Pumpkin Chocolate Macarons

 

 

 

 

Several months ago, I embarked on a beautiful tour of Europe which included a visit to the gorgeous city of Paris.

While there, my diet consisted of: croissants, crepes, and lots and lots of macarons.

No this wasn’t the healthiest few days of my life, but perhaps the happiest. On my last day in Paris I swore that when I went back to the states I would learn how to make these light, pillowy sugar dreams so I could transport myself back to the gilded streets of Paris, even if just for a moment.

 

So I finally attempted to climb pastry everest. As you will see below, I mixed in my fall cravings with this Parisian classic, and came up with this recipe.

Did these taste good? You bet!

 

Did half of the shells crack or fall apart? Yes, indeed. But it’s more motivation for me to tweak my recipe and find out what works and what doesn’t. However, this is a solid foundation recipe and I hope you too will attempt to climb this tasty meringue mountain with me.

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Pumpkin & Chocolate Macarons

By Pleading and Pasta (C) 2013

3/4 cup almond meal

1 cup confectioner’s sugar

3 Tbsp sugar

1.5 tbsp of cocoa powder

2 large egg whites

FILLING

1/4 cup pumpkin puree
1 1/2 cups  powdered sugar
1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice

 

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper (Note, oiled foil WILL NOT work)

2. Put regular sugar and egg whites in a mixer and let mix for 7-10 minutes until stiff peaks form.

3. Meanwhile, sift together the almond meal, confectioner’s sugar, and cocoa powder.

4. Combine the wet and dry ingredients by folding the dry ingredients in. You want to do at least 25-30 turns on this particular recipe. “Knock” the air out of the merengue by turning and smearing the mix.

5. Put the mixture into a plastic bag for piping.

6. Pipe equally sized circles onto the parchment and lightly bump and shake the pan so the batter settles.

7. Cook for 10-12 minutes. Cookies should pop off the parchment.

8. Remove from pan and let cool and make the icing.

9. For icing, mix all of the icing ingredients together. To make the frosting more stiff, add small amounts of confectioners sugar until desired consistency is reached.

10. Put icing in a bag and pipe onto cookie shells. Put one on top of the other and serve!

Eat with all of your heart, mon ami,

 

G

 

Filet Mignon with Balsamic Reduction and Goat Cheese

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Too much of a good thing is impossible. At least when it comes to goat cheese.

I am a goat cheese fanatic, and I am always looking for new ways to incorporate this rich and flavorful cheese into my recipes. Plus, for those that are lactose intolerant, it’s an LI friendly cheese!

Now, although Pleadings & Pasta likes to create original dishes, sometimes you come across a flawless recipe that needs to be shared with everyone. This recipe is one of those.

Ms. Giada De Laurentiis is my culinary muse, and her effortless approach to cooking is embodied in this recipe for a filet mignon with balsamic reduction and goat cheese.

The tangy balsamic reduction brought me back to my epic dinner at Acqua al 2 in Florence, Italy where I had a similar dish. The goat cheese melts so beautifully and makes for a fancy, but easy meal.20131014-122808.jpg

Eat with all of your heart,

G

Nutella Banana Fold-Overs

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Sometimes you just want dessert. Warm, gooey, chocolatey dessert.

However you don’t have a whole afternoon to dedicate to making a decadent dessert. So in honor of a visit to a dear friend and fellow chef in training, I made these nutella banana fold-overs as the perfect finish to our meal.

As a young girl I grew up on Nutella sandwiches. All of the kids in the lunch room would ask me how I convinced my mom to make me “chocolate sandwiches” and at the time, I had no idea how I was so fortunate. But, later on I learned Nutella is a staple of many European households, and growing up Italian-American, we were no exception to this rule!

Although I don’t eat Nutella as often as I did when I was a kid, it is still such a special treat for me and this recipe is a great way to get your Nutella fix.

Nutella Banana Fold-Overs

1/2 cup Nutella

Frozen phyllo dough or pastry dough equivalent

Sliced Bananas

1. Defrost the dough, and cut into squares

2. Fill with nutella and a few bananas

3. Fold over into a triangle shape, bake on 400 degrees for about 10-15 minutes or until golden brown.

4. Serve warm (be careful though, I wasn’t patient and burned my  mouth in the process since it was fresh out of the oven)

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Eat with all of your heart,

G

Rosemary Rack of Lamb

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Fall is here.

With the changing leaves, and chilly temperature comes the desire for rich, flavorful dishes to usher out the light, refreshing ones of summer.

Rack of lamb has always intimidated me with its fancy presentation, and the ability to truly destroy it by over or undercooking it. However, I took up the challenge and the result was juicy, tender, and downright delectable.

