I think the kids will love the ramen noodle soup and it’s a dish that they can make almost entirely on their own. It’s surprisingly easy to make and reliably turns out delicious even for the novice cook. I bought all the ingredients at Mrs. Greens Natural Market and they even had a gluten free ramen noodle. An Asian market would have all the ingredients as well. What’s really fun about this dish is that you can mix and match lots of different soup bases and vegetables. Try adding cabbage, a soft-boiled egg, carrots, corn, bamboo shoots, spinach, pork, sausage, coconut milk etc. I love to hear about what friends are making in their kitchen, so please share your favorite ramen noodle twists.

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Ingredients:

6 cups chicken broth
1-tablespoon wakame (this expands A LOT when it hits the hot water)
1 package Enoki or Bunapi mushrooms (have fun with the types and varieties of mushrooms)
2 teaspoons olive oil
Salt
2 packages dried Ramen noodles (don’t use the flavor packet). Fresh noodles are     great too.
1 package firm tofu, small dice
½ cup Red Miso (this can be a bit salty, so be careful about adding any additional salt)
2 scallions, thinly sliced
¼ teaspoon sesame oil per person (basically a few drops in each bowl)
1 pinch red chili pepper flakes

Directions:

In a medium sized pot, heat the chicken broth.

Put the wakame in a medium sized bowl and cover with very hot or boiling water. Allow to sit for 10 minutes or until soft. Then drain.

In a small frying pan, heat the oil and add the mushrooms. Sprinkle with a bit of salt and sauté on medium-high heat for about 5 minutes.

When the broth is gently simmering add the noodles and tofu. This should take about 5 minutes to cook.

Put the miso in a small bowl and add a ladle full of broth. Stir until the miso is dissolved and then add all of it into the soup pot. Do not bring the miso to a boil.

Add the wakame to the pot and the mushrooms. It’s not necessary to cook the mushrooms first. You can add them to the broth at the same time you add the noodles and tofu. I just found that it enhances the flavor of the soup if they are sautéed first.

Serve soup into bowls. Add some scallions, chili pepper, and sesame oil to each bowl. Serve hot.

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