I learned the hard way this weekend that not all recipes work out. Sometimes, it's the recipe. Other times, its the utensils and ingredients that aren't working. And finally, there's the times when the fail is completely your own fault. Those are the worst of all.

Luckily, the failed recipe this time was completely the mixer and recipe. My family and I went out of town and stayed with two other families in this lovely home in Michigan City, Indiana. To show off my cooking skills, I donned the apron that was located in the house and pulled out Pinterest to look for a new recipe. My choice:
Chocolate Cookie Dough Truffles (this recipe is on another website, since it wasn't deserving of this site). I am a chocolate nerd, so chocolate cookie dough, raw, was the best idea ever, in my opinion.

Turns out, though, that the recipe itself wasn't very good. For some unknown reason, the whole mixture was extremely dry. If I were to make it again, I'd say add 1 1/3 cups of milk in, instead of just 1/3 a cup. Also, the mixer in the home was extremely weird. No, not weird, it was severely broken. Because of this, the recipe could only be consumed with an extra glass or two of milk.

That's not to say it isn't a good recipe, it just wasn't my favorite. It also taught me a very valuable lesson that not all recipes will work out. Once you understand this, cooking will become much more enjoyable.

Hopefully, everything on this website works for you! If not, send me an email! I'd love to hear from you!
Happy Cooking!
Caitlin

 
 
Just the other day some family friends of ours came in to town, so I decided to cook them up a fabulous feast. I started with the Fresh Basil Pesto and finished with the amazing Tiramisu. I recieved this recipe from my family's cooking lesson in Italy. This recipe was beyond amazing, though I do believe that the Lady Finger type cookies in Italy taste better than the ones here. The one I made by myself was good, but the one we made in Italy was still better. 

At the cooking lesson, our chef told us that the reason why Italian food is so much better is because none of it is genetically modified. Now this may or may not be true, but it is interesting to think about. I mean, our best american food is our hamburgers and hot dogs, and nobody wants to talk about where those come from (it's a bit gross). Maybe the reason why our food isn't as rich is because it is genetically modified. Who knows? It could just be an issue of climate or something. But as a chef, all should be aware that GM foods may not taste as good.

On the topic of the Tiramisu again, it was super fun to make. I did realize several things while cooking, though. First of all, don't try to whip the egg whites by hand. It takes forever. Instead, use an electronic mixer. Second, don't leave too much time between whipping the eggs and pouring in the sauce. If you do, the whites won't be as fluffy and it won't taste as good. Finally, don't use too much coffee on the lady fingers. The taste can become a bit overpowering!

Happy Eating!
Caitlin
 
 
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The other day some family friends came into town from San Francisco. The mother of this family is the person who inspired my original binder-cookbook that led to this website. She also gave me the Ice Cream Oreo Cake recipe.Therfore, I figured I should put together an amazing meal to impress her and her family. 

Now, every year, I grow basil in the backyard. I then use this basil to make pesto at the end of the summer, once all of the basil has grown in. Since I had yet to make the Fresh Basil Pesto,  I figured it was the perfect, safe, and tasty meal to cook for guests.

Since I just got back from Italy, I decided to literally spice up the pesto. Instead of adding only a pinch of salt and pepper, I instead added a ton of pepper and salt. This gave the recipe an interesting punch that was different than normal. Personally, I liked it better.

Also, in Italy, many of the pestos we tasted were made with almonds instead of pine nuts or walnuts. For some reason, this made the sauce taste just that much better. While I didn't use almonds this time, I plan to try using almonds the next time I make this recipe, and I suggest you do the same.

I hope the start of another year of school and work isn't hitting anyone too hard. Whenever you become overwhelmed, I suggest cooking. It relieves stress for many people!

Ciao Bella!
Caitlin

 
 
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The morning after getting back from Italy, I woke up around 6 am ready to start the day. Now, to understand how weird this is, think about how I am a 15-year-old teenager who just came back from a huge, exhausting trip. But there is a reason to this madness: a 7-hour time change. In Italy, it is 7 hours ahead of Chicago. To me, 6 am was 1 pm. 

