Monday, June 24, 2013

eggplant lasagna

Finally, I'm back!  I hope you've missed me, or at least my recipes! :)  Although it's only been 4 weeks, it seems like I've been away forever.  So much has changed in my life in such a short span of time...and getting acclimated took a little longer than I imagined it would.  I still feel like a stranger in a brand new unfamiliar area, but getting better at finding my way around each day.  So many exciting new places to explore!

I've now temporarily settled in to a lovely town about 25 miles north west of Atlanta.  In some ways it's similar to where I lived in Northern Virginia, a short distance from D.C., and in other ways so very different.  My entire adult life's accumulation of furnishings are sandwiched like sardines into a 10x25 climate controlled storage unit, boxes stacked 10 feet high, literally, and it's absolutely impossible to find anything!

While I house hunt, and try to secure a new job position, I'm living temporarily, and quite comfortably with my son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren in their beautiful home - with a newly finished in-law suite, and all the amenities of home…including my son's surprise the night I arrived - the MLB Network channels, so I don't miss any of my beloved Washington National's games! :)  I'm even trying to convince my 4 year old grandson, Hudson, that the Nationals are a better team to root for than the Braves.  He's not quite convinced - yet! lol

I already look forward each morning to my sweet 18 month old granddaughter's voice yelling, "Nonna!" from the top of the stairs, if I'm not in her eyesight.  Watching Charlotte get all excited as I peep around the corner is such a special joy!

Now on to food.  Lasagna.  I think I can confidently say most of us love it!  Speaking for myself, I can't eat it too often for fear of gaining weight, so the next best thing…Eggplant Lasagna.  What if I told you that half of this entire recipe is only 315 calories!  Not only is it low in fat and calories, and high in protein and fiber,  but incredibly delicious as well.

This is the newest post in my favorite healthy entrée recipes.  It's fabulous, I create it all the time…and know you will adore it as much as me!  The secret to this healthy lasagna is the layers of pasta in regular lasagna are replaced by long, thin slices of eggplant.  The cheeses are non-fat, and it's meatless, so a great vegetarian option as well. Many varieties of eggplant and tomatoes are now making their way to our Farmer's Markets…so this dish is so delectably fresh right now!

Don't steer away from this recipe because it's healthy…the appetizing flavor is not sacrificed one bit!

If you're interested in other healthy savory dishes, check under the savory tab at the top of the page.  You will find them all listed under Healthy Recipes.

Until next time…save your calories for:  Coffee Heath Bar Crunch Ice Cream…mangia! xox


Eggplant Lasagna
Servings (see Carol's notes)
Adapted from Harley Pasternak's 5-Factor Diet


5 core ingredients:
2 small eggplants, thinly sliced lengthwise (about 1/4" slices)
1 cup tomato sauce
1 pound tomatoes, thinly sliced
1 cup nonfat ricotta cheese
3/4 cup shredded nonfat mozzarella cheese
salt and fresh ground pepper
olive or canola oil cooking spray
2 tablespoons dried basil
2 tablespoons italian seasoning
shavings of parmigiano reggiano for garnish (optional)
fresh basil leaves for garnish (optional)

Create the Eggplant Lasagna:

1)  Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Season the eggplant slices with salt and pepper.  Place them on a parchment lined baking sheet and roast for 10-12 minutes, until soft and pliable.

2)  Coat a 8" x 12" or 9" x 13" glass baking dish with cooking spray and cover the bottom with eggplant slices. Ladle half of the tomato sauce over the eggplant and top with half of the tomato slices.  Sprinkle the tomatoes with 1 tablespoon of the dried basil, and 1 tablespoon of the italian seasoning, salt and ground pepper to taste. Spread half of the ricotta over the tomatoes.  Sprinkle with half the shredded mozzarella.  Repeat the layers, ending with mozzarella.

3)  Bake for 20 minutes.  Then place under the broiler until the cheese turns golden.

4)  Let it sit a room temperature for about 10 minutes to set up.  Cut into desired size portions.

Nutrition facts per serving, using recipe as written (2 servings - 1/2 of entire recipe!):  315 calories, 34 grams protein, 45 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fat, 12 grams fiber.  Weight Watchers PP:  8.

Carol's notes:

The entire recipe is for 2 servings!, which are huge portions, so I prefer to portion the lasagna into 4 servings.  To achieve the extra thick portions in a couple of the photos, I slice one of the 4 portions in half and place on top of each other.

I don't peel my eggplant, especially when they are fresh, with tender skins; however, you can peel them if you prefer.

