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Crispy, crunchy, cinnamony goodness filled with velvety, smooth, sweet ricotta cheese. Cannoli’s are an Italian man’s best friend, that has now become a friend to us all! I was invited to an Italian Potluck dinner and thought long and hard on what to make. I thought, well since I have never made cannoli’s before this would definitely be a challenge that I was willing to take! After careful research, I decided on a Sicilian type cannoli. The difference with a Sicilian cannoli and that of a regular cannoli is that the shell is made with cinnamon and Marsala wine. Let me tell you the taste of the shell is outrageous! It’s one of those things you taste, but just can’t put your finger on the flavors, ugh, just absolutely amazing! I will preface my recipe and instructions by saying that if you are not a food perfectionist like me, then it is perfectly OK to purchase the ready made shells!! These baby’s are A LOT of work! But they are oh so worth the crispy, crunchy goodness I talked about earlier.

The filling for the cannoli’s are made from high quality Impastata Ricotta Cheese. Impastata ricotta is a type of ricotta that has been drained of almost all of its moisture. It is smooth like butter and has a very fresh taste. It keeps for a very long time in the refrigerator and will not make your cannoli’s soggy due to the lack of moisture. The attendant at the gourmet market where I purchased this cheese told me that Impastata is the “Cadillac” of ricotta’s…pause……thnking……SOLD!!


However, if you cannot find Impastata cheese, then you can certainly use the Sorento ricotta cheese from the grocery store. You will just have to drain it overnight to reduce the moisture in the cheese.

I was thoroughly impressed with the result. It definitely took some work, but what good dessert doesn’t take work?

Ingredients

Shell:

  • 2 cups Flour
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp shortening
  • 2 tbsp powdered sugar
  • 3/4 cup sweet marsala wine
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 egg white for pasting
  • 3 1/2 -4 inch round cookie cutter or anything that diameter you have in your kitchen
  • Rolling pin
  • 4 Cannoli tubes
  • Vegetable Oil for frying


Filling:

  • 2 lbs Impastata ricotta or ***regular ricotta drained (see below for special instructions for regular ricotta)
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tbsp vanilla
  • Mini semi-sweet chocolate chips or chocolate shavings
  • pinch of orange zest
  • pinch of cinnamon
  • pinch of cocoa powder (optional)
  • 3 tbsp heavy cream or whole milk
  • Plastic pastry bag or ziploc bag for piping the filling

***If using regular part skim ricotta from the grocery store, empty cheese into a strainer and put strainer over a bowl to catch the liquid, place in refrigerator overnight. You may also use a cheese cloth to squeeze out the liquid.

Instructions:

1. For shells- place all dry ingredients in a food processor and pulse until all the cinnamon has disappeared into the flour. If you don’t have a food processor, you can sift this by hand, you will also have to knead this by hand and the recipe continues.

2. Now add the shortening and marsala wine. Pulse till the dough forms a ball. If doing this by hand keep mixing till the dough comes together into a ball. Now place ball in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 -2 hours.

3. After your cheese has soaked overnight (if you are using regular ricotta) and is dry and smooth, mix in all ingredients, but add milk 1 tbsp at a time until the consistency is like that of a spreadable butter. Once you have everything mixed in, FOLD in the chocolate that you are using. cover the bowl and put into refrigerator.

4. Heat the oil. Fill the skillet or deep frying pan half way up the side with vegetable oil. Let this heat up while you being working with the dough. After 1-2 hours have passed for the dough, remove from fridge and cut into quarters. Work with one quarter at a time leaving the other quarters covered under the plastic wrap. Roll the quarter piece of dough till it is really thin almost paper like. If it is at all too thick your cannoli shells will be hard and stiff not flaky at all. This is traditionally done with a pasta machine, if you have one great but if not, then roll this as thin as you can get it remembering to flour your surface and rolling pin often.


5. After you have rolled the dough to the thinnest possible, cut as many circles as you can with the cookie cutter. If you don’t have a cutter you can print a 4 inch circle and cut it out from the paper and use that as your guide.

