Category Archives: cream

Creamy Ravioli w/ Squash, Lemon & Chives



It is Fast Friday again and time for another fast and fabulous dinner suggestion. If you are anything like me, by the time Friday rolls around the last thing you want to do to cook a big meal yet we all still have to eat.  The dishes featured in this series aren’t necessarily fancy but they bring together simple ingredients most people already have in their pantries or have easy access to and allow you to put a real meal on the table in between 30 and 45 minutes.  Enjoy and if you have your own fast recipes you want to share, please send them my way and I will in turn share them with all of my readers.

I absolutely love this pasta dish from Noble Pig. The ingredients are quite simple–pasta, either fresh or frozen, summer squash and bit of cheese and cream. But when these ingredients are pulled all together the results are truly delicious. The secret is the combination of cream and parmesan cheese combined with bright and tangy lemon zest. It is unexpected yet so welcome. And as an added bonus you truly get a balanced meal in a single dish thanks in part to a generous amount of squash. What a perfect end of the week meal. Enjoy!


16 to 18 ounces cheese ravioli
1 Tablespoon olive
1 shallot, chopped
3 summer squash (zucchini and/or yellow squash; about 1-1/2 pounds), thinly sliced
Kosher salt and black pepper
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 Tablespoon grated lemon zest
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

  • Cook the pasta according to the package directions.  Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water; drain the pasta and return it to the pot.
  • Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the shallot and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, 3 to 4 minutes.
  • Add the squash and 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper to the skillet.
  • Cook, tossing often, until the vegetables are just beginning to soften, 4 to 5 minutes.
  • Add the cream and lemon zest and cook until the vegetables are tender and the cream is slightly thickened, about 1 to 2 minutes.
  • Add the squash mixture, grated cheese and 1/4 cup of the reserved cooking water to the cooked ravioli and toss gently to coat. Add additional reserved water if the sauce is too dry.
  •  Serve sprinkled with the chives.

Black Forest Brownie Trifles


Another oldie but goodie. Do try to find fresh cherries if you can. If you can’t, frozen ones will suffice.

In planning a recent dinner party I had visions of serving a rich and perfectly smooth creme brulee.  But then I realized that good quality heavy cream is hard, if not impossible, to come by in Tirana.  Switching gears I started pouring over my favorite food websites in search of an alternative recipe.  I stuck gold when I found a recipe for individual black forest brownie trifles on From Away.  (I encourage those of you who aren’t familiar with this Maine based couple’s writing to check it out.  Not only are their recipes and food insight great but reading their postings helps temporarily fulfill my longing for Maine).  Cherries are at the peak of their season now so this was the perfect dessert.

I love the combination of chocolate and cherries tempered with a bit of whipped cream. The cleaver way of serving these trifles, in individual jelly jars, made me realize they would add the perfect amount of whimsy to my dinner.  I’ve added my own twist onto this recipe.  I prefer my own brownie recipewhich is moist and has a touch of almond flavor.  I also adapted my the original cherry recipe by substituting orange liqueur for some of the liquid.

The results?  A simple yet visually pleasing dessert that pleased the entire table.  Try it for yourself.


For the brownies:

5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces

3 tablespoons Dutch-processed cocoa powder

1 1/4 cups sugar

3 large eggs

2 teaspoons extract of your choice, I prefer almond

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup all-purpose flour

  • Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line an 8-inch square pan with foil then coat lightly with vegetable spray.
  • Melt the chocolates, butter, and cocoa in the microwave, stirring often, 1 to 3 minutes.  Let the mixture cool slightly.
  • Whisk the sugar, eggs, extract, and salt together in a large bowl until well combined.
  • Whisk in the melted chocolate mixture until smooth.  Stir in the flour until no streaks remain.
  • Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.  Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with just a few crumbs attached, 35 to 40 minutes.
  • Let cool completely on a wire rack to room temperature, about 2 hours, before removing the brownies from the pan using the foil and cutting into squares.

