Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009's Great Missed Dish #5 Spicy Asian Crab Cakes with Crispy Nori

Since I used 1/2 lb. of a 1lb. can of lump crab meat in the #4 Great Missed Dish of 2009, Crab Tomato & Butter Spaghetti Rigati, the other half needed just as much attention for a different culinary point of view. This dish all started while watching Mark Bittman's video on for Crisp Nori Chips. I recently came into some Nori from the Foodbuzz Tastemaker Program with and this application looked fun and delicious. So, I set my mind to making the crispy nori as St. Bittman prescribed ,but my plate needed a meaty focal point using the leftover crab meat and staying with the Asian flavor theme. My Asian cooking skills are green at best, so I wanted to ride the line between East and West for a successful dish.What better way to fill up the meat quotient of a dish and bring the East and West together in food than with crab cakes?

Everybody loves crab cakes except people allergic to shellfish, of which there are none in my house hold. Hurrah! Anyway, I am a big fan of and when I read the recipe for Creole Crab Cakes with Cayenne Cream I was inspired to adapt this creole-flavored dish to a spicy Japanese flavor profile. Ok, I'll come clean. On a vacation to the Gulf of Mexico the Triolo family and I were out doing a little shopping when we came across The Spice & Tea Exchange at John's Pass Village in Madiera Beach. Naturally we went in and I went home to my delight with their Spicy Sampler. The sampler was composed of three house spice blends guaranteed to perk up your dishes! One of the three blends was the Togarashi Pepper, "Renowned Japanese pepper blend. A very flavorful, but very hot seasoning. Use as a zesty substitute for cayenne pepper." All of these thoughts, ingredients, and inspirations came together 2009's Great Missed Dish #5 Spicy Asian Crab Cakes with Crispy Nori.

I used the recipe as my template and went bananas with adaptations. Here is the recipe outcome to the best of my recollection:

Servings: 2

For the crab cakes:
  • 1/2lb. lump crab meat
  • 3/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrot
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat parsley
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs + 1-2 tblsp as needed to form cakes
  • 1 cup vegetable oil + 2 tblsp.
  • 3 oz. sour cream
  • 2 tblsp. Togarashi Pepper Spice Blend
  • 2 teaspoons Sirarchi
  • 2 teaspoons Fish Sauce

For the cream:
  • 1 tblsp. butter
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon Togarashi Pepper Spice Blend
  • 1 teaspoon chopped chives
  • 2 cloves chopped garlic
  • 2-3 tblsp. Sirarchi

For the Crispy Nori Chips: see Mark Bittman's video.

  1. In a large skillet over medium heat, heat up the 1/2 cup of the vegetable oil. Add the onions, carrots, and garlic. Cook for 5 minutes. Remove veg with a slotted spoon and let cool.
  2. In a food processor, add the egg, sour cream, fish sauce, Sirarchi, 1 tblsp. of Togarashi Pepper. Mix on low while adding the 2 tblsp. of vegetable oil in a slow stream to make a mayonnaise mixture.
  3. In a large bowl, mix the vegetables, mayo mixture, bread crumbs, and
  4. the last tblsp. of Togarashi Pepper. Fold in the crab meat and parsley. Form into patties, should yield 4-6.
  5. Heat the remaining oil in the same skillet you cooked the vegetables in over medium-high heat. Cook patties until browned on each side, about 5 minutes. Take off heat and transfer to a paper-toweled plate.
  6. For the cream, heat butter in a medium pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for 3-4 minutes. Add the chives, Sirarchi, and Togarashi Pepper. Cook over medium heat to reduce by 1/2. Add the cream, bring to a boil, lower the heat, and reduce again by half.
  7. Serve with rice of course, and without the cream. :)

2009's Great Missed Dish #4 Crab Tomato & Butter Spaghetti Rigati

Can't stop the momentum now! We are on Great Missed Dish #4 of 2009, Crab Tomato & Butter Spaghetti Rigati. To begin this story we have to go back in time to my senior year of high school in Naples, FL. I moved to Naples from PA at sixteen to live with my Dad and spend some quality time with the Irish side, the large and loving Joyce family. After working for my Uncle Jimmy's lunch truck and catering business after school and on weekends as the general commissary slave doing everything from cleaning, to stocking, to catering, to cooking, to bringing the boss man his money at the close of every business day, I left the family biz for the greener pastures of busing tables at a local seafood joint gem, Cafe De Marco.

