Tag Archives: food

Mini Cheesecakes with Mincemeat

17 Dec

Today I have a little re-post from last Christmas.  My lovely friend Judith from the amazing blog Joelix wrote this guest post for me after I had hand surgery a few days before Christmas and was unable to do anything for close to six weeks.  These Mini Mincemeat Cheesecakes have been a big hit here on Jillian In Italy (and Pinterest) and I’ve heard from several readers that they are absolutely delicious. I have them on my to-do list for this coming week-end.  Click on photo for last year’s post and free downloadable recipe.

joelix-mincemeatpies1Many thanks again and gros bisous to you Judith!
(check out Judith’s ABOUT page on her blog…by far the best and most creative photo of any blogger around)

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Blackberry Lavender Jelly

19 Sep

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The other day I was in my local fruit and vegetable shop and I noticed they had some gorgeous local blackberries available.  The deep purple (almost black) berries were fat and plump and perfectly ripe.  I knew I had to buy them but wasn’t yet sure what I would do with them.

When I got home I took a little tea break in my garden and noticed my neglected overgrown lavender plants.  Usually I’m not a huge fan of using lavender in cooking and baking but I thought the dainty lavender perfume  would match perfectly with the tart blackberries without giving it that soapy  aftertaste that I’m not so fond of.

So I decided to make some homemade Blackberry Lavender Jelly and I’m so happy I did.  It turned out to have the perfect amount of tartness and sweetness paired with a delicate hint of lavender.  It’s a quick and easy recipe that is perfect for serving with fresh out of the oven biscuits.  We’ve already gone through two of the three bottles so I think I’ll have to whip up one more batch before blackberry season is over.  Maybe a Blackberry Lavender Crostata would also be appreciated by friends and family.

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Read on for recipe… Continue reading

Scones with Dried Cranberry, Apricot and Tonka Bean

4 Sep

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This past summer a friend of mine visited the small Caribbean island of Guadeloupe and brought me back a tiny little plastic bag containing Tonka Beans.   Until that moment I had never in my life heard about Tonka Beans and was immediately curious about what they were all about.  These little dark brown shrivelled beans have a heady sweet vanilla aroma with a hint of spiciness as well.  They’re meant to be grated and used like nutmeg and are quite often added to dishes such as custards, ice creams and cakes (as well as some savoury dishes).  And from what I’ve read they boast having impressive herbal and even mythical properties.  My kind of ingredient.  I’m officially a fan.

Apparently I’ve been living under a rock because the Tonka Bean has almost become a celebrity in the culinary world these past years.  Read here for a fascinating article of the bean and the fact it’s technically illegal in the States (thanks to the high amount of coumarin found in the beans).  And drool over all sorts of delicious Tonka Bean recipes on Pinterest here.

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(photo source)

Being the curious baker that I am I was busy grating these little beans in my kitchen within hours of receiving them.  I decided to make some simple scones with dried cranberry and apricot.  I thought Tonka paired with the dried fruit would help make it possible to really taste the beans without being overshadowed by other big flavours.  And in the end they were perfect.  There is definitely a very familiar vanilla flavour that the beans give the scones but with a deeper more delicate flavour underneath that I haven’t managed to pinpoint yet.

I love that there are still wonderful new ingredients out there waiting to be discovered.  And I love that I have friends who bring me back these ingredients from their jaunts around the world.

Read on for recipe:

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Japanese Sponge Cake (Castella Cake)

7 Aug

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Here I am getting ready for a three week vacation to Canada. The bags still aren’t fully packed and the house not ready to be left for almost a month. And I’m feeling really relaxed. Did I mention we leave in an hour? I’m usually one of those people that has everything ironed and packed a week beforehand, the house spotless and in order and the kids cleaned and clothed and ready for the airplane hours before we leave the house. Did I mention the kids are still in their pajamas splayed out on the carpet reading comics as I type this? I blame it on the heat.IMG_0783

So the other day, instead of ironing clothes for five people for three week’s vacation, I decided to make a cake that I’ve been dreaming about since we were in Japan last year. It’s a typical sponge type cake that you find all over Japan and it has this soft and moist spongy consistency that is light and fluffy at the same time. Confusing I know. It’s thought that the cake actually originated in Portugal and was brought over to Japan in the 16th century (to the southern island of Kyushu).

Surprisingly enough there is no butter or oil in this cake. Which means it’s absolutely sin-free and healthy of course. It has a lovely pale yellow colour (thanks to the 6 egg yolks) and is so pretty when served on a plate with a side of peaches (which I saute in butter and brown sugar).

Read on for recipe…

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Mascarpone Pots with Fresh Berries

7 Jun

IMG_8657Last week-end we had some friends over for a Sunday morning brunch.  Luckily the weather was beautiful so after months of cold and rain we could finally sit outside and eat and chat and enjoy the sunshine.  The little kids frolicked in the garden in Gramma-made princess dresses and the parents drank home-made beer and my famous (well not really) rhubarb, lime and prosecco cocktails with fresh mint (see post about those here).

