Thursday, November 4, 2010

Avicolli's is the Real Deal :)

Hey All!
I am a Bridesmaid in a very dear friend's wedding this weekend, which leaves me a twinge short on time. So, for this post, in lieu of a recipe, I'm going to give a VERY STRONG recommendation to a local, privately owned, non-chain Italian restaurant here in the Liverpool area that I had the privilege of working for for the majority of this past year. Avicolli's Pizzeria and Restaurant on Rte. 57 in Liverpool, NY. Here's their website :)

     I was a server at Avicolli's for many months. And the fact that I will still wholeheartedly recommend them after being employed there should speak volumes about the establishment. Before we even get to food, let me say that I really liked everyone that I worked with, the scheduling was flexible and very fair, the kitchen and prep areas are very clean, and everyone really does work as a team, I couldn't have asked for better :) Sometime soon I will be reflecting on my time spent there in my other blog, so check out *So I was Thinking* in the coming weeks to hear a more detailed account of my restaurant adventures.

And now, the important part, the FOOD:

- they make their own Marinara, and it's GREAT. Those of you that know me well know that I'm a huge snob when it comes to this, and I will rarely eat red sauce when I go out. Not only will I eat this, I will eat it GLADLY.
- All of their sauces are homemade
- The garlic knots are homemade
- A large portion of the desserts and the Italian bread are from local bakeries
- In the warm weather there is an herb garden on premises that the kitchen pulls from daily.
- In my opinion, the best Pizza in the Liverpool area.
- The building houses two separate dining areas, a classic counter pizzeria and a sit down restaurant.
- Homemade house balsamic dressing
- Best chicken parmesan in the Liverpool area

My personal recommendations:
- Chef Salad
- Antipasto Salad
- ANY of the Pizzas, though my personal favorites are Gramma's Favorite, Margherita, and White
- Baked Ziti Sicilian 
- Chicken Parmesan
- Any pasta shape with Vodka Sauce
- Any pasta shape with Amatriciana Sauce
- Chicken or Veal Francese

- Check them out, tell them Lynn sent you, you won't regret it :)


Thursday, October 28, 2010

Crock Pot Lasagna

    Is there anyone else out there who experiences Food Emergencies? I'm sure there are, but allow me to explain. In my world, a food emergency is akin to a craving. When, for reasons internal or external, a certain food becomes immediately necessary. Stress, PMS, good days, bad days, and so on, lead to food emergencies. I myself have been known to have Milkshakes Emergencies, Chocolate Chip Cookie Emergencies, and Fresh Fruit Emergencies, just to name a few :)

    Being Italian, Pasta is basically always at the top of my comfort food list. In all it's many incarnations, homemade pasta is basically love and comfort in a bowl, at for me:. Sometimes, you just need Lasagna, you know what I mean? However, sometimes I just don't have the time to make a traditional lasagna, as much as I would like to. Last year, my wonderful Mama gave me a cookbook that was a compilation of recipes from the people who work at her hospital, and in this book are several delicious stew and pasta recipes that have been designed for a slow cooker. My two favorites from this book are the Crock Pot Macaroni and Cheese (that one will probably show up in a later post), and the star of today's show, Crock Pot Lasagna. Yes, friends, Lasagna wherein you can throw virtually all of the ingredients into the Crock Pot, uncooked, forget about it for a few hours, and then have it ready and waiting for you. The only "cooking" you have to do is brown the meat before it goes in. Oh, Crock Pot Lasagna, where have you BEEN all my life?

  BEFORE WE BEGIN: This version does not serve up as neatly as traditional lasagna (the kind you put in the oven and serve by cutting and serving in squares). Getting the lasagna out of the Crock Pot can make the layers more prone to falling apart, so they won't be pretty, perefectly shaped squares, but that certainly won't affect the taste. The flavor is not exactly the same as traditional lasagna either, but it's pretty darn close and goes together in about one quarter of the time. So, here ya go, throw this in the Crock Pot mid-morning and the bubbly, cheesy, meaty pasta goodness will be ready for you by dinner time :) YUM:)