This job had its share of ups and downs. The restaurant was a converted home and was beyond cramped. Seriously, this place could easily be in Manhattan judging it solely on the non-existence of wiggle room for guests and staff alike. Plus, I had to wear a bow tie and cumber bum. Ugh, down definitely. But, the food, the food! The food was beyond magnificent. Cafe De Marco was my first working exposure to great food and it is still my measure of excellence for lobster bisque. If you are ever in Marco Island, FL you MUST stop by Cafe De Marco for Lobster Bisque, Jumbo Prawns, and the Cafe De Marco Puff. This dessert was so popular, people would call-in orders two, three, four to-go! You have to see this beast to believe it.

Of course eating the food was a major perk but reeking of it after work every day was a major bummer. While complaining at school that I should never have left my uncle's business because I constantly smell of seafood and I had to work NYE 2000 until 2AM (still a bit pissed about that), my friend Justin told me his job was hiring hostesses. Campiello's on 3rd Avenue is in the swanky, upscale beach neighborhood of Naples and I fell in love with the four-dining room, Tuscan-inspired restaurant instantaneously. It was fate. I was hired and our love affair began. Campiello's food took my recognizable Italian food and kicked it in the face with mega, fresh, modern flavors. Over the next year I came to know and love the indoor/outdoor bar and restaurant with two courtyards, a lounge, full open kitchen, and a store providing hand-made Italian goods from scarves to luggage. It felt as close to the best of Italy and Italian culture as I could get in Florida, and I drank up every last moment. As I moved from hostess to Maitre D', I also intimately came to know the Campiello food. Spicy calamari with a lemon aioli, homemade fresh everyday over-sized garlic potato chips, and the tomato basil crab linguine were and still are stellar and my favorite dishes.

Often while in college (the only reason I left Campiello's), I would consider dropping out just to go and work there again. Needless to day the restaurant has a huge place in my heart and when I can't make it there, I yearned most of all for the Linguine with Crab, Tomato, and Basil. Not one of their more complicated dishes, this pasta is packed with true and huge flavors of crab, tomato, basil, and butter. To me, it is simply sublime. I can salivate only over the thought of it. Fast-forward to present day and I am aching over this dish and this time I decided to do something about it-I'm going to make it myself.

Well, it wasn't just for me. I also wanted to show-off how good of a cook I've become over the past year so I planned my Crab Tomato & Butter Spaghetti Rigati as the main course for Pete and I's two year anniversary dinner. Knowing full well Pete can't eat a lot of tomato without serious agita, I went for it thinking I could use just enough tomato to where it wouldn't make this stomach explode and the dish would still be killer. Here is the vague recipe for yet again, I did not write this down.

Serving : 2
  • 1/2 lb. Spaghetti Rigati
  • 1/2 lb. lump crab meat, fresh is preferred.
  • 1/2 lb. butter
  • 3-4 medium vine-ripened tomato
  • 1 medium sweet onion
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 6-8 large basil leaves, chopped. Reserve smaller leaves for garnish.
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  1. Core and coarsely chop tomatoes. I did mine in the food processor. Set aside.
  2. Quarter onion, set aside.
  3. Begin melting butter in large saucepan over medium-low heat. Once the butter is melted add a handful of crab meat, a tablespoon of chopped basil, and onion quarters. Let cook about 5 minutes.
  4. Add chopped garlic cloves. Let cook another 2-3 minutes.
  5. Add the chopped tomatoes all at once. Turn heat up to medium. Let cook and reduce to a simmer for 5-7 more minutes.
  6. Start the water for the pasta. Add pasta when water begins to boil.
  7. Add the remainder of the crab meat and chopped basil to the tomato and butter sauce. Let cook another 4-5 minutes on a low simmer.
  8. Drain the pasta.
  9. Mix the sauce and pasta together, garnish with small basil leaves, and serve with grated pecorino romano cheese!

