Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Peppermint Cupcakes

Since it's the holidays and all, and I LOOVE peppermint, especially when it's around chocolate, I decided to make two different minty-inspired cupcakes: candy cane cupcakes and peppermint cookies and cream cupcakes (the latter won for best cupcake at the LA Cupcake Meetup.) You can make either of these vegan as well! I actually used the cupcake recipes from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World for both cakes.. even though I used butter frosting on the cookies and cream cakes. I did this because the vegan recipes are just easy to make.. and a little cheaper, since you don't have to buy all that expensive butter. I don't like to reprint recipes from folks' books, but, all you really need to do is use your favorite vanilla recipe for the candy-cane cakes and your favorite chocolate for the cookies and cream cakes.

Peppermint Cookies and Cream Cupcakes

Start with your favorite recipe for 12 chocolate cupcakes.

  • For the cakes and garnish, you will need about 16 of Trader Joe's Candy Cane Joe-Joe's cookies. If you can't get these, regular Oreos will be OK. For vegans, you can use Newman's Own vegan cookies. You'll need more cookies for the frosting if you can't find the cookie crumbs.
  • For the frosting, you'll need 1/2 cup of chocolate cookie crumbs. I think the crumbs you buy in the baking section would be best, but I couldn't find those, so I scraped the cream out of some more cookies and crushed them with a rolling pin.

  • A few candy canes, crushed up, for garnish
  • Real peppermint extract and real vanilla extract
  1. Coarsely chop/crush 10 cookies and stir this into the batter before baking.
  2. Stir the 1/2 cup of the crumbs into your favorite butter or vegan frosting, along with 1/2 t of vanilla extract and 1/2 t of peppermint extract.
  3. Frost generously when the cakes are completely cooled.
  4. Top each cake with 1/2 a cookie (from the remaining 6) and then sprinkle each with the candy cane crumbs.

Candy Cane Cupcakes

For these, I just used vanilla cupcakes and took a small portion of he batter and colored it red. Then, I swirled this onto each cake before I baked them.

Then, I mixed 1/2 teaspoon of peppermint extract into the frosting and sprinkled the top with crushed candy canes.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

What do I have to do to get a good sub around here??

Bud's Famous Deli & Desserts on UrbanspoonI just tried out a place I've driven by many times in Santa Monica. I am from Boston, so I know that my sub standards are high, but with a sign called 'Bud's FAMOUS Deli and Desserts", I figured they might have something good going on here. I asked for a turkey sub, they don't really do those.. but they can put it on a "roll". Although the turkey meat was plentiful and tasty, they put a FREAKIN' KRAFT SINGLE on my sandwhich when I asked for American cheese. I mean, come on! Even out here you can buy white Land o' Lakes wicked cheap.

Step it up, Bud..

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Our Christmas Traditions

Since there isn't any point now in posting the vegan pumpkin chocolate chip mummy cupcakes or the Thanksgiving leftover stromboli since they are so yesterday, I thought I'd get a jump on the whole Christmas thing before it is too late.

First, I'm Italian, so our Christmas tradition is the "seven fishes" feast on Christmas eve. So, we've never had turkey or ham or any of those things. On Christmas day, we have Panettone for breakfast and then leftovers the rest of the day. Panettone is a very light and tasty cake with small amounts of dried fruit. It is NOT like an American fruitcake. It usually has golden raisins and citrus peels. I found a cranberry version at Trader Joe's this year. My mother likes her piece toasted with butter. I just eat mine plain. We've never tried making these, we just buy them. Do NOT pay $34 at Williams Sonoma for these. You can get them for $7 to $15 at Italian bakeries or grocery stores with ethnic foods.

My absolute favorite dish for Christmas, and possibly my favorite dish EVER, is my mom's stuffed squid. She basically buys cleaned squid, cuts up the tentacles and makes a stuffing out of it, and then shoves it into the bodies. You bake it all up with tomato sauce. Here is the recipe:

Stuffed Squid

  • 2 lbs cleaned squid bodies (get BIG ones) plus 1/2 lb tentacles.
  • 2 cloves garlic sliced fine
  • 1.5 cups Italian seasoned breadcrumbs (like Progresso)
  • 1/2 c grated parmesan or romano cheese
  • 1/4 c olive oil
  • a few cups thick, homemade tomato sauce
  • 3 T chopped parsley
  • 1 large egg beaten
  • 1/2 c dry red wine
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Wash all the squid and chop the tentacles.
  3. Mix the tentacles with all the other ingredients EXCEPT the tomato sauce
  4. Stuff the squid bodies with the stuffing. Secure each body with a toothpick.
  5. Spread 1/3 of the sauce in the bottom of a 9 x 13 pan, place the stuffed bodies on the sauce.
  6. Cover with the remaining sauce.
  7. Cover pan with foil
  8. Cook for about an hour, remove toothpicks before serving.

For some reason, we got into the habit of stuffing everything and we ended up with stuffed squid, stuffed clams and a stuffed shrimp casserole. I could post those recipes if you want.. so post a comment if you want me to. There is usually a pasta dish, it could be linguine with clam sauce, but recently my mother started making a really good salmon with bow ties and peas, probably because my nephew and brother are picky about things. Again, just leave a comment if you want these recipes.

