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I’ve moved my blog here. Unfortunately, I don’t have enough storage here for the pix, and at my new spot, that’s not a problem…I have yet to see a limit of how much space I can take up – muahahahaha! ūüôā see you there!


Sunday morning simplicity…

Wouldn’t it be nice to stay in your warm bed for a while on Sunday morning?¬† Your body craves something sweet, but the blankets are much too comfortable to disturb – you really don’t feel like getting dressed, but getting up and padding to the coffee maker is definitely an option.¬† Who needs Starbuck$ anyway? (sorry Tina! LOL)¬† If you have a grinder and some coffee from The Coffee Fool¬†(They have the BEST.COFFEE.EVER.¬† Just try ONE bag – I promise you, you’ll be hopelessly hooked), you are set…but are you?¬† You need something to eat with that wonderful cuppa java.¬† Hmmm…rummage around your cabinets…some stale italian bread…ugh no….cereal? ick…a moldy English Muffin? ummm don’t think so…a box of puff pastry in the freezer? check.¬† Brown sugar? check.¬† Nuts? check (you can take that any way you desire) butter? check.¬† Hmmm…I think we have the makings for some awesomely good Sticky Buns.¬† I promise you.¬† tr√®s facile.¬†molto facile. muy f√°cil. Meget let.¬†¬†¬†¬† žēĄž£ľ žČ¨žöī.¬† I don’t care what language you speak…any way you say it, these are SIMPLE.¬† And…they’re good.¬† yummy good. (before I get off on another language tangent, I think I’ll stop)

You need a box of puff pastry.¬† Please do NOT get phyllo dough.¬† It doesn’t work.¬† When I first saw these made on the “Barefoot Contessa”, I SWORE I heard her say “you can use puff pastry, or phyllo dough”.¬† I can’t think of any way I may have misheard “phyllo dough” – maybe she said “for the show” or “don’t you know”?¬†¬† Perhaps she had a wee bit too much wine (I kid, I kid!), or maybe I just needed to clean my ears out.¬† I bought phyllo dough.¬† When I took it out, I thought to myself “gee, this isn’t going to work, this is MUCH too flaky – and maybe I better just fold it up and stick it back in the freezer”¬† but I didn’t.¬† That was my mistake. I didn’t trust what I know…I trusted what I thought I heard Ina say, because I LOVE her as a chef, and SHE SAID IT SO IT MUST BE TRUE¬† – (didn’t some type of parental unit ever tell you “don’t believe everything you hear” as a kid?)¬† So, I made them, and laughed when I got these semi-gooey topped, dry, flaky, things-that-belong-in-the-trash.¬† Most cooks will not share their errors with you, because they don’t want you to think they can make any.¬† Do you ever see Bobby Flay or Emeril saying “Man..you should see how I goofed THIS recipe up the first time I made it!” No, you don’t.¬† And I don’t think that Gordon Ramsey would EVER admit he was human :-P.¬† I have no such compunctions, because I look at all mistakes as learning experiences.¬† I let my kids know I am human, I let you guys know I am human, and that just makes it all the better.¬† Maybe if we all admitted we were human, we’d be a tad more tolerant of each other…Heads of state saying “Oh, you know, I really overreacted when I said we’d nuke the hell out of you – sorry!” instead of sending 20 diplomats to try and avoid a nuclear meltdown…

The second time I made these, I used puff pastry and they were yummy.¬† They got the hubby seal of approval!¬† I changed the recipe up a bit (sorry Ina, but I think you’d understand, being a chef and all) to make it a tad easier than it already was…And guess what? You get to use your estimating expertise!!! Don’t be intimidated, I know you can do it!

I am going to give you the recipe with choc chips and coconut, because I LOVE the combo with the pecans and cinnamon.¬† If you are one of those rare people that can’t handle chocolate on Sunday morning, feel free to omit it.¬† In fact, I want you to make the sticky bun of your dreams with this recipe, and post your successes here.¬† We can all learn from each other! ūüôā¬† Don’t feel obligated to use exact amounts either – if you LOVE chips – add more!¬† If you don’t like coconut – don’t use it…you get the picture ūüôā

Here is what you need:  (printable recipe here )

Choconut Sticky Buns (makes 12, but I usually halve the recipe)

  • 12 tablespoons of butter at room temperature (take it out right before you go to bed – unless you sleep for 12 hours, then that’s not such a good idea, but – it has to be soft) reserve 2 tbs of this for the filling
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed (this means pack it down gently into the measuring cup)
  • 3/4 cup of chopped pecans
  • 1 package of puff pastry sheets. (not phyllo, not the cups…you want sheets)

for the filling:

  • 2 tbs of butter (Do a guesstimation – and leave about 2 tbs of butter/sugar mixture in the bowlsee above)
  • 1 cup of light brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 3-4 teaspoons of ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup chopped pecans, 1/2 cup choc chips, 1/2 cup coconut (more or less)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Get out a 12 cup muffin tin

In a glass bowl (“why a glass bowl?” you say…I reply “because you are going to melt the leftovers”) Mix the butter and brown sugar with a tablespoon – you know, the kind you eat soup with.

