As part of the amazing box of goodness I received from Marovato Italian Imports last month, were a few packages of these Almond Cake Cookies. I love their buttery taste and texture and the hint of almond flavor. I debated throwing them into a batch of almond ice cream, but decided to use them as the crust for a cherry cheesecake instead. The combination of almond and cherry is hard to beat in my opinion and a layer of chocolate ganache over the top definitely helps these bars stand out.
I have so enjoyed getting to try the different goodies that were sent to me by Marovato Italian Imports. As I mentioned in my post about their orecchiette pasta, all of their food is imported directly from Italy. The family-owned company was started by Tony who grew up in the Puglia region of Italy and moved to the US when he was 18. When he realized how difficult it was to find authentic Italian food here in the States he decided to start the import business! For many years they sold primarily to restaurants and in bulk sales, but now they’ve opened up their website for direct sales to consumers too. Being able to order specialty ingredients online is super convenient and it lets me get my hands on products I wouldn’t normally be able to enjoy. They’re having a great sale on their baked good items right now, this is a perfect time to check them out!
A bit of a disclaimer- I’m usually all about making stuff from scratch, but the heat and humidity in my house were reaching slightly unbearable levels this weekend so I took a shortcut and used canned cherry pie filling. While I was definitely looking forward to some cool, creamy cheesecake, having to turn on the stove to make cherry pie filling seemed like too much!
Cherry Cheesecake Bars
- 1 1/2 cups Almond Cake Cookies (or other almond shortbread type cookie), crushed
- 5 tbl. butter, melted
- 16 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 eggs, at room temperature
- 1/4 cup milk or cream
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 tsp. almond extract
- 21 oz. can cherry pie filling
- 1 cup dark chocolate chips
- 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease a 8 x 8 inch baking dish. Set aside.
- In a small bowl, combine the crushed cookies and melted butter. Press into the prepared pan and bake for about 8 minutes or until the crust is very light brown around the edges. Set aside.
- Beat the cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, followed by the milk, and vanilla and almond extracts. Pour the cream cheese mixture evenly over the crust. Top with the cherry pie filling and use a knife to gently swirl the filling into the cheesecake. Bake for about 30-35 minutes or until the cake is set around the edges and just slightly jiggly in the center. Turn off the oven and crack the door to allow the cheesecake to cool down slowly. After about 30 minutes, transfer the cheesecake to the counter to finish cooling.
- Once cool, prepare your ganache by melting the dark chocolate chips and heavy whipping cream in the top of a double boiler. Stir to combine, then spread evenly over the cheesecake. Cool completely in the refrigerator before cutting and serving.
First off, thank you all for the comments on the Pasta alla Vodka post, I was happy to see that you all love Italian food as much as I do! The winner for the giveaway sponsored by Marovato Italian Imports is Kimi from Twenty-Something Simple whose favorite Italian dish is gnocchi with pesto sauce which is definitely one of my favorites too. She won some amazing pasta and tomato sauce, in addition to their delicious taralli cookies. Check back in another week or so for another recipe featuring ingredients from Marovato Italian Imports!
This week though, I’m sharing this tasty scone recipe. Scones are definitely one of my favorite breakfast pastries and I’m also keeping my eye out for new recipes to try. This recipe is not only the best I’ve made so far, it’s also the easiest with is always a wonderful thing. I used dried blueberries for this batch, but it could easily be adapted for different types of fruit.
If desired, you could make a quick powdered sugar glaze for the top, but I thought they were delicious without the glaze. I brought these over to a friend’s house for tea one morning and they were quickly devoured!
These scones can be made ahead of time and frozen. You can bake them directly from the freezer, just add a few extra minutes to the baking time.
- 2 cups flour
- 1 tbl. baking powder
- 3 tbl. sugar
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 5 tbl. unsalted butter chilled and cut in 1/4 in pieces
- 2/3 cup dried blueberries, soaked in hot water for about 30 minutes then drained
- 1 cup heavy cream
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
- Combine the flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt in a large bowl or in a food processor. Add the chunks of butter and use the food processor or a pastry cutter to cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Transfer the dough to a large bowl and stir in the blueberries. Add the heavy cream and stir until a dough beings to form, about 30 seconds. Knead by hand for 5 to 10 seconds until the dough comes together in a rough, sticky ball.