Crock Pot Lasagna
- 6 Lasagna noodles, uncooked
- 1/2 lb. ground beef
- 1/4 lb Italian sausage (you could also use all beef or all sausage, depending on your tastes)
- 1 garlic clove (or 1/2 of a garlic clove if garlic isn't your thing, although I find it hard to believe people like that actually exist 0_o)
- 1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded  (okay, I'll be honest, the recipe in the book called for 1 cup, but if you think that's all I used you clearly don't know me very well :) Use however much tickles your fancy:)
- 14 oz. Pasta Sauce, we make our own in my family, but if you do jarred sauce, use your favorite brand.
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 can mushrooms (optional, I've made it both ways, and they're both tasty, again, do as you please)
- 8 oz. Ricotta Cheese (my Mom mixes one egg and a little parsley into the Ricotta cheese, even though the recipe in the book doesn't call for it. I prefer it my Mom's way, but it's your call)

- Grease Crock Pot (Unless it's non-stick. I was tempted to skip this, don't. A thin coating of oil or Pam should do you just fine)
- Break noodles in half and place 1/2 of the noodles in the bottom of the Crock Pot. Brown beef and sausage and drain. Spread half of this mixture over the first layer of lasagna noodles.
- Follow the meat mixture with half of the sauce, water, mushrooms (if using), ricotta and mozzarella. Repeat ingredients in this order for the second layer, ending with the mozzarella cheese.

- Cook on low for 5 hours. Serves about 4 people.

This recipe is enough for about two layers. If you have a bigger/deeper Crock Pot, or you are feeding more people, this recipe can be increased by 1/3rd (for a third layer), doubled or even tripled. That's why I love dishes like this, they can be adjusted to feed as many people as you can crowd around a table. Pasta is Magic :)

To give credit where it is certainly due, this recipe came from the Community General Hospital Family Cookbook:)

Enjoy <3

UPDATE 11/26/11: I would like to apologize for the photo quality in this particular blog post. This was back when I was still getting the hang of food photography and wasn't very adept at getting step by step photos. The next time I make this dish I will reshoot the photos and put them up here so that they better illustrate the recipe :)

Monday, October 18, 2010

Fresh Apple Cake with Warm Butter Cream Sauce

I'm back!!!!

Hello My Darlings! After an amazing and amazingly busy summer, I return to my beloved food blog :) I've missed you all so much, and I've got tons of ideas for posts! As the dark months approach, recipes for homey, comfort-type food come to the forefront of my mind. Let's set the Autumnal mood with the aforementioned Apple Cake with Warm Butter Cream Sauce :)

An apple recipe? In October? The Hell you say!?!?
 No, friends, I am completely serious:) Here a few things I like about this recipe:
- It's not apple pie. Don't mistake me, I love me some apple pie. However, being mid-October, I have had apple pie and apple crisp several times already, and I am ready to move on to a slightly different type of apple dessert.
-If you served this without the butter sauce (or, heck, even with the butter sauce) this cake would be excellent for breakfast. Some hot tea or coffee, the morning paper if that's your thing, and you've got yourself Morning Bliss :)
-It's not too sweet.
- It keeps well, in a covered 9x13 pan, it'll last you for at least a few days, the apple keeps it nice and moist, but not soggy. The sauce can be refrigerated for several days also.

 This one comes from my Mom's vast recipe collection. Enjoy:)

Fresh Apple Cake with Warm Butter Cream Sauce 

- 4 cups apples, peeled and sliced

- 2 cups sugar
- 2 cups flour
- 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
-2 tsp. cinnamon
- 1 tsp. salt
- 2 eggs
-3/4 cup vegetable oil
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 cup chopped pecans (optional)
- Butter Sauce (recipe follows)

- Preheat oven to 350 F
- In large bowl, stir together apples and sugar. Add dry ingredients, stir well.
- In separate bowl, beat eggs, oil, and vanilla. Stir egg mixture in to apple mixture, blending until thoroughly moistened. Stir in pecans if using.
- Pour into greased 13x9x2 inch pan. Bake for approximately 50 minutes, or until cake springs back when lightly pressed.
- Serve warm or at room temperature with warm butter sauce.

