Italian Love Cake

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Just recently, I enjoyed some Italian Love Cake when we celebrated a colleague’s birthday at work.  I’d been told I would love the cake, that it was moist, chocolatey, and simply delicious.  Boy was that an understatement!  This cake is rich, moist, and unlike other cakes you’ve had before.  Let’s take a peek at the ingredients.

1 box fudge marble cake mix
2 tubs ricotta cheese (15 oz. each)
3/4 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 package chocolate instant pudding ( 3 3/4 oz. package)
1 cup milk (2% works fine)
8 oz. container whipped topping
You will want to make this cake in advance, as it tastes so much better when it has some time to sit and allow the flavors to marry.  The process of making this is very easy.  This is certainly a recipe you could have a child help with or make on his/her own.  I apologize for not including step-by-step pictures.  I didn’t have the foresight to take them while I made the cake.
Steps:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Grease and flour a 13×9″ pan.  (I tend to use a baking spray that has the flour incorporated.)
  3. Prepare the cake as directed on the package.
  4. Pour the mix into the baking dish and set aside.
  5. In a large bowl, use a hand mixer to combine the ricotta, sugar, eggs, and vanilla.
  6. Spoon the mixture of the unbaked cake.  Smooth out the top of the cake.
  7. Bake the cake for one hour.  Let the cake cool completely.

While the cake cools, make the frosting.

  1. In a large bowl, mix the pudding and milk.  Combine thoroughly.
  2. Fold in the whipped topping.
  3. Once the cake has cooled completely, spread the frosting over the top of the cake.
  4. Cover and store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Consider serving the cake with a cup of good coffee or hot tea.  As it is quite rich, you likely won’t want ice cream alongside it; although, I could be wrong.  🙂

I would love to hear your thoughts about this tasty treat after you make it.

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Marietta’s Completely Honest Review of Wegman’s Home Delivery

Today, I decided to give the new Wegmans home delivery service a try.  What follows is my unadulterated review of my experience.

This morning, I downloaded the Instacart app, which offered a one-year free trial of their delivery service.  Good deal, if I do say so.  I also had a coupon code for $20 off of a $35 purchase (code: HISYRACUSE), which I thought was a pretty good deal since Wegmans requires a minimum $35 purchase in order to use the service.

I ordered the following items: Wegmans Donut Shop Blend coffee pods, Wegmans Triple Washed Caesar Romaine, International Delight Caramel Macchiato Coffee Creamer, Driscoll’s Blackberries, Chobani Banana on the Bottom Low-Fat Greek Yogurt (3), Wegmans Full Size Assorted Plastic Cutlery, Red Seedless Grapes (1 lb.), Driscoll’s Strawberries (16. oz.), Wegmans Center Cut Bacon, bananas (5).

The site automatically charges your card for a minimum of $35 (if your order is less than $35).  You can choose the time frame for your delivery.  Because I knew I’d be out of town for the day, I selected delivery from 8-9 p.m. and made a note in the comments that the order could be left on my porch if I wasn’t home at deliver time.

At approximately 6:00 p.m., I received a notification that my “shopper” was selecting items for my order.  I then received a notification that the shopper replaced the romaine salad with Triple Washed Romaine Salad (same price).  I approved the change not realizing that the new salad was not just lettuce, which I wanted, but lettuce with carrots and cabbage.

At 7:55 p.m., I received a notification that my order was being delivered.  Around the same time, I received a phone call from Instacart informing me that the shopper was at my house.  I returned the call and explained that I wanted the order left on the porch, as written in the notes on my order.

When I returned home, the order was not on my porch, so I called Instacart.  The representative I spoke with explained to me that the order had been delivered and was…ready for this?…under the grill on the back patio, next to the propane tank.  Yup, that’s where it was.  The representative explained that the shopper probably didn’t want the groceries to be stolen.  Okay.  I still don’t know how to process that.

Every item in my order was in the bags under my grill.  The produce I ordered was fresh and like what I would have chosen in the store.  I was curious about the price increase from the items in the store and the items that were delivered.  Here’s what I noticed: Bananas typically cost $0.49/lb.  The five bananas I purchase would have cost $0.90 in the store (per the sticker on the bananas).  I was charged $1.08.  The grapes weighed .85 lbs and would have cost $1.68 in the store.  I was charged $1.95.  The package of bacon would cost $6.29 in the store, but cost $7.19 delivered.  Strawberries retail for $3.49/16 oz.; they were $3.99 delivered.  The four pack of avocados I ordered typically cost $6.99/bag; delivered, they were $7.89.  Perhaps the greatest markup was with the Wegmans brand coffee pods.  Purchased in the store, they would have run approximately $3.99. Delivered, they were $6.29.

In all, the Wegmans service is convenient.  I’m not sure how quickly I’ll use it again.  I’m interested in seeing how other delivery services might work out.