Since I was up, I decided to try a new recipe and make breakfast for my family. But since we had just arrived, we had nothing in our house. No blueberries, no bananas, not even chocolate chips!!!!! It was a tragedy!! Finally, I discovered this batch of strawberries in the back of the refrigerator. So I looked up a recipe and found one for Strawberry Muffins. They were amazing, if I may say so myself, and completely impressed my equally jet-lagged family.

Have a great morning!
Caitlin

 
 
While in Italy, my family and I went on several special food related outings. We went to a farm where they made us a meal, we took a cooking class, and we went on a Cicchetti tour.

The Farm

This trip was taken with the Tuscany Ride A Bike foundation. You can find out more information about this activity by visiting http://www.tuscanbike.it/en/daytours-by-bike-slowbike/155-lucca-fattoria-biologica. On this trip, my family and a family from Belgium biked out to a small organic farm from the small town of Lucca outside of Florence. In this ride, we saw the majority of the city of Lucca. But the best part of the whole trip was the farm.

At the farm we met Paolo. He owns the whole farm, hotel, and wine and olive oil companies. The whole farm is filled with chicken walking around, grapes and other vegetables growing, and food food food! First, Paolo gave us a tour of the organic farm. Then, we sat down to an amazing dinner cooked by Paolo's wife. She described all the food to us, bust it was a bit hard to write it all down in time. Here is the basic list as close as I good get it:
  • Potato, presley, garlic, bicorino cheese, and thyme
  • Zucchini, zucchini flour, eggs, and onion
  • Basilico
  • Tomato marmalade with cheese
  • Cheese, ham, oregano, and bread
  • Salami
  • Tagliatel with marinara sauce and basil
  • Spaghetti with marinara sauce

This meal was absolutely fabulous! I loved it!
The Cooking Class

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Let me just start by saying that the best meal we had the whole trip was the meal we made in our cooking lesson. We took our lesson at Giglio Cooking School. Marcella was an absolutely extraordinary woman who was not only very knowledgeable about Italian cooking, but also funny and entertaining. Also, her english is very good. We had an absolutely fabulous time. I would highly suggest it. To learn more, visit the website: http://www.gigliocooking.com

For our 3 hour cooking lesson, we were allowed to pick three recipes (we ended up making 4) that we wanted to learn how to make off of a huge list Marcella emailed us. We made two types of ravioli inserts in 4 different colored pastas, a beef dish, and tiramisu:
  • Pasta All'Uovo: Fresh Egg Pasta
  • Tortelli Bicolore Di Pecorino E Pere: Two-Colored Tortellini with Pecorino Cheese and Pears
  • Ravioli Ripieni Di Carciofi Con Salsa Al Pecorino E Timo: Filled Ravioli with Artichokes and a Pecorino Cheese and Thyme Sauce
  • Bocconcini Al Rosmarino E Balsamico: Beef Morsel with Rosemary and Balsamic
  • Tiramisu'

Marcella first started off by teaching us how to make various types of pasta dough. Did you know that by adding a small amount of a vegetable or spice, you can completely change the color of the pasta? It's true. By adding spinach, we were able to make some of the tortellini green, by adding cocoa powder we made it brown, and we made yellow with saffron. Next, we worked to whip the egg to make an amazing but complicated Tiramisu'. After the Tiramisu' was in the refrigerator to absorb the flavors, we started on the sauces, fillings, and meat. Marcella taught us all the proper way to cube cheese and pears, which we ended up doing for a long time. 

Finally, we finished cooking, and sat down to begin eating. You see, we kind of forgot that we wouldn't be eating until the very end of the lesson, so we hadn't eaten anything beforehand. By the time we sat down to eat, our whole family was starving. And the food went beyond anything we dreamed. The flavors mixed perfectly and everything tasted like it was made in a professional restaurant. But, of course, we were the actual ones who made it. And that's what made it so cool.

Before September 1st, you should be able to find a few of these recipes in the Italian section under Specific Cuisines, or in the category of the food. Unfortunately, I cannot post all the recipes because that would be unfair to Giglio Cooking School. But I shall post as much as possible. Also, please visit http://www.gigliocooking.com if you plan to go to Florence, Italy any time soon. This class will be a class you'll never forget!

