Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas 2010

Well, another Christmas has come and gone. It was a very interesting one to say the least but still lovely. Without going into any detail I'm greatful that our family is as close as we are. I'm thankful for each member for different reasons. We had a wonderful meal. My sister made homemade Gnocchi and sauce as well as the perfect Cranberry Tart. My dad made braciola and sausage. There were great appetizers and salad to add to the meal made by my mom. Three gifts that I was especially thankful for were cookbooks! I loved every single one of my gifts equally but these just a tad bit more! haha. I got the new Throw down cookbook of Bobby Flay! and Cupcakes by Elionor Kilvans from my brother and his girlfriend Tiff and Sweet Magic by Michael Richard from my sister and her husband. Oh and my dad got a cookbook from Lisa and Jesse titled The Gourmet Cook Book, so many recipes and not enough money to try them all. LOL
As I was going through each one I kept saying aloud each recipe haha. I can't wait to get back into blogging. I think I'm going to use my friend Bev Cole's technique and blog on the weekends. When I first got into blogging I was trying to do it more regularly which cost too much plus it unfortunately got me out of it for a while. But doing it on the weekends makes it more fun and more affordable. :) There are more than 100 recipes in the Bobby Flay book, OH MY! Some I'm not that interested in because they are seafood related but 98 percent of them I want to try!
As I think about the coming year I try not to get discouraged. I go back to Wegmans the week of January 7 which I'm thankful for. I've been out for a few months to let my shoulder injuries heal. I don't think they will ever fully heal but the physical therapist has given me insight on how to do things differently. I'm ready to go back to work but I long for a full time job. I know thousands of other people do also. The economy in this day is just terrible trying to find a decent paying job that is full time with benefits. It almost feels like they are becoming extinct. :( But I'm just thankful for Wegmans. They are flexible and I can do my baking business on the side. I hope all of your Christmas's were lovely. I'd love to hear about them! I can't wait to share with you these recipes and I hope you'll be inspired to try them as well!
To Mom, Dad, Lisa, Jess, Eric and Tiff : I love each and everyone of you very much!

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Holiday Red Raspberry Chocolate Bars

This is another find from our recipe collection. I'm excited about trying these this weekend for church!


2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup finely chopped pecans
1 cup softened butter
1 egg
12 oz jar seedless red raspberry jam
1 2/3 cup milk chocolate chips

Heat oven to 350 degrees
Grease a 13x9x2 in baking pan

Stir together flour, sugar, pecans, butter and egg until crumbly. Press all but 1 1/2 cups into bottom of pan. Spread jam over top. Sprinkle with chocolate chips. Crumble remaining crumb mixture over top. Bake for 40-45 min. Cool and cut

Makes 3 dozen bars!

Bon Appetit!

Budapest Coffee Cake

This morning my dad and I were going through our old recipes and came across this one. It is courtesy of Karina Burda who sadly passed away several years ago. She was a dear friend to our family and we continue to think of her often. I have not made this recipe yet but am looking forward to doing so.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

3 cups flour
1/8th cup sugar
3/4 cup butter
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 Tsp Vanilla Extract
2 cups sour cream
3 eggs

For the filling:

3/4 cup brown sugar
1 Tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped nuts

Cream butter sugar and vanilla. Beat for 1 min. Add eggs one at a time and beat well.
Sift all dry ingredients together. Add slowly to the creamed butter. Add sour cream and mix well - until smooth.
Bake in a tube pan
Place half of the batter than add the filling, repeat once more filling the top with batter.

Bake about 1 hour in a preheated oven

I hope you will enjoy this recipe!
Bon Appetit!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Thanksgiving 2010 dessert: Chocolate Ricotta Pie