If you’ve tried a home delivery service, I’d love to hear your experience.

 

Pineapple Zucchini Bread

I love to cook and, almost equally, love to talk about food.  There’s something cathartic about putting together a meal, about blending colors, smells, and tastes to produce a dish others will enjoy.  I imagine it’s much like what an artist feels like when working on a piece – you’re not quite sure you have it right, but you keep playing until something clicks, until it feels right.

This weekend, I was fortunate in that I was able to try some new recipes, which I hope to write about soon.  What was supposed to be a quick trip to Wegmans on Saturday turned into a tour of sampling various foods at stations set up around the store and a promise to make some new dishes.  On Sunday, Jacob and I went back to Wegmans to shop for groceries for the week.  Once again, sampling commenced.  That boy will try anything, which often results in us trying new recipes at home.

Anyway, this afternoon I remembered that I have to bring snacks to a meeting at work tomorrow morning.  We planted a garden this summer and the zucchini are in.  They are huge and delicious and plentiful, so I’ve been trying to incorporate them into different meals.  As I write this, I have a tasty zucchini bread baking in the oven.  the prep for this recipe takes about 30 minutes, start to finish.  I didn’t have any egg substitute, so I added one egg and one egg white.  Give this recipe a try when you have a few extra minutes – it’s a fav in my family.

Zucchini Pineapple Bread

Pizza Rustica

I have fond memories of my nonna making pizza rustic when I was a child.  She’d make this double-crusted pizza that was filled with eggs, olives, and Swiss chard that, at the time, I thought was a little odd and a little intriguing.  I distinctly remember a week we were visiting with Nonna and she’d made this pizza for us.  It seemed that she was constantly in the kitchen, cooking something up for us, and expecting us to eat.  I remember a phone call she had with my mother in which she shared her concerns that we weren’t eating enough and my mother explained that we weren’t used to eating so much.  Oh my gosh, the food was delicious, but it was never-ending.  We certainly didn’t starve during that visit!

Today, my mother often makes pizza rustica for family gatherings.  A week or two before Easter, my husband asked whether we’d have it with Easter dinner.  I sometimes joke that we’ve converted him into a good Italian man – I mean, he asked for pizza rustica for Easter!  I should grab his cheeks and jiggle them like I recall my Nonni grabbing mine and saying, “Bella, bella.”  (I also remember my cheeks stung a bit after that.  I love those small flashes of memories.)

In an effort to make my own version of pizza rustica, I called my mother and asked her for the recipe. As with many homemade dishes, the recipe went something like this: you need pizza dough, some hard-boiled eggs, mozzarella, and prosciutto.  No measurements, no concrete directions.  Below you’ll find my attempt at formalizing this recipe for you to recreate in your kitchen.  I hope you enjoy it fills your belly and your soul.

Pizza Rustica

Enough pizza dough for two traditional pizzas (I was in a bit of a hurry, so I bought two bags of this dough.)
12 oz. of shredded mozzarella
1 lb. of thinly sliced prosciutto
1 can of black or kalamata olives, drained and roughly chopped
4-6 hard boiled eggs, peeled and sliced
1 egg and a little water for an egg wash
Kosher salt

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

pizza doughAllow the pizza dough to come up to room temperature. Knead each dough ball on a floured surface. Set the dough aside and let it rise.  Once the dough has doubled in size, you can begin working with it.  Work with each dough ball separately.  You’ll need to punch the dough down and knead it once more before rolling it out.  After you’ve rolled it out, place one of the crusts on your pizza tray or stone.  I used a Pampered Chef pizza stone.

Next, layer half of the prosciutto on the bottom crust.  Resist the temptation to each the other half.DSC_0141

Sprinkle the mozzarella cheese on the pizza.  Be generous with the cheese.  You may find you want more than 12 oz. of cheese.  If so desired, use freshly grated mozzarella cheese.

DSC_0142Layer the pizza with the chopped olives and sliced eggs.  Depending on the size of the pizza, you may wish to use more or less olives and eggs.  Of course, I think more certainly wouldn’t hurt anything.

DSC_0144Finally, spread out the remaining prosciutto.  (Okay, snag a bite or two for yourself – I know I did!) Stretch the top crust over the pizza and roll up the edges to lock in the ingredients.  Score the top of the pizza so there are vents for steam to escape.  Brush the top of the pizza with the egg wash you prepared and sprinkle the pizza with Kosher salt.  Bake the pizza for approximately 30 minutes.  Make sure the crust has cooked thoroughly before removing it from the oven.  Allow the pizza to cool for a few minutes, slice it and enjoy.

This pizza is equally delicious served cold.  If in season, consider adding Swiss chard to the filling.  You might also wish to add marinara sauce on the side for those who like a little sauce with their pizza. Enjoy!

