Friday, December 11, 2009

BABY IT'S COLD OUTSIDE!

Greetings from Carmela's Cucina,

The week-end high in Savannah, Ga. is going to be 68 degrees. Join me for the culinary trip that I am hosting there in March around their home and garden tour week. This special event includes, meals, hotel, ground transportation, cooking classes, entrance fees to many special homes in the historic area of Savannah and much more. For the full itinerary and registration form go to my website at www.carmiescucina.com and click on the tours button.

The deadline for the tour is Dec. 31, 2009. Give yourself a great Christmas present and think spring!

Buon appetito,

Carmela Tursi Hobbins

Thursday, December 10, 2009

COOKING CLASS AT NORDIC WARE

Greetings from Carmela's Cucina,

CHOCOLATE HOLIDAY CELEBRATIONS WITH CARMELA'S CUCINA.

I will be teaching a cooking class at Nordic Ware on Tuesday Dec. 15, 2009 from 7:00-8:30 p.m.

Do you love chocolate? Crave Chocolate? Need to have chocolate several times a day? Then this is the class for you. In this class you will enjoy all things chocolate and you will learn to make a number of items you will want to try for yourself for the upcoming holidays or anytime of the year. These sweets will look great on your holiday dessert platter and make a wonderful food gifts to give. I will be making the following.

COCONUT JOYS
CHOCOLATE PEANUT CLUSTERS
PRETZEL BARK
OLD FASHIONED RED VELVET CUPCAKES

Call 952-924-9672 to register.
$25.00 per person plus tax. Guests to receive a 15% discount on Nordic-Ware products purchased at the store that evening.

Nordic Ware Factory Store
4925 Highway 7
St. Louis Park, Mn 55416

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

BOOK SIGNING AT ANNONA GOURMET

Greetings from Carmela's Cucina,

I will be at Annona Gourmet on Saturday, Dec. 12, 2009 from Noon to 2:00 p.m. I will be signing my cookbook and sharing some samples with you. My cookbook paired with some olive oils and vinegars from Annona Gourmet would make for a wonderful holiday gift.

Annona Gourmet is located at 2907 Pentagon Drive, St. Anthony, Mn. 612-345-2927.
www.annonagourmet.com

I hope to see you on Sat.

Buon appetito,

Carmela Tursi Hobbins

Monday, December 7, 2009

COOKIE BAKING IN THE CUCINA

Greetings from Carmela's Cucina,

Yesterday was my annual cookie baking day with Kate and Jessie. We put the Christmas music on and got busy melting chocolate, beating, mixing and cutting out cookies, then frosting and decorating the tasty treats. When we were done we counted 9 different bars or cookies that we made. We tried to make at least 1 favorite of everyone in the family. While I still have some baking to do, we got a great start on this holiday tradition.

One of our favorites is Coconut Joys. I hope you will try it and like it as much as we all do.

Buon appetito,

Carmela Tursi Hobbins

COCONUT JOYS

1/2 cup (1 stick butter)
2 cup powdered sugar
3 cups coconut
melted chocolate (I use chocolate chips)
Red Hots

Melt butter in a saucepan. Remove from heat, add powdered sugar and coconut. Mix well. Shape rounded teaspoons of mixture into balls. Make a small hole in the center of each. Fill center with melted chocolate. Place a red hot on top. MAKES ABOUT 3 DOZEN.

Buon appetito,

Carmela Tursi Hobbins

Monday, November 30, 2009

JOIN CARMELA'S CUCINA IN SAVANNAH

Greetings from Carmela's Cucina,

The Dec. 31, 2009 deadline for joining me in Savannah, Ga. is quickly approaching. Join me and friends for a "Sumptuous, Savory and Simply Irresistible Tour of Historic Savannah, Georgia" March 25-29, 2010.

Contact me at bchobbins@comcast.net or phone me at 952-929-9583 to make a reservation.

Our home will be the historic, Planter's Inn where we will breakfast each morning and enjoy cocktails each evening. The tour includes dinner at the well-known "Pink House". A Savannah tour that includes "The Garden of Good and Evil." A visit to the James Edward Olgethrope home, the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist and Bonaventure Cemetery. Lunch in the Historic District and and afternoon tour of the historic homes and gardens of Savannah.

We will attend two culinary classes and a "This is Your Life-Paula Deen Tour". Our last evening will include a progressive dinner that will begin with the Savannah Bee Company to enjoy honey samples and gourmet cheeses. Then we are off to a "Mint Julep Party" in the private gardens of the Butler estate and finally a multi-course dinner at the Dresser Palmer House.

The tour includes 4 nights accommodations, baggage handling, breakfast each morning and wine and cheese each evening. Escorted trolley transportation for all planned events not walking distance of the hotel. Driver gratuities. Licensed, professional guides, all tour entrance fees and select tour of homes tickets. All breakfasts, 2 lunches and 3 dinners.

Capacity is limited. So just when our Minnesota winter is dragging on it will be spring in beautiful Savannah, Ga. For a full tour brochure go to my website at www.carmiescucina.com and click on the tours button.

Please join me.

Buon appetito,

Carmela Tursi Hobbins

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

ZUPPA INGLESE







GREETINGS FROM CARMELA'S CUCINA,




I was interviewed today and as part of the segment we did a live taping of one of my favorite holiday desserts, Zuppa Ingeles. And since all of the department stores are already talking about Christmas why can't we? This is a perfect dessert for the Christmas season or an alternative to Pumpkin Pie for Thanksgiving. No matter when you make it your guests are going to love Zuppa Inglese or English Trifle and what is even better it is, oh so easy to make.
Buon appetito,
Carmela Tursi Hobbins
ZUPPA INGLESE (English Trifle)
1 large frozen pound cake, angel food cake or 2 packages of lady fingers
1-3 ounce package of Instant French Vanilla Pudding
1 pint whipping cream
4 tablespoons Amaretto Liqueur
1 cup raspberry preserves
1-3 ounce package sliced almonds
Maraschino cherries for garnish
Cut the pound cake or angel food cake into cubes. (leave the lady fingers whole) Prepare the pudding according to the package directions and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Whip the cream until it forms soft peaks. Refrigerate until ready to assemble the dessert.
To assemble: Place half of the cake in a trifle or clear glass bowl and sprinkle with half of the Amaretto. Spread 1/2 cup of the raspberry preserves over the cake, allowing some to dribble down the sides of the bowl. Pour 1/2 of the pudding over the preserves. Spread 1/2 of the whipped cream over the pudding. Repeat the layers ending with the whipped cream. Sprinkle the almonds over the whipped cream and decorate with Maraschino cherries. Refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours before serving.
When ready to serve, scoop the Zuppa Inglese into a bowl and top with a cherry.
MAKES 12 SERVINGS.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

CULINARY TOUR TO SAVANNAH, GEORGIA, MARCH 25-29, 2010

Greetings from Carmela's Cucina,

Join me in Savannah, Georgia, March 25-29, 2010 for a "taste-ful"tour of a classic Southern city.

The Savannah Tour is filling up fast. RSVP NOW!

I am excited too announce details of my 2010 Savannah Culinary Tour. This is a unique opportunity to visit and experience the culture of this beautiful historic city.

This tour will include visits to historic houses and landmarks, culinary classes at up-scale cooking schools, special tour about America's Culinary Sweetheart, Paula Deen, private, after-hours tours arranged for Carmela's Cucina, quaint shops and up-scale dining, including a progressive dinner, luncheon, tea and a presentation with a local chef.

For more information go to my website at www.carmiescucina.com and click on the tours button. Or contact me at bchobbins@comcast.net or by phone at 952-929-9583.