I like to slice my tomatoes ahead, and set them in a bowl with a paper towel to absorb any liquid.  This prevents the lasagna from getting watery.

I use a 15 ounce container of nonfat ricotta, and a 7 ounce package of nonfat mozzarella cheese (1-3/4 cups). This small addition will change up the nutrition facts slightly; however, I also divide the recipe into 4 servings, rather than 2.

To easily spread the nonfat ricotta, for lack of a better description - I "plop" spoonfuls on top of the tomatoes, then "smush" them down with the back of the spoon.  It doesn't have to be perfect.

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Friday, May 24, 2013

chocolate strawberry mini-cakes with mascarpone buttercream

One of my favorite gifts last Christmas was a $50 iTunes gift card.  It took me a mere millisecond to know  exactly what I was going to use it for!  Not too long ago, Donna Hay (how much do I love her recipes and food styling!) began offering her gorgeous magazines through the iPad Newsstand.  Since most of her physical older issues are sold out, this gave me the perfect opportunity to purchase them in virtual publication form.  Having every issue at my fingertips, and the newest June/July 2013 issue downloaded the day it came out, is a food lover's instant gratification.

Ironically, my very first blog post, Blueberry and Lemon Macarpone Tart, is also a Donna Hay recipe.  This incredible, sophisticated tart is requested by my friends all the time.  The sweet shortcrust pastry is my go-to recipe nearly every time I create's delicious, and never fails!

While considering a recipe to create for the May Chocolate Party from Roxana's Home Baking, strawberries being the scrumptious ingredient to be combined with chocolate, I decided it was time to try Donna Hay's Ultimate Chocolate Cake from her October/November 2011 issue.

A deep, dark, delectably moist chocolate will satisfy the upmost chocolate cake connoisseur!    To go along with the Chocolate Party theme, I decided to add plump, red strawberries.  They incorporate a lovely seasonal sweetness, and give the cake a charming touch, without adding much extra work.  When serving, you can slice the cake in a regular manner, or remove and serve each single layer individually from the tiered cakes.

Wishing everyone a beautiful Memorial Day Weekend, remembering why we celebrate!

A final note...this original upstate New York girl, is making a big time, exciting life change!  After 31 years in Virginia, my next post will be coming to you from my new home - down south in Georgia.

Until next time...and one of my favorite, scrumptiously healthy eggplant entrées...mangia!  xox


Chocolate Strawberry Mini-Cakes with Mascarpone Buttercream
Cake Recipe adapted from Donna Hay Magazine Oct-Nov 2011
Frosting Recipe from a cup of mascarpone

Yields 2 - 4 mini-cakes depending on layers, and serves 8


for the chocolate mini-cakes:
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon Dutch cocoa 
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon hot water
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon sour cream
3/4 cups (1 1/2 sticks butter), room temperature
1 1/8 cups superfine sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups flour, sifted
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon of salt (if using unsalted butter)

for the mascarpone frosting:
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup mascarpone
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3 1/2 cups confectioners sugar, sifted
2-3 teaspoons milk
9 - 10 strawberries, sliced (for layering and garnish)

Create the Chocolate Strawberry Mini-Cakes with Mascarpone Buttercream:

for the mini-cakes:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Spray 4 - 4" mini-springform or mini-cake pans, and set aside (I used pans like these.

Place the cocoa and hot water in a bowl and whisk until smooth.  Add the sour cream into the cocoa mixture, and whisk to combine.  Set aside.  Place the butter, sugar and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat for 4 minutes, or until pale and creamy. Gradually add the eggs and beat well to combine.  Set the mixer to low speed, add the cocoa mixture, flour, and baking soda.  Beat until well combined.

Divide the mixture between the prepared 4 mini-pans.  Bake for 30 - 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool cakes in pans for 10 minutes, and turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

When completely cooled, trim the tops from the cakes to create a flat surface.  Slice each cake evenly into 2 horizontal slices.  This will yield 8 slices, which you can layer in any way you wish.  (I created 2 cakes with 3 layers, and 1 cake with 2 layers.)

for the mascarpone frosting:
Cream together the butter and mascarpone on medium-high speed until smooth and creamy, add in vanilla. Gradually add in the sugar on low speed until all combined, increase speed to medium.  Add in milk, one teaspoon at a time to reach desired consistency.  Beat until light and fluffy.

layering the mini-cakes:
Set sliced strawberries on a paper towel to absorb any excess liquid.  Using a small frosting spatula, spread each cake layer with mascarpone buttercream.  You don't have to be perfect - that's the beauty of this type of cake.  Place sliced strawberries on top of frosting.  You will be able to fit 4 or 5 slices.  Repeat this process with remaining layers.

