Mrs. Carla Monti

Mrs. Carla Monti

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


Today is a big day - my last day at work (I start a new job next week) and it's also my boyfriend's mom's birthday. I want to go out with a bang, so I went over to Michael's and picked up some adorable colorful Chinese takeout-style boxes, and decided to bake cookies to give to my co-workers.

For my boyfriend's mom, I wanted to create a cake reminiscent of the famous Italian cookie, the rainbow cookie. To do this, I made three separate cake tiers, two vanilla layers and one almond-flavored layer, and colored one layer green and the other red. I sandwiched them with vanilla buttercream in between the layers, and then frosted the whole thing with more vanilla buttercream, and dusted the top with rainbow sprinkles. It's a departure from traditional rainbow cookies to use vanilla frosting (chocolate frosting is normally used) and the rainbow sprinkles were my addition as well (as a play on the name of the cookie).

Finally, the third baked good I made were gluten-free and HCG diet-friendly coconut macaroons. I had never made coconut macaroons before, and I wasn't really a fan of them to begin with, but this 3-ingredient recipe was surprisingly delicious! I will definitely be making them again - they are so easy to make.

Vanilla cake, batter recipe from Annie's Eats!

The dyed cake layers, stacked with vanilla buttercream, recipe also from Annie's Eats!

 Cake inspiration: Italian Rainbow Cookies!

Completely frosted and decorated!

Chocolate cookies with white chocolate chips and walnuts, recipe from All Recipes!

Coconut macaroons, from HCG Diet Recipes!

The finished product!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Baby Quiche Bundts!

I LOVE quiche. I love quiche with or without crust, and in miniature pans or one large pie dish. I have made quiche enough times that it has become one of the few recipes I feel fairly confident 'whipping up' while glancing at a recipe list very briefly. My favorite crustless quiche recipe comes from All Recipes, (and I have previously made it here and here).

I always loosely adapt my quiche recipe depending on the ingredients in my fridge. Since I am going away for a 5-day weekend (Washington D.C., Gainesville, and Orlando), I wanted to use up some ingredients already in my kitchen. For today's mini quiches, I sauteed some shallots and garlic together and then added fresh spinach. I whisked together eggs, salt, pepper, and various cheeses, including Muenster, Boursin (herb & cheese), Ricotta, Mozzarella, and Cheddar, and added the veggie mix. I recently purchased a mini bundt pan so I thought, why not bake the quiches in it? They came out very cute!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Spring Veggie Quinoa & Biscuits!

I love lazy Sunday afternoons, especially in our Floridian summer, where there is always a hint of a thunderstorm outside. Is there anything better then dancing around the kitchen, wooden spoon in hand, with clouds and rain outside?

For today's late lunch, I loosely adapted a recipe from Annie's Eats, Veggie Quinoa. I really liked quinoa the first time I cooked it, which was in the form of Quinoa Cakes, so I was eager to cook with it again. First I started by roasting four different vegetables, halved cherry tomatoes, sliced white mushrooms, and diced rounds of yellow squash and zucchini. I poured copious amounts of EVOO, salt, and pepper over them and let them roast for 40 minutes.

LOVE the pop of colors here!

Cooked quinoa...

Everything put together!

Served with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of shaved Parmesan cheese.

Later on I had a craving for a buttery biscuit, so I whipped up a quick batch of cheddar garlic biscuits (a play on the ones served at Red Lobster). I used a recipe from Gimme Some Oven.

Variations: I added 2 tbsp more melted butter (oops!), used a mix of shredded mozzarella and cheddar cheeses, and topped with parsley instead of oregano. Yum!

White Chocolate Mousse!

Last night I was in the mood for something sweet (of the non-cupcake variety), so I found the recipe for Annie's Eats' White Chocolate Mousse in my recipe book, and boom! Fluffy egg whites, whipped cream and melted white chocolate, and a few surprises of my own as well. I put a thin layer of melted bittersweet chocolate (mixed with some white sugar) in between layers of the white chocolate mousse, and topped with dark chocolate-covered raspberries. I served them in these gorgeous glasses from Crate & Barrel which made the mousse look pretty snazzy!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Ricotta Tarts!

I am in the middle of reading Tamar Adler's An Everlasting Meal, which I first heard of from Joy the Baker. I really love it; it's a combination between a cookbook and a novel about food, it's incredibly refreshing and makes for a fun read. After reading chapter after chapter about vegetables and the proper ways to treat them, I was anxious to try my hand at roasting some. There are quite a few recipes in the book, and the first one that really caught my attention were savory tarts made with ricotta cheese and roasted veggies. The recipe for the crust was good, it made the crust seem more like a cracker versus the type of crust you would find on a quiche. The dough was a little hard to work with initially, but it came through in the end. The ricotta filling tasted like an olive oil cream - it was so yummy!

