Make This Year’s Mid Week Valentines Day Extra Sweet

This year, Valentine’s Day falls on a Tuesday.  So, having a romantic night out might not be in the cards. However, there is nothing stopping you from giving your love(s) a mid week treat that shows them how much you care.

If you have ever been out to eat on February 14th, there is a very good chance chocolate lava cake was on the menu.  Many times, the server will even point it out when you order your meal because if you want it, the kitchen needs to be told in advance.  So, of course, you commit before you have even sipped your cocktail to that delicious little cake that oozes molten chocolate out all over the dish.

While it might seem like magic, it’s really just an undercooked brownie and it only has five ingredients! So, if you are staying in this year, and might even be serving a ho hum dinner as it’s a weekday and the kids have activities and homework, you can still dazzle everyone with this spectacular little dessert. 

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'Suped-Up' Super Bowl Sunday

The super bowl is approaching and if your house is anything like mine, it’s the one day a year your husband and his friends take over the living room, get loud and have a good time watching America’s favorite sport.

I’m not a fan of football.  Sad to say, I’m still not very clear on the rules and haven’t invested much time trying to figure it out.  What I do enjoy though, is any excuse to throw together a fun party with really good food.

Now yes, you can throw some chips in a bowl and call it a day but seriously, where is the fun in that?  Instead, this year, get creative so that even if you’re aren’t interested in the game, you will still be having a good time…eating.

I can’t tell you who is playing in the game but what I can guarantee is that if you make a few of these delicious recipes, all of your guest will be well fed and happy regardless of who scores the winning touchdown.

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From Nonna's Kitchen: Nainai Tina’s Delicious Dumplings

Tina Yao is a Chinese immigrant I had the great honor of cooking with recently.  We met through her daughter-in-law, Katrina, who like me, feels it’s important to preserve family traditions and culture.  One morning, I headed over to learn how to make dumplings, a northern Chinese staple.  Tina graciously showed me how to make thin dough with two ingredients, flour and water, and a savory pork filling that she mixes up with chopsticks and quickly stuffs into the rolled out dough.  In a blink of an eye, she seals each one in perfect, identical pleats.  Needless to say, I still need some practice!

I loved making dumplings with her and listening to her tell stories about her village and how the woman would sit for hours in preparation for the New Year, making these dumplings all day long, eating and gossiping as they worked.  People coming in and out to chat and eat.

With Chinese New Year approaching, try Tina’s dumplings.  They can be steamed, boiled or pan-fried.  I know I’ll be practicing my pleats and eating some delicious dumplings as I go!

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From Nonna's Kitchen: Grandma Dorothy’s Potato Pie

For some reason, whenever I make a new Nonna recipe and place it on the dinner table, it’s the first thing to go. When it’s a true Nonna recipe, one helping is never enough.  Therefore, on Christmas day, I decided to try a recipe that was contributed to my Heirloom Kitchen by one of my favorite cousins-in-law, Jackie Novello.  The recipe comes from Jackie’s beloved grandmother Dorothy, an English immigrant.

Dorothy was an exceptional cook. Jackie lovingly remembers her cooking British classics like Yorkshire pudding and shepherd’s pie. One recipe that is still a favorite for Jackie’s family is a true British dish - potato pie. Perfect for holidays, special occasions or simply as an indulgent breakfast topped with a fried egg, it's not a pie at all, just some really cheesy delicious mashed potatoes. But, I must say, some of the best mashed potatoes this side of the pond.

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From Nonna's Kitchen: Oma Susanne's Appelkoken

One of the most magical aspects of an heirloom recipe is that it can transport you.  It can take you to a simpler time and place.  A time when you were young, and childhood was filled with love from doting grandparents and dishes that represent who we are.  A bite of a dish like this will fill you up with warmth, happiness and a sense of family.  Our grandmother’s kitchens were a sacred place where love was in abundance and the stove was always working hard, making something good to eat.

I especially felt this when a recipe for Appelkoken was shared with my heirloom kitchen by Susanne Kidd, a German immigrant. Her beloved grandmother, Oma Hildegard, taught this recipe to her.  Susanne remembers her important task of helping her grandmother on New Year’s Eve when these delicious little donuts are made.

