Shrimp Scampi

Two posts in one weekend – I am tearin’ it up in the kitchen! The Dude and I spent a rather quiet Memorial Day. We went to the garden center and brought home some more plants for our vegetable garden. So far we have several different varieties of tomatoes, some peppers, and eggplant. I’ve got to look for some bush beans and then we will be all set for the summer garden.

Since our gas grill is in need of propane, we decided not to grill out. Yesterday The Dude asked if I knew how to make shrimp scampi. I looked at him as if to say, “What are you, nuts? I’m Italian for God’s sake! Of course I know how to make scampi!” Duh!

This recipe comes from watching my dad make this dish ever since I was a little bambina. Don’t get me wrong, my mom is an awesome cook, but every once in a while my dad would get in the kitchen and turn out something awesome! His shrimp scampi was right up there in the top 10 hits of the family. So today, I make shrimp scampi in honor of my dad – a veteran who served in the Korean War. Love you, dad!

Shrimp Scampi

  • 1 pound raw shrimp, cleaned, peeled and de-veined
  • 1 lemon
  • 4 cloves of garlic, sliced thin
  • 3 TBSP unsalted butter
  • 6-8 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • parmesan cheese
  • 1 pound of the pasta of your choice – I use linguine with this dish. Be sure to hold back one cup of pasta water when you drain your pasta for the sauce.

This is a quick and delicious dish, but remember that timing is everything. The shrimp cooks fast and overcooking turns the shrimp to little rubbery erasers. So, have everything chopped, sliced and on hand when you start this dish.

Boil salted water for the pasta and cook according to directions. When you put the pasta on to cook, heat a large saute pan with the butter and olive oil over medium heat. Saute the garlic and be careful not to burn.

Add the shrimp to the saute pan and cook until done – about 2-3 minutes per side on medium heat. Lower the heat and squeeze lemon over the shrimp. Drain pasta. Add reserved pasta water to the shrimp along with the parsley. Salt and pepper to taste. Add the pasta to the pan over low heat and toss to coat. Garnish with parmesan and serve in bowls with lemon wedges if desired.

Serves 4.


Shrimp Scampi served with one of my favorite beverages, a Spanish style hard cider called Sidra de Nava by Virtue Cider. Wonderful dry, lemony cider that compliments the scampi. Buon Appetito!

Shrimp Scampi served with one of my favorite beverages, a Spanish style hard cider called Sidra de Nava by Virtue Cider. Wonderful dry, lemony cider that compliments the scampi. Buon Appetito!



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Caramel Coconut Cream Pie – Need I Say More?

I hope that everyone is enjoying their Memorial Day weekend. I know that The Dude and I are enjoying beautiful weather here in NW Indiana. I also hope that you can take a moment during this busy weekend of friends, family and food to remember our veterans and all they have done to serve our country.

I’ve missed being here to share some of my favorite recipes, but I’ve been just a bit busy. I decided towards the end of last year that I was going to return to school to finish my bachelors degree in English. So, this past semester I took three classes in addition to working full-time. Luckily, I only have four more semesters to finish, but that still translates to two years. So, unfortunately blogging – and cooking – have been on the back burner. Fortunately, The Dude has been awesome with taking over cooking duties, as well as cleaning and laundry too! How lucky am I? So, when he made the request for a coconut cream pie how could I say no?

My grandmother used to make coconut cream pies and I loved them. So, I did some digging and found the recipe that I think comes closest to her’s. Of course, I couldn’t just settle for a run of the mill coconut cream pie! I decided to add a layer of homemade caramel to the bottom of the crust and then garnish the pie with a drizzle of caramel with the toasted coconut. I really think you are going to like this one!

A quick note about pie crust. I make my own. I avoided making pies for the longest time because I didn’t want to make pie crust. The invention of pre-rolled crust in the dairy case is great, and if that works for you then by all means use it! For me, I needed to get over my fear of making and rolling out a pie crust. Now I make pie crust like a pro – well, almost like a pro! Here is a link to a earlier post with my favorite pie crust recipe:  Okay, let’s make an awesome pie!