This tour is limited to 25 people so please contact me if you are interested in joining the group. You don't want to miss this great opportunity to escape the Minnesota winter and experience true Southern hospitality.

Buon appetito,

Carmela Tursi Hobbins

Thursday, October 1, 2009

DINNER AT CAVE VIN

Greetings from Carmela's Cucina,

I am just home from a long trip to Italy with culinary tours and a visit to my cousin's winery in Calabria. After eating Italian food, and I do love Italian, when my husband asked me where I wanted to dine last night, I really did not care as long as it was not pasta!

Since I have been a little out of the culinary loop here in the USA for the past few weeks, I did not realize that it was restaurant week. But alas, it is and we got a bonus as a result. We were entertaining Bob's assistant and her husband, so we thought a little French food would be just the right thing to do and landed at Cave Vin at 5555 Xerxes in South-West Minneapolis. www.cave-vin.net

Bob started our meal with a little bubbly, a French Brut, which of course delighted me. No day should go by without a little bubbly in my opinion, it really lightens the spirits. Cave Vin was offering a Prix-Fix menu and of course we went right for it. While I always order the Prince Island Mussels when dining there, Bob ordered the Calamari. My mussels were plump, plentiful and delicious, I used the perfectly baked French Bread to sop up their juices and was very happy with my choice. The Calamari on the other hand was a huge disappointment, chewy and soggy, but I was willing to share with my disappointed hubby.

But Bob struck gold when he ordered the Pork Loin Chop with Grilled Peaches in a Balsamic Reduction. The Chop was moist and flavorful and he was very happy with his pick. I chose the Pan Roasted Halibut and I felt it was really well done too. The moist flesh was just what I needed after weeks of pasta and pork. The grilled vegetables were perfect.

And for dessert I of course, had the Benne Noir, a dense chocolate cake with a raspberry sauce and a sweetened dollop of whipped cream, it was a perfect ending to a perfect French meal in my estimation.

Cave Vin is always one of my favorite go to places and they did not prove me wrong last night.

Buon appetito,

Carmela

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

THE ONLY ZUCCHINI BREAD TO MAKE

Greetings from Carmela's Cucina,

My friend, Claudia, claims that "it is the only zucchini bread to make." We split a crop share every summer and this year our farmer has been loading us down with the prolific vegetable. After making stew, and slicing the zucchini and grilling it, you could shred it and add an egg and some flour and make a pancake. But Claudia turned hers into a delicious bread and brought me a loaf recently and I loved it. Try it, I think you will like it too. And thanks Claudia for sharing your bread and your recipe.

Buon appetito,

Carmela Tursi Hobbins

THE ONLY ZUCCHINI BREAD TO MAKE

3 eggs
2 and 1/4 cup sugar
1 cup canola oil
2 cups grated zucchini
2 Tablespoons pure vanilla extract
3 cups of all purpose flour
2 Tablespoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda

Mix, eggs, sugar and oil in a large bowl until well combined. Add vanilla, baking powder, soda, cinnamon, salt and mix well. Add flour and combine. Add in zucchini and mix until all is well combined. Butter or grease (I like Pam Spray) and flour the bottoms of 2, 9x5 inch loaf pans.

Sprinkle generously with more sugar.

Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven.
Bake 1 hour or a little longer. Test by putting a toothpick in the center of the loaf, if it comes out clean the bread is done.

Let bread rest 30-40 minutes before trying to remove bread from pan

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

MANGIAMO ITALIANO

Greetings from Carmela's Cucina,

Mangiamo Italiano, Let's Eat Italian, is on of my fall cooking classes at Cooks of Crocus Hill in Edina. If you are looking for a great way to say good-bye to summer and greet fall, this class is just the one for you.

Italians love to eat with the seasons, and this menu does just that, taking full advantage of our late-summer harvest. I will show you how to prepare fresh and healthful seasonal vegetables, pasta and a traditional veal dish. We"ll wrap up our "buona serra" with a heart-healthful dark chocolate dessert.

The menu consists of Banga Cauda (antipasto of seasonal fresh vegetables with an olive-oil dip), crusty bread and artisanal cheeses. Capellini with fresh peas and Italian Prosciutto. Saltimbocca alla Romana (veal in a Marsala wine sauce). Sage Roasted potatoes and Torta Cioccolata.

To register for the class on line go to http://www.cooksofcrocushill.com/ or phone the store at 952-285-1903.

I hope to see you there On Sept. 1, 2009 at 6:00 p.m.

And if you can't attend that class I have others scheduled at Cook's of Crocus Hill for Oct. and Nov. just check out their web site.

Until then....

Buon appetito,

Carmela Tursi Hobbins

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

MORE FROM THE APPLE GROVE INN

Greetings from Carmela's Cucina,

Kathy from the Apple Grove Inn in Bayfield, Wi. (www.applegroveinn.net) offered still another delicious recipe for you all to enjoy. I plan on making it at Little Flower Lodge this weekend for my family, it sounds yummy. With some marinated tomatoes it will make a great lunch before we head out on the pontoon. Hopefully your family will enjoy it as much as I know my family is going to.

Buon appetito,

Carmela Tursi Hobbins

APPLE GROVE INN
POTATO SPINACH CHEESE PIE

3 cups frozen southern has browns (thawed)
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped mushrooms
1 bunch chopped spinach, kale or your favorite greens
4 eggs lightly beaten
1-2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup half and half or cream
1 tablespoon brown mustard
1 cup diced ham

In a 9-10 inch pie plate, combine 1 teaspoon olive oil, salt, pepper and hash browns and spread up sides of pan to form a crust. Bake at 425 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until crust is lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack, (crust can be made ahead and kept refrigerated overnight). Reduce oven to 350 degrees.

Saute onion and mushrooms in remaining olive oil. Add ham and greens and saute until greens are wilted. In a bowl beat the eggs and mix in greens, Swiss cheese, cream and mustard. Pour all ingredients into crust and bake for 20-30 minutes or until knife inserted into pie comes out clean. Let rest 10 minutes, cut and serve into wedges.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A BAYFIELD WEEK-END







Greetings from Carmela's Cucina,






Last week-end, Bob and I took a break from our usual lake stay and went with friends up to Bayfield, Wi. on the South Shore of Lake Superior. We did this last year and were very excited to go up and visit apple orchards, art galleries and shops, eat in some great restaurants and of course take in the greatest of our lakes and see a performance by Joan Baez under the "Big Top".
Our weekend began with check in at the Apple Grove Inn, http://www.applegroveinn.net/ 888-777-9558 or 715-779-9558. Kathy and Greg Berger are the innkeepers and their beautiful inn, is located on Hi way 13 in Bayfield. There are 4 lovely and spacious rooms, ours being the largest with a lake view and a comfy king-sized bed. All rooms have a private bath with shower, a fireplace, big T.V.s, complimentary guest robes and a fantastic breakfast each morning.

Kathy has been very generous and has given me a recipe to share with you and I have to say, I can't wait to make it for my own family this weekend. This innkeeper prides herself in using all locally grown foods and this weekend was no exception. We enjoyed beautiful fruits, jams, sausage and maple syrup all from the area. And we even managed to bring home some of the areas great smoked fish and the candy store's famous wine bread, full of luscious local berries. Our trunk was full of local pottery and art as well, so bring a bring car when you go to Bayfield.