The Cicchetti Tour

This tour was done by a company called Urban Adventures. Check out more information about this tour at: http://www.urbanadventures.com/Venice_tour_Cicchetti_of_Venice_Tour. On this tour, we had an amazing guide named Cecilia. She showed us all around venice and took us off the beaten trail to extraordinary places that not only had tasty food but were also super authentic and cute.

Venice is one of those cities that it is easy to get lost in. Luckily, though, Cecilia helped us to get purposely lost in this magical city. Really, the only way to learn to love Venice is to get lost, wander around, and end up in a little tiny shop in the middle of nowhere. Then, you will see Venice.

Now, you are probably asking, "What is a Cicchetti?" Well, besides from being my cousin's maiden name (ironic, right?) it also means an appetizer or tappa in Venice. In the middle of the day, the people of Venice will often go out to little Cicchetterias and have a glass of wine and a Cicchetti. This way, they have enough food to keep going but aren't too full for dinner, and they don't get drunk. Frankly, it's a win for everyone.

On this tour we stopped at four places:
Stop 1: Pronto Pesce
  • Sandwich with smoked Swordfish, Mozcarbonie cheese, and tomato
  • Sandwich with smoked tuna, artichokes, and horse-radish
  • Baccalá Mantecato fish and olive oil

Stop 2: Cantina do Mori
  • Tail of Artichoke the is boiled with olive oil and salt
  • Bolpette (mini bowls) with options of zucchini, eggplant, meat, or, what I had, tuna

Stop 3: Osteria alla Ciurma
  • Salmon with dill and zucchini deep-fried
  • Deep-fried shrimp with lard
  • Zucchini flours
  • Meatballs
  • Potato with asiago cheese

Stop 4: Sacro e Profano
  • Artichoke with salami
  • Mexican Sauce roll with chicken, veggies, sweet pickle onion, egg, artichoke, and pecorino cheese
  • Roll with olive oil, cherry tomatoes, basil, and oregano 
  • Tomatoes with proscuitto, sage cream, and walnuts

This tour was absolutely fabulous. I highly suggest it!
This trip was amazing! I hope everyone else also has an amazing summer!

Bon Appetitto!
Caitlin
 
 
I had the most amazing time in Italy. Over the process of 11 days, my family and I traveled to Rome, Florence, Venice, and then back to Rome. We did a cooking lesson, biked out to an Italian farm, toured the Colosseum and the Vatican, took a ride in a Gondola, did a Cicchetti tour, and much much more. I'll do a separate post for my cooking lesson and Cicchetti tour, so look for that above. Also, please visit the links I have provided to the websites of my favorite Italian restaurants.

Because most restaurants provided us with menus in Italian, most of the names of meals are written in Italian.

Day 1: Lunch
Here we ate at a small restaurant in Rome called Boccachino.
  • Me (C for Caitlin): Fusilli Freschi con Pesto di Mandorle, Friggitelli E Ricotta
  • My Dad (D) and Sophia my sister (S): Mozzarella di Bufala, Pomodoro E Basilico
  • My Mom (M): Spaghetti Cav. Cocco Alla Carbonara
Day 2: Dinner
On the second day, we traveled to Florence, Italy. There, we ate at an amazing restaurant called Il Latini. This unique restaurant supplied us with some of our more interesting, different, and unique foods. And they were all absolutely extraordinary (except the chicken liver pâté). Basically, at this restaurant, you do not order your food. The waiters bring you whatever they wish, and that is what you eat. It is a great opportunity to step outside of your comfort zone and try something completely different. I am an extremely picky eater, and yet I tried the majority of the foods placed on our table. They were THAT good. Check out the website online at: http://www.illatini.com for more information and to make the required reservation.

It is also good to note that at this restaurant there are only two seatings. Basically, pretend as though you are in your own kitchen. Everyone arrives at the same time, everyone eats the same thing, and everyone leaves the table around the same time. Another thing is that, should you arrive for the first seating, you will notice that there is a large group of people sitting around a table inside eating. First, the family of the chefs eat first. Then, everyone else will be seated. There is no need to worry (though most of the people waiting outside will become worrisome).