- Pat the dough into an 8-inch disk, then cut into 8 wedges- one easy way to do this is to press the dough evenly into a lightly floured 8-inch cake pan then turn it out onto the counter to cut. Place the wedges on a cookie sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes until the tops are light brown. Allow to cool on the pan for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire cooling rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Makes: 8 scones
Adapted from Cooks Illustrated
A few weeks ago I received an email from RoseMarie at Marovato Italian Imports, she found my blog while looking for recipes for her family and wondered if I would be interested in trying some samples. I only had to spend a minute or two on their website to answer an enthusiastic ‘yes!’ to sampling their products. I live in a very rural area where it can be hard (i.e. impossible) to find specialty foods without driving a couple of hours to a larger city so it’s been a while since I’ve been able to cook with high-end, imported ingredients. The day the box of samples arrived I was basically like a little kid at Christmas ripping through bubble-wrap to see what kind of fun ingredients I’d get to experiment with. They import all of their products directly from Italy and have been selling them wholesale for years. Recently they’ve expanded the business and are able to sell products directly to consumers through their website, it’s a great way to find high-end ingredients, especially if you don’t live in an area with specialty grocery stores.
I’ve never made my own pasta noodles, but I’ve had handmade pasta at a few nice Italian restaurants and the orecchiette pasta from Marovato Italian Imports was every bit as good. The texture of the pasta was spot-on with a soft center and slightly chewy outer edges and the shape was perfect for holding this rich tomato sauce. The flavors in the tomato sauce are simple in a comforting way and the sauce goes together pretty quickly making this a perfect weeknight meal that still tastes indulgent.
Marovato Italian Imports has generously offered to send some pasta, tomato sauce, and a package of their amazing taralli cookies to one lucky reader! Just leave a comment on this post by June 11th and tell me about your favorite Italian dish then be sure to check out their page on Facebook!*
Pasta alla Vodka
- 16 oz. pasta
- 28 oz. can diced tomatoes, drained with the liquid reserved (or 1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes and 1 14 oz. can crushed tomatoes)
- 2 tbl. olive oil
- 1/2 small onion, minced
- 1 tbl. tomato paste
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
- 1/3 cup vodka (the cheap stuff is fine)
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- salt to taste
- fresh basil and Parmesan to garnish
- Start your sauce by placing approximately half of the tomatoes in a food processor or blender and puree until smooth. Add the pureed tomatoes and remaining diced tomatoes to a liquid measuring cup; add enough of the reserved tomato juice to equal about 2 cups.
- Place a large saucepan over medium-high heat and add the olive oil. When the oil is warm, add the onion and tomato paste and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for another 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes then remove from heat and stir in the vodka. Return the pan to the heat and simmer until the alcohol is cooked off, about 8-10 minutes.
- While the sauce is simmering, bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook your pasta according to the package directions. Drain the pasta and save about 1/4 cup of the pasta water.
- When the alcohol has cooked off from the tomato sauce, reduce the heat and add the cream. Cook just until the sauce is heated through. Salt to taste.
- Return the cooked pasta to the pot it was cooked in and add the tomato sauce. Stir until the pasta is evenly coated, if the sauce is too thick then slowly add a bit of the reserved pasta water. Garnish with fresh basil and Parmesan cheese.
Makes: 4 generous servings
*The giveaway is limited to readers in the US so that we can keep shipping costs reasonable. Marovato Italian Imports generously gave me some products to sample, but all the opinions in this post are my own.
Last month I was able to spend a week visiting my mom in Colorado. The drive out there was a series of unfortunate events that included a malfunctioning car, heavy snowstorms, and massive construction delays, but it was definitely worth the trip. My mom had to travel one night while I was there, so with the kitchen to myself, I decided it was time to bake a cake. I love baking cakes that have different types of filling and frosting. While they do take a bit of time, the end result is so delicious and I just enjoy the process of being in the kitchen.
When I was assembling the layers for this Six Layer Lemon Cake I was pretty sure it was going to taste incredible, and it managed to surpass my expectations! The cake itself is soft, moist, and lightly flavored with lemon, the layers of the cake alternate between a light lemon cream cheese frosting and a tart lemon curd and the same fluffy frosting from the middle of the cake goes around the outside of the cake to finish it off. The cake is decidedly lemon flavored without being overwhelming. As an added bonus, the lemon curd keeps the cake soft so the leftovers will be good for several days (assuming it lasts that long!)
