Simply Prime Rib

Prime Rib Roast

I hope you are all having fabulous feasts for the holiday season!
We enjoyed a very simple Prime Rib Roast with Vegetables for our Christmas meal. Usually I cook a traditional Italian feast with Bracciolle, Manicotti, Meatballs, Sausage, Salad and Vegetables, but instead we opted for a simple dinner and decided to do something totally out of the ordinary for this Italian girl.. an American Feast with Prime Rib. I'm glad we did, it was simple and fabulous and it allowed me to spend more time enjoying my family instead of them having all the play time without me. :)

Sage Peppered Prime Rib
with Sage Madeira Cream Sauce

The roast was so easy to prepare, trimming some of the fat and dressing it with fresh herbs and spices was the simple preparations I made. I sat my roast on vegetables to infuse more aromatic flavors and made a Sage Madeira Sauce for an accompaniment. We also had horseradish on hand for those of us who desired.

Button Mushrooms
Sauteed in White wine, Lemon, Thyme & Butter

Asparagus with Hollandaise Sauce

As long as I can remember my husbands favorite side dressing to eggs and vegetables is hollandaise sauce. It really dresses up vegetables nicely! I can't wait to share the recipes this on coming week, sauces are so easy to make and a must for enhancing meats as well as vegetables!

Red Potatoes
Sauteed in Sage Butter

This was so simple but tasty! My kids usually ask for mashed potatoes but this was an elegant alternative with much kid appeal.

Chocolate Tiramasu

I gave the traditional Tiramasu a twist by grating fine bitter chocolate and sprinkling it on top of the zabaione filling while layering the dessert, it added to the already rich dessert a wonderful chocolate flavor without bringing to much sweetness to the Tiramasu.

Buon Appetito and looking forward to a Happy New Year!


A sweet and spicy gourmet treat for the adventurous chocolate lover….

Who doesn’t like chocolate.. rich and creamy decadent morsels of fine truffles or the traditional hot cocoa beverage, it is given as the gift of love or taken as a monthly medicinal concoction to enhance moods. Always satisfactory and hardly ever leaving the mind for a quick sweet pick me up. So to say the least, an opportunity to review chocolate is by far the easiest task I may ever have!

My first reaction was delight! I hadn’t even taken a bite of the truffles but was so charmed by the beautifully decorated red box with the black ribbon tagged with tiny silver cowgirl boots. It is a keeper and it's not even the keepsake box that is specially fitted in leather that you can see on the Cowgirl Gifts page on their website. I really think they marketed this product well, those in the industry know, there are certain desired characteristics you want to achieve in selling any product, first impressions count like curb appeal or a house with the scent of fresh baked cookies. You want to buy!

Inside the box were confectionaries wrapped in colorful foil, which if I had first read the leaflet I would have known these to be color codes. But instead, I impatiently unwrapped the first sweet which happened to be the Buckin’ Hot Habanero Caramel. Don’t let this be the first candy you try. I was a bit shocked and not ready to make the same mistake twice. I gave myself some time to recoup before I set out to give the rest a go.

Instead of being the lone taste tester of these treats I decided to recruit my family and friends. The color coding was separated into two categories, spicy and mild. Under the mild category are, Double Dark Chocolate, Milk Chocolate, Ivory Orange and Raspberry Lemon.

I tried the Double Dark Chocolate and the Raspberry Lemon. The dark chocolate was smooth in texture and just a hint of cayenne pepper. This was an unmistakable flavoring. It gives a tiny bite but doesn’t leave an after taste. You barely experience the heat with the mild chocolates, which allows you to really experience the quality of the chocolate. The creamy texture reminds me of a Lindt Lindor chocolate but not as buttery. I liked it. The second mild chocolate I tried was the Raspberry Lemon. The lemon flavoring overpowered the raspberry and left a bit too much twang for my preference and could just be the cowgirl kinda thing. My daughter tried the Ivory Orange, her comment was, “I love the tangerine taste!” This is good in itself because my daughter is very picky and the most finicky eater of us all. My son enjoyed the milk chocolate and was looking forward to his next experience. The consensus for the mild flavored chocolates was good and just a small underlying flavor of spice.

After my experience with the Habanero Caramel, I approached the Spicy chocolates with caution. No need to though, it turned out that the Buckin Hot Habanero Caramel was by far the spiciest and most intimidating.
Even the Habanero Dark Chocolate didn’t leave my mouth burning. It could be the combination of the butter solids that temper the heat and leave a more enjoyable experience. The Hazelnut and Cappuccino were enjoyed by our friend Twyla who has quite a bit of experience with hot and spicy Asian cuisine. She savored it slowly and came to the conclusion if served these at a party she would definitely go back for seconds. Her observation was that the heat was tame and mild. I wish she could have been the one to have tried the Buckin Hot Habanero Caramel! ☺

I looked forward to trying the Raspberry Dark Chocolate. The combinations of berries with chocolate usually draw me every time. Again, there was the unmistakable flavor of lemon. I don’t know if this is a misprint and it should have read Raspberry Lemon, or if it is a flavoring substance that leaves a sharp and acidic undertone, but this one wasn’t my favorite.