Brace yourself - you are about to create this awesomely delicious pie.

Brace yourself – you are about to create this rich and delicious pie.

Caramel Coconut Cream Pie

This recipe can be done in phases, since you need to let all the elements cool before putting the pie together.

Pie crust for a deep dish pie  – Blind bake the crust (350 degrees for 20 minutes or until golden brown). Be sure to poke the bottom of the pie crust with a fork to vent while baking. Pie crust must be completely cool before adding caramel, coconut filling, and whipped cream.

Easy Caramel Sauce

  • 1 c brown sugar (packed)
  • 1/2 c heavy cream
  • 4 TBSP butter
  • 1 TBSP vanilla extract

Put all ingredients in a heavy saucepan and slowly bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Bring to a boil for one minute. Remove from heat and transfer to a bowl. Chill until ready to use. Note that the caramel sauce will thicken when it is chilled.

Coconut Custard Cream and Whipped Cream Topping

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract, divided
  • 2 cups whipping cream
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • Garnish: toasted coconut

Combine 1/2 cup sugar and cornstarch in a heavy saucepan. Whisk together half-and-half and egg yolks. Gradually whisk egg mixture into sugar mixture; bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking constantly. Boil 1 minute; remove from heat. Stir in butter, 1 cup coconut, and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, placing plastic wrap directly on filling in the bowl. Chill at least 30 minutes or until chilled through.

In the cooled pie crust, spread a thick layer of the chilled caramel sauce on the bottom. Transfer the coconut cream on top of the caramel sauce.

Sweet, silky caramel sauce is a nice surprise at the bottom of the pie.

Sweet, silky caramel sauce is a nice surprise at the bottom of the pie.

Coconut cream on top of the caramel sauce.

Coconut cream on top of the caramel sauce.














In an electric mixer take the two cups of whipping cream and beat on high. As it begins to thicken slowly add the sugar and vanilla. Beat until stiff peaks form. Top the pie with the whipped cream. Drizzle additional caramel sauce on the whipped cream and sprinkle toasted coconut. Chill until read to serve.

Note: To make toasted coconut, scatter coconut on parchment paper on a cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for about 7 minutes, stirring occasionally to brown evenly.


Grab a fork and a big glass of milk. Heaven!

Grab a fork and a big glass of milk. Heaven!

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Dreaming of Warmer Weather

The holidays are over and things are getting back to normal – whatever that means. It was a great holiday season for The Dude and I, spent with family and friends. We also had opportunities to visit some great microbreweries, which I’ll be telling you about in future posts.

Here in the Midwest we are facing a pretty awful winter. Cold? You bet! Quite a few sub-zero days have made going out a real chore. Just ask our dogs! Snow? Oh, we’ve got that too. The last big storm brought us around 20″ of snow. Of course, the snow came right when the sub-zero temps hit us. Win-win! Not….

On Facebook I’ve noticed that friends have taken off for warmer climates. The photos posted of Florida and Hawaii get pretty depressing when you are stuck in the Midwest all winter. Sounds like I’ve got cabin fever, right? So, when I went to the grocery store and found blood oranges – difficult to find in my neck of the woods – I immediately grabbed some, since they remind me of Italy and warmer weather.  If you’ve never had a blood orange I’ll try to describe them. Yes, they taste like oranges, but they also have a berry flavor as well. They are sweet but have a tart, slightly bitter note. And the color is amazing! You slice into it and find a deep red fruit. Gorgeous!

Now you see why they are called blood oranges.

Now you see why they are called blood oranges.

Blood oranges are often used in fish dishes and in a variety of vinaigrettes. I especially love blood oranges in an arugula salad. The sweet/tart/bitter fruit combined with the peppery greens – awesome! But if you’ve read this blog for any length of time you know I have a real sweet tooth and love to bake.  So, I did some research and found an incredible recipe on the Food Network website. It’s a Blood Orange Tart and the recipe is attributed to Emeril Lagasse. It’s really lovely, with a sweet crust and a light custard filling laced with mascarpone cheese – very, very tasty! So, thanks to Emeril for knocking this one out of the park! Here is the recipe.