Six Layer Lemon Cake
- 3 cups cake flour
- 1 tbl. baking powder
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
- zest from 1/2 a lemon
- 2 cups sugar
- 5 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 1/4 cups buttermilk, at room temperature
- 1 tbl. lemon extract
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 2 cups heavy cream, cold
- 8 oz. cream cheese, cold
- 5 tbl. unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 2 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
- 4 tsp. lemon extract
- zest from 1 lemon
- 1 batch lemon curd (or a jar of store-bought lemon curd)
- To Make the Cake Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour 3 8-inch cake pans, line the bottoms of the pans with parchment paper.
- In a medium sized bowl, combine the cake flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir to combine, then set aside.
- In a mixing bowl, cream the butter and lemon zest until light and pale in color, about 4 minutes, scraping the bowl halfway through. Gradually add the sugar, 1/4 cup at a time beating for 1 minute after each addition. Mix in the eggs one at a time until the mixture is smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Combine the buttermilk, vanilla and lemon extracts in a separate bowl. Alternate between adding the dry and wet ingredients, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients and mixing until just combined.
- Divide the batter between the pans and bake until golden and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, about 20-22 minutes. Let cool in the pans for about 10 minutes, then invert onto a wire rack to cool completely. Once the cakes have cooled, cut each layer in half so you have a total of 6 layers of cake.
- To Make the Frosting: Add the heavy cream to the bowl of an electric mixer and whip on high speed until stiff peaks form, being careful not to overbeat. Transfer the whipped cream to a separate bowl. Using the same electric mixing bowl, combine the cream cheese and butter. Beat on medium-high speed until completely smooth. Add the confectioners’ sugar and stir on low speed until combined. Add the lemon extract and lemon zest, then increase the speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Use a rubber spatula or spoon to gently fold about a third of the whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture. Gently fold in the rest of the whipped cream until the mixture is evenly blended and no streaks of whipped cream remain.
- To Assemble the Cake: Place a layer of cake on your cake stand. Spoon a small amount of frosting into a pastry bag fitted with a small tip (the style of tip doesn’t matter) pipe a line of frosting in a circle around the edge of the cake to serve as a dam for the lemon curd. Spoon some lemon curd onto the cake and smooth to the edges. Top with a layer of cake and frosting. Repeat the layers until all the cake has been used, ending with a layer of frosting on top. Frost the outside of the cake and use a pastry bag to decorate the outside of the cake if desired. Serve and enjoy! Leftovers should be stored in the refrigerator.
One of my favorite things about cool weather is being able to use my slow cooker to prepare different kinds of soup. It’s such an easy, low-maintenance way to make a ton of food to get me through the week. Usually by this time of year I’m getting burned out on soup and the weather is warm enough that eating hot soup doesn’t sound very appealing, but this has been a cool spring and I’m not sick of soup yet, so it’s staying on the menu for at least a little while longer.
A few weeks ago I went for a very cold, windy hike and was absolutely drenched with rain by the time I got back to the car. It was so great come home to a hot shower and a bowl of this lentil chili! This soup has great flavor from all the vegetables and spices and it’s pretty healthy while still fitting into the ‘comfort food’ category. Depending on what you use as toppings, this chili could easily be gluten-free and vegan. As written, this recipe makes a huge batch, if you don’t need quite so much you can definitely cut all the ingredients in half, or just freeze some soup for another day.
Slow Cooker Lentil Chili
- 1 onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 jalapeno, seeds removed and diced
- 1 red pepper, chopped
- 1 cup diced carrots
- 2 1/2 cups vegetable broth*
- 2 15 oz. cans tomato sauce
- 2 15 oz. cans diced tomatoes (with juices)
- 2 15 oz. cans small red beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 16 oz. bag brown lentils, rinsed
- 2-3 tbl. chili powder
- 1 tbl. cumin
- salt and pepper to taste
- Combine all ingredients in a slow cooker and stir to combine.
- Cook on high for 6 hours or low for at least 8 hours. Check the lentils for doneness then continue cooking if necessary. Once finished, garnish with your favorite chili toppings and enjoy!
* I added an extra splash of broth to the leftover soup when I re-heated it.
Makes: About 10 servings
I know, two desserts with chocolate in a row. Don’t worry- the next dessert will have lemon!
