Month: September 2016

Quick and Easy Homemade Cinnamon Rolls!

Cinnamon Rolls just look like they are hard to make. Their perfect cinnamon swirl twisting evenly inside the layers. Their golden brown finish teetering on the line of over and undercooked.


The best is the sweet cinnamon aroma that fills the house for days. Baking bonus!



I have mentioned many times, I am not a baker but I am always upping my baking game. This recipe uses a simple, no yeast sweet dough recipe that yields the most quick and easy homemade cinnamon rolls you’ve ever made.


There has to be a trick? Make sure your knife is sharp when you slice the rolls. Isabella used a kids butter knife on her batch and they smushed into cinnamon roll globs.


Here is the recipe…


Homemade Cinnamon Rolls

2 cups flour
3 tbsp. sugar
3 tbsp. baking soda
4 tbsp. butter
1/2-1 cup milk

1 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp. cinnamon
2 tbsp. pecans, crushed
4 tbsp. butter


In a large bowl, mix flour, sugar, and baking soda and set aside.
Mix in butter and then milk with hands until incorporated and a dough forms.
Flour and roll out into a rectangle or oblong shape.
Spread filling onto the dough.
Roll the dough and cut into slices with a share knife.
Add rolled dough slices to a greased pan.
Bake 325 degrees 17-20 minutes or until golden brown.





The Best Sloppy Joes Ever!

The perfect sloppy joe is not too tangy, a sauce with a balance of sweet and spicy. No ketchup. I think that ketchup must be the ingredient that I have never liked in homemade sloppy joe sauce.

A friend said to me, “Why would you make your own sloppy joe sauce?” I have become a big proponent of knowing what I am eating. With all of the preservatives and additives in a canned sauce, I think it’s a great idea to enjoy a DIY version.


My kids love sloppy joes and these are easily prepared as a quick meal for a busy family.



Here is the recipe:

The Best Sloppy Joes
1 lb. ground beef
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
1/2 bell pepper, finely chopped
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp. Worcestershire
1 tbsp. Sriracha sauce
2 cups tomato sauce
1 can tomato paste
Salt and pepper

4 your favorite sandwich rolls
Sliced jalapeños
Leafy lettuce
Pickles, sides

Brown the ground beef, pepper, and onion in a pan.

Drain grease.

Add all other ingredients to the slow cooker and cook on low 4 hours.

Serve on sandwich rolls with a lettuce base, topped with jalapeños, a pickle, and your favorite sides.



Vallozzi’s Pittsburgh Italian Wine Dinners!

Vallozzi’s Pittsburgh, an Italian favorite in the Burgh, brings a chic edge to traditional Italian. The cuisine and the ambiance reflect a twist on the classics, while permiating comfort and style.  I have visited the downtown Pittsburgh restaurant before with friends many times for drinks, a pizza or an antipasto platter with wine, but never had the full dining room experience.

This time, they had me at Sicilian Wine Dinner…

One week per month Vallozzi’s is taking guests on a regional wine tour. The concept is innovative.  The course dinner is offered with or without wine pairings all week, in addition to the regular menu.  This On Demand wine dinner is awesome.  Not everyone in your party has to order the same way.  How much?  The Prix Fixe is $55 + $30 for all of the wine pairings.

Who else was in the restaurant?  Young trendy foodies, dressed to kill.  It was a Friday night.  There were a few generational family tables, and couples of all ages out for date night.  Point being, this Italian restaurant is totally not moth balls and red sauce.  It’s fun and hip and Italian, a rare combo.

This coming week September 19-24th the menu is from the Tuscan region. Let me begin by saying I was here for the food and friends. I dined with The Food Tasters Pittsburgh, Breelicious Bites, and Pittsburgh documentarian Rick Sebak.  If you want to hear about the wine specifics, I’m not sure. The wines were delicious, smooth, and arrived at the table so fast -because we were talking and eating-that I barely got the story. There was so much food! I did get one photo of one bottle.

Those of you who aren’t in Pittsburgh and won’t be traveling to Pittaburgh anytime soon, that’s ok. Have your friends over, grab some wine, and we will cook together ; )

We started with and a glass of Prosecco and an antipasto platter that blew me away! The choices, the quality, the freshness, were unmatched. The mortadella was a favorite!



Primi, was the fried cuttlefish with pepperoncini, lemon, arugula, and a garlic aioli. Very similar to calamari it was something new for me!

This dish…this dish was my everything about the dinner. Before I showed up i had my eye it. Food and smells sometimes take me back to my childhood. I remember my grandparents pan frying zucchini blossoms. I was young, but I remember the delicacy with which they were handled, and the joy that they brought my family. Excellent job, Chef. These were phenomenal.