Roasting zucchini and yellow squash rounds...

Rolling out the dough...

Ricotta filling ....

Topping with roasted veggies...

The final product! More of a rustic-looking tart.

They tasted even better the next morning with my latte ;)

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Juice Day 8!

Today's juice contained half a peeled cucumber, 6-8 large pieces of watermelon, and 2 kiwis. It was very refreshing but needed a little sweetness so I added some from my coworker's juice (red grapes, watermelon, blueberries) to make it taste better. In the future, I would just add more watermelon to this juice, or maybe even honey, since it is such a great natural sweetener.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Juice Day 7 & Macarons!

Inspired by my work ladies who make far more superior juices/smoothies then I, I packed my grocery cart with feel-good fruits and veggies after work today. I made an easy one to sip on before dinner, using 1/2 pint of blueberries, 2 bananas, and 1/3 cup of vanilla almond milk.

My dad came back from a business trip to Manhattan today and brought me back macarons from my favorite NYC bakery, Maison Laduree! There are two coffee, two chocolate, and one pistachio. The coffee is my favorite.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Savory Cupcakes, Part Une!

Last night I made my first attempt at a savory cupcake. I had seen a great corn muffin recipe (I would add more salt) on Smitten Kitchen the other day, but I wanted to jazz it up a little. Being a cupcake-lover, it's hard for me to make muffins because they look so naked on top! I bought some Boursin (creamy herb/garlic cheese spread), so I thought that would make the perfect 'frosting' for my cornbread 'cupcakes'. I garnished them with some corn 'sprinkles' and voilĂ !

Afterwards the man and I went out for dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, J. Alexander's, and had some lovely wine, interestingly named "The Prisoner"! It has spices and a hint of blackberries - I love the complex flavor and smell! It was the perfect wine for cozying up in a dark restaurant with a rainstorm outside :)

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Buona Festa Della Mamma!

Happy Mother's Day! I am so lucky to have such a wonderful, supportive, and loving mommy. This pic was taken in Portugal (more specifically, at Bom Jesus do Monte) back in February.

I finalized my mother's day brunch menu a week ago so I was anxious to get to the kitchen bright and early this morning!

First I made peach sangria. I had peach sangria at Carraba's a few weeks ago, and knew I wanted to re-create it at home. I loosely adapted a recipe from Epicurious. I used 3 peaches (sliced into wedges), half an orange (sliced into wedges), peach schnapps, a bottle of Chardonnay (of the Cupcake variety, of course), a split (about 1/4 of a regular bottle) of Martini Asti (Italian champagne), white sugar, and a can of pineapple juice. I mixed it all together and let it chill in the fridge, and then served with peach wedges on the rim of the wine glass.

And my new chalkboard makes it's blog debut :)

Next, I made individual baked french toast (served in ramekins), a recipe I adapted from the lovely Annie's Eats. The only additions I made were to add orange zest and a bit of orange liqueur!

Topped with diced strawberries, blueberries, powdered sugar, and a drizzle of maple syrup!

The final part of brunch were omelets with shredded cheese, cherry tomatoes and avocado! This was my first attempt at omelet making so they didn't turn out perfectly but they did taste delicious!

The complete meal....

For our late lunch I decided to keep it healthy and simple, and made oven-roasted salmon filets with roasted broccoli florets and asparagus spears. The fish, I roasted simply in olive oil, lemon juice, lemon slices, salt, and pepper. I then made a sauce to go along with the salmon, which I got from Test My Recipes. I loved the lemon creaminess of the sauce, it is very rich since it contains mayo, sour cream, and heavy cream (which I substituted for milk). I don't care for dill, so I used fresh parsley instead, which helped cut down on the richness of the sauce.

This was a simple yet refreshing, light yet hearty lunch - perfect for any lazy Sunday afternoon! I highly recommend it. 

I had picked up some delectable French pastries over at Bakery of France and they became our post-lunch time dessert.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Baby Cinnamon Pies!

I got this recipe from Gimme Some Oven and immediately liked it because 1) it's a miniature, individual dessert and 2) there is plenty of sugary goodness involved (without being overly sweet). These baked little 'pie pockets' are basically cinnamon roll flavored, as they have two delicious flaky pie crusts filled with a creamy mixture of brown sugar, tangy cream cheese, and spicy cinnamon. They are topped with a gooey drizzle made from heavy cream and powdered sugar which both looks and tastes lovely!

Warm and gooey ... definitely best served with a tall glass of milk!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Beef Tostadas!

