Peanut Butter Pie

Rich. Peanut Buttery. Cold. Creamy. Chocolatey. Words can not describe how decadent this pie tastes. It has a creamy texture, a rich flavor, and best of all it is simple to make. It is a no-bake pie  making it really quick and easy to prepare. This is a must try! It might just be my new favorite dessert.

The recipe makes two pies. I brought one over to a dinner party and it was a hit! I used regular graham cracker crust and the simple peanut butter base. The second pie Jonny and I made together. We decided to go with an Oreo crust. We layered Hershey’s Fudge Topping on top of the crust before pouring the rich peanut butter mixture over top.

We decided to add extra fudge to top off the pie. Jonny decorated it, and I must say, I think he did better than I could have done! Doesn’t it look beautiful?

Ingredients (Makes 2 pies)

  • 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 (16 ounce) package frozen whipped topping, thawed
  • 2 (9 inch) prepared graham cracker crusts
  • hot fudge topping (optional)

Directions

  1. Beat together cream cheese and confectioners’ sugar. Mix in peanut butter and milk. Beat until smooth. Fold in whipped topping.
  2. If adding fudge, spoon into 2 graham cracker pie shells.
  3. Spoon peanut butter mixture over fudge and graham cracker pie shells; cover, and freeze until firm.

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Chicken and Fruit Salad with Granola

I recently had the joy of trying Chick-Fil-A’s  fruit chargrilled chicken salad. It is a delicious salad with lots of fresh fruit and chicken. The thing that surprised me most about the salad was the inclusion of granola. Instead of topping the salad with croutons or nuts, sweet and crunchy granola was added on top.

This is a super easy lunch or dinner that can be made with a variety of different fruits.

Ingredients:

  • 4 oz. cooked chicken breast
  • 1/3 apple, thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup strawberries, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups mixed greens
  • salad dressing of choice
  • 1/4 cup low fat granola

Assemble all ingredients into a salad and enjoy!

Brussels Sprouts & Butternut Squash with Bacon Vinaigrette

I found this recipe on Williams-Sanoma’s website. It is a great way to enjoy your veggies in a recipe that is also tasty and satisfying. My Dad gave Jonny and I a pound of Benton’s Bacon. This bacon is unlike any bacon I have ever had. First of all, it is so thickly cut that it probably equates to three pieces of normal bacon. It also has an extremely smokey flavor that permeates the senses. I cooked the bacon yesterday for breakfast and reserved some for this recipe. It is so easy to cook the bacon ahead of time to save a couple of steps.

Ingredients:

  • 4 oz. thick-cut bacon slices, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 2 Tbs. cider vinegar
  • 1 Tbs. firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
  • 6 Tbs. olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 1/2 lb. brussels sprouts, trimmed
  • 1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 3/4-inch dice
  • 1 tsp. chopped fresh sage
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped steamed chestnuts

Directions:

In a sauté pan over medium heat, cook the bacon until browned and crispy, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate. Pour all but 1 Tbs. of the fat into a heatproof bowl and reserve. Add the shallot to the remaining fat in the pan and sauté over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Let cool.

In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, brown sugar, mustard, thyme and shallot. Slowly whisk in 5 Tbs. of the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Set the vinaigrette aside.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the brussels sprouts and cook until just tender, 4 to 6 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the brussels sprouts to a bowl of ice water. Drain well, then cut them in half lengthwise and place on a paper towel-lined baking sheet.

Return the water in the pot to a boil, add the butternut squash and cook until just tender, 4 to 6 minutes. Drain, then transfer to a bowl of ice water. Drain again and place on a paper towel-lined baking sheet.

In a large sauté pan over medium heat, warm the remaining 1 Tbs. olive oil. Add the squash and sauté, stirring occasionally, until light golden and warmed through, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl.

