Day 40! Lemoncello is ready

Well, day 40 of fermentation of my lemoncello. These 40 days have actually went fast. There were days when I thought of just doing 10 days, or just 20 days, of fermentation, because I can’t wait anymore. But, I want it to be perfect. So, that meant 40 days, no more and definitely no less.

Day 39, mixed my fermentation with water, sugar and vodka syrup
Step by step complete mixture of ingredients, drain, fill bottles, then chill.

In Italy, this drink is served after a meal to refresh the pallet. About 80% of the country make Lemoncello, and they’ve been doing it for over a hundred years!

Ingredients

12 lemons

80 to 100 proof vodka 1 liter (any brand you like)

Sugar

Water

2 mason/fermentation jars (32 oz)

40 Days 😂

How to make

Peel the skins of the lemons, separate evenly into each jar. Pour half of the bottle vodka into each jar. Let the fermentation begin.

After 38 days, heat up 4 cups of water to 3 cups sugar until the sugar is completely dissolved. Let cool, then pour/stir in 1 cup of vodka into the sugar/water mixer into each jar. Let sit overnight.

Day 39, strain the jars into a bowl, and with a funnel pour into air tight bottles (got mine from amazon) and chill overnight.

Day 40! You have Lemoncello!

My Lemoncello

I hope you’ll enjoy making this drink. I sure did!

Healthy & Hearty Winter/A Tasty, Healthy Lasagna

Low carb lasagna

So, I’ve be doing a 30 day challenge, and on the list of can’t have is: No potato chips, potatoes, ice cream, fried foods, fast food, chocolate, candy, donuts, juice or soda. Needless to say, I’ve had some great days, and some really weak days. I had to think about this for a moment, because I realized the foods I make are very carb and fried influenced. So I came up with a dish that is savory, low carb, but delicious.

Although my healthy lasagna has two types of delicious cheeses. I added less than an ounce to a serving.

Ingredients:

1 Eggplant

3/4 ounces Gruyere cheese (shredded)

3/4 ounces Gouda cheese (shredded)

Yields 6 (8 ounce) ramekins

Ingredients for bolognese:

Chop meat (80% lean)

Half a red onion (medium dice)

2/3 garlic (small dice)

1 jalapeño (small dice) clean out seeds, but leave a little white on the vein for some spice)

Basil (5 to 6 leaves)

Parsley (small dice) (save some for garnish)

Cilantro (small dice)

1 Jar of tomato sauce (go for it, if you want to make your own)

Adobo seasoning or salt & pepper to taste

2 packs of equal or Splenda or 2 Tbsp of sugar (I went for the sugar substitute)

How to make:

Slice the eggplant in medium cut slices, put to the side

In a pot, cook your chop meat all the way through.

Add the cut herbs, onions, garlic, jalapeños, and seasonings

Add tomato sauce

Let simmer for 20 to 25 minutes. Taste often to know if you need to add more ingredients.

Prepare to layer the ramekins with the bolognese sauce first, then layer on a slice of the eggplant, then the shredded cheeses, then the sauce. Repeat process, however, you’ll only be able to do about two layers.

After ramekins are filled, place them on a sheet tray and put in the oven on 325 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes.

Once they’re done, sprinkle some leftover parsley and serve. 😁

I enjoyed making this dish. I hope you do too!

Banana Pudding

I have to admit, I never liked banana pudding growing up as a kid. Even now being an adult, when I would go to parties, events etc., and if banana pudding was being served for desert, I’d always pass. However, going to culinary school, my pallet was developed to taste! Whether the foods looked appetizing or not. The lesson was to put all flavors in perspective. Basically, that means making a dish, and remembering flavors that I’ve come across to add to a dish, mixing or matching, combining with what taste great together, or not.

During this pandemic, my nice neighbor (again) was kind enough to look out for me, and spot me some groceries that she got from the food pantry. Because, I’m an essential worker, she worries about me and I appreciate it. So I rarely turn her down when she offers. I don’t like letting food go to waste, if y’all remember in my “Happy Fourth of July America” article. The same neighbor that had given me bags of apples, which I used to bake my first apple pie. She blessed me again with a bushel of bananas. What’s strange to me is my first thought was to make banana pudding. Yes, I’ve explain at the top of this article, I don’t like banana pudding. But, my goal was to not let these bananas go to waste.