Susanne’s job was to fetch the apples, left over from the fall harvest, from the cellar.  The apples may have been a bit wrinkled but with a good peeling, a fine chop, they were ready to drop in the batter with the rum raisins and fine vanilla sugar.  As baker’s helper, she had the important task to taste the first batch to make sure they were acceptable.  Still warm, they were showered with powdered sugar and served to the lucky New Year’s guests.

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Sweet Tooth Friday: Nonna Katherine's Wafer Cookies

There are some recipes that are so special, preserving them, is simply mandatory.  When I saw an old friend of mine Lauren posting these little cookies on Facebook last year, I knew I needed to get the back-story. 

Lauren’s grandmother Katherine made these delicious cookies for her entire adult life.  They were not only the family favorite, her friends and neighbors loved them too. 

Now, Lauren makes these cookies every Christmas because they remind her of her grandmother.  She knows they will never be as perfect as Nonna Katherine’s but by making them, she gets to spend a little time in the kitchen with her grandmother and what could be better than that?

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Anna Gass
Where The Dandelions Grow in Campania: Frances’ Italian Dandelions with Eggs

Whenever I cook with a Nonna or am lucky enough to have a friend share a cherished family recipe, the first question I ask is, “what makes this recipe so special?”  Every time, the answer is simple; because my Nonna made it for me.  It’s not a fancy ingredient or special cooking technique that keeps a recipe in a family for generations.  Instead, it’s the fondness we have for the person that first made it for us, and how she continued to make it for us, again and again, because we loved it.

This feeling was so evident when I spoke to Sandi Piacenza.  A lovely woman who took the time to tell me her family’s immigration story from Italy.  Sandi was born in the USA but her mother Frances Carolluzzi Forlenzo came from Italy and raised her and her two brothers in Stamford, Connecticut.  I love Frances’ story because it truly embodies why so many Italians came to America.  Frances’ parents dreamt of a better life for their daughter.  They saved up their money to send her here on her own.  At the ripe age of 16, she embarked for a new life.  Arriving in Ellis Island, Sandi proudly told me how her mother’s name is engraved on the wall.  She married Sandi’s father, Sabitino, at 17 ½. 

This recipe was taught to Frances by her mother in law, Rose Dellacorte.  The woman she credited with teaching her how to cook. Lucky for me, Sandi made sure to observe her mother and write the recipe down. And the best part, Sandi’s daughter Natalie is the one to bring it to my attention.  It’s her favorite Christmas Eve dish. Therefore, this recipe has been in this family over 100 years.  The family jokes how their ancestors would have to get the dandelions needed for this savory egg dish.  Now, when I make it, I feel like I can picture the Nonna sending the children out to pick them all over the hills of Campania.

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Cut It Out! Making Holiday Cookies A Real Treat

Holidays are really about memories we create with our family.  Not the hustle, bustle and whether or not you were able to score a Hatchimal before they sold out.  One way my family takes a breather from the craziness is to make holiday cookies together.  The kids LOVE making sugar cookie cut outs.  We have old cookie cutters, passed down from my mom that we used when I was a child.  I make a buffet of bowls filled with sprinkles, frosting, little candies and really anything that will stick to cookies and let them have at it.

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From Nonna's Kitchen: Once Upon A Tajine (A Lovely Trip to Morocco)

My Heirloom Kitchen has taught me so much more than culinary school ever did.  Old world methods, recipes you many not think will work, but definitely do.  In fact, you see how a few simple ingredients can be transformed into a dish families have (and will) enjoy for generations.

The most recent stop on my global tour was Morocco.  A charming woman, Safoi, introduced me to North African cuisine, a type of food I hadn’t yet explored. Most importantly, she explained the benefits and infinite uses of a tajine, a cooking vessel used in so many Moroccan recipes. It is perfect for slow-cooked foods.