I will post my other favorite, and that is Baccala, which is an Italian version of dried, salted cod. Sounds delicious, huh? Well, it is! My grandmother (rest her soul) always made this as the first course and served it cold with big chunks of tomatoes, artichokes, peppers, and olives, like an antipasto. My sister is usually the one to re-create it. You need to do this ahead of time, because the fish needs to soak in water for about 12 hours to get most of the salt out. Unfortunately, like many family recipes, I don't have measurements here. But I feel you can prepare it to your own tastes.


  • Dried, salted cod
  • Vinegar peppers (these come in the jarred section).
  • Black Olives
  • Roasted red peppers and/or big tomato chunks
  • Artichoke hearts
  • Olive oil
  • Lemon juice
  • Pepperoncini (if you like them, these are hot)
  1. Soak the cod in water for 12 hours, then poach.
  2. Break the cod up into 3 inch chunks
  3. Add veggies with some vinegar from the peppers.
  4. Add olive oil and lemon juice.

OK, finally, there are the cannolis. We make the shells from scratch, no boxed, yucky shells. I'll get to those in the next post.

Well, I hope you enjoy some of these recipes. Why not try a traditional Italian christmas this year? : )

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Boston Food Hit List

Update to my Boston Food Hit List: Although you must scroll down to see my posting on our trip to Japan, I suddenly realized that I did not post about the BEST DOUGHNUTS IN THE UNIVERSE available at Betty Ann's Food Shop in East Boston (where I'm from, holla!). So, I added Betty Ann's to my list below.

So, I am going back to Boston for 2 weeks over Christmas. I haven't been back in a whole year so I am pretty excited about it. I thought I would give you my hit list for places I simply MUST go when I am back. Check it!!

  • Betty Ann's Food Shop
    I'm having a hard time finding a link to this place, but I did find it mentioned in a Boston Globe Article and The Boston Pheonix. Click there to get a photo and the shop's hours.
    This tiny little heavenly smelling shop has practically no sign and is only open on weekend mornings, so I don't think anyone from outside the neighborhood would even notice it. But trust me, it's there. It's on a corner of Bennington street right across from Carlo's (who has the BEST Italian subs) and near Saint Mary's church. I only go there for one thing; piping hot jelly doughnuts. They also have plain, lemon, crullers, and some other baked goods, but the jellies are really the draw. I actually can't stand jelly doughnuts anywhere else, but here they are soft, coated with sugar and explode in your mouth, so do NOT eat them while driving even if you are worried about them getting cold. I've tried this and it is sure to results in globs of jelly jumping out onto your nice clean shirt, not to mention sugar-coated fingers that make it difficult to drive. I mean, you do have to enjoy them hot, so you'll need to maybe drive down to the nearby beach, park, and then enjoy with your dunkies coffee. Oh, I'm reading that they also make the best Boston Baked Beans, and I don't know why we've never gotten them, but I'll make that a point to ask about when I go home.
  • Ernesto's Pizza
    This is my absolute favorite pizza place in Boston. Their pizza has a nice chewy crust and they have a lot of creative toppings. My favorite, and a favorite of pretty much everyone I know who goes there, is Chicken Rancho. Don't ask what's on it, just eat it! I must tell you that my parents prefer the more traditional,crispy, saucy pizza found at Pizzaria Regina and Santarpios, two long-time Boston favorites. Ernesto's doesn't usually hit the top-ten lists for some reason.
  • Kelly's Roast Beef
    OK, without even getting into the whole roast beef thing, this place makes the best fish and chips in the world!! Picture big pieces of flaky fish with the lightest, thinnest, not greasy at all breading. Large, thin onion rings with the same light breading, and soft steak fries. Get extra tartar sauce 'cause you'll want to dip everything in it.
    Now, Kelly's is also one of the many fine places in the area who make roast beef sandwiches the way I grew up with them: smothered in BBQ sauce. They're great, but I just can't stop getting the fish..
  • Dimino's Sub Sandwiches
    I can't even find a website for this place. Basically, the only place I feel makes the true melty steak and cheese subs I grew up is well... where I grew up. I get a steak bomb with no peppers. Why is it so hard to get it like this elsewhere? Most places treat this sandwich like any any other, throw some steak on a roll, then a slice of cold cheese, if you're lucky they melt it. They way it's supposed to be done is all chopped up with tons of melted cheese completely distributed throughout on a nice toasty, buttery sub roll. YUM!
  • China Pearl
    This is where I usually get my dim sum.. the nice traditional way. Families sit at large round tables eating things you wish you knew how to order. Nice ladies walk around with steaming carts of dumpling delights! My favorite: the TRIPE!! It is delicately braised in garlic ginger broth. I also love the eggplant, shumai, the rice-noodle cannoli things, and for dessert: mango pudding.
  • Legal Sea Foods
    Legal's fish tastes so fresh, you can almost feel it flapping in your mouth: just a fresh flavor explosion. I love the wood-grilled dishes , particularly the scallops. But what I am really planning to do is plop myself down at the bar and get a bowl of clam chowder, their taster of white wines, and a pound of steamers. I am talking about the big fat clams you rip out the shell by the neck, dip in broth and butter, and let their squishy stomachs pop in your mouth. They don't even sell them out here and I miss them so!

As you can imagine, there are many many more great places in Boston to chow down, including Red Barn Coffee Roasters for an iced chocolate chai and muffin top; Emack and Bolio's for a seasonal ice cream flavor like pumpkin; Maria's Pastry for Lobster Tails, Neopolitans and Amaretti; and tons more fancy places you can find online. Oh, I also want to try the new cupcake place, Kickass Cupcakes!