Our Roman Holiday (The Pope, Gladiators and Gelato)

After a week in Naples, with its lawless streets and swoon-worthy pizza (see my Naples post here) we were headed to Rome for a few days of art, architecture, gelato and gladiator school. We got so much more than we bargained for and loved every second of it. The boys even tolerated our need to visit as many of the ornate churches the vast city has to offer, with the understanding that there would be plenty of sword fighting gladiator moments, soccer games, pizza and gelato to balance the days. A Mass with the Pope was a bonus to this fabulous stop, one we had never dreamed of. (more…)

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Vegan Triple Chocolate Cupcakes from “New Vegetarian” by Robin Asbell (win a signed copy)

I’m a sucker for a chocolate cake and so it seemed the perfect place for me to dive into Robin’s newest book. This one caught my eye for another reason as well, it is vegan. No, I’m not a vegan, but I’ve been looking for this very recipe since the day my brother and his girlfriend announced to the family that they were. I’d been experimenting with vegan cakes to serve them, but honestly I hadn’t gotten very far. I’m too wedded to butter, eggs and cream. Robin came to the rescue. I gave the recipe a test run for Katherine’s (before mentioned girlfriend of my brother) Birthday. Truth be told I never actually gave them to Katherine, not for lack of desire, but because they are in Copenhagen at the Climate Change March, where they are preparing to display their artwork to affect change in the world. What a memorable birthday she will have and I will gladly make these cupcakes again once she returns, a perfect way to celebrate.

Robin manages to achieve a rich chocolate cake with a moist (but not dense) crumb without the benefit of eggs or dairy, mystifying! The filling is remarkably reminiscent of mocha pastry cream and the ganache is chocolaty and glossy. It all defies classic baking and yet it works wonderfully.

As a gift to you Robin has signed a copy of New Vegetarian for me to give away. Just leave a comment below and I will pick a winner next week. (more…)

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Chocolate-Ginger Marbled Cheesecake “Bars”

The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey’s Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge.

Here I am, screeching in at the very last moment, with the Daring Baker’s Challenge. I adore cheesecake and this was a great challenge presented by Jenny. Basically she told us to come up with any variety of cheesecake we wanted. I have to admit that I went to my culinary muses and asked them what they thought. My husband came up with a combination of ginger and chocolate, he was also very insistent that they be bars and not a big cake. Here, in the Midwest, any sweet cut into a square is called a “bar.” It changes this rather sophisticated flavor combination into an after school treat instead of a plated dessert. My sons Henri and Charlie whole-heartedly agreed, and then ran outside to skateboard as quickly as possible. It is very helpful to have opinionated muses.

I have to say he came up with a real winner! The rich chocolate ganache mixed with the ginger cheesecake batter sits on top of a dark chocolate and crystallized ginger crust. Marbling the two flavors and cutting them into bars makes them pure fun! I shared them with several neighbors to keep me from eating the entire batch.

The winner of the Le Creuset baking dish is announced below.

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Strawberries in Red Wine, keep it simple (but delicious) on Earth Day! (the last Le Creuset giveaway for Mother’s Day!)

Today is Earth Day and in an attempt to keep my “cookprint” to a minimum, I decided to make a simple, but crazy delicious dessert. Once again Lynne Rossetto Kasper is my inspiration. You see, my husband and I are planning a trip to Italy this summer with our boys. In an attempt to get ready for the journey we’ve been eating a lot of Italian food. I figure it is more important to understand the food than, let’s say, learn the language! 😉 So I whipped up a batch of Lynne’s lasagna and then followed it with this incredibly easy and yet divine bowl of strawberries.

I’ve been reading on other food blogs about the perfect spring crop of fresh strawberries. Well, here in Minneapolis we finally have buds on the trees, but we’re a good while off before we are plucking fruits from the vine. In fact today is the day that the Backyard Harvest folks deliver the dirt for my Urban Farm. By June I’ll have my own organic garden, but until then…to the market I go. The strawberries I bought at the store were decent, but not yet at their full potential. To maximize their flavor I macerated them in red wine and a touch of sugar. A little chiffonade of mint and they were bright and summery.

Keep reading to find out about the last Le Creuset giveaway!

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Happy New Year! Chocolate, Candied Ginger and Grapefruit Biscotti!

What a year it has been. It started with the launch of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. A project that I knew was a great concept, but had no idea that so many people would embrace it. Thank you all for the fabulous support and wonderful emails, pictures and thought provoking questions you’ve sent! Due to those inquiries and suggestions Jeff and I have embarked on our second book. This time we are focusing on breads made with whole grains and really healthy ingredients, that are still fast, easy and tasty! Even some gluten free breads. The book is due at the publisher in TWO days and we are working like crazy to get it in on time. It should be available next fall.

Of course, I need something to nibble on as I work on the book so I made my favorite biscotti. This is the one cookie that I can not keep my hands off of. I force myself to give some of them away so that I don’t eat the entire batch all by myself! 😉 (more…)

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The Sweet Potato vs Yam Debate

Purple baked sweet potato | Sweet potato vs yam debate

A couple of days ago I got an email from Ochen Kaylan, a producer of American Public Media’s Weekend America. He was gathering information about the differences between Sweet Potatoes and Yams, for a Thanksgiving show, and invited me to participate. We all know the sweet, sticky, gooey side dish that is loaded up with brown sugar, spices, lots of butter and the ubiquitous marshmallow topping. But people always wonder which to use, sweet potato vs yam? Really what is the difference?

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