Saturday, July 27, 2013


Stromboli is an Italian food, sort of like a calzone only it's rolled instead of folded over.  It's full of meats and cheeses and baked to a golden brown.  Absolutely delicious!  If you've never heard of it, don't worry, neither had I.  Until my Old-School Italian Husband brought me to Brooklyn for the first time, I had no idea what Stromboli was.  I thought it was just the name of the puppeteer in Pinocchio.  

But, once I tried it (at a tiny little Pizzeria) I fell in love!  So, every time we went back to New York to visit the family, I had to have some.  The last time we were there, we were so busy that I didn't have time to get my Stromboli fix (whatever will I do?!).  So, I decided to make it myself.  It was surprisingly easy!  Too easy!  Now, I'll want to make it all the time.  Which means I'll want to eat it all the time.  Not a good idea if you're watching your waist (or cholesterol).  But a little bit won't hurt, right?  Famous last words.

Here's how I did it:


1 tube refrigerated pizza dough (like Pillsbury or you could make your own if you're really ambitious)
a little cornmeal or flour (for rolling out the dough)
about 24 slices of pepperoni
6 slices provolone cheese (from the deli or packaged - you could use mozzarella)
6 slices prosciutto (or you could use Italian hot ham)
8 slices Genoa salami
2 Tablespoons sesame seeds
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
2 Tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
2 Tablespoons olive oil
Marinara sauce for dipping, optional

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Using cornmeal or flour, dust your work surface and roll out the pizza dough.  You just want it to be a little bigger than it was when it came out of the tube.  Transfer the dough to a large cookie sheet or pizza stone.  

Starting at the long end, lay out the pepperoni all the way across.  Top the pepperoni with the provolone cheese.  Then the prosciutto, then the salami.  It should look like this:

Working from the end with the filling, roll the dough.  Continue rolling (somewhat tightly) until the dough is totally rolled up.  It should be about the size of a baguette or a loaf of Italian bread when it's all rolled up.

Make sure the Stromboli is seam-side down.  Then, cut 4 small slits in the top of the dough.  Some of the cornmeal (or flour) you used to roll it out will be on the dough, that's o.k.  Here's what it should look like:

Next, in a small bowl, mix together the sesame seeds, red pepper flakes, garlic powder, oregano, basil and Parmesan cheese.  Brush the top and sides of the dough with olive oil, then sprinkle on the sesame seed mixture.  Gently press it into the dough as you sprinkle it on.

Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown, like this:

Let it cool slightly before cutting into pieces.  Serve with marinara sauce for dipping, if desired.

This stuff is so good!  It's salty and cheesy and just wonderful.  You gotta try it!  But be forewarned, you may become a Stromboli addict, like me.  That's o.k.  We can start a support group or something.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Pasta with Roasted Tomato Sauce (Yes, I roasted them myself)

Roasting tomatoes yourself?  I always thought that was something only chefs did.  It has to be complicated, right?  Wrong!  It is so ridiculously easy and it brings out so much flavor!  You won't believe how delicious a tomato can be until you roast it in the oven.  Not to mention onions and, of course, garlic.  Roasted garlic is like little nuggets of gold.  Crazy good!  It's so mellow and nutty, not sharp or bitter at all.  I could just spread it on crackers and eat it, as is.  Fantastic!  O.K., can you tell I'm excited about this?  Well, it's like discovering a hidden gem in cooking.  It just takes some time, but nearly no effort, to transform your veggies into a spectacular sauce.  Your pasta never had it so good.

Here's what I did:

Let me start by saying you can roast any kind of vegetable.  I just chose these because it's what I had on hand.  But, feel free to throw in some zucchini or eggplant, whatever you've got.


2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
1 box penne pasta (any cut will do)
dried oregano and basil
6 Roma tomatoes
1 medium onion
3 cloves garlic (leave skins on the garlic)
Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup water
olive oil (or canola or vegetable oil)

Preheat oven to 275 degrees.  Cut tomatoes in half lengthwise.  Leaving root end in tact (this keeps it from falling apart), cut onion into quarters.  Leave garlic cloves in their skin (don't peel them).  Place all veggies on a cookie sheet (with sides).  Drizzle oil over them (not too much - just enough to coat them lightly).  Season with salt/pepper.  Rub them so they are evenly coated.  Lay tomatoes cut side down.  

