Archive for the ‘Holidays & Celebrations’ Category

It’s a New Years celebration…Black-eyed peas and Collard Greens!

Fresh collards...a New Year's must!

Fresh collards…a New Year’s must!

On a recent trip to Florence, Italy I came across one of my new favorite feel-good dishes–Ribollita. Ribollita is a basic, peasant-style thick soup that is perfect for the cold winter months. Traditional Ribollita is a vegetable and bread based soup that is served reboiled the next day topped with a dash of fresh olive oil. The original recipe calls for Tuscan kale and cannellini beans; however, my own traditions call for eating collard greens and black-eyed peas  on New Years day so I thought this was the perfect opportunity to adapt one of my favorite soups for ringing in 2013! Plus, my husband has yet to acquire a taste for collard greens and black-eyed peas, so each year I look for creative new ways to sneak them into our New Years day meal 🙂  This one is a winner! Plus, if you are making a New Year’s resolution to be “healthy” this is a hearty vegetarian, vegan (depending on the bread you use) dish that will please any carnivore or omnivore out there.

Tuscan tradition with a twist

Tuscan tradition with a twist

Note: The soup is traditionally made the day before serving then reboiled (hence the name Ribollita) the next day. If you are stretched for time go ahead and make it all in one day–it will still taste good.

Good Luck Ribollita

1/4 cup olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

2 celery stalks, chopped

2-3 carrots, peeled and chopped

2 sprigs fresh thyme or 1 tsp dried thyme

2 russet potatoes peeled and diced

1 15 oz can black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained

1 15 oz can white (cannellini) beans, rinsed and drained

1 bunch (about 7 cups) fresh collard greens, washed, rinsed, and shredded/torn into bite sized pieces

6 whole tomatoes, peeled (can use whole tomatoes from a can, just the tomato, not the juice)

crusty bread

good olive oil

salt & pepper

Mirepoix: a classic combo for many great soups...carrots, celery, onion

Mirepoix: a classic combo for many great soups…carrots, celery, onion

Ribollita in the making...needs to boil then simmer for 2 hours

Ribollita in the making…needs to boil then simmer for 2 hours

Crusty bread on top of a bit of delicious olive oil...just top with the ribollita then bake

Crusty bread on top of a bit of delicious olive oil…just top with the ribollita then bake

Ready to bake in the oven

Ready to bake in the oven

To make:

In a large dutch oven or other heavy bottom pot head olive oil over medium heat. Add carrots, onion, and celery and cook until soft–approximately 7 minutes. Add tomatoes, thyme, 1 tsp. salt, potatoes, and cook for about 3-5 minutes, you can crush the tomatoes with a wooden spoon. Add the greens and beans. Pour 6-7 cups of water in the soup and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to and simmer for 2 hours, stirring occasionally. About 1 1/2 hours into the cooking, use an immersion blender to roughly blend the soup to create a bit of thickness. Don’t over-blend–you want to the soup to still be rustic and chunky with a variety of textures from the vegetables and beans. Add 1 cup of torn stale crusty bread and continue to cook with the lid off to thicken the soup if needed. At this point the soup is pretty much done. You can continue the recipe at this point, but it won’t be real “ribollita/reboiled.”

To finish the ribollita, the next day bring the soup to room temperature. Heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Using oven-proof soup crock or any other oven proof bowl add a little olive oil to the bowls to coat the bottom. Place a slice or two of crusty bread in the bottom of the bowl, then top with the soup. Bake in the oven until bubbly and heated through. To serve, add high quality olive oil to each bowl as a topping to the soup and garnish with fresh cracked black pepper.  I must admit…this soup is well worth the wait and I think it will be my newly established New Year’s lucky soup. Happy 2013!!

Lucy Ribollita

Lucky Ribollita


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Roast Turkey Roulade with steamed green beans--Perfect Holiday Bite!

Roast Turkey Roulade with steamed green beans–Perfect Holiday Bite!

I am waaaayyy behind on my blogging. The past few months of 2012 have been incredibly busy, but I am excited to wrap this year up and start anew in 2013 in just a few days!

This is a great recipe for a Thanksgiving, Christmas, or any special dinner calling for roast turkey. My favorite part of the turkey (with the exception of fried turkey skin) is a slice of juicy turkey breast meat. This year, rather than cooking an entire whole turkey, I opted to buy just the turkey breast. I was only feeding two, so a large bird would just be too much food. However, I didn’t want to compromise the luscious stuffing that accompanies roasting a whole bird. I found a great option from Ina Garten for a turkey roulade that I decided to give a try with a few adaptations to make the perfect bite of turkey breast and stuffing.

Depending on the size of the turkey breast you buy, you can adjust the proportions of stuffing ingredients. As written, you will have extra stuffing to cook in a separate pan for an excellent side dish to the turkey.

