Sunday, July 21, 2013

It's Gettin' Hot in Here

It.Has.Been.Hot. lately you guys! .. alright, it hasn't been as hot as it's going to be in a couple weeks (the triple digits are about to happen any minute now..) but it's still been hot enough to make everyone cranky and uncomfortable and cranky.
It's been hot enough that you've got to wonder how we ever manage to want to eat a casserole... or a roast ... or anything coming out of a crock pot, during the course of the year. The thought of ingesting anything heavier than a margarita  a glass of sangria  a beer in a frosty mug a shrimp cocktail with a bloody mary ...... for breakfast... makes your eyes cross.
Lots of salads are happening around here these days. Don't let yourself get in to a rut with the salads. Just because you're eating nice and light and fresh, doesn't mean you have to sacrifice flavor.
Here are a few of my go-to's

Mushroom & Celery Salad w/ Shaved Romano Cheese
Thinly slice mushrooms & celery. Chop & add Italian parsley. Squeeze fresh lemon juice. Salt & Pepper to taste. Shave Romano to garnish. Let this one sit for a while to allow the flavors a chance to come together.

Roasted Beet & Mandarin Orange
(...don't start with me. you'll like beets... try it.)
Roast fresh beets (Don't be crazy and try to do this inside. It's hot enough. Do this on the grill). Peel & cut up beets, toss with mandarin slices. The picture above has Parmigiano Reggiano shaved on top, but I often use Feta instead.  The dressing is simply a bit of olive oil, salt & pepper and a little bit of lime.

Deconstructed Guacamole
Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Red Onion, Avocado, Radishes (...I know there are no radishes or cuc's in guac.. but I like the crunch in my salad).
Cut everything up, chop some cilantro, mix with fresh lime juice, salt, pepper. Serve in a taco bowl.
If you're feeling fancy you can also add shrimp

Now you've got your salads for the week.... so obviously you deserve a big 'ole chunk of this.. what?!  It's fruits!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Beach towels? Check! .... Sunblock? Check! .... Bottle opener? Check! .... Koozie? .... um.. not check.

How long are you all nursing that drink anyway???

4th of July is coming up, gang!!!
I'm packing the liquor our bags for the beach and it's pouring rain outside my window. This weather is messing up my groove right now. Thankfully Noah's backing up the Ark and heading out of Dodge tomorrow, so good times should be had by all!
I love the beach.... and I especially love the beach for an extended long weekend. There will be sand, and flippy floppies, and disheveled beach hair, and clothes that don't match and lots of grilling and bbq'ing and s'mores'ing. lurve it.

Speaking of burgers and dogs..... I like to keep things pretty lazy simple at the beach. Here are my beach cooler must haves:
  • Beer
  • Sangria
  • Hornsby's Hard Cider
  • Watermelon
  • Pepper Steak Panini's
  • Peaches
  • Frozen grapes for the sangria to snack on

Let's have a conversation about the Pepper Steak Panini's.... When I was a kid my cousin and I used to go with my grandmother on these pilgrimage/picnic's her church would do every summer. I know you're shocked to hear that my little (4ft 8 (maaaaaybe?) grandmother was very involved in and  lived across the street from her church... p.s. she also lived next door to the priest. just sayin'... Nonna was securing her position.
Annnnyhoo. So my cousin and I would look forward to this trip every year for one reason... (aside from hanging out with the old Paysans who had been hitting the home made vino out of the jug a bit too hard all day and would start singing crazy Italian songs no one had ever heard of, but everyone knew the words to,  on the bus ride home..... I digress... ).  All year long we would talk about the Pepper Steak and the Cotoletta Panini's. Cotoletta is breaded chicken cutlets... those were good.. but nothing came close to the Pepper Steak. It's nothing fancy... but it's the stuff Italian dreams are made of. Here's the recipe.. there are no measurements because whenever my grandmother would be asked how much of whatever ingredient was needed she'd say "until there's enough".
Make it, and don't share

Pepper Steak

Cube Steak cut in to thin strips
Green Peppers
Soy Sauce
Worchestershire Sauce
Panini (or whatever hard rolls you have hanging around)

Brown the steak in Olive Oil... add peppers, onions, garlic.... sauté.
Add oregano, soy & worchestershire sauce... bring to a boil & let reduce for a bit. You don't want it too too saucy but you don't want it dry either. Let cool overnight and stuff in a bun when you're ready to eat.

