Tuesday, February 22, 2011

In honor of National Margarita Day, I am moving to the Republic of Moldova

     A story published today in The Huffington Post,  names the Republic of Moldova as the number one "drunkest" country in the world!  What a fabulous accolade!   The country is located between Romania and the Ukraine, and the drink of choice is vodka.  The United States came in at number 57 on the list, no where near the top 25.  No wonder we are so uptight in this country...

Happy National Margarita Day!  A perfect excuse, reason, purpose for drinking fine tequila.  And that, my friends, makes for a perfect Tuesday.

The Perfect Margarita, perfectly perfected

Serves 4 or 6, depending on the size of your margarita glass

1 lime, cut into 6 wedges
coarse salt
1 3/4 cups Jose Cuervo 1800
1/4 cup  Grand Marnier
1/2 cup fresh squeezed lime juice
1/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice

To salt-rim the glasses, rub a cut lime around the rim of each glass. Fill a saucer with salt, and dip each glass, upside down, into the salt. Set aside.

Fill a blender jar three-quarters full of ice cubes. Pour tequila, Cointreau, Grand Marnier, lime and orange juice over the ice. Begin blending on low, then increase the speed to high, until the ice is very finely chopped and the mixture is frothy.  This can also be served on the rocks, skipping the blender step, instead shaking in an ice filled cocktail shaker.

Pour into the salt-rimmed glasses. Serve immediately.

You can read the full article here:


Friday, February 18, 2011

Giant Snickers!

The birthday boy Babe (holding Dennis' gift) with nephew Sully and Jimmy

    Some of my fondest memories of growing up, being the youngest of five kids, was the way my Mom made each of us feel very special on our birthday.  We weren't showered with expensive gifts, or taken to fancy restaurants, but we were given the gift of choosing our favorite dinner and dessert.  Everything was made from scratch.  We didn't even know that boxed cake mixes or jarred spaghetti sauce existed.  No hesitations, our Mom always came through for us.  This tradition continued on for many years into our adult lives, until my Mom was no longer able to bake.  I am proud to say that I have carried it on with my own boys, and now the Babe, too.
Helen showing off one of her gifts.
(Please forgive my party foul with all the empty wine glasses.  Trust me, they were refilled)
Dennis pre-Super Bowl celebration with his new Terrible Towel

Helen and Dennis -
one the rare photos of him not making a goofy face : )

      Recently I had the honor of hosting a Trifecta Birthday Extravaganza, for my sister-in-law Helen, my brother Dennis, and the Babe.  With this trio, I knew I had to pull out all the stops, which meant I had to pull out a recipe out of my Mom's recipe box.  The Chocolate Ribbon Cake!  OMG!  We hadn't had it in years.  This had been Dennis' birthday cake of choice since he was old enough to speak.  I remember being seven or eight, watching my Mom ice the cake, and when she was finished and it sat in all it's glory on her crystal cake plate (the one we only used for birthday cakes), I thought it looked just like a giant Snickers bar!  It was so beautiful...

     After all these years, it tasted even better than I remembered.  The chocolate cake is extremely moist with a rich cocoa flavor, and the surprise ribbon of cheesecake is nothing short of outstanding!

     What a wonderful way to say Happy Birthday to the ones you love...or yourself.

Please note your icing will turn out much darker.  I only had milk chocolate chips to make this batch.


2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups milk, divided use
2 eggs
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 egg
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/3 cup milk
1/4 cup butter
1 6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped fine
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups sifted powdered sugar

For best results, all ingredients should be room temperature.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9-by-13-inch pan. 

Combine flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Add butter and 1 cup of the milk. Blend at lowest speed in electric mixer, then beat 1 1/2 minutes at low speed. Add remaining Cake ingredients, including the remaining 1/2 cup milk. Beat 1 1/2 more minutes at low speed.

Cream butter, 1/4 cup sugar and cornstarch until fluffy. Add remaining ingredients for the cheese mixture and beat until creamy.