Blood Orange Tart

  • 2 teaspoons unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest, finely grated
  • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) cold, unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon orange-flavored liqueur (recommended: Grand Marnier)


  • 3/4 cup fresh blood orange juice (5 oranges yielded 3/4 cup of juice for me)
  • 1 orange, zested and zest finely grated
  • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup mascarpone cheese
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon orange-flavored liqueur (recommended: Grand Marnier), optional
  • Confectioners’ sugar, for garnish, optional
Butter an 11-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom with 2 teaspoons of butter and set aside.Make the pastry by combining the flour, salt, lemon zest, and confectioners’ sugar in a mixing bowl. Add the butter and, using a pastry cutter, 2 knives, or your hands, work in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Combine the egg and orange liqueur in a small bowl and add to the flour mixture. Using a fork, stir until the mixture just comes together. Note: I used my food processor for making the pastry dough. Worked like a charm!Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead just until a dough is formed. Shape into a flattened disk, wrap in plastic, and transfer the dough to the freezer for 15 minutes.Place the dough on a floured surface and roll into a 13-inch round. Transfer dough to the prepared tart pan and ease dough into the edges and up the sides of the pan. Trim excess dough. Transfer to the refrigerator for 30 minutes.Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.Remove the tart shell from the refrigerator and prick it all over with the tines of a fork. Line the pastry with aluminum foil or parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake the crust until the edges just begin to turn golden, about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and remove the pie weights and aluminum foil and bake for an additional 10 minutes, or until the crust is light golden brown. Remove from the oven and set aside on a wire rack to cool.Make the filling by combining the blood orange juice, orange zest, brown sugar, and mascarpone in a mixing bowl; whisk until smooth. Add the eggs and egg yolks, 1 at a time, beating after each addition. Add the liqueur and stir until smooth. Pour the filling into the cooled tart shell. Bake until the filling is lightly browned in spots and the crust is golden, about 25 minutes. Let cool completely. Dust with confectioners’ sugar and serve.

Pretty in pink! This is so light and not too sweet. This would be a great dessert for a bridal or baby shower.

Pretty in pink! This is so light and not too sweet and the citrus is not overwhelming. This would be a perfect dessert for a bridal or baby shower.

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Christmas Cookies!

I love to bake if you haven’t guessed that already from all the dessert recipes that I post. So, you can understand why I enjoy the holidays so much.

Every year I make the usual Christmas cookies. Butter cookies, Russian Teacakes, Biscotti. But this year I wanted to make a cookie that I have never attempted before. While at the grocery store I came across a cookie cutter for Linzer cookies. You know, those sandwich cookies with a cut out on the top? I’ve always loved them but never had the right equipment. So, I bought the cutter and lucky for me, the recipe was on the back of the packaging. The recipe comes from Wilton Industries, that wonderful company that makes so many supplies for bakers.

Let me just say that this recipe doesn’t disappoint. Crisp cookies laced with almond and filled with a good quality (seedless) raspberry jam. Best of all, they are really very easy to make. One thing to remember when making these lovely little gems is that the dough tends to warm up fairly quickly when you work with it. Don’t be surprised if you have to return the dough to rest in the refrigerator as you are rolling out the dough. Other than that these shouldn’t give you any problems in the kitchen. Oh, a FYI, I doubled the recipe listed below. They’re just so darned good I wanted to make sure I had some for guests!

Enjoy these light, crisp and oh so pretty cookies after your holiday dinner.

