Vanilla Sugar

First off, apologies for the lack of posts lately, and the lack of posts over the next week or two. I’ve been very busy with work, stuff around the house, and family & friend commitments. I do have several recipes to share with you saved off, but I just can’t seem to find the time or energy to sit down, write my posts, and upload my photos. But I promise, I’ll be back to a regular schedule soon.

I first tried vanilla sugar a year or two ago. A friend gave me some of it, not quite sure what it was (the label wasn’t in English). I love it immediately. Just a hint of vanilla that brightened up my tea and provided a lovely garnish for some scones. Since then, I’ve been stocking some in the house, mostly for tea, coffee, and a sprinkle on some baked goods. It’s ridiculously easy, keeps forever, and is a great way to extend the life of those expensive vanilla beans. When homemade, the vanilla sugar is even better than the store bought. It is flecked with little black vanilla seeds, and gives off a wonderful vanilla scent when you unseal the container. (And now I want a cup of tea, with a bit of vanilla sugar in it!)

Vanilla Sugar: Starter Set

Yields 2 Cups

Ingredients:

  • 2 c. sugar
  • 1-2 vanilla beans

Put 2 c. sugar in an airtight container.

Split the vanilla bean in half, lengthwise. Scrape out the seeds and mix them into sugar. The add the vanilla bean.

Allow to sit at least overnight before using.

Keep it going: As you use the sugar, continue to add more. Add fresh vanilla beans (seeds and bean) or, if you have the bean leftover from another recipe, just the bean. This keeps indefinitely.

Uses: Use in place of granulated sugar in baking, stir into tea or coffee, in hot chocolate mix, a sprinkle on french toast or fresh fruit

Marinara Sauce

The past couple weeks have been pretty rough. Too much work, too little sleep. Too many errands and chores, too little relaxation. So this past weekend, I promised myself that I would do what I wanted to do. I refused to do any work; I refused to do chores or errands. It was all about me.

The weekend ended up being packed. I went for a walk with a friend. I made strawberry muffins for Stampin’ Up, and at Stampin’ Up, I made Christmas cards (Christmas in August). I went out to dinner and drinks and to see Wicked in the city. And then, since I’ve been craving warm, cozy meals (hopefully thinking that the heat would finally break), I spent the day making marinara sauce, two batches of veggie lasagna, ziti with spinach and spicy Italian sausage, and homemade focaccia bread. (Stay tuned for recipes this week). This was lunch, dinner and dessert for the week as well as breakfast and lunch for the “Bakery.”

The below marinara sauce was the base for the weekend’s cooking. It’s taken me a while to perfect it. I loved my mom’s marinara sauce, but her recipe wasn’t very helpful when I first started cooking – a list of ingredients to add “to taste.” I ended up taking her recipe and a couple of others, building and adapting until I found a combination I was happy with. Now, I’ve made the sauce so many times that I really can go by taste, without a recipe, but I wrote the proportions down, just for you. The recipe is easily multiplied and freezes well.

Marinara Sauce

By Books n’ Cooks

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, small dice
  • 2 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1 28-oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 14 oz. water
  • 1 6-oz. cans tomato paste
  • 1/2 Tbs. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 1 Tbs. dried basil
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tsp. fennel seeds
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 Tbs. sugar

* May add dried parsley, red pepper flakes, additional herbs and seasonings according to preference.

In a medium-large sauce pan over medium heat, heat olive oil. Add onions and garlic, stirring and sauteing until translucent. Add crushed tomatoes, water (I fill the empty tomato can halfway with water, swirl to get remaining tomato bits), and tomato paste. Stir and let heat for a few minutes. Add remaining ingredients. When sauce is warm, taste and add additional herbs if needed. (I love the basil and fennel and typically have a heavy hand with those.)

When heated and starting to bubble, lower heat and let simmer for 2 hours. Pull out bay leaf before serving.

Candied Lemon Slices

Go Big Or Go Home

This is a big year for many of my friends – the bit 3-0. Everyone is choosing a different way to celebrate. We had a ladies weekend at the spa for the first 30th birthday of the year, enjoying massages, pedicures, wraps, and the like for one friend’s birthday. For the second and most recent birthday, another friend hosted a birthday BBQ and asked K and I to bake her cupcakes. We were excited to provide dessert for the BBQ and the three of us made a night out of baking. We had a great night munching on a tomato-mozzarella tartlet, drinking limoncello cosmopolitans (had to beg a neighbor for ice), and baking up a storm. For the celebration, we made Cosmo Cupcakes and Lemon-Limoncello Cupcakes or what K’s friend fondly dubbed “boozecakes.”