Roast the veggies in the oven for 2 hours, turning the tomatoes over after 1 hour.  This is what they look like when done:

*This can be done ahead of time and refrigerated until needed.

After veggies are done, cook pasta.  Meanwhile, season cubed chicken with salt/pepper, oregano and basil.  Brown the chicken in a little oil in a big skillet or pot.  Remove chicken and drain any fat from skillet.  

Remove skins from garlic.  Place garlic, onions and tomatoes in a blender or food processor.  Puree to make a sauce.  Pour sauce into skillet.  Add 1/4 cup of water.  Return chicken and bring to a simmer.  Let cook for 5-10 minutes.  Season to taste.  When pasta is done, drain and add to the skillet.  Stir to coat the pasta with the sauce.  Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese before serving.

You won't believe what a difference roasting makes!  This sauce is fantastic!

You don't have to use chicken.  You could use Italian sausage or meatballs or sauteed eggplant or just go plain sauce with cheese.  You can use it for pizza, calzones, lasagna or as a dipping sauce for bread sticks.  Anyway you make it, you'll love it.  

So, hit the produce market and get yourself some tomatoes.  They are down-right cheap in the summertime!  You can make a ton of this sauce for almost nothing.  I suggest making a lot when you do.  If you're gonna take the time to do it, you might as well have some extra to freeze.  Just let it cool down, then put it in freezer bags or freezer containers and pop it into the freezer.  Then, just thaw it when you need it.  It is leaps and bounds above anything you get in a jar!  And, as you can see, almost as easy. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

"French" Vanilla Caramel Cake

My elementary school required french class from first through eighth grade.  It was an everyday class, just like math or science.  Over the years I had some interesting teachers, to say the least.  One of my favorite french teachers was Ms. Claude.  She was young and fun and dressed really cool.  She made us this cake (without the caramel) and brought it to class.  I asked her for the recipe because I loved it so much and had never heard of a cake made with yogurt.  I called it "French" Cake, because it came from my french teacher.  My Mama and I had made this a few times throughout the years.  But, I had forgotten about it until recently.  I don't know what made me think of it, but I decided to hunt for the recipe.  A big job considering my vast collection of recipes and lack of organizational skills!  Sure enough, I found it and made it.  It was good, but needed frosting.  I had been wanting to try to make my own caramel in the crockpot using condensed milk (saw it on Pinterest).  So, I put the two together for this recipe.  It was delicious!  Very sweet and rich and so moist!

Here's how I did it:


1 cup plain yogurt
3 cups sugar (it was very sweet - you may want to lessen the sugar)
2 1/2 cups flour
1 cup oil
4 eggs, separated
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 can condensed milk

First, you need to make the caramel.  This can be done in advance and kept in the fridge.  Remove the label from the can of condensed milk.  Place the can (unopened) in crockpot.  Pour in enough water to cover the can completely.

Put the lid on the crockpot and cook on low 8 hours.  Remove the can (use tongs - the water's hot).  Let sit to come to room temp.  (If you make it ahead and refrigerate it, let it come to room temp before icing cake)
This is what it looks like when done:  (this is also excellent over ice cream!)

To make the cake:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Mix yogurt, sugar, flour, oil, vanilla, and egg yolks together until well blended.

In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until frothy and soft peaks form.

Gently fold the egg whites into the batter.  Pour into a greased 9x13 baking dish.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30-45 minutes until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
Poke holes in the cake with a chopstick or skewer while still warm.

Then, spread the caramel you made over the cake.  It will fall into the holes filling the cake with caramel.

Spread more of the caramel over the cake (as much as desired).

Cool a bit before cutting and serving.
Here's what the inside looks like:

It takes some time to make the caramel, but almost no effort.  So worth the time!  I hope you give this "French" Cake a try.  It's so sweet and delicious.  Ca cest bon! (It's so good!)  Merci (Thanks) and Au Revoir (Goodbye).  That concludes the French lesson for today.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Summer Favorites!