Warm Butter Cream Sauce
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup butter (personally, I don't use margarine, but if you do, or if that's all you have on hand, that'll work too)
- 1/2 cup heavy cream or evaporated milk
- 1 tsp. vanilla

- Place all ingredients in saucepan; stir. Bring to boil over medium-high heat and cook for three minutes. Serve over apple cake

This dessert sauce is, in my opinion, quite versatile. It could be served over gingerbread, pumpkin cake, ice cream, anything that could be imporoved by a sweet butter sauce (and, let's be honest with ourselves, what wouldn't?) This apple cake was the dessert for a Sunday Turkey Dinner with the family :) I couldn't be more pleased with it :) Thanks Mama!!!

Love to All :)

Friday, July 2, 2010

Warm Nectarine Compote

Hello All!
 Sorry it's been a few weeks, June is always a busy month, as I'm sure you all know. Tomorrow I depart for my family's annual vacation at Lake George in the Adirondacks. You may remember Lake George from my post last year regarding our Vermonster adventure:

   I wanted to be sure to get a post in before I left, and I'm sure I'll have all manner of things to blog about when I get back. Last weekend I was visited by Zach and our dear friends Brande and Dan. We had an impromptu cookout in my backyard :) D&B brought some lovely nectarines, and our original intention was to grill them. But, when we began to slice them up, we realized that they didn't really have the structural integrity necessary for grilling. So, on a whim, I wondered aloud if perhaps pan sauteing them and serving them as a warm compote over ice-cream would be a good idea. Intrepid kitchen adventurers like myself, they agreed :)

   What followed was, forgive the hyperbole, sublime. I know I probably say this a lot in this blog, but I can't believe this recipe hadn't occurred to me before. What resulted was a fruit flavored cousin to Affogato (an amazing Italian dessert wherein one pours espresso, or, in my case, hot cocoa, over ice cream). The hot/cold/slightly melted/slightly smoky/slightly sweet combination of fruit sauteed in brown butter over vanilla ice cream was kinda ridiculous, in the good way. And, it was so freakin' simple, I almost feel bad calling this a recipe and passing it off like I *made* this, when I really just *combined* it. But here ya go:)

 But first, a few things:
-This will work with any ripe or slightly over-ripe stone fruit (peaches, plums, nectarines, etc), it would probably work with pineapple too; anything that will caramelize nicely. Obviously, this will work with apples, but then we're in applesauce territory, which, to me, will always say Autumn, not Summer. So, we'll tackle apple stuff in a few months:)

- If you notice that the photography is better than usual, that's because I had someone with actual photographic talent take pictures for me this time. Brande has quite a knack for food photography, and was kind enough to take pictures and be my awesome kitchen assistant. It's amazing how much easier it is to illustrate the step-by-step process when you have someone to take pictures for you and you don't have to stop and do it yourself :) Anyone interested to being my photo assistant? Thank you again, Brande, you're wonderful :)

Warm Nectarine Compote
-4-6 nectarines, coarsely chopped
-2tbsp butter (salted is fine, it's what I used)
-approx. 1 tsp vanilla extract (I poured a capful from the bottle,so, that's about a teaspoon, eyeball it)
-1 good handful of brown sugar, or to taste

- Melt butter in saute pan large enough to accomodate nectarines over medium or medium low heat. Let the butter get brown, but don't let it scorch (in the pictures you will see the butter changing color and get an idea of what I mean).
- Combine the nectarines, vanilla, and brown sugar in a mixing bowl. When the butter has turned light brown, add the nectarines
 - Saute nectarines in the butter until they soften and begin to break up, and the butter turns a deep, rich brown. Don't let the nectarines get all the way to mush, they'll taste fine, but it won't look as good, they won't be the same contrast between the ice cream and the fruit.
                                                      - Pour Nectarine Compote over vanilla ice cream and serve immediately:)

I'm still having a lot of trouble getting the the pictures to go where I want, so if anyone could give me a tutorial on that, I'd really appreciate it:)  Eat this outside at a picnic table with your friends, like I did, and Life will be Sweet. Happy Fourth of July, Everyone!!! See you soon!!!
Lynn :)