This year I was lucky enough to have the dessert course for Thanksgiving dinner. I, of course, did the tradition pumpkin pie but I decided to also make a Chocolate Ricotta Pie by Giada Di Laurentis from Food Network. It was new for me and they say it's not the best time to try something new for the holidays. BUT, it was FANTASTIC! The filling literally tasted so smooth it melted in your mouth. Like the Chocolate pie you cna buy at Wegmans. What was different about it was that she called to put everything into a food processor not the stand mixer. It called for two whole eggs and two egg yolks which is I'm sure what gave it the thickness. We had some whipping cream and my sister is the best at making whip cream in our family so she made some. Sooo good! It has been a VERY challenging year financially for me (as I'm sure it has for everyone) so I haven't been doing as many expensive things to make.
I still envy the fact that Julie Powell had the determination and financial resources to cook her way through Julia's cookbook in one year. But as we saw in the movie, they didn't make a ton of money and sometimes she would spend half of her paycheck on ingredients. haha :) I can still watch that movie over and over and still be inspired. Even though I can quote it almost word for word now. LOL Very seldomly do we find movies that speak to us in those ways. If I could afford to go back to Culinary School (or even pastry school) I would. I can't fathom taking any more college loans out though before I have a steady full time job. College is always a huge risk and prayerfully once someone graduates with undergrad and even bachelors will they find a job in their field. Well, I'm getting of track from the cooking part of this blog so I'd better finish now. :) Here is the recipe for you to try! I wish I could find a blog site where I could put up pictures of the things I make next to the posts.
Oh, to conclude this blog, I used a regular pie plate which worked fine. She calls to use a tart pan which I'm hoping to try next time. :)

Chocolate Ricotta Pie
Courtesy of Giada Di Laurentis

Cook Time:1 hr 5 min

Level: Intermediate

Yield: 10 to 12 servings

CloseTimes:Prep20 min Inactive Prep30 min Cook1 hr 5 min Total:1 hr 55 min Recipe Tools:


For Crust:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornmeal
Pinch salt
1/2 cup skinned, toasted hazelnuts
1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly


For Filling:
1/2 cup water
3/4 cup sugar
8 ounces semisweet chocolate chips (about 1 1/3 cups)
3/4 cup ricotta cheese
1/3 cup cream cheese, at room temperature
1 large egg
3 large egg yolks
1/4 cup toasted and chopped hazelnuts

For the crust:
In the bowl of a food processor combine the flour, 1/4 cup sugar, cornmeal, salt, and 1/2 cup toasted hazelnuts, and pulse to grind. Add the butter and pulse, just until the mixture forms a dough. Press the dough over the bottom and about 2 inches up the sides of an 11-inch diameter tart pan with a removable bottom. Refrigerate until the dough is firm, about 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Line the tart dough with aluminum foil and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake the tart shell in the lower third of the oven until just set, about 25 minutes. Carefully remove the foil and pie weights. Bake the shell again until golden, about 10 minutes longer. Remove from the oven and cool completely.

For the filling:
Add the chocolate to a double boiler, over very softly simmering water and heat until melted.
Combine the water with the sugar in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir to dissolve sugar. Remove from heat and cool.

Add the ricotta cheese and cream cheese in a food processor and pulse until smooth. Add the egg and egg yolks, 1 at a time, and process until smooth. Add the melted chocolate and the sugar syrup and pulse until combined. Pour the custard into the tart shell and bake until the custard is just set, about 30 minutes. Scatter the remaining 1/4 cup of chopped hazelnuts on top of the filling. Let the tart cool completely before serving.

The tart can be wrapped in plastic and refrigerated for up to 3 days. Return the tart to room temperature before serving.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Adirondack Weekend 2010 :)

Adirondack Weekend July 28, 2010-Aug 1, 2010

    Well it was certainly wonderful being back in the Adirondacks. I figured it has probably been around 6 yrs since I’ve been there. :( I know crazy, right? We stayed at the Lakeside Motel. We usually stay in a cottage but since we booked so close to the weekend everything was already taken. Plus, cottages only rent out for week long stays and we only wanted a 4 day weekend. Part of the reason we chose Lakeside is they advertised that they have kitchenettes. Well, I don’t know about you but a kitchenette to me is a stove top burner, refrigerator, coffee pot, microwave. All they had was a smaller than dorm size fridge, microwave and coffee pot. :( We decided lets just bring my double burner just in case. Well, we are so thankful we did. It was hilarious because since there was no room for one on the counter we cooked on the floor. Lol.
    The first night made us feel as though the weekend wasn’t going to be a good one. We ended up picking Rugby weekend to come which was a bad idea. Rugby players are VERY loud and obnoxious and drink a lot. Well the first night they were SOOO loud and they were right next us. After midnight I was so incredibly frustrated I took it upon myself to go out there. I was like “would you guys please be quiet because we keep waking up.” They were understanding and actually quieted right down. They probably figured it was Thursday night and not many people were staying there. Well they thought wrong. The owner was hardly helpful the first day. We couldn’t figure out the wireless internet because it would say we were connected but than it wouldn’t work. All he said was he knew nothing about it. Sheesh. But in the end we found out ourselves that we had to be facing their house in order to get it. Weird huh?
    But Saturday was a thoroughly enjoying day. We went by boat to their local Farmer’s Market and it was so wonderful. We tasted Adirondack Style cheese and I bought some smoked mozzarella. Ironically I wasn’t a fan of it. I guess I prefer regular fresh mozzarella.  But the guy was very friendly and gave good sized sample portions. I found a booth where the woman had a certified kitchen in her home. Hmmm, sound familiar? :) Her business name was FriendChips Bakery. Very cute. The cookies were ok but not anything to right home about. I also bought a fresh baguette to go with our lunch. So after that we enjoyed a relaxing boat ride except for boaters SPEEDING by even though it’s a 5 mile and hour speed limit. Like anyone really follows that? We did but it was annoying having almost everyone speeding on by. Even a jet skier was going so fast but right before us he stopped. Thankfully!!  After the boat ride we enjoyed a lunch of the baguette, tomatoes, and cheese. Simple but pleasant.