Upon a trip to Lombardi's Seafood in Winter Park, FL I was distraught to find all the fresh lump crab meat sold out! I had to settle for the canned version. Seaweed salad for the side, of course.

Chopped, fresh tomatoes.

Melted butter, onion quarters, crab meat, and basil for sauce starter.

Add the chopped, fresh tomatoes!

Let all the sauce goodness simmer together.

I am ready with my Spaghetti Rigati! Oh, and see my splatter-proof contraption? That inspired Pete to give me a splatter cover for Christmas. :)

In the end, my dish didn't pack the same flavor punch of Campiello's version but I have a pretty good idea why-fresh crab meat. Fresh crab meat and I think my version has a fighting chance with a few more minor, minor tweaks. Thankfully my expression of love was still shining through and Pete and I had a lovely anniversary.

2009's Great Missed Dish #3, Vanilla Terrier Cupcake Experiment

Note above is the outcome we attempted to replicate.

In continuation of my 2009 personal quest to experiment and explore the vast ocean of culinary knowledge, may I present the curious case of the Vanilla Terrier Cupcake Experiment. In late Fall I called up my darling friend Michelle Milu to see if she wanted to head to my place for some early Christmas baking. On the phone she did my offer one better explaining she needed to make terrier cupcakes as a gift to her girlfriend who was getting married the next day. The bride-to-be and fiance were intensely proud owners and lovers of terriers. Food to celebrate love cute doggies; how could I not want to help with that cupcake gift?!?!?

Once I heard the story I was absolutely sold diving straight in to the very deep pond that is pastry decorating. We discussed who had what in their pantry to accomplish this experiment/mission and shortly after Michelle showed up, cupcake cookbook Hello, Cupcake!, decorating implements, and mini-cupcake pan in-hand ready to throw-down. After chatting it up and deciding its best to order pizza first since decorating on an empty stomach is an awful and honestly ridiculous idea, we cracked Hello, Cupcake! waiting for delivery to see what exactly we were in for.

At first (post-pizza), I was all homemade all the way gun-ho Sally. "Make box cupcakes?! No, we will make our vanilla cupcakes from scratch!" "Use can frosting for decorating?!? No, we will make our own three flavors and colors of frosting with our four hands!" Looking back now on how incredulous my expectations were, I try to remember what in the hell was my motivation? Ah, yes I remember. It's important to keep working on your chops in all the are as you wish to excel even if failure is imminent.

Milu herself mixing up the vanilla cupcake batter.

Hello, Cupcake! suggested using the Ziploc bag to pipe the batter in a swirl formation into the muffin pans to achieve a flat-topped cupcake.

Peeking in the oven on the mini's and the regulars.

Baked up and golden delicious!

The homemade vanilla cupcake part was successful. They turned out golden and yummy! Our major issue was making homemade frosting firm enough and soft enough to pipe out of a Ziploc bag in the form of large sections of fur. Oh, as well as disburse evenly alternating colors of the frosting to also mimic the quality of fur inside the Ziploc-piping bags. My movements with the runny frosting were awkward and frantic. I might as well have been trying to play the bagpipes at a large Irish funeral. Our first frosting attempts melted away from shapes into sag nearly immediately looking like we set a poor terrier on fire and slowly let it deform.
Sadly, I have no photos of that horror but I have a few snaps of the frostings.

The milk chocolate frosting mixture being melted with butter.

Best shot I could grab of the vanilla butter cream frosting.

Pink sugar pressed into diagonally-cut mini marshmallows creates the cute and pointy ears.

In the end, we simply iced the top cupcakes and sprinkled it with coconut flakes for our fur. We did successfully make the marshmallow nose and ears, so yea for us! For the eyes we turned mini semi-sweet chocolate chips point side into the mini cupcake face to anchor them as sturdily as possible. Lastly, we cut tiny pieces of pink Laffy Taffy for the tongues. Our Vanilla White Terrier Cupcake experiment may not have looked like the model in the book, but our experiment was successful because we both learned A LOT about decorating and we accomplished our mission of baking and making cute as they are sweet terrier cupcakes. Santa origami contribution by my boyfriend, Orlando Tattoo Artist Pete. PS - this whole event took about 3 plus hours in case you think you can give this kitchen project a shot.