6. Place the cannoli tube in the center of one of the circle cut outs from the dough and roll one end onto the cannoli tube and rub some egg white on it, then bring the other end of the circle cut out to meet that end with the egg white. The egg white side should be on the bottom. Look at the pictures I have posted to see what it is supposed to look like.

7. Set up a pan with lots of tissue to soak up the oil from frying. The oil should be temped at 360 degrees. If you don’t have a thermometer then sprinkle some flour in the oil and if it quickly goes to the side then you know the oil is ready.

8. Drop the cannoli tubes in the oil, 2 at a time and fry for JUST A FEW SECONDS! you want a nice light color not dark and burnt! After you fry it for just a few seconds, with a spatula, remove cannoli shells from oil and place on the pan with the tissues. Gently slide the cannoli shell off of the tube and put back into the oil to fry for another FEW SECONDS. The reason for doing this is to ensure the inside of the shell also gets a nice browned color. Repeat this step till your dough is finished or you have the amount of shells you need. The dough can be kept in the freezer if you don’t want to use all of it.

9. After frying all the shells, let them cool for a few hours or even overnight. I actually made my filling and shells on the same night and didn’t assemble the cannoli until the next day.

10. Fill your pastry bag with the cannoli cheese filling using your favorite tip (I recommend a tip with a big opening since the cheese is so thick) and pipe the filling into each shell from both sides.
If you don’t have a pastry bag, get a zip loc bag and fill it with cheese then cut one of the tips off (a tiny cut) and squeeze cheese into shells this way.

11. Place on a platter and decorate as desired. You may drizzle chocolate or dip the ends in mini chocolate chips etc.

A bakery or store-bought heart shaped box filled with truffles is a pretty typical gift for Valentine’s Day isn’t it? But what if those truffles came right from your own oven? Well if you follow this recipe your “Inner-gourmet” will come shining through and you will feel like the Pastry chef in your neighborhood confectionery shoppe! Cake Truffles or “cake balls” as some people call it, is a new trend in the confectionery/dessert world. It is composed of cake that has been baked, crumbled, mixed with frosting, rolled into balls and dipped into chocolate.


It has been around for about 2-3 years and was started by a company in Dallas,TX called “The Cake Ball Company” and then made popular by a blogger by the name of Bakerella. She has showed up on The Martha Stewart show, lending her cake ball making skills. Although Bakerella’s recipe for this decadent treat is great, I wasn’t crazy about the measurements so I came up with a trick to ensure the perfect cake truffle experience (you’ll see it in the “Directions” section below).

Whenever I decide to make a new dish or dessert, I always try to challenge myself. Whether it be for time, taste, or difficulty of technique, nothing is learned without a challenge. So catering these cake truffles for my Market Research class of 60+ students was my huge challenge!! I had to make sure they were done on time, brought to class without any of them falling off the platter, and most importantly, making sure there were enough for everyone!!! I am proud to say that I checked off all of the above with a smile and relief! They were a huge hit! I made three different cakes; Strawberry, Devils Food, and Red Velvet and dipped them in a variety of chocolate coverings.

These were really fun to make and decorate but one major thing that I learned from this experience is that catering is a lot of work for one person! If I do start a catering company I will definitely make sure I hire lots of help! So cheers to my classmates for being good sports and cheers to one dainty little truffle that has entered the truffle market creating some stiff competition!!

You can use any of your favorite store-bought cake mixes/frostings or you can certainly bake a cake from scratch as well as make the frosting from scratch, but using the store-bought mix is cheap and efficient! I will post the recipe for the Red Velvet cake truffle since that seemed to be the biggest hit today!