For the cherries:

4 cups fresh cherries, pitted

2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 cup fresh orange juice

1/2 cup Grand Marnier liqueur, or other orange flavored liqueur

4 teaspoons corn starch

  • Place the cherries in a large sauce pan.  Add the sugar, juice, and liqueur and stir to combine.
  • Bring to a simmer a cook for 5 minutes or until the cherries start to break down.
  • Stir in the cornstarch and whisk to combine.  Cook an additional 5 minutes.
  • Remove from the heat and set aside.  Allow to cool for at least 1 hour before assembling the trifles.

For the cream:

16 ounces mascarpone cheese, at room temperature

2 – 2/3 cups whipping cream

1/4 cup powdered sugar

  • Place all of the ingredients in a large bowl.
  • Using an electric mixer, beat until all of the ingredients are combined and the cream forms stiff peaks.


  • Crumble the brownies into small, bite-sized pieces.
  • Alternate layers of brownies, cherries, and cream in each of the 8 serving dishes starting with a layer of brownies and ending with a layer of cream.  Depending upon the depth of your dishes you should have 3 or 4 layers.
  • Top with a fresh cherry if desired.
  • Allow to sit in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour before serving.

Serves 8

Zuppa Toscana Soup


It’s Fast Friday again and time for another fast and fabulous dinner suggestion. If you are anything like me, by the time Friday rolls around the last thing I want to do is cook a big meal yet we all still have to eat. The dishes featured in this series aren’t necessarily fancy but they bring together simple ingredients most people already have in their pantries or have easy access to and allow you to put a real meal on the table in between 30 and 45 minutes. Enjoy and if you have your own fast recipes you want to share, please send them my way and I will in turn share them with all of my readers.

I love soup and here’s a classic Italian soup that is both delicious and fast. I like to use a spicy Italian sausage but you can also use a milder version if you prefer. Kale is my green of choice but spinach or beet greens are also tasty. Use whatever you like and whatever looks good or even use a combination of greens. All you need is some crusty bread and dinner is served.


1 pound ground Italian sausage

1½ tsp crushed red peppers

1 red onion, diced

1/3 cup pancetta

4 garlic cloves, crushed

6 cups low sodium chicken broth

2 cups water

1 cup heavy cream

3 large red potatoes, skin on and sliced

1/4 pound fresh greens of your choice, I prefer kale or spinach

  • Sauté the sausage and crushed red pepper in a large pot, using a wooden spoon to crumble the meat into smaller pieces. Drain off the excess fat, move the meat to a separate plate and set aside.
  • In the same pan, sauté the pancetta, onions and garlic over medium-low heat until the onions are soft and translucent
  • Add the chicken broth and water to the pot, raise the heat to medium-high and cook until the mixture starts to boil.
  • Add the sliced potatoes and cook until soft when pierced with a fork.
  • Lower the heat, add the heavy cream and just cook until thoroughly heated.
  • Return the sausage to the pan then add the kale, let all heat through and serve.

Serves 4


Potatoes Dauphinoise


What is more comforting than ooey, gooey, cheesy potatoes? While I’ve been known to enjoy a bowl of them by themselves, they are also the perfect accompaniment to grilled meats, roasts or even a big green salad. They seem to turn any dish into a meal. And while there are many versions of this potato dish out there, I love this one which I’ve adapted from Cooking Light.

And what isn’t to love? This dish never fails to satisfy and it can easily be reduced in half or doubled in size depending upon the crowd you are serving. It is wonderful piping hot out of the oven and I think it tastes even better reheated the next day. And sometimes when I’m looking to save time, I use a bag of pre-cut and partially cooked potato slices. Doing this will reduce your preparation time meaning you can be enjoying this mouthwatering dish that much sooner.