Summer is such a great time of year!  The days are longer, the kids are out of school, it's a scorching 98 degrees with 99% humidity (oh, that's just here in Louisiana).  Ridiculous weather aside, I love the summertime.  We go in the pool, play lots of games, have people over more.  I can let the kids stay up later and sleep in a little longer (which equals less fighting!).  It's just fun!

I try not to heat up my kitchen if I can avoid it (can you blame me - see above weather statement).  So, I use my grill when at all possible.  I even use it as an oven.  I grill pizzas, french fries, baked beans.  Anything I would bake, I just regulate the grill to that temperature and use it instead.  It beats heating up the house and makes clean up easier, too.  (who wants to clean when you can lounge by the pool instead?)

Here are a few of my summertime favorites:


1 lb. sweet or mild (or hot, if you like it) Italian Sausage links
1 green bell pepper, sliced
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 onion, sliced
poboy rolls (or hot dog buns)

Place sliced peppers and onion in a baking dish that you can use on the grill (I like to use the aluminum disposable ones to make life easy, but if I don't have one I use an oven-proof skillet or Pyrex baking dish).  Drizzle a little oil on them (just enough to coat - don't drown them).  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Cover with foil and put on the grill (preheated to medium).  Let them grill until softened, stirring occasionally.
Meanwhile, grill the sausages until browned on both sides (they don't have to be cooked through at this stage).
When peppers and onions are soft and sausages are browned, add the sausages to the pan with the peppers and onions.  Recover with foil and let steam together for 5-10 minutes on the grill, until sausages are cooked through.  (I shake the pan every now and then to prevent the bottom from burning).  Remove from grill and let it rest for a few minutes before serving.  Serve on buns.

Another summertime favorite of mine is pico de gallo.  This is just a simple salsa (very simple), but so delicious.  It's all about the tomatoes and they are so fresh and ripe in the summer.  Perfect!


3 large ripe tomatoes (creole tomatoes, if you can get them, are perfect)
1 small red onion

Dice the tomatoes and onion and put in a bowl.  Add some chopped cilantro (I like a lot, some people don't, so add as much or as little as you like).  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  That's it.  I told you it was easy.  I like to let it sit in the fridge for a while before I serve it with chips.  It also goes great on a hamburger.  I love it on my black bean burgers - recipe here:

Of course, I have to share a summertime dessert.  This is a fun ice cream cake that's made with ice cream sandwiches.  Your kids will love to help you make this one.  And the best part, no baking and heating up the house! (Are you sensing a theme here?)  Plus it's a freezer cake, so it'll cool you down on a hot summer day!

Just be sure to work quickly when making this one or the ice cream sandwiches will start to melt!


12 ice cream sandwiches
1 (8oz) tub cool whip, thawed, divided
1/2 cup fudge ice cream topping, warmed
1 box instant chocolate pudding mix

Put the fudge ice cream topping in a big bowl (microwave-proof).  Warm it a little in the microwave (just to soften).  Add 1 cup of the thawed cool whip and whisk until blended.  Add the pudding mix and stir well (for 2 minutes) until well blended.  It will be thick.  If it is too thick to spread, you can add a little milk to thin it out.  You want it to be the consistency of frosting.  Set aside.

Get a long piece of foil (24x12 inches or so).  Arrange 4 of the ice cream sandwiches, side by side, on the foil.

Spread half of the pudding mixture on top of them.

Layer 4 more ice cream sandwiches on top, then the other half of the pudding mixture.  Finally, top with the last 4 ice cream sandwiches.

Frost the top and sides with the remaining cool whip.

Bring up the foil and double fold the top and sides to loosely seal the packet.

Freeze at least 4 hours (or overnight).  Let sit at room temperature to soften a little bit before slicing.

It has a pretty striped affect when you slice it!  And it is so good!

So, there are a few of my summertime favorites.  Try them out when you want to keep your kitchen (and yourself) cool.  Enjoy!