Pavlovas

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I found myself with a few extra egg whites after this recipe, and decided to make pavlovas. Pavlovas are meringue-based dessert named after the Russian ballet dancer Anna Pavlova. They have a crisp crust and soft, light inside and are tyically served with fruit or whipped cream.This tasty dessert is relatively easy to make and requires only a handful of ingredients. Make sure you eat them within 24 hours otherwise they will become very chewy and lose their delicious texture.

What you’ll need:

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup (6 ounces, about 6) large egg whites, preferably room temperature
  • Pinch of salt

What to do:

Preheat the oven to 275°. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Pour the vanilla and vinegar into a cup. Stir the cornstarch into the sugar in a small bowl. In a large bowl of a heavy-duty mixer, fitted with whisk attachment, whip egg whites and salt, until soft peaks start to become visible, approximately 2 to 3 minutes. Increase speed to medium-high, slowly and gradually add the sugar-cornstarch mixture. A few minutes after these dry ingredients are added, slowly pour in the vanilla and vinegar. Increase speed and whip until meringue is glossy, and stiff peaks form when the whisk is lifted.

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Spoon the meringue into round mounds on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. With the back of a spoon, create an indentation in the middle of the mound for holding the filling once meringue is baked.

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Place baking sheet in the oven.Reduce oven temperature to 250°F. Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until the meringues are crisp, dry to the touch on the outside, and white, not tan-colored or cracked. The interiors should have a marshmallow-like consistency. Check on meringues at least once during the baking time. If they appear to be taking on color or cracking, reduce temperature 25 degrees, and turn pan around.

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Once ready, lift from the baking sheet and cool on a wire rack. They will crack a bit in the middle but since you will fill them up, that’s ok.

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Serve topped with your favorite filling – fresh fruit, lemon curd, raspberry or blueberry sauce, or freshly whipped cream.

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Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

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A few days ago I made these sea salt caramel brownies and then decided they’d go perfectly with a nice scoop of vanilla bean ice cream. I used a simple recipe egg-custard recipe and some of my own vanilla extract to create this easy dessert. 

What you’ll need: 

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • 1 cup milk 
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 vanilla beans, split lengthwise and scraped, 
  • 2 tablespoons of vanilla extract 
  • 6 large egg yolks

What to do: 

Combine cream, half-and-half, vanilla extract, vanilla beans and seeds in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Once it begins to boil, remove from heat, cover and allow it to steep for about 15 minutes. 

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Meanwhile, whisk egg yolks and sugar in a second large bowl until smooth and fluffy. It should have a light yellow color.  

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Add cream mixture from heat and slowly pour about 1 cup into the egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly until smooth. Add the rest of the cream slowly, while continuing to whisk (on low) the mixture. Pour cream-egg mixture back into the pan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until custard coats the spoon, about 2 minutes. Make sure to not over-cook. 

Remove custard from heat and strain through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl, scraping as much vanilla bean through the strainer as possible. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature, about 10 to 15 minutes. Then cover and place in the refrigerator to chill completely, at least 3 hours. Your mixture should be completely chilled before you add it to your ice cream maker. Once chilled, use your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions then freeze overnight and serve.

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This light and creamy ice cream is the perfect addition to a warm brownie, can be served with one of these delectable chocolate chip cookies or scooped on top of this bourbon peach cobbler. 

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Butterless Alfredo Sauce

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Alfredo sauce is definitely one of those recipes that usually comes with thousands of calories and a ton of the good stuff: butter and cheese. When I first started making this dish, I had no intention of changing that but eventually had to make a few substitutions when I realized I didn’t have any butter… or Parmesan cheese.  The end result was far more delicious than I had hoped, a creamy, flavorful sauce that perfectly complimented the fresh tagliatelle I had on hand.

Heat a medium to large saute pan over medium heat and add 2 tbsp of  olive oil and 3 cloves of garlic, chopped. Stir quickly and cook until the garlic is lightly golden. Next, reduce heat slightly and add 2 Tbsp flour and whisk to combine. Cook for about a minute.

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Add 1 cup of water and 3/4 cup of milk. Use a flat spatula to mash the flour into the liquid. Once the mixture has thickened, add pesto, salt and pepper.

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If you have Parmesan this is when you would use it, but I didn’t have any so I substituted with Kashkaval cheese, which is a hard yellow cheese made from sheep’s milk that is very popular in Albania. I brought back a few pounds of it after my last visit there this summer. Yes, you read that correctly, I brought back cheese. Why? Because why not? Anyway, on to the recipe. Add half a cup of cheese to your sauce and stir until it melts.

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Delicious. If your sauce is too thick, add a bit more water. If it’s too thin, add more flour. Make sure to mix well throughout so you end up with a lumpy sauce.

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Add a cup of frozen peas. You can add more if you prefer.

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Mix them in and allow to cook for about 2 minutes. Season with more salt and pepper if necessary. You can also add about a bit of half and half for that extra creamy texture.