Safoi's chicken tagine is simple and delicious.  The carrots are sweet and create a delicious base. The result is a hearty dish. If you already own a slow cooker, you don’t have to buy a tajine.  However, honestly, now when I place my tajine on the stove and fire it up, I feel like I’ve already arrived in Morocco.

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Don’t Be Chicken On Turkey Day! Tips For a Stress-Free (and Delicious) Thanksgiving...

Holidays are rough.  So much to do, so little time and most of the time, the brunt of the cooking will inevitably fall on one person.  However, if you create a solid game plan and are wiling to begin a few days early, the day of will turn out great and most importantly, enjoyable for you.

I love that Thanksgiving falls on a Thursday.  That means, I have a crazy week but then three days after to recover physically and … mentally.  My Thanksgiving dinner begins the weekend before, yes, Saturday before Thanksgiving is when I get it all down on paper.  My holidays and big dinners all begin with food magazines for inspiration, Google and a trusty notebook with the last ten years of my menus. 

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Sunday Supper: Oven Baked Baby Back Ribs

This recipe is one of my favorite inventions.  It shows that your oven is a magical place and sometimes, minimal effort can still produce maximum results.  I’m a huge fan of ribs and never liked the fact that once summer ended, so did my enjoyment of a good plate of ribs.  I stumbled upon a rib recipe that gave an oven variation.  I tried it and it was ok, but not great.   I still missed the grill.

A few years later, I found another recipe that was pretty complicated but touted one simple practice that I thought was genius.  So, I grabbed that, made a few tweaks and came up with a killer recipe that produces the juiciest, fall of the bone ribs you will ever make!

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Tuesday Treats (Fall Favorites): Candy Autumn Apple POPS

Starting In early September, when we go to the church fair, my kids beg for a candy apple.  Always, I wince because the apples are big, really difficult to eat and prove to be a sticky mess! However, though it’s laden with candy, I do like the idea of a crisp organic apple at the center of this treat and I figured if I could make it easier to eat, it might be fun to make at home.

The solution? Apple POPS, of course!

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Anna Gass
Sunday Supper (Fall Favorites): Lasagna Bolognese

My favorite aspect of Fall is how we all begin to crave some down-home cooking.  Summer is for eating light and grilling everything.  However, once the leaves begin to turn color and scatter, we break out the slow cooker, baked recipes and enjoy our Nonna recipes that keep us sated and warm, inside and out.

I’ve said in past posts how my mother’s brodo (tomato sauce) pops up in many of her recipes so I always have it on hand.  First, I make a big batch of brodo on Saturday, divvy it up into Tupperware and store it in the freezer.  Then, when I want to make a recipe, like Pasta Bolognese, I get fresh ground meat, pancetta frying up in the pan and add my brodo for a killer pasta sauce.

If I want to make an extra special dinner, I take it one step further, I make besciamella and roll out fresh lasagna sheets.  These components come together for a truly stand out dish, Lasagna Bolognese.

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Steaming Up Some Alaskan King Crab Legs!

I received another incredible shipment from Wild Alaska Seafood...this time it was filled with delicious crab legs.  King Crab Legs are fun to eat -- the meat is unmatched in tenderness, sweetness and delicate flavor.  It’s so easy to cook and fun to crack open and enjoy.  Because they are so delicious, just a few ingredients are needed to cook them up and savor.

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Super Mom Sunday: Why Your Slow Cooker Should Be Your New BFF

I always poo poo’ed the use of a slow cooker.  It seemed so 1950s, creating a hot pile of mush to be eaten hours after prep time.  It was an obligatory item on the wedding registry that me, a fancy pants chef, would just leave in the basement with the gift receipt still attached.  However, recently, with my Facebook feed being bombarded with two minute videos of slow cooker recipes that actually looked edible I figured it might be worth a try.

What I discovered is that, with my trusty ol' slow cooker, I don’t have to stress that the minute we walk in the door I’m throwing food in a pan while answering homework questions, finding Peppa Pig on the DVR and stumbling over opened backpacks. In fact, after a little morning elbow grease, dinner is DONE! And, I can walk in, set the table and we can all eat like a (semi) civilized family. 

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