Monthly Archives: April 2011

Baked Manicotti

Sometimes, a girl just craves a baked pasta. Big noodles rolled around a creamy ricotta/herb filling and then smothered in a spicy garlic tomato sauce. Making one’s own tomato sauce is key here, because you want the right amount of moisture for the noodles to absorb but not so much that the dish becomes soggy.

This recipe did all the proper testing you would need to get it right, and baking the noodles in a loaf pan is genius because it’s just the right size.

I couldn’t get enough of these manicotti, so I made a double batch and enjoyed the leftovers for lunches. It is simply wonderful if you’re craving that kind of thing.

Adapted from Cooks Illustrated.

Baked Manicotti

Ingredients – Sauce:

  • 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes (I used fire-roasted)
  • 1 T EVOO
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced (or more…)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 T chopped fresh basil

Ingredients – pasta:

  • 3 oz. part-skim ricotta
  • 3 oz. whole-milk mozz. cheese, shredded (3/4 c.)
  • 2 oz. Parm cheese, grated (1 c. )
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 T chopped fresh basil
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp ground black pepper
  • 6 no-boil lasagna noodles (use Barilla brand)

Preheat oven to 400.

Process all sauce ingredients except basil in food processor until smooth, 10 seconds. Transfer to a bowl and stir in basil. Set aside.

Combine ricotta, mozz, 1/2 c. Parm, egg, basil, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Set aside.

Fill large bowl or pan with boiling water, slipping the noodles in one at a time. Let soak about 5 min., separating with a knife if needed. Remove from water and drain on paper towels.

Spread 1/2 c. sauce over bottom of a greased bread loaf pan (brilliant!). Spread 1/4 c. of the cheese mixture over 3/4 of a noodle, then roll up starting at the cheese end. Place in loaf pan, seam side down. Repeat with rest of noodles to fill pan. Spoon remaining sauce evenly over the top, then sprinkle with 1/2 Parm.

Cover with foil and bake until bubbling, 25 min. Remove foil and bake until cheese is lightly browned, 10 min. Let cool 15 min. before serving.

These are my firmed-up leftovers, but the night you serve it, they will be much softer and ooze goodness. Finger-licking good.

Enjoy, friends! xoxo


Cinnamon-Swirl French Toast

The only logical thing to do with an aging loaf of cinnamon-swirl brioche is to make French toast. So we did, on Easter morning.

I’m not one to follow recipes for things like French toast – didn’t everyone grow up helping parents make this? – so I just whisked 2 eggs with a few splashes of cream, orange juice, pinch of salt, pinch of nutmeg and a pinch of cinnamon. I dipped thick slices of bread into the batter and then fried in butter until browned.

I topped it with a little powdered sugar and real maple syrup. Enjoyed in the garden with some fresh fruit and a cup of coffee – fabulous!

Hope everyone had a delicious Easter. xoxo

Breakfast Salad

I know I should eat more salad, but I don’t. It’s not that it’s hard to make, or bad tasting, but I usually feel like it comes between me and what I really want – my entree. I realize that one way around this is to make the salad the entree.

The idea of a breakfast salad is yet another excuse to lightly fry an egg and serve it over colorful things that can absorb its goodness. I made this breakfast salad for a weekend lunch, tossing ripe tomatoes with avocado, prosciutto, basil, olive oil, salt and pepper and Parm-Reg cheese. I finished it with an egg fried over easy, and more seasonings on top.

Need a recipe? No you don’t:

Breakfast Salad

Layer together:

  • Handful chopped tomatoes
  • Half avocado, sliced
  • 3 thin slices prosciutto di parma
  • 1 T torn basil leaves

Then drizzle with EVOO and sprinkle with S&P and grated Parmesan cheese. Toss lightly so as not to break up the avocado. Top with a fried, or poached, egg. Voila!

Happy Easter, friends! xoxo

Cinnamon-Swirl Brioche

Cinnamon rolls + bread = cinnamon bread!

I love any excuse to get cinnamon roasting away in the oven, filling the house with that spicy, warm aroma that triggers all sorts of happy sentiments. This is the first bread recipe I’ve made with eggs and butter – does that make it a brioche?

The finished product was a wonderfully eggy loaf that was soft in the middle, with a nice thin golden crust. It looked like brioche and tasted like brioche – perfect leftovers for French toast or bread pudding! I immediately sliced mine and fried it with a light coating of salted butter – classic.

