Cannoli is a family favorite around here! The shell is crunchy, the filling is creamy and sweet. You can purchase the shells at the grocery store or make them homemade. They are readily available around the holidays, but they are available all year in Italian markets. I made 12 of the mini ones on christmas eve and they all went. The recipe I will provide to you will most likely fill 36 mini or 18 large. I’d like to tell you that this is the authentic filling, but the Italians are pretty tight lipped on this filling recipe. I have only been able to experiment over the years and come extremely close. I will say that I would let this recipe be put up against any Italian pastry shop Cannoli proudly! I believe that the key to getting this filling right is being patient and buying good ricotta. I get my ricotta at the Italian store in Portland, Maine. It is very good quality, but the key is letting it drain in cheesecloth in the refrigerator for a few days. The excess liquid that comes out of it is super important in getting this filling correct. That is the hardest part, the rest is simple, unless you make the shells and then the recipe would be more time consuming.

2 cups ricotta, all ready drained for one or two days
1 vanilla bean split and scooped of seeds
1 c. confectionery sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla
6-8 oz. Mascarpone cheese

Optional Items: dried candied diced fruit, lemon or orange zest.

Prepare the filling.
place two layers of cheesecloth in a sieve with a handle and place in a bowl.(This is like a mesh strainer) Put enough cheesecloth to hang over the edges. Place the 2 cups of ricotta and wrap the ricotta and twist the excess cheesecloth for wringing out liquid. Place bowl in fridge to drain. Anytime you think of it give it a squeeze. After two days you may have gotten as much as a 1/4 cup of liquid out of the ricotta.
Now add the the rest of the ingredients and beat with electric mixer, place into a piping bag, close end with an elastic and place in refrigerator until ready for use.
The shells:
Embellish the shells by dipping in melted chocolate and chopped pistachio nuts. When ready to serve snip the end of the piping bag and fill the shells. After filling with cheese mixture dip one end in mini chocolate chips. Sprinkle with powdered sugar! Serve immediately while shells are crunchy. They will stay fresh for a few hours.

Grilled Marinated Lamb Chops

Grilled Lamb ChopsMarinated Lamb chops are some of my families favorite things. If you are contemplating what to make for a family dinner here’s a thought…Aside from being delicious and easy to eat like a little lollipop, they are a great item for a holiday dinner for two reasons. One…They are an item that gets cooked outside on the grill, good for me because no mess in the kitchen means less cleanup and Two…I don’t have to cook the main course. I usually prepare the marinade 3 days ahead of time and get them marinating. This in an of itself, is a blessing, more time for me to put more effort into my side dishes, desserts, and decor. It really does take the pressure off.

Last christmas we had Lamb chops. I made them because my brother TJ and my son Eric absolutely love them. I probably bought too many but I wasn’t sure how many to make since they are small and each lamb chop is like two bites. However, 4-5 per person is more than enough. Some people will only eat 2-3 and others may eat 5-6, but it all averages out. And, if you have numerous side dishes like I always do, you will be doing the right thing by only allowing for 5-6 per person. It was pretty funny last year, everyone on my brothers side of the table was trying to make him look bad by piling all of their lamb chop bones on his plate at the end of the meal. As I began to clear the plates and his plate was handed to me, my eyes grew really big and my mouth dropped open. I’m thinking he ate like 15 chops only to hear his exclamation…UHT! Everyone exploded into laughter as you would need to know my brother to understand this to be funny!

Grilled Lamb Chops

Two large Ziploc Bags
2 lemons
1 1/2 cups of Olive Oil
1 bunch of fresh Rosemary, stems removed and chopped really finely with a knife on a cutting board, almost to a powder
2 tbsp. salt
2 tbsp. black pepper
8 fresh cloves of garlic minced
2 racks of Lamb chops left whole to marinate and be grilled (I buy the airtight pkg. of two racks of lamb at Sam’s club.They sell them in grocery stores usually 1 rack to the pkg. They are pretty expensive but they are definitely cheaper by the two pack. 1 rack will serve two people and cost you about 7-8 dollars per person.)

open both ziploc bags and juice a lemon into each bag
add 3/4 c. olive to each bag
add 3 TBSP chopped rosemary to each bag
add 1 TBSP salt and pepper to each bag
add half of the minced garlic to each bag
mix well and add 1 whole rack of lamb to the bag, massage the marinade into the lamb.
Each day leading up to the day you cook them, take them out of the refrigerator and massage the marinade, you may have to let them get to room temp for an hour or so.
Place back in the fridge and on the day you will be cooking them take them out of the fridge and let them come to room temp before grilling them.

