Monthly Archives: December 2008

Nuts over these nuts…


These are still cooling on the baking sheet upstairs; I had to come downstairs for a bit to get away because I couldn’t stop eating them!

This is the first of the New Year’s Eve recipes I’m making for tomorrow night’s dinner. I plan to put a dish of them out for guests to snack on as they arrive and sip their champagne cocktails. It’s a recipe I found on the Food Network Website. Thank you Emeril!


Spicy Cocktail Nuts

(recipe courtesy of Emeril via Food Network website)
*note: I halved the recipe because there are only 8 of us for dinner tomorrow! For the egg, I whisked with water and then only used about half of that mixture. 


  • 1 large egg white
  • 1 teaspoon water
  • 4 cups assorted shelled nuts (walnuts, pecans, almonds, peanuts) *I used cashews, almonds, hazelnuts, and macadamias.
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons Essence, recipe follows
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne *I omitted, since there is already cayenne in the Essence and I didn’t want the spice to be too strong for mixed company.
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt *I used coarse ground salt.


Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together egg white and water until frothy. Add the nuts and toss to coat. In a small bowl, combine the sugar, Essence, cayenne, and salt. Add to the nuts and stir to coat evenly. Spread the nuts on the prepared pan and bake until dry, about 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes. *Note: I left the nuts in the oven for about 60 minutes because they didn’t seem quite done at 45 min. Remove from the oven and stir to separate. Let cool on the baking sheet. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Essence (Emeril’s Creole Seasoning):

  • 2 1/2 tablespoons paprika
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon dried leaf oregano
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme

Combine all ingredients thoroughly and store in an airtight jar or container. Yield: about 2/3 cup

Recipe from “New New Orleans Cooking”, by Emeril Lagasse and Jessie Tirsch. Published by William and Morrow, 1993.


New Year’s Eve Menu 2009


This year my husband and I have decided to stay in for New Year’s Eve and welcome in 2009 with his parents and 4 very dear friends. Each guest will take home a personalized wine glass (I used paint pens from Michael’s; wine glasses from Target.) My husband’s family is in the process of planting a vineyard, and everyone who is coming enjoys wine very much. We decided to go with a sort of tasting menu with French wine pairings (well, minus the prosecco in the cocktails!) 
Here’s to some of our 2009 resolutions: enjoy each other, enjoy family and friends, and enjoy good food and wine by entertaining more often in our home. Happy Near Year! 

Apricot Fizz (Prosecco based cocktail)
Spicy Cocktail Nuts

Fallen Goat Cheese Souffles on Wilted Spinach
Les Fontanelles Sauvignon Blanc (Southern France) 2007

Pork Tenderloin En Croute
Pear and Parsnip Puree
Chateau de France Rouge (Pessac-Leognan) 2003 

Grand Marnier Creme Brulee with Chocolate Ginger Shards
Chateau d’Arche Sauternes (Bordeaux) 2005 

For the midnight champagne toast:
Moet & Chandon Grand Vintage Rose 2000

Make your own pizza night

I love hanging out with old friends around Christmas. Luckily, 2 of my best friends were free at the same time that I was, and they were able to come over for dinner! I decided to do a make your own pizza night. I started with an appetizer of Wingless Buffalo Chicken Dip:

img_0219(Source: my mom’s friend from work. I will post the recipe soon!)

I cheated a bit, and bought a pre-made dough ball from Wegmans. There was just no way homemade dough was happening yesterday, and Wegmans dough balls have never done me wrong!


With my husband, there were 4 of us, so I split the dough ball into 4 sections, and everyone got to make their own pizzas! We all decided we felt like thicker, puffy dough, so we didn’t bake the crusts by themselves at all. We just topped and popped into the preheated oven onto preheated stoneware (450 degrees.) I included pizza sauce, shredded mozzarella and provolone, shaved asiago, grated parmesan, pepperoni from the deli counter, proscuitto, fresh arugula, and mushrooms (these I sauteed in a little butter and olive oil with some fresh thyme, coarse salt, and ground pepper for about 10 min. and let cool). I also had some hot red pepper flakes out on the counter, and some olives for snacking.


I also put out a mixed green salad with raspberry vinaigrette. Dessert was not photographed… I made some molten chocolate cakes that I overcooked (only I would overcook a cake that by nature is supposed to be undercooked in the center, haha.) They were tasty!, but not quite as intended. 🙂

Here are a few action shots of the pizza making…

My friend Lauren, concentrating:

Hubby Ben:

Me (Things to note: 1. There is, as always, flour all over my shirt. 2. My friend is on the phone. Apparently I was taking too long with my dough? ;), and 3. I really need a hair cut.