Rosemary Rack of Lamb

Pleadings & Pasta 2013

1 Rack of Lamb

Olive oil

5-7 Sprigs of Rosemary

4-6 cloves of garlic

Salt and pepper to taste

1. Generously salt and pepper the rack of lamb. Crumble the rosemary sprigs and rub vigorously into the meat on both sides. Wrap the meat in plastic wrap and put in fridge for 2 hours.

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2. Remove lamb from fridge and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes, still wrapped.

3. Heat up a skillet to medium to high heat. Remove lamb from wrap, and brown the lamb on both sides (about 3-4 minutes per side). Meanwhile heat up the oven to 400 degrees.

4. Transfer the rack to a pre-heated cookie sheet wrapped in foil and place in pre-heated oven.

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5. Cook for 12-15 minutes and then flip and repeat. Regularly check the lamb to determine how cooked the inside is. Some of my guests prefer their lamb more “well” whereas others like it more rare.

6. Remove and transfer to a cutting board. Slice according to the bone, and serve with mashed potatoes, asparagus, or your side of choosing!

 

 

Eat with all of your heart,

 

G

Lime Glazed Sweet Potatoes

photo 3When I think of sweet potatoes I usually imagine changing leaves outside, snuggling into a warm sweater, and gearing up for the holidays. However, this nutritious staple can be eaten year round, and when dressed up with a summer twist, it hits the spot just right!

Lime Glazed Sweet Potatoes

1 lime

3 tbsps honey

olive oil

cilantro to taste

salt/pepper

3 large sweet potatoes

  1. After washing, cut the potatoes into very thin strips. I prefer them to be thinner because they cook quicker on the stove top. Leave skins on if you prefer.
  2. On medium heat, warm olive oil (enough to lightly cover the pan) and add sweet potatoes. Sautee for 5-7 minutes until cooked.
  3. In bowl, mix honey, lime, cilantro, and salt and pepper.
  4. Throw mixture into the sautee pan with the sweet potatoes and stir continuously until coated and the liquid evaporates. Make sure not to leave it or else it may burn with the sauce.
  5. After a couple minutes, remove from heat and serve!

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This side dish pairs nicely with a light seafood dish, or is great all by itself!

Eat with all of your heart,

G

Baked Orange Chicken

 

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Keeping up with the trend of food I crave, and decided to learn how to make, here is a recipe for homemade baked orange chicken.

The kicker on this recipe, is that you actually forget halfway through eating it that it’s pretty good for you in comparison to its deep fried counterpart. I served this recipe on a bed of quinoa instead of rice to make it even healthier. The quinoa nicely soaked up the rich and tangy orange sauce and made for a delightful and light meal!

 

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Baked Orange Chicken

Pleadings & Pasta 2013

4 chicken breasts, cut into cubes

Panko bread crumbs

salt and pepper

One egg, beaten

Sauce:

1/4 cup orange juice

3 tablespoons of brown sugar

1 tablespoon of soy sauce

2 tablespoons Sriracha

1 teaspoon cornstarch (or 2 teaspoons flour) to thicken the sauce.

 

  1. Mix panko, salt, and pepper into a bowl.
  2. Take the cubed raw chicken and dunk it in the beaten egg mixture.
  3. Then take the chicken and dip it into the panko mixture and place on an oiled cookie sheet.
  4. Continue until all are done and put in the oven at 400 degrees. Cook approximately 15 minutes until the panko is niceand crispy and the chicken is cooked within. Place the stove on broil quickly if you need to give the panko an extra crisp.
  5. Remove from oven.
  6. Prepare the sauce by mixing all the ingredients except the corn starch into a pan to boil. Let it simmer for 2-3 minutes then add the corn starch and keep stirring until the sauce thickens. (Feel free to double this recipe if you want it really saucy!)
  7. Mix the baked chicken tenders into the sauce, and serve immediately over rice or quinoa.

 

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I loved the sauce so much, I decided to pour the rest on top!

 

Eat with all of your heart,

 

G

Kick Ass Pad Thai

Pad Thai is my go-to for Asian takeout. Words cannot express how much joy a fresh batch of pad thai brings to my soul.

For many years now, I dreamed of being able to conquer the pad thai recipe. It truly has been my Everest. I would research “authentic pad thai” and get frustrated, or intimidated, and give up. To be honest, I was afraid to ruin this coveted dish I adored so much with just an “ok” version of my own doing.photo 1

However, for some strange reason I mustered up the courage, I researched endlessly, put together a combination of several recipes and added a few tweaks of my own, and finally did it. Yes, I made Pad Thai. Not only did I make it, but it tasted wonderful. Not only that, I loved it so much that I started to make it an ungodly amount of times until I got it down and could make it in my sleep. And now today, I share with you the crown jewel of my recipe box.