So the decision was made, banana pudding it is. I told myself if I didn’t like it, my neighbors will have an awesome treat to enjoy. It was so simple, and easy to execute. After it chilled, I actually couldn’t wait to taste it. I swear, I’m not trying to pat myself on the back, but it was the most delectable desert I’ve tasted. I was so proud of myself, couldn’t wait to share with my neighbor, and let her know, “this was your doing!”

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces vanilla wafers (approx. 1 box, may use more for trimming bowl)
  • 5 bananas
  • 1 box Jello instant vanilla pudding
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 large tub (16 ounce) Cool Whip

Mix sugar and pudding in bowl with milk and vanilla extract. Let thicken.

Add 1/2 tub of Cool Whip. Stir well until fluffy.

Layer bottom of bowl with vanilla wafers.

Next layer is 2 or 3 cut bananas.

Next layer is 1/2 of pudding mixture.

Next layer is vanilla wafers.

Next layer is last 2 or 3 cut bananas.

Pour rest of pudding mixture over that.

Top with final layer of Cool Whip.

Chill and serve!

My Mexican Breakfast/Avocado toast & Plantains

Avocado toast with sweet plantains

On Cinco de Mayo, of this year, 2020. It seemed like any other holiday, that just came and went, without acknowledgement. Although Cinco de Mayo is a Mexican holiday, I find myself actually celebrating it with friends. We’d go to the local Mexican restaurant in my neighborhood, (I live in NY, there’s a Mexican Resturant on every other corner). However, this year 2020, no restaurants open, there is takeout, but not the same feeling of being with friends and having some frozen margaritas.

I wanted to acknowledge the day by having my version of a Mexican breakfast.

Yes! Avocados and sweet plantains! Both are my favorites. Although, this may not be a traditional Mexican breakfast, it was delicious fulfilling, and fun.

Ingredients

2 Semi ripe avocados

Cilantro finely chopped

2 cloves chopped garlic

1 small half red onion chopped

2/3 Tbsp of Olive oil

Salt & Pepper to taste

2/3 English muffins

How to make

Cut open avocados and put into a bowl. Use a fork to mash them, but not to much, because we want those chunky pieces. Add your ingredients in the same bowl and with a spatula, fold the ingredients in. At the end add salt and pepper to taste. I like to spread my avocado on a toasted English muffin, however you may use any kind of toasted bread you like.

FYI this is the same way I make my guacamole. And, if you like you can substitute any of the ingredients for your liking. If you don’t want onions, take out and put finely chopped bell or red peppers. It’s all up to you and your flavor spot.

Plantains

Plantains, cinnamon, 1 cup vegetable or canola oil.

Semi/ripe plantains, make sure they are brown on outside, but not so much, as long as the yellow comes through the outside coloring.

Once peeled, slice at an angle. No need to add any seasoning while frying.

In a hot pan with the oil, lay your plantains flat, cook for 2 to 3 minutes on each side (depending on the softness of the plantains).

Once done, transfer to a plate, and sprinkle some cinnamon on top while hot. And, yum. 😋

I enjoyed making this dish, hope you will too.

Homemade vs. Restaurant Part II

Chicken and waffles, a classic southern restaurant dish

Guilty, guilty, guilty. I’m guilty of the love for this sinfully, totally delectable delish of a dish!

I’ve been to many southern restaurants in the United States. Most times, if chicken and waffles are on the menu, I’ll order it. Some are a hit, and unfortunately, some can be a big miss. But, due to the country’s current status of a “real” pandemic, homemade cooking and baking has become the leader of the pack. Although, eating out is slowly becoming the norm again, because of Summer, restaurants are allowed to serve outside as long as protocols are met with the state’s guidelines. And, with Fall fast approaching, restaurants will be allowed to serve guest inside, but with only a 25% capacity. I think that’s great, however I will still be doing my own thing of recreating restaurant dishes at home.