Ingredients:

  • 1 Box Red Velvet Cake mix (makes 50-60 truffles)
  • 1 Container Cream Cheese Frosting
  • 1 14oz Bag of Wilton’s melting chocolate (I bought Dark Cocoa, White, and Pink. You can find these at Michael’s or even Walmart, but at Walmart buy the Plymouth brand Almond bark instead, either Wilton’s or Plymouth will work fine)
  • 1 Pack mini cup liners
  • 2 Squeeze bottles (approx. $1.99 for decorating the balls or you can just use a fork, they wont be as neat though with a fork)


Directions:

1.Bake cake according to directions on the box. Don’t bother to butter and flour the pan, just use wax paper to line the pan. It doesn’t matter if the cake doesn’t bake evenly, you will be putting it into a food processor or crumbling it by hand anyway. Let the cake cool for about 1 hour.

2. If you have a food processor, break about four hand-sized pieces and put it into the processor and pulse until the cake looks like dust or loose granules (cous cous like). Put into a separate bowl and continue this step until all the cake has been put through the processor. If you don’t have a processor, just crumble the cake by hand until it is really loose.3. Now add half the container of cream cheese frosting. Use ONLY HALF! If you use the entire container as some other recipes would suggest you do, the little balls will be gooey and will not hold a round shape. Mix the frosting and cake together till you get a “brownie” like texture (chewy and dense)

4. Line a baking sheet with wax paper and roll tablespoon sized balls in your hand and place them on the baking sheet. You may need 2 baking sheets. After you have rolled all the cake balls, place baking sheets in refrigerator or freezer depending on where you have the most space. Let it chill for about 2 hours.5. After 2 hours, melt your preferred chocolate coating. Lets use the dark cocoa coating for example. Melt dark cocoa chocolate in a deep bowl ( deep bowl is important b/c you will need space for dropping the balls).

6. After chocolate has been melted remove 1 baking sheet from the freezer/fridge. Drop one ball into the bowl and with a regular spoon that you would eat with, pick the velvet ball up with the chocolate coating and shake the spoon back and forth to remove excess chocolate. Tilt spoon onto the same baking sheet until ball drops off, if it doesn’t you can use a toothpick to help remove it. Coat all the balls this way.7. To garnish with pink stripes or white stripes melt the colored chocolate in another bowl and use a fork to drizzle over the chocolate red velvet balls. If the chocolate is too thick then add 1/2 tsp of shortening or vegetable oil until it thins out to your liking. After balls are completely decorated, put in the refrigerator for 7-8 min then place into little liner cups. If there is extra chocolate around the side just break it off with your hand.
You’re done! Enjoy!

Ever heard of a Chinese-Caribbean person? Well for those of you who are not from Guyana (A small country in South America) you would probably be surprised to know that we really are a fusion culture. There are people of African, Indian and Chinese descent that reside in this beautiful tropical country. Africans and Indians make up most of the population in our present time, but today I want to bring light to the Chinese settlers of Guyana and how they have helped to influence our wonderful cuisine.


When slavery was abolished in Guyana (1834), the workforce underwent a positive change. Africans were free and could actually earn a small payment for their hard work. However, not many former slaves chose to continue work on the plantation, resulting in a reduction in the labor force. Contracts for indentured servitude were underway. Most of the indentured servants were brought from India but a small portion had also come from China. If I remember my Guyanese history correctly, there were about 10,000 Chinese indentured servants back then but now the Chinese population in Guyana is somewhere around 300. When I went to Guyana last April, I purchased this book edited by Arif Ali, which really allowed me to revisit my country’s history briefly: http://www.stabroeknews.com/images/2008/09/20080903hansib.jpg

The Chinese have contributed immensely to Guyanese cuisine. Guyanese food has become more of a fusion food than anything else. Amazing fried rice and dried meat dishes, stir-fry veggies, chicken-in-the-rough, and delicious sauces! Not to mention the ever so popular Chow Mein and Lo Mein entrees. Believe me If you go to a Chinese restaurant in Guyana it will surely taste different than the oh so popular Wing Wah Wok at your local mall.

I love making this dish because its really easy and I get lots of left overs! Since I am a student, its really hard to cook often so this works great for a few days for dinner or even for a get together with lots of friends. It is especially wonderful if you have left over vegetables in the fridge and need use them up before they spoil. I have made this dish a few times with Chinese Soba noodles, but I started to realize how easy it is to just pick up a box of Whole Grain Barilla Thin Spaghetti noodles as I am shopping at the grocery store, it’s a one shop stop and that is the main reason I made the switch.