Adapted from Closet Cooking and Pioneer Woman…

Cinnamon-Swirl Brioche


  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup butter, salted
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3-3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
  • 1/3 cups sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cinnamon
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  1. Heat the milk in a small sauce pan over medium-low heat, melt the butter into it without boiling, remove from heat and let cool until it is luke warm
  2. Mix in the yeast and let sit for 10 minutes.
  3. Whisk the eggs and sugar in a large bowl. Whisk in the milk.
  4. Mix the flour and salt and beat half of it into the milk mixture until combined (I used a wooden spoon at this point).
  5. Beat in the remaining flour until combined.
  6. Knead the dough until smooth, adding more flour if it is too sticky, 5 min.
  7. Place the dough in a large greased bowl, cover and let it rise until it has doubled in size, about 2 hours.
  8. Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and roll it out so that it is as wide as your bread pan and about 18 to 24 inches long.
  9. Spread the butter over the dough (Tip: I melted the butter and brushed it on at this point. Much easier.).
  10. Mix the sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle it over the dough.
  11. Roll the dough up into a log, trimming to fit, it needed.
  12. Place the dough into the greased loaf pan, cover and let it rise until it has doubled in size, about 2 hours.
  13. Mix the egg and milk and brush it over the top of the loaf.
  14. Bake the loaf in a preheated 350F oven until golden brown on top, about 30-40 minutes. Let cool on wire rack.
I probably took mine out of the oven too early because it was a bit too soft in the center, but I didn’t mind. And neither did the cat – he tore through the bag to nibble the freshly baked loaf while I slept unknowingly. Rude!
I cut away those parts, however, and the loaf was fine.

Cat and human tested – and approved!

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Wild Mushroom Risotto

…or, No-Recipe Risotto!

Last week was my first visit of the year to the Piedmont Farmers Market, so you can imagine I got a little feverish when faced with all the great food I’d been missing. The result was locally raised beef (BEST hamburgers I’ve ever had), lots of strawberries, tomato plants, roasted peanuts and wild shiitake mushrooms that were as big as portobellos.

I at first thought the mushrooms were too expensive – $1 per cap, roughly. But when you price it out, it’s still about $6 cheaper than you’d find at Whole Foods – the mushrooms are much larger, fresh and grown locally, which is always better for every reason.

This year, I made it my goal to get over my mushroom aversion. I’ve always hated the taste and texture of fungi – they felt squishy between my teeth – but the earthy quality of wild mushrooms is slowly walking me to the other side. These beautiful, big mushrooms helped me take a giant leap: wild mushroom risotto.

I’m finally getting the hang of risotto. Finding that balance between al dente and too-mushy rice…grainy versus chewy. You want it creamy and smooth, but the rice grains to still hold on to their integrity.

The risotto formula is usually the same, so I whipped this up on a risky whim – without a recipe. I’ll do my best to describe how I did it below, but adjust to your preferences…

Wild Mushroom Risotto


  • 1 c. sliced wild mushrooms (I used shiitake)
  • 4 slices thick-cut bacon, chopped
  • 3 shallots sliced
  • 4 sage leaves, ribboned
  • 4 c. chicken stock or broth
  • 1/4 c. dry white wine
  • Little over 1 c. arborio rice (if you add more, increase stock by 1 c.)
  • 1/4 c. Parm-Reg cheese, shredded (more for serving)
  • Handful chopped fresh parsley

Bring stock to simmer on back burner.

In large Dutch oven, heat on medium. Add bacon and cook until crisp – drain on paper towels. Add shallots and cook for 1 min. Add mushrooms and sage – stir until softened and fragrant, 1-2 min. Add rice and stir to coat, 1 min. Add wine and deglaze pan, reducing heat to low. Stir until absorbed.

Add 1/2 c. stock and stir until absorbed. Repeat with remaining stock, stirring constantly. When rice has just lost that grainy bite and is all creamy, add in the cheese and reserved bacon. Stir to combine – season with salt and pepper.

Serve with more Parm-Reg cheese and parsley.

This was really good, folks. The mushrooms weren’t too chewy or spongy, but played nicely with the smoky-salty bacon, buttery Parm-Reg cheese and light shallots. I’m a little jealous that I let a lucky guy take the leftovers to work …

One thing is for certain: I will be buying way more fungi and locally raised/grass-fed beef from now on. You just can’t compete with the quality (or price).

Enjoy your spring bounty, friends! xoxo

Hibiscus Margarita

Finally, the weather is moving away from the early spring chill to warm, humid mornings in the upper 60s, growing warmer and then cooling back to the upper 60s in the evening – perfect for enjoying a margarita on the rocks.

My favorite kind of margarita is the hibiscus margarita. Dried hibiscus flowers steeped in sugar water, then mixed with lime juice, triple sec and good silver tequila. It tastes tart like cranberry, but also fruitier like a raspberry or something.