I highly suggest this restaurant. It is absolutely fabulous.
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Day 3: Lunch
On this day, my family and I ate at a small tourist place in Florence. There, I had my first pizza in Italy!! It was way beyond any pizza you could possibly have in the US. I had a Pizza al Gorgonzola. My family also ate other meals that I forgot to record.

Day 3: Dinner
Here was another of our favorite restaurants. It was reccommended to us by my aunt and uncle who went to Florence for their honeymoon. I must say it was worth it completely. The restaurant is La Giostra. Visit the website at http://www.ristorantelagiostra.com.  Everything, but especially the tomato, was absolutely fabulous. The tomatoes were so good that we had to ask the chef how they made the tomatoes. He said, to make amazing tomatoes, you must:
  1. Use the small grape-tomatoes (preferably from Italy)
  2. Put the tomatoes in boiling water for 40 seconds.
  3. Remove the skin from the tomatoes before using them in a recipe.
In this way, you can make the best Italian tomato dish.

The Food
  • Appetizer (A): Proscuitto di Parma con Melone
I became a big fan of this dish while eating at the restaurant mentioned in Day 2. Afterwards, I ate it as often as possible. In the States, Proscuitto is an extremely expensive meat that is only offered in limited areas. It is considered an extreme delicacy. But in Italy, it is quite common. I took advantage of this while there and ate as much low-cost proscuitto as possible. It was quite good.
  • C: Carbonara al Tartufo Bianco di Stagione
  • D: Pennette Gorgonzola e Pera
  • S: Spaghettini "Taormina" Pomodorini Crudi e Basilico
  • M: Tagliatelle Fatte da noi ai Funghi Porcini
  • For dessert, we had a Tiramisu and "Da Bomb"
Day 4: Lunch
On day 4, my family and I went out to a bike ride with a tour guide to a farm. Please look below for the post about special food outings!

Day 5: Lunch
This day, my family and I ate at this cute little restaurant on a side street by the Duomo Church. Unfortunately, I forgot to write down what we ate. But I did get pictures!
Day 5: Dinner
In Florence, my family decided to take a cooking lesson at Giglio Cooking School. Please see below the special food outings post.

Day 6: Dinner
On Day 6, we went to a restaurant called La Feluca in Venice. This was our first night in this magical new city. Venice, or Venezia, is known for their fish, especially since they are on the water, so that is what I ate.

Appetizer: Gnocchi al gorgonzola e noci
Mom's Appetizer: Crema di funghi porcini
S: Braciola di majale con patate
D: Spaghetti alla carbonara
M: Tagliatelle alle capesante e asparagi
C: Trancio di salmone ai ferri con patate
Day 7: Lunch
For lunch, my family and I went on a Cicchetti tour in Venice. Please view below for the Special Food Outings blog post for pictures of this event.

Day 7: Dinner
Unfortunately, I also forgot to write down the names of the foods this day. But here are the pictures!
Day 8: Dinner
Our first night back in Rome for a longer stay, we were delighted and surprised by the amazing Ristorante Percento! It was inexpensive, far away from tourist areas, and the waiters were extremely friendly! AND THE FOOD!!! It was one of our best nights for food in Italy. I highly suggest this restaurant to any who go to Rome.

M: Futtucine caserecce al pesto di madorle
D: Spaghetto ubriaca con guanciale e pecorino
C: Risotto con mele Smith, zafferano e crema di formaggio
S: Filetto di manzo con salsa al vino rosso e patate al forno
Dessert: Tiramisú tradizionale
Day 9: Lunch
Our apartment in Rome that we were renting was located only a couple of blocks from Campo De Fiori. Therefore, my family and I had lunch there on Day 9.

Appetizer: Prosciutto e melone
C: Pizza Quattro Formaggi
S: Bruschetta al Pomodoro
D: Bucatini all'amatriciana
M: Insalate Pere
Day 9: Dinner
We loved the food at this cute little restaurant on a little touristy street. The only problem was that street vendors kept coming up to the outside tables trying to sell us things. It made the dinner a bit annoying and uncomfortable. But the food totally made up for it.