BLUEBERRY CREAM CHEESE STUFFED FRENCH TOAST

1 large loaf of day old organic sourdough bread, cubed into one inch squares
2 pints of fresh or frozen blueberries
8 ounces of softened cream cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 good local honey
1 teaspoon vanilla
7 eggs
3 cups of milk, half and half or a combination of both
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Put half of the bread pieces into a greased 9x13 pan. Sprinkle blueberries over bread. Combine cream cheese, sour cream and honey until well blended and spread over blueberries. Place remaining bread pieces over blueberry mixture. Wire whisk eggs, milk, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg until well blended and pour slowly over bread. Cover with aluminum foil and refrigerate over night. Bake covered at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from oven and let rest for 10 minutes. Cut into slices, sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve.

On Friday night after a fantastic dinner at Wild Rice which is the nicest of the areas restaurants with great views and an open dining room we visited the "Big Top Chautaugqua" (http://www.bigtop.org/) . At age 67, Joan Baez entertained us for 90 minutes with new tunes and some ballads from the past and even gave us an encore performance. Celebrating 50 years as an entertainer she seems to be just getting better.
We are already making plans to return next summer when the Big Top will be celebrating 25 years. You should think about joining us for a relaxing, entertaining and enjoyable weekend too.

Buon appetito,
Carmela Tursi Hobbins

Sunday, July 19, 2009

TAVERN ON FRANCE

Greetings from Carmela's Cucina,

We just got back from a relaxing and delicious brunch at Tavern on France, 6740 France Ave. in Edina. 952-358-6100, http://www.tavernonfrance.com/ This new place located directly across from Macy's at Southdale is the former Via Restaurant.

We happened to have dinner at the former "Via" one Sat. night late in March and you could count the full tables on one hand. It was a very sad sight to see. We learned during our dinner that it was going to be their last night open. so we spoke to the manager and started asking some questions. The story he told us, was that they just weren't able to make it as the upper end dining experience that they had hoped Via would be and that they were going to close for about 6 weeks and come back as something else.

And come back they did, true to his word they were open in about six weeks. Since I live in the neighborhood I watched as they built on a new patio and re-decorated. But most importantly they came out with a new menu that is really family friendly and more in line with what the area can support. Every time I drive by it on a beautiful day such as today the patio is full. And today was no exception.

After Mass, Bob and I wanted to go to brunch and he suggested that we see if Tavern on France was even open, and it was. Seats on the patio were available and since we are finally having a beautiful day we snapped a table up. The patio is lovely with a cooling water fall in the center, nice landscaping and beautiful flowers made for a nice setting. Our waitress came right out and explained the way brunch worked. $13.00 per person, and a full brunch are offered, beverages are extra and made to order omelets are ordered through the wait staff. A nice touch is carmel rolls baked in a small cast iron skillet brought to your table.

Now this brunch is not out-standing, but it was good. I really don't like buffets, and would rather choose from a menu, but they had a nice selection of scones, crossiants, eggs, sausage, bacon, cheesy hash browns, roast beef and a pancake bar. There also was a baked spaghetti dish and mashed potatoes and gravy and biscuts with gravy, which were all a bit to heavy for me at 10:00 a.m. The omelet that we ordered was wonderful, with mushrooms, asparagus, ham and cheddar cheese, we had decided to split it and in the future, I would order my own and for go some other things. There was some fruit on the buffet, but not much and after all it is summer and so many fruits are in season, that I would have liked to have seen more of that and maybe some granola and yogurt, but hey, it is a tavern.

All in all, I was very surprised at what a great experience it was. Next I want to try their "Happy Hour" which goes from 3-6:00 p.m and from 9:00pm to closing Mon-Fri. It may just become my new meeting place.

Anyway, it looks like the make-over paid off, now if they could just add a tree big enough to block out the big Macy's sign that you have to look at, it would be as perfect as you can get on France Ave.

Buon appetito,

Carmela Tursi Hobbins

Saturday, July 18, 2009

BURNING RIVER FARM CSA

GREETINGS FROM CARMELA'S CUCINA,

A couple of years ago my friend, Claudia, suggested that we join a CSA (community supported agriculture). She did all of the research on it and sent me information and after looking at several options and meeting the farmer we decided to go with Burning River Farm out of Frederic, Wi. www.burningriver@thousandplaces.org 715-653-2245.

We are currently into our sixth delivery and I am always amazed at the wonderful vegetables we get each week in our share. Mike, delivers our crops to a home in Edina on Thurs. afternoons, which is just perfect for me, so that I have a nice variety of vegetables for the weekend. Since I share it with my friend, one of us goes and picks it up, brings it to my house and we divide the box up equally. I take a look at all of the pristine clean crops and decide what I am going to make with my share and what I need to pick up later at the store to round out our menus for the weekend.

The things I love about having a crop share are that I know I am helping a farmer, that I am eating locally and really well, and the different vegetables that I get every week, that I might not buy at the store, but that I have in my box and must use.

A couple of things that Mike has had in our share that I might not have purchased, but that have been really great are Kolh Rabi, which I served last week. I simply sliced this crunchy vegetable and dipped the end in some lime juice and then into chili powder, it was a nice, light and healthy tid-bit to add to an antipasti platter that I was making. Certainly not Italian, but was a nice addition to the meats and cheeses that I was serving.

The sweet onions, sugar snap peas, arugula that we have been getting in our portion are wonderful and tasty, the onions nice and clean, the peas super sweet and the arugula is nice and peppery and has been a great addition to salads. As I write this entry I have a dozen beets roasting in the oven, when peeled and cooled they will be sliced and used in a salad that I will make for dinner tonight. With the addition of freshly mixed lettuce, some goat cheese and toasted walnuts with a light vinaigrette, I will have the perfect summer salad.

If you do not belong to a CSA this year go to a Farmer's Market and speak to the local farmers about joining their group and start enjoying the bounty of summer produce that so many others are getting delivered weekly.

As soon as my beets are finished roasting, I am off to the Minneapolis Farmer's Market for some tomatoes for a Caprase salad I will make for dinner Sunday night. I will also be looking for some sweet, ripe peaches and big, juicy blueberries that I will make into a cobbler. I made one last week for a dinner party and it was gone in minutes. Served warm and with good vanilla ice-cream, we enjoyed the best summer dessert that anyone could ask for.

Buon appetito,

Carmela Tursi Hobbins

Monday, July 13, 2009

SPRING TRIP TO SAVANNAH IN THE PLANNING

Greetings from Carmela's Cucina,

As you know I recently visited Savannah and while there, touring, eating in some great restaurants and even taking cooking classes, I met with the head of their Chamber of Commerce and we are working together to bring clients of Carmela's Cucina to this great southern city in the spring of 2010. Our trip will include a city tour, historic tours of some great southern homes, cooking classes and so much more. We are just beginning the planning, but I wanted to let each of you in on the good news. If you think that you might be interested in such a spring get-away, let me know and I will get you on our travel list. Just contact me at bchobbins@comcast.net . This is going to be a great experience in one of our countries most wonderful cities. Watch this site for more information as I release it. Best news of all it is going to be a great way to get a jump on spring. Remember how cold and long last winter was? BRRRR!

Buon appetito.

Carmela

Monday, July 6, 2009

HAPPINESS IS A REALLY GOOD TOMATO

Dear Friends,

As you may have noticed I took a break from blogging. But I am back at it again and anxious to resume our correspondence.

Since I wrote you last, we were on a fantastic trip to Hilton Island, South Carolina for a wedding and extended our trip a bit to include Savannah, Georgia.

My husband Bob, went to law school at NYU and his law school room-mate and his wife have been living in Savannah ever since. (I'm not going to tell you how long because you might be able to figure out exactly how old we all are!) Just let's say that it has been long enough to be very well connected to the South.