The Adirondack Bean To
The most exciting part of the weekend for me was going to their local coffee shop called the Bean To. It was the best coffee I’ve ever had. I had a caramel Latte the first day and a hazelnut latte the next. Outstanding. I bought a brownie too and it was out of this world. I told the owner that their coffee was the best I’d ever had and that I wasn’t just saying that either. Now that Junas in Ithaca is gone all we have for local coffee is Gimme and The Ithaca Bakery (College Town bagels). Although, I must admit I was reminded by my sister of Ithaca Coffee Co. which is indeed local. However, I don't remember getting the feeling I got today from the Bean To. It tasted so homemade and the strength of the coffee was perfect. He was taken back by my compliment and said “wow, I don’t know what to say”. Than he said they don’t have comment cards but that he wanted to give me a free bag of their coffee. :) He didn’t have to do that at all.What is so cool is they have Pasta Stick Stirrers for their coffee! Pretty awesome huh?  The name was Hammer coffee. They also had Jack Hammer hahaha. He also let me take a picture of their roaster. That’s right, they roast their own coffee   He even asked if I wanted beans in the roaster for my picture. He was so friendly I couldn’t get over it. They do indeed have a facebook page so you know I’ll be becoming a fan on there  Everything in Saranac Lake felt organic to me this time. Mom and I enjoyed dinner at Nonna Fenna Italian Restaurant. Absolutely delicious homemade Italian food. Our rolls were right out of the oven. I had the stuffed shells which weren’t heavy at all and my mom had their fried haddock. It was lightly fried so again it didn’t feel so heavy. Usually Italian food you think heavy fillings of cheese but not this place. They know how to make Italian Food light  The restaurant was just 5-7 minutes to walk, maybe not even that long. We have little herbie with us so it always makes it more challenging. We can’t all go into a restaurant at the same time or anywhere for that matter. But we managed. He’s sooo adorable and irresistable. :)
    Saturday afternoon I went for a swim in their pool. That was another disappointment Friday night. It was advertised as a heated pool but he said how they were heated by solar panels. Which is indeed heated however, the panels were facing UP not down to the pool. The reason the water was warmer was because the sun was so hot. But it was perfect  I than lounged on their comfortable beach chairs. Saturday my parents got some perspective from the owner about the place. His family used to run it but than his children all moved to different parts of the country. His wife sadly has Cancer so now it’s just him running it along with two Chinese women. They are there for the summer to experience a different culture. He provides them room and board and pays them as well.. I can’t imagine how exhausting that must be. Also, even he said how he hates Rugby Players. They never grow up and they are just down right obnoxious he said. They were really rowdy Saturday night again and he apparently went out and told them to be quiet. We didn’t even call him about it. He had a few older people there and I am certain they wouldn’t be happy with that. They were on their side as well. Friday was amazing though they were as quiet as can be. We think they went ot the Pub in town and got drunk there. At least it wasn’t at the hotel. So after Friday night being so discouraging we left with a different perspective of the owner. It just proves to not judge a book by its cover. I tired really hard to not be frustrated and to not judge but being human that’s what happens.
    We’d probably stay there again now knowing what to expect. But prayerfully next year we’ll be back in a cottage for a week. That is what I truly missed this time around. In a cottage I can bring coffee out to the porch in my pjs still and look at the water. Here I couldn’t do that because of all the people around. I truly do love the Adirondack Mountains of NY and would live there if I could. But their winters are ROUGH and not much for jobs. The guy at the Cheese shop said it is very hard to find work there. Some people have 2 maybe 3 jobs to make ends meet. It’s sad for sure but the Economy everywhere is sad. I hope you’ve enjoyed this blog entry about Saranac Lake and remember, if you’re ever in Saranac Lake you must try the Bean To Coffee Shop. It’s on a side street in a little home. Their coffee is truly heavenly

