Thursday, December 18, 2008


I have been very blessed with the opportunity to be featured this month on an established author's website for the holidays. I will be featured next week with a surprise dish. Go to to check it out!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Manicotti del Formaggio Tre (Three Cheese Manicotti) with Marinara and Bechamel Sauce

Christmas dish? Okay so I’m exaggerating but it does have nutmeg! I know, I know, you’re thinking, “What, nutmeg and cheese…three kinds of cheeses?!” It sounds very incompatible but I assure you, make it without the nutmeg and you’ll notice something is terribly missing! Italian cuisine is my favorite. It leaves this irresistibly comfy buzz in your tummy that puts you in a blissful drowsiness!

So for this three cheese dish of tummy buzz, we guessed it! Three types of cheeses! I like to use Mozzerella, Parmesan and Ricotta but you can switch them out for other cheeses like Swiss or Romano fresh or packaged.

Any combination of the above cheeses are awes0me when used with the manicotti and bechamel sauce. Bechamel sauce is a basic white sauce which can be altered by adding cream, stock, seasonings, cheeses or dry herbs to make a number of other sauces like Mornay (cheese), Soubise (onion), and Creme (cream) sauces. I have also included the instructions for a basic yet flavorful marinara sauce if you'd like to try it (it is a little lengthy) or you can just use store bought marinara (which is a whole lot quicker)!

1 pkg. Manicotti shells

The filling:
1 beaten egg
1/2 cup Mozzerella Cheese
1/2 cup Parmesan Cheese
1/2 cup Ricotta Cheese
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. freshly grated lemon zest

Bechamel sauce:
4 cups of milk
4 tbsp. flour
2 tsp. salt
5 tbsp. butter
1/2 tsp. nutmeg

Marinara sauce:
1/2 cup Extra virgin olive oil
2 small onions, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 (32-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
2 dried bay leaves

In this particular instance, I did not use Marinara, but let me tell you, it tastes awesome if you do use it so I


In a small sauce pan, heat butter over medium-low heat until melted. Add flour and stir until smooth. Cook until mixture turns a golden sandy color (about 7 minutes).

In the meantime, heat the milk in a seperate pan until just about to boil (you'll know it by the bubbles. Be sure to stir the milk so it doesn't form a "skin").

Once the milk is heated, add to butter mixture 1 cup at a time being sure to whisk continuously until milk is blended and consistency is smooth. Bring to a boil. Cook 10 minutes then remove from heat. Season with salt and nutmeg, then set aside until ready to use.

Now for the Filling!

In a small bowl, beat egg until yolk is consistent throughout. In a seperate bowl, mix remaining ingredients, then add beaten egg. Mix until well blended.

While you're making this, I recommend preparing the Manicotti shells as directed on the box minus two minutes cooking time.Now you will drain the Manicotti shells and stuff them one by one. I've laid out some of my sauce as a base in a pan for the shells to lay in.Stuff each shell with filling using a small spoon. I recommend a sugar spoon or even a small plastic baby spoon.

Lay each one in the pan side by side. Once they're all stuffed and in the pan, pour over the remaining sauce and top with extra parmesan and mozzerella cheese and pop in the oven at 350° for approximately 20 minutes.

If you like, you can add the marinara sauce as your base.

To make marinara:

In a large pot, (I recommend a stock pot if you have it) heat the oil over a medium-high heat. Add onions and garlic and saute until the onions are translucent. This should take about 10 minutes. Add celery, carrots and 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper. Saute until all the vegetables are fork tender (another 10 minutes). Now, add tomatoes and bay leaves. Simmer uncovered over low heat for 1 hour or until the sauce thickens. Remove the bay leaf. Season the sauce with more salt and pepper, to taste.

You can make this ahead of time if you wish to. It is great for other pasta dishes throughout the week or as a dipping sauce for mozzerella sticks! MmMmMm!

Friday, December 5, 2008

A Chocolatey Christmas Treat!

Can we say in over my head with the recipes? UuUuUuhm…yes. But that’s okay! I have peppermint bark to save the day! I love this recipe any time of year. You can actually change out the topping and add your favorite nuts, trail mix, or ‘liqueur’. It’s awesome for parties and get-togethers and is normally the first thing to go. Trust me you’ll love it too!

Peppermint Bark

1 package of white chocolate (12 oz)
1 package of milk (you can have dark chocolate if you like) (12 oz)
1 tsp. peppermint extract (or your favorite liqueur)
Crushed Candy Canes (for topping)


In a double broiler (In my picture you’ll note a makeshift double broiler – my friend doesn’t have one), melt the milk chocolate until smooth. Now you’ll notice I have a mesh colander and a pirex bowl on top – gotta make it work…that’s all I gotta say. Please though, for safety reasons, please make sure you use a heatproof glass such as pirex or one that can be used in the oven.

Pour the melted chocolate onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. I highly recommend a cookie sheet, (not what I used LOL) one with low sides because once the chocolate sets, it will be very hard to retrieve your delicious little treat. Don’t worry about perfectly shaping the chocolate as later you will be breaking this ‘bark’ into pieces.

Once on the cookie sheet, place in the refridgerator to set the top slightly.

Next, we want to melt the white chocolate. Same method as above. You may want to wait to do this until the chocolate layer is set. (Note: it is good to wait until the top of the chocolate is set so that when you pour the heated white chocolate on top, it won’t run together).

And pour over milk chocolate once the milk chocolate has set.

MmMm…Okay, next we can crush the peppermint.

One thing to note, buy the round peppermint candies to crush instead of the actual canes. I had the canes to use but boy is it time consuming to unwrap them. Also I would suggest using a towel and a rolling pin for mess free crushing, otherwise, things other than your peppermints get broken (That story another day)!

That said, sprinkle the crushed peppermint over the top and pop in the fridge until set (I’d say about 2 good hours).
Okay – this is what it may come out looking like when you use a cookie sheet instead of a deep dish: