Monthly Archives: January 2011

Breakfast Quinoa & an Online Bake Sale

Quinoa (keen-wah) is a grain packed with protein that can be substituted for couscous or rice.  It’s definitely a strange word to pronounce because it sounds nothing like how it’s spelled.  In fact,  my coworkers and I were just discussing the proper pronunciation of it last Friday during lunch.  However way you like to say it though, quinoa is a power grain that has a light, fluffy texture like couscous, but also has a bit of crunch to it.  I usually only see quinoa in savory dishes, so when I saw this recipe for a sweet quinoa in Food and Wine magazine, I knew I had to try it.  I made a few changes to the recipe like adding figs and coconut and substituting pecans for almonds.  This cereal is not only delicious, but it’s packed with protein, so it will keep you full for hours.  1 cup of quinoa doesn’t seem like much, but it cooks up to about 4 large servings.  I made mine on Sunday, so I’d have it for breakfast throughout the week.  Adding a dollop of ricotta cheese along with some fresh orange zest and cinnamon is the perfect way to start your morning off right!

If you really want to start your morning off right, then stop by Steph’s Bite By Bite for her online bake sale.  Steph is running a marathon to help raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.  Online bidding for a vast array of delicious goodies (including my Nutella & Raspberry Swirl Pound Cake) is happening today and only today (Monday), so be sure to stop by!!!


  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup pecans, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup dried apricots, cut into small pieces
  • 1/4 cup dried figs, cut into small pieces
  • 1/4 cup shredded coconut
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp orange zest and more for sprinkling
  • Cinnamon for sprinkling
  • 1/4 cup fresh ricotta


  1. In a small saucepan, cover the quinoa with the water and bring to a boil. Cover and cook over low heat until the water has been absorbed and the quinoa is tender, about 15 minutes. Lightly fluff the quinoa with a fork and cover it again.
  2. In a medium skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the pecans and cinnamon stick and cook over moderate heat, stirring a few times, until golden brown, about 2 minutes.
  3. Add the apricots, figs, coconut, maple syrup, orange zest and and stir well until heated through.
  4. Add the quinoa to the skillet and stir gently to incorporate the pecans and dried fruit.
  5. Top each portion of quinoa with a tablespoon of ricotta and a sprinkling of cinnamon and orange zest.


Filed under Breakfast

Lemon Macaroons

If you love coconut, you can’t go wrong with macaroons.  Macaroons pack so much coconut into such a small bite.  I love macaroons, but have never thought to make them until now.  I’m not sure why because macaroons are simple to bake, and they only have a few ingredients.  You can dip your macaroons in chocolate or you can add some citrus zest to give them a little flavor punch.  That’s what I did with mine — I added some fresh lemon zest to make my macaroons lemon and coconut flavor instead of just coconut.  I love adding fresh lemon zest because even a small teaspoon adds such a fresh, lemon flavor.  I made small-sized macaroons (about 1 tbsp each), but you could make bigger macaroons with a cookie scoop.  I’ve seen those puppies in the bakery and they look amazing!  I like to keep mine small and bite-sized because then I don’t feel as guilty eating a couple of them instead of splurging on 1 large-sized macaroon (my logic is totally flawed since eating several small ones is probably the same as eating one large one, but it makes me feel healthier spreading out my macaroon consumption).  Whether you like to eat baseball-sized macaroons or bite-sized ones, they are definitely one of the more healthy desserts to consume; macaroons have egg whites (which we all know are healthy and wonderful) and shredded coconut (which is fresh and delicious).  While they do have some granulated sugar, it’s a modest amount and as we all know, everything in moderation (whether this means several bite-sized macaroons or one, baseball-sized macaroon)!  Enjoy!

Also, please don’t forget to stop by Steph’s Bite By Bite on Monday, January 31st for her online bake sale!!!  Steph is running a marathon to help raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.  Online bidding for a vast array of delicious goodies (including my Nutella & Raspberry Swirl Pound Cake) will begin on January 31.  Be sure to check out Steph’s online bake sale!

Ingredients: (adapted from Gourmet)

  • 4large egg whites
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp finely grated fresh lemon zest
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/8 tsp of salt
  • 3 cups sweetened flaked coconut


  1. Put oven rack in middle position and preheat to 325°F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Stir together egg whites, sugar, zest, vanilla, and a pinch of salt until combined, then stir in coconut.
  3. Drop tablespoon-size mounds about 1 1/2 inches apart onto baking sheet.
  4. Bake until tops are pale golden in spots, 15 to 20 minutes, then carefully lift parchment with cookies from baking sheet and transfer to a rack to cool completely.
  5. Peel macaroons from parchment to serve.

Yield: 32 bite-sized cookies


Filed under Desserts


I love Mexican food – I don’t think I could ever get sick of it.  I love the freshness of the ingredients and the various types of dishes that you can make.  For dinner last week, my hubby and I had my sister, my brother-in-law, and my sister-in-law over for dinner.  Instead of cooking the traditional Italian dinner that we usually have, I decided to create a fajita and taco buffet.  I cooked some chicken tenderloins that had been seasoned with a fajita rub, onions, and peppers.  I also cooked some ground turkey that had been seasoned with Mexican spices.  I placed out various toppings including salsa, sour cream, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, jalapenos, etc.  I also made some homemade guacamole that I was very excited about because sometimes I forget how amazing fresh guacamole can be.  It can take any taco or fajita to the next level!  Ok maybe I’m exaggerating, but guacamole is so delicious especially when it’s homemade.  I made a really simple guacamole with only 5 ingredients (plus salt and pepper).  This is my 4th 10-with-5 challenge recipe.  Hope you guys enjoy!

Also, please don’t forget to stop by Steph’s Bite By Bite on Monday, January 31st for her online bake sale!!!  Steph is running a marathon to help raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.  Online bidding for a vast array of delicious goodies (including my Nutella & Raspberry Swirl Pound Cake) will begin on January 31.  Be sure to check out Steph’s online bake sale!

  • 2 ripe avocados, pitted and peeled
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, de-seeded and minced
  • 1/2 cup tomato salsa
  • Juice of 1 fresh lime
  • Sea salt and fresh ground pepper for seasoning
  1. Mash the avocados with a fork until smooth.
  2. Add the cilantro, onion, jalapeno, salsa, and lime juice and mix until incorporated.
  3. Season with salt and pepper.


Filed under Appetizers

White Chocolate Cupcakes with Nutella Frosting & a Guest Post

Hi Guys!  I recently wrote a guest post for Liz at Blog is the New Black featuring these white chocolate cupcakes with Nutella buttercream frosting.  Head over to her website to take a look!!!!

Also, please don’t forget to stop by Steph’s Bite By Bite on Monday, January 31st for her online bake sale!!!  Steph is running a marathon to help raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.  Online bidding for a vast array of delicious goodies (including my Nutella & Raspberry Swirl Pound Cake) will begin on January 31.  Be sure to check out Steph’s online bake sale!

Cupcake Ingredients: (adapted from Bon Appétit)

  • 8 ounces white chocolate, chopped
  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup canned, unsweetened coconut milk
  • 3 large egg whites, at room temperature


  1. Preheat oven to 325°F and line 18 muffin cups with paper liners.
  2. In a small saucepan, simmer water and place a bowl with white chocolate over, stirring until melted.
  3. In another bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, and salt.
  4. Using an electric mixer, beat sugar, butter, and vanilla until blended. Add hot white chocolate to sugar mixture and stir to combine.
  5. Add flour mixture in 3 additions alternately with coconut milk in 2 additions, beating to combine.
  6. In a small bowl, beat egg whites until soft peaks form and gently fold into the batter in 3 additions.
  7. Divide batter among muffin cups (about 1/4 cup each).
  8. Bake until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, about 30 minutes.
  9. Cool completely before frosting.

Nutella Buttercream Frosting:

  • 3 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup Nutella
  • 2-3 tbsp whipping cream

Frosting Directions:

  1. In a stand mixer fitted with a whisk, mix together sugar and butter on low speed until well blended, then increase speed to medium and beat for another 3 minutes.
  2. Add vanilla, Nutella, and cream and continue to beat on medium speed for 1 minute, adding more cream if needed for piping consistency.
  3. Pipe frosting onto cooled cupcakes.


Filed under Baked Goods, Desserts

Nutella & Raspberry Swirl Pound Cake & an Online Bake Sale

I’ve been on a Nutella kick recently – I’m blaming it on the fact that it was on sale at my grocery store and not the fact that it is so creamy, delicious, and addicting.  Normally, I would try to ignore these beautiful jars at the store, but because they were on sale I grabbed 2 without even blinking (my sugar reflexes are amazing).  I recently came across a Nutella swirl pound cake recipe from Food and Wine magazine that I’ve made before (pre-blog days).  I decided to add some raspberry sauce to this recipe and make a Nutella & Raspberry Swirl Pound Cake.  I also decided this would be the perfect recipe to auction off on Steph’s Bite By Bite online bake sale!

Steph is running a marathon to help raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.  Online bidding for a vast array of delicious goodies (including my Nutella & Raspberry Swirl Pound Cake) will begin on January 31.  Check out what Steph has to say about her online bake sale:

“I’m preparing to hold my first big fundraising even for my Team in Training goal! As many of you know I have signed up to run the San Diego Rock n Roll marathon with Team in Training on June 5th. I have a personal fundraising goal of $1,900 all to benefit the efforts to help battle a variety of blood diseases.  On Monday, January 31, 2011 I will be hosting an online bake sale to help me reach my goal.  I am looking for anyone who is willing to donate baked goodies to be auctioned off on at the bake sale. All money raised will go directly to Team in Training to support the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.  The deadline to submit an item is Thursday, January 27th.  Please email me at stephsbitebybite (at) gmail (dot) com if you are interested in participating.”

Since I ran a marathon back in 2006, I know how much physical and mental work goes into not only training for the marathon itself, but fundraising for your cause.  You literally spend months beating your body up running while also trying to reach your fundraising goal.  I’m always so happy when people decide to run races for a cause because I know how rewarding the experience can truly be.  Help Steph reach her goal by donating a baked good to her auction or visiting Steph’s Bite By Bite on Monday, January 31st to bid on some of these tasty treats!!!!

In other news, I was invited by Sweet As Sugar Cookies to be a part of her Sweets for a Saturday. Check out all the delicious recipes on her website!

Raspberry Sauce:

  • 1/4 cup frozen raspberries
  • 2 tbsp seedless raspberry jam
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 tbsp water
  1. Dissolve cornstarch in water in a small bowl.
  2. In a small sauce pan, add frozen raspberries, jam, and cornstarch mix.
  3. Cook on medium heat, stirring constantly, until sauce comes to a boil and thickens.
  4. Set aside to cool


  • 1 1/2 cups flour, plus more for dusting pan
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 cup Nutella
  • 3 tbsp milk
  • Raspberry Sauce (see instructions above)


  1. Preheat the oven to 325° and grease and flour a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan.
  2. In a small bowl, lightly beat the eggs with the vanilla and set aside.
  3. In another bowl, whisk the 1 1/2 cups of flour with the baking powder and salt.
  4. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  5. With the mixer at medium-low speed, gradually beat in the egg mixture until fully incorporated.
  6. Add the flour mixture in 3 batches, beating at low speed between additions until just incorporated. Continue to beat for 30 seconds longer.
  7. In a small bowl, mix the Nutella and the milk to thin out consistency (this will make it easier to spread and swirl the Nutella)
  8. Spread one-fourth of the batter in the prepared pan, then spread half of the Nutella on top. (Using a butter knife, swirl the batter and Nutella.)
  9. Top with another fourth of the batter and then spread the cooled raspberry sauce over (Using a butter knife, swirl the raspberry sauce and batter).
  10. Repeat step 8.
  11. Top with the remaining batter.
  12. Bake the cake for about 1 hour and 5-15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  13. Let the cake cool in the pan for 15 minutes and then invert onto a wire rack to cool completely, about 2 hours.

Yield: 1 loaf


Filed under Baked Goods, Desserts

Kit Kat Blondies

I’ll be honest, I was bored at home and decided to bake something.  Sometimes I get a craving to bake, not necessarily to eat what I’ve baked, but just to bake.  Maybe that sounds crazy, but I think other food bloggers, especially bakers, might back me up on this; I love to bake so much that my passion for baking outweighs my sweet tooth.  I’ll bake so much that I don’t even want to eat my baked goods, just bake them.  This happens to me a lot, and I’m always trying to figure out whom to give my baked goods to.  My husband never had a sweet tooth before, but now he definitely does – he looks forward to my sweet treats more than I do!

So I found myself bored and looking at my W&S Cookies cookbook and decided to bake one of my favorites, Blondies.  I’ve told you guys before that I’m not a huge chocolate person, so brown sugar and butter is way more appealing to me than chocolate.  My hubby had some Kit Kats in the cupboard, so I decided to steal borrow them and bake up some Kit Kat blondies.  I crushed up the Kit Kats with a rolling pin, added them to the batter, and then sprinkled them on top.  Now I know I was just telling you guys I don’t always eat my baked goods, but that argument does not apply to Kit Kat blondies.  These babies were amazing – my hubby and I ate them all (Ok maybe we shared with my sister and brother-in-law), but we had the majority of them!  I was shocked at my ravaging behavior over these brownies.  There’s something about the brown sugar, butter, wafer, and chocolate (can’t believe I’m saying this!) combo that was just too scrumptious for me to keep my hands off of.  Definitely try this recipe… you will love it!


  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 8 snack-size Kit Kat bars


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease an 8″ square baking pan.
  2. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the butter and sugar and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Cook 1 minute longer and set aside to cool for 10 minutes.
  3. Unwrap Kit Kat bars, place in a Ziploc bag, and seal. With a rolling pin, roll over Kit Kat bars crushing them up into small pieces.  Set aside.
  4. Add the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla to cooled sugar mixture and stir to combine.
  5. Combine the flour and salt in another bowl and add to sugar mix. Stir until combined.
  6. Measure out 1/3 cup of Kit Kat pieces and set aside for topping. Fold remaining Kit Kat pieces into the batter.
  7. Pour the batter into the pan, spreading with a spatula to smooth.
  8. Sprinkle 1/3 cup of Kit Kat pieces over the batter.
  9. Bake for 25-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  10. Let cool completely before cutting into squares.


Filed under Baked Goods, Desserts

Nutella Mousse

I made this Nutella mousse for my husband’s birthday, and it was so creamy and delicious!  I wanted to make a dessert that would be light and not too filling because we were having a heavy dinner.  Nutella is amazing and it makes recipes taste infinitely better (am I right?). This is my third, 5-or-less ingredients recipe, and this recipe is perfect because it only has 3 ingredients (yes!). This recipe yielded 2.5 ramekins which was perfect for my husband and I, but to make more ramekins, feel free to double it.  I adapted this recipe from one I found on the World Nutella Day website.  This recipe is easy to make and you can use whatever toppings you’d like. I just sprinkled hazelnuts on top of my mousse, but you could make more whipped cream or you could sprinkle chocolate shavings or raspberries on top too.  Nutella tastes wonderful with so many different flavors and that’s exactly why I love it so much (besides the fact that it tastes like pure bliss).  Hope you enjoy this recipe!


  • 1/2 cup Nutella
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • Hazelnuts for sprinkling


  1. Whisk the Nutella and whipping cream until stiff peeks form.
  2. Divide the mousse between ramekins and refrigerate overnight.
  3. Top with chopped hazelnuts.


Filed under Desserts

Arugula Salad w/ Fennel and Oranges

Here’s my 2nd recipe that has 5 ingredients or less.  It’s an arugula salad with fresh oranges and sliced fennel.  I served this salad for my hubby’s birthday along with Fileno al Mirtillo and gnocchi with white wine sauce.  I love arugula — I love the peppery flavor, I love how it looks, I love everything about it (sorry, I’m obsessed).  Can you tell it’s my favorite type of salad green?  Because of its strong flavor, you don’t need to add a lot of accompaniments to it.  I like to add orange slices and fennel especially because I love the anise flavor that the fennel adds and the citrus freshness that the oranges add.  For the dressing, I keep it simple and use a very good extra virgin olive oil with some fresh lemon juice.  Add a touch of sea salt and some fresh cracked pepper and this salad is perfection.  It’s simple and yes, only has 5 ingredients, so enjoy!


  • 4 cups arugula
  • 1 navel orange, peeled and slices halved
  • 1/2 bulb fennel, sliced thinly
  • 2-3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • sea salt and fresh cracked pepper to season


  1. Mix arugula, oranges, and fennel in a bowl.
  2. Drizzle olive oil and lemon juice over salad and mix thoroughly.
  3. Season with salt and pepper to taste.


Filed under Side Dishes, Soup & Salad

Ode to My Hubby – Fileno al Mirtillo

My hubby’s 28th birthday was yesterday, so I decided to write a post dedicated to him!

(Florence = our home for 6 months and the place where we would become engaged 4 years later!)