In the same pan over medium-high heat, warm 2 Tbs. of the reserved bacon fat. Place the brussels sprouts, cut side down, in the pan. Cook, without moving them, for 3 to 4 minutes, then stir and add the sage and chestnuts. Cook for 2 minutes more. Transfer to the bowl with the squash. Add enough vinaigrette to lightly coat the vegetables (you may not need all of it), then stir in half of the bacon. Transfer the vegetables to a platter, sprinkle with the remaining bacon and serve immediately. Serves 6 to 8.

Artichoke Pasta with Asparagus and Lemon Olive Oil

Yum is all I have to say about this delicious pasta dish. My Mom and I found this amazing artichoke pasta at The Christmas Tree Shoppe. It was definitely a random purchase but we felt that it was very necessary. I dressed it very simply, with Lemon olive oil and roasted garlic.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup artichoke pasta
  • 1 tbsp lemon infused olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, sliced
  • Pecorino Romano Cheese, grated

Directions:

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add the pasta. Cook per package instructions.

2. While pasta is cooking, heat lemon olive oil in a pan over low-medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until tender, be careful not to burn!

3. Drain pasta and add to olive oil. Top with cheese.

Italian Easter Egg Bread

I know… I am so late in posting this. It has almost been a week since Easter has ended but I feel that this recipe is worth sharing. Along with the Pastiera di Grano, this delicious bread has also been an Easter tradition in my family. As a child, waking up to this bread was one of my favorite parts about the holiday.

The sweet egg bread is braided and wrapped around hard boiled eggs. Traditionally, the eggs are dyed light pastel colors, making the bread very colorful. We decided to go for a more rustic look using brown eggs. We did this because A. we were too lazy to dye the eggs; and B. food dye is not the best thing for you.

Please take note that this recipe is an EASY BREAD MACHINE VERSION. In my eyes, there is nothing wrong with taking a couple of shortcuts 🙂

The dense doughiness of this bread is best accompanied with a nice slab of (REAL) butter. But then again, what isn’t good with butter?

Ingredients and Instructions:

Place ingredients into your bread machine in order given:

1&1/4 cups equal parts milk and water (warmed but not hot)

4 tbsp sugar

2 tbsp butter (softened to room temp)

1 whole egg (whisk in gently to liquids with fork)

1 tsp grated orange zest

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground anise seeds or anise extract ( can substitute 1 tsp vanilla)

1 tsp salt

4 cups flour

2 tsp or one packet of dry yeast

Set of dough only cycle, check after 5 minutes, if dough looks too wet add a bit more flour, if too dry add a bit more water.

Divide dough into 3 equal parts, form into ropes and braid, form into circle and tuck in 5 or 6 raw eggs as in a nest. You can also do individual nests if you prefer. Coloring eggs is optional, this year we used brown eggs to create a rustic look. You can refrigerate covered overnight and take out about 1/2 to 1 hour before baking in the morning. Brush with egg water wash just before baking and sprinkle with raw sugar if you like.

Bake at 375 degrees for about 35 to 45 minutes. Bread will tap hollow when done. Eggs will bake with the bread.

Pastiera di Grano — Easter Wheat Pie

I had the amazing pleasure of coming home for Easter this year. Of my four years of college, I had never been able to come home to enjoy the holiday. I am so grateful that I was able to this year and that I was able to share some Easter traditions from both sides of the family with Jonny.

This Easter tradition originates in the San Gregorio Convent in Naples, Italy. History tells that in 8th Century AD a group of Nuns from Greece came to Italy and established a convent named after their protector, San Gregorio. The Sisters produced this delicious wheat pie as a way to raise money for the convent. Whole grain in many cultures symbolizes rebirth, which is why it is used in this pie to symbolize the resurrection of Christ. The Nuns combined the whole grain with ricotta cheese and baked it in a sweet crust. The result was a deliciously dense pie that became wildly popular throughout the Naples area.