Linzer Cookies

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup finely ground almonds (about 2 oz)
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup (approx) best quality seedless raspberry jelly
  • confectioners sugar (optional)

In a small bowl, combine the flour, almonds and cinnamon and set aside. In a large bowl beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and mix well. Add the flour mixture only until just incorporated. Divide the dough in half, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour or until firm enough to roll.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Farenheit. On a floured surface roll out one of the disks of dough. Cut half the dough with the round (bottom) cutter. Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. You may want to put the cookie sheet in the refrigerator while you are cutting out the rest of the dough. Roll out the other half of dough and cut out the cookies, this time adding the insert in the shape of your choice. I used a star for the holidays. Make sure you have an equal number of cookie bottoms and tops.

Bake 10-12 minutes until light golden brown. Cool on cookie sheet for two minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Invert bottom cookie and spread with a teaspoon of jam. Place the top cookie and press gently. Dust with confectioners sugar if desired.

Cookies 01

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Pumpkin Pie Alternative

If you live in the U.S. you are probably gearing up for the big feast this coming Thursday. Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to gather with family and friends, eat more than you should, and maybe watch some football. I don’t know about you, but I love all the traditional foods. There is nothing more satisfying than a beautiful roasted turkey filled with your favorite stuffing. Or a baking pan filled with sweet potatoes covered in bubbling, golden brown marshmallows. Yes, I like those marshmallows on top of the sweet potatoes!  Maybe you prefer the green bean casserole that your favorite aunt brings every year. You know the one – french style green beans, canned mushroom soup, blended together and covered in those crunchy french fried onions. Yep, that brings back memories.

While I crave those classic Thanksgiving dishes, I also like to switch up a couple of items too. That’s when I think of desserts. Don’t get me wrong, I love pumpkin pie and I know that it will be part of the menu this year. But how about something that is a bit lighter? Maybe not in calories, but lighter in taste. I started thinking about fruits that are typically in season now. Pears came to mind and I decided on a tart made with a classic pate sucre and luscious fruit with a hint of cinnamon and ginger. Oh, and if you can’t decide between the pumpkin or the pear? Just have a “small” slice of each!

Pear Tart

Tart Crust – Pate Sucre

  • 2-1/3 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled, cut into small pieces
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 or 2 tablespoons heavy cream

In a food processor, combine flour and sugar. Add chilled butter and pulse until the flour resembles corn meal. In a small bowl whisk the egg yolks and add one tablespoon of heavy cream. Add to flour and butter mixture. Pulse until it forms a ball. You may need to add an additional tablespoon of cream. Note: I had to add a bit more to hold the dough together. Much depends on the humidity, temperature, and the like in your kitchen. Add small increments of cream until the dough forms a ball. Turn the dough onto a floured surface and form together in a disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour.

Pear filling

  • 4 large ripe Bartlett pears, pealed, cored, and sliced in thin wedges
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar, depending on sweetness of the pears
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon

Mix all of ingredients in a bowl. Set aside while you roll out the tart dough.

Pre heat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a 10″ tart pan with butter or cooking spray. Roll out dough and place in the pan. Add the pear mixture and spread evenly. Bake for 40 minutes until crust is golden brown. You may want to put a cookie sheet on the rack under the tart pan in case it drips. Cool on a rack. Dust lightly with powdered sugar. Serve at room temperature.

The pears are so fragrant and juicy with an almost floral quality. The slight bite of ginger and cinnamon complete this awesome tart.

The pears are so fragrant and juicy with an almost floral quality. The slight bite of ginger and cinnamon complete this awesome tart. It really is a terrific addition to your Thanksgiving meal!

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Halloween Sweets

In our house we are gearing up for one of my absolute favorite holidays, Halloween! Every year The Dude and I host a party which we call Brew-O-Ween. Food, a occassional costume, and BEER! Lots and lots of beer. This event is where The Dude brings out all of his most recent home-brewed libations for everyone to taste, rate, and enjoy.

In between trying to get the house cleaned and decorated, I’ve also been getting the menu together. Whatever I can do ahead of time, I’m doing it! This weekend it’s Halloween cookies and yummy chorizo and black bean empanadas. In going through earlier posts I realized that I never gave a recipe that is near and dear to my heart, my mom’s butter cookie recipe.