This dish is really filling and absolutely tasty. I usually make the entire box of pasta but I realize it will be A LOT to work with so I am cutting the recipe in half so it would be manageable for those of you who are not used to cooking for lots of people I hope you enjoy this one! Cheers to the Chinese Settlers of Guyana who helped to influence this wonderful dish!

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 box of Barilla whole grain thin spaghetti noodles
  • Salt and Black Pepper
  • 1 Chicken breast chopped up
  • 10-12 Pieces of frozen shrimp (tails off and deveined)
  • 1/2 cup of Sesame Oil (you may not use all of it)
  • A few dashes of Mushroom Sauce
  • 3 Tbsp Hoisin Sauce
  • A few dashes of Soy Sauce (if you don’t have any, just use the packets from the Chinese restaurants that you may have left over in your kitchen somewhere)
  • 1 tsp Cornstarch
  • 1 tsp dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 of a pepper thinly sliced (Use whichever you have on hand I had green, red, yellow and orange so I used a little of all of them)
  • Chinese Long bean (These are hard to find, they are essentially a really long string bean. I found them at a local Chinese grocery store here in Rochester, but if you can’t find them you can substitute snow peas instead)
  • Zucchini or Broccoli (I usually always use broccoli but only had zucchini on hand and it tasted just as awesome!)

Directions:

1. Boil half the box of noodles according to directions on the box and add a few dashes of mushroom sauce to the water to give it a nice dark color while cooking. Add 1 Tsp of any oil you have on hand (olive, canola etc)

2. When the noodles are done, strain them and place noodles in a shallow dish, something like a 9X13 baking pan will work well here. You will be mixing these noodles with sauce and veggies so you need lots of space to work with so find a shallow pan :)

3. From the 1/4 cup sesame oil, use about 2 tbsp and drizzle over the noodles, with a fork mix noodles back and forth to spread oil evenly. Add salt and black pepper I would say abotu 1 tsp each, but not too much because everything else we will be cooking will have salt. Swirl around again with your fork to get all the salt and black pepper spread evenly. Set aside.

4. Season chicken with salt/black pepper a few dashes of soy sauce and 1 Tsp of sesame oil. Saute chicken with the peppers and set aside. Saute the shrimp and then add the shrimp and chicken to the noodles. Mix these proteins in with the noodles.

5. Prep all your veggies. Slice zucchini (chop broccoli if using) and leave snow peas whole. If using Chinese long bean take about 10 long beans and chop them into 1 inch lengths.

6. Saute zucchini and snow peas together in a little bit of sesame oil and soy sauce. Snow peas should still have a crunch by the time the zucchini is done. Remove and add to the noodles. If you are using broccoli you will have to cook it separately because it takes longer to cook than the zucchini.

7. Add all the veggies to the noodles and mix in thoroughly. As you are adding, taste the noodles and veggies together to see if you would like more salt or not.

8. In a sauce pan, add 1/4 cup of water, add Hoisin Sauce, 2 tsp of mushroom sauce, brown sugar, and a few dashes of soy sauce, and 1 tsp of sesame oil. Let it boil for 3-4 minutes at least until the the sugar has dissolved. IN THE MEANTIME…..

9. …..In a cup or small bowl add 3 tbsp cold water and 1 tsp cornstarch mix together until cornstarch has dissolved (the reason you have to do this is b/c if you had cornstarch directly to a hot liquid it will not dissolve and thicken your sauce). Now add this mixture to the sauce mixture and stir until it the sauce looks thick. Now pour this sauce over the noodles and mix thoroughly. You are done!