For garnishing the top layer, you can arrange with additional sliced strawberries, or a chocolate covered strawberry!

Carol's note:

I cut the original recipe in half to create my mini-cakes.  If you want to make an 8" or 9" regular size layered cake, double my recipe above.

Be sure to click the frog link at the bottom of my post to view all the talented blogger's May #chocolateparty Chocolate & Strawberry creations!

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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

banana-pumpkin bread

As I stand in line at my local Starbuck's each morning waiting to announce my order, I always glance at the sweets case filled with breads, scones, and muffins, to see if they have anything new.  I have developed an excellent restraint from buying a treat with my non-fat latte; however, I stand there dreaming of ways I can develop some of their appetizing selections.

A couple months ago, I noticed the freshly piled platter of banana nut bread, sitting alongside the now year-round (smart move) pumpkin bread.  Adoring both of them, my mind started thinking of how delicious they would taste combined into one bread - a banana-pumpkin bread!

As I tend to do when I'm on a mission, came home and searched the internet for a recipe to adapt.  I found one from King Arthur Flour, a favorite source for recipes, and another from a delightful blogger friend, Kim, from Liv Life.  After creating the recipe twice, I took parts I liked from both, which came together into a very healthy, scrumptious Banana-Pumpkin Bread.

The bread is extremely moist, and full of delectable flavor!  It was suggested by KAF when completely cooled, to wrap in plastic wrap, and serve the following morning.  (I also refrigerated it.)  I didn't do this the first time, and it made such a difference in my second loaf.  The flavors blend together so nicely overnight.  I look forward to any do ahead recipes, so this definitely meets that criteria.

I was having a couple friends over for an afternoon coffee, and decided to play "dress-up"  with my banana-pumpkin bread for the occasion.  I used one of my classic stand-by cream cheese frosting recipes, and prior to my girlfriends arrival, liberally frosted the bread.  Down the center of the frosted bread, I piled cut banana slices from two bananas, and sprinkled chopped walnuts along the sides.  I completed it all with a colorful, fresh mint leaf stem.  The bread is totally delicious on its own, but the dressing up creates a beautiful specialty!

Until next time...mangia!  xox


Banana-Pumpkin Bread
Yield:  1 loaf


for the bread:
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup plain greek yogurt
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons honey
2 large eggs
1 cup pureed pumpkin (I used Libby's 100% Pure Pumpkin)
1 cup ripe mashed banana, the riper the better
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour or premium whole wheat flour (I used KAF premium whole wheat)
3 tablespoons ground flax meal (optional)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
1 tablespoon turbinado (raw) sugar for sprinkling on top (or use frosting recipe)

for a cream cheese frosting topping:  (optional)
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
chopped walnuts and sliced bananas for garnish (optional)
fresh mint leaf stem (optional)

Create the Banana-Pumpkin Bread:

1)  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease or spray an 8 1/2" x 4 1/2" bread pan.

2)  In a large bowl, beat together the oil, yogurt, sugar, honey, eggs, pumpkin, banana, orange juice, and vanilla.

3)  In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, ground flax meal, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.  Sprinkle the walnuts over the top, if using.  Fold the dry ingredients into the banana pumpkin mixture, and mix just until combined.

4)  Spoon the mixture into the prepared bread pan, sprinkle with the turbinado sugar (if not using frosting), and allow to rest for 15 minutes before placing in oven.

5)  Bake for 53 - 58 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  (The bread in my photos took 55 minutes.)  Remove from the oven and cool on rack in pan for 10 - 15 minutes.  Remove from the pan and continue cooling on rack.  When completely cooled, wrap in plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator.  Best served the following day.

Create the Cream Cheese Frosting (if using):

In a stand mixer, cream the butter and cream cheese until smooth.  Beat in 1 teaspoon vanilla.  Add confectioners sugar, and beat on low speed until combined, then on high speed until frosting is smooth. Spread over top of completely cooled bread.  Garnish with bananas, chopped nuts and fresh mint leaf stem, just before serving, if desired.

Carol's notes:
  • If you wish, in place of 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour, you can use 1 cup of whole wheat flour, and 1/2 cup of all-purpose flour.
  • Frost and garnish the bread prior to serving.  I made the entire cream cheese recipe above, and had a small amount remaining.  If you don't want it as thick as I created it, you can easily cut the recipe in half.
  • The bread freezes very well, with or without the frosting.  For an individual serving, with a sharp knife, slice from the frozen loaf, and allow it to thaw at room temperature for about 30 minutes.