Appetizer: Fried Squash Blossoms
D: Pumpkin gnocchi in a creamy "castelmagn" cheese sauce with nuts
M: Tagliatelle Black (monk-fish, shrimps, and fresh tomato)
C: Trucioli with Sicilian Pesto (almonds, basil and garlic)
S: Grilled Beef Filet
M and C: Grilled Sword-Fish Steak in Palermo Style
Day 10: Dinner
For our last dinner in Italy, my family and I went to this extraordinary restaurant called Grazia & Graziella. There, I had some of the best pasta I had had the whole time I was in Italy. It was the perfect way to end the perfect trip.

M and C Appetizer: Grigliata dell' Orto con Bufala e Noci
C: Futtuccine al Farro Cacio e Pepe
D and S: Risottino di Asparagi e Grana
                               +
             Pizza Diavola (pomodoro, mozzarella, salame piccante)
M: Melanzane alla Parmigiana Bio
Dessert: Tiramisú Illy Fatto Espresso
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Also, in Italy I had my first Cappuccino. It was really good! While I'm not a huge fan of the coffee flavor, several packets of sugar made it perfect!

I also bought an adorable new apron and chef's hat, so expect future pictures!!

Hope everyone else had a great summer!
Bon Appetitto!!!!!

 
 
I made some Frosted Banana Cupcakes last night and brought them in for my summer school Health Class. It was our last day of class (thank goodness), so I decided to bake to celebrate! They turned out to be a huge hit. Everyone in class had 2 or 3 mini-cupcakes and one guy ended up having 6.

I chose to bring in Banana cupcakes because my teacher is crazy about being "healthy." Since there is yogurt (protein), golden raisins (fiber), and bananas (potassium), it counted as healthy. I decided not to mention the amount of sugar ;).

I had a fun time making this recipe. But I'll give you a tip. If you decide to make the frosting with 0% fat yogurt instead of whole milk, add some butter or shortening. Otherwise, the frosting will be way to runny and will spill everywhere.

Hope everyone is having a great summer!!

 
 
So I decided to try a brand new recipe today. I made some M&M Cookies for my little sister's cast party! She was doing Alice In Wonderland, so I figured cookies filled with crazy colors was the perfect way to spice up the party and make it sweet.

So I left the house and went to the grocery store to buy M&Ms and came home. But when I pulled out the bag, I realized that I had bought 4th of July colored M&Ms. There was only red, white, and blue colors!!!! But it was halfway through July, so I cannot possibly comprehend how I managed to not notice nor why the store had that bag out in the first place. So I ended up making 4th of July cookies on July 25. Lovely!

I also decided to half the recipe. It helped make it more manageable and a more proper size. In fact I barely had enough for the cast party. The one I left to take a picture of my dad ate. Hence why there is no final pictures. That's the problem with having a Dad who loves chocolate. NOTHING is safe!

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The 4th of July M&Ms!
 
 
Today I made some Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies for my friend Elizabeth, who is Gluten-Free. The two of us have been great friends ever since we were five, so naturally I learned the ways of the gluten-free food. My favorite cookie is still the Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip made by Elizabeth and her mom (But unfortunately that recipe comes strait from a box so I couldn't post it here). As a matter a fact, this August is our ten-year anniversary of being friends. So I figured blogging about a recipe in honor of my very dear friend would be appropriate. 

Funny story: While I was making the cookies, I assumed that the cookies would remain about the same size as normal chocolate chip cookies. But this was my first time with the recipe, and I discovered that I was very much wrong. They grew to become these huge monster cookies you can buy in Jimmy Johns or Great Harvest. It was insane!!! All of the cookies expanded so that they were touching the other cookies. I ended up using a large strait spatula to cut along the vague outlines of each cookie in order to stop them from becoming one big gigantic cookie. It sure didn't stop them from tasting good though, that's for sure!

Check out this new recipe!!!!!


 

    Author

    Hi, I'm Caitlin, and I'm a proud Ginger (for those who don't know, that means a red-head). I also love to bake! Check out my recipes and posts about my cooking experiences!

    Enjoy!

    "Sometimes me thinks 'What is a friend?' And then me say, 'Friend is someone to share the last cookie with.'"
    -The Cookie Monster