My favorite though has to be the Double Dark Chocolate Spicy Truffle. It had the right combination of heat and flavor with a creamy smooth texture. It is one of those chocolates that in the right mood would be the only thing to satisfy a craving for a very unique and deliciously sweetened delight.

I would most definitely buy these chocolate confections for an adventurous friend or a Foodie with a Spicy fetish. I applaud Marilyn Lysohir for her creativity and talent! I hope good fortune and cowgirl fame for her, she is also a very talented ceramicist.. my other passion, which makes her a mud slinger and painter of fine chocolates!

Congratulations Cowgirl Chocolates and Good luck to you!

Laurie M. Vengoechea

Onion, Olive & Anchovy
Focaccia Pizza Pie

"Focaccia alla Barese"
Christmas Eve Onion Pie by Nick Malgieri

I wish I could take the credit for the recipe creation of this Pizza Pie, but alas.. it didn't have my name on it at all! There are very few recipes that I repeatedly make preparations for without altering them a tad. Pastry recipes really need to be followed accurately, but they all seem to come out differently. So when it comes to finding the right pie crust or dough that tastes great and comes out perfectly flaky I stick with Nick Malgieri's. Surprising though, he isn't just a great pastry and dessert chef, he's Italian, so that makes him an all around fabulous cook! :)

I recently found this recipe for Focaccia alla Barese by Nick Malgieri. I usually use a basic pizza dough but was looking for something a little different when I came upon this Onion Pie. Everything about it is wonderful! I did rinse the anchovies though and lessoned the amount of salt in the dough by 1/2 a teaspoon because my preference is a little bit less salty. But everything else was perfect! Besides the Onion, Olive and Anchovy pie, I have a Basil and Fresh Mozzarella pie pictured here also. Speaking of pictures.. my husband was breaking ground on a new project this past week and took our new camera with him out of town.. have you ever seen two adults playing tug o war! I really didn't want to post these photo's at all, the quality and clarity is so different. I took a million photos trying to have at least one worth posting. There is one picture below from my new camera.. it was a photo I took the first time I made this recipe a week and a half ago but the pizza was a little overdone
so I never used the pictures, except one! :)
Ciao and Buon Appetito!

3 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 1/3 cups warm water, about 110 degrees
4 tablespoons olive oil

4 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for sprinkling the top of the focaccia before baking
3 or 4 medium (about 2 pounds) white onions, peeled, halved, and thinly sliced
Very little salt
Freshly ground pepper
2-ounce can of anchovies packed in oil, drained and coarsely chopped
1/3 cup black Gaeta olives, halved and pitted
1/3 cup green Barese olives, halved and pitted
1 teaspoon Kosher or other coarse salt for drizzling the top of the focaccia before baking

1 10 x 15-inch jellyroll pan brushed with 3 tablespoons olive oil

For the dough, stir together the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl. Whisk the yeast into the water and then whisk in the oil. Use a large rubber spatula to mix the liquid into the flour. Continue stirring vigorously until the dough is fairly smooth and there are no longer any dry patches. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise at room temperature until it doubles in bulk, about 1 hour.
While the dough is rising, cook the onions. Put the 4 tablespoons oil and onions in a wide sauté pan and place over medium heat. Season very lightly with salt (the anchovies and olives are both salty) and grind over about 5 or 6 turns of the peppermill. Once the onions start to sizzle, decrease the heat to low and cook until the onions are very soft and translucent, about 20 to 30 minutes. Scrape the onions into a bowl and set aside to cool.
When the dough has risen, scrape it into the prepared pan in one piece. Lightly oil your hands and press the dough into the pan to cover it completely. If the dough resists, wait 5 minutes, then pull the dough into the corners of the pan. Cover the dough with oiled plastic wrap and set it aside until it puffs a little, about 20 to 30 minutes. (It does not need to double in bulk.)
As soon as you cover the dough, set a rack in the lowest level of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees.
When the dough has puffed, use a fingertip to indent it at 1 1/2-inch intervals all over the surface, pressing firmly but without piercing the dough through to the bottom of the pan.
Mix the anchovies and olives into the onions and spoon the topping in mounds all over the top of the dough. Use a medium offset spatula to gently and evenly spread the topping on the dough. Drizzle the topping with 1 or 2 tablespoons of oil and sprinkle with the Kosher or coarse salt.
Bake the focaccia until it is well risen and the bottom is well colored, about 30 minutes. Lift a corner of the focaccia with a large metal spatula to check that the bottom is well done.
Use a wide metal spatula to slide the focaccia from the pan to a rack to cool.

