Crostini: The Perfect Party Appetizer

December 29, 2013 Appetizer, Menu No Comments

If you’re looking for a simple and impressive appetizer for your New Year’s Eve house party, or if you want to look like a gourmet, rock-star guest at someone else’s house party, crostini is the perfect dish to serve. With just a few basic ingredients, many of which you probably already have in your kitchen, you can prepare and serve a variety of crostini in under 20 minutes. If you’re planning to make crostini for another person’s house party, you’ll want to bring all ingredients with you and prepare it while you’re there. Check with your host ahead of time to see if they have olive oil, grated parmesan cheese and salt and pepper on hand for you to use (you’ll only need a bit of each). If they don’t, be sure to let them know that you’ll supply it…and then leave whatever is unused at your host’s house as a token of appreciation for them allowing you to use their kitchen.



1 long, thin loaf of crusty bread, preferably a baguette
1 ball fresh mozzarella (do not use the bagged shredded cheese)
6-8 pieces of thin-sliced prosciutto (the pre-packaged variety will work for this in a pinch)
1 small jar bruschetta topping
olive oil
grated parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350º. Slice the baguette into 1/2″ slices. Place the slices on a baking sheet. Lightly drizzle the slices with olive oil, then sprinkle with a light amount of salt and pepper (do not add salt to the pieces that you will be topping with prosciutto, there is enough salt in the meat). Use any combination of thin slices of the mozzarella, pieces of the prosciutto (about 1/4 of a slice of prosciutto for each piece of bread will be plenty), a spoonful of the bruschetta topping and the parmesan cheese to assemble a variety of crostini. I like to top some with the prosciutto and mozzarella, some with the bruschetta and parmesan, and some with just the parmesan and an additional drizzle of olive oil. You can also add some garlic powder for additional taste. Bake the crostini for about 8-10 minutes, until the bread is toasted and the toppings are heated but not burned.

Serve immediately and enjoy!


Torrone Cocktail

December 15, 2013 Menu No Comments

Last year, I posted about my ill-fated attempt at making home made torrone (the Italian nougat candy that is popular during the Christmas season). Long story short, no matter how precise I was with the ingredients, measurements and timing, all I ended up with was a liquidy mess. Now that we are just 10 days away from Christmas Day, and multiple snowstorms have kept us inside just this past week alone, I’ve spent some quality time trying once again to master the art of torrone-making…with one difference. I’ve decided to EMBRACE the liquid factor.

After a few fun and interesting test rounds, I came up with a cream-based cocktail version of torrone. The main challenge was to find the proper nut flavor. Almonds are traditionally used in torrone, so my first go-to was Amaretto, which is an almond-based liqueur. There is a bit of a sweetness to Amaretto, and I wasn’t getting the full nutty taste. I then gave Frangelico, which is a hazelnut-based liqueur, a try. Much better on the nutty taste, but lacking in the sweetness. My solution? Frangelico with just a dash of Amaretto. Perfect! I mixed it with Pinnacle vanilla whipped cream flavored vodka and a little half and half, and nailed it!

You can serve this over ice or shaken. For extra flavor, rim your glass with some crushed almonds.

Torrone Cocktail

1 oz Frangelico
1 oz Pinnacle Whipped Cream Vodka
1.5 oz half and half
A few drops of Amaretto

In a glass or shaker, mix the Frangelico, vodka and Amaretto. Add the half and half. Serve over ice in a glass rimmed with crushed almonds.

Cheers to you and yours!


Creamy White Bean and Leek Soup with Swiss Chard and Pancetta

December 5, 2013 Menu, Soup No Comments

The winter chill is starting to settle in, which makes it a perfect time to start thinking about hearty soups and stews. As the season’s first big freeze rolled in last weekend, I took advantage of the time spent indoors to put together a delicious creamy white bean soup. Along with some sauteed leeks, carrots and celery, I also added to the mix two of my favorite white bean counterparts – swiss chard and pancetta. If you are looking for a pure vegetable soup, you can omit the pancetta. While the pancetta gives the soup a beautifully added taste and texture, I won’t hold it against you if you decide to go without it…but if you give the pancetta a try, I guarantee you’ll love it!




Creamy White Bean and Leek Soup with Swiss Chard and Pancetta

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 large leeks, white and light green parts only, cleaned and sliced
4 garlic cloves, minced
32 oz vegetable broth
4 oz pancetta, diced
2 medium carrots, sliced thin
2 ribs celery, chopped
1 15 oz can cannelini beans, drained
1 bunch green swiss chard, choppped
salt and pepper to taste

In a large, heavy soup pot heat 1 tbspn oil over medium heat. Add the leeks and a pinch of salt, stir to evenly coat the leeks. Cook and stir for about 5 minutes, or until the leeks are tender. Add the garlic, stir. Cook for about a minute, or until the garlic becomes fragrant. Add the broth, bring to a boil and reduce heat. Add the beans, stir. Simmer for 15-20 minutes.

In a separate pan, heat the remaining tbspn oil. Add the carrots and celery, cook for 5 minutes until vegetables are crisp-tender. Add the pancetta,stir. Sauté until pancetta is cooked, and the fat is rendered. Drain excess oil from pan, set pancetta, carrots and celery aside.

Next, you’ll want to purée the soup with an immersion blender, or on slow speed in batches in a blender, taking care to remove the lid or take out the center insert and to cover with a towel to avoid hot splashes. Return to the pot, heat through, and add pepper to taste. Because of the saltiness from the pancetta, you won’t need to add any extra salt. Add the celery, carrots and pancetta to the soup, stir together. Add the swiss chard, stir. Cover and simmer on medium-low for about 10 minutes.

Serve with crusty bread and enjoy!

Julianna gave the thumbs-up on the soup!

Julianna gave the thumbs-up on the soup!


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