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Danby Fun Day July 10, 2010

Well, I'm a little irritated at myself for getting out of the habit of blogging. I won't lie money has been tight so I haven't been doing as much cooking than when I first started to blog. :( Also, when I have done cooking I have to admit, I forgot to blog about it. :( GASP! However, something that use to be just a concept and a "hope it might happen" has finally happened. I now have a home bakery! It's called Lauren's Simple Pleasures Bakery. Until the time comes to have my own Bed and Breakfast I can at least have my bakery on the side. I'm still frustrated with the hours I'm getting at Wegmans but at least it allows me to do what I love as well. For the Danby Fun Day it was just what the name says, FUN! We had positive reviews all day from people and even had repeated customers. People would come and say "I was told I had to come try your cookies"... I couldn't believe people were talking about us! It was definitely a boost of good confidence and showed me that this really will work!
I have set up the next date that we will be selling at. The Danby Federated Churches Community Yard Sale. Hey, people will be walking around getting hungry :) why not? I have also inquired about being at the Ellis Hollow Fair in September. I'm praying that will work out but it's possible I'm inquiring too late. You never know though.
For our first event I used two of Ina Garten's recipes. So in fact I was staying true to this blog. :) I made her Coconut Cupcakes and her Outrageous Brownies. However, I added a twist to the brownies. Instead of coating the chocolate chips with flour I coated Andes Candies with flour and they were so delectable. It had a hint of coffee flavor, chocolate flavor and mint. What more could a chocolate lover want? :) Both my mom and dad helped which was really nice. The bakery is going to stay true to itself and remain family run. That will be our motto. :) A good friend of mine has ordered 6 dozen of our coconut macaroons (wheat free by the way) so that is our first order outside of being at an event. The Coconut Macaroons actually sold out! We also sold out of our Lemon Tea Cookies that my dad made. He actually went back home to make a fresh batch, can't get much fresher than that! :) I was beaming the entire day! Not one stressful or bad thought came to mind the entire day even after the event was over. Even though I was technically "working" I was having fun while doing it. It was rewarding seeing people enjoying what we had baked. I'm planning on adding more wheat free items for my friends who are gluten free. I've been told there is a market for those items! I sure hope you'll check us out on face book under Lauren's Simple Pleasures and keep up with where we will be selling. :) I'm really hoping to be at an event once a month. We take orders year round so please think of us for special events or even gifts for friends. :) I can't wait to see what the next chapter of my life will lead me. :)

Happy Cooking friends!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Father's Day Dinner

       On Mother's Day and Father's Day I like to make a special meal for both of them. I make meals other times of the year but on these days it's extra special. This year it's just the three of us because we celebrated with my family earlier in the week. I'm very excited about the menu. We're having Blue Cheese Burgers, a salad, grilled shrimp & tomatoes skewers. For dessert it's going to be ice cream, fruit and whipped cream. My dad literally is the hardest working man I know. Today for instance, he's had to work up at my grandmother's house in the yard and put up a new door and now he's mowing our lawn. This past year every weekend he's spent building a structure that included a one bedroom apartment along with a garage on the bottom floor. The apartment is for a family member to live in. Now this year all of our energy is going to go to the cleaning/refurnishing my grandmother's old home. That way we can put it on the market to sell.  It's going to be a whirlwind of a year but I plan to help in any way I can.
       This year's Father's Day meal is a little more special. It's special because of all my dad has done this past year and continuously does for his family and the community. He is most certainly a warrior as my mom called it. As a friend of mine and I were talking about being single she said that she and another friend of hers has said "there's no one like our dad's left." I completely agree. To find a compassionate, hard working and caring man is very difficult. In my search to find a mate it's finding someone who is also a Christian which is even harder. I look at my dad and the other men at church and how loving they are to their wives and get a bit misty eyed. The other night our church had a spaghetti dinner for the Fathers. At the end of the night one man kissed his wife before he left. I keep reminding myself that if I have to wait even 20 more years to find someone like that than it's going to be well worth the wait. Because what I've had so far doesn't even compare to the type of man my Father is.
I've learned from different chefs on food network that cooking is a way to show someone you care for them and love them. That is exactly what I'll be doing tonight. My dad really is the best dad in the world, I truly believe. I hope you like this meal Dad! I love you dearly and don't quite know what I'd do without you.

Til Next time
Happy Cooking Friends!