Bunny Cake

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This is one of the most adorable things I have ever made. It is a tiny bunny cake. I made it using a 6 inch cake pan but you could make the full size 9 inch pan, especially if it wasn’t just going to be you and two others eating it.

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Beautiful Ruins: Book Review

If in this frozen tundra you find yourself craving summer, look no further than Jess Walter’s latest novel, Beautiful Ruins. A beautiful blonde actress, Dee Moray, working on the set of ‘Cleopatra,’ arrives mysteriously upon a small village on the Italian coast. A man helps her out of the boat and then disappears.
In that instant, Pasquale Tursi falls in love. He is the proprietor of a small inn, the Hotel Adequate View, in a sleepy fishing village. The novel divides itself between the story of Dee and Pasquale’s encounter in the early 1960s and 50 years later, in the age of reality TV and questionable morals.
After the death of his wife, Pasquale sets out in search of Dee. He turns to now legendary producer Michael Deane for help. For it was Deane who worked on ‘Cleopatra’ and helped Dee out of the boat that day. Influenced perhaps by guilt, Deane agrees to help track Dee down.
This is not just another book about the magic of old Hollywood and the sad state of the film industry nowadays. But until the warm weather comes around, it is certainly a pleasant way to spend a rainy afternoon.
Available from Harper Collins, $12.00
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A Roman Treat from the Pantry

Book of the Month: Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

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The first time I had spaghetti all’amatriciana was during my study abroad in Rome. It was one of the first few days there and we didn’t want to wander far because of jet lag and the late hour. I settled down with my roommate and a two other girls at a restaurant a block down from our hotel at some charming outdoor tables. Soon we were joined by another group also trying to find dinner.

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A Risotto for All Seasons

Risotto is one of those things I never order when I’m out at a restaurant. Mainly because it is so easily made at home. In my house, risotto is made when there is little time until dinner and the fridge is next to empty. My family comes from Piedmonte, more specifically Novara and Casalvolone.

These are the fields outside of my grandparents house. Here you see the rice sprouting. It is grown in wide, shallow fields. Farmers plant the seeds and then flood them with water. The water is brought in by a series of canals and locks and regulated throughout the season. The rice grown here is specific for risotto.

It is either Arborio or Carnaroli rice. Normally, I use Arborio because it is easier to find. The starch levels in this rice are really what make it special. The gentle, slow cooking coax the starches out and form the delicious-ness that is a good risotto.

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Roasted Pork Loin and Bok Choy

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Sometimes you need to clean out the fridge. In my case that meant some adorable baby bok choy, an enormous pork loin, turnips, and some chocolate peanut butter frosting.

The frosting went straight into my mouth.

What I really wanted to make was pork cooked in milk, which sounds much more appetizing in Italian, maiale al latte. But I was out of cream or 2% milk or anything with enough fat not to separate.

So I had to go in a new direction. Very grudgingly. Out came all the cookbooks.

An eventually, an idea.

Roasted Pork Loin with Baby Bok Choy
Inspired by Julia Child and Giada de Laurentiis

3 lb pork loin
salt and pepper
3 sprigs of fresh rosemary2 tbsp olive oil
8-12 baby bok choy, sliced in half

Begin by brining the pork loin. Fill the sink or other large vessel with water and add 3 tbsp salt. Add pork loin and rest for 15-30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Take pork out of brine. Score the surface of the pork in 2″ diamonds. Mix together 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper, rosemary, and olive oil. Rub into the pork.

Place in a 9×13 baking dish. Surround with halved bok choy and bake for 2 hours. Pork should have an internal temperature of 145°F. Rest for 5 minutes before slicing and serving.

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Sick Day Soup

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This is not the pasta and fagioli you know from Olive Garden. It is absolutely not pasta fazul. No tomatoes. No garlic.

It is a completely Northern interpretation of a Southern soup. And it is super delicious. What I love about this soup is that is made of pantry staples. It is perfect when you are feeling sick. If you are really sick, omitting the bacon will make it even more of a simple soup.

It is only fair to consider pasta fazul and this recipe as two different soups. But give it a shot. I promise you will feel better soon!

Pasta e Fagioli
Another recipe from my Mom’s cookbook

1 onion
1-2 slices bacon, optional
4 c beef broth
1-2 bay leaves
1 can cannellini, kidney, or Roman beans
1/2 c ditallini pasta

Begin by chopping onion and sauteing in a large pot. Slice bacon, if using, into 1/2 inch pieces and cook with onions until golden.

Add beef broth and bay leaves to onion mixture. Bring to a boil.

Add pasta to pot and cook pasta for length of time noted on pasta box, about 10-11 minutes. Approximately 3-4 minutes before the pasta is done, add the beans. Serve and feel better!

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Battling the Grey Days

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I have always loved sweet potatoes.
Their bright color.
Their tasty flavor.

The fact that my sister hated them.

Despite my sweet tooth, I never developed an appetite for the traditional marshmallow-and-honey platter which would grace the Thanksgiving day table. I like to keep things simple and allow the natural sweetness to be the major flavoring. If anything, I will occasionally push sweet potatoes into the realm of the savory, with rosemary or Parmesan cheese.

This time, all they have is a little butter and milk to make them more mashable and a quick bake in the oven to get some crispy tips. I cheated and microwaved the sweet potatoes. You, of course, can bake the potatoes if you wish or use leftover potatoes.

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I find sweet potatoes a good way to brighten up a plate and fill out a meal. It works especially nicely when you are having leftovers and might be a little short. Potatoes of all kinds make a meal stretch further.

Twice-Baked Sweet Potatoes
Adapted from Betty Crocker Cookbook

4 potatoes
1/2 c milk (I used skim)4 tbsp butter
1 tsp salt

Begin by washing and pricking the sweet potatoes. Baking the potatoes can be done in either the oven or the microwave.

To bake in the oven, place the sweet potatoes on a baking sheet and roast at 375°F for 30 minutes. Rotate and roast an additional 30 minutes.

Otherwise, place the sweet potatoes on a plate and microwave 5 minutes. When ready, sweet potatoes will be tender.

Cut the sweet potatoes in half. Scoop the insides out into a bowl. Be careful not rip through the skin. Mash the sweet potatoes with milk, butter, and salt until no lumps remain.

Increase oven to 400°F.

Bake 20 minutes or until sweet potatoes have crispy bits along the top.

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