John and Barbie treated us royally in their beautiful, Isle of Hope home and I just can't wait to get back there again for another visit. Our stay included eating in some of Savannah's best restaurants a visit to Tybee Island and a cooking class with Chef Joe Randall, put together by Martha Nesbit a friend of John and Barbie's.

This where the story gets good. Martha writes recipes for Paula Deen. Lucky girl! I would love that gig. In Paula's newest cookbook Paula Dean and Friends Martha actually got two complete menus from my friend, Barbie, a great southern cook.

One night while we were having dinner in their home Barbie, made the best ever marinated tomatoes and we just fell in love with them. Well, over the weekend I just had to serve them to our guests at Little Flower Lodge and they loved them too. So I want to share the recipe with you. Now just let me warn you, these tomatoes got me lots of hugs and kisses, so you may get some of your own too.

And one more thing to make the tomatoes my own version, I gave them an Italian twist and changed up the ingredients a bit. No matter, use my recipe or go to Paula's cookbook and use Barbie's. Your family and friends are going to love you and you will be making these terrific tomatoes the rest of the summer.

Buon appetito,

Carmela

Carmela's Marinated Tomatoes Italian Style

3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
2 cloves garlic chopped
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

Place all of the above ingredients in a bowl and whisk together until well combined.

6-8 Roma tomatoes, washed, cored and cut into six wedges.

Place the tomatoes in a bowl and pour the marinade over the tomatoes. Toss gently to coat. Marinate for several hours or overnight. Bring to room-temperature before serving. Place tomatoes in a pretty glass bowl or pour over salad greens. Decorate with more fresh herbs.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

ITALIAN AMERICAN CULTURAL CENTER OF IOWA

GREETINGS FROM CARMELA'S CUCINA,

My family, in Des Moines have all been members of the Italian Cultural Center. But I just recently was made aware of their great web site. If you want to learn more about Italian immigrants, travel and food, then check out their site which has a link on my home page at www.carmiescucina.com or go directly to their web page at www.iaccofia.org

Buon appetito,

Carmela

Saturday, April 25, 2009

BRUNCH WITH TEDDY

GREETINGS FROM CARMELA'S CUCINA,



Teddy and I had a few errands to run this busy Sat. morning and decided that in order to get through the long list of "to do" items we should fortify ourselves with a hearty breakfast from Blackbirds.

Having had many excellent lunches at the quirky Blackbird Cafe, I was anxious to try their breakfast items. The place was packed on this beautiful spring morning, but the friendly host got us a nice table for two right away and our smiling waitress brought me a cup of steaming, strong coffee as soon as I requested it.

The breakfast menu is as eclectic as the little cafe, serving up classic eggs to oxtail hash. Teddy and I usually go for the specials and this morning was no different and of course we always share. This son knows the drill well. Teddy ordered the fritatta with sausage, leeks and sage. This dish could have used a few potatoes or fresh fruit, but the toast was excellent. I decided on the breakfast sandwich. Thick slices of bread with scrambled eggs, bacon and Swiss, sauteed like French toast. The pure maple syrup and orange marmalade were nice accompaniments, but again a fresh fruit garnish would have been nice.


Chef Chris Steves is doing a excellent job at this neighborhood establishment and it was great to see the place so busy. His staff is friendly and helpful and eager to please. It was a nice little breakfast, but a some fresh fruit would have rounded out the plate nicely and have been a colorful and tasty addition.

Blackbird is located at 815 W. 50th Street in Minneapolis. They are open for breakfast, lunch and dinner (WOW). and their website is http://www.blackbirddmpls.com/

Try them, you'll be happy you did. And the best part of the meal, of course was getting to spend time with Teddy.




Buon appetito!


Carmela Tursi Hobbins

Thursday, April 23, 2009

DINNER AL FRESCO

GREETINGS FROM CARMELA'S CUCINA,

Learn to make a complete spring or summer meal on Thur. May 7, 2009 at Edina Community Education. Eat like the Italians do, "Al Fresco." To register for this class contact Edina Community Education at 952-848-3952 or go to their web site at www.edina.k12.mn.us/community to sign up.

We will be making Bruschetta with Tomatoes and Fresh Basil, Pesto Pasta, Ricotta and Spinach Stuffed Chicken Breasts, Insalta Mista and Almond Jam Tart. Come join us for the fun and food.

Buon appetito,

Carmela Tursi Hobbins

Friday, April 17, 2009

LAST NIGHTS CLASS

GREETINGS FROM CARMELA'S CUCINA,

Last night I had a great time cooking at the Royal Pantry Cooking School, part of Hopkins Community Education. It was a small group, about 10 which was just perfect for their space and for the class members participation in the meal.

We prepared a meal that I call IL Mulino, which is one that we always have on our culinary tours of Tuscany. We began with focacia with prosciutto wrapped around the savory bread. Then I demonstrated one of my favorite pastas, Farfalle (butterflies) in a Sage Butter Sauce. For our primo piatto, or main course we had a roasted pork loin which I seasoned with Italian herbs and olive oil. The meat was perfectly cooked, tender, moist and juicy and WOWED my class and to go with it we enjoyed roasted vegetables and potatoes and a mixed green salad with roasted pine nuts. But it was dessert that really got everyone, cream puffs with almond cream, blackberries and a berry sauce all dusted with powdered sugar.

If this sounds good, think about taking my next class at the Royal Pantry on May 12, 2009. Contact them to register for Grazietta's Farm House dinner and enjoy more Tuscan recipes. To make a reservation call 952-988-4070 or go to www.hopkinscommunityed.org

And for my full teaching schedule go to www.carmiescucina.com I hope to see you at a class sometime soon.

Buon appetito,

Carmela Tursi Hobbins

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

SPEND YOUR TAX RETURN






GREETINGS FROM CARMELA'S CUCINA,


Today is tax day and most of you by now have filed your taxes and are waiting for your return. I have a great idea for how to spend that money that you have coming in. How about a Cooking and Wine tour with Carmela's Cucina? Join me for a tour of Italy and experience the wonderful culture and cuisine of the area.


Go to my web site at http://www.carmiescucina.com/ and click on the tours link for all of the information, then contact me by May 31, 2009 to make a reservation for you and your friends. This small group tour is limited to 12 people and includes, 7 nights lodging in a beautiful restored farm house villa. All ground transportation to and from the airport and throughout the week. Breakfast daily, 5 lunches and 7 dinners with wine. Two cooking classes taught by local experts in Italian cuisine. Fully escorted with English and Italian speaking guides. All guests receive a specially designed event planner/recipe book upon arrival.


Visit Lucca, Florence. Cinque Terre, Sienna, San Gimingano, Monteccatini, and Chianti.


The first five people to register for the trip with a paid deposit of $500.00 will receive as a special gift a bottle of Olive Oil from IL Mulino di Torrigiani.