A note on the turkey breast prep: If you have access to a butcher who will de-bone the breast while preserving the integrity of the skin on the outside consider your self lucky and go for that option. If you are like me and pick up your meats at the supermarket with no special requests, de-boning the turkey breast will take a bit of work–but the upside is that your really learn the anatomy of a turkey! You want to end up with one, intact turkey breast with the skin still on. The skill keeps the turkey moist and adds to the flavor and color of the roasted roulade. But don’t be intimidated…this was my first attempt at deboning a turkey breast. I just looked up a few YouTube videos before attempting it on my own. The videos make it look easy…it took me a little longer and my cuts were not quite as clean but overall it was totally doable and worth the effort.

Holiday Turkey Roulade


  • ½ cup each of dried currants, large-diced dried figs (stems removed), dried cranberries, or any other dried fruits you like or have on hand
  • ½  cup Calvados, brandy, or AppleJack whiskey (for a non-alcoholic version use apple cider)
  • 2 Tbsp  unsalted butter
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 diced onions (yellow or white), approx 1 ½ cups
  • 3 celery stalks, diced
  • ½ lb. hot pork sausage, casings removed
  • ½ lb. sweet pork sausage, casings removed
  • 1 ½ Tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
  • 3 Tbsp pine nuts or walnuts, toasted (pine nuts are more expensive, walnuts are perfectly acceptable substitute)
  • 3 cups herb-seasoned stuffing mix
  • 1-2 cups chicken stock
  • 1  egg, beaten
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1 whole (2 halves) turkey breast, boned and butterflied –see note above
  • 3 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted

To make:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

For the stuffing:

In a small saucepan combine dried fruits, brandy (or whichever cooking liquid you prefer–see ingredient options above) and ½ cup of water, bringing the mixture to a boil. Lower heat and allow to simmer for 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside. Warning, do not pour alcoholic liquids in the saucepan while on the burner–if you have a gas stovetop–you do not want flame ups 🙂

In a  large skillet, melt 2 Tbsp butter with olive oil, add onions and celery. Cook until softened and onions are translucent (approx 5-7 min). Add the sausage and crumble with a fork or spoon as it cooks. Cook through until sausage is no longer pink and has browned. Add dried fruits (with liquid from the saucepan), rosemary, and nuts; cook an additional 2-3 minutes until combined

In a large mixing bowl combine bread stuffing mix, sausage mixture, chicken stock, beaten egg, 1 tsp salt ½ tsp pepper, stir until all stuffing ingredients are mixed well.

Place the stuffing mix in a large bowl. Add the sausage mixture, chicken stock, egg, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and stir well.

To prepare the turkey roulade:


Trussed, stuffed and ready to roast!

Place prepared turkey breast on a cutting board skin side down. Season turkey with salt and pepper. Spread the stuffing in an approx ½ in layer over the meat. Leave a ½ inch border on all sides so for ease of rolling the turkey. Place remaining stuffing in a lightly greased baking dish to be cooked separately for 45 minutes. Roll the stuffed turkey starting at one of the shorter ends (you will not be rolling from the top/tail part of the breast but rolling so that the turkey rolls back into its original shape). Once rolled, use twine to tie the turkey roulade firmly into a tight cylinder form. Place the turkey seam-side down onto a roasting rack on a baking sheet pan. Brush skin with melted butter, season with salt and pepper. Roast for approximately 2 hours until the internal temperature is 150 degrees—you want to check the temperature in a few places to endure the turkey is cooked fully and you are not testing the temperature of the stuffing rather than the meat. Remove from the oven, cover with aluminum foil and let rest for 15 minutes. Slice and enjoy!


Roasted, resting Turkey Roulade


Carved Turkey Roulade with Sausage Stuffing

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Happy Zucchini Bread Day!

Today is both National Zucchini Bread Day and Administrative Professionals Day. What better way to combine the two “fun holidays” and make mini zucchini breads to take to work with you and share with your fellow co-workers! This recipe is a fun spin on plain zucchini bread. The sweet potato and adds some extra moistness and nutrition to this perfect loaf of not-too sweet quick bread perfect for sharing.

Sweet Potato Zucchini Bread

(slightly modified from epicurious.com)


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 – 2 cups zucchini (grated*, you can leave the peel on)–one medium/large zucchini
  • 1-2 cups sweet potato (peeled and grated*)–one small/medium sweet potato
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts, lightly toasted

To make:

*Note: To grate the zucchini and sweet potatoes, you can either use a box grater (large holes) or use a grater attachment for your food processor

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease 4 mini loaf pans (or a regular 9 x 5 loaf pan) with non-stick cooking spray. Sift flour, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into medium bowl. Beat sugar, oil, eggs and vanilla in large bowl until well combined using whisk or electric mixer. Stir in zucchini and sweet potato. Add dry ingredients and walnuts and stir well. Pour or scoop batter to pans. Bake for about 30-45 minutes (if using a full size loaf pan the cooking time will be approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes). Either way use a toothpick or sharp knife to test the center–when the tester comes out clean the loaves are done. Cool bread in pan on rack 15 minutes. Slide knife around bread to loosen. Turn out onto rack and cool completely.