Have a safe & happy 4th everyone!!!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Roll me out of here

I'm back you guys! What a great trip! Got to see lots of family in Toronto and Montreal and eat lots L-O-T-S of food!

 Let's take a little tour...

First stop! Tim Horton's...  Tim Horton was a hockey player.. are we surprised that Canada's most insanely (really.. it's nuts) popular coffee house is named after a hockey player? no? I didn't think so. Extra large double double is the way most people order their coffee - 2 cream, 2 sugar. Boston cream donut filled with custard. Not cream or frosting. No exceptions. I cross the border and this is the first thing I want.

ohhhhh, the Montreal bagel... don't get me started. NY and MTL have had a rivalry over their bagels forever. I'm biased (obv.) Montreal's are the best. They are made by hand, boiled, then baked in a food fired oven. Ever have a bagel melt (MELT) in your mouth? Go to Fairmount bakery and get one right out of the oven. It'll change your life.


Ok, you guys... it's getting serious right now. We're talking Steamie's and Poutine. Montreal hot dogs are steamed & dressed with mustard, relish and coleslaw. The fries are thick and dirty. You can eat them plain... or with sauce (don't call it gravy. It's sauce.).. or you can have a poutine.. which is fries, with curd cheese covered in sauce. The Poutine (Poot-Sin... not Poo-Teen) is a 100% French Canadian shameful guilty pleasure dish. Don't be scared. It's incredible. Try it. It won't be the same because we can't get the right cheese down here, but it'll be close.

So we all know I'm Italian, right? This right here is a plate of my childhood. Death row meal? This is it. Fresh cold cuts - Mortadella San Daniele, Hot Capicollo, Proscuitto di Parma, Genoa Salami, Provalone, marinated artichoke hearts, tomato focaccia, roasted red peppers, stuffed olives, panini. I'm done.
So, while I was in Montreal my mother had a craving for French Macarons... so much for linacucina's vacay ;)  Mocha Macarons with ganache filling. Voila

I had the chance to hit up a couple restaurants while back in Montreal. Here's a shot of probably the most moist piece of swordfish I've ever eaten. No need to be complicated. A beautifully grilled piece of fish with capers and lemon juice will hit the spot every single time.

I don't know that I've ever known another city to do breakfast like they do in Montreal. Restaurants are often times just as busy if not busier for brunch, than they are on a Friday or Saturday night. I went out for brunch with a couple old ladies I know and I had Smoked Salmon Eggs Benedict with a Dill Hollandaise sauce. It looks like a lot.... but I only ate half of my potatoes.. the other half fell off my plate I'm looking at you J.W. ;)

...meanwhile, back at the ranch......  This is my all time favorite thing to eat for brekkie. My great grandmother who had 13 children and lived until she was 94 used to have this all the time. It's a toasted mortadella sandwich. We didn't (or very rarely) ever have bologna in our house. Our bologna was Mortadella. It's divine. Toasted Mortadella for breakfast is Italian grubbing at it's finest.

It was a great trip, and I loved seeing everyone and stuffing my face, but I'm glad to be back in NC... of course I couldn't come back empty handed, so as I sit here drinking my Timmy's out of my HBC mug dipping my maple cookies, I'm comforted in knowing that my freezer is packed with bagels and my pantry is loaded with cans of dark amber maple syrup, Cherry Blossom's, cornets de guimauve and ketchup chips  ;)


Wednesday, June 12, 2013


I'm on vacation as of 2pm today and I'm not even going to lie.. I'm so excited I can barely stand it! Early (4am-URRRRRR-LEEE!) tomorrow morning we're loading up heading to "The North".  We haven't been home in almost a year and we're due.
First stop - Toronto. (lies... first stop - Pittsburg for a Primanti Bros sandwich. We're driving. True story.) The hubs' family lives in and around the T-Dot. We'll be staying with my inlaws at their horse farm. Love it. My husband and I have been together for almost 13 years and his parents have had horses on the farm the whole time. I still love watching the horses run and play in the paddocks. It never gets old. So magical.
Next up is Montreal to see my gang. There are no horses at my parents' place. There are, however, lots of crazy Italians... which, when you think about it, are as close as it comes to wild animals anyway. Same diff. Just with better shoes....and more gold chains.
I'll be taking photos and blogging about all the food I'll be enjoying which is going to contribute to the 15lbs I'm about to gain.. so stay tuned!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Elephant in the room