My hubby and I met in Florence, Italy while studying abroad.  My friends were convinced that I would meet an Italian man, fall in love, and never return to the States again.  Well, I did meet an Italian (American) man and did fall in love, but did end up returning to the States.  Meeting someone in Italy was a surreal experience and we have so many memories of so many incredible places that we traveled to.

(Hiking through Cinque Terra)Ios, Greece (We look so young – we were only 21 here!)


Because my hubby loves steak and because he missed out on eating fillet mignon with blueberry sauce (Fileno al Mirtillo) at one of the best restaurants in Florence (Acqua al Due), I decided to recreate this dish for his birthday.  The first time I had this dish, it was amazing to say the least.  The flavors were so unique and the meat was so tender.  I’m not sure how Acqua al Due cooks their steak, but I pan-seared mine since this is how we generally like to eat steak.  I also made some awesome sides that I’ll be posting soon.

In other news, I decided to take on Rosy & Tart’s 10 with 5 Challenge.  They’ve challenged fellow food bloggers to create 10 dishes using only 5 ingredients (salt and pepper excluded thankfully) in 1 month.  I thought this would be a fun challenge for me to take on since very few of my recipes have 5 ingredients or less.  But let’s face it, we’re all super busy and lead hectic lives so why shouldn’t we create simple, but delicious dishes with as few ingredients as possible?  Well, this blueberry sauce is my first 5-or-less recipe of the challenge.  Enjoy!


  • 6 ounces fresh blueberries
  • 1/2 cup Balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp yellow onion (or shallots), finely diced
  • 2 tbsp fresh sage, finely diced
  • 2 fillet mignons
  • 2 tbsp olive oil (since this is to coat the pan and not added to the recipe, it doesn’t count as an ingredient)
  • salt & pepper, to season


  1. Season the steaks on both sides with salt and fresh ground pepper.
  2. Heat heavy large skillet over high heat. Add steaks to hot dry skillet and cook about 4 minutes per side for medium. Transfer to a platter and cover with aluminum foil to keep warm.
  3. Meanwhile, add the oil to another saute pan and heat over medium-high.
  4. Add onions and saute for 1 minute.
  5. Add blueberries and saute for 2 minutes.
  6. Add balsamic vinegar and bring to a boil.  Cook for 3 minutes.
  7. Add the fresh sage and simmer for 5 more minutes on low.
  8. Unwrap steaks from aluminum foil and spoon blueberry sauce while still hot.  Serve immediately.

*Yield: 2 fillet mignons


Filed under Main Course

Homemade Tomato Soup

There has been a lot of sickness going around lately, and I, of course, was no exception to this.  This past week, I got a very bad cold and actually had to stay home from work one day.  I was not feeling well all week – very tired, lethargic, and weak.  I decided to start doing a little research on vitamins.  I take a women’s multivitamin, but I’ve heard that those vitamins don’t have enough vitamin B which is key to energy production among other things.

There are 8 essential B vitamins (i.e. B-1, B-2, B-6, B-12, Folic Acid, etc.), so I decided to purchase a Vitamin B-Complex that has a little bit of all of them.  I just started taking them, but I’m very curious to see within the next several days whether I feel better and more energized.  I will definitely keep you posted!

This past weekend I finally started to feel better only to have my hubby start feeling sick.  He started feeling sick Friday night and by Sunday morning, he spent the better part of his day off in bed.  Since he was not very hungry and didn’t want to eat anything too complex, I decided to make him some homemade tomato soup (no I did not slip any vitamin B into his soup although it did cross my mind!).  I adapted this soup from a Food Network recipe I found several weeks ago and have been wanting to try.  I de-frosted some of my Ciabatta bread to dip in the soup.  My husband enjoyed the soup and bread (even if he couldn’t smell either).  He is still on cold medicines and will hopefully feel better soon since his birthday is tomorrow, and I have a wonderful dinner planned for him (shhhh).

Do you take any vitamins or multivitamins to stay healthy?  If so, what works for you?


  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 15-ounce can Cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 4 cups crushed tomatoes
  • 2 1/2  cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme
  • 2 tbsp lemon zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • sea salt and ground pepper to season


  1. In a large stock pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrots, and garlic and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 4 minutes.
  2. Add the beans, tomatoes, broth, bay leaf, thyme, lemon zest, and red pepper flakes. Bring the soup to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes, covered.
  3. Remove the bay leaf and puree the soup with a hand blender.
  4. Season with salt and pepper.


Filed under Soup & Salad