But first, these chocolate oat bars. Super simple, super tasty, and you probably have all the ingredients in your kitchen already. These bars have a rich layer of chocolate fudge sandwiched between two chewy oatmeal crumb layers. While the bars are perfectly delicious just like this, I think they would also be great with some walnuts or pecans added to the chocolate fudge layer.
As written, the recipe fits in a 8 x 8 pan, but you can easily double the ingredients to make a larger batch (which I highly recommend because these are amazing and you’ll wish you had more!)
Chocolate Oat Bars
- 1 cup quick-cook oats
- 1 cup brown sugar, packed
- 3/4 cup flour
- 1/4 tsp. baking powder
- 1/4 tsp. baking soda
- 1/8 tsp. salt
- 8 tbl. unsalted butter, melted
- 1/4 cup flour
- 1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
- 2 tsp. instant espresso or instant coffee
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
- 2 tbl. unsalted butter
- 1 egg
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line a 8 x 8 inch pan with foil and butter the foil.
- Stir together the oats, brown sugar, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the melted butter and stir until combined. Reserve 3/4 cup of the oat mixture for the topping, press the rest of the mixture into the prepared pan. Bake the crust for about 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes while you prepare the chocolate layer.
- Whisk together the flour, sugar, instant espresso, and salt. Melt the chocolate and butter over a double boiler or in the microwave. Let the melted chocolate cool for several minutes, then whisk in the egg. Add the flour mixture and stir until combined.
- Spread the chocolate mixture over the crust, then crumble the remaining oat mixture over the top. Bake until the top layer of oatmeal is light golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out with only a few crumbs. Remove the bars from the oven and allow to cool completely before cutting.
I made these cookies for the first time earlier this winter for a holiday party. Since then I’ve made them for several other occasions and they’ve been a huge hit each time. Even though I don’t drink coffee regularly, I do love the flavor of espresso in baked goods- especially if it’s paired with dark chocolate and coconut. Lots of good flavors are happening in these Espresso Dark Chocolate Coconut Cookies!
While I certainly don’t mind baking ‘fussy’ cookies most of the time, it is nice to have a few recipes on hand that are quick to pull together. There’s no chilling of dough or finicky measurements required for these cookies, just mix and bake. I think they’d also be delicious with some toasted walnuts added to the dough.
Espresso Dark Chocolate Coconut Cookies
- 3 1/2 cups flour
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 1 tsp. salt
- 2 tbl. espresso powder
- 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 tbl. vanilla extract
- 1 tsp. coconut extract
- 1 cup dark chocolate chips
- 1 cup shredded coconut
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt and espresso powder. Set aside.
- Use an electric mixer to beat the sugars and butter on medium high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until combined after each addition. Stir in the vanilla and coconut extracts. Decrease the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing until just incorporated. Fold in the chocolate chips and coconut.
- Use a large dough scoop (mine was about 2.5 tbl) to drop the dough onto the prepared cookie sheet. Bake for about 12-14 minutes until just set. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for about 5 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Makes: About 2 dozen cookies
I tried chana masala for the first time last fall and I immediately started looking online for a recipe that I could recreate at home. Luckily I found this recipe from the Smitten Kitchen right away and it was perfect- even better than the restaurant version I tried first.
There are several things to love about this meal- first off it’s delicious, it’s also healthy and re-heats perfectly. Unless you have a very well stocked spice cabinet you may need to purchase a few spices, I’ll admit to being hesitant to purchase all the necessary spices initially, but I’m glad I did. I’ve made this dish several times and I’m excited to try a few other Indian dishes now that I have a better selection of spices.
I usually serve the chana masala over some roasted vegetables- my current favorite mix of veggies is sweet potatoes, brussel sprouts, onion, and broccoli- but it would also be great over rice or with pita bread.
- 1 tbl. vegetable oil
- 2 onions, chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2 tsp. grated fresh ginger
- 1 fresh, hot green chili pepper, minced (optional)
- 1 tbl. ground coriander
- 2 tsp. ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp. ground cayenne pepper
- 1 tsp. ground turmeric
- 2 tsp. paprika
- 1 tsp. garam masala
- 15 oz. can diced tomatoes with juices (or 2 cups tomatoes, diced)
- 2/3 cup water
- 2 15 oz. cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- juice from 1/2 lemon
- salt and pepper
- Heat the oil in a medium sized pot over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, ginger, and pepper and saute over medium heat for about 5 minutes until the onion has softened. Decrease the heat to medium-low and add the coriander, cumin, cayenne, turmeric, paprika, and garam masala. Cook for two minutes then add the tomatoes (and juices), water, and chickpeas. Simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes then add the lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve immediately or reheat it later as needed.