This cookie recipe was handed down from my grandmother, to my mom, and then to me. Now you have it too! Typically I make these cookies at Christmas, but my sister-in-law, who knows that Halloween is my favorite holiday, sent me some adorable cookie cutters. Witches hat, ghost, bat, and pumpkin. I just had to make these for the party.

Love these adorable cookie cutters!

Love these adorable cookie cutters!

Butter Cookies

  • 2 cups butter, room temperature
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 6 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 6 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 tsp. baking powder

Beat together butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla. Sift flour and baking powder together and add to butter mixture in four or five increments. You’ll be able to use a heavy-duty mixer for a part of the mixing, but eventually you are going to have to get your hands in the dough to mix the last of the flour. Wrap dough tightly in plastic wrap and chill for at least an hour.

Roll out dough and cut into shapes. Bake at 425 degrees F for 5-7 minutes on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper. Watch them as they burn easily. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Decorate with royal icing. I use the recipe found on the powdered meringue package, which you can find in most baking aisles. Let cookies dry completely and store loosely in cookie tins.

Cookies are iced! I admit I'm not the best cookie decorator, but this was fun to do!

Cookies are iced! I admit I’m not the best cookie decorator, but this was fun to do!

Here is what I love about these cookies. Buttery and not too sweet. Let the icing bring the sweetness to the party. These take a bit of work but are well worth the effort. You can always make the cookies ahead of time and store in a cookie tin until you are ready to ice them. Decorating cookies was something that my mom always let my sister and I do during the holidays. It’s a fun way to include the kids in the kitchen and let them get creative.

Have fun and enjoy these cookies with a big glass of milk. You’ll feel like a kid again!

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Fall Flavors

Certain foods and flavors remind me of the seasons. Winter brings the smells of cinnamon and sugar, and all sorts of yummy cookies and sweets. Spring is a time of roasted lamb and fresh herbs and roasted asparagus with parmesan cheese melting on top. Summer is filled with insalata caprese (tomato and mozzarella salad with fresh basil), roasted corn, and just about any fresh fruit or veg that you can find. But fall, ah….  Fall is my favorite time of year. Apples, pork, root vegetables. Earthy big flavors that pair so well with cool days and crisp cold nights with the smell of wood smoke in the air – now that’s my idea of heaven!

This past weekend was chilly and cloudy – perfect fall weather! I thought about the type of cooking that I enjoy most and my favorite flavors of fall.  I decided on a pork roast braised with fennel, onion, and Granny Smith apples. Served with a side of mashed potatoes. Happy days are here again! So good that The Dude said that this was my number one dish for the fall. This is a super easy dish that will impress the heck out of family and friends. Here is my recipe.

Pork Roast with Fennel, Apple and Onion

  • 3-4 pound pork loin
  • 3 TBSP vegetable oil
  • 1 cup of your favorite dry white wine (note: you could also use a dry hard apple cider)
  • 2 large bulbs of fennel, stalks removed, roughly sliced
  • 1 large white onion, roughly sliced
  • 1 large Granny Smith apple, skinned, cored, and cut in rough chunks
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Over medium high heat in a large, heavy dutch oven, heat the vegetable oil. Season the pork with salt and pepper, add to the pan, and brown on all sides. Remove the roast to a plate and add wine to the pan to scrape up the browned bits of pork. When the wine has reduced by half, add the fennel, onion and apple. Saute until the onions begin to turn translucent. Salt and pepper to taste.

Place the pork loin on top of the vegetables and add a little water to the bottom of the pan – about 3/4 cup. Cover with a lid and roast in the 350 degree oven for 1-1/2 hours.

Remove the pork loin to a cutting board, cover with aluminum foil, and let rest for 10 – 15 minutes before slicing. Place the vegetables on a platter, lay the sliced pork loin over the vegetables, and moisten with a bit of the juices in the dutch oven.


The pork is so tender and moist. The soft flavors of the anise in the fennel with the sweetness of the onion and the tart hint of apple. So delicious that you’ll be back for seconds!

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