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Entries in Eat Like a Iaciofano (2)

Tuesday
Apr072015

Eat Like a Iaciofano — Toby

Toby was my first pet, if you don't count the occasional goldfish. I found him on Petfinder.com from this photo:

I could talk about the kind of dog Toby was, but as this is a food blog I feel that it's most appropriate to do this by telling you what he liked to eat.

It might be easier to numerate the things he didn't find appetizing. Toby was a stray, so he always behaved like each meal was unexpected - scarfing down his dog food in big gulps, barely breathing or chewing.

Just like a Iaciofano.

When I walked Toby, I would have to scan the streets for anything remotely edible, lest he injest something really unsavory. Sometimes I want to follow The Box around in this manner, shaking a finger and exclaiming, "Ah-ah!" just as some questionable morsel is about to cross his lips.

Alas.

In spite of Toby's penchant for "street food", he was a dog of some refined tastes. His favorite by far were French fries. He once turned up his nose at a batch of imposter toaster fries. He wanted the real thing.

Perhaps because of this food preference, I started referring to Toby as, "M. Pamplemousse," and speaking for him in an atrocious French accent. "M. Pamplemousse" means "Mr. Grapefruit." It's the only French word I know. Interestingly, I never investigated as to whether or not Toby actually liked grapefruits.

Another favorite were apples. He especially enjoyed these in his later days, taking slices gingerly from my hand and trotting off to eat them in a private corner of the Iaciofano TV room.

Blueberries were another fruity preference. A week before he died, I baked him a special batch of tiny blueberry muffins which he very much enjoyed (recipe at the end of this post).

He liked to lick an empty ice cream bowl (who doesn't?), always received his own small portion of Iaciofano family holiday dinners,

developed a taste for Italian cured sausage and provolone cheese (thanks to The Box), and once tried to launch himself on a candy-apple Thanksgiving turkey that I made for Thanksgiving.

Toby and I were together for 14 of his 16 years. Even though he was 16 and his kidneys were declining, I never expected him to leave me. To say that I miss him very much is an understatement. I miss not only the actual dog that Toby was — his energy, quirky personality, piercing PTSD-inducing bark — but also what he represented: a companion that embodied a childlike playfulness and enthusiasm for the world.

I've taken this last piece of Toby and translated it into a character. His name is:

Pecorino is the ultimate trusty sidekick for my own character:

Zaza is a ten year old version of myself. Together, Pecorino and Zaza travel the world, searching for the Perfect Pie. 

Pizza, that is.

I'm hoping the two of them will have many adventures together, small dog and little girl, ever curious and looking to paint a little magic into their lives with pizza.

I'm also hoping you'll be able to follow their adventures very soon.

Rest in peace, Toby. 

Recipe for Mini Blueberry Muffins, Suitable for Small Dogs and All-Sized People

Ingredients:

1-1/2 cups almond meal

½ cup coconut flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon baking powder

1-1/2 teaspoons sea salt

3/4 cups turbinado sugar

1 pint blueberries

3 eggs

½ cup almond milk (you may need more)

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil (I used Colavita)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Process:

Heat your oven to 350°F.

Place the blueberries in a blender with the almond milk and puree until very smooth - so smooth you could drink it. I reserved a few blueberries to press into the tops of the muffins, but this is optional.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the almond flour, coconut flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and turbinado sugar. Mix all dry ingredients together.

In a separate mixing bowl, whisk the eggs, olive oil and vanilla extract.

Add the puréed blueberries to the egg mixture and mix to combine. Pour the wet ingredients into the mixing bowl with all of the dry ingredients and stir until combined. If the mixture seems dry, add some more almond milk. Coconut flour tends to absorb a lot of liquid, so adding more milk is totally fine.

Prepare a cupcake tin by lining with cupcake paper or greasing with non-stick baking spray.

Pour the batter into the prepared cupcake tins and press any remaining blueberries into the tops of the muffins.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of one of the cupcakes comes out clean. If you are using mini muffin tins, you only need to bake them for about 12-15 minutes.

Allow the cupcakes to cool.

Share them with a small dog near you.

Monday
Dec152014

Eat Like a Iaciofano - Christmas Cookies!

Season's Greetings, readers!

How's everyone's holiday shopping coming along? That good, yes? Excellent.

I've managed to make more cookies than purchases this year, and that's been a conscious effort. I've been finding it fascinating to focus on my family's eating habits, especially as they revolve around holiday traditions.

You know when you have a group of caged animals at the zoo? Like lions? And then a zoo keeper throws in some raw meat and CHAOS ensues? Welcome to Christmas cookie time at Iaciofano HQ.

Russian Tea CakesI talked about some of these habits before. It does seem that for a family of four, the Iaciofanos make and consume an inordinate amount of cookie. So much so, at least on the consumption side, that Marmo has taken to hiding them. I detailed some of her favorite places here, and indeed, when I returned home this weekend for baking, she whispered in my ear, "There are biscotti in the laundry room."