2 pounds baking potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/8-inch-thick rounds
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups whole milk
3/4 cup half-and-half
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup dry sherry
2 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • Preheat oven to 400°.
  • Coat an 11 x 7-inch glass baking dish with cooking spray.
  • Place potatoes in a large saucepan; fill pan with enough cold water to cover potatoes by 2 inches. Place pan over high heat. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes or just until tender. Drain well.
  • Gently layer one-third of potatoes in overlapping rows in prepared dish.
  • Heat a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the oil, swirling to coat.
  • Add the onion and garlic; cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Combine the flour, milk, half-and-half, salt, nutmeg, and pepper in a medium bowl, stirring well with a whisk.
  • Add the milk mixture to pan; cook 3 minutes or until smooth and mixture thickens slightly, stirring constantly with a whisk.
  • Add the sherry to the mixture and stir well to combine.
  • Remove from heat; let stand 10 minutes. Strain through a fine sieve into a bowl; discard solids.
  • Pour one-third of milk mixture over potatoes in baking dish.
  • Repeat layers twice with remaining potatoes and milk mixture. Sprinkle evenly with cheese.
  • Place pan in upper third of oven; bake at 400° for 12 minutes or until bubbling around edges. Turn broiler to high, leaving pan in oven; broil 1 minute or until browned.
  • Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Serves 10

Rosemary Olive Oil Cake w/ Chocolate Ganache


This is another tasty cake courtesy of From Away, my latest, go-to food blog.  The combination of olive oil, rosemary, and chocolate is intriguing and surprisingly good.  The cake comes together quickly making it a perfect ending to a weeknight dinner where dessert is a necessity.  The ingredients are also staples in my kitchen and combined with our rosemary bushes in the garden, I will never have an excuse for not making the cake.   I cautiously served the cake at our dinner last night—I am always hesitant to try out a new recipe on guests— but it was a hit.  Even the children ate it; it probably helped that they ate it so quickly that they didn’t have time to see the little green flecks in the cake!


4 eggs

3/4 cup granulated sugar

2/3 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, very finely chopped

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, roughly chopped

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

  •  Prepare an 8-inch cake pan with cooking spray.  Pre heat an oven to 325 degrees.
  •   In the bowl of a stand mixer thoroughly beat the eggs, add the sugar and continue beating until light and fluffy.  Slowly pour in the olive oil.
  •   Fold in the rosemary with a spatula.  
  •   In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt.  Add the dry ingredients to the egg  mixture and stir until just combined.
  •   Pour into the prepared pan and bake, 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool completely on a wire rack.
  •  In a double boiler, slowly melt the chocolate over medium heat.
  •  In a small saucepan, warm the cream over medium low heat.  Stir the cream into the melted chocolate until the mixture is thick and shiny.
  •  When the cake is completely cooled, pour the ganache over the cake and smooth with a spatula. 

Twenty-Five Days of Cookies: Cherry Lambic Chocolate Truffles


Christmas is just nine days (gulp) away and what better way is there to countdown to the big event than to feature a cookie recipe each day? Think of it as a cookie recipe advent calendar. And to fill that advent calendar I’m featuring twenty five of my favorite holiday cookie recipes that are sure to fill your holidays with cheer. Bake them to fill your cookie trays, bring them to a cookie swap or eat them yourself; they are guaranteed to bring about holiday joy. And if you love baking as much as I do, making them is a fun filled gift unto itself. Enjoy!

Some foods are synonymous with a country and here in Belgium beer and chocolate top that culinary list. Walk through any Belgian town and chances are they have both their own brewery (brasserie) and their own chocolate shop. And I must admit that I am a fan of both of these Belgian delights. So what better way to show some national spirit than combing the two into a single treat.