Makes: About 6 servings
I’ve been on a big oatmeal raisin kick the last couple of months. I’ve experimented with a few different oatmeal raisin cookie recipes and I think I’ve finally found the one. Unfortunately I still haven’t taken decent pictures of those cookies, but eventually I will and I get them posted on here! In the meantime, I stumbled across this recipe last week and as soon as I saw it I knew I had to give it a try.
Fortunately I was visiting family over the weekend so I had the perfect excuse to make this Oatmeal Raisin Cake. The cake itself is soft and tender with plump raisins and just a hint of cinnamon. It’s topped off with a smooth cream cheese frosting which is always a good addition! This cake comes together very easily. It does take a little bit of planning since the oatmeal and raisins both need about 30 minutes to soak before the cake is mixed up but once those are finished the rest of the cake comes together in minutes.
Oatmeal Raisin Cake
- 1 1/4 cups boiling water + additional hot water for the raisins
- 1 1/2 cup raisins
- 1 1/2 cups + 2 tbl. flour
- 1 cup old-fashioned oats
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into cubes and at room temperature
- 2 large eggs
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 1/4 cups dark brown sugar, packed
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
- 5 tbl. unsalted butter at room temperature
- 5 oz. cream cheese, chilled
- 2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- Place the butter and oats in a bowl, pour 1 1/4 cups boiling water over the oats and butter and allow to sit for about 30 seconds then stir the mixture to moisten all the oats and melt the butter. Set aside for 25-30 minutes.
- Place the raisins in a separate small bowl and cover with hot water, let soak for about 25 minutes then drain well. Place the drained raisins in a bowl and toss them with 2 tbl. flour, this will keep the raisins from sinking to the bottom of the pan. Set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and grease a 9 x 13 inch pan, set aside.
- In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, vanilla, sugar, and brown sugar until smooth then add the salt, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Pour in the oatmeal mixture and stir to combine. Gently fold in the remaining 1 1/2 cups flour and the raisins.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, about 35-40 minutes. Set the pan on a wire rack to cool completely.
- When the cake is cool, prepare the frosting by beating the butter and cream cheese until smooth, about 3 minutes. Add the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla and beat until smooth and fluffy, another 3 minutes. Spread evenly over the cooled cake.
I spent last weekend enjoying some time on the west coast with my family. Whenever we get together there is sure to be an abundance of delicious food, and last weekend was no exception. There are a number of talented cooks in the family so a few weeks before our family gatherings we usually divvy up meals and cooking responsibilities and I’m always eager to help, especially when it comes to desserts and treats.
With egg stratas, mimosas, and fresh fruit already on the breakfast menu, I volunteered to take charge of the sweet component and made this Blueberry Sour Cream Coffee Cake. The recipe can be mixed up quickly with just a spoon and whisk which was definitely a bonus for me since I was able to start working on it while part of the family was still sleeping. The sour cream keeps the cake moist and tender and a bit of tart lemon zest in the crumble topping is a great contrast to the sweet blueberries.
While the cake was baking I got distracted looking at old photo albums with my brother and cooked it significantly longer than I meant to (oops!) but it still tasted great and was quickly devoured. Lesson learned- find your phone and set a timer, don’t rely on memory!
Blueberry Sour Cream Coffee Cake
- 1 cup flour
- 2/3 cup sugar
- zest from 1 organic lemon
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
- 1 3/4 cup flour
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- 1/4 tsp. baking soda
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup sour cream
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 2 cups organic blueberries (fresh is ideal, but frozen will work too)
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease and flour a 10-inch round springform pan.
- Make the crumble topping by stirring together the flour, sugar and lemon zest. Add the melted butter and stir with a fork until the mixture is combined (it will be crumbly in texture). Set aside.
- Start the cake by mixing flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium-sized bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, sour cream and vanilla until smooth. Pour the egg mixture into the bowl with the dry ingredients and stir until the batter is well-blended and smooth.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly. Cover the top of the cake with blueberries then crumble the topping over the berries.
- Bake for about 45 minutes until the topping is light brown and the center of the cake is set. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and allow to cool for 20 minutes. Run a knife around the edges of the pan, then remove the sides of the springform pan. Serve warm or allow to cool to room temperature before serving.