Now, take a slightly rounded tea spoon(I use a teaspoon from my silverware drawer, not the measuring kind for this step) and plop some into each muffin cup.¬† Leave about 2 tbs in the bowl.¬† If you used too much, take a little out…if you used too little, add some more –¬† Then sprinkle the 3/4 cup of ¬†pecans on top of the butter/sugar mixture.¬† Again, if you want less, don’t use it all…¬†(you should have LESS than what is pictured – I made this twice, and this is from the first time – waaaay too much buttah, sorry Ina- I adjusted the recipe accordingly, so the amount I have in the recipe is correct)

Now, put out a piece of wax paper on the counter, and gently unroll 1 roll of puff pastry with the folds going from LEFT to RIGHT (that’s vertically).¬† Melt that leftover butter/sugar mixture you have sitting in the glass bowl, and brush the entire sheet of puff pastry with it.¬† (You should have some left for the other sheet).¬†Now, making sure you leave a 1 inch border (“Why is that?” you ask, and I reply “Because¬†the filling will move when you roll it up, and the borders allow for that movement”)¬†sprinkle the sheet with 1/2 cup of brown sugar, 1/2 cup of pecans, 1/4 cup of coconut, and 1/4 cup of chips.¬† Feel free to eliminate some of those ingredients, or add others, depending on your whims.¬† I would just not recommend dill pickles.¬† Sprinkle the surface with cinnamon.¬† (I don’t measure, I just shake it evenly over the surface.)¬† Now, fold over the one edge closest to you and start rolling.¬† It should look something like this:

I have not added the chips or coconut yet.

¬†Roll up the puff pastry jelly-roll style, trying to keep it tight as you do.¬† Trim 1/2 inch off of each end, then divide the roll into six even pieces. (I find the easiest way to do this, is to make a mark in the center, then divide each half into three equal pieces MUCH easier)Now, place each piece spiral side UP into a muffin cup, and press it down slightly like so: Repeat this whole process again for the second sheet of puff pastry.¬† ¬†Bake for 30 minutes, or until golden brown on top and firm to the touch.¬†Wait only a minute or two, and dump the tin out onto either a piece of wax paper or parchment paper (MUCH easier to clean up, trust me.) ¬†and VOILA! you have awesomely good, ooey gooey sticky buns ūüôā


I am a salt aficianado.¬† Yes, I confess.¬† I put salt on tons of stuff.¬† I put salt in my cooking, on my plain pizza, french fries…I draw the line at watermelon though!¬† Salt enhances what you eat, but should not overwhelm it.¬† I think my son got my ‘love of all things salt’ gene, because he salts his food to the point where even I say “whoa! that’s enough salt!” (ask his sister, she’ll tell you)¬†

I’m sure you’ve read all those horrible stories about salt – bad for you, blah.blah.blah.¬†

*DISCLAIMER* this is my opinion – I am not a doctor, a nutritionist, or anything else – just someone who believes in eating as many unprocessed foods as I can.

Salt has been used for hundreds even thousands of years because of its healing properties Рfrom sore throats, to fungal skin infections, to clearing the sinuses, to dental hygiene, and more.  It was so treasured in the ancient world it was even used as currency. 

Today’s table salt sold in the supermarket is a far cry from the natural salts our ancestors used.¬†¬† It’s been processed, iodine and sugar added -the ingredients in a box of Morton’s Iodized salt are:¬† Salt , 1% or less of Calcium Silicate (An Anticaking Agent) , Dextrose , Potassium Iodide.¬† Some health food enthusiasts blame this for the water retention factors of a high sodium diet.¬† They believe that for each gram of processed salt you ingest, the body will use over 20 times the amount of cellular water to process it.¬† Now, if you remember your high school bio (or college) – water out of the cell leads to what? yup.¬† water retention.¬† I haven’t seen the studies that support this, but I can tell you, since I switched to sea salt and himalayan salt, I have ZERO problems with any kind of¬†water retention or swelling.

Salt seems to be the seasoning du jour.¬† Five years ago, you’d walk into the supermarket and all you had to choose from was the cardboard cylinder of good ole’ NaCl (Sodium Chloride).¬† Today you have pink salt, grey salt, sea salt, rock salt, kosher salt, salt with herbs, black salt, brown salt…a rainbow of colors – each with their own unique flavor.