Even though I am a little late on the Mexican food bandwagon (considering Cinco de Mayo was 3 days ago!), last night I decided to make tostadas inspired by a post I saw on Gimme Some Oven. She made hers with chicken, but I choose to use ground beef marinated in enchilada sauce (I cheated - from a can!) instead. First I brushed the corn tortillas with olive oil and crisped them up in a super hot oven. Then I spread a layer of refried beans (also from a can - but a good recipe for homemade beans can be found at Annie's Eats) and topped with shredded cheese (Mexican blend). I baked them again for a few minutes to heat up the beans and melt the cheese, then took them out and topped with shredded lettuce, avocado slices, and a heaping dollop of sour cream.  This was a big hit at home, my bf and dad definitely ate their way through this one. This dish is so pleasing because there are layers of flavors as well as so many great textures. In fact, I made it tonight too!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Italian Chicken with Asparagus!

Since I made my Pomegranate Balsamic Chicken last week, I have been thinking of other marinades I could make for chicken breasts (as well as fish, and other meats). I remember last year my friend made chicken marinated in Italian dressing and wanted to try it. Normally I am wary against anything that comes in a bottle or box, especially salad dressings and vinaigrettes, simply because its often easier (and 100x healthier) to make it yourself at home. Even the simplest dressing of olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper is delicious, healthy, and super easy to whip up at home.

However I was pressed for time on Saturday, having baked Margarita Cupcakes in the morning (after first going out to buy a bottle of tequila and telling the dumbfounded cashier it was for baking), and then went to Miami to go on a booze cruise with friends, so I needed to make a quick and substantial lunch to keep me going through the aforementioned cruise. I marinated the chicken breasts in a whole bottle of Italian dressing in the morning and then when it was time to put it in the oven, I added diced shallots, garlic, and white wine. The trick is to let it cook for a long time in the oven, the longer it roasts in the heat, the more tender it becomes as well as the more it absorbs all the flavoring liquid it is basting in. (This chicken tasted even better the next day when I served leftovers!) To accompany the chicken, I roasted asparagus on a baking sheet with olive oil, salt, pepper, and lemon. The combination made for a simple lunch!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Margarita Cupcakes!

Feliz Cinco de Mayo! I had first seen a recipe for margarita cupcakes on both Annie's Eats and Brown Eyed Baker and they both adapted the recipe from it's original source at Confections of a Foodie Bride. The recipe was perfect, with plenty of fresh lime juice and zest and some Jose Cuervo, as well as a fluffy tequila buttercream with lime zest grated on top. I was surprised at how light and fluffy the cupcake was itself, it was really perfect. I had fun with the garnishes, using maraschino cherries on cocktail picks, little cocktail umbrellas, lime slices, and freshly grated lime zest. The tequila flavor was a bit understated, but for me (very much a non-tequila-lover), they were lovely and oh so festive!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Macarons Galore!

My one true culinary love will always be the cupcake, but running a close second is definitely the delicate and intricate beauty that is a macaron. The embarrassing part of this story is that I traveled to Paris twice in my life before becoming infatuated with these fancy French cookie treats, but c'est la vie! I did however visit Maison Laduree in Manhattan last November, and it made for a glorious birthday breakfast moment!

I think macaron-making has to be one of the biggest challenges for an amateur baker. I have attempted them twice, first with Strawberry Macarons and later with Choc Espresso Macarons.

But I digress. There is a lovely 'culinary boutique' in Miami called Mr. Ganache. Last night my friends and I went out to dinner to celebrate the end of the spring semester (we are all in various stages of post-bachelor's studies) and my friends gave a wonderful box of mixed flavors of macarons that were almost too pretty to eat! Almost...

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Balsamic Chicken and Caramel Cookies!

My parents just got back from a week long trip to California. They traveled to Napa Valley, Sonoma, Sausalito, and San Francisco (I know I'm jealous!). They visited gorgeous wineries and stores, specifically this incredible one called Olivier. They brought me back a lovely pomegranate balsamic vinegar and lemon olive oil (preserved lemons inside the bottle - so cool!). I wanted to use both the liquids in a dish and found the perfect recipe from my friend's blog Test My Recipes.

The pretty bottles....

I adapted her Balsamic Chicken recipe to incorporate the pomegranate and lemon flavors, and substituted dried thyme and oregano for fresh thyme and rosemary. I am not a mustard fan, so I swapped the Dijon for some Portuguese white wine (otherwise known as 'vinho verde'). I served the chicken breasts with a side of creamed spinach and it made for a very flavorful dinner!

For dessert, I made chocolate caramel sea salt cookies from Gimme Some Oven! I added some instant espresso to kick up the chocolate flavor. These cookies are a total game-changer! I have always been a total salt fiend in my savory foods, but never gave it a second thought with baking. I have thus been converted! A sprinkle of sea salt over anything chocolatey - sold! Love the idea.