Contact me soon at bchobbins@comcast.net as space is limited.Buon appetito,

Carmela Tursi Hobbins

Thursday, April 9, 2009

ITALIAN EASTER BREAD


GREETINGS FROM CARMELA'S CUCINA,
Easter Bread is a tradition among Italian families.(www.wikipedia.org/wikiEaster_bread ) It was always a sure sign of spring when my mother's beautiful PANE DI PASQUALINA appeared.
The colored eggs intertwined in the braids are a symbol of the renewal that we experience at this time of the year. I hope you will try the recipe below and that your family enjoys it as much as ours.
Buona Pasqua,
Buon appetito,
Carmela Tursi Hobbins
EASTER BREAD
PANE DI PASQUALINO
5 pounds of flour plus 1 cup
3 teaspoons of anise seed (optional)
6 eggs, beaten
2 cups milk
2 cups water
1/2 stick butter, softened
1/2 cup oil
4 packages dry yeast
5 teaspoons salt
5 teaspoons sugar
3-5 eggs
In a large bowl, mix flour and anise seed together. Scald milk and water, let cool and then add yeast. Add eggs to flour and then add the butter and oil, and finally, add the liquid with the yeast. Add sugar and salt. Knead the bread mixture until elastic-it may need a little more water. Cover the bowl, and put it in a warm place.
Let the dough rest for about an hour. Knead again for about 10 minutes, and let rest again for about an hour. Divide the dough into 15 balls and roll each ball into a rope about 25 inches long. Take three ropes and braid them together.
On a greased cookie sheet, for the braid into a ring, insert dyed Easter eggs between the braids. Cover the bread and let it rise until double in size, about an hour. Brush with melted butter and bake at 375 degrees for about 40 minutes.
Makes 5 braided rings.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

TORTA DI LIMONE FOR EASTER DINNER



GREETINGS FROM CARMELA'S CUCINA,




I was the featured chef on Show Case Minnesota today. Since it is the week before Easter the food I prepared and demonstrated included some wonderful antipasti and desserts that you could serve for Easter dinner. The Torta Di Limone is the spring recipe of the month and can be found on my website at http://www.carmiescucina.com/ but if you would like to see the actual demonstration go to http://www.kare11.com/, then to Show Case Minnesota and click on the Tuesday link. You will find it there and can see exactly how to prepare Torta di Limone for your Easter Dinner. The other recipes can be found on my website under, archived recipes or in my cook book, Carmela's Cucina.

Buona Pasqua,
(Happy Easter)

Carmela Tursi Hobbins

Monday, April 6, 2009

SPRING AND SUMMER CLASSES

GREETINGS FROM CARMELA'S CUCINA,

Are you looking for something fun to do, either alone or with some friends? How about a cooking class? I will be teaching in many different programs over the next few months and offering private cooking classes as well. Are you interested in learning about the food of different regions of Italy? Maybe something quick and easy for your family or dinner that you can serve "al Fresco"? I am also teaching some classes from my culinary tours as well, IL Mulino, Tuscan Farm House Dinner or Grazietta's Farm House Dinner might be just the class you are looking for to help sharpen your cooking skills.

Just go to my website at www.carmiescucina.com for my complete cooking schedule for the next several months, choose a class and then phone the school to register.

Below is a list of schools and their websites.

I hope to see you at a cooking class in the near future.

Buon appetito,

Carmela Tursi Hobbins

EGAN COMMUNITY EDUCATION 651-423-7920 www.district196.org/ce
EDINA COMMUNITY EDUCATION 952-848-3953 www.edina.k12.mn.us/community
HOPKINS COMMUNITY EDUCATION 952-988-4070 www.hopkinscommunityed.org
COOKS OF CROCUS HILL 952-285-1903 www.cooksofcrocushill.com
ACORN PANTRY (Siren, Wi.) 715-349-8995
SOPRA-SOTTO (Rochester, Mn.) 507-252-5522 www.sopra-sotto.com

Sunday, April 5, 2009

SHOW CASE MINNESOTA

GREETINGS FROM CAMELA'S CUCINA,

Spring is in the air and Easter is just a week away. Join me on Tuesday morning, April 7, 2009 at 10:00 a.m. on channel 11 on Show Case Minnesota, (www.kare11.com) when I will be the featured chef for the day . I will be demonstrating a perfect, yet simple Easter dessert. And if you are not at home during that time, the recipe will also be available on my website at www.carmiescucina.com

Buon appetito,

Carmela Tursi Hobbins

Sunday, March 29, 2009

A STAYCATION AT THE COMO PARK CONSERVATORY

GREETINGS FROM CARMELA'S CUCINA,





Bob and I did not make plans to go anywhere for spring break this year, opting to go to Hilton Head Island for a wedding in May. So winter has been long for us and we felt like we needed a little breath of spring yesterday. So we crossed the river and made our way over to Como Park in St. Paul (http://www.comozooconservatory.org/) . At the Marjorie Mcneely Conservatory the spring flower show is currently running and it is simply beautiful. Since it was the weekend it was a bit crowded, but so worth the visit. The conservatory is just a burst of color with beautiful flowers, from the usual spring tulips, daffodils, hyacinths and lilies. The other rooms are filled with ferns, palm trees of all sorts and kinds and exotic flowers including orchids. I can heartily recommend a trip to the conservatory if you need a little spring and with the forecast for more snow this week, I say head on over and feel the warmth!


Buon appetito,

Carmela Tursi Hobbins






Sunday, March 22, 2009

PILLARS OF THE EARTH

GREETINGS FROM CARMELA'S CUCINA,

I spent the long winter months with my nose in a book, hoping that winter would flee and that spring would arrive. And after finishing two of Ken Follet's books,(www.ken-follett.com) each over 1,000 pages in length I have discovered that spring has finally sprung! The two books, Pillars of the Earth and World Without End are about the building of great cathedrals.

Since, I lead culinary tours of Italy and because I travel their frequently with my family, I can boast that I have been in some of the world's most beautiful, renowned and impressive churches, cathedrals and basilicas in this world. I have enjoyed the Tridium and Easter in St. Peter's in Rome as well as experiencing an audience with Pope John Paul the II with 32 cadets of St. Thomas Academy in St. Peter's Square. I have visited all 5 major churches in Rome and minor ones as well. I have been to the Duomo and Santa Maria Novella in Florence and small places of worship. And have visited the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi while leading tours. In Sienna I have taken countless clients to the Church of St. Catherine and viewed her remains. We have been part of the vigil known as Volto Santo in Lucca that leads us into the magnificent Cathedral every Sept. 13th.

With friends I have toured the church at Knock in Ireland, where the Blessed Virgin appeared to young children and have visited the church of St. Bridget as well. In the states I have been in many beautiful churches, the church at the University of San Diego, Sacred Heart Cathedral on the campus of Notre Dame, St. John's on the Creighton University Campus are all great and magnificent structures.

But until recently I never thought about how they were built. This morning my husband, Bob and I decided to go to the Bascilica of St. Mary's (www.mary.org) in Minneapolis for Mass. I have been to Masses at this beautiful church many times, have attended weddings there and our 3 sons were confirmed there as well. But today, it was as if I saw that church for the first time. The grandeur, the beautiful stained glassed windows, the marble statuary, the incredible crucifix, it was all new to me. And then I thought about those who built these beautiful places of worship. How did they do it? The time the labor, the expense, to honor our Lord and God.

Ken Follett's books take place in the 1100 and 1300's. How back then in those ancient times did they have the where with all to build the magnificent buildings, structures, pillars that we call our churches today?

In the past I have travelled over the great pond to see these beautiful churches. I have enjoyed tours given by guides that have explained the details of the buildings to our groups. But today I drove just 20 minutes from home and after reading these two books, I actually took in the meaning of what it must have taken to actually build a place of such splendor for us to worship in. I will never take these holy places for granted again. I thank God to be lucky enough to be able to visit his holy home and I thank the builders for doing God's work.

I hope that you too, might take a weekend off from your usual visit to your church and visit the Basilica of St. Mary or perhaps the Cathedral in St.Paul and really look at their beauty, drink it in, savor it, thank God for his holy home where we can find refuge in these troubled times. You don't have to go as far as I do to relish these beautiful structures, they are in our own back yard.

And for next winter I whole-heartily suggest you read Ken Follett's two novels, but for now get out and enjoy the greatest cathedral God has ever built, the out-of doors. For after our long dead winter, the hope of spring and new life is now upon us. Let us give thanks.

