Delicious Lamb Shanks! Cook with me!

It’s been a while since I made lamb shanks. As a matter of fact, I was in culinary school 2017. It was also the first time I tasted this delectable meat. I made myself a promise, that I would make this delicious dish again, on the outside world. Not for nothing, but in school I considered that a controlled environment/kitchen, with a head chef.

I love this dish so much. And, I will probably never forget that day in school, because I was assigned by the head chef to make the dish. I believe it was about 2 months in school, and I was still having some difficulties with prepping ingredients from recipes on our iPads. Yes! As confident as I may have seemed, I was still nervous as hell. I definitely didn’t want to screw it up.

Culinary school is very competitive, and this experience was no different from any ordinary student wanting to get it right the first time. I know that you’re probably thinking “how hard can following a recipe be.” Well, like I said before, school was very competitive, and no one wants to look like an idiot. And, the head chef always had eyes on you. However, with a little help from Chef, (because I listened! Lol) I got through the process, and the pressure from other students looking on, and at each other. With the end result turning out great, I realized cooking this recipe wasn’t hard at all. I was so concerned with how it would taste, and how I would look if it turned out bad. My mouth watered after tasting them for the first time, and I believe that was the first time my confidence reached the level I’d been hoping for.

Chef Fran

So how did my shanks turn out? Absolutely delicious! I know that I’m always talking about easy preps for cooking. However, I think this dish will be well worth it, if you want to impress family friends, coworkers and partners.

Lamb shanks
My grocery list

I actually had fun with this dish. Prepping the ingredients gave me joy! I like organizing, and this is a step by step dish. I’ve changed some of the original recipe, because of certain flavors I like.

Ingredients

Lamb shanks

Olive oil

Rosemary

Thyme

Salt and pepper

Carrots

Cherry tomatoes

Onions

Garlic

Mushrooms or celery

Red wine for cooking

Chicken stock

How to make

Cut up vegetables

In a pot, add olive oil and brown the shanks. about 4 minutes on each side.

Remove shanks and set aside. Add a little more olive oil, to same pot, then add all the vegetables (but not the garlic), and sauté for 4 to 5 minutes. Salt and pepper.

Add 2 cups of red wine

1/2 a liter of chicken stock

Press down and roughly chop the garlic, then add it to the pot. Salt and pepper.

Bring to a boil, then lower and set fire/burner to medium heat. Add the shanks and burry under the liquid.

Add 1 cup of water, then Boil for 2 hours.

Strain the leftover liquid from the pot for a nice sauce.

Don’t forget to have a glass of wine while cooking. That’s just me. 😇

INFLUENCERS!! They Got me!!!

Now that I’m home more, and figuring out my next move in my new chapter in life. I found myself gravitating to watching YouTube a lot more. Now, a few years back, I’ve always watched YouTube to listen to my music. Then, I would watch YouTube for certain cooking videos, which I would compare with the enhancement of my own recipes! Now! I’m obsessed with these influencers! Who knew there was a market for unknowns to openly share every, single “waking” moment thing that they do in a day of there lives!

Okay! So like my apartment is in shambles now with packages all over. I’m literally ordering from Amazon every other day, for that one item now that I gotta have, because I’m a fan of particular influencers. And, now I’ve shocked myself. I’ve always felt myself to be unique, definitely not a follower. I’ve always tutted my own horn. I’m to old for millennial bullshit! Yet, my Amazon prime keeps going “cha ching!”

Maybe, there are a couple good things that I can account for that’s on the positive, instead of thinking Im spending wastefully. Definitely, gotten some DIY projects out the way, that has literally been in the works of getting it done years ago. However, I’ve been feeling a sense of euphoria. “Like, wow it’s complete!” The influencers have actually been an encouragement.

Gotta have my matcha in the morning now. Actually, I’ve been drinking matcha tea for years! It’s the millennials that are catching up! However, I found that I’ve forgotten how much I use love matcha at one time, but these last couple years with the pandemic, and me putting in more hours at work to plan for my early retirement. I’ll admit the influencers have put me in a state of loving me again. Doing things that I had long forgot about. Because life had become hectic, and when life does become a bit busy, we just push on, and neglect ourselves.

So anyhoo, yes! I’ve been spoiling myself. Really? Who needs glass straws, high tech ice trays, overpriced skincare and haircare products, glassware, vases, silk pajamas and plants, and all the little gadgets that assist me with my everyday, deserved needs……Well, me. Oh! And, let’s not forget the matcha! 😎

EarPods Amazon $39.99 white. Compatible with iPhone and galaxy users!
Glass straws from Amazon $7.99 case of 4! And, yes I needed them.

Apple Pie on the Fourth of July

Happy 4th of July America. And, what better way to celebrate this momentous time in American history, is with a good old fashion apple pie. Wasn’t it “honest Abe” (Abraham Lincoln) who said He “can never tell a lie,” about chopping down the apple tree. So, historically apple pie is a fitting food for this country’s celebration.

I have to admit, culinary school really gave me a great foundation for creating, and executing recipes that I’ve never tried before. This is my first time making an apple pie. Not to brag, it came out perfect and delicious.

Franny’s homemade apple pie

Although, there’s several components to making an apple pie. I never once found it tedious, because I love to cook. And, I’m particular (people call it OCD) that it looks perfect, and it taste delicious!

Ingredients

Dough:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

4 teaspoons sugar

1/4 teaspoon fine salt

14 tablespoons cold butter, diced

1 large egg, lightly beaten with 2 tablespoons cold water

Filling:

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

3 pounds baking apples like Golden Delicious, Cortland, or Mutsu

2/3 cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling on the pie

1/4 cup unsalted butter

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Generous pinch of ground nutmeg

1 large egg, lightly beaten

Directions

  1. Make the dough by hand. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt. Using your fingers, work the butter into the dry ingredients until it resembles yellow corn meal mixed with bean sized bits of butter. (If the flour/butter mixture gets warm, refrigerate it for 10 minutes before proceeding.) Add the egg and stir the dough together with a fork or by hand in the bowl. If the dough is dry, sprinkle up to a tablespoon more of cold water over the mixture.
  2. Make the dough in a food processor. With the machine fitted with the metal blade, pulse the flour, sugar, and salt until combined. Add the butter and pulse until it resembles yellow corn meal mixed with bean size bits of butter, about 10 times. Add the egg and pulse 1 to 2 times; don’t let the dough form into a ball in the machine. (If the dough is very dry add up to a tablespoon more of cold water.) Remove the bowl from the machine, remove the blade, and bring the dough together by hand.
  3. Form the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, at least 1 hour.
  4. Make the filling. Put the lemon juice in a medium bowl. Peel, halve, and core the apples. Cut each half into 4 wedges. Toss the apple with the lemon juice. Add the sugar and toss to combine evenly.
  5. In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the apples, and cook, stirring, until the sugar dissolves and the mixture begins to simmer, about 2 minutes. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook until the apples soften and release most of their juices, about 7 minutes.
  6. Strain the apples in a colander over a medium bowl to catch all the juice. Shake the colander to get as much liquid as possible. Return the juices to the skillet, and simmer over medium heat until thickened and lightly caramelized, about 10 minutes.
  7. In a medium bowl, toss the apples with the reduced juice and spices. Set aside to cool completely. (This filling can be made up to 2 days ahead and refrigerated or frozen for up to 6 months.)
  8. Cut the dough in half. On a lightly floured surface, roll each half of dough into a disc about 11 to 12 inches wide. Layer the dough between pieces of parchment or wax paper on a baking sheet, and refrigerate for at least 10 minutes.
  9. Place a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  10. Line the bottom of a 9-inch pie pan with one of the discs of dough, and trim it so it lays about 1/2 inch beyond the edge of the pan. Put the apple filling in the pan and mound it slightly in the center. Brush the top edges of the dough with the egg. Place the second disc of dough over the top. Fold the top layer of dough under the edge of the bottom layer and press the edges together to form a seal. Flute the edge as desired. Brush the surface of the dough with egg and then sprinkle with sugar. Pierce the top of the dough in several places to allow steam to escape while baking. Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes.
  11. Bake the pie on a baking sheet until the crust is golden, about 50 minutes. Cool on a rack before serving.

Easy as Pie! Holiday edition!