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Syracuse Greek Cultural Festival at Saint Sophia's Church

Hey All!
Gonna switch it up a tad, and rather than post a recipe this time, I'm going to relate my adventures at the aforementioned Greek Festival at Saint Sophia's Church in Dewitt. The Festival opened Thursday night (which is the night I went), and ends tomorrow night, for more details, go here:

     Pardon the bad grammar, but I love me a good cultural festival. The food is basically guaranteed to be delicious, because the cooking is the real deal, prepared by the real professionals, the ethnic grandmothers :) Interesting stuff for sale, music, dance, sometimes there are lectures and suchlike, and everyone is in such a good mood, it's absolutely infectious. I went alone, just me and my camera, and I had a great time :) Cultural Festivals are a great atmosphere for observing a piece of real life. People are just having fun, doing their thing, and being themselves. There's an unpretentious quality to events of this type that I'm having difficulty putting into words, the festivity is very.....honest....that's the best I can do, but I think you can understand what I mean.

  One of the first things I saw when I wandered into the food tent was this:
 Apparently, someone had had the brilliant idea to create an Ouzo flavored non-alcoholic soda (and may I applaud the use of Pure Cane Sugar!!! :) I'm hot and cold on Ouzo. I don't really care for licorice or licorice- flavored things. However, I once took a shot of ice-cold Ouzo on a super-hot summer day whilst lounging poolside at a friend's house, and it was damn refreshing and totally appropriate in that atmosphere. So, thinking the soda might be similar, I made a mental note to give it a try before the evening was over.

    Before jumping into the super long food line, I went into the church social hall and poked around, looking at the various books, jewelry and suchlike they had for sale. While inside, I had my first culinary adventure of the night. I was introduced to a confection called Loukoumi, which is essentially Turkish Delight, or a gelatin based dessert: Observe:

They were 50 cents each, so I took a vanilla flavored piece, and the piece pictured above, which was, get this, ROSE flavored. The vanilla Loukoumi was good, but unremarkable, the Rose flavored Loukoumi, however, really left an impression on me. It really did taste like Roses. I wouldn't exactly call it it sweet, I actually don't even know that I would consider it dessert-like. It tasted like eating rose petals, which was oddly enjoyable, and a wonderful change from the sticky sweetness that usually comes with gelatin-based confections. I would almost put it in the "palate cleanser" category. At any rate, I enjoyed it :)

  Eventually, I wandered back outside and got in line for food. For those of you who don't know, I have an unreasonable obsession with Dolmades (rice stuffed grape leaves), Sweet Jesus, I love those things. So, I got an order of those, Lamb Souvlaki with rice and salad, and sat down to watch the kids and teens from the Church's Greek School perform. Perhaps not the most adventurous choices for dinner, but there's always something to be said for familiarity and comfort food. For the record, the Lamb and Dolmades were excellent :) And so was the dancing :)

    After dinner,  I took a tour of the church itself, which was very beautiful indeed, and then got in the extremely long (but reasonably fast-moving) line for pastries and other desserts. Having gone traditional with dinner, I went for a pastry that I had not only never tried before, but had never even heard of. It was called Galactobouriko. Galactobouriko is phyllo dough with custard filling and soaked in honey syrup. It was a really enjoyable mix of flavor and texture. The crunchy phyllo, the cool, dense custard, and the sweet (but not cloying) honey syrup. The flavors were light, but the dessert was certainly substantial, and left me totally satisfied, God Bless the Greeks, they know their pastry:)
Dessert accomplished, I went back to the first thing that caught my attention, the Ouzo- flavored soda. I will definitely say that the licorice flavor was not overpowering, which I appreciated. But, while I did like it, the soda was only served cool, not cold, which took away from the experience for me. Ouzon (the brand name of the soda) would have been excellent served over ice, much like it's alcoholic counterpart, and under those circumstances, would be an ideal summer drink, very refreshing :)