For a recent dinner with  my G.I. Jane girlfriends, here’s how I made a monster batch of these puppies:

Hibiscus Margaritas


  • 3 cups dried hibiscus flowers (you can find these at most grocery stores in the Hispanic section – I got mine at a Hispanic market)
  • 10 c. water (or more, if you want to thin the mixture)
  • 2 1/4 c. sugar
  • 1 1/2 c. lime juice
  • 1 c. triple sec
  • Good tequila (Sims brought the Jimmy Buffett brand – who knew he made some!) – you’ll portion this individually, or you can add 3 c. of tequila straight into it, or to taste

Sliced fruit for garnish

Add flowers, sugar and water to a large pot. Bring to boil and then simmer 10 min. Strain into a large pitcher. Mix in triple sec and lime juice. Chill.

To serve, I first mixed a little cayenne pepper with sugar (thanks for the tip, Krissy!). I rimmed the glasses with lime, then dipped them in the sugar mixture. Next, I added two squeezes of lime, then ice, then a shot (or so) of tequila, then poured over the hibiscus concoction. Mix well and garnish with fruit (I used starfruit and limes).

The drinks will be a dark ruby color with flecks of red around the rim and colorful fruit perched on top. Fab!

Delicious and full of antioxidants. Also, the cayenne-sugar rim was a lovely kick that hits you at the back of the throat. If you find the margaritas to be too strong, just lighten them with some water (I did this to actually extend the mix).

Enjoy your next margarita, friends! xoxo

Mediterranean Night

It was a night punctuated by feta, yogurt and ouzo shots. Our monthly supper club fell on Grant and me this time, for which we hosted a Mediterranean theme that included lamb kebabs, couscous salad, curried hummus, spanikopita, Greek salad, tabouleh salad and Greek-yogurt cheesecake with ouzo-soaked figs.

The evening began in the back garden, where we enjoyed cocktails and Megan/Raf’s spicy curried hummus with toasted pita chips. It was amazing and I need the recipe immediately.

We also nibbled on Theresa’s spanikopita. Ouzo shots happened for those who dared.

Dinner brought us inside for a trio of fresh salads…my couscous consisted of the little pearls simply tossed with lemon juice, EVOO, S&P, cucumber, basil, tomatoes, shallots and feta cheese.

Main dish was our lamb kebabs (marinated overnight with yogurt, juice and zest of 2 lemons, 1/4 c. EVOO, garlic, rosemary, S&P), grilled over all-wood charcoal.

After eating and drinking way too much, we moved on to dessert: Seton’s lovely Greek yogurt cheesecake with a melba-toast crust and an ouzo-fig sauce spooned on top.

The cheesecake was spicy from the cinnamon and the fig/ouzo combo was wonderful on top.

The dinner made me excited for the annual Greek festival held in Winston-Salem, where we all can drool over souvlaki and dark-headed lookers.

Enjoy your next dinner party, friends! xoxo

Toasted Hazelnut Biscotti with Citrus and Black Pepper

Biscotti is a tricky treat because of the twice-baked method. You make a simple dough; you bake it; you slice it; you bake it again. I call this out only because it made me fumble in the baking exercise and resulted in a less-than-perfect biscotti. But it still tasted fine.

I like mine a bit chewy – not so crunchy that they’ll break your jaw if not dipped in coffee. So adjust the baking time to your desired crunch factor.

This recipe came from my friend Merissa. I made only a couple tweaks.

Toasted Hazelnut Bsicotti with Cirtus Zest and Pepper


  • 3 1/2 cups unbleanched all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 Tbsp ground black pepper
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, slightly softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 Tbsp orange zest
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 3 cups hazelnuts, with skns, toasted, roughly chopped
  • 1 large egg, whisked for egg wash

Position one rack in the top third of the oven, one rack in the
bottom third of the oven, and preheat the oven to 350. Line 2 cookie
sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, add the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt,
and pepper and whisk together.

In another bowl with an electric mixer, cream the butter with the
sugar for 1 minute or until a sandy mixture has formed. Add the eggs,
zests, and extracts and mix until fluffy, about 1 minute.

Slowly add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and combine well. Add
the hazelnuts and fold in with a spatula to distribute the nuts
evenly. The dough will be very thick and hard to stir at this point.

Divide the dough into four equal portions, about 14.5 oz. each.
On a lightly floured counter, roll each portion into a log 9 inches
long by 2 inches wide by 1.5 inches high. Place 2 logs on each of the
prepared cookie sheets with several inches between the logs.

Here’s one big log, pre-portioning:

In a small bowl, mix 1 egg with 1 tsp. of water to make an egg
wash. Brush each log with egg wash, coating them evenly on the top and

Bake for 22 minutes, rotating the cookie sheets from top to bottom
halfway through baking. Bake until lightly browned, puffy, and still
somewhat soft. Remove from the oven, but leave the oven on.

Cool for 30 minutes, then place one log at a time on a cutting
board. With a serrated knife, slice each log into individual biscotti
by cutting at a slight angle into 3/4-inch think pieces, keeping the
slices in a row. Slide the row of biscotti together, lift and place
them back onto the cookie sheets, then separate the slices, leaving 1/2
inch of space between each one.