Our Snowy Terriers and Santa.

2009's Great Missed Dish #2, Peach Turnovers

2009 was a year of culinary exploration for myself. After dominating the Christmas Timpano in 2008 I knew I wanted to try more new and difficult dishes in the kitchen for 2009. I wanted to dive into ingredients and dishes previously hitherto scared the ever-loving-ish out of me, and do my best to become skilled with them. One such scary ingredient was puff pastry. Why was I scared of such an awesome ingredient? I don't know and maybe 'scared' is not the correct term, perhaps 'in awe of' is a better fit. I love the texture of the buttery pastry dough but was also fully aware of its extreme delicacy. I may have been known to man-handle my food from time-to-time so to tackle puff pastry I started small with Peach Turnovers for my 2nd Great Missed Dish of 2009. Since the purpose of this dessert was education, I turned Peach Turnover Recipe for instruction.

The occasion was a visit of my Dad and older brother, Jeremy. Jeremy went to see our Dad and Joyce family in Naples, FL for July 4th and then ventured North to see me. Of course, we all were meeting for yet another tremendous dinner at the Triolo table. Mr. T. provided the caponata which is to die for as well as the pasta con sarde (pasta with sardines). As per usual, the dessert was my deed to do. Peach turnovers were already on my mind and I knew I could sub the sugar in the peach mixture with Splenda for my Pops, so that is exactly what I did. The ripe peaches of summer were so flavorful, one truly could not tell the difference. Therefore, making its debut about five months late to Laptops and Stovetops I give you Peach Turnovers.

I used canned peaches for the extra peach juice the recipe called for. However, I did use the actual canned peaches in the turnovers. Just gimme the juice!

This is a shot of the cornstarch, sugar (or Splenda), and the peach juice starting to bubble and thicken.

I just love this photo! Squares of puff pastry.

For kicks, I added chocolate chips to a few turnovers.

MMmmm, hot and puffy out of the oven!

The turnovers were dusted with confectionery's sugar and some ground cocoa roasted almonds I had on hand.

In addition to the turnover triangle shape, I tried a long rectangle shape (in back) thinking it would set so I could cut strips in time for dessert. It was a mildly successful serving idea.

There we have it! Another Great Missed Dish for 2009 finally getting its just desserts, and trust me there is more! I am going on a posting marathon today trying to get all my missed dishes of 2009 online before the clock strikes midnight. Wish me Luck!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

2009's Greatest Missed Dishes, Blueberry Kiwi Cobbler Pie

The twilight of 2009 is upon us now and 201o's sun is starting to rise. I am mega-eager for the new year. Pete and I only have a few short years before we turn the big 3-0 so this year we are going on an adventure. We haven't decided where too yet, but the anticipation is boiling over! When the information of where-to-next becomes available I will of course share it with all of you beautiful people.

But before we start 2010, I would like to give credence to the posts that never made it to Laptops and Stovetops in 2009. The dishes were in fact sublime, but either I didn't write down the recipe or the timing was all off to get them posted or some other lame and not worthy excuse. This blunder or oversight of mine has now feed a new 2010 resolution-Post in a timely manner! Don't dilly-dally! Show the world your goods! Viva la Laptops and Stovetops!

So without futher ado, I give you the first great missed dish of 2009, Blueberry Kiwi Cobbler Pie.

What I do recall about this dish is it was summer and I needed to make use of some leftover blueberries and kiwis. My first thought of fruit is always some sort of baked good, but in this particular dish I wanted to jazz up the normal combo fruit pie so I tried my hand at making a cobbler topping in place of the traditional pie crust. The result was stellar. I couldn't not keep my lips away from this pie! Much to my dismay, this was a baked dish from the hip ( I heart Cat Cora), ergo there is no written record of ingredient quantities nor recollection of the methodical steps taken in the process. Please forgive my fury while creating my baked goods. 'Tis my and your cross to bear.

Here we see the kiwis are sliced and skinned. I am almost positive I didn't not dress the kiwis with any lemon juice or sugar. They went in as is.

The blueberries were washed and definitely dressed in sugar and lemon juice. I can't recall if I used any other flavor with the berries.