It’s a pandemic holiday! And, I still was able to add a holiday desert to my list. I’m purposely trying to make light of things. It’s a different world we’re living in today, and I’m trying to make the best of it (without going into a panic attack).

Cheesecake! Yes, I made a strawberry cheesecake! This was not my first time at the rodeo, making cheesecake, however, I bought a 9 inch springform pan, because with my OCD I felt it needed to be perfect!

Auntie Fran’s Strawberry Cheesecake!

Auntie Fran’s Strawberry Cheesecake

Ingredients

Three packs of Philadelphia cream cheese

1 1/2 cup of sour cream

2 cups of sugar

2 tablespoons vanilla extract

3 eggs

Crust Ingredients

1 box of gram crackers

1/2 cup of melted butter

Strawberry compote ingredients

Fresh box of strawberries (leave out about ten to place over the pie)

1/4 cup corn starch

1 cup of sugar

2 cups water

How to make

I love my kitchen aid! Mix cream cheese, sour cream, sugar and vanilla extract in bowl. You can use a hand mixer or kitchen aid. Add the eggs last, after mixture is completely combined and smooth.

For crust, I used my nutra blend to break down the crackers. Added the melted butter, and fluffed it out.

First, evenly pat down the gram cracker crust to your 9 inch springform pan (I put aluminum foil in the pan, for easy transfer to a plate, after bake.

Second, add your beautiful mixture of cream cheese to the pan. Bake for an hour and 10 minutes. Let cool down a bit before putting in fridge.

Cut up your fruit/strawberries in any decoration, shape or size you like and get creative.

To make the strawberry compote, add water, strawberries, sugar and cornstarch in a pot. Boil for 10 to 15 minutes, let cool, then blend.

Check out my holiday pies below. They’ll bring a smile to anyone’s face!

Let me introduce you to my Mom’s southern sweet potato pie, and this delectable fruit tart pie I learned how to make in Culinary school, however, since the holidays that just past, (because I’ve made so many of them), I’ve perfected my fruit tart pies to my own liking. Culinary school just gave me the tools, it’s up to me create on that foundation.

Just let me give you a bit of my Mom’s family history, my Mom grew up in a small town in North Carolina, (Greensboro). My Mom learned everything from her Mom, and I from her. I feel blessed, My Mom and Grandma although inadvertently not knowing, was bringing down tradition. I say that, because in the 1920’s and 30’ there was no time to bombarded with happily passing down traditions, survival was more of a fitting attitude back I those days. Unfortunately, going to work as a cook and housekeeper at a young age for my Ma was a reality. Fast forward to when I was a kid in the kitchen with my Ma, was always fun time for me. Whatever my Ma did during the struggle, or the depression era, her teaching me her crafts in the kitchen overcame what sad feelings, (if she had any) long gone. When my Ma and me cooked, baked, braised, and seasoned, was the best times in my life. My Ma was an eager beaver to show me how to cook. I cherish the memories and the recipes.

Momma Louise Sweet Potato Pie:

Ingredients

5 pounds of sweet potatoes

2 1/2 cups of sugar

3 eggs

1 cup of evaporated milk

2 table spoons vanilla extract

2 table spoons nutmeg

2 table spoons cinnamon

1 stick (half a cup) of butter with or without the salt

This recipe yields 2 pies

How to make:

Boil sweet potatoes until they are soft enough to put a fork through them

When sweet potatoes are done, let them cool. They should be easy to peel at this time

Use a hand mixer, and mix until you have a medium soft consistency, (get out all the lumps, and you may have to add a little more milk to get that medium soft consistency). Add all your ingredients, maintaining your soft consistency (note) you may have to add more sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg to taste

Fill your pie crust, (I use already made prepared pie crust). Some may consider this cheating, I don’t, because it’s made from real dough, sugar, eggs etc. smooth the top with a spoon or flat frosting spatula. Oven at 350 degrees. Bake for 45 minutes.

Auntie Fran’s delectable sweet tart

Ingredients for the Pastry cream

2 1/2 cups of whole milk

4 egg yolks

1/3 cup of sugar

3 slices of butter

1 table spoon vanilla extract

1/4 cornstarch

1 teaspoon salt

This recipe yields two 9 inch pie or six 3 inch mini’s

How to make:

Bring milk to a boil.