I’m actually not a waffle eater, but when it comes with fried chicken I’m sold! Once again, when I get a craving for foods that only restaurants can provide, I challenge myself to make the dish just like it. I could go for takeout, but I’d rather not waste money on something I’ll just want again and again. We have no idea how long this new existence will last.

Got a waffle maker for $30 bucks, on Amazon. The rest for me was easy peasy!

Ingredients for batter

2 1/2 cup AP flour

1 Tbsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

2 eggs

1 Tbsp vanilla extract

3 Tbsp melted butter

1 Tbsp cinnamon

1 1/2 cups milk

How to make

Sift the flour first, and add the dry ingredients next. Combine throughly. In a separate bowl, mix the wet ingredients, and add it to the dry. You may need to add a little more milk if ingredients together are still a little dry. Stir until you have a thick consistency.

When the griddle is hot. Spray on pam or lightly brush on some vegetable or corn oil.

Scoop the batter with a medium size measuring cup, and pour into the middle of the griddle. Cook according to the directions of your waffle maker. Hint, when the smoke dies down, your waffle is ready.

Fried chicken

Seasonings: Adobe, sazon, pepper, garlic powder, red pepper flakes

You can substitute any seasonings you like to your preferred taste.

I like to deep fry my chicken, and I use vegetable, corn, or canola oil. Use a pot and about 6 cups of oil. More or less. Heat oil to about 160 to 175 degrees.

Fry chicken for 20 to 25 minutes. Depending on how crispy you want it. I’d go the whole 25 minutes.

Chicken should be nice and crispy, but juicy inside.

I enjoyed making my homemade chicken and waffles. Hope you will too!

Homemade vs. Restaurant

My recreation of Vegetable Tempura, and baby-back ribs. From restaurant “Texas BBQ”

Clearly, I’m still having comfort food cravings. However, this particular craving comes from a restaurant that I frequent here in New York with my family and friends. The restaurant’s name is “Texas BBQ’s.” The name is simple, right! But, the food is all about comfort. I’ve celebrated birthdays, retirements, first dates, girl’s night out, (did I mention they have the best Pina Coladas in town). And, a host of other fantastic treats.

Of course, in this day and age of a pandemic, take out is mostly the option for people to still experience eating their favorite foods, from their favorite restaurants. I’ve gotten into the habit (and, wanting to expand my culinary skills also), to challenge myself, and recreate some of my favorite restaurants. foods.

I don’t know why, I’m seriously not trying to brag, but it came out delicious. Especially the tempura. While in Italy last year, I tasted some cod fish that the batter made with sparkling seltzer water. I’ve often heard that it makes a huge difference in the taste of the food you fry in it. However, I didn’t try it until recently, and I it’s true, the natural flavors of the food burst in your mouth. I was amazed by the flavor of all the veggies. The sweet potato, zucchini, broccoli and bell peppers, were all just so mouth watering.

Ingredients for batter:

2 cups flour

2 Tbsp cornstarch

1 Tbsp baking powder

1 Tbsp salt

2 eggs

2 cups seltzer water

And, a host of cut up vegetables of your liking. I.e carrots, sweet potatoes, squash, zucchini, bell peppers, broccoli, cauliflower. It’s up to you.

I invited a couple of friends over, and I played it up, by serving my tempura dish in Chinese takeout food containers, with chopsticks. (Amazon has them) It’s fun, and my guest got a kick out of them.

Let’s get our “drank” on! The lemoncello experience.

The title of this article says it all for me. this was one of the expressions we used back in the day, with my partying ways with my friends! We owned the town with our young fun, dancing till the wee hours, and of course our drunkinness. That’s not a real word, but it fits for this story.

Now, I’m a full, and I do mean “full” grown ass woman, who has done a bit of what my conscious considers a “learning life”. Because, if there were things I could take back or not experienced at all (like my marriage), I would, but that’s what you call “living and learning”. Basically, I’m trying to say that my life has grown to gradually introduce grown up things. Like traveling to Italy, and not just drinking flavorful wines and spirits. But, while in Italy I got a chance to learn about a drink called “lemoncello”. Yes, it was delicious, yes, it was strong, I was intrigued, because of how I was told it was made.