Buon appetito,

Carmela Tursi Hobbins

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

ENDLESS PASTABLITIES

GREETINGS FROM CARMELA'S CUCINA,

I will be teaching a class that I fondly call Endless Pastabilities at the Nordic Ware Store in St. Louis Park on March 24th from 6:00 to 8:30 p.m. To register for this class you may call them at 952-924-9672, the cost is $25.oo per person.

That evening I will be making a couple of pastas from the different regions of Italy. From Liguria I will make a fresh pesto sauce and serve it over pasta. This area of Italy is known for both their seafood and basil and is located in the area of Italy that is called the Italian Riviera. And from Rome I will make their most famous pasta dish, Pasta Amatriciana, a spicy sauce made tomatoes, onions and pancetta. We will enjoy roasted asparagus and mini cheesecakes with a fruit topping.

The classes are located in the Nordic Ware showroom and you will have plenty of opportunity to shop at a discount that evening. Just think you might be able to purchase something special to use for your Easter dinner preparations.

I hope to see you at this class on March 24, 2009.

Buon appetito,

Carmela Tursi Hobbins

Friday, March 13, 2009

IRISH SODA BREAD FOR ST. PADDY'S DAY


Greetings from Carmela's Cucina,


In Ireland St. Patrick's Day is more of a religious celebration than it is here in the United States (www.wikipedia.org/wikiSt._Patrick). While many people attend parades and parties in the streets and bars, I keep our celebration on the quiet side usually making a Lamb Stew, Irish Soda Bread and serving Guinness or Hot Whiskeys.


I acquired this recipe for Irish Soda Bread so long ago that I can't remember which of my Irish friend's gave it to me. I always serve it with good butter and with the stew and I always have a very happy Irish family on the saints day.


This soda bread is really good for breakfast too. I hope you all enjoy it as much as we do.


Buon appetito,


Carmela Tursi Hobbins


IRISH SODA BREAD


3 cups all purpose flour

2 tablespoons packed brown sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 cup dried currants

1 teaspoon caraway seed

1 and 1/2 cups butter milk


In a large bowl stir together the flour, brown sugar, baking powder and baking soda. Stir in the currants, and caraway seeds. Add butter milk, stir until the dry ingredients are moistened. Turn into a greased 8x1 and 1/2 inch round baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees until browned about 40 minutes. Cool 10 minutes in pan. Remove from pan and cool completely. Makes 1 loaf.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

GUINESS FOR STRENGTH, HOT WHISKEYS FOR WARMTH

GREETINGS FROM CARMELA'S CUCINA AND....

HAPPY ST. PATRICK'S DAY,












Most of you know that my heritage is Italian, but did you know that my husband is Irish, making my 3 son's half Irish? We have many friends living in Ireland as well, and this past fall, we finally made our first trip to the Emerald Isle and I fell in love with it.

The food, the people, the countryside, the accent, the Guiness and the Hot Whiskeys. Now, I have to say my drink of preference is red wine, but when in Ireland drink what the Irish drink! And I did. Guiness for strength, it was a demanding trip and Hot Whiskeys for warmth, it was pretty cool and damp in Oct., but our driver Phillip did keep our mini bus nice and warm for us.











Traveling with 4 other couples who are also good friends made this a perfect trip. We began in Northern Ireland and one of our first stops was Bushmill's home of the worlds oldest distillery near the famous Giant's Causeway. We stayed at the beautiful Bushmill's Inn http://www.bushmillsinn.com/ known for it's multi award winning restaurant and Inn. We were not disappointed. A warm fire, a cozy dining room and great food always awaited us and of course we were introduced to "Hot Whiskeys." And for the week when we were not drinking Guiness for strength you would find us with the warm drink.

We did spend a half day visiting the distillery where an excellent tour is given and we did enjoy a hearty lunch as well and of course were given a sample of their "Hot Whiskeys." (recipe to follow) And after making several purchases we were on our way to the next town and adventure.






Now on this cold winter night, I am going to go and make myself a hot whiskey and go through my photos of a very special trip. I just can't think of a better way to prepare for St. Paddy's Day. Maybe you better have a Hot Whiskey for warmth as it is after all very cold out or if you prefer have yourself a Guiness for strength.

Erin Go Braugh!

Buon appetito,

Carmela Tursi Hobbins

BUSHMILL'S HOT WHISKEY
2 parts water
1 part whiskey
1 liter of water flavored with cinnamon sticks and whole cloves.

Take several cinnamon sticks and several whole cloves and tie them in a piece of cheesecloth and add a liter of water and spices to a pan. Bring water to a boil. Allow to simmer for 20 minutes or longer if you prefer a stronger flavor. Then add Bushmill's original white label whiskey for best results. For individual drinks the combination should be twice the amount of water to whiskey. Add a little sugar to taste when making the drink. Garnish with lemon slices and cloves.

The flavored water may be stored when cooled in a glass bottle for up to 6 days. Just pour out the amount you want to use, reheat and add whiskey.




Wednesday, March 11, 2009

COOKING CLASS MARCH 19, 2009

GREETINGS FROM CARMELA'S CUCINA,Well, we were blasted with another winter storm yesterday and the wind-chill is 25 below zero this morning. Old-man winter is not giving up easily this year. By now you may all be suffering from cabin-fever as I am! At times like this I always look for a fun way to beat the winter blues. I have an idea for you too.

Next week on March 19, 2009 in the evening I will be teaching one of my favorite cooking classes, "SUNDAY DINNER AT MAMA'S". This class has been very successful in the past and the people at Cook's of Crocus Hill (http://www.cooksofcrocushill.com/) tell me that there are still a few open spots. Give them a call and sign up for this event. It will surely warm up your spirits and I will teach you a great southern Italian meal just like Mama taught me. This is the dinner that was on our table every Sunday while growing up, that always attracted many family and friends to the table. Once you have the skills down, you can be sure that your table will be plenty full as well.

In Italian families Sunday dinner at Mama's is tradition. No one can make a Sugo (sauce) like she does. This class includes all of the recipes and secrets that have been handed down for three generations that originate in our little village in Calabria, Italy. And it is not just about the food, I will share with you the customs and stories about growing up in and Italian-American family.

I will demonstrate and you will eat an antipasto of Gorgonzola and honey crostini with sauteed pears while enjoying a crisp glass of Prosecco (the sparkling wine of Italy). We will enjoy Mamma's rich tomato sauce with meatballs and steakrolls, a mixed field green salad with a crisp Frico basket (Parmesan cheese basket) and for dessert you will enjoy Nutella Ravioli with a dusting of powdered sugar and fresh strawberries.

And if this doesn't cure the winter blues, then go to my web-site at http://www.carmiescucina.com/ and click on the tours button and sign up for a fall trip to Italy, where it is always warm and beautiful.

I hope to see you at a class or on a culinary tour to Italy in the very near future.

Buon appetito,

Carmela Tursi Hobbins

Monday, March 9, 2009

HAPPY PURIM



GREETINGS FROM CARMELA'S CUCINA,




I went out to the mailbox one day last week and found a box from my publisher, Norton Stillman. While opening it, I thought, "it's March it, must be my annual gift of Hamantaschen cookies." And I was right, I dug right in and enjoyed one of the Jewish cookies celebrating Purim.




Yearly Norton hosts a baking party for his entire family in March where they all bake together the traditional cookie that celebrates Purim (www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Purim) . They spend the day baking together and then carefully wrapping and distributing this lovely pastry filled with a prunes.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

RESTAURANT WEEK

GREETINGS FROM CARMELA'S CUCINA,

It is the beginning of March so it must be restaurant week in the Twin Cities. Last year, my foodie son, Teddy informed us about this one week bargain at many of our area restaurants. Another couple joined Bob and I at D'Amico Cucina for a fantastic meal at a very affordable price.