Feel free to bake this bread a day ahead. Once completely cool, cover in plastic wrap and foil. Keep at room temperature. The mini loaves transport easily for sharing 🙂

Delicious mini Zucchini Bread Loaves to share!

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Ricotta Pie for Easter

Making Easter pies is a wonderful Italian American tradition that typically involves baking some sort of ricotta based sweet pie. In searching for the perfect bite to make for my own Easter Ricotta Pie, I found numerous versions of ricotta pies that are all claiming to be “authentic.” The main common ingredients in all of them were ricotta, subtle orange flavoring, and secret family tradition. The Ricotta Easter pie is certainly a delicious tradition to start (if you have not already)–whichever version is used.

I decided since this was my first attempt at beginning this tradition, I’d opt for an easier version. This recipe is based on a recipe adapted from Giada De Laurentiis Easter Pie. The part that makes this recipe so easy is using phyllo dough as the base for the pie. Although phyllo can be challenging to work with (see tips below), overall I found it less time-consuming and very easy as compared to making a homemade pie dough. Maybe next year I’ll try the more traditional and advanced La Pastiera Napoletana recipe for an Easter pie.  But for now, this is a delicious recipe that certainly yields many perfect bites–it is so easy feel free to bake it up any time of year!

Italian Easter Ricotta Pie


  • 3/4 cup confectioners or powered sugar (rounded cup)—plus a little extra for garnish (extra garnish optional)
  • 3 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • Zest from 1 orange
  • 1 (15 oz) container whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup cooked Arborio/risotto rice
  • 1/3 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 6 sheets fresh phyllo sheets (thawed if frozen)
  • 3/4 stick unsalted butter, melted

To make:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F

Place sugar, eggs, vanilla, orange zest and ricotta in a food processor until, blend until smooth. Transfer mixture to medium-sized mixing bowl.  Stir in the cooked rice and toasted pine nuts.

Lightly butter a 9-inch glass pie dish.  To prepare crust, working quickly lay 1 phyllo sheet over the bottom and up the sides of the dish, allowing the phyllo to hang over the sides.  Brush the phyllo with the melted butter—including sides hanging over the dish. Then place a second sheet of phyllo on top of the first in the opposite direction. Repeat this process of laying phyllo in opposing directions so that all of the dish area is covered with the layers of dough. Make sure to generously butter each layer to prevent drying out. Also, re-place a damp towel over the phyllo dough as you are working. The phyllo dough dries out quickly and can become difficult to work with (see tips below).

Once the 6 layers are complete, spoon the ricotta mixture into the dough filled dish. Fold the overhanging phyllo dough over the top of the filling to enclose it completely. Brush completely and generously with melted butter.

Bake in 375 degree oven until the dough is golden brown and filling is set, about 30-35 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and place on a cooling rack to allow to cool completely. Once cool, sift a light layer of powdered sugar over the top for garnish.

Enjoy Easter Pie...any time of the year!

Slice, serve and enjoy!

A few tips for working with phyllo:

  • Cover unrolled phyllo with a sheet of waxed paper covered by a damp towel to keep it moist. It dries out very quickly.
  • When you remove one sheet at a time, cover the remainder.
  • If you tear a piece of phyllo by mistake (which will probably happen), don’t worry. Just use the smaller pieces to patch together and no one will ever notice once the pie is baked.

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"Official" Yorkshire Pudding > 4 inches tall!

Christmas dinner has come and gone. This year I decided to make a Sunday Christmas dinner that was an ode to Old English traditions: roast beef, gravy, glazed carrots and Yorkshire puddings. The star of the night was certainly the Yorkshire Pudding. Making these fatty little delights was much easier than I had expected and quite fun. Seeing them rise then slowly fall (which is quite sad, but inevitable) is a wonderful example of the science of cooking. A trick to getting the most height out of your puddings is to use a popover pan. The recipe below, using a popover pan, definitely yielded a Yorkshire pudding above the official 4 inch tall requirement for an “official Yorkshire pudding.” The recipe calls for drippings from the “roast beast” a.k.a roast beef. If you do not cook a roast feel free to use olive oil as a substitute.

