I'm Just Here To Cook…and Eat!

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My Forever Guardian Angel

Exactly one month ago, I had to do the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. One month ago, my mom passed away. It doesn’t feel like a month, it feels like just yesterday I received that phone call at work and rushed to the hospital. My mother was a beautiful and intelligent woman. Graduated valedictorian, was forever in love with my dad (and vice versa), and was a role model mom and yiayia. She had an incredible laugh and smile, something everyone tells me I’ve inherited from her. It’s Parkinson’s Awareness Month and I’ll never stop fighting to find a cure for the atypical form of this disease which took her and her incredible mind from us at far too early an age. Now I remember all the wonderful memories, memories which are throughout this blog. My mom taught me to cook, and instilled me with the love to cook. I now carry on her traditions, and as hard as it was, I made my family’s all time favorite finikia for Easter just as she always did. I cried, and smiled, and I’ll continue to make them now with her precious cookbook in my possession. A cookbook I’m so happy to have, and will forever cherish. While my heart is broken, and I don’t know what I believe in anymore, I have a forever guardian angel. I will be looking for the signs, Lady. 馃挆馃槆 There are always signs.


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Marscapone Cannoli Cheesecake

A few weekends ago, in the first snowfall to hit the New York City area, I actually sat and watched the Food Network for the first time in a long time. I watched Giada De Laurentiis’s show themed around entertaining and she was making a Cannoli Cheesecake in one of her Christmas episodes. Cannoli filling made in the right way is so good. In our annual cousins holiday NYC day this year I hit up the new cannoli stand at Eataly and they were to die for! I wish I bought more! But I digress. The thought of a cannoli flavored cheesecake sounded interesting to me. So of course I put it on my list to try amongst my Christmas cookie recipes this holiday season. 

It was actually the first time I ever made a cheesecake! It wasn’t too difficult which was great. So while my traditional sugar cookies were cooling, and I knew I had a few more gifts to wrap, I whipped up the cheesecake I watched being made on tv a few weeks prior. 

Marscapone Cannoli Cheesecake
Recipe by Giada De Laurentiis 


8 large dry almond-anise biscotti, or your favorite biscotti
4 tbs unsalted butter, melted
1/4 tsp salt
2 8oz packages cream cheese, at room temp
8oz marscapone cheese, at room temp
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp lemon zest
3 eggs, at room temperature
3/4 cup mini semi sweet chocolate chips
Italian cherries in syrup, such as Amarena, for serving, optional


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Pulse the biscotti to fine crumbs in a food processor. Drizzle in the butter, add the salt and pulse until the mixture has the texture of wet sand. Press into the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan.

Bake for 8 minutes, until the crust smells toasted and is beginning to brown. Set aside to cool while you make the filling. Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees F.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese, mascarpone and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally with a rubber spatula. Add the salt, vanilla and lemon zest; beat on medium speed until combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition until just combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix again. 

Remove the bowl from the mixer and fold in the chocolate chips.

Pour the cream cheese mixture over the crust and spread evenly. Bake for 45 minutes, or until the center of the cake still moves just slightly. 

Allow the cheesecake to cool on a wire rack for 1 hour. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight. Run a knife around the edge of the pan before releasing the collar. 

If the cheesecake cracks (as mine did!), decorate the top with extra biscotti, the fruit sauce or fresh fruit! Enjoy this delicious cheesecake at your next gathering. 

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Chocolate Covered Strawberries gone holiday themed

Working in corporate retail has its perks, but during holiday season and even more especially during Thanksgiving Week and Cyber Week, the exhaustion which settles in is insane! So when my cousin Jessica said to me “I really want to make a fun dessert, do you want to help?”, while I knew I wouldn’t have the time for the break, I welcomed it. So in between checking my laptop and approving creative and placements and ensuring we’re “holiday ready” in everything I manage, I made beautiful chocolate covered strawberries with Jess. With milk chocolate, orange chocolate and sprinkles we had tons of fun. 

For the milk chocolate we melted this in a double boiler, and for the orange we used the microwave method. For the double boiler, add about an inch of water to the pot, place the double boiler on top ensuring it doesn’t touch the water, add the chocolate and melt on a low flame. 