Bake again for 16-20 minutes, rotating once during the baking until
the biscotti are slightly firm and light brown in color.

Cool and eat, or pack in an airtight container to store for up to 6 weeks (they also freeze well!).

I love the combination of flavors – all the citrus with the hazelnut and black pepper that kicks in at the end. A wonderful little breakfast or tea-time snack.

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Breakfast Pizza

Oh my.

Every time I make my own pizza dough instead of buying it pre-made, I’m ever so thankful – stretching out that soft dough that smells fresh with yeast and then baking it until golden, it yields a chewy-but-crunchy consistency that’s perfect with any toppings. This recipe came from Smitten Kitchen, and while I didn’t love the dough recipe as much as some others I’ve made, Grant swooned over it, so I’m going to post it here as she published.

Add any toppings you think sound good – there’s really no stopping the fabulousness of a pizza with a soft-cooked egg on top, just waiting to be punctured.

Breakfast Pizza (adapted from Smitten Kitchen)


  • 1/2 teaspoon dry active yeast
  • 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons bread flour, plus more for dusting
  • Kosher salt
  • 6 strips bacon, chopped
  • 2 T EVOO
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
  • 2 cups grated mozzarella
  • 4 large eggs
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 2 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley
  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced

The night before, prepare the dough: Place 3/4 cup warm water in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. Sprinkle in the yeast, stir and let sit for 5 minutes. Add the flour and 1 teaspoon of salt and mix on low for 1 minute. Increase the speed to medium and mix for 2 minutes, then increase the speed to high and mix until a smooth dough forms, about 2 minutes more. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface, divide into two equal pieces and form each half into a tight ball. Place on a large floured sheet pan, covered, and refrigerate overnight.

One to two hours before baking, place the dough in a warm spot to proof. Adjust the oven rack to the lowest position and set a pizza stone on it. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees 30 minutes before you are ready to bake the pizza.

Prepare the dough and toppings: Fry the bacon in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat until crisp. Cool on a paper-towel-lined plate.

Dip your hands and a ball of dough into the flour. On a lightly floured countertop, pat the dough into a disc with your fingertips,stretching and pulling into a circle. Take the pizza stone out of the oven and throw the dough on it. Brush olive oil all over the surface.

Sprinkle the dough with half of the Parmesan, mozzarella , shallots and bacon. Crack 2 eggs over the top (try to build a little fence of cheese around them so they don’t slip off the pizza – it happened to me!) and season with salt and pepper.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, when the crust is golden, the cheese is melted and the egg yolks are cooked but still soft. Transfer the pizza to a cutting board. Sprinkle half of the parsley and scallions on top. Let cool for 2 minutes before slicing. Prepare the second pizza in the same way.

Before you’re ready to slice, poke the egg yolk with a fork and swirl that delicious yolk all over the pizza.

It’s like eating a pizza with a flavorful, fresh sauce dripping off of it. Simply delicious, with the delicate shallots, salty bacon, herbs and mixture of cheeses.

Because I had some issues with my dough not rising enough, our pizzas were smaller and denser than they should be, but like I said, nobody complained. SO good the day-of and for leftovers. The eggs cook fully when you microwave, but still taste yummy.

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Sugar Coma – Dewey’s Cupcakes

If you haven’t yet, you should immediately head over to Dewey’s to try their revamped cupcakes – made with new elements to the recipes, new packaging and a new, smaller cupcake size.

I was recently invited to a Dewey’s Bakery Cupcake Tasting with a group of other interesting folks who have some interest in food and the community. We were asked to test the products and offer feedback. They didn’t have to ask us twice.

We arrived and were greeted with sunny seating in a new space off Country Club Rd., and the head chefs discussed how they were altering the cupcake recipes. They were speaking words I could drool over.

Then came the tasting. We tried 16 or so new flavors in all – my favorites were Snickerdoodle (with that cinnamon-sugar-salty sprinkling on top), chocolate-peanut butter, lemon, and strawberry, which had the brightest strawberry-shortcake flavor.

The fruity flavors really tasted like they had fruit in them, and the chocolate was richer, with Ghiradelli chocolate … the peanut butter buttercream icing was a dollop of heaven.

Below, you’ll see the red velvet, cookies & cream, pink lemonade, chocolate cream-filled, double chocolate and strawberry. We got to take a half-dozen home – mine didn’t last long.

After the tasting, a friend instantly ordered a bunch of the key lime cupcakes for a work event, and I am putting in another order this week. I love the smaller size (for easier munching) and the flavors take it a level above everybody else.

Enjoy on your next sugar coma, friends! xoxo @deweysbakery