Ready to Grill
Preheat your grill as hot as it will go. 500 degrees is ideal. Place the racks on the hottest spot and get the outside good and crisp fast on both sides so the inside stays rare or medium-rare.
This will not take that long if you get the grill really hot. Remove the racks and let them rest in a warm place for about 10 minutes, slice them into chops, arrange on a pretty platter and serve.
If you desire, serve them with a bernaise sauce or make a delicious drizzle with olive oil, lemon, salt and pepper.

This entree will surely please even the fussiest of guests. It really isn’t any more expensive than a prime rib or a seafood meal. Go ahead and splurge, you deserve it.


PizzellesBaking Pizzelles always brings me back to my Italian grandmother Asunta. She used to make these by the dozens. Along with a few other Italian Cookies that may or may not make an appearance through the holidays. Quite frankly, we are all just a little sick of the same cookies that we have made year after year. And, unfortunately they have never been embraced by the newer generations in the family. I cannot say that anybody is tired of these cookies. They are light and crisp and powdered sugar messy and you need a Pizzelle iron to make them.


3/4 c. Melted butter
3/4 c. Sugar
3 eggs beaten
1 tsp. vanilla
2 tsp. anise flavoring
1 scant tsp baking powder
1/2 c. Flour

Batter will be loose
Drop into a heated buttered pizzelle maker, remove when golden.


Veal Marsala

Veal MarsalaFor an evening meal that feels like you went to a fine restaurant make this Marsala recipe. It takes under 30 minutes to get to the table. This recipe is so flavorful and rich. Use Veal or Chicken cutlets over any kind of pasta or serve alongside mashed potatoes and a vegetable.



Ingredient List
1 pound of veal cutlets or chicken cutlets
1 c. flour
salt and pepper
vegetable oil for frying
shallots (optional)
1 c. sliced fresh mushrooms
1 c. beef stock
2 cloves fresh garlic
1 c. marsala cooking wine
1/2 c. heavy cream
fresh chopped parsley
1/2 pound of pasta of your choice

Prep the cutlets
dredge them in seasoned flour
(1 cup flour, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. pepper)
lay them out and prepare your pan for frying

Pasta of your choice:

Prepare a pot with boiling water that has 1 tsp. salt and 1 TBSP. oil
When boiling turn on your skillet and begin warming the oil and butter to cook the cutlets. Add the pasta per the directions on the package to the boiling water. While your pasta is cooking you will be browning the cutlets. After the pasta has cooked for exactly half the recommended time, turn off the burner and let your half cooked pasta sit in the water. This will give you time to finish the other part of the meal and the pasta will be perfect when you are ready.

In a large skillet melt…
1/2 stick of butter and 3 TBSP olive oil on med to med high heat.
when the oil and butter are good and hot add the cutlets and brown them on both sides, about 3-4 minutes per side
remove from the pan when browned and set aside.

add to the skillet:
1/8 cup chopped shallots
1 cup of sliced fresh mushrooms
sauté until tender
1 or 2 garlic cloves minced, saute for 30 seconds
3/4 cup of marsala wine
let cook on med high for 3-4 minutes
1 c. Beef stock
let cook on med high for 3-4 minutes
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp fresh Parsley
add all the cutlets back in and let simmer on med heat for a couple minutes

Somewhere in the middle of the simmering process, you will drain your pasta and add it to the finished product in the skillet stir it all around and then serve with a sprinkling of fresh ground pepper and salt and some fresh slices of parmesan cheese. Now all you need is a glass of Dreaming Tree Wine….Enjoy!

Fresh Homemade Guacamole!



Delicious guacamole!