Bread recipe adapted from King Arthur Flour and Liv Life.  The Cream Cheese Frosting is from A Cup Of Mascarpone's basic recipes.

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Tuesday, May 07, 2013

chocolate hazelnut shortbread

Nutella...dark chocolate...shortbread...OH MY!!!

As a longtime follower of the unrivaled blog, Yummy Mummy Kitchen, the day Marina Delio's cookbook, The Yummy Mummy Kitchen, was released, I was in my kitchen patiently waiting, and listening for the sound of the UPS truck. I knew the truck would be carrying my much anticipated, pre-ordered copy from Amazon.

I anxiously ripped open the box!  I was immediately drawn to the front cover and "100 Effortless And Irresistible Recipes To Nourish Your Family With Style And Grace," which couldn't have been expressed more appropriately! Style and grace...not only describes the cookbook, but also the author!  A hand-signed bookplate from Marina (see bottom of post), which she graciously sent everyone with verification of their pre-order, arrived a few days later, and adorns the beautiful grass green inside front cover!

I literally created this "yummy" shortbread the day of my cookbook's arrival.  A simple recipe, with ingredients already in my pantry, I put the rolls of dough in the fridge to chill, and went right back to browsing the gorgeous cookbook!  Did you notice I said rolls?  As in two!  I doubled the recipe, knowing it was going to be fabulous, and had someone in mind to surprise with a special sophisticated baked gift!

Placing all the ingredients in a bowl, and mixing them up with my hands, as instructed, what a pleasure it was cleaning off my fingers afterwards!  Yum!!  The following morning, I removed the rolls from the fridge, sliced and baked!

Created with a couple of my best-loved ingredients, in one of my favorite cookie varieties, the distinctive hazelnut flavor of Nutella, the smooth, creamy chunks of deep, dark chocolate, and the tinge of saltiness from the fleur de sel (or sea salt), make this shortbread unforgettable.

Chocolate Hazelnut Shortbread is absolutely delightful...for the most elegant of occasions, a lovely gift, or to accompany an afternoon cup of espresso.

Until next time...mangia!  xox


Chocolate Hazelnut Shortbread
Makes about 15 cookies


1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup nutella
1 ounce or 1/4 cup dark chocolate, chopped (I used Scharffen Berger 62% Cacao Dark Chocolate)
1 teaspoon fleur de sel, or a good-quality course sea salt

Create the Chocolate Hazelnut Shortbread:

In a medium bowl, mix all the ingredients together with your hands.  Shape into a 2-inch wide log on a large piece of plastic wrap.  Tightly wrap and refrigerate over-night, or at least 2-3 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.  Using a sharp knife, cut the log into 1/4-inch slices.  Place the slices on the cookie sheet and bake for 8 to 10 minutes.  The cookies should be just set, not crisp.  Cool on a wire rack.

Carol's note:

After taking my photos, I tried a little something extra.  Having a bottle of Frangelico on hand, an Italian hazelnut liqueur, I decided to create a Frangelico glaze, and drizzled it on half of my doubled recipe.  This is definitely not necessary, but an added sweet deliciousness to the shortbread, for a little change of pace! :)

1 cup confectioners sugar
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon Frangelico
1 tablespoon milk (or another tablespoon Frangelico)

Whisk all ingredients together in a bowl.  Add a little more or less of the dry or liquid ingredients to reach a desired consistency.  Place the shortbread on a wire rack with parchment underneath to catch the drippings.  Drizzle the Frangelico glaze over the shortbread, and allow to dry.

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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

key lime curd & mascarpone tartlets

In the small town of The Plains, Virginia, about 8 minutes from my front door, the legendary Virginia Gold Cup takes place each year on the first Saturday in May.  This year will be the 88th running of this steeplechase race tradition, always on the same day as the Kentucky Derby.  Over 50,000 spectators come to beautiful Fauquier County from all around the metropolitan DC area, and beyond, dressed in their finest dresses, hats, suits and bow ties.  It's the social event of the spring! 

Obviously, with any splendid social event comes food!  Gorgeous spreads of food, drinks and beautifully decorated tables, are found in the sponsored tents and tailgating spots throughout Great Meadow.

This year, although being held a day before Cinco de Mayo, a friend is having a "key lime theme" - everything key limes.  What fun!  My contribution to this delightful cuisine theme are my colorful and luscious key lime curd & mascarpone tartlets!  I took photos for the blog during a trial run a few weeks ago, so I have the pleasure of enjoying them twice!