Well, it is that time of year again. For complete information and details go to www.mspmag.com for a complete listing of participating establishments and menu offering.

Yesterday was my first meeting of the Edina Magazine Advisory Board and our meeting was being held at Crave in the Galleria in Edina. Our waitress told us about the Restaurant Week offering for lunch that they were featuring and I decided to go with it. It was two courses and I did not pick up the tab, but my understanding is that the lunch offerings are between $10-$15 and dinner between $20 and $30.

The first course was a wonderful fresh spinach salad with slices of pears and apples, cheddar cheese shreds and pumpkin seeds in a light vinaigrette. The portion was so large, that it was a meal in itself. But I did manage to enjoy the next course even though I was already pretty full. Nealy a half of a pork tenderloin was cut into coins and served with the center still lightly pink. The pork was tender and moist with a light sesame sauce over it. Delicious! And with it was a pesto risotto. I would like to have seen it a little creamier, but it was tasty. The risotto was made with fresh basil and freshly grated Parmesan Cheese and the color was just beautiful.

We were a group of about 20 and were seated in Crave's new patio area, with the fireplace burning. It was perfect for a cold winter day. I can't wait to return when it is warm and the windows to the patio are all thrown open and we surely will be seated in a garden like setting. It will be fantastic. The service at Crave was great too, especially since we were a large group and also trying to conduct a lunch meeting. The portions were generous and our waitress was well informed and kept our beverages full.

Restaurant Week was created to keep our eating establishments filled in what is considered to be a pretty slow week. In this economy I am sure even slower than usual. The prices are right so take a look at the web site and make some dinner reservations for yourself and get to eat in some of the Twin Cities best. I am off to Cave Vin on Friday night. I hope to see you there.

Buon appetito,

Carmela Tursi Hobbins

Saturday, February 28, 2009

MITFORD INSPIRED ORANGE MARMALADE CUPCAKES

GREETINGS FROM CARMELA'S CUCINA,



Several years ago I was hooked on a series of books written by Jan Karon about a fictional town called Mitford (http://www.mitfordbooks.com/) . The lead character of the Book was Father Tim and surrounding him were a host of parishioners that were an interesting group of people. One of my favorites was Esther Bullock, Father Tim's church secretary. Esther's signature was her Orange Marmalade Layer Cake. These scrumptious delights were brought to the sick, and infirm, they were brought to funerals, baptisms, weddings, and of course birthdays. You were really considered special if you were on Esther's Christmas list as of course you would be the lucky recipient of one of her famous cakes.



Esther would never give up the secret to that cake and Jan Karon wouldn't either until the book Esther's Gift came out. I just happened to be at the library recently and there sat the small book on a table just waiting for me to pick it up. And that is exactly what I did one cold winter afternoon this month. And after reading it, I thought I just have to make this cake or at least something like it. So I checked out the book and headed to the grocery store.



Since Bob and I are the only ones at home now, and the prospect of eating a whole cake is a bit much, I thought cupcakes! And since cupcakes are popular now if they turned out just the way I hoped they would, I might be able to work them into my cupcake class in the future.



The cupcakes turned out just the way I hoped and everyone who has sampled them agree that they should be included in my cupcake or desserts classes and they will. For a schedule of my culinary classes go to http://www.carmiescucina.com/ and if you want to read a great series of books and become friends with the Mitford folk as I have then go to the library or a book store and pick up one of the nine books in the series, but I suggest that you begin with, "At Home in Mitford." I hope you enjoy them as much as I have. Don't forget to stop by the grocery store to pick up the ingredients for Carmela's Orange Marmalade Cupcakes. Make yourself a batch and settle back with a good book. Spring does not have to come in such a hurry after all.





CARMELA'S ORANGE MARMALADE CUPCAKES


1 package Betty Crocker White Super Moist Cake Mix


1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice


6 ounces good quality orange marmalade


1 can Betty Crocker Rich and Creamy Cream Cheese Frosting


Prepare and bake the cake mix according the package directions for cupcakes.


(http://www.bettycrocker.com/) When cooled, with a skewer poke the tops of the cupcakes several times. Gently drizzle the tops of the cupcakes with the orange juice. Wait a few minutes and let the juice soak into the cupcakes. With an apple corer, gently remove a plug out of the center of the cake, making sure that you do not cut through to the bottom.


Put the marmalade in a zip-lock bag and seal tightly. Cut a small corner of the bag and pipe the marmalade into the center of the cupcake level with the top. Save remaining marmalade. Frost cupcakes as you like. With the remaining marmalade, garnish the top of each cake with a dollop.


This is my quick and easy version, for Esther's version pick up a copy of Esther's Gift by Jan Karon.


Buon appetito,


Carmela Turis Hobbins

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

BUON GIORNO'S FOR DINNER






GREETINGS FROM CARMELA'S CUCINA,

Last Sat. night we had a sudden change of plans and found ourselves with nothing to do. We called around and found some good friends that were in town as well and decided to meet for a very quick and inexpensive meal at Buon Giorno Italia, 981 Sibley Memorial Highway in Lilydale off of Hiway 13 in Mendota Heights. (http://www.bgimarket.com/) 651-905-1080.

When teaching cooking classes the question of where to eat good Italian food is always asked by my students. I often tell them I Nonni's, the upper end restaurant next door to the deli. I Nonni is really a special occasion place especially in these difficult economic times, but it is possible to order dinner in their bar and save a few dollars.

But Sat. night we wanted something really casual, and just fun, a place where we could get a quick dinner a bottle of wine and just catch up with our friends. Many people had the same idea as the place was very busy with families and couples just like us looking for a good meal at an affordable price. We grabbed a table and while the guys selected a bottle of wine from the wine shop we looked over the menu.

At Buon Giorno's you order at the counter and pick up your food and if necessary they bring the ordered food out to your table upon completion, but there is no table service. Salads, hot and cold sandwiches, panini, pizza and a pasta bar are all available.

At $8.99 the build your own pasta appealed to me. Two young chef's were making up pastas as fast as the orders were coming in. As my turn came up I asked the young chef what his name was and he replied, "Stuart." I then asked him what his favorite combinations were and of course one question lead to another, with him finally asking me if I was a food critic. While I am not getting paid to review restaurants, I would not have been truthful to deny being a critic, so I gave him my card and told him I would be blogging about my experience. He asked me to be nice and fortunately I can be Stuart.

The combination of pasta that I came up with was, olive oil, garlic, scallops, broccoli, artichoke hearts and tri-colored corkscrew pasta in pesto and white sauce. While they were preparing my pasta, I thought that they were being a little skimpy with the ingredients, but as you can see I had a really big pasta to eat when they were finished with the preparation. The combination was delicious and creamy, the vegetables and scallops cooked perfectly and the pasta was "al dente" just the way I like it. The dish also came with some nice crusty bread.





My husband also ordered a pasta and we decided the next time we visit we will order one pasta or Buon Giorno's Lasagna and their chicken Parmesan and some roasted asparagus and share our dinners. The Caesar salad that we ordered was so ordinary that I would not bother with that again and try a different salad such as the antipasti chop or the tuna and cannellini bean salad.

We all did have room for dessert and I sent my husband to the counter to choose as I was only going to have a bite of whatever he brought back. In the end I ate half of the beautifully presented key lime tart. Now I usually think of this dessert best served in the summer, but I enjoyed it greatly on that cold winter night. The individual tart was a large portion and beautifully decorated with whipped cream. The pastry was flaky and the filling nicely rich with the tartness of key lime juice. It was a perfect ending to our meal.