Wash and dry the strawberries well, keep the stems intact. 

Start dipping and decorating, and just enjoy yourself! 

Cheers to a Happy Thanksgiving! And while you’re Black Friday shopping, be kind to your retail friends 馃檪 

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Creme Br没l茅e

*Nothing is too much trouble if it turns out the way it should* ~Julia Child 

Creme br没l茅e is one of my favorite desserts and it’s a great special occasion dessert. It takes a little bit of time to make, and you need a little bit of patience, but in the end it’s perfection. There’s something about how the crisp br没l茅ed top blends with the delicate creamy custard that makes your taste buds swoon. Which maybe is why it’s perfect for that special occasion. 

To make these gorgeous custards, I turned to my trusty Julia Child cookbook to begin this recipe but then looked at Alton Brown to finish it up. They need to refrigerate at least 2 hours after setting, but can be refrigerated up to 3 days. My tip would be to make these the day before your special occasion and br没l茅e them the day of right before serving. 

recipe recreated from Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle and Simon Beck. And Alton Brown’s Creme Br没l茅e recipe on FoodNetwork.com


1/2 cup granulated sugar
4 egg yolks
1 3/4 cup heavy cream
1 vanilla bean pod


Split the vanilla bean pod down the middle and remove the beans from the pod by scraping it lightly with the edge of a knife. 

Add the beans and the pod to a medium sauce pan with the heavy cream. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally to avoid a skin forming. 

Meanwhile, gradually beat the egg yolks and sugar together until they turn a pale yellow, about 2-3 minutes. 

Strain the flavored cream before combining with the egg/sugar mixture. Slowly stream in the cream while mixing.  The slow stream will temper the eggs to avoid scrambling them and instead form the start of a beautiful custard. 
Fill 6 ramekins with the custard. Place them in a roasting pan, filling the pan with warm water so the water comes halfway up the ramekins. Be sure to pour the water in carefully to avoid water splashing into the custard. 

Bake in a 325 degree oven for 45 minutes. After 45 minutes, remove from the oven, remove the ramekins from the roasting pan and let cool for 5-10 minutes. Transfer them to the refrigerator and let set for at least 2 hours but up to 3 days. 

When ready to serve, remove from the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Sprinkle granulated sugar on the top of the custard and using a torch, br没l茅e the tops of the custard to a beautiful golden brown. Serve with fresh strawberries and enjoy your special occasion dessert and that special occasion. 馃檪 

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I am definitely behind on posts, and owe a few! But this one had to be done today! Happy Easter, and Christos Anesti to all those that celebrate! Yesterday my cousin and I had a day of baking Greek desserts for Easter. She taught me how to make Galaktoboureko which our Cousin Mary taught us last Thanksgiving. I’ve never made it since then while Sam has. So she re-taught me how to make this, while I shared with her how to make Finikia – the Greek honey cookies I’ve shared with you before. I never actually knew if I liked this custard dessert. But let me tell you, the taste-bites we took last night were amazing. I had another piece today and brought home a doggy bag! Here is our recipe. Don’t forget, every Greek makes things different. This is how my cousin Mary does 馃檪 Thank you Samantha for re-teaching me!


recipe written out my my cousins Samantha and taught to us by our Cousin Mary

for the syrup
2-3 cups water
2-3 cups sugar

for the filling
8 eggs
8 cups of milk
2-3 cups sugar
3/4 cup of Farina
2 tsp of whisky/brandy, or a slice of lemon, or a tsp of rose water
2 tsp vanilla
4 tsp of butter
2 sticks of butter

In a large saucepan, crack your 8 eggs and fold in your sugar until you get a thick slurry. Add in half of the farina, and set the rest aside.

In a separate saucepan on high heat, heat the 8 cups of milk (whole or 2%) until scalding. I usually don’t let it boil, just until I know it is very hot. (Don’t burn the milk!)