Guacamole is a fabulous appetizer for parties and gatherings. Avocados are very healthy too. They are high in fiber, potassium, and folate and have high levels of Vitamin B, C, and K. It’s also a great filler for a menu, It can be made ahead, served cold and takes little to prepare. It’s also a beautiful presentation especially for christmas. Be sure and do yourself and your family a big favor and buy Tortilla chips that are GMO free. Late July chips are GMO free as well as a few other choices that are in paper bags, one is Xochil. Garden of Eatin is GMO free and Kettle Brand has an option for no GMO’s. My personal favorite is Late July Mojo, sweet potato, and Plain. Here is my easy recipe for guacamole…

8 ripe avocados scooped and large diced
2 fresh limes juiced
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
2 fresh garlic cloves grated
1 bunch of fresh cilantro (stems removed and chopped)
hot sauce is optional

mix all the ingredients together, to a point that half of the avocado chunks begin to mash up, but leaving about half chunky. If you prefer it less chunky, stir and mash it well.

Garnish with
1 large vine ripe tomato diced
1 lime cut into wedges
sprig of cilantro

Italian Ricotta Cheesecake

Italian Ricotta CheesecakeCheesecake is the one dessert that gets the most favorable responses from people. They are so visually appealing. But, then they are so creamy, sweet and delicious, its like a big hug when you bite into a rich piece of cheesecake. I guess you could say it is the ultimate comfort food. I first saw a picture of this on Pinterest and knew someday I would need to make it, and when I say “make it” most of you know I mean, make it my own way. Great idea and so pretty! This one is perfect for Christmas with green pistachios and red raspberries. The base cheesecake can be used for so many different cheesecakes. You can add any flavor you want to the cheesecake, almond extract would be great, or banana, or ginger or just plain vanilla. The crust can be chocolate graham crumbs, oreos, or ginger snaps, nutty or shortbready. The possibilities are endless so go create something!

10″ springform pan ~ buttered pan
Preheat oven to 300 degrees

1/3 c. granulated sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
5 Tbsp. Butter melted
1 1/2 c. graham cracker crumbs
mix well and press into buttered springform pan
wrap the bottom of the spring-form pan in two layers of foil and set aside


1 c. ricotta cheese
3- 8oz. pkg of cream cheese (room temp)
1 1/2 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 heaping tbsp all purpose flour
2 tsp vanilla
1 vanilla bean split open and scraped of the seeds
5 eggs
1/2 c. sour cream
1 tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice

Beat cheeses, sugar, salt, and flour on med speed with an electric mixer, add vanilla and vanilla bean, add eggs 1 at a time, add sour cream and lemon. When fully mixed add to the springform pan crust.

Place a pan on the bottom rack with 2 inches of boiling water in your preheated 300 degree oven. Place the Cheesecake on the rack above the water and bake for 70 to 80 minutes. A good rule of thumb when a cheesecake is fully cooked, is the center will be level with the edges, not concave. When the center is puffed it is usually done. If it splits in the middle, don’t fret, it’s okay. All the toppings will cover any cracks, besides that’s the sign of a homemade cheesecake. When it’s done, do not remove the cake from the oven, just turn off the oven and crack the door a bit, leave it until fully cooled. At this point you may, leave it in the refrigerator for up to 2 days before serving.

Sides of the cheesecake can be embellished with whatever you love, this cheesecake has pistachios. Any chopped nut or mini chocolate chips, or crushed cookies or candy will work. I used an apricot jam, spread on the cake with a butter knife, and then added the chopped pistachios. The topping I used was fresh raspberries, however, blackberries, blueberries or strawberries, or any fruit you like will work. It took about 3 half pints of berries.

I also had a fresh seedless raspberry glaze on hand that I put below the raspberries…
Have fun and Enjoy!