This recipe stands for more than just deliciousness. Nay, it stands as a reminder that you can achieve the impossible. It stands for a symbol of not being intimidated and for believing in yourself. And, when this beautiful recipe came into creation, it marked a time where I found my passion for cooking re-ignited, and inspired to push my own limits of my culinary creativity.

So with that, I present to you, kick ass pad thai!

Kick Ass Pad Thai

Pleadings & Pasta 2013

  • 8 oz. Thai rice noodles (or enough for 2 people), linguini-width, available at Asian grocer
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups chopped chicken breast or tofu
  • Marinade for Chicken/Tofu: 3 Tbsp. soy sauce, 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 cups fresh bean sprouts
  • 3 green onions, sliced
  • 1/2 cup fresh coriander/cilantro
  • 1/3 cup crushed peanuts
  • olive oil or sesame oil for stir-frying, and lots of wedges of lime
  • PAD THAI SAUCE  (Highly suggest doubling this in proportion to the number of noodles you have and adding it to taste. Loved this sauce and wanted more of it on my noodles!)
  • 3/4 Tbsp. tamarind paste dissolved in 1/4 cup warm water (look for tamarind at Asian or Indian grocer)
  • 2 Tbsp. fish sauce+ more to taste
  • 3 tsp of Sriracha Sauce (I added some more because I love the kick)
  • 3 1/2 Tbsp. brown sugar (can add a bit more if you want a richer sauce)
  1. Bring a large pot of pot to a boil and dunk in your rice noodles. Cook until firm, you don’t want them too mushy so you can fry them later. Drain and rinse with cold water to prevent sticking. Set aside.
  2. Make pad Thai sauce by combining the sauce ingredients together in a cup. Stir well.
  3. Marinate chicken for 10 minutes. Stir well and set aside. (For a vegetarian option, use tofu! Marinade and prepare the same way).
  4. Add a little oil to the pan, and add the tofu or chicken and cook until done.
  5. Add the noodles, and pour the Pad Thai sauce over. Using two utensils, use a gentle “lift and turn” method to fry noodles (like tossing a salad). Stir-fry in this way 1-2 minutes. If you pan is too dry, push noodles aside and add a little more oil to the bottom of the pan.
  6. Stir in bean sprouts.
  7. Place noodles in plate and top with lots of fresh cilantro, onions, and peanuts. Add fresh lime wedges to squeeze over each portion.

There are no words, other than YUM!

Eat with all of your heart,

G

Avocado Eggrolls

 

One of my biggest guilty pleasures in life is the avocado egg roll from the Cheesecake Factory. Honestly, I could sit down and order 3 orders and eat them in one sitting. Nothing compares to that warm comforting avocado and the to die for dipping sauce.

However, a quick google search will alert you to the fact that these babies are high in calories, and at over $10 just for the appetizer, can be painful to your wallet as well.

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Enter Pleadings & Pasta. Sure I wanted to create my own at home but I also wanted them to be healthier than the original. Guess what? The do it yourself recipe I whipped up will satisfy that craving immediately and it’s easy to make. Such a great way to kick start off your meal.

 

 

Avocado Eggrolls

By Pleadings & Pasta 2013

Store bought eggroll wrappers (in the fruit and vegetable section by the tofu)

Filling

Cilantro

Olive oil

1 red onion

2-3 avocados (depending on size)

Salt, pepper, and a dash of cumin

1 Lime juiced

 

Dipping Sauce

2/3 cup honey

1/2 lime juice

Cilantro

Spot of Sriracha (if you want a kick!)

 

  1. Mix the filling ingredients together in a bowl. I like to chop my avocados into nice big chunks, as it looks prettier for presentation purposes. Also, dice the red onions as small as possible so you balance the flavor out in the roll.
  2. Line a pan with aluminum foil (oiled) or parchment paper.
  3. Fill the wrappers with a tablespoon full of filling. You don’t want these to be overflowing to the point where the filling falls out.
  4. To wrap: turn the wrapper so there is a pointy edge facing you (as opposed to a straight line). Then, fold the pointy edge away from you over the filling. Then take the left and right side and fold it on top of the side you just folded. Then roll the entire roll closed and place on parchment paper or oiled aluminum foil.
  5. Spread olive oil over the tops of the wrappers. This makes for a crispier egg roll!
  6. Once you’ve filled all of the wrappers, place in an oven at 400 degrees. Cook for 15 minutes or until wrappers are crispy and a light brown.
  7. For the sauce: Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl. This is one part of the recipe where your own interests will really effect if you add more or less of the ingredients. Some people like it sweeter others more tangy, so go ahead and be creative!
  8. Once done, serve hot (oh that warm avocado!) with the sauce.

I dare you to have just one. Spoiler alert: It’s impossible.

 

Eat with all of your heart,

G