Eggplant Copanata with a twist!
The twist being a chickpea polenta.

Now for the main courses, yep I’m serious.
Fettuccini al Nero di Calamari
I am not a fan of squid ink pasta, but the flavors were delicious!

Farsumagru- Veal cutlet rolled with ham, sausage, cheese and pan braised with herbs, white wine sauce, eggplant coponata. This dish was ridiculously good! Ummm meat rolled with meat and cheese, yes!

Tonna alla Pelermitana-

Dentice all Forno con Cipolle e Brodo di Carne- Baked Sea Bream

Dolci! Desserts and Limoncello – Sfingi Sicilian Donuts & Cannoli – the gelato was gone so fast I didn’t get a photo!  Those of you who watch the cooking tvshow I co-host Between The Eats know my favorite dessert every is Sfingi. These were incredible!


Thank You, Vallozzi’s for a beautiful Sicilian wine dinner. See you in Tuscany!


Vallozzi’s Pittsburgh
220 5th Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA

Butternut Squash Tortellini With Pumpkin Spice Brown Butter Cream Sauce!

The first ever pumpkin spice cheese launched last week so I had to try it!

Beemster developed a Pumpkin Spice Gouda, without pumpkin but with the perfect combination of pumpkin pie spices. I tasted it and decided it would be great in a brown butter cream sauce. When melted, this cheese is even better!



I love pumpkin ravioli with a sage cream sauce in the fall for Sunday Supper with family or Halloween before trick or treat! This pumpkin spice cream sauce adds a richness that my traditional sauce lacks.


Here is the recipe…

Butternut Squash Tortellini with Pumpkin Spice Brown Butter Cream Sauce

12-15 homemade butternut squash tortellini, or your favorite store bought
1/2 stick butter
3 rosemary sprigs, small amount for garnish
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2-3/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup grated Beemster Pumpkin Spice Gouda cheese, additional for garnish
salt/pepper to taste


Melt butter in a pan by swirling over medium heat.
When mostly melted, add chopped garlic and rosemary sprigs.
Let it bubble until brown and thick.
Meanwhile, boil 2 quarts of water and add tortellini until floating.
Strain and set aside.
Add cream little by little, whisk, until desired golden brown color.
Remove from heat and whisk in grated cheese.
Top tortellini with sauce, grated cheese, and finely chopped rosemary.

I served this tortellini with rosemary roasted chicken quarters and a beautiful salad!





Sweet Pea Manicotti!

Sweet peas are so underrated. Always associated with baby food, I feel like they are the last ingredient we think of to make something serious. For example, my kids will have peas with something else, I will grab them as a garnish, but they are hardly ever the main act.



So there is always that experimental Meatless Monday where various vegetables get new jobs. This particular Monday, I was looking for a manicotti veg and there was the bag of frozen peas. I blended the peas with ricotta, egg, and fresh grated parm for the filling. Just then Bella walked into the kitchen, “Is that mint ice cream?” she asked. Well, it looked like it!

I was thinking they are never going to eat this but I’m knee deep, so this is what we are having for dinner. The neighbor kids came over, who always love to help me cook, so I boiled the manicotti shells and the kids had a filling party. It was so great! We discussed the careful art of spooning the filling without tearing the shell, and filling each side so that the middle gets some, too.




We blended some extra peas, ricotta, and parmesan cheese for the topping. All the kids loved it! Was it the sweetness from the peas? The fact that they were involved in creating the final product? Who knows? But I was thrilled! Make these for dinner because they are delicious, but more importantly so the kids can help and hopefully eat!


Sweet Pea Ricotta Manicotti

2 cups fresh whole milk ricotta
1/2 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese
1 egg
1 16 oz. frozen sweet peas – saving 1 cup
8 dry manicotti shells

For Topping:
2 cups peas
2 tbsp. ricotta
1/4 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese
1 cup sliced cherry or grape tomatoes
2 tbsp. pine nuts
parmesan to grate on top

Preheat oven 325 degrees.
Blend Ricotta, peas, parmesan cheese, and 1 egg.
Salt/pepper and set aside.
Boil manicotti shells 5-8 minutes until just under cooked.
Fill manicotti shells with ricotta pea filling with a small spoon or piping bag.
Spray 9X13 glass pan with non-stick spray.
Spoon left over filling in bottom of pan and spread with a spatula.
Line pan with one layer of manicotti.
Cover with foil and bake 20-30 minutes until filling is hot and starts to bubble.
Meanwhile, make topping. Blend peas, ricotta, and parmesan cheese.
Remove manicotti from oven and allow to set 10 minutes.
Plate the manicotti by placing them on a smear of topping underneath, one scoop on top, sprinkle with sliced tomatoes and pine nuts and finish with fresh grated parmesan cheese.