These truffles are adapted from a Food 52 recipe and just one bite will have you hopping on a plane in search of more. Or you can make them yourself since they are quite easy. They are rich and intense without being sweet–my favorite kind of dessert. Be sure to use the best dark chocolate you can find. As far as the beer goes, experiment to find a combination you like. I’m a huge fan of cherry lambic and chocolate but raspberry is also good. Or choose a dark smokey stout which also pairs nicely with the intensity of the chocolate. Do experiment. And most of all, don’t omit the salt since it really brings out all of the flavors.

Here’s a final tip–rolling the chocolate can be an messy endeavor if your hands are warm. I tend to roll four or five truffles at a time then wash and dry my hands before continuing. It makes the process that much easier.


8 ounces good-quality dark chocolate, chopped

1/2 cup cherry lambic beer, or dark beer of your choice

1/4 cup heavy whipping cream

1 pinch flaky sea salt

1/2 cup dark cocoa powder, for rolling

  • Place the chopped chocolate in a medium sized heat-proof bowl and set aside.
  • In a small saucepan, bring the beer to a simmer over medium-high heat and reduce to about 1/4 cup.
  • Add the heavy cream to the beer and return to a boil.
  • Pour the hot cream and beer mixture over chopped chocolate and allow to sit 1 to 3 minutes.
  • Stir until all chocolate is completely melted and mixture is smooth.
  • Cover and refrigerate 4 hours or overnight. Part way through cooling, sprinkle a pinch of flaky sea salt over mixture and gently stir it in.
  • When you are ready to proceed, using a melon baller, scoop 1-inch balls of the ganache, roll it between your palms until smooth, and then roll in the cocoa powder to coat. Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.


Yields 28 1 inch truffles

Chicken w/ Artichokes in Creamy Mustard Sauce


It’s Fast Friday again and time for another fast and fabulous dinner suggestion. If you are anything like me, by the time Friday rolls around the last thing I want to do is cook a big meal yet we all still have to eat. The dishes featured in this series aren’t necessarily fancy but they bring together simple ingredients most people already have in their pantries or have easy access to and allow you to put a real meal on the table in between 30 and 45 minutes. Enjoy and if you have your own fast recipes you want to share, please send them my way and I will in turn share them with all of my readers.

This dish adapted from The Splendid Table (which by the way is the best podcast ever) uses one of  my all time favorite vegetables: artichokes. Artichokes have a mild and slightly sweet and tangy flavor that pairs well  with just about anything. Here it is combined with Dijon mustard and chicken to make a quick end of the week dinner that the entire family will eat. In order to keep the flavor subtle, be sure to use plain artichoke hearts and not ones that have been pickled. Serve the chicken over rice so you can absorb all of the yummy sauce.

Chicken w/ Artichokes in Creamy Mustard Sauce

8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs

1 teaspoon salt, divided

1 teaspoon, divided freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 shallot, minced

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 1/2 cups canned artichoke hearts, drained and sliced

1/2 teaspoon lemon zest

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 cup grape tomatoes, halved

1/2 cup dry white wine

1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth

1/3 cup heavy cream

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

Chopped parsley, for garnish

  • Season the chicken on both sides with half of the salt and half of the pepper.
  • Heat the olive oil in a large skillet set over medium-high heat. When the oil shimmers, add the chicken  and brown for 2 to 3 minutes per side. It does not need to be cooked through at this point.
  • Remove the chicken from the pan and reduce the heat to medium.
  • Add the shallot and red pepper flakes and scraping the bottom of the pan, cook for 2 minutes.
  • Add the artichoke hearts, lemon zest, oregano and the remaining salt and pepper. Cook for an additional 2 minutes then stir in the tomatoes.
  • Return the chicken to the pan then add the wine and chicken broth.
  • Bring to a boil, reduce the heat so the chicken is at a low simmer and cover.
  • Cook for an additional 8 to 10 minutes or until the chicken is tender and cooked through.
  • Meanwhile, combine the cream and mustard in a small bowl.
  • When the chicken is cooked, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the mustard sauce.
  • Top with the chopped parsley and serve immediately.
Serves 4
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