I know it might seem like it's been two months since my last blog post, but .... I've got nothing. It's been two months since my last blog post. Your girl's been busy, though! .. so maybe that gives me a bit of an excuse? notreally
It's wedding season and things have been non stop nutso since about mid-April. I've been knee deep in cupcakes, wedding cakes, stadium cakes, cooler cakes, photo shoots and naughty naughty bachelorette cookies. Here are just a couple of the sweet things that have come out of my kitchen in the last couple of months ... and no, you're not getting a photo of the cookies, you filthy bb's you're my kind of people

Things are going get back to normal for a little bit over the summer, so I promise you I'll blog more often.. at least once a week ... and if I don't, get on me! Follow me on Facebook and Twitter and call me out on it! I'll give you a discount on your next order if you catch me slacking off

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Weddings, Reviews and Village Market

Oh, my poor neglected bloggy poo..It.Has.Been.Crazy. up in here the past couple of weeks! 1st of all it's very much the start of wedding season. It's a season. Winter, Pollen, Wedding, Fire, Wedding II, Christmas.  If you do anything associated with the wedding industry, these are your seasons.
In the midst of my lovely weddings, I was so flattered to have received two really fabulous reviews from some bloggers I had sent samples to.
The first was from The Triangle Explorer.  John has a really great blog. If you live in the Raleigh/Durham area, check it out. He's got all kinds of info about cool places to go and eat in the 'hood.
He's also got another blog reviewing all things coffee. A man after my own heart.
The second review was from waaaay across the country in Arizona. Jaclyn from was super kind in her review of the cookies I sent her.
Most recently I've been thrilled to share that I now have products available at Village Market in  Lafayette Village in North Raleigh, just off Falls of Neuse. I am so excited about this new partnership. Village Market is like a little piece of heaven for me. The secret to really incredible cooking is using really incredible ingredients. You can find those at Village Market.  Come on by and check out what they have to offer. You can grab a linacucina snack while you're there and you might even see me camping out in their kitchen. They've been kind enough to let me use their facilities when I need them, which is really generous and maybe a little strategic on their part.. why do I get the feeling I'll be having lots of volunteer taste testers in the near future ;) 

Friday, March 22, 2013

Bread and Yeastophobia

I have a confession to make. I used to have a serious fear of yeast. Terrified. I was a big scaredycat and avoided baking anything requiring yeast for years. No breads. No pretzels. No cinnamon rolls. No way. Nooooooo. Way. Why go through all that trouble? There's all kinds of steps involved.. there's proofing... rising.. bubbling.. festering.. living.. breathing... all kinds of junk.
My change of heart about yeast came about 6 years ago.
In 2007 my husband and I moved to Raleigh from Toronto (we lived there for 3 1/2 years before we got here). Before then we were in Montreal but you've heard this before. When we got to Raleigh I remember one Sunday as I was making a sauce (we say sauce in my family... not gravy. because that's just crazy.) I was thinking that we could really use a nice crusty loaf to go with dinner. Then I tried to figure out where the local bakery was. I couldn't find one. Sure the grocery stores had 'artisan' bread but I was looking for a really fantastic bakery like I was used to back home. Truth be told, I started linacucina because I was hungry. For real.
That's when I began making my own bread. It actually started with focaccia. I missed my red and white pizzas. I had a mission. Eventually I got the hang of it and now I bake some sort of bread at least once a week.
Don't be afraid of the yeast, gang! It's super easy and totally worth the time and effort. If not only for the way your house will smell while your creation is baking in the oven.
Whether you're kneading dough with your own two hands (that's how I do), using a mixer or a bread maker (cheater.)  - Ok.. I'm a little bit kidding about the bread maker and cheating. I've had bread done in a machine and it's really not horrible. If nothing else, it's super duper convenient. It's like the crockpot of the breadmaking world. Set it and forget it.
Whatever you decide to make and however you decide to make it, do it. Give it a try. Really. You'll love it and you'll wonder what the big deal was in the first place. Plus it'll give you major domestic diva points when you go around telling people how you bake all your own bread. *hair flip*
Breadtopia and The Fresh Loaf are some great resources for beginners. Check them out!

Rustic Loaf

Red & White Focaccia