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Add in your cooked pasta and toss well to combine.

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Then serve!

What you’ll need:

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3 Cloves of garlic
  • 2 Tbsp all purpose flour
  • 3/4 Cup of milk
  • 1 Cup of water
  • 1 Tbsp. pesto
  • 1/2 Cup grated Parmesan (or any other type of hard cheese) grated
  • 1 Cup frozen green peas
  • Optional 2 Tbsp half-half
  • Pasta of your choice
  • Salt and pepper to taste

What to do:

Cook pasta according to package instructions. Heat a large saute pan over medium heat. Add olive oil and garlic. Stir quickly and cook until the garlic is lightly golden. Next, reduce heat slightly and add 2 Tbsp flour and whisk to combine. Cook for about a minute. Add 1 cup of water and 3/4 cup of milk. Use a flat spatula to mash the flour into the liquid. Once the mixture has thickened, add pesto, cheese, salt and pepper.

Add more water or flour to achieve the desired consistency of your sauce. Once it’s ready, add the peas and stir. Then add the cooked pasta and toss to combine.

Enjoy!

Cauliflower and chicken soup

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I’ve been craving soup almost every single day this week and finally made a batch of delicious, hearty, warm and creamy cauliflower soup. Now if you’re not a fan of cauliflower, don’t scratch this recipe off your list. The truth is you can barely taste it, while still enjoying its creamy texture. If you prefer, you can also substitute white potatoes for cauliflower. I had a hard time choosing between chicken soup and a creamy soup, so I basically combined everything and made creamy cauliflower soup with chicken. It was a hit!

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Wash and chop one or two cauliflower heads, depending on their size and your love for the vegetable.

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Roughly chop one or two carrots and one small white onion.

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Place a stock pot or dutch oven over medium high heat and melt 4 tablespoons butter. Add the onions when the butter is melted. Some carrots escaped me as you can see, but we don’t have to be meticulous all the time.

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Once your onions have cooked for about 2 minutes, add the carrots. Let them cook for another minute or so.

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Add the cauliflower. I did a rough chop on mine because I wanted my soup to be both creamy and chunky.

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Add 2 tablespoons of fresh or dried parsley. Mix it all together, reduce the heat to low and let it simmer for about 15 minutes. 

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In a separate pot, boil 2-3 chicken breasts. Roughly chop when it’s done and add to the soup. Add 8 cups of chicken stock or broth.

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Bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce heat and let the soup simmer.

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Then bend down and pet your dog because she is ridiculously adorable and has been cooking with you for about 30 minutes. While you’re at it, give her a nice treat.

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Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a pot. In a small container, combine 2 cups of whole milk and 6 tablespoons of all-purpose flower. Once it’s thoroughly mixed, add it to the melted butter. The cream sauce should start thickening.

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Then add one cup of half and half, because everything is better with some half and half in it.

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Add the cream sauce to your soup.

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Mix it well.

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Add a few bay leaves – see half and half reasoning above and allow it to simmer for another 15-20 minutes.

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Then because this soup wants a little extra something, add a tablespoon of sour cream in your bowl, then add your soup.

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Add about a teaspoon of fresh ground nutmeg. This makes all the difference, don’t skip it.

What you’ll need:

  • 2 cauliflower heads
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 small white onion
  • 6 Tablespoons of Butter, divided
  • 2 Tablespoons Fresh Or Dried Parsley
  • 2-3 chicken breasts, boiled
  • 4 cups Chicken Broth Or Stock
  • 6 Tablespoons All-purpose Flour
  • 2 cups Whole Milk
  • 1 cup Half-and-half
  • 1 tablespoon of sour cream, per serving
  • fresh nutmeg to taste
  • salt and pepper to taste

What to do:

Wash and chop one or two cauliflower heads, depending on their size and your love for the vegetable. Roughly chop one or two carrots and one small white onion. Place a stock pot or dutch oven over medium high heat and melt 4 tablespoons butter. Add the onions when the butter is melted. Some carrots escaped me as you can see, but we don’t have to be meticulous all the time. Once your onions have cooked for about 2 minutes, add the carrots. Let them cook for another minute or so. Add the cauliflower and 2 tablespoons of parsley. Mix it all together, reduce the heat to low and let it simmer for about 15 minutes. 

In a separate pot, boil 2-3 chicken breasts. Roughly chop it when done and add to the soup. Add 8 cups of chicken stock or broth. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce heat and let the soup simmer.

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a stock pot. In a small container, combine 2 cups of whole milk and 6 tablespoons of all-purpose flower. Once it’s thoroughly mixed, add it to the melted butter. The cream sauce should start thickening. Add one cup of half and half and whisk to mix it together. Add the cream sauce and bay leaves. Mix well and let it simmer for another 15-20 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve soup over one tablespoon of sour cream and add fresh nutmeg to taste.