Key lime curd's beautiful shade of yellow, with its tangy flavor, and the creamy, sweetened texture from delicious mascarpone cheese, are blended together and encased in a free-formed, sweet shortcrust pastry shell.  These tartlets are unforgettable!  Hope you agree!

Until next time...mangia! xox


Key Lime Curd & Mascarpone Tartlets
Yield:  Key Lime Curd - approximately 2 cups / Tartlets - 24


for the key lime curd:
6 egg yolks (reserve whites for another use - I use them for egg white omelets)
1 cup granulated sugar
zest from 1 lb. bag of key limes
1/2 cup fresh key lime juice (juice yielded from the same 1 lb. bag of key limes)
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces

for the sweet shortcrust pastry:
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1/2 cup plus 1 tsp cold butter, chopped
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
3 egg yolks (reserve whites for another use)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon iced water

for the key lime curd & mascarpone filling:
key lime curd (approximately 2 cups)
8 ounce container of a good mascarpone (drained of any liquid)
heaping 1/2 cup sifted confectioners sugar
additional 1/8 cup confectioners sugar for dusting tartlets (optional)
mint leaves for garnish (optional)

Create the Key Lime Curd & Mascarpone Tartlets:

prepare the key lime curd:
In a bowl, whisk together until smooth, the egg yolks and sugar.  Whisk in the zest and juice from the key limes.  In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, add the whisked mixture, and the 1/2 cup of butter pieces.  Continue to watch and stir often with a heat proof spatula.  Do not leave unattended.  Continue cooking and stirring until mixture begins to thicken, about 15 minutes, or until a thermometer reaches 170 degrees F.  If you are not using a thermometer, test doneness with the back of a wooden spoon.  It should coat the spoon, and if you run your finger through it, it should leave a clear path on the spoon.  The curd will continue to thicken as it cools.

Pour the curd through a strainer over a bowl, then pour into jar(s).  The strainer will catch any of the remaining zest or congealed egg.  Cool to room temperature, seal jar(s), and store in refrigerator for 2-3 weeks.

prepare the sweet shortcrust pastry:
Place the flour, butter, and confectioners sugar in the bowl of a food processor and process in short bursts until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.  While the motor is running, add the egg yolks and vanilla.  Add the iced water and process until the dough just comes together.  Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and bring together to form a ball.  Flatten into a two equally sized discs, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.  Preheat over to 350 degrees F.  Roll one of the pastry discs out between 2 sheets of parchment paper to approximately 1/8" thick.  With a round shaped cookie cutter, large enough to line the cups of a mini cupcake pan, cut 12 circles.  Repeat with the other disc.  Line a lightly greased mini cupcake pan(s) with the 24 pastry circles. Free form each circle into each cup.  Prick the base of each with a fork.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes.  Line each cup with mini cupcake papers, fill with ceramic pie weights (or rice or dry beans) and bake for 9 minutes.  Remove the weights and papers (be careful-hot!), and bake for an additional 8 - 9 minutes or until golden.  Set aside to cool.

prepare the key lime curd & mascarpone filling:
In a bowl, mix together the key lime curd and mascarpone.  Add in a heaping 1/2 cup sifted confectioners sugar and mix until smooth and creamy.  Cover with plastic wrap, and set in the refrigerator to chill until ready to fill the tartlet shells.

assemble the tartlets:
Fill each tart shell with the key lime curd & mascarpone filling, about 2 teaspoons.  Loosely cover the plate of tarts with plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator until ready to serve, up to 24 hours ahead.  Lightly dust with confectioners sugar and garnish with a mint leaf just prior to serving, if desired.  The tartlets keep well for several days in the refrigerator, but trust me, they will not last that long!

Carol's notes:
  • This is a wonderful make ahead recipe!  The curd can be made up to a week ahead or more.  The tartlet shells can be made a day ahead.  The tartlets can be assembled a day ahead and kept chilled in refrigerator until ready to serve.
  • I used a 2:1 ratio for the filling - 2 cups curd:1 cup mascarpone to get more key lime flavor.  You can use a ratio of your choosing, or just curd alone.
  • If you prefer, just make the key lime curd!  Use it to spread on hot scones, toast, fill cupcakes, line layers of cake, add to oatmeal, or eat by the spoonful! ;)  You may choose to create a different size tart as well!  Use your imagination, and have fun!
  • You will have enough filling for approximately 36 tartlet shells.  You can make an additional 1/2 pastry recipe, or use it in the same ways mentioned for the curd.
  • When looking to buy your key limes, look for a yellowish color or yellow spots on the skin.  This color shows they were picked ripened on the tree.  If they are dark green, they were picked too early - still fine to use, but may be a bit more bitter.