Italian Filled Cookies

In my last post I mentioned spending time with my mom baking cookies. This Italian filled cookie is our half Calabrian, one quarter Abruzzi and a quarter Roman rendition of the Sicilian cookie called a Cucidati. The traditional Cucidati is a fig filled cookie with three different nuts, pistachio's, almonds and walnuts, chopped dried and soaked figs, raisins and apricots, orange and lemon peel and many more amazing ingrediants. It's a wonderful cookie and well worth the time it takes to make. We altered it quite a bit and wouldn't even think of taking the Cucidati name for the original, so we just call it an Italian Filled Cookie. This more simplified version is my favorite though, with the bulk of the filling being apple butter, soaked raisins and chocolate pieces, infused with cinnamon, cloves and rum. The memories of Christmases past all rushed back to me with the first bite.
Buon Appetito and Happy Holiday Baking!
Ciao and Hugs,

Laurie's Filling
2 1/2 - 3 cups Apple Butter
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup dark raisins soaked in rum or marsala then drained
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped
1/4 cup dark rum or marsala
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. grated orange zest

Mix ingredients together. Mixture should be thick so it doesn't seep out of the pastry dough when sealed.
Taste and adjust to your liking.

Pastry Recipe by Nick Malgieri
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
12 Tbsp. butter (1 1/2 sticks), cold
2 eggs
2 to 3 Tbsp. milk
pinch salt

Combine the flour, sugar, and baking powder in a bowl and stir to mix. Rub in the butter, creating a powdery mixture. In a small bowl, beat the eggs and 2 T. of the milk and stir this into the flour mixture to form a dough. If the dough is too dry add the extra T. of milk. Place the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead lightly a few times. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill while preparing the filling.

There are a few styles of preparation I use but I am going to give you the most simple procedure here.
Flour the work surface and the dough lightly. Divide the dough in 3, with rolling pin roll out each into a cylinder around 1/8 of an inch thick. Cut out discs with with orange juice sized glasses, egg wash inside edge. Fill with around a teaspoon or so of filling, fold over and crimp with a fork to seal.

Place around a 1/2 inch apart on parchment lined baking/cookie sheets.
Bake the filled cookies in a preheated 350˚oven for approximately 20 minutes, or until they are light golden in color. Cool on racks. Store in tins between layers of wax paper.

Sugar Glaze Cookie Topping
1/2 cup powdered sugar

Colored Sprinkles

Drizzle milk 1 tsp. at a time over powdered sugar whisking well. Glaze should be thin but not watery. Thick enough to brush on with a pastry brush but thin enough to be translucent. Sprinkle confetti on cookies immediately after glazing.

I'm sending these on over to Susan from Food Blogga
for her Season 2 "Eat Christmas Cookies" Event!

Be sure to check out all the wonderful cookies HERE and submit your favorite Christmas Cookie by the deadline!

Butterball Cookies

It's not very often that I'll say I can't wait till all my kids are home from school.. believe me, they are a busy and loud crowd! But this past Thanksgiving holiday I had them home for a whole week.. and "I didn't go crazy", do in part to my husband taking a week off his busy schedule and I not having to drive four kids to three different schools and childhood activities! We had so much fun playing family games and sporting activities (my idea of sporting these days is Wii), baking, cooking and sipping warm drinks by the fire, because we finally had some holiday weather!

I had a wonderful Thanksgiving, very busy, very filling and I'm happy to say we don't have Turkey for Christmas! :)
So this past week began the season of cookie baking and decorating. Tuesday I spent the day at my folks house making some family favorites and reminiscing with my mom of Christmas' past. As my mom had ingredients to go and her arms in dough.. as my dad had said, we had a day filled with holiday cheer.

This cookie recipe is a favorite of not just my Italian family, but there are renditions of these all over the world. This is where I might hear from my Italian amici (friends) that I am calling them by something there not. My mom and sister's call them Butterball Cookies.. so that is what I call them. Although, I found myself wanting to declare them as the perfect snowball.. not like the wet and hard packed kind.. these melt in your mouth and you won't want to toss them!

Please let me know what you traditionally call them and we can all enjoy these butterballs with hot cocoa, tea or espresso!
Ciao and saluto to the holiday season!

1 cup butter at room temperature
½ cup + 4 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 ¼ cups flour
¼ tsp. salt
¾ cups blanched and chopped almonds

Cream the butter and 4 tablespoons of the powdered sugar together. Add vanilla.
Mix together flour and salt. Blend with a wooden spoon into the sugar and butter mix. Mix well. Add the almonds and mix.
Chill dough for half an hour. Prepare a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 350°. Roll dough into walnut sized balls. Place on cookie sheet about a ½ inch apart. These cookies do not expand so you can get many on a sheet.

Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes.
Roll immediately in powdered sugar. When cookies are cool roll in powdered sugar again.