I use Sicilian sea salt in my cooking.¬† I love the flavor – to me, it’s saltier than the processed table salt, so I use less…Sicilian sea salt has more magnesium and potassium and less sodium than conventionally processed salts.¬† I order mine online here – http://www.isolaimports.com/sea-saltdel-destino-fine-pr-194.html¬†yes, I am nuts – but I order two at a time, and they last me a LONG time.

I get my Himalayan sea salt from Trader Joe’s – it’s only $1.99 in a disposable salt mill.¬† That’s my table salt.¬† I used to order it online, but it’s cheaper buying it at Trader Joe’s.¬† If you don’t have one near you – pity.¬† The himalayan sea salt has a¬†unique flavor to me – a little goes a long way which is why I use it on the table.¬† Himalayan salt has over 84 minerals and trace elements – nothing is taken from it.¬† The salt is mined deep in the Himalayan mountains, from salt beds that were oceans AGES ago.¬† I’m hoping the stuff doesn’t run out anytime soon!
The third salt I use is a seasoned salt also from Italy (do you sense a trend here?) called Seasonello.¬† Oh.my.God.¬† This stuff is heaven.¬† Just open the jar and take a whiff (Tina I sent you some!) you will be amazed.¬† It’s sea salt with rosemary, garlic, sage, and pepper just to name a few ingredients.¬† I use this for *everything* (well, almost everything – it would NOT taste good in a pan of brownies – UGH) Try putting it on some popcorn, use it on your pizza, throw it in your tomato sauce, put a sprinkle on some veggies, chicken, the sky is the limit!¬† This has to be one of the most used and¬†versatile seasonings in my kitchen.¬† I must confess, sometimes I just go open the jar to take a whiff of that marvelous aroma, and it transports me somewhere far from where I am now…sort of like that old Calgon commercial, where the woman commanded “Calgon! Take me AWAY!” well, Seasonello takes me away to some little sunny cafe in Venice where I am sipping an espresso and breathing in the salt air…there’s a gentle sea breeze, the sun is warm upon my face, and I can hear¬†the gondoliers bantering with each other¬†and singing…ahhh…enough rambling, or else it will turn into babbling, and babbling is bad, because people stop listening, and start wondering about your sanity.
So… be adventurous!¬† Try¬†nordic smoked salt in your tuna salad, give the different colored salts a spin and see if you can tell the difference, or which you prefer.¬† I’m firmly entrenched (for now) in my three salts, but I’m thinking of picking up the smoked – it intrigues me, and¬†there is¬†always¬†the possibility of¬†another blog entry!
Ciao for now! ūüôā

Teen crushes and what that has to do with my love for cooking…

I love cooking.¬† My earliest memories were helping my mom make Oatmeal Chocolate Chip cookies when I was 4.¬† For some reason, a seed was planted then that grew into a freakin’ tree.¬† I think I was the only 11 year old that asked for the “Galloping Gourmet” cookbook for my birthday.¬† At 10 I made Roast Beef, mashed potatoes, and peas for my dad (all from scratch).¬† At 13, I made my first Indian curry thanks to my humungous teenage crush on Sajid Khan from “Maya” – I knew we were going to get married – Just like Tina and Ryan Seacrest!¬†¬† It was destiny, kismet, fate, karma…if only there was SOME WAY my letters could reach him, he would FEEL IT TOO.¬†

The recipe was for curry using ground¬†meat and was published in “16” magazine as part of an article about what Saj would make you for dinner, should you come over for a ‘dream date’. *swoon* LOL¬† I still have the recipe!!! I hate to tell you how many years later it is (I know how many, but like I said…I hate to tell!)¬† Here it is in all its glory – if you look closely at the top, you can see the tweenage handwriting with the ‚̧ at the end of “Saj’s Indian Curry” LOL

My¬†obsession with Indian food lasted for years.¬† In fact, I still love to cook it.¬† What fascinates me is how the spices can make the dish SO hot, yet still flavorful.¬† It really is an explosion of the senses – sensual, exotic, spicy, harsh, sweet, pungent all rolled up into one dish.¬† Wow.¬†¬† Don’t let the ingredient list intimidate you – it’s really mostly spices.¬† The secret to a good curry is simmering it for hours.¬† Oh…and naan (a type of Indian bread) plenty of naan…

That’s Amore!

