Florentine Carnival Cake (Orange Cake)

I love Italian food.

I love cooking channel’s Deb and Gabriele

I love the beautiful and simple Italian food in their cookbook Extra Virgin.

New York’s been having some strange weather so far this summer. It’s been 100 and humid and it’s been 65 and a bit chilly.

So to make it feel like summer, no matter what it looks like outside, I though I’d make a bright, citrusy dessert to at least give us some sunshine on our plates.

This recipe is ridiculously easy. You probably already have all of the ingredients. Oh and the bright orange burst in this light and fluffy cake is out of this world.

You will need:

  • 1.5 cups flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1.5 tablespoons baking powder
  • 3 eggs
  • .5 cup warm milk
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • zest and juice of one orange

Preheat oven to 350. Butter  a 9×13 pan.

Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl. (That’s right. everything into the bowl. No wet and dry ingredients, no separating eggs, no sifting. Just dump it all in.)


Whisk until combined.


Pour into your buttered pan.


Bake for about 30 minutes.


Allow to cool. You can dust with powdered sugar or, you can serve with sliced strawberries and some whipped cream.


Pesto Farro

Lately we’ve been trying to up our lunch game- up the nutrition, up the flavor and up the wow factor- without upping the prep time.

Enter the grain bowl trend.

It’s pretty brilliant actually. Take a grain – think brown rice, quinoa, cousouc- add some vegetables and protein and boom, lunch. Even better? Easy to make in bulk. Boom, lunch for the week.

We discovered farro a few months ago while watching Extra Virgin on Cooking Channel. It’s an ancient grain with a somewhat nutty flavor that you can treat sort of like pasta.

I buy the kind that you cook just by boiling in water for about 20 minutes.

I whipped up some basil pesto


boiled the farro


sliced some tomatoes and black olives


And poured it all into a big bowl



stirring until the pesto coated every grain.


Portioned out in tupperware containers, this was an easy grab and go lunch for the week.

Tuscan Sausage, Bean, Tomato Stew


So after a glimmer of Spring, we’re back to the arctic blast, or the polar vortex, or Mr. Freeze or whatever.

Just when I was dreaming about lemon cakes and avocado and shrimp salad.

So back to the hearty and warming dishes we go.

This one comes from watching Extra Virgin on Cooking Channel the other day. We saw it and both had the same reaction: when can we have that?

Well the answer is now.

This is a super simple and super rustic Tuscan-style dish that is hearty and filling and warming and oh so yummy.

And simple.

Did I mention simple?

Like 3 ingredients (plus olive oil and salt and pepper) simple.

All you need are

  • Sweet Italian sausages (figure two links/person)
  • 1 can of whole peeled tomatoes (1 can worked for the two of us. multiply as appropriate)
  • 1 can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper

Drizzle olive oil in the bottom of a heavy-bottomed pot and add your sausage. Cook over medium, turning to brown all sides.


You aren’t looking to cook them all the way through, just get a nice crust on the outside. When all sides are brown, remove from the pot and place on a dish for now. We’ll get back to them.


In your pot, you’ve got all this yummy oil that’s been flavored by the sausage. To that, add the can of whole tomatoes.


Let these simmer over medium heat for about 15 minutes. They will start to break apart.

Help them along with the back of a spoon. Season generously with lots of black pepper. I salt moderately because my mom always did. But I can hear the Chopped judges yelling to salt your food properly.


Add the cannellini beans to the tomatoes and give a big stir.


Let these cook together for a few minutes.

Meanwhile, slice up your sausage.


See how it’s still a touch pink? Well, we’re going to fix that.

Into the pot they go.


Let the sausage simmer in the tomato and cannelli beans for about 20 minutes. The longer it sits, the more the broth becomes infused with the sausage flavor. I actually made this for myself when I got home, then left it on the stove, covered, on low heat for a few hours until my other half got home.


Sprinkle with parmesan if you like.

See that? Sausage, beans, tomato. That’s the perfect forkful right there.


I forgot one important thing to add to your grocery list.

Some crusty bread to mop up all those juices.


Don’t you feel warmer already?

Note: this is making its way into our goto recipe rotation.

Grape Leaves – Part 1

Remember a few weeks ago when I showed you meme and pepe’s grapevine? And remember how I teased you with the promise of how to make grape leaves?