Add a ladleful of milk at a time to the egg-sugar mixture, mixing thoroughly each time. When all the milk has been added, add the remaining farina. Heat for a few minutes, on med-high heat until the Farina “grows” and you begin to see it boil. Stir constantly, but slowly to make sure nothing sticks to the bottom of the pan. When you have a thick consistency, turn off the heat. Stir in the 4 tablespoons of butter, and the flavoring of your choice (liquor, lemon or rose). Let cool completely.

While it cools, have someone else stir it to ensure that a crust doesn’t form on top. If no one else is available, stir it intermittently while preparing the next step.

The filo should take 20-30 minutes to defrost at room temperature, leave it inside the package. When you are ready to begin, unwrap it and roll it out. If you think you need to, you can cover it with a damp cloth to keep it from drying out. Have the butter in a bowl melted and ready to go, with a brush for brushing the sheets of filo.

Begin the first layer. Butter the tray, and place the first sheet of filo into the tray. Butter the top of that sheet and repeat until you have 8 sheets. When the filling is completely cooled, pour it into the tray, and begin the top layer. The top layer should also have 8 layers of buttered filo sheets.

Cutting the Galaktoboureko is the hardest part. Do it the best you can, it is your guideline as to where to cut after it is baked. It will not be possible to cut the filo after it is baked.

Place the tray into the oven at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. The top should be golden brown.

While the Galaktoboureko is in the oven, prepare the syrup. Take your 3 cups of sugar and 3 cups of water and bring to a full and rapid boil, and then set it aside to cool.

When you remove your tray from the oven, place it on a cool surface. Immediately pour the room temperature syrup over it one ladle at a time. Start with each corner, and pour slowly. You do not want the farina to come up from under the filo, or have the filo shift on you. Trace the lines with your sharp knife to help the syrup go deep into the dessert. You may not have to use all the syrup. When cooled, place in the refrigerator. This dessert needs to be refrigerated. Wait at least a hour or two before serving warm. It is best to wait until the next day. Enjoy!

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Yellow Cake with a Cinnamon and Sugar Swirl

Sunday afternoon baking led me to making a cake to make me smile. Baking isn’t for everyone, especially completely from scratch. I’ll admit I’m not the best baker. And I will take help from a box every so often (don’t be ashamed of this! Some can’t even do this!). But I love baking from scratch – especially since I know what ingredients are going in! But one thing to know if you’re not a baker is, baking needs to be precise. It’s like science. And if you don’t follow a recipe exact it will alter your final product completely.

Today I made a yellow cake with a cinnamon sugar swirl and a sugary icing. Sort of reminded me of a cinnamon roll in a way! I followed a recipe for the cake but made up the rest. It came out delicious and comforting. Totally buy a yellow cake box if you prefer and skip down in the recipe. But if you have the time and patience try this from scratch! Here’s what I did.

Yellow Cake
recipe from Better Homes and Gardens: The New Cookbook, 14th edition, copyright 2007, Meredith Corporation

3/4 cup butter
3 eggs
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cup milk

Allow butter and eggs to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Grease and flour a bundt pan and set aside. In a bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a mixing bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer in medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Gradually add sugar, beating until well combined. Beat 2 minutes more. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Alternately add flour mixture and milk, beating on low speed after each addition just until combined.

Stop recipe here and continue below.

Cinnamon Sugar Mixture
Combine in a bowl 1 cup packed brown sugar and 1 tbs cinnamon. Set aside and continue below.

continuation of directions
Pour 1/3 of the batter into the bundt pan. Layer in half of the cinnamon sugar mixture. Pour the next third of the batter over that layer. Then add another layer of the cinnamon and sugar with the remainder of the mixture. Pour on the remainder of the batter. You may need to spread the batter with a spatula to cover the entire layer.

Bake in the oven for 30-33 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

To cool, remove the pan from the oven and leave the cake on the pan for about 10 minutes, resting on a wire rack. After 10 minutes, run a knife around the edges and flip onto the wire rack to cool completely.

Once cooled, make the icing and drizzle over the cake. Here is the recipe for the icing.

To make the icing, combine 3 tbs powdered sugar, 1 1/2 tbs milk and 1/4 tsp vanilla.