Parsley Salad

It’s been a bit since I last posted a recipe, in part because life’s been so busy that I have had to throw together makeshift meals on more than on occasion.  However, spring’s here and with that brings a renewed desire to cook and try new recipes.

I recently heard a story on NPR about the various ways in which we can incorporate parsley into our meals as more than a garnish or condiment.  This story resonated with me because so often, I use parsley to enhance a dish and have never considered using it as the main ingredient.  Okay, I lie.  I’ve thought of making a tabouli salad, but have not actually made the effort.  So anyway, after listening to the story on NPR, I was motivated and intrigued.  The chef in the story discussed a number of uses for parsley, including making a parsley salad.  That got me thinking.  Would a parsley salad even taste good?  Would people eat it?  I decided to add a parsley salad to my menu at Easter.  Here’s my only regret: I didn’t take a picture of the salad, but between some of us at the table, it was a hit.

Here’s my version of a parsley salad after listening to the story on NPR.

Parsley Salad

1 bunch of curly parsley, roughly chopped (exclude stems)
2 cups of caramelized walnuts, roughly chopped (I bought these at Wegmans.)
2 cups of golden raisins
olive oil

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl.  Lightly drizzle salad with olive oil.  Enjoy.

If I make this salad again, I’ll likely add crisp apples to it.  I think either a Sweet Tango, Ruby Frost, or Granny Smith apple would go well with the parsley and walnuts.  The extra texture and crunch would enhance the flavors of the salad.

If you make this salad, let me know.  I’d love to hear about your take on it.

Basic Pasta Sauce

It’s Sunday morning and it’s cold outside.  I need the smells of onions and garlic to permeate through my kitchen.  If you haven’t caught on yet, cooking is an emotional experience for me.  It’s my way of centering myself, of finding clarity, of soothing my soul.

On this holiday weekend, we have a jam packed schedule (um, where’s the holiday part of this?).  Today, we’re off to see our local professional soccer team play and I know we’re going to want a warm, home cooked meal when we get home, so what better than pasta?  Tonight, I’m envisioning mezzo rigatoni topped with sauce and a dollop of ricotta cheese.  I can taste it now!

Ingredients (in order they are used)
1/2 large onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, pressed
2 tablespoons olive oilchopped onions
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 28 oz. cans of crushed tomatoes
1 14.5 oz. can of petite diced tomatoes
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons basil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
In a large sauce pan, saute onion, garlic, and olive oil until onions are translucent.

sautee

Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon on the onions and garlic while they cook.  Add tomatoes.  Stir.  Add bay leaves, basil, salt, and pepper.  Taste and add additional spices as desired.  Allow the sauce simmer.  Stir (and taste!) periodically.  Serve over pasta, spaghetti squash, or use in a pasta bake.

sauce with bay leaf

Notes: If you have sausage or meatballs, consider cooking them and then adding them to the sauce.  Allow the meat to simmer with the sauce, thereby enhancing the sauce’s flavor.

This sauce recipe does not come from a source recipe – just my noggin.

Just a quick update to say that this sauce was delicious!  Here’s a picture of dinner:

dinner

Sausage Spinach Tortellini Soup

The day after I Christmas, I needed a warm soup.  And by needed, I mean I NEEDED soup.  I craved the smell of vegetables cooking, the aromatic way in which they would dance around my kitchen, reminding me of the simplicity of cooking.  I longed for an honest soup, one of few ingredients but full of flavor.  And of those desires, this soup was born.

sausageI began this soup by browning sweet Italian sausage (in olive oil) in a large cast iron stockpot.  To do this, you’ll want to squeeze the sausage out of the casings of four links.  As you squeeze each link, allow the sausage to break into small sausage balls.

While the sausage browns, thinly slice two carrots and dice one medium onion.  Add both to the pot.  Using a garlic press, add three cloves of garlic.  Season with salt.  Allow the vegetables and garlic to soften.

Add one can of petite diced tomatoes and two cartons of chicken broth.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Add one bay leaf.

Thaw a package of frozen spinach.  Add half of the package to the soup, making sure to break it apart as you put it in the broth.  You certainly can add more spinach – I just went light on it.  Taste the broth and add more salt and pepper as needed.

Bring the soup to a boil.  Add tortellini and cook according to package directions.  Serve soup immediately.  Sprinkle with parmigiano-reggiano cheese sprinkled on top and a hunk of crusty bread on the side.  YUM!soup

Ingredients

  • 4 links of sweet Italian sausage
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 large carrots, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, pressed through a garlic press or finely minced
  • 1 can (16 oz.) petite diced tomatoes
  • 2 boxes (32 oz. each) of chicken broth
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 container frozen spinach, thawed
  • 2  20 oz. packages of tri-colored tortellini (I used Buitoni tortellini.)