Well, I’m making good on that promise.

You know that show on Cooking Channel, My Grandmother’s Ravioli? Well this is sort of like that.

Except she’s not my grandmother- she’s my fiance’s. And she’s not a grandmother- she’s meme.

And it’s not ravioli – it’s dolma.

So Meme’s Dolma!

Dolma is the term for vegetables or cabbage or grape leaves stuffed with a seasoned meat mixture. We came over to meme’s to learn to make grape leaves, but what she does is make a big bowl of the seasoned meat mixture and then stuff grape leaves, cabbage leaves and vegetable like tomatoes and eggplants and peppers.

This post is going to cover the meat mixture. The next one will walk you through rolling grape leaves.

I am going to try my best to write this out properly, but meme is not easy to follow.

Like most grandmas, she cooks by taste and by feel. She knows what it should look like.  She knows what it should taste like. She’s made this a million times, so it comes easy to her.

But here it is, the stuffing for dolma.

I suggest having everything out or having another person on hand to pass you things.


Meme is directing. Pepe is cleaning.


I’m taking pictures, while Sam and Chris write it all down.


Jeff’s capturing it all on video.


Okay. Here we go. In a large bowl, pour in two cups of medium rice which you’ve rinsed thoroughly. Meme said medium rice. Not long. Medium.

IMG_0838 Next add in one large white onion, diced and the scooped out insides from a few tomatoes. To get the scooped out insides, cut the top off of a tomato and dig out the insides with a spoon. (Don’t cut through the tomato all the way. You want to turn the tomato into a container to hold the meat stuffs later) I asked meme how many tomatoes but she kind of shrugged. I’m guessing 3 or 4.IMG_0842  IMG_0844IMG_0843

To the bowl add flat leaf parsley chopped up. Again, no precise measurements but I’m going to guesstimate a cup and a half to two cups.


Right? That looks like two cups?


Next add in 1 teaspoon of coriander, 1 teaspoon of the armenian red pepper that I still don’t know how to spell (Chris’s writing looks something like halibebebae – when they say it, it kind of sounds like holla baby bear) and 1 teaspoon of salt.



Next we add 1 cup of really good Greek olive oil. Meme said one cup, but then she handed Sam that coffee cup. She says she measured it out in a measuring cup, but we’re skeptical.


Now comes the meat. Meme used about a pound of ground sirloin and then another pound total of a veal, pork and beef mix. The right way to do it is to use lamb. I used to not like lamb, so meme switched it up for me. (I do like lamb now though so next time we will do it the right way).


You really need a big, big bowl for this.


To the meat, add in two thirds of a cup of tomato sauce (I think it’s just tomato puree) and a little less than a third of a cup of fresh lemon juice.


Here is the most important part. I’m quoting meme directly now. “No garlic, no dolma.” You need two “blobs” of minced garlic. From what I gather, a blob is less than a heaping tablespoon but more than a regular tablespoon.


When you have everything in the bowl, it’s time to wash your hands…


… and dig in.


And get to mixing!


Pause for a family picture!


And then get back to mixing. Changing of the guard here as meme tells Chris how to mix it right. IMG_0862

And then as I tell him how to mix it right.


And then he finally mixes it right.


And then his arms started hurting.


But thankfully the mixing was done.


So there you have it. The stuffing for dolma. Next, a lesson in grape leaf rolling.

Grams, Liters, Milliliters? Help!

Getting ready for work in the morning, I usually watch Cooking Channel.

My new favorite is Bill of Bill’s Food.

Have you ever seen him?

Adorable Australian accent and even more adorable daughters!

And he cooks simple, delicious, healthy foods.

Like this. http://www.cookingchanneltv.com/recipes/bill-granger/apple-dried-cherry-and-almond-loaf.html

I need to make his Apple, Dried Cherry and Almond Loaf ASAP!

I know I can easily find the recipes online, but sometimes I jot them down as the episode plays. Bill is so easy to follow. Same with Nigella. I feel like I can cook along with the two of them.

Except when it comes to measurements.

Grams? Mills? Oven at 175? That can’t be right!


Here’s a link to an awesome conversion chart I found no StumbleUpon. Thank you Everest for doing the kitchen math for me!