Yorkshire Pudding with Herbs


1 tsp kosher salt

1 cup all-purpose flour

fatty goodness...prep for puddings

1 1/4 cups milk

3 eggs, beaten

2 Tbsps (total) savory, thyme, and rosemary–in any combination you prefer

approx. 1/4 cup reserved pan fat from your “Roast Beast” (roast beef)

To make:

In a large mixing bowl, sift the flour and salt together. Add half the milk and all the eggs into the flour mixture and whisk until smooth. Whisk in remaining milk, and then the herbs. Cover with plastic wrap and  let batter sit at room temperature, for approximately 45 minutes (30 if you are in a rush). This is a great time to roast your beef 🙂

Heat oven to 450 degrees. Divide and pour the beef fat or oil into the popover pan (or muffin tin if you do not have a popover pan–the rise will be less with the muffin tin) to fill each container about 1/4 inch of oil. You will probably use less than the full reserved amount of fat–you just want a nice coating on the bottom to crisp up the sides of the pudding as it rises. Heat in oven until the fat is almost smoking hot; approximately 5-10 minutes. Place a baking sheet on the bottom rack of the oven to catch any fat drippings – this will help prevent any oven fires!

Uncover batter and whisk one more time. Pour batter into each cup, about 3/4 full and immediately place back into the oven. The batter will sizzle when being poured into the hot fat. Bake until risen and golden brown in color (takes about 20 minutes). Turn oven off and leave puddings in the oven for just 5 more minutes to help set. Remove puddings carefully to maintain the most height possible. Serve while still hot and puffed–a perfect bite paired with your “roast beast” and gravy!

work fast...they will deflate soon!

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Side dish envy: Balsamic Butternut Squash

As much as I like a perfect bite of roast beef, turkey, or ham, filling my plate with multiple side dishes is my favorite part of a big holiday meal. Side dishes are often unfortunately overlooked during the holidays–a time when meats and desserts really shine. This recipe is so easy and results in a bold, flavorful side dish that will certainly be noticed. Leftovers reheat well or can be used as a tasty base for soup the next day. You can multiply this recipe to feed as many people as needed.

Roasted Balsamic Butternut Squash


1 butternut squash

olive oil

salt and pepper

good Balsamic vinegar

To make:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

If you buy whole squash, peel the squash with a sharp vegetable peeler then dice into approximately 1 inch cubes. To save some elbow grease you can buy the pre-cut butternut squash in most grocery stores in the produce aisle. I find the pre-cut are a bit dryer than cutting your own, but peeling and cutting the squash takes some effort. In a mixing bowl, toss the squash salt and pepper and olive oil until the squash are coated. Layer the squash onto a baking pan, lined with foil, in a single layer. Roast in the preheated oven for approximately 20-30 minutes or until browned and softened to your likeness (you can check the tenderness with a fork). Turn the squash about halfway through the cooking to get a more even caramelization/browning of the squash. I actually don’t turn them and prefer one crispy side and one softer side 🙂 Remove from the oven and sprinkle with you favorite balsamic vinegar. Serve warm or at room temperature. Enjoy…have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Perfect Butternut Squash bites!

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‘Tis the Season…

One of my good friends is of Danish decent, and he introduced me to a wonderful traditional Danish pastry: the Æbleskiver. These are traditional Danish pancakes that are often served around Christmas time. These little perfect bites have been Americanized to be called “Pancake Puffs” and when they are filled “Filled Pancakes”. No matter what you call them they are wonderful bites of goodness that are really fun to make.

To make them, you need a specialized pan. We received one of these pans as a wedding gift from Williams Sonoma. We couldn’t resist the urge to give it a try and yes….it was a success. We cheated an used the pre-mixed Ebleskiver Pancake Mix, which for first timers worked perfectly. We also used various jams as fillings. I can’t wait to try a more traditional recipe…after all Christmas is just around the corner! These pair perfectly with a mug of GlĂĽhwein/Glögg  aka “mulled wine”.

To make: Follow the instructions on the Ebelskiver mix. If using the Williams Sonoma brand you will need the following ingredients:

  • Ebelskiver mix
  • 2 eggs, separate whites and yolks
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter melted, plus more to coat the pan while cooking
  • Desired fillings: jams, chocolate, etc.
  • Desired topping: maple syrup, powered sugar, whipped cream, etc.

The most fun part of making these little Danish delights is developing you own technique for flipping the pancakes to keep the filling in and maintain a spherical shape. Although it is tempting, try not to overfill with the jam. I found a useful tip is to cook the first side a bit longer then gently loosen the all of sides before trying to flip the Ebelskiver. The main instruction is to have fun, be creative…and remember…even if they turn out ugly they will still taste good!

Ready to flip!

Perfect Bites: Jam-filled Ebleskivers!

Top with Powdered Sugar and Ready to Eat 🙂

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