Spread 1/2 cake batter in prepared pan. Spoon on cheese mixture, carefully spreading to cover. Top with remaining cake batter. 

Bake 45 to 50 minutes. Let cool.

Bring 1/3 cup milk and 1/4 butter to a boil in a small saucepan. Remove from heat; blend in chocolate and stir till melted.  Add 1 teaspoon vanilla and powdered sugar. Beat until smooth and creamy. 

Spread evenly over top of cooled cake.

Eat happy to you, 
eat happy to you, 
it's delicious and nutritious, 
eat happy to you!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Sea beet, anyone?

                                             Well, actually a descendant of the sea beet, and one of Mother Nature's super foods - Swiss chard!  Alright, alright, stop squinting your nose and just stay with me.  I had only tasted Swiss chard twice before, both times prepared in restaurants, many years ago.  Recently, I was sent this recipe from good family friends,  Jim and Marty.  They have a beautiful home on Togus Pond in Augusta, Maine, and are incredibly talented in the kitchen.  Not to mention, two of the nicest guys whose home we can crash this summer. : )

Jim and Marty's view of Togus Pond 

     I am just going to come right out and say it, "THIS IS AMAZINGLY DELICIOUS!"  The cooking technique removes any bitterness the Swiss chard may have, and the combination of flavors hits the palate in a magnificent way!  No, I have not lost my mind or my love of chocolate.  Nor have I gone over the edge or to the dark side of 'crazed healthy-only eating'.   You are going to have to trust me on this one, and try it for yourself.  If you are not as thrilled as I was with the results, Jim will refund you your money.

Thanks for the recipe Jim - can't wait to see you and Marty this summer!

Jim Frank's Phenomenal Swiss Chard

Take twenty-twenty five Swiss Chard (including the stems), trim the ends of the stalks and wash/pat dry

Heat a quarter cup of olive oil in a large pan (with lid), add two cloves of garlic (pressed), and one stick of butter. 

Cook the Swiss Chard until the texture has wilted, add a cup of crumbled panchetta and cover for five minutes on simmer. 

Plate the Swiss Chard and sprinkle with almond slivers and squirt a thin line of honey across the plate. Enjoy! 

Just think of how much fun it will be when your kid's or mate asks you, "what's for dinner?" and you can answer, "sea beets, and your gonna like it".  Eat heart healthy happy!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Dinner - Cupid of the Sea!

    If you are lucky enough to be with the one you love today, why not show them your affection by cooking this fabulous meal?  If you happen to be a swingin' single, this recipe is perfect as any leftovers make for the perfect lunch tomorrow.  This is an adaptation from Gino D'Acampo's Italian dishes recipe , and not only is it delicious, it's heart healthy!  The Babe loves the fact that it is good for his heart, and that makes it good for my soul.  

     I made a couple of additions as noted below.   The preparation time is minimal, allowing you the opportunity to share a glass of wine or a great make-out session with your partner while the shrimp sizzle...

Linguine with garlic, shrimp and spinach

Gino D'Acampo
  • 10 ounces linguine
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, sliced
  • I added 1 medium Vidalia onion, chopped
  • 5 ounces spinach leaves
  • 14 ounces uncooked shrimp, peeled
  • 4 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • I added 3/4 cup vegetable broth
  • Grated zest of 1 unwaxed lemon
  • 10 cherry tomatoes, quartered
Cook the pasta in a large saucepan in plenty of boiling salted water until al dente.
Meanwhile, in a large frying pan, heat the oil over medium heat and fry the garlic for 1 minute until golden. Add the spinach and cook for another 2 minutes.
Add the shrimp with the parsley and season with salt and pepper.  Add in vegetable broth.  Stir well and continue to cook for 2 minutes.
Once the pasta is cooked, drain and add to the frying pan, then lower the heat.
Add the lemon zest and cherry tomatoes and stir everything together for 30 seconds. Serve immediately.
Serving Size
Serves 4

Happy Valentine's Day!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Nothing says L-O-V-E like a stiff drink...

Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
The Babe really loves my cocktails
So I made him two

Cupid shooting his arrow.  
Conversation hearts in a bowl.
Perfect excuse to eat chocolates.
Love abounding.
Robert Redford washing Meryl Streep's hair in that unforgettable scene from 
Out of Africa...ahh, romance.

     Valentine's Day is just around the corner, and this year I have decided that the most romantic thing I can do for the Babe is pour him an awesome drink and cook him an incredible meal.  (okay, there are more romantic things I can and will do for the man I love, but those will not make it into the blog.  As much as we get a kick out of grossing out our kids,  I will refrain...this time.)   

     This holiday, being our first married Valentine's Day, I have to go above and beyond his favorite perfectly dirty martini.  What would be better than a whole series of cocktails to set the tone for our Valentine evening?

Cupid's Arrow

1 ounce Heering Cherry liqueur
1 ounce DeKuyper Peachtree schapps
4 ounces of fresh orange juice

Fill cocktail shaker with ice, add all ingredients and shake well.  Pour into a tall, ice filled highball glass and garnish with an orange slice and cherry.  Your mate won't even feel the sting of the arrow.

Once the effect of Cupid's Arrow begins to set in, share this next cocktail to really set the mood...

French Kiss

2 ounces Absolut Vodka
2 ounces Chambord raspberry liqueur
1 ounce Creme de Cacao white
1 ounce half and half

Fill cocktail shaker with ice, combine all ingredients and shake well. Strain into a chilled martini glass.  Sip once, and kiss your partner twice.

    By this time, your lover should be relaxed, smiling, and totally infatuated with you.  In the unlikely event that he or she isn't, proceed to the third cocktail.  Please advance with caution.  The impending results may cause erratically romantic behavior in men.   

Love Potion # 9

2 ounce Stoli Strawberry Vodka
1 ounce fresh lemon juice
1 ounce agava nectar
dash of bitters

Fill cocktail shaker with ice, add all ingredients and shake vigorously.  Pour into chilled martini glass or over an ice filled rocks glass.  Serve to your sweetheart on a silver tray and remind him how much he looks like Robert Redford.   And much you love those cute chocolate diamonds.

     If you have made it through the entire series of Valentine cocktails - congratulations!  If you are as lucky as me, and you don't really need to get your date intoxicated to truly appreciate you on this holiday, you can skip all of the above and just serve this one - 

Happily Ever After

2 ounces DiSaronno Amaretto 
1 ounce Hendrick's Gin
1 ounce club soda
spash of Cointreau

Fill rocks glass with ice.  Pour in Amaretto and gin, top with club soda and Cointreau, and stir and add two cherries.  If you are really in the Valentine's Day spirit, you can garnish with a chocolate covered strawberry : )

Drink happy - LOVE happy!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Comfort comes in many forms...

Okay, okay... I'll admit it.  I was a bit depressed Sunday night after the Super Bowl.  All of my emotions, thoughts, and excitement built up over the past two weeks, and I just knew my Pittsburgh Steelers were going to do it, bring home the championship, and set the new NFL record of seven Super Bowl wins!  I just knew it!

Unfortunately, my psychic abilities were a bit off.  We lost.  The Green Bay Packers played an awesome game, and deservedly won.  Their fans were gracious, making my loss (yes, I know I sound like it's personal and all about me) slightly easier to swallow.  Congratulations, Green Bay.  I mean it.

I could tell Babe, and even our labradoodles were starting to worry about me.  Still reeling yesterday, and feeling myself spiral even further downward, I knew I had to do something about it.   Something to lift my spirits and pull my sorry self out of my Steelers-lost-the-Super-Bowl-and-now-I-have-to-wait-7-months-for-football-to-return-to-my-life funk.

It would have to be something major.  Something drastic.  And something involving peanut butter...