Valentine’s Day is upon us and while many of us think it’s a commercialized holiday that is just another way for consumer good companies to make money off of the frugal customer, there are people that absolutely adore Valentine’s Day and can’t wait to spend an evening with their loved one at dinner and a movie. But there is another group of Valentine’s Day Lover’s.. the ones who use Valentine’s Day as an excuse to bake all the red and pink sugary sweets in the world and whip up the fanciest icings and frostings to match. I am of course a part of that group!

I decided to make an early Valentine’s Day sweet for a group of friends at my school. There are about 8 of us and we meet every Monday to discuss our job hunt and the problems we may face while searching for employment. We give each other tips and help with encouragement etc. It’s essentially a “Unemployed Anonymous” meeting.


Anyhow, as much as I love to bake, I just can’t keep cupcakes and sweets of this amount in my house so I figured why not give it to the girls! What a great bunch of women! Christina- smart and strong, Jenny J- energetic and driven, Lilah- the sports fanatic, Shambavi- “I must find a job in the U.S!”, Lilly- our Korean beauty, Maiko- the empathetic Japanese princess, and Sara- the fun loving, carefree all American girl. These ladies have made my graduate school experience a most exciting and cultured one!

Now back to those cupcakes! I thought it would be great to dress up this little cupcake and really make it the center of attention despite the fancy bow and box, it’s all about the cupcake baby!! I got the recipe from Hershey’s Kitchens, its truly moist and decadent.

The batter was really thin and I was really worried, but it actually turned out really wonderful. This is not your typical “cream the butter and sugar” recipe at all!. In fact all you do is mix the wet ingredients into the dry and you’re done! The Strawberry cream cheese frosting was taken from recipezaar, I wanted something that wasn’t that traditional on a chocolate cupcake. I think this turned out beautifully…..take a walk down strawberry lane….

I cut this recipe in half for the cupcakes.

Chocolate Cupcake:

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup HERSHEY’S Cocoa
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk or sour milk*
  • 1 cup strong black coffee OR 2 teaspoons powdered instant coffee plus 1 cup boiling water
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • 1/4 Cup strawberry sauce
  • 8oz Cream Cheese
  • 1/2 Stick unsalted butter
  • 4 Cups Powdered Sugar

1. Heat oven to 350°F. Line cupcake pans with white liners (or any color of your choice).

2. Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, buttermilk, coffee, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes (Batter will be thin). Pour batter evenly into prepared pans.

3. Bake 20 min until when toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove each cupcake from pan to wire racks. Cool completely. Frost as desired. Yields 10 to 12 servings.

* To sour milk: Use 1 tablespoon white vinegar plus milk to equal 1 cup.

***For the garnish all I did was melt some white chocolate and pour it into a squeeze bottle then I squeezed heart designs, dusted cocoa powder over it and put it into the freezer. If you don’t have a squeeze bottle you can just pour the melted chocolate onto wax paper on a baking sheet, dust with cocoa powder then let it freeze, you can then break it into pieces and top any cupcake you wish!

The question is, how did pasta make its way to the Caribbean? The answer is that I really am not sure! What I do know is that this is really creative and tasty way to eat macaroni and cheese which essentially is what it is. I believe this dish might be more popular in Trinidad than it is in Guyana or most of the other islands but if I am wrong please leave a comment below letting me know! This wasn’t something I grew up eating as a child, but I was later introduced to it as a teenager. My aunt used to make this dish and served at a side dish. Her Macaroni Pie would usually accompany a spicy stewed chicken and vegetables. Today in any Caribbean take out restaurant, ordering sides is a pretty common act. You may order Jerked Chicken with rice and peas and then comes the world of sides!

Steamed vegetables, fried plantains, stewed peas, and the ultimate side of them all, MACARONI PIE! The one thing I love about making this Caribbean Mac and Cheese if you will, is that it can be customized to your liking! Everyone typically makes this differently and is based on the ingredients you have in your cupboard. However, there are a few ingredients that usually never change and that is pasta, milk, cheese, eggs, onions, and garlic. I usually add green peppers and use half pepper jack cheese and half regular cheddar. If you make this, feel comfortable knowing that whatever you add to it to make it your own, you will still end up with a Caribbean version of Macaroni and Cheese!!