However, this blog is mostly dedicated to food, and equally for me travel. So I’m definitely missing a bit of Italy 🇮🇹 in my life during this pandemic. So since we have no traveling, with the risk of possibly getting a nasty or if not deadly 💀 infection. Staying home and remembering the good times of travel is most likely for most of us. Although, I’ve been recently hearing and seeing only the rich and famous still doing their usual travels to exotic locations.

So, me who loves a challenge, I decided to give it a go, and make it myself! I was intrigued, because it takes patience to make the time old drink. But, my main concern is the flavor value of this drink.

Homemade lemoncello

Stay tuned for my results and recipe! 😋

Cannolis

Homemade Cannolis

I’ve done something that I’ve been wanting to do for months! I made fresh, homemade cannolis. If I’m not mistaken, because it was 2 years ago that I graduated Culinary school. I missed that class the day my pastry Chef instructor, taught us how to make several different sweets, from other countries, ie. Eclairs from France, and of course cannolis from Italy. However, in my ”take no prisoners” way of doing things. I fulfilled my set of standards, and I conquered making both of these delicious treats on my own. (My article on eclairs will be posted at a later date).

But, I have to admit, for my first time making cannolis was a process, because there are several different components of making the delicious critters. If I didn’t say this before, I’ll admit to it now, because, I always felt that I had way more experience in cooking than before I went to culinary school. However, culinary school has taught me some major patience in preparing foods. I don’t think I would of even attempted to make cannolis if going to culinary school didn’t give me the confidence to do such a thing. So thumbs up to education as always.

Here’s the recipe I used, looking forward to making these again for the upcoming holidays.

INGREDIENTS

THE FILLING:

1 (16-oz.) container ricotta 1/2 c.

mascarpone cheese1/2 c. 

powdered sugar, divided 3/4 c. 

heavy cream 1 tsp. 

pure vanilla extract1 tsp. 

orange zest1/4 tsp. 

kosher salt1/2 c. 

mini chocolate chips, for garnish

FOR THE SHELLS:

2 c. all-purpose flour, plus more for surface1/4 c.

granulated sugar1 tsp. 

kosher salt1/2 tsp. 

cinnamon4 tbsp. 

cold butter, cut into cubes6 tbsp. 

white wine1 

large egg1 

egg white, for brushing

Vegetable oil, for frying

DIRECTIONS FOR FILLING:

  1.  Drain ricotta by placing it a fine mesh strainer set over a large bowl. Let drain in refrigerator for at least an hour and up to overnight. 
  2. In a large bowl using a hand mixer, beat heavy cream and 1/4 cup powdered sugar until stiff peaks form. 
  3. In another large bowl, combine ricotta, mascarpone, remaining 1/4 cup powdered sugar, vanilla, orange zest, and salt. Fold in whipped cream. Refrigerate until ready to fill cannoli, at least 1 hour.

MAKE SHELLS: 

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, salt, and cinnamon. Cut butter into flour mixture with your hands or pastry cutter until pea-sized. Add wine and egg and mix until a dough forms. Knead a few times in bowl to help dough come together. Pat into a flat circle, then wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour and up to overnight. 
  2. On a lightly floured surface, divide dough in half. Roll one half out to ⅛” thick. Use a 4” circle cookie cutter to cut out dough. Repeat with remaining dough. Re-roll scraps to cut a few extra circles. 
  3. Wrap dough around cannoli molds and brush egg whites where the dough will meet to seal together. 

FOR FRYING:

  1. In a large pot over medium heat, heat about 2″ of oil to 360°. Working in batches, add cannoli molds to oil and fry, turning occasionally, until golden, about 4 minutes. Remove from oil and place on a paper towel-lined plate. Let cool slightly.
  2. When cool enough to handle or using a kitchen towel to hold, gently twist shells off of molds to remove.
  3. Place filling in a pastry bag fitted with an open star tip. Pipe filling into shells, then dip ends in mini chocolate chips.