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October 08, 2010

Recipes | Cupcakes | Chocolate & Salted Caramel Cupcakes

These cupcakes are sooo decadent and sooo simple.  Yes, simple.  I created these from a basic chocolate cupcake and chocolate buttercream recipe, then topped it with store-bought caramel topping and flaked sea salt.

Ingredients :
1 box of chocolate cake mix, prepared as box directs
18 white jumbo cupcake paper liners
4 sticks of butter
6 cups of powdered sugar
1 cup of chocolate chips
1/2 cup of heavy cream
1 jar of caramel topping
1 tablespoon of sea salt

New! Printable Recipes, here.

How to :

1 - Bake Chocolate Cupcakes in Jumbo or Extra Large White Cupcake Liners.  You can use a boxed cake mix to make it extra easy.   One box makes 18 large cupcakes.

2 - Chocolate Buttercream

4 sticks of soften butter
6 cups of powdered sugar
1 cup of chocolate chips
1/2 cup of heavy cream

Place chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl and pour over heavy cream.  Microwave for 1 minute, then stir.  Repeat until the chocolate ganache (yes, that is ganache!) is smooth.  Be careful not to over heat.  Refrigerate for 15 minutes until cool.

In your kitchen aid fitted with a paddle attachment, whip butter and 4 cups sugar for 3 minutes until fluffy and smooth.  Pour in chocolate ganache and 2 more cups of powdered sugar.  Whip until smooth.  Add more powdered sugar, if necessary to create the thickness.

Put the buttercream in a pastry bag (or ziploc bag) and cut 1 inch opening at the bottom of the bag.  Pipe in a swirl on top of the cupcake - be very generous with frosting.

3 - Caramel Topping

Heat the jar of caramel (I used an ice cream caramel topping) for about 20 seconds just until pourable.  Drizzle over each cupcake.

4 - Sea Salt

Sprinkle over each cupcake.

October 07, 2010

My Life | Our Honeymoon in Italy | Rome, Tuscany, Cinque Terre & Florence

Our wedding weekend is just 3 weeks away... which means our honeymoon is 3 1/2 weeks away!  We're sealing up all of the details right now.
Here's where we'll be!

TUSCANY : Fonterutoli in Chianti

"Fonterutoli is just south of Castellina in Chianti (Siena), on the hills, in the heart of the Chianti Classico. Owned by the Mazzei family since 1435, it still retains its original form, that of a tranquil country village: a cluster of houses, the church of San Miniato and the villa, built at the end of the 1500s where the medieval castle once stood. On the main square next to the ancient church is the family villa, surrounded by the charming village apartments and suites managed as luxury b&b that can be rented individually or as a single unit."

FLORENCE : Hotel Lungarno

"The silent Arno river flowing below, the enchanting light, beauty emanating from the modern art collection adorning the walls give this charming hotel a simply magical atmosphere. Located in the historical center of Florence and overlooking the Ponte Vecchio, Uffizzi Gallery, Piazza della Signoria, Santa Maria del Fiore cathedral and Palazzo Pitti are just steps away.

Hotel Lungarno offers all of the services of a 4 star superior hotel, including free Internet Wi-Fi, garage service, bar and restaurant Borgo San Jacopo.""

CINQUE TERRE : La Torretta

La Torretta is an stylish little hotel situated in the picturesque town of Manarola, in the heart of theCinque Terre National Park, a stretch of Ligurian coast famous for its spectacularly beautiful scenery and gravity defying cliff edge towns.
An intimate seaside residence, La Torretta occupies a 17th century tower house, meticulously restored so as to conserve its original architectural features. La Torretta's bedrooms and apartments are located in the tower house and the adjacent edifice, this latter of recent construction. In both buildings interiors feature a pleasing combination of traditional and modern furnishings, offering both comfort and technology. Bedrooms and Suites all have magnificent views of the sea.
The terraces and solarium of La Torretta provide the ideal venues where to relax in the Ligurian sunshineduring the day, and a wonderfully romantic location where to admire the sun setting over the sea, on warm summer evenings.
Breakfast is served al fresco on La Torretta's garden terrace or in the tavern which, in the evening, transforms in wine bar where to savor the excellent wines of the Cinque Terre.