   I was at Greek Fest on a Thursday night. I wish I could have gone on a weekend  night, because on those nights they give an open Greek Dancing Lesson that I would have loved to participate in:) That not being an option, however, and having just eaten like a Queen, I got comfy and watched more dancing :)
When the opportunities arise, go to the cultural festivals in your area, they are indeed worth it, trust me on this one:) Okay, got to do it, OPA!!! Be Well:)


Monday, May 31, 2010

Pretty Colors Orzo Salad and Homemade Orange Creamsicle Popsicles

Hello Again My Dears :)

See? I promised it wouldn't be too long before my next post. I'd forgotten how therapeutic writing this blog was for me! It keeps my brain nice and active, having something to focus on, thinking ahead about recipes I want to try and what might be interesting to blog about. And for this post, you're gonna get a two-for-one! Two recipes in the past few days that struck me as blog-worthy. Enjoy :)

First up, a Pasta Salad recipe of my own creation. I first made this last weekend for the Housewarming Party of a dear friend. And then yesterday my Mom decided to cook out for dinner and asked me to make said Pasta Salad again. I tweaked the recipe slightly, based on trial and error from the first time, and here it be, but first, a few notes:

1. If you don't groove on Orzo (rice shaped pasta), any small-ish/round-ish pasta will do. It'd probably work with couscous or real rice too, if that's your thing. As with many of my recipes, this is mostly method, make substitutions according to your taste.

2. I used Tri-Colored Orzo for this salad, which gave it it's beautiful colors and it's name. If you don't have tri-colored pasta, any single color will be fine , it'll just look different.

3. I used the Bon Vivant Orzo from Flour City Pasta. It is local, organic, delicious, hand-made and family-owned by some wonderful people that I am very privileged to know and sometimes work with. They have a storefront in the Rochester area, and come to both the Rochester and Syracuse Farmer's Markets. Visit them here:

Pretty Colors Orzo Salad
-1 lb Tri-Colored Orzo
-3 stalks celery, chopped into medium sized pieces
- 1/2 red onion, chopped into small-medium-sized pieces
- 1 can canellini beans, rinsed and drained
- 10-20 kalamata olives, chopped
- a few good drizzles of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- a few splashes Red Wine Vinegar
- a few splashes Apple Cider Vinegar
- a handful or two of Romano or Parmesan Cheese (fresh is best, NOT from the green can, I'M WATCHING YOU!!!)
- salt and pepper to taste

- Cook Orzo until Al Dente, place in large serving bowl with a little EVOO until slightly cooled. Add the rest of the ingredients one at a time and stir thoroughly to mix, taste and adjust seasonings. Chill salad in the refrigerator until service so flavors can combine. Before service, taste once again to see if any flavors need to be boosted. This is an excellent accompaniment to any backyard barbecue or warm-weather potluck :)

And now, the Popsicles. Not sure what exactly made me want to do this, probably a combination of things. One, the absolutely gorgeous weather we've been having here in Syracuse the last few days, and warm weather always makes me think of ice cream and popsicles and other frozen desserts. Two, who the heck doesn't love a popsicle? There's something so endearing about popsicles, something very innocent and child-like and happy. Ever seen anyone eating a popsicle that was in a bad mood? Me neither :) Three, while I love popsicles, I do NOT love excessive amounts of sugar, aspartame, high fructose corn syrup, food dye and all the other stuff I will politely call "junk" that ends up in most of the popsicles that you buy in the store. I remembered that my Mom used to have popsicle molds when I was a kid, and that we used to put juice and stuff in them and make juice pops. Yesterday, I randomly asked my Mom if she still had those popsicle molds and she said yes! They were right in our basement. And, because yesterday was a gorgeous day and I felt like it, I decided to try my hand at popsicles.