Close up pizzelle actionI don't think she is fooling anyone anymore, because as baking commenced on Sunday, one or other male Iaciofano crossed the path from TV room to laundry room, emerging cookie-laden (cue Marmo, exasperated, shouting: STOP EATING THOSE!!!).

This post, recipes and corresponding flip through book (link below) stem from both my amusement at these family habits and my own cookie-making frenzy.

This weekend, Marmo and I made three types of cookie: The Russian Tea Cakes (probably my all-time favorite), Pizzelle, and some iced-gingerbread cookies. 

The iced-gingerbreads were not initally on the menu. They're not a traditional "Iach" cookie. But I had a plan.

Usually, when I have a plan the Iaciofano parentals brace themselves against said oncoming idea as one might tape down the house windows in preparation for a hurricane. It's not encouraging behavior. However, I must press on and will not be dissuaded by exasperated looks, sighs of defeat, moans of exhaustion or other nonsense.

My plan this year was to ice the gingerbread cookies to look like...wait for it....mini margherita pizzas!!

Yes? YES! 

I had first played with icing Christmas cookies here, and had much fun with it. But this time, I had an icing agenda: to make the sugary medium look like tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese and basil. 

To prep, I ordered a few things from Amazon (since I signed up for Prime, I can't stop ordering things from Amazon. I think I need a support group). I had this decorating kit, this icing mix (oh yes, I was cheating), and this pack of food coloring shipped to Iaciofano HQ.

For the recipe, I used this gingerbread cookie recipe that I had made previously, here. It's super-fantastically easy and tasty.

The cookies came out even better than I thought they would. They really looked liked pizzas! In cookie form!

I even made a pizza oven out of gingerbread.So thrilled was I, that I began excitedly snapping photos of said cookies and then everything else, including what Marmo was making for dinner: her special Lasagna Bolognese (recipe at end of post).

Marmo prepping the pan.My favorite shot of the day - steam from freshly boiled pasta.Filling in the layersReady for the oven!I have to say, her lasagna is really a masterpiece. It sports a beef-based Bolognese sauce complemented by a smooth Bechemel that is both velvety and decadent. She translates the recipe from the Harry's Bar cookbook. We added a salad, some California Merlot, tree decorating and more cookies as sides.

Some of my take-aways from the day were:

1. The light in the dining room is Northern light and much better for food photography. I've been taking photos in the kitchen like a fool (Western light) for too long.

2. Toby's new jingle-collar is really dashing.

3. John prefers to play the "foreman" instead of actually decorating the tree. This apparently involves very half-assed art direction as to which ornament should go where. And wine drinking. It involves that too.

3. I do not know the difference between the Shuttlecraft and the Enterprise (we own both as Christmas ornament representations, and I can't tell the difference much to The Box's horror and dismay).

4. Our TV has only one channel: The Golf Channel.

Here any and all Iaciofano Family Christmas Cookie Recipes for your enjoyment (and one lasagna recipe)

Pizzelle

Russian Tea Cakes

Iced Lemon Knot Cookies

Cranberry and Pistachio Biscotti

Gingerbread Cookies

Lasagne Bolognese

Ingredients:

1 box of no-boil lasagna

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese (as much as you like)

For the Bolognese Sauce
1 carrot
1 celery stalk
1 small onion or large shallot
2 T butter and Olive oil each
¾ lb of ground beef
¾ lb ground veal
2 Tbsp of tomato paste
2 Tbsp of flour 
½ cup of white wine
4 cups of chicken broth
¼ cup chopped parsley
1 Tbsp rosemary
1 Tbsp thyme 
salt and pepper to taste


For the Bechemel Sauce:

1/4 cup of butter (1 stick)
2 cups of milk
1/4 cup of flour
pinch of nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
Process
For the Bolognese Sauce:
Process the carrot, celery and onion in a food processor until fine.
Heat the butter and olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Sauté the processed vegetables in the skillet until soft—about 10 minutes.
Then, add the ground beef and veal and cook thoroughly.
Next, add the tomato paste and flour to the skillet and stir until well combined.
Now add the white wine, and simmer until most of the liquid has reduced.
Add the chicken stock and all the herbs. Bring the mixture to a boil and then simmer for about 45 minutes.
Add salt and pepper to taste!
For the Bechemel Sauce:
In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat.
Add the flour and stir constantly until the mixture starts to turn a golden color.
Add the milk and stir until it starts to thicken. Add nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste!
Assembly:

Bring a large stock pot filled with water to a boil. Salt the boiling water and add in the lasagne noodles. Boil for about 3-4 minutes. You don't want to cook them, you just want to get them started. Even though we indicated no-boil pasta, boiling them for a short amount of time prevents a dry lasagna. You don't have to pre-boil, but if you don't, add a bit more sauce to the dish for extra moisture.

Grease a 9x13" oven-proof dish with butter. Add a row of the lasagna noodles.  Layer Bolognese sauce on top of the noodles, then dollop a little Bechemel on top of that. Continue layering until all the noodles have been used.

The top layer should be a Bolognese layer with Bechemel around the edges (as seen in the above photo). Dust the top with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes at 350°F degrees.