In the spirit of “go big or go home,” I decided to garnish my Limoncello Cupcakes with slices of candied lemon.  These sweets were easy to make, but did take a while. It took about two days before the syrup to dry enough for me to handle them. Completely worth it. Like any good cook, I had to try the lemon slices before serving… again and again and again. They’re very sweet, with a slightly stronger taste in the candied rind, and set on top of a cupcake, make a striking presentation. Not going to lie, I was also eating the leftover lemon syrup with a spoon (but would probably be a great addition to a hot or sweet tea or mixed drink).

 Candied Lemon Slices 

Adapted from Use Real Butter

Makes 1-3 dozen slices

Ingredients:

  • 1-3 lemons
  • 2 c. sugar
  • water

Cut lemons into thin slices, about 1/8 inch thick, 10-12 slices per lemon. If the slices tear easily, they’re too thin.

In a medium saucepan, bring water to a boil. While waiting for the water to boil, prepare an ice bath and set aside. When water is boiling, blanch lemons for 1 minute. Remove with a strainer and plunge into ice bath to stop the cooking.

In another medium saucepan (or the one you just used) over medium heat, bring 1 c. water and the sugar to a boil. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Lower to a simmer and add lemon slices. Simmer for 1-2 hours (I did about 90 minutes).

As water boils, set a wire cooling rack over a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil.

With a set of tongs, remove slices from syrup, allowing excess sugar to drop off, and set on a wire rack to dry. This may take up to 48 hours.

Raspberry Sauce

Raspberry Sauce

Adapted from Ina Garten, Barefoot Contessa Family Style

  • 1 c. seedless raspberry jelly
  • 3 half-pints fresh raspberries

To make the topping, melt the jelly in a small pan over low heat. In a bowl, toss the raspberries and the warm jelly gently until well mixed.

Serve over cheesecake, a chocolate torte (like this chocolate mousse cake), pancakes, or biscuits. If you have any other suggestions, please share!

Chicken Scaloppini Saltimbocca

Chicken Scaloppini Saltimbocca is a lighter pasta dish that is delicious year round. Lean chicken breasts, salty proscuitto, and fresh sage are sauteed before being added to spaghetti and tossed in a light Marsala wine sauce. Serve with a side salad or some crusty French bread for a satisfying meal.

Chicken Scaloppini Saltimbocca is a lighter pasta dish that is delicious year round. Lean chicken breasts, salty proscuitto, and fresh sage are sauteed before being added to spaghetti and tossed in a light Marsala wine sauce. Serve with a side salad or some crusty French bread for a satisfying meal.

I’m the type of person that can eat pasta all year round. Maybe it’s my Italian roots, but pasta is never off the table as a dinner option. While pasta with meat sauce (my lazy version of bolognese) is the most common pasta I make because it’s super easy and doesn’t require a lot of handson time (essential for weeknight cooking), I do love to experiment with other recipes.

This recipe is a long-time family favorite of ours. It is a bit lighter than the tomato-based sauces I favor, making it perfect for any time of the year. In fact, I make it most frequently during the summer when my garden is producing more sage than I know what to do with. This recipe cooks up fairly quick, is forgiving in the quantities of ingredients used, and is bright with flavor. It also scales really well, when we are entertaining and need to feed a crowd. Besides, a little leftovers never hurt – they never last long in my house.

Chicken Scaloppini Saltimbocca is a lighter pasta dish that is delicious year round. Lean chicken breasts, salty proscuitto, and fresh sage are sauteed before being added to spaghetti and tossed in a light Marsala wine sauce. Serve with a side salad or some crusty French bread for a satisfying meal.

Tip: Preserve Summer Sage

This particular recipe does well with fresh or frozen sage. When my herbs are overflowing in the summer (or maybe you just didn’t finish the package you had bought for another recipe), I trim the plants back and freeze the sage leaves to be used in this recipe and others (i.e. these Blood Orange Sage Vodka Sodas).