Enjoy!

Floral Headpieces

Wedding hair styles and accessories have really changed over the last few years, from traditional tiaras, to elegantly accessorized ballerina buns, messy up-dos accentuated by delicate buds, intricate braids and simple hair enhanced by gorgeous floral crowns. Having fresh flowers as part of centerpieces and bouquets is typically a must for every bride, but the new floral headpiece trend, takes the fresh flower idea to the next level. Below are a few stunning examples of this new bridal fashion accessory as worn by the bride, bridesmaids, flower girls and even the most loved four-legged member of your family. What do you think of this style? Would you incorporate for your special day?  

Bride

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Bridesmaids

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Flower Girls

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Dogs

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All Images are from Pinterest

Zio Ristorante

Image Courtesy of Zio Ristorante

Some time ago, I went out to dinner at Zio Ristorante with my fiancé. Located in the meatpacking district, Zio is a charming and welcoming restaurant, with warm décor, high ceilings, a grand entrance and spacious rooms. The staff and the service they provide is impeccable and one of the best I’ve encountered in New York. The kitchen is open so if your seat position allows it, you can watch the chefs at work. Did I mention the reason we went here is because I found out Anthony Bourdain dined here with his wife. Sal and I are both incredible fans of his and even took a trip up to Montreal this summer inspired by an episode of Parts Unknown.  So in our family, if it’s good enough for Anthony, it’s good enough for us (except for blood sausage, I wouldn’t eat that).

Back to our experience at Zio, after we were seated our waiter brought a fresh bread basket and a small dish of red pesto, a mixture of sundried tomatoes, olive oil and seasonings. It was delicious and gone in less than 3 minutes. As a side note – there seem to be a lot of those in this post – I’ve noticed that most restaurants, especially the Italian establishments, have stopped bringing bread and olive oil to the table as a starter. I’m not sure why this is happening, but I’m definitely not a fan of it. It’s always ideal to munch on something warm and tasty while you peruse the menu.

As an appetizer Sal and I shared the Riso Al Salto con L’osso – a crunchy saffron risotto cake, bone marrow and gremolada sauce. Absolutely exquisite! Sal hates bone marrow which meant there was more for me. It was juicy, fatty, and succulent, everything you could ever want bone marrow to be. Extra perk, the waiter was kind enough the wrap the bone for us to take home to Khaleesi (our little pup) who loved it as much as her mama did!

Image courtesy of Zio Ristorante

For entrees we shared the Agnello (for me) and the Branzino Selvatico (for him). The Agnello consisted of almond crusted rack of lamb, Swiss chard ravioli in a goat cheese & sage fondue sauce. As a girl who thinks ravioli should be served with every dish, I found this pairing to be amazing! The ravioli- soft and flavorful, was served in a creamy sauce with an earthy, meaty aftertaste. The lamb chops were perfectly cooked, crunchy and salty on the outside, but soft and tender on the inside.  

The branzino was fresh and delicious. I had never tried the artichoke caponata before- a blend of kalamata olives and artichokes served with olive oil and garlic- but definitely enjoyed it. Sal loves artichokes like I love bone marrow, so he had a major R-rated experience with the caponata.

For dessert we ordered the Tiramisu and the chef’s special, the Amaretto Crème brûlée.They were both good but the crème brûlée was superb, divine, mouthwatering, and all other words you can use to describe something delectable. With every bite I took I got sadder and sadder because I knew I was closer to the end. If you go and have to choose just one dessert, ask if they’re serving this and have some. You’re welcome! Definitely make some time to stop by this gem. I think good Italian restaurants are hard to find, even in this city and this place is definitely one of the better choices. Now they’re even on Seamless Web, so  you can order the Agnello from your computer… in fact maybe that’s what I’ll have for lunch today.

Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

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You’ve probably seen this recipe a few times on Pinterest as it’s definitely a favorite among bakers and cookie lovers. And after finally giving it a try a few weeks ago I know why. The raves are true, these are indeed the best ever chocolate chip cookies. They’re soft, chewy in the middle with a bit of crisp on the outside edges, a good size and filled with decadent mouth-watering chocolate. All that taste comes at a price, as the recipe requires you to refrigerate the dough for 36 hours, so plan to make these in advance. They also store really well and considering you’ll be able to make around 30-40 cookies with this batch, that’s a good thing. I would definitely recommend that you make these with the recommended chocolate disks ( 60 percent cacao) as they taste much better. I made a small batch with regular chocolate chips and they were delicious, but the chocolate was not oozing out of every bite the way it did with the disks. So if you’re going to make them, invest in some good chocolate and stock up on both cake and bread flour, which is the combination that makes these cookies so irresistible. Side note, if you’re a fan of cookie dough, this is also the best cookie dough I’ve ever tasted. I’m pretty sure I ate enough of it to make 4 cookies, probably not the best idea but it had to be done. 

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Even Khalessi wanted in on the action 

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