Sometimes I think I am synched in some way with you¬†Tina vicariously through Meg…I burned a CD for you last night which I am going to send, along with a couple other cooking surprises (seasonings) and it’s funny you blogged about Robby.¬† Now you can make this wonderful antipasto, and have¬† a nice romantic evening – but not until the CD arrives!¬† LOL ūüôā

Anti meaning “before” in Latin, and pasta of course, meaning…”pasta”.¬† Literally translated, it means “before the pasta”.¬† Italians have the right idea about eating.¬† Let it take hours.¬† Have some wine, laugh, talk loudly, and celebrate life.¬† Eat a little, let it digest, eat a little more, and have your biggest meal at lunch.¬† Oh, and did I mention the wine? ūüôā¬† A typical Italian lunch would be antipasto followed by ensalata(salad) or zuppa (soup) or pasta, then some sort of chicken, meat, fish, and of course lastly…the dolce (sweet) and coffee.¬† Dinner is much lighter, some salami, a salad, bread, wine…

But we are talking antipasti (the plural of antipasto) here.  Antipasti is what YOU make it.  Let your imagination run wild.  I suggest you get a few staples to keep in your cabinet, so on the nights you just do NOT feel like cooking, nor going out, a quick stop at the local HEB will get you the fresh ingredients you need for your quiet night in eating something other than what-passes-for-pizza in Texas (sad but true).

So…shopping list for your cabinet:¬†

  1. Roasted red peppers РThese can be canned or in a jar.  They must be ROASTED.
  2. Artichoke hearts – Either packed in olive oil, or water, doesn’t matter.¬† You can add the oil later.¬†¬†¬†
  3. Peperoncini – These are little peppers with a kick.¬† Get them if you like spicy stuff.¬† If you’re like Meg, then pass on them ūüôā
  4. Marinated Vegetables – Not necessary, but nice to have if you are too tired/lazy to make a salad.
  5. Olives Рany kind you like.  I like green. 

¬†Now…what you need from the store – Here is where poetic license comes in.¬† Try and choose things that have different flavors, textures…that is what keeps it interesting.¬† Take the staples from your cabinet for example – the roasted peppers are sweet, smooth; the peperoncini spicy, al dente; the olives, salty; the marinated vegetables – crunchy and acidic.¬† Like any relationship, you need to ‘mix things up’ so it doesn’t get boring.¬† However, you don’t want to overwhelm.¬† So my suggestion is…two cheeses – a good stinky Italian cheese like sharp Provolone, and a creamy mellow cheese like a fresh mozzarella.¬†

¬†Next, head over to the deli department.¬† Use the same concept of variety with the cold cuts.¬† Sweet, spicy, smoky, chewy…yes, you can have it all.¬† First, get some Genoa Salami.¬† Then, some Pepperoni. Then, Prosciutto This is pronounced “Pro-JOO-toh” if you try saying it any other way in Texas (like proJOOT) they will look at you like you have two heads and say “WHUT?”)¬†¬†If the have Cappacuolo, (Italian ham- either¬†sweet¬†or¬†hot) You can pick up some of that as well – about 1/4 pound of each.¬† If they do not have Cappacuolo, simply get a regular ham. Oh! and if they have Prosciutto Panino (see picture) pick that up too – Prosciutto and mozzarella roll¬†– yum OH!


Now, head over to the bakery and pick up some Ciabatta bread.¬† You’re done!¬† For a treat,¬†stop at¬†the liquor store and pick up a bottle of Prosecco.¬†¬† Martini & Rossi is excellent, about $14/bottle.¬† Get that for your first bottle, then you have a good bottle to compare others to.¬† Prosecco is a sparkling wine made in Italy.¬† It’s the Italian version of champagne, but it’s not as bubbly as champagne.¬† There are actually three different types of prosecco – tranquillo,¬† or a still wine; frizzante, or with subtle bubbles (I love this kind) and spumante, which is like a champagne.¬† The frizzante will come with simply a cork¬†and some twine on the top that you remove with a corkscrew.¬† Martini & Rossi Prosecco is frizzante.¬† People in Italy drink Prosecco when they get together – they’ll have it before a meal while chatting at a ristorante or a bistro.¬† It’s something that brings people together.¬† I love that idea!¬†

¬†Now you are ready to eat!¬† Get a couple of plates.¬† Arrange the cold cuts in a pretty pattern – heap some olives in the center of the plate, put some cheese¬† in between the stacks of cold cuts.¬† You’ll probably need two dinner plates to arrange your stuff on.¬† Arrange the red peppers, artichoke hearts, veggies on another plate.¬† Uncork the wine, cut the bread – put a bit of olive oil on a saucer, and grind a healthy amount of Italian Seasoning onto the plate, and a dash of Seasonello.¬† Put on some Andrea Bocelli, light some candles, hunker down on the couch with hubby, and Mangia!

For some laughs and giggles to complete the experience:¬† Here are some Italian terms of endearment…actually, Italians make up their own pet names for loved ones (I think that’s incredibly romantic) but here are some of the more¬†commonplace ones:

dolce – (DOHL-chay) – “Sweet”

amore, or mi amore – (Mee ahMOR-a( long “A” like in ape) – my love

bambina/o Р(bam-BEEN-ah/oh[masc])  Рbaby