Better Than Prozac Cookie Bars

4 cups miniature marshmallows
3/4 cup peanut butter
8 cups Rice Krispies
1 cup white chocolate chips

Lightly spray a 9 x 13 baking pan with non-stick cooking oil.
In microwave safe bowl, heat the peanut butter and marshmallows for 2 minutes, stir, and heat for an addition minute if needed.  Stir until smooth.  Add in the Rice Krispies and white chocolate chips, and mix until blended.  Pat into your prepared baking pan, and see if you can wait until they cool before you devour them.  

Eat happy - don't let life get you down, it's just a game - LIVE HAPPY!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Super Bowl - a perfect reason to party!


     It comes but once a year.  Even if you happen to not be a football fan,  most of you still get caught up in it.  The excitement builds for two weeks leading up to the opening kick.  And the moment my Pittsburgh Steelers clinched the AFC title, my mind started spinning as to what I would serve at this year's SUPER BOWL EXTRAVAGANZA!

     The last time my champs were there, in 2008, I made the famous Primanti Brothers sandwiches, which were a huge success.  The recipe has quite a few steps, and is a bit time consuming, but the end result is nothing short of perfection to the palette.  You won't be disappointed.  Eat Happy & Go STEELERS!

8 servings


For the slaw
  • 1 pound (about half of a medium-size head) green cabbage, shredded or finely chopped (about 6 cups)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • Freshly ground black pepper
For the twice-fried potatoes
  • 6 to 8 large (4 to 5 pounds) russet potatoes, washed well
  • 8 cups vegetable oil, for frying
  • Kosher salt
For the meat and cheese
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 pounds spicy, thinly sliced capicola ham
  • 8 thin slices provolone cheese (about 5 ounces)
For assembly
  • 4 vine-ripened tomatoes, cut into 16 thin slices
  • 16 large slices of soft Italian bread (18 ounces total)


For the slaw: Combine the cabbage, sugar, salt and celery seed in a colander set over a medium bowl. Let stand at least 1 hour and up to 4 hours; the cabbage will be wilted (about 4 cups total).
Discard the draining liquid in the bowl; rinse and dry the bowl, then transfer the wilted cabbage to the bowl. Add the oil and vinegar; toss to coat. Season with pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
For the twice-fried potatoes: Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Line a few large baking sheets with several layers of paper towels. Fill a large bowl with cold water.
Cut the (unpeeled) potatoes lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick sticks. Submerge in the cold water. Rinse in subsequent changes of cold water to remove all visible starch, then drain in a colander and spread the potatoes on the paper towels, patting the potatoes dry.
Heat the oil in a large, heavy pot over medium-high heat, until the oil temperature reaches 320 degrees.
Fry the potatoes in 4 batches; each batch will take 2 to 4 minutes. Stir occasionally as they cook, until the fries are soft and cooked through but still pale. Allow enough time for the oil to return to 320 degrees between batches; use an instant-read thermometer to monitor the oil. Use a slotted spatula to transfer the potatoes to the lined baking sheets.
Increase the heat to high (or as needed) so that the temperature of the oil reaches 375 degrees. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Refresh the paper towels on the baking sheets as needed.
Cook the fries a second time, working in 4 batches; each batch will take 2 to 3 minutes, until the fries are crisp and golden brown. Transfer to the lined baking sheets. Immediately season lightly with salt, then place in the oven to keep the fries warm.
For the meat and cheese: Melt the butter in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Have ready a large baking sheet.
Separate the ham slices and add to the skillet, turning them as needed until the slices are warmed through. Transfer the slices to the baking sheet, creating 8 equal portions. Top each with a slice of provolone cheese. Place in the oven (along with the fries) just until the cheese has melted.
For assembly: Place the portions of cheese-topped ham on 8 bread slices. Top with a large handful of the warm fries, then pile about 1/2 cup of the slaw on each portion. Garnish with 2 tomato slices for each portion; use the remaining 8 pieces of bread to finish each sandwich. Serve warm.

Recipe Source:

Adapted from a Primanti Bros. recipe by Washington food writer Scott Reitz.