    Please understand, it was hardly rocket science, it's not like I had a major breakthrough in gastronomy or anything. But I'm astounded at how simple these were, and how delicious! If people knew how easy these were to make, they'd never get the store brand stuff again. Get a popsicle mold at a department store,and you'll never look back. And,dare I say it? These could actually be considered GOOD FOR YOU. I used fat free plain yogurt, orange juice, and vanilla extract, that's it, no added sugar, no food coloring, nothing. The following recipe is for Orange Creamsicle Popsicles, but you could absolutely use any fruit/juice/yogurt combo you can think of, it's a pretty safe bet that it will all taste good, and with berry season approaching (yay!!!), the possibilities are virtually endless :)

Orange Creamsicle Popsicles
- About half of a container of fat-free Plain yogurt.
- a few glugs Orange Juice
- 1-2 tsp vanilla extract

-Combine above ingredients in a mixing bowl. If you want a prominent orange flavor, add more juice, more vanilla flavor, add more extract, etc. Just make sure the mixture doesn't get too runny. Pour into popsicle molds and freeze. This recipe will make about six popsicles.
Eat these outside on a blanket like I did and all will be well with the world :)

There we go, folks, two summery recipes for the unofficial summer kickoff. Happy Memorial Day!!!
Lynn :)



Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Guess Who's Back???

Well Hello There!!!
After almost seven months, I have finally had the wherewithal to get back to my blog, which I've missed so very much :)  It's the same old song, busy busy busy, and, sadly, my blog fell off the radar. But, no more. I owe it to myself to make more time for the things I love to do, and cooking is most certainly one of them :) I'm so happy to be blogging again :)

Well, let's get right to the point, shall we? I'll get back into the blogging groove with a dessert recipe (whee!!!) For my father's 60th birthday, I offered to make him his favorite dessert. He chose Banana Cream Pie. And, I must admit, though I have certainly eaten it over the years, I had never made one. After perusing my Mom's considerable recipe files and finding nothing that jumped out at me, I went to my cookbook shelf and went straight for  *Paula Deen's Kitchen Classics*, which is a compilation of her first two cookbooks, *The Lady and Sons* and *The Lady and Sons Too*. May I please take a moment and sing the praises of Miss Paula? This woman's food is beyond delicious, I have never, ever, ever been let down by one of her recipes. I find her unapologetic use of real butter and other such "no-no's" and her refusal to get on the bus with any particular *food trend of the moment* incredibly refreshing. Her food is what it is, classic Southern cooking, not be messed with, and darned if I don't agree and give her kudos for sticking to her guns. That, and she's just so cute and funny and comforting. I'd love to hang out with her, I'll bet she has great stories. But I digress, back to the pie...

This is just your basic Banana Cream Pie, nothing too elaborate, but I think that's what I like about it, not fussy, you know? Before the recipe, a few notes:

1. Although I am generally a fan of making my own pie crust, I found myself pressed for time and used a Wegmans brand pre-made pie shell. It was totally fine. So, make your own or use one from the store, it matters not to me :)

2. I made this pie on a 90 degree day, so the egg whites did not get as fluffy as I would have liked. It didn't affect the taste at all, but it gave the pie a thicker consistency as opposed to a fluffier one. So, make sure your egg whites are as cold as possible, save this pie for a cooler day, or, just make peace with the fact that the custard with have a thicker consistency, which you may even prefer, depending on your tastes.

3. This pie gets runny fairly quickly at room temp. So, chill it right up until service and then put it back in the fridge ASAP. Obviously it'll still taste fine if left out, it'll just get soft. Treat it as you would a bowl of pudding.

Banana Cream Pie
-1/4 cup plus 1/3 cup sugar
-3 tbsp. cornstarch
-1/4 tsp salt
-1 1/2 cups milk
-2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
-2 tbsp. butter
-2 tsp. vanilla
-2 egg whites
-2 bananas, sliced
- One 9-inch prebaked pie shell

-In a saucepan over medium heat, combine 1/3 cup sugar with the cornstarch and salt. Blend in milk, then egg yolks. Cook and stir until mixture thickens. Remove from heat; stir in butter and vanilla. Cool custard mixture to room temperature. Beat egg whites until soft peaks form; gradually add 1/4 cup sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. Fold egg whites into custard mixture. In pie shell, alternate layers of banana slices and custard filling. For service, top with whipped cream and additional sliced bananas, if desired.

So there it is, everyone. I can't tell you how good it felt to write this blog post :) Leave me comments! Let me know I haven't lost my following :) Another blog post soon, Scout's Honor :)

Love Always,
Lynn :)