ROME : The Inn at the Spanish Steps

The InnQuality, style and attention to detail which come only with family management are the hallmarks of our rooms and suites. Today this Locanda is totally renovated. Enjoy the sweeping view of the rooftops and domes of the historical center on a flower-filled rooftop terrace, with Trinità dei Monti and the Spanish Steps at your fingertips. Countless of Rome's cultural attractions are within walking distance. Fine restaurants, beloved "trattorie", trendy wine-bars and exclusive fashion boutiques are tucked into sidestreets.

Entertaining | Baked Brie with Pecans & Brown Sugar | Recipes

I love this appetizer.  It is so simple, and so loved by everyone that tries it.  When I first began catering (almost 6 years ago!) this was a staple on my menus.

TIP : I always buy brie at Costco for $5.  At grocery stores it tends to be $10-15 for the same size.

1 wheel of brie, 16 oz.+
1 can of crescent rolls (unrolled and flat)
1/2 cup of pecan halves
2 tablespoons of brown sugar

For Serving :
green grapes

On a greased baking sheet pan, piece together crescent rolls (6 of the 8) to form a circle or star shape.  Place the brie in the center.  Pile the pecans and brown sugar in the center of the brie.  Pull edges of crescent rolls up around the brie using the remaining 2 pieces to fill in gapes.  Don't worry about how it looks, the more rustic, the better!

Bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees (or until browned and center is melted).  Let sit for about 5 minutes, then serve with crackers and green grapes.  This platter is all you need to start a party.

Recipes | Beef Ragu with Crushed Tomatoes

Last night, I made a slow braised beef ragu tossed with an authentic Italian pasta.  This is great entree for a budget friendly dinner party that can feed 6 people.

2 pound Chuck Roast
Salt & Pepper
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1/2 bottle of red wine
1 large can of crushed tomatoes
1 cup of water
4 cloves of garlic, minced
8 leaves of fresh basil, julienned

Salt & pepper both sides of the roast. In a dutch oven, sear both sides of the roast in olive oil, for about 3 minutes on each side.  Pour red wine into the hot pan, along with tomatoes, water and garlic.

Braise in the oven at 250 degrees for 4-5 hours, covered.

Remove from the oven, and remove beef from the pan.  Shred the beef and discard fat.  Put the beef back into sauce along with the fresh basil.

Serve with pasta and parmesan cheese.

Recipes | Roasted Vegetable & Orzo Pasta | Harvest Recipes

This pasta salad is fabulous.  Derived from a Barefoot Contessa recipe, its flavors are so simple, but complex with its roasted eggplant, peppers and onions, sharp feta cheese and tangy lemon vinaigrette.

1 small eggplant, 1 inch cubes
1 red pepper, 1 inch cubes
1 yellow pepper, 1 inch cubes
1 red onion, 1/2 inch chop
3 tablespoons of olive oil
1 pound of orzo pasta, cooked
2 teaspoons of salt
2 teaspoons of pepper

Dressing :

3 lemons, juiced
2 tablespoons of olive oil
8 oz. of feta, cubed
10 green onions, 1/4 inch pieces

Start by tossing the eggplant, onions and peppers in olive oil and salt & pepper.  Roast at 425 degrees for 40 minutes, tossing once.  Set aside.

Combine oil and lemon juice, whisking until thick.  In a large bowl, toss roasted vegetables, orzo pasta and lemon dressing.  At the end, add green onions and feta cheese.

Everyday | Special Boxed Lunches

I put these cute boxed lunches together for Mike's Mom.  They contained :

Grilled Chicken, Avocado & Bacon Club
Petite Red Lady Pear
Plastic Utensils
Printed Menu

This is a great option for baby or bridal shower - especially an outside event!

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