The Sweet Shortcrust Pastry recipe is adapted from Donna Hay.  This delicious pastry was also used in my Blueberry and Lemon Mascarpone Tart found here.

The Key Lime Curd and Key Lime Curd & Mascarpone filling are a cup of mascarpone's own recipes.

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Monday, April 22, 2013

strawberry mascarpone dream filled cupcakes

Feeling like I'm visiting a farmer's market as I enter my grocery store these days, mounds of containers full of beautiful, succulent, red strawberries from California greet me.  I pick up several containers looking for the reddest, sweetest berries.  The grocery store fruit/produce stocker never gets mad that I'm disrupting his beautiful display, in fact, usually helps me, pointing out "here's a good one!"  He's aware of A Cup of Mascarpone, and is always eager to assist.  Love his customer service!

Now for the exciting news that will include strawberries, and my favorite disposable bakeware!  Welcome Home brands contacted me recently, asking if I would like to work with them on a giveaway of their fabulous, free standing, paper bakeware products...did they even have to ask?!!!  I love these things!  Beautifully decorated bake and serve pieces, no pre-greasing or pans to clean up, oven safe to 400 degrees, and a delightful way to gift your baked goods!  I can't tell you how many of my Starbucks Copycat Gingerbread Loaves I gave as gifts last Christmas...all so lovingly baked and received!

Brainstorming what to create, my thoughts went directly to strawberries.  Readily available from now through early summer, I thought they would be the perfect lovely ingredient to use in a recipe.  Ironically, after perusing and testing many recipes to select the best one ever for my very first giveaway, the recipe I eagerly decided on uses frozen strawberries.  So, you can buy fresh strawberries and freeze them first, or use already frozen whole strawberries...your choice.

A Strawberry Dream Cake recipe from the June/July 2011 issue of Cook's Country Magazine was what I decided on.  You can never go wrong Christopher Kimball!  Instead of making the two layer cake, I baked up scrumptious cupcakes utilizing the beautiful, pink and ecru designed cupcake baking cups from Welcome Home brands.  I adore their accordion style pull apart cups, that don't leave the normal indentations in the cake, visible from regular baking cups!  Plus, the paper decor doesn't disappear in the baking process!

The strawberry dream cupcakes may literally be the moistest, lightest, wonderful strawberry flavored cupcakes I have ever tasted!  A tender crumb, undoubtedly from using cake flour over all-purpose flour, with no artificial colors or flavors, I can't express enough how scrumptious they are.  I have to admit, you can actually view their deliciousness by looking in to the center of the cupcake in my photos!

Also changing things up a bit, I created my own strawberry mascarpone frosting which is absolutely divine, in place of Cook's Country cream cheese frosting.  My frosting turned out so incredibly decadent, with the whipped strawberry essence, butter, and creamy mascarpone, it required more than just frosting the dream cupcakes alone.  That's how the filling came about!

In addition to my Strawberry Mascarpone Dream Filled Cupcakes, A Cup of Mascarpone has three previous posts using the fantastic oven safe paper bakeware from Welcome Home brands. If you've missed them, click the post name below the following photos and it will take you directly to the recipes.  ...and, you will be able to create any of these recipes using the paper bakeware in either of the two giveaways!

I would love to hear from you if you create the glorious strawberry mascarpone filled dream cupcakes!  Enjoy the following 2 giveaways from Welcome Home brands and A cup of Mascarpone, as much as I have enjoyed presenting them to you!

Until next time...mangia! xox


GIVEAWAY #1 and #2 DETAILS (2 ways to win! - enter both giveaways):
Open to the US only.  Giveaway ends on Monday, April 29th, at 12:00 a.m. Eastern time.

Giveaway #1 - first photo below:
Enter through Rafflecopter below.
Randomly selected winner will receive 1 pkg. of 6 loaf baking pans from the Festive Collection, 1 pkg. of 12 baking cups from the Blossom Collection, and 1 pkg. of 12 mini loaf baking pans from the Fine Check Collection.  Winner will receive an email.  If no response is received in 48 hours, another winner will be selected.

Giveaway #2 - second photo below:
Enter by becoming a follower of A Cup of Mascarpone's blog (join this site with google friend connect - top right section of blog), and leave a comment below with your follower name (current followers just indicate your current follower name).
Randomly selected winner will receive 4 pkgs. of 12 mini loaf pans, 1 pkg. of 12 baking cups, and 1 pkg. of 30 baking cups, colors and designs as shown in photo.  This will come directly from A Cup of Mascarpone, and winner will be announced on my next blog post, and also on my Facebook page.  If no response is received within 48 hours, another winner will be selected.