Serves 6-8 people

1 Box of macaroni elbows (I used Barilla Plus in the yellow box)
2 Eggs
2 Cups of whole milk, or carnation milk, or light cream
2 Cups of grated cheddar cheese (you can buy the shredded in the bag)
1 cup grated pepper jack cheese
1/4 of an Onion chopped
2 Garlic cloves
1/4 Green pepper chopped finely
1 1/2 Tsp black pepper
1 Tsp Salt
Pinch of dry Parsely
Pinch of dry Thyme

Topping:
Crushed unsalted saltine crackers OR
Panko Bread crumbs
3/4 Cup Shredded Cheddar


1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add pasta and cook till its to the texture you like, DON’T overcook because you will be baking this as well and it will have a chance to cook more in the oven.

2. While pasta is boiling. Get all of your ingredients in place b/c once the pasta is drained you will be putting everything together in a immediately! This is a good time to grate your cheese if you need to. Whisk eggs in a separate bowl and set aside. Have your milk portioned off and waiting. Chop and set your green peppers aside.


3. Coarsely chop your onion and peel garlic. Put both onion and garlic into your blender with 1/4 cup of water. Blend until it is smooth.

4. Drain your pasta when ready. Now return pasta to the pot it was boiling in. Add all of your dry ingredients and green peppers. Stir to incorporate. Pour in the onion and garlic mixture, keep stirring.

5. Add your milk and then stir in the eggs making sure you are mixing fast. You don’t want to have scrambled eggs in this dish! Now turn your stove on to low heat. Add the cheddar and pepper jack cheese little by little alternating each time. The cheese will be melting as you stir. Taste the pasta at this time to make sure its cheesy enough for you and has enough of the seasonings to your liking.

6. Fill and baking dish (usually a 9 in square or round pan would work, but use whatever pan you have that would fit). Now prepare the topping.


7. Crush coarsely with your hand a few unsalted saltine crackers and sprinkle over the top alternating with the cheese. You can also use Panko Bread crumbs in place of the crackers if you don’t have any.

8. Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes at 325 degrees.

9. Remove foil and bake and additional 15 minutes. Let macaroni pie cool for about 1-2 hours, then cut and enjoy!



A meal doesn’t ever seem complete without a protein. Usually the beautiful chicken breast or pan-seared fish is what brings a dish together, but today we are going to celebrate a forgotten vegetable, the Carrot! I guess my first sentence doesn’t really apply to vegetarians because the vegetable is usually the star in the show by their standards. Nonetheless, vegetables can still take a leading role, they add color, texture, and lots of fiber!! I sometimes get really bored with the same old steamed veggie so I decided to dress these carrots up. They have been steamed, but just enough to still keep a nice crunch, then glazed with just a *touch of honey and cinnamon. I actually bought these whole baby carrots in the organic aisle. They were already cut and cleaned. I bought 2 bags and they were $1.99 a bag. Although this is a little pricey for carrots, being that you can get a big ole bag of carrots for maybe 89 cents at your local farmers market, I saved a lot of peeling and cleaning time. These were just a quick rinse and cook! Besides, its rare that I find whole baby carrots so I figured why not! This healthy side dish will take you all but 10 minutes!! If you don’t have whole baby carrots, you can certainly use regular large carrots just cut into smaller pieces.

2 8oz bags of whole baby carrots or 8 large carrots cut into smaller pieces
3 Tbsp Butter
3 Tbsp Honey
1 Tbsp Dark Brown Sugar
1-2 Tsp cinnamon (adjust to your cinnamon preference)

1. Steam carrots for 5-6 minutes. Stick a fork in one of the carrots and if it doesn’t go through easily then you know its ready to come off the stove. Place drained carrots in a bowl and set aside.

2. In a saucepan melt the butter then add the honey and sugar. Stir frequently. Add cinnamon.

3. Pour mixture over carrots and mix well. Then place carrots side by side and sprinkle extra cinnamon over them to garnish. You’re done!

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