Christmas Candy

IMG_0959It’s that time of the year. That wonderful time when everyone bakes and makes their specialties and traditional family treasures. Here in Maine, it’s quite common to receive a wonderful plate full of mixed baked goods or candy as a Merry Christmas wish. I personally think its a wonderful way of showing someone you care about them. Time, effort, thought and real love go into these types of gifts. One of our favorite candies is one that we buy in Freeport a few times a year. A bag of these little delights is 17.95. It pains me to delve out the money for these caramels filled with marshmallow and wrapped in wax paper. So, I decided that I would try to make them. After careful searching on the net and Pinterest I found two recipes that I combined into one with a few tweaks. I should also mention that the first batch of caramel went into the trash. However, take two, with a different recipe was a hit and luckily the first batch of marshmallow was a success. I also managed to use each of them for a few other confections as well. These two batches made dozens of candies. I made chocolate covered marshmallow squares, pecan turtles, and marshmallow caramels. These were so yummy and pretty also.

Marshmallow Recipe
from the Barefoot Contessa’s family style cookbook

3 packages unflavored gelatin
1/2 cup ice cold water
set aside

1 1/2 c. granulated sugar
1 c. Light corn syrup
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
1/2 c. water
confectioners sugar for dusting

Prepare a glass baking dish 8 x 12 (not metal) generously dusted with powdered sugar so the mixture will not stick to the dish. I learned the hard way.

Place 1/2 cup of water with the gelatin into your mixing bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Let sit and bloom while you are making the syrup.

Combine remaining water, sugar, glucose syrup and salt in a heavy saucepan fitted with a candy thermometer and cook until it reaches 240 degrees on your candy thermometer. Remove from heat immediately.
Turn mixer on slow speed and slowly pour syrup into mixing bowl [using a stand mixer will be so much easier than a hand mixer]. Once you have added all the the syrup into the mixing bowl, turn on high and mix until the marshmallow becomes lukewarm and whipped fairly stiff and glossy, approximately 15 minutes. Add vanilla about 20 – 30 seconds before you are ready to turn off the mixer.
spread into your prepared dish and dust generously again with powdered sugar. Let set and cool about an hour and begin working with it when it is able to be handled. You can leave these to dry uncovered or keep them soft by covering with waxed paper. If you are planning to use them in their soft state you will need to use them within a day and finish up your candy.


Homemade Caramel

1 cup butter
2 1/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Make sure for this recipe you are using a candy thermometer, have all your ingredients and equipment ready to go.

Generously Butter a standard size baking sheet.
Melt Butter over low heat in a medium size sauce pan.
Add and mix sugar, corn syrup and condensed milk. Remember to pour sugar in center of pan, and if any sugar crystals stick to the side of your pan, brush them down with a damp pastry brush.
Cook and stir on medium heat until boiling, then clip your candy thermometer to the side of pan. Do not allow the thermometer to touch the bottom of the pan.

caramel boiling
Reduce heat to medium or a temperature which allows for a steady, moderate boil. If you notice brown bits off the bottom of your pan when you stir you may need to lower it a bit or stir it more frequently. The lower the burner is set for the longer it will take to reach the temperature. It will eventually get there, be patient it can take 30 minutes to an hour.
When the thermometer reaches 235 degrees, remove pan from heat and stir in vanilla.( a typical caramel recipe will require you cook until 245 degrees). 235 to 245 will produce varying hardnesses for your caramel. I prefer a softer caramel and pulled mine at 230 degrees and let it sit overnight before I tried to work with it. If you are making strictly Caramels to eat, as is, I would go to the 245 degrees. When the desired temp is reached pour the caramel into your prepared baking sheet – use caution! This is a very hot mixture.
Allow to cool overnight then use a pizza cutter to slice into desired slices. After it has set place a piece of wax paper over the top and leave overnight.

caramel in panIMG_0954

Now it’s your turn to be creative… make a log of caramel filled with marshmallow and then slice into 1/2″ slices and wrap with wax paper, twist the ends to close.
Layer marshmallow and caramel, add nuts or just dip in melted chocolate. Cut squares of marshmallow and dip in chocolate. Toast nuts in oven for 5-8 minutes and make caramel pecan turtles. Whatever you like do, it’s all up to you.
One tip on melted chocolate. Use a large glass bowl and melt very slowly (20 seconds at a time) in microwave or on a double boiler. The trick to shiny chocolate and not chalky looking chocolate is stirring. After your chocolate is melted, stir it briskly for 3-5 minutes. It will be much shinier the more you stir it. Then dip away, I use a toothpick to dip.