To freeze, place sage – cleaned with stems removed – in a single layer on a wax or parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Freeze for 24-48 hours. Transfer to an airtight freezer bag and store in the freezer until further use.

To use, remove sage from freezer. Chop when still frozen. Use in recipe as directed (still frozen or defrosted are both fine.)

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Chicken Scaloppini Saltimbocca

Chicken Scaloppini Saltimbocca

Chicken Scaloppini Saltimbocca is a lighter pasta dish that is delicious year round. Lean chicken breasts, salty proscuitto, and fresh sage are sauteed before being added to spaghetti and tossed in a light Marsala wine sauce. Serve with a side salad or some crusty French bread for a satisfying meal.

Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Servings 6
Calories 583 kcal
Author Liz

Ingredients

  • 1/2 c. white cornmeal
  • 1 Tbs. Herbes de Provence
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
  • 1 to 1 1/2 lb. chicken cutlets cut into chunks (or, pounded thinly and then sliced)
  • 2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 oz. proscuitto, small dice
  • 1/3 c. chopped fresh or frozen sage
  • 1 16-oz. box spaghetti
  • 1/2 c. dry Marsala wine
  • 1/2 c. low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/4 c. unsalted butter

Instructions

  1. Mix cornmeal, Herbes de Provence, salt and pepper in a large ziplock bag. Seal and shake to mix thoroughly. Add chicken and shake again, ensuring that all pieces are coated.
  2. Heat olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Add chicken, prosciutto, and sage. Saute.
  3. Meanwhile, start boiling a pot of water for the spaghetti, and cook according to package. If finished before the chicken, toss with a little bit of extra olive oil and keep warm.

  4. When chicken is browned and cooked, add Marsala wine, chicken broth, and butter. Cook for 10 minutes, reducing slightly.

  5. Toss chicken and sauce with spaghetti.
  6. Serve hot sprinkled with freshly grated Parmesan cheese, if desired, with a side of French Bread and Sage Butter (recipe below).

Recipe Notes

  • Nutrition calculated using 1 1/2 lb. chicken breast.
  • Feel free to adjust quantities of chicken, sage, and prosciutto to taste. I like more sage and prosciutto than the original recipe calls for, but tend to use whatever is in a package.

This recipe was adapted from Veal Scaloppini Saltimbocca in Bon Appetit, Sept 2002.

Chicken Scaloppini Saltimbocca by Books n Cooks - Chicken Scaloppini Saltimbocca is a lighter pasta dish that is delicious year round. Lean chicken breasts, salty pancetta, and fresh sage are sauteed before being added to spaghetti and tossed in a light Marsala wine sauce.

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Chicken or Veal Scaloppini Saltimbocca

Bon Appetit Sept 2002

Ingredients:

§ 6 oz. spaghetti

§ 2 Tbs. olive oil

§ ½ c. white cornmeal

§ 1 Tbs. herbes de Provence*

§ ½ tsp. salt

§ ¼ tsp. pepper

§ 4 3-oz chicken or veal cutlets, pounded thin (or thinly sliced and then cut into chunks)

§ ½ c. thinly chopped prosciutto

§ 1 Tbs. chopped fresh sage

§ 1/2 c. dry Marsala (Florio brand recommended)

§ 1/2 c. low-salt chicken broth

§ ¼ c. butter

Cook spaghetti in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender. Drain & toss with oil. Keep warm.

Mix cornmeal, herbes de Provence, salt & pepper in a bag. Coat chicken/veal with cornmeal mixture.

Heat remaining 1 Tbs. oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Add chicken/veal, prosciutto, and sage. Sauté.

Add marsala wine, chicken broth and butter. Reduce.

Serve over spaghetti.


* A combination of herbs typically including basil, fennel, lavender, marjoram or mint, rosemary, savory, sage, and thyme. Variations may include additional herbs (such as bay leaf, peppercorns, orange peel, and tarragon). These are all herbs grown in the Provence region of France and the herb mixture is used to flavor fish, meats, olives, potatoes, stews, soups, and sauces.

Ingredient Substitutions: For 2 tbsp herbs de Provence substitute the following mixture:

§ 4 tsp each dried thyme and marjoram

§ 1 1/2 tsp summer savory

§ 1/4 tsp dried rosemary and mint

§ 1/8 tsp fennel seeds

§ Pinch each of dried sage an lavender flowers