Finally, my friend Jen, who truly never cooks. Her pizza came out really great!! We’re proud of you Jen! 🙂

Jen’s awesome pizza:


As promised, I decided to make a trifle with last night’s Chocolate Chip Banana Bread. I asked my husband to name it. See title of this post for his answer. Haha 🙂

I decided to use eight 8 oz. ramekins and make mini-trifles so it would be easier for him to take the rest to work with him tomorrow. I cubed the bread, made vanilla pudding, and layered as follows: pudding, bread, pudding, bread, pudding. I looked around for something crunchy for a garnish, but instead found a bag of peanut butter / milk chocolate swirl chips. I topped each mini-trifle with a few of those. 

My husband (obviously) loved them. I thought they were great, but a tad sweet for me. I found myself wishing for a strong cup of coffee to balance out the sugar overload. Hey, at least the sugar boost kept me up long enough to blog about the dessert!


And Locatelli comes in at….

…#2 on my list of favorite cheeses! Brie comes in #1 of course. We can discuss brie (at length) another day.


Apparently Locatelli is (I think) a brand of cheese. Growing up, I thought it was a type of cheese, not a particular brand. My uncle always used to make tons of fabulous Italian food at his house, and without fail there would be a little glass bowl of finely grated Locatelli. We’d pass it around and sprinkle a mountain of it on our food with a little metal spoon. Here is a link about the history of Locatelli cheese in case you are interested: History of Locatelli Seriously, the stuff is amazing.


I was so excited when I found Locatelli at our grocery store recently. It used to be so special when we traveled to New Jersey to visit my aunt and uncle. Now I can have it at home. Even better: I found a recipe that called for Pecorino Romano. That’s what I made tonight: Farfalle with Cauliflower and Turkey Sausage from December 2008 Cooking Light.

4 servings (serving size: about 1 1/2 cups)


  • 2  (4-ounce) links mild Italian turkey sausage
  • 3  cups  small cauliflower florets
  • 2  tablespoons  extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1/2  teaspoon  salt, divided
  • 5  garlic cloves, sliced
  • 4  cups  uncooked farfalle (bow tie pasta) [I used ziti because that’s what I had!]
  • 1/2  teaspoon  crushed red pepper
  • 1/2  cup  (2 ounces) grated fresh pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1/4  teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper


1. Preheat oven to 450°. [Yes, I used the new toaster just because I could! See previous post :)]

2. Pierce sausage several times with a knife. Combine sausage, cauliflower, and 1 tablespoon oil in a small roasting pan; toss. Sprinkle evenly with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Bake at 450° for 15 minutes. Add garlic to pan; toss. Bake an additional 5 minutes or until sausage is done. Let stand 5 minutes. Cut sausage crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices.

3. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; drain, reserving 2 tablespoons pasta cooking water. Combine pasta, reserved cooking water, remaining 1 tablespoon oil, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, and crushed red pepper in a large bowl; toss. Add cauliflower mixture, sausage, and cheese; toss gently to combine. Sprinkle with black pepper.


Banana bread…in a toaster!

So… we were recently very fortunate to get a Williams Sonoma gift card through a credit card points program, and we immediately knew we had to replace our sad, sad toaster. The old toaster came from my husand’s house before we were married, barely even toasted plain old toast, and sometimes started smoking. Yikes! I didn’t even bother taking a photo of it.  You can all envision the old, decrepit toaster, I’m sure! Here, in all its glory between the oven and the fridge, is the new toaster:


Apparently, our toaster (which, I remind you, we got for free…yay credit card points!) is actually a tiny oven. This will help immensely when I’m trying to cook a bunch of things at once. Until today, I had only toasted bread and warmed up some frozen soft pretzels. Exciting, I know. Today I jumped right in and made a…


…chocolate chip banana bread! (Food Network Kitchens recipe; sub chocolate chips for the walnuts.) The verdict: it’s awesome to be able to see the food on countertop level through clear glass. I had the convection setting on by mistake at first, though, and I’m not used to a convection oven. It definitely got a bit darker than I meant it to. The other issue was that I tried buttering the pan differently (I usually use that baking cooking spray with flour in it.) The bread didn’t come out of the pan very well. That’s ok, though, because I think I’m going to cut it into cubes and attempt a trifle tomorrow with chocolate chip banana bread and homemade vanilla pudding. 🙂


Hot Mulled Wine

I love hot mulled wine. It totally says warm and cozy to me, especially when decorating the Christmas tree! Granted, it was sunny and on the warm side on Saturday, so we didn’t really NEED a hot drink. Still, though, it helped to set the mood. I used a Red Zin because it’s what we had open. Enjoy!



Hot Mulled Wine from Cooking Light, December 2008


6 servings (serving size: 1/2 cup)

  • 1/3  cup  sugar
  • 1/4  cup  bourbon
  • 1  (750-milliliter) bottle cabernet sauvignon or other dry red wine
  • 1  sachet Mulling Spice Blend
  • Cinnamon sticks (optional)


1. Combine first 4 ingredients in a large saucepan. Bring to a simmer; cook 20 minutes. Discard sachet. Serve warm. Serve with cinnamon sticks, if desired.

And a picture of the tree, just for fun. 🙂