Top photo:  Giveaway #1 - entering with Rafflecopter (giveaway from Welcome Home brands)
Bottom photo:  Giveaway #2 - enter by becoming a follower of A Cup of Mascarpone's blog, and leave a comment below with your user name.  (giveaway from A Cup of Mascarpone)
Disclosure:  This giveaway is sponsored by Welcome Home brands.  All opinions expressed are my own.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Strawberry Mascarpone Dream Filled Cupcakes
Yield:  11 cupcakes (with Welcome Home Brand Stand Alone Cupcake Papers)


for the cupcakes:
10 ounces frozen whole strawberries (2 cups)
3/4 cup whole milk, room temperature
6 large egg whites, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups cake flour (see Carol's notes below on how to make your own)
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces and softened (1 1/2 sticks)

for the strawberry mascarpone buttercream filling and frosting:
reserved strawberry solids from cupcakes
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened (1 stick)
8 ounces mascarpone cheese (drained of any liquid in container)
2 1/4 cups confectioners sugar (a little extra, if needed, for frosting to reach a good consistency)

for the garnish:
11 tops from whole fresh strawberries

Create the Strawberry Mascarpone Dream Filled Cupcakes:

create the cupcakes:
1.  Place oven rack in middle position and pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.  Place 11 Welcome Home Brands Stand Alone Cupcake Liners on a large rimmed cookie sheet, set aside.

2.  Transfer strawberries to bowl, cover, and microwave until strawberries are soft and have released their juice, about 4 - 5 minutes.  Place in fine-mesh strainer set over a small saucepan.  Firmly press fruit dry (juice should measure at least 3/4 cup); reserve the strawberry solids for the filling/frosting.  Bring juice to a boil over medium-high heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until syrupy and reduced to 1/4 cup.  This will take approximately 6 - 8 minutes.  Remove from heat and whisk milk into juice until combined.

3.  Whisk strawberry milk, egg whites, and vanilla in a bowl.  Using stand mixer fitted with paddle, mix flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt on low speed until combined.  Add butter, 1 piece at a time, and mix until only pea-size pieces remain, about 1 minute.  Add half of milk mixture, increase speed to medium-high, and beat until light and fluffy, about 1 minute.  Reduce speed to medium-low, add remaining milk mixture, and beat until incorporated, about 30 seconds.  Give batter a final stir by hand with a rubber spatula.

4.  Divide equal amounts of batter into each cupcake paper and bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 20 to 24 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking.  Cool cupcakes on pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Remove cupcakes from pan to wire rack, and cool completely, at least 2 hours.  The cooled cupcakes can be wrapped with plastic wrap and stored at room temperature or in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.  I prefer keeping mine in the fridge, since they become easier to core out centers and frost.

create the filling/frosting:
Using stand mixer fitted with paddle, mix butter and sugar on low speed until combined, about 30 seconds. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Add mascarpone, and beat until combined, about 1 minute.  Add reserved strawberry solids and pinch of salt and mix on low until combined, about 30 seconds.  Refrigerate for 2 hours, or until ready to use, up to 2 days.

fill, frost, and garnish the cupcakes:
1.  Remove the top 1/4, with greens and stems, of each fresh strawberry and set on paper towels to dry.  This is done so the strawberries won't leak juice on the frosting.  Set aside.

2.  Using a cupcake corer/or apple corer, gently press and remove the center of the cupcake, push out the round from the corer, and repeat with each cupcake.  It's perfectly ok to eat the rounds as you continue. ;)

3.  Fill a disposable pastry bag with about 1/3 of the frosting and pipe in each hollowed out cupcake center.  It's fine if it comes out the cored center, since you will be frosting the top in the next step.

4.  Frost each cupcake with a small bent icing knife, or desired frosting utensil.  Set a strawberry top on each cupcake for garnish.  Serve.  You can also refrigerate cupcakes for 2 days, and serve chilled or at room temperature.  I prefer this delicious strawberry cupcake chilled.