If you are looking for a last minute place to eat for cheap this might be just the ticket. With a really good bottle of wine, pasta bar, salad and dessert the two of us ate for about $50.00 We would have spent more than 3 times that next door!

Buon appetito,

Carmela Tursi Hobbins

Friday, February 20, 2009

ALL ABOUT CARMELA'S CUCINA

GREETINGS FROM CARMELA'S CUCINA,










People ask me all the time what is Carmela's Cucina? Well, let me tell you. Several years ago I began giving small group cooking classes. Later I was asked to teach at many of the area cooking schools and community education classes. And I do private classes.










I specialize in Italian cooking since that is my background and my parents and grandparents came from Calabria in Italy. I learned to cook from my grandmothers and mother. And our family owns an Italian restaurant in Des Moines, Tursi's Latin King. Years ago I owned a small catering company, Occasions Inc. To arrange for a cooking class go to my web site at http://www.carmiescucina.com/ and contact me and we can set up a class and select a menu.

About 6 years ago I began taking small groups to Italy in the fall of each year and plan to do so again. Each group is between 10-12 people. We stay in one beautiful Tuscan farm house villa for the week and take day trips to Sienna, Lucca, San Gimignano, Chianti, Graeve, Cinque Terre and Florence. Our driver picks us up in a 16 passenger mini bus every morning and safely returns us home at the end of the day after we have toured the area. The tour includes 2 cooking classes and many excellent meals and wine along the way. Your lodging, ground transportation, and the tour is fully escorted with both English and Italian speaking guides. Again go to my web site and click on the tour button to down load all of the information. Call me and we can discuss how we can make this dream a reality.

Carmela's Cucina is also a cookbook, that can be purchased through my web site at local book stores and cooking shops. It includes recipes from 3 generations of great Italian cooks, recipes from my cooking classes and culinary tours and from our family restaurant and great photos and stories about growing up in an Italian American family.



Carmela's Cucina also offers consulting and catering services and will come out and speak to your group or club and do a food demonstration if you would like.

I hope this gives you an idea of what I do and I hope that you will contact me for a book, cooking class or culinary tour in the near future.
Buon appetito,
Carmela Tursi Hobbins

Thursday, February 19, 2009

ALDI'S FOOD STORES MAKES GOOD CENTS

Greetings from Carmela's Cucina,

In these hard times shopping at Aldi's Food Stores (www.aldifood.com) makes good cents. And you will save dollars too, which is a good thing these days.

When I was writing my first cookbook Carmela's Cucina the food stylist that I was working with suggested that I shop at Aldi's for some of the food items that we were going to need for the photo shoot. I was very skeptical, but one of my neighbors confirmed that the new store in town was a great deal and fun to shop. So armed with my own grocery bags and a quarter for a shopping cart, I made my first trip to Aldi's and have been hooked ever since.

This is no frills shopping, and I always have to make a stop at a full service grocery store to complete my grocery list, but the savings are significant, so it is worth the extra trouble. Aldi's has it's origins in Germany and many of their specialty items come from that country. Anything that I have tried from the chocolates to the stollan at Christmas have been excellent.

A typical trip takes about twenty minutes unless the store is really busy and lately I see more and more people learning about what a great value this store is. I have a few favorite items that I always shop for that I want to share with you. I love their trail mix and granola bars. For everyday sandwiches and use their sliced cheeses are great, but when I want something fancy I do go to an up-scale store. I really love their salad dressing and their fresh vegetables and fruits are wonderful and cheap. I always buy their grapefruit which are sweet and delicious as is the pineapple, cantaloupe, honey dew and strawberries. Blueberries are usually available as are mangos, avocados, lemons and limes and kiwi fruit. Their zucchini, three to a package are a great deal as are their tomatoes, tri colored peppers, onions, potatoes, mushrooms, broccoli and cauliflower. Spinach is a bargain and so are the hearts of Romain.

Bread selection is limited, but they always have the multi-grain bread that we enjoy at about half the price and my husband loves their coffee cakes so I indulge. Butter for baking and sugar and flour are also less expensive and of good quality.

Last summer many of my flowering plants came from Aldi's they usually arrive on Thur. morning and there is always a great rush, so be prepared. My Easter lilies and Christmas flowers also come from the store. I can buy more because they are so inexpensive and any one who knows me, knows that flowers are my guilty pleasure.

This past holiday season I even purchased a crown pork loin roast and served it to guests and they raved about how good it was.

Now for a few tips if you want to save some money, shop Aldi's early in the day for best selection. Bring cash as they do not take checks, but recently began to take debit cards. Have a quarter ready for the grocery cart, you get it back when you return it to the stall. And bring your own bags, you can purchase them at the store for 5 cents, but hey you want to save some money here!

As my grandmother would say,"watch your nickels and dimes and the dollars will take care of themselves." Aldi's helps.

Buon appetito,

Carmela Tursi Hobbins

Monday, February 16, 2009

PRESIDENTS DAY DESSERT

Greetings from Carmela's Cucina,

Today is Presidents Day (http://enwikipedia.org/wik/washington%27_birthday) and many of you have the day off so take some time and make your family a special dessert to celebrate. Washington, our first president is famous for cutting down a cherry tree, these cheesecakes with a cherry topping are so good that your family is going to be cutting you many compliments.

And for cooking classes from my Cucina consult the calendar on my web site at www.carmiescucina.com or contact me about arranging a private class for you and you group.

PRESIDENTS DAY CHEESECAKES

Any pie filling can be used to top these cheesecakes. Fresh fruit is also a nice addition. The cheesecakes can be made ahead and frozen, top with pie filling or fresh fruit when ready to serve.

3- 8 ounce packages, cream cheese
1 cup sugar
5 eggs
1 and 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 can Wilderness cherry pie filling

Cream together the cream cheese and 1 cup of sugar. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating after each addition. Add vanilla and mix together.

Divide mixture into 24 cupcake liners in cupcake pans. Bake 40 minutes at 300 degrees until lightly browned. When cooled top with the cherry pie filling.

Buon appetito,

Carmela Tursi Hobbins

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

I PRACTICE WHAT I PREACH











GREETINGS FROM CARMELA'S CUCINA,


Last week I suggested to all of my readers that they help our economy out, by having lunch at a cafe with a friend, taking a vacation if you could afford to, or throw a dinner party. Well, after writing that post I decided I better do my part too.








I called up 4 couples that we have known for a long time and enjoy and invited them for a little dinner party over the weekend. Luckily everyone was available and we had a great evening of wonderful friends, fun, good food and great wine. I think everyone must have had a good time too as 5 hours had passed before we got up from the dinner table.

We began our evening with antipasti around a roaring fire and then moved into the dining room. We enjoyed shrimp cocktail and an antipasti that we make frequently in Italy, a creamy tuna paste stuffed into phyllo shells. We enjoyed a delicious salad that included field greens, Granny Smith apples and a wedge of warm Brie that was topped with brown sugar and pecans. Our main course included roasted vegetables, a Mediterranean couscous and chicken that had been marinated in Italian spices, olive oil and white wine. And for dessert we enjoyed a raspberry-ginger semi-freddo garnished with fresh raspberries and mint, all in a pool of raspberry sauce. And then I brought out the home-made Limoncello made by one of the guests and the Torrone candy. Everyone was very satisfied.

You don't have to go this much bother, order a pizza and a movie and call up your best friends and have a great time too.

Buon appetito,
Carmela Tursi Hobbins