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

Mac and Goat Cheese

Sometimes the 10 year old inside of me craves a big, heaping bowl of Mac n’cheese.

It’s then that the adult in me reminds me that although satisfying in the moment, I won’t feel so good afterwards.

So, to satisfy my craving for this indulgent comfort food, I whip up a healthier and more lactose friendly version I like to call Mac and Goat Cheese.

Mac and Goat Cheese

By Pleading and Pasta 2013

2 small logs of goat cheese (one herbed and one regular)

1/4 cup of almond milk

1 lb of pasta (I like elbow macaroni but you can sub your favorite cut including whole wheat and gluten free varieties)

1 package of sweet cherry tomatoes (or some from your garden!)

1 cup of chopped fresh basil

Salt and pepper to taste

1. Chop the cherry tomatoes in half and set aside.

2. Cook the pasta in salted water until al dente.

3. Strain the pasta. Leave in colander and put the pot back on low to medium heat. Add almond milk and goat cheese. Stir until somewhat melted then add pasta, tomatoes, and basil.

4. Keep stirring until fully incorporated.

5. Serve hot and enjoy!

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This dish is quick, easy, and really hits the spot. Mix it up with different flavors of goat cheese or other garnishes!

Eat with all of your heart,

G

Summer Refresher Ice Cubes

As the temperatures rise, our need to rehydrate rises as well. Especially for those of us in areas of the country where air conditioning does not come standard in apartments or homes, icy cool drinks are one of the few ways to legitimately cool down as it begins to heat up.

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Hydration is key to improve memory, function, and overall wellness. And for many, plain water is a big turn off and it’s hard to get the recommended 8 glasses a day in your regiment.

Thus, many of us turn to sugary coffee drinks, flavored waters, and sodas to quench our thirst. The problem is, these things can dehydrate us even more.

So to combat the basic water blahs, I decided to make some flavored ice cubes! All natural, pack a potent punch, and can be used in water or iced tea.

For the summer refresher ice cubes, I took some fresh mint from my garden (this is a great way to use up end of the season herbs if you have them) and chopped the mint finely. Then, I took one whole lemon, and cut it into slices. Then I cut a small incision into the skin and opened the circle slice so that tiny little quarter slices popped out. These were perfectly sized for my ice cube trays.

Simply drop a few lemon slices and chopped mint in each tray, fill with water and voila! After they are frozen drop them in some purified water or a nice ice tea and enjoy the refreshing flavor. The mint and lemon combination really cleanses the palette and is a great way to cool down with the high heats.

Pleadings & Pasta Tip – switch out the lemons for limes, and make mojito ice cubes! When you are serving the popular rum drink, you can use the mojito ice cubes to enhance the flavor of the beverage.

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Eat (and drink) with all of your heart,

G

Bistro Sliders

 

 

 

Hamburgers for many foreigners are a symbol of American cuisine. What once was a basic beef patty, lettuce, tomato, cheese offering has morphed into a modern day art. Burger speciality restaurants have opened all across the nation, and chefs and restaurant goers alike are becoming more adventurous in their burger tastes. These “risk takers” range from lamb burgers to topping your patty with a fried egg.photo 4

Burgers are a great way to cover all of your food group basics in one meal, and allow you to truly be creative in your execution of the recipe. Plus with the fourth of July coming up, this recipe is a great one to try and share with your red, white, and blue clad guests.  I will be sharing some of my various burger hybrids on the blog but to start, I present to you the Bistro Slider. The mixture of flavors on this recipe was mindblowingly delicious. Savory, tangy, and down right delicious.

Bistro Sliders

By Pleadings and Pasta 2013

 

Ingredients

1/2 cup of sliced crimini mushrooms

Low fat feta cheese

Dijon Mustard or Trader Joe’s Garlic Aioli (a favorite!)

Lettuce of choice (leaf lettuce or spinach works)

Slider buns

1lb Lean ground beef

Salt, pepper, and olive oil

 

`1. Take the ground beef and mix a few drizzles of olive oil, and salt and pepper together. (I’ve gone back and forth on the use of eggs to bind burgers and for this particular recipe, I go without it and they turn out delicious!)

2. Heat a skillet on the stove top to medium heat and form the patties to fit in the cup of your palm. You want them to be small enough to fit on your slider buns

3. Cook thoroughly (about 4 minutes each side until inside cooked to your preference) and remove from heat.

4. Meanwhile toast the slider buns (Can be done on the stovetop by buttering and heating over warm heat, or in the oven, or a toaster. It’s up to you!)

5. Create the mushroom topping. Sautee the crimini mushrooms in a little olive oil until cooked through (approximately 6-8 minute). If you are feeling daring add a dash of soy sauce or terriyaki sauce for flavor.

6. Spread dijon mustard on the buns. Then lay lettuce, patty, mushrooms, feta, and bun in that order.

7. Serve with sweet potato fries or a fresh salad and enjoy!

I kid you not, I sat in my kitchen making “yum” noises the entire time I ate these burgers. The combination of flavors is that good.

What’s your favorite burger combination? Better yet, how daring have you been in your search for the perfect burger toppings?

Eat with all of your heart,

G