December 12, 2018

Spicy Skillet Lasagna

Easy, quick, and good weeknight dinner recipes are not always easy to find. This skillet lasagna can be on the table in an hour.  It would be a great dinner to make when you have last minute dinner guests.  Bonus: only one pan required!

This skillet lasagna has a few twists from other skillet lasagnas: no ricotta, broccoli rabe, lemon zest, and pepper flakes.  The ricotta is swapped out with Gruyere.  Gruyere melts so beautifully, and it really went well with the broccoli rabe and other ingredients.  By adding broccoli rabe, you not only get veggies in, but this also brings a new dimension with some spice to the lasagna.  The lemon zest sounded strange to me, but trust me, it works.  It makes the other flavors pop!  I love adding red pepper flakes to Italian dishes, and it added a good kick to this dish.

Hope you enjoy this!

Spicy Skillet Lasagna
Yields 6 servings

2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1.5 lbs. spicy Italian sausage, casings removed
3 shallots, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 small lemons, zested
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 bunch broccoli rabe, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 1/2 tsp. salt
8 oz. no boil lasagna noodles
1 25 oz. jar tomato marinara sauce (suggested Rao’s)
1 1/2 cups shredded Parmesan Reggiano
1/2 cup Gruyere
1 lb. fresh mozzarella, dried well and torn into pieces

Preheat oven to 375°F.

In a 12-inch skillet, heat the extra virgin olive oil over medium heat. Add the sausage and cook, breaking it into small size pieces with a spoon, until cooked through, about 8-10  minutes.  Add  shallots and garlic and cook until translucent, another 3 minutes.  Add the lemon zest and red pepper flakes and cook for additional 2 minutes.  

Stir in the broccoli rabe and salt; cook until wilted, 2 minutes. Remove the mixture to a medium bowl, and return the pan to the stove over low heat.

Add a small amount (around 1/4 cup) of tomato sauce in the bottom of the skillet.  Add the remaining sauce to the sausage mixture.  Layer half of the lasagna noodles in the skillet.

Cover with half of the sausage mixture. Add 3/4 cup of the Parmesan and half the mozzarella. Layer with the remaining noodles.  Cover with the remaining sausage mixture and top with the rest of the Parmesan, mozzarella, and Gruyere.  

Bake for 40 minutes in oven or until golden bubbly.

Source: Giadzy

December 11, 2018

Peanut Butter Blossoms

Peanut Butter Blossoms are a Christmas cookie platter classic!  Peanut butter and chocolate is one of my favorite combinations, and I always enjoyed making these growing up.  (I feel these are a childhood baking staple for many people!) They don’t require much in terms of decoration, but they turn out looking great—and most importantly, they taste divine.

The Hershey kiss on top of the peanut butter cookie reminds me of a Christmas tree.  I roll the peanut butter cookie dough in sugar before baking because it gives an extra shimmer to the cookie.

I’ve tinkered around with a peanut butter blossom recipe for the last few years. I found that some recipes had too much flour, and others didn’t have enough peanut butter flavor for me.  In this version, I reduced the flour and added in some almond flour.  I find that using almond flour helps lighten pastry texture.  The almond flour helped boost the nut flavor, too.  The dark brown sugar adds a little more molasses taste, which goes well win the peanut butter.  This cookie had that nostalgic peanut butter cookie flavor that I was looking for.

I froze the Hershey Kisses before sticking them on the cookies.  After I removed the cookies from the oven, I placed them back into the oven for about a minute or two. By sticking the cookies briefly back into the oven after placing the Hershey Kiss on the cookies, the Hershey Kiss gets cemented onto the cookie.  You don’t need the Hershey Kisses falling off the cookies!

Do not use natural peanut butters for these cookies.  It has too much oil and will make the dough too runny.  I like Jif for baking cookies.

This dough also makes a ton of cookies, making it a perfect choice for a cookie exchange.

Peanut Butter Blossoms 
Yields 6 dozen cookies

2 1/2 cups or 300 grams unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup or 120 grams almond flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 pound butter (2 sticks)
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup smooth peanut butter
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 bags Hershey Kisses, unwrapped
1/2 cup granulated sugar, for rolling the dough

In a large bowl, add both flours, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the butter, vanilla, and both sugars (2 cups total).  With the paddle attachment, mix until combined and creamy for about five minutes.  Next, add the peanut butter.  Then, add the eggs, one at a time, beating until incorporated.