Here is the cobbler topping before baking. Its a basic cobbler, so if you have a fav already I would go with it.

Voila! The final version all baked up and ready to go.

Finally, this dessert is best eaten outside on a sunny day garnished with a small flower frommy downstairs neighbor's garden. I recommend it for breakfast, or lunch, or whenever! Its got fruit, so it must be sort-of healthy, right?

Thanks for stopping by and come back soon for more Greatest Missed Dishes of 2009!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Holiday Cookie Spread 2009

Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays! I am tickled the season of giving is upon us and I am also a bit remorseful I haven't been posting much this month. I swear my absence is only due to my dedication to the Christmas Cookie Baking Ritual. I mean, I'm not trying to piss off Santa so every year I un-lease a bounty of cookies to friends (see 2008's cookie bushel here), family, and co-workers here and aboard. This year, my sugary delights will travel all the way to New Zealand for the enjoyment of my dear, old friend Michelle. Who is thrilled? You know it's me!

Oh yes, and she is also very possibly excited.


Each year I love to make my traditional favorites such as (1) The Chocolate Chip Cookie, (2) Buckeye Balls, (3) Sugar Cookies, (4) Peanut Butter Honey Granola, and (5) Pignolis as well as try my hand at something new and a bit more modern to liven up the platter like (6) Coffee Meltaways with Peppermint White Chocolate Bark, (7) Pumpkin Chai Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies, (8) Lime Snowballs, and (9) Ugly but Good Toblerone Meringues.

I'm stoked at the turn-out but really can't believe I stopped at nine when I should have went for a full ten. First resolution for 2010 - I will hit double ditches in my undying quest of excellent holiday cookie baking.

For the recipes:

(1) The Chocolate Chip Cookie - sorry, I've been developing my chocolate chip cookie recipe since I was ten and it it technically still a work in progress. One day many years from now I will have perfected and will release my chocolate chip cookie recipe.

(2) Buckeye Balls - again, sorry. This is my Mama's recipe.

(4) Peanut Butter Honey Granola - another Loretta Festa family secret.

(5) Pignolis - I promise this is the last one that has to stay in my recipe vault.

(6) Coffee Meltaways with Peppermint White Chocolate Bark - this cookie was a combo of inspiration from the desire to use crushed peppermint with white chocolate and my ache to eat one of DayDreamer's Desserts Spiced Espresso Meltaways. Not having the liqueur, I used 2 Starbuck's Colombian Via packets. Its pretty safe to say my Peppermint White Chocolate Mocha addiction probably also had a hand in this cookie.

(7) Pumpkin Chai Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies - Although I haven't yet made's Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies, they did inspire me my interpretation of the Oregon Chai Company's Apple Oatmeal Cookie by substituting the apple sauce with pumpkin puree. (This is also inspired by my fav dried chai latte mix by a certain company hitherto already named.)

(8) Lime Snowballs - After not placing with my Raspberry Walnut Streusel Pumpkin Bread in the Bon Appetit Blog Envy Bake Off, I visited the website often and came across their Lime Snowballs in the Holiday-Cookie-A-Day Slideshow. Intrigued by this citrus cookie I baked, I sugared, and I conquered.

(9) Ugly but Good Toblerone Meringues - when I saw Paula of's Brutti ma Buoni cookie made of a LOT of Toblerone chocolate candy, I knew I had to put it on my Christmas list of Must-Have-Cookies

If you're expecting a package of cookies from me, I'm sorry I spoiled the surprise. Now you can salivate over the contents of your soon-to-be-delivered package. Time to sign-off and make a bacala salad for tonight's festivities. MUAH!


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Stop by Sweet! for National Cupcake Day

Its another day of celebration of a beloved American food, National Cupcake Day. Be you young or old almost everyone adores cupcakes. Did you hear me, CUPCAKES!! Fortunately for us Orlando-ites we have a gourmet cupcake shop to call our very own. Sweet! by Good Golly Miss Molly offers our community a bevy flavors for both the giant and mini cupcakes all decorated to the utmost apex of cuteness. Check out the examiner article for their holiday specials and more yummy photos!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Keeping Orlando