Carol's notes:

If you don't have cake flour, or don't want to buy a whole bag of it, here is how to make your own, (which is what I always do):  for each 1 level cup of all-purpose flour, remove 2 tablespoons of the flour, and add 2 tablespoons of cornstarch.  For the 1/4 cup flour, remove 1 1/2 teaspoons flour, and add 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch.  Put the 2 1/4 cups cake flour you have just made in a bowl and whisk to mix together.  The primary difference in cake flour and all-purpose flour is the protein content.  Cake flour is about 8% protein, where AP flour is about 10-11%.  PLEASE use cake flour, and not AP flour for this recipe, for the excellent results it provides.

If you prefer, you can make approximately 12-14 regular cupcakes, or 2 cake layers.  If so, prepare a regular size cupcake pan with paper liners, or 2 - 9" cake pans, and follow directions above adjusting cooking times as needed. The frosting recipe will be enough to frost the additional cupcakes, or the two layer cake.

Cupcakes adapted from a cake recipe from Cook's Country Magazine (June/July 2011 issue).
Filling/Frosting is a cup of mascarpone's own creation.

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Friday, April 12, 2013

ultimate mac 'n' cheese with butternut squash & broccoli florets

Happy Friday!  I've heard lots of wonderful feedback from many readers who have been enjoying my best-loved healthy entrées, cooked during the regular course of my weekly meals.  Today I have one of my brand spanking new creations! Since first making Ultimate Mac 'n' Cheese to taste-test for the first time in early March, I have now created it three times!  Does that tell you how much I love it!

We all enjoy the comfort of digging into a big, beautiful bowl of steaming hot, baked macaroni and melting cheese, but tend to stay away to keep our waistlines semi in check!  The recipe I'm bringing you will give the memories of that hard to resist comfort food classic - in a slimmed-down version that is authentic, creamy, and decadent!!!  You will never think of macaroni and cheese as a stay away from food again.  Let me know if you agree after trying it yourself!  Oh, and with all the calories you're saving from this nutritious meal, definitely enjoy a class of wine with your serving. ;)

If you're new to a cup of mascarpone, here are my previous healthy entrées I've featured.  They are sandwiched in between my delectable sweet and savory posts, and are all delicious!  Just click the recipe name, and it will take you directly to the post.

Wishing you all a beautiful weekend!

Until next time...and "strawberry dream mascarpone filled cupcakes" (with a giveaway)...mangia!  xox


Ultimate Healthy Mac 'n' Cheese with Butternut Squash & Broccoli Florets
Serves 8


1 cup cubed butternut squash or 1/2 cup thawed frozen cooked butternut squash
1 cup steamed broccoli florets
3 cups multigrain elbow macaroni (cooked al dente)
5 tablespoons grated pecorino (divided: 3 tablespoons for topping and 2 tablespoons for mac 'n' cheese)
1/3 cup panko bread crumbs
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
2 1/4 cups fat-free milk
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons light cream cheese (cut into chunks)
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1 1/2 cups shredded low-fat sharp cheddar

Create the Ultimate Healthy Mac 'n' Cheese:

1.  If using cubed butternut squash, bring squash and enough cold water to cover by 1 inch to boil in a small saucepan.  Reduce heat, cover until squash is tender, approximately 15 minutes.  Drain and transfer to a mini-food processor and puree.  (or use 1/2 cup thawed frozen cooked butternut squash)  Set aside.  Steam broccoli florets, enough to yield 1 cup steamed, and set aside.

2.  In a small bowl, mix together panko bread crumbs, 3 tablespoons pecorino, and evoo with a fork and set aside. Preheat oven broiler with rack in center of oven.  Spray a 2 1/2 quart ovenproof shallow baking dish with nonstick spray.

3.  Cook pasta, drain and set aside.  In same pot, whisk together milk and flour until smooth.  Add cut-up light cream cheese.  Cook over medium heat, whisking, until mixture comes to a boil, 5 minutes.  Whisk in salt, mustard, garlic, and cayenne.  Reduce heat, and simmer, whisking until mixture thickens, 2 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Stir in sharp cheddar, pecorino, and squash until cheeses melt.  Stir in pasta and cooked broccoli florets.

4.  Pour into prepared baking dish.  Sprinkle with topping.  Broil until bubbling, 4-5 minutes.  Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Per serving (1 cup):  307 cal, 9 g fat, 39 g total carb, 5 g sugar, 4 g fiber, 19 g protein, 309 mg calc.  Weight Watchers PointsPlus value:  8.

Carol's note:
Feel free to change up the broccoli florets in the Ultimate Mac 'n' Cheese, by adding in 1 tablespoon oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, 1/2 cup finely chopped ham, 1/2 cup thawed frozen peas, 1 cup cooked lobster, or anything else you enjoy to the basic recipe!

Recipe adapted from Weight Watchers Magazine.