Both of my grandparent’s families on my Mother’s side came from the region of Campania (the region of and surrounding Naples). With their families move to America came the old tradition of preparing Pastiera di Grano every Easter. According to my Mother, every Easter my Grandmother would bake many Wheat Pies and give them to family and friends. It was a tradition for them to taste every family’s pie, as they were all slightly different.

UPDATE: With the posting of this recipe, my Great Aunt Gloria emailed me to inform me that my Great Grandparents on my Grandfather’s side of the family come from a town in the mountains called Castello D’Alife. It turns out that the town right below is San Gregorio, where Pastiera di Grano originated.

Today, Pastiera di Grano is still baked every Easter throughout Naples as well as with Italian families here in America. While I studied in Florence, I kept my eye out for the Wheat Pie but was not able to find it. The week after Easter my parents came to visit me in Italy. We traveled to Sorrento, the town where my Grandmother’s family is from. We ate dinner in a little Pizzeria where we were given the pie for dessert.

Sorrento, Italy

So much sentimental value is connected to this Easter Pie. I had the honor of watching my Mom make the pies this year and photographing them. I want to share our family’s recipe.

Recipe:

Plan to start at least a day ahead with preparing the wheat (see below)*

Pasta Frolla (Sweet Pastry Crust):

2 cups flour

1/2 tsp. baking powder

Pinch salt

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup butter (room temp)

1/2 tsp. lemon zest

3 egg yolks

1 tbsp. milk

Combine dry ingredients & lemon zest, blend in softened butter, then yolks and milk. Add a little more milk if needed to form a soft dough. Knead gently, form into ball, cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1/2 hour. Divide into 3/4 and 1/4 balls, roll out 3/4 ball to make pie crust and use the 1/4 ball later to roll out to make lattice strips to decorate top of pie.

Filling:

3 cups whole milk ricotta

1 cup prepared wheat, pearlized or wheat berries (also known as farro)*

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1-2 tsp grated fresh orange zest

1/2  tsp cinnamon

4 whole eggs (separate whites, whip til soft peaks form and save for later)

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup half and half (whole milk works, too)

Blend ricotta, sugar, cinnamon, zest, vanilla, & salt, blend in 4 egg yolks one at a time, stir in half and half, fold in beaten egg whites last and pour into crust. Top with lattice and flute edges.

Bake in 350 degree oven for 50 to 60 minutes or until golden brown and center is set (not too wiggly).

To Prepare Wheat:

Around Easter Time some Italian Bakeries may sell you the pearlized wheat or you may find it in an Italian specialty store. The tough outer husk is removed and you do no need to soak it as long. Simply bring it to a boil & simmer for about 45 minutes until tender and liguid is absorbed. Put it in the refrigerator overnight with about 2 tbsp half and half–this will make it creamier.

Otherwise :Cover dry whole wheat berries with water and bring to boil for 15 minutes, remove from heat and let soak overnight for 24 hours. You can also just simmer it for 1 to 2 hours until it cracks open and softens up. Then stir in 2 tbsp half and half and refrigerate overnight.

Barley also works if you have nothing else, cooking time is less, about 1/2 hour.

Low Fat Oatmeal Blueberry Banana Bread

This is a very delicious recipe I found on fitsugar.com. Ambitious Kitchen shared this recipe and I am so glad they did! I love banana bread, especially when I feel it’s healthy too. The oatmeal adds a wonderfully chewy texture while the blueberries add a tart zing. I found that it was best the second day after baking. I heated mine up for 20 seconds in the microwave and topped it with all natural peanut butter.

I think that this recipe is adaptable too. Next time I may use whole wheat flour instead of white and maybe add ground flax seeds or chia seeds.

Ingredients:

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup uncooked old-fashioned oats

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp salt

3 bananas, very ripe

1/2 cup dark brown sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 large egg whites

1 tablespoon plain Greek yogurt

3/4 cup blueberries

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a loaf pan and set aside.

2. Mix all ingredients together in a large mixing bowl.

3. Pour batter into loaf pan and bake for 40-50 minutes.

4. Remove from loaf pan and let cool.