Add half of the flour mixture, and mix until incorporated. Then, add the remaining half of  flour. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour or overnight.

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°F. Line the baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone liner. Roll the dough into 1-inch balls and roll the dough all in the remaining 1/2 cup sugar.

Bake the cookies for 8-10 minutes, or until the outsides are set and the edges begin to crack. Remove from oven. Working quickly, press one Hershey Kiss into the center of each cookie. Return to oven and bake for another 2 minutes, until the cookies are lightly golden.

Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a rack to cool completely.  Repeat with remaining dough and Hershey Kisses.

Source: Adapted from Land of Lakes, Betty Crocker, and Hershey’s

December 10, 2018


Feuerzangenbowle and Glühwein are German traditions that long have been a part of my family’s Christmas celebrations.  Glühwein is warmed mulled wine. Feuerzangbowle is an amped up version of glühwein, where a rum-soaked sugar cone is set on fire and dips into mulled wine.  
People are always drawn to sit around the Feuerzangenbowle because it is spectacular.  It brings people together to talk, laugh, and enjoy one another’s company.  That’s what this season is all about!
Feuerzangenbowle is prepared in a bowl suspended over a small burner.  The bowl is filled with dry red wine, mulling spices, orange quarters, and juice from a lemon.  A metal grate sits on top of the bowl to hold the sugar cone.  The sugar come is soaked with rum and then lit, which results in melting and caramelizing.  The burner keeps the wine warm.
The rum needs to be at least 151 proof to burn properly.  Make sure to use a dry red wine.  You can sometimes find Glühwein at wine stores during the Christmas season; the bottled Glühwein makes a great base for this, but I still like to add the other spices and ingredients to boost the flavor.   (Try to find the Nuremburg bottled one; there are many with German labels made in Italy, which are not as good.)
Nothing can compare to the mulling spices from Williams-Sonoma. They have such a wonderful aroma.  (For a non-alcholic drink, add a jug of apple cider to your crock pot with these mulled spices, and your home will smell like a cozy Christmas heaven!  Add mulling spices to a sachet or mulling space ball so that you do not need to use a strainer.)
I found the Feurzangenbowle online through a specialty German seller on Amazon.  It is made of a special glass.  If you don’t have the Feurzangenbowle bowl and heater, you could also use a big pot over the stove.  If you can’t find a grate and sugar cone, you will still have a delicious mulled wine without it.
I am happy that Feuezangenbowle is now part of my annual Christmas party.  I look forward to enjoying the festive magic of this special tradition.  Get [the sugar cone] lit, and get merry!
Yields 8-10 servings

2 bottles (750 ml) dry red wine
One large orange, quartered with peel 
Juice of one lemon
1/4 cup dried mulled spices 
500 ml rum, at least 151 proof 
1 sugar cone  

Pour the wine into the bowl. Add the orange peel, lemon juice, and the mulled spices.  Light the burner and place the bowl over the burner. Allow the mixture to heat up but do not bring to a boil.

Once the wine is warm, add the grate over the bowl and place the sugar cone on top.  Pour rum over the sugar cone and light it.  The melting sugar is dropped directly into the bowl.  Pour enough rum over the sugar cone so that it is all melted while burning, repeat if necessary.  As soon as the sugar is melted and burned, the Feurzangenbowle is ready to serve.

Source: Family Tradition!

December 9, 2018

Cinnamon Chocolate Fudge

Fudge is a Christmas season must!  If you are not a baker, give fudge making a try. It is easy and always a hit.  You could make up a variety of different fudges and put together tins for gift giving.  Check out my recipes for Grammy’s Christmas Fudge (my favorite) and peanut butter fudge.

This creamy fudge only has 7 ingredients, which are likely in your pantry.  The addition of cinnamon gives a nice spicy contrast to the richness of the chocolate. Eating cinnamon is supposed to lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and dark chocolate had anti-oxidants, so this is basically health food.

Cinnamon Chocolate Fudge
Yields about 40 pieces (depending on size)

1 14 oz. can of sweetened condensed milk
1 lb. bittersweet chocolate chips (60% cacao)
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
3 tbs. butter
1/2 tsp. salt

Line a 8 x 8” baking pan with parchment paper and set aside.

In a medium glass bowl or stainless steel bowl, add all ingredients.  Place the bowl over a pot of simmering hot water.  Mix until the ingredients all melt.

Pour the melted mixture into the lined pan and refrigerate overnight. Cut into pieces the next day.

Source: Giada Di Laurentiis
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