Besides all the normal brunch fare I made these little pots with a cookie bottom, mascarpone cream and fresh berries.  I actually invented the recipe on the spot not really knowing if they’d be edible or not.  In the end the were definitely edible, I’d even say delicious.  They have a cheesecake feel to them without the heaviness (I did add a little cream cheese to the mixture though).  And there is absolutely no baking involved in this quick and simple recipe making it perfect for hot summers when the last thing you want to do is put the oven on.  I served them in pretty little jam jars with lids and they were devoured within minutes.  I’ll take that as compliment.

Read on for recipe:

Mascarpone Pots with Fresh Berries

250 g mascarpone
75 g cream cheese
200 ml fresh cream
1 tsp vanilla
2-4 Tbsp sugar (depending on taste)
tiny pinch of salt

125 g finally ground digestive biscuits
70-80g butter

1. Mix ground cookie crumbs with melted butter until well blended.  Press into the bottom of little glasses (or as I did glass jars).  You can decide how thick you would like the cookie crumb layer.

2. Whip cream until stiff peaks begin to form.  Set aside.

3. In mixer cream together the mascarpone and cream cheese until smooth.  Add in vanilla, sugar and salt and mix until just combined.  With a spatula gently fold in whipped cream.

4.  Drop the mascarpone mixture on top of the cookie crumb bottom (shake glass or bottom to level it out).  Sprinkle fresh raspberries and blueberries on top (or any other berries).  Refrigerate for at least 1/2 hour.  Enjoy!

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After our brunch guests left we headed out to watch our twin daughters play Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum in their theatre group’s rendition of Alice In Wonderland (Alice Nel Paese delle Meraviglie).  In case you’re wondering, Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum are translated as Dammelo and Dimmelo in Italian.  Over all a really lovely Sunday.

Sciroppo di Rabarbaro

8 May

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Here in Italy the sun is shining, the flowers are blooming and fragrant and I’m blissfully content to be able to get out in my garden and putter around.  I’ve been busy planting all sorts of new plants, trees and bushes.  I expect about 25% of them to survive as I have a pretty bad track record in the gardening department.  My heart is in the right place but I just don’t have that special touch needed to keep my garden alive and thriving.  I’ve been known to even kill lavender which is pretty much impossible in the Italian climate.

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One plant that seems resistant to me and my non existent green thumb is rabarbaro (rhubarb).  Due to the fact you can’t buy rhubarb in any of the grocery shops or vegetable stalls we planted it a few years ago and it is thriving.  I show it off to everyone who comes by our house and apparently it’s known to all to be the fool-proof plant (why didn’t I know this years ago?).  Just in the last three weeks our rhubarb has taken over an entire bed and is threatening our beloved strawberry patch.

So to give our strawberries some room to breathe and grow I decided to cut back the rhubarb a bit and make some of my favourite Rhubarb Syrup.  I’ve always loved the delicate spiciness it brings to cold summer beverages.

But what I love the most about this syrup is the dainty light peachy rose colour it has.  I could design whole summer cottages with that colour as my inspiration and theme.  So lovely and reminiscent of warm breezy summer days in Nova Scotia.

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Read on for the quick and very simple recipe for Rhubarb Syrup and these delicious cocktails above (which I’m contemplating naming “Jillinis“).

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Peanut Butter Cookies

5 Apr

Oh wow.  This has been a week full of white chocolate, dark chocolate, milk chocolate, chocolate with hazelnuts and even 99% cocoa chocolate.  My kids have been eating it on their bread for breakfast (they’re half Belgian), straight up for snacks and even popping a few Easter eggs for bedtime snack.  I’ve declared it “chocolate week” and I want them to enjoy it to its fullest.  Plus, I want it all out of my house by next week when they return to school and I return to my no-sugar lifestyle.

But it’s not all bad.  From what I’ve been reading dark chocolate  is the new super food that can help with everything from depression to anemia (my pharmacist told me that the other day).  And I recently found out dark chocolate can actually prevent tooth decay.

To put a little protein into their chocolate diet I decided to make them some Peanut Butter Cookies with, you guessed it, chocolate.  Usually I don’t make peanut butter cookies due to the extortionate price of peanut butter over here (I pay 6 euro for a tiny jar) but since I was brought a huge jug from America I thought I would use some of it to make these delicious cookies.

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All of my Italian and European friends aren’t familiar with Peanut Butter cookies and even look slightly disturbed by the thought of them.  But once they try them they usually can’t get enough.  These cookies are rich, buttery and have a slight saltiness to them.  I love them to no end.  And you will to.

Read on for recipe… Continue reading

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