While milk is boiling, whisk together all the eggs, sugar, and cornstarch in a separate bowl.

When the milk starts to boil, remove from heat, pour in half milk into your egg mixture, whisk together, then combine with the rest of the milk that’s in the pot, and add vanilla extract and butter slices.

The mixture should thicken up quickly. Let cool and transfer your pastry cream into a bowl.

To prevent your pastry from forming a film at the sides of the bowl, layer plastic wrap literally on top of the pastry cream, and immediately put in fridge to firm up. Pastry cream can be used in about an hour.

Ingredients for Crust

2 1/2 cups AP flour

2 egg yolk & 1 whole egg

1/2 cup or 1 stick of butter (soft)

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon salt

Note: if you have a Kitchen aid, this can make all the difference. However, you’ll have to put in the work to mix it all by hand. However, it can be done.

Mix butter and sugar in kitchen aid mixer. If mixing by hand, add flour to bowl first, than add butter and sugar.

Once butter and sugar are combined throughly, add vanilla.

Combine flour and salt and mix with a fork throughly.

Combine all ingredients (may have to add a little more flour) to get a cookie Dough consistency.

On a flat surface, sprinkle some flour and knead your dough, not too much. Wrap your dough in plastic wrap, and put in fridge. Can be used in an hour. Dough will keep in fridge for couple days.

Roll out on a flat surface with a little flour, and start layering and fitting dough in your tart pans. (I prefer to use the removal bottom tart pans).

Oven at 350 degrees. Bake your dough for 20 minutes.

Let cool and add your pastry cream. The fruit you use is totally up to you. I like using as many bright colors as I can. However, you can never go wrong with strawberries.

I make mini’s too!

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!

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! 😋

Re-created dishes from my travels

Well, if you can’t travel to Italy, bring Italy 🇮🇹 to you. Our world 🌎 is still in a full force of a pandemic. Basically, and I do mean basically, we’re only knee deep in it. Watching the news the other day, I heard that Europe has blocked the USA from entering their region. As a matter of fact, out of 195 countries on this planet, Americans are only eligible to enter 24 countries. And, that’s with the understanding of doing a 14 day quarantine, immediately upon landing. So the countries I’ve had the pleasure to visit, I’m curious and excited to recreate the delicious foods I had the opportunity to eat. As a culinary enthusiast, I love to challenge myself, and I had a challenge indeed. First up, Italy, Capri.

Grilled octopus and Capri salad in Capri, Italy

I’ve never in my life prepared and cooked an octopus. I was definitely up for the challenge, but I’m also a protectionist with a tad bit of OCD. One of the good things about preparing this dish, was that the octopus was frozen and cleaned. So my only job was braising and grilling it.

Step by step prep for braising octopus

So, I’m pretty much over the fear of handling this beautiful sea creature, by the way, it was $14 a pound, and payed $54 for him. So, that would make him over three pounds, and braising is ten minutes for each pound. I figured 35 to 40 minutes.

My braising ingredients consisted of a mir-a-poix (onions, carrots and celery), little salt in the water, one cup of white wine. And, a wine cork. Yes a wine cork! Supposedly it’s a myth, but I heard chefs live by this method and boil the octopus with a wine cork, and the octopus will be tender and not chewing.

So far so good. I marinated this bad boy in some olive oil and garlic for an hour in the fridge after braising for 40 minutes. (10 minutes for every pound) Cut him up and grilled him.

My recreation of grilled octopus and Capri salad in my kitchen in New York

Now the above pic is my version of my amazing lunch, and day trip in Capri. I loved the grilled taste of the octopus, and thank God it was not chewy or rubbery (it may be true about that wine cork 🤷🏼‍♀️). And, of course the capri salad was delicious! With some olive oil and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, my mouth was watering at every bite (at least that’s what I remember when I was in Capri). My fondest memories of Capri was not just the food, or the beautiful sailing around the island (check out the sailing video below). But, my proudest memory was that I got on a plane, cancelled my fears, and went half way around the world and experience a once in a lifetime trip, but God willing, if won’t be my last time in discovering more of Italy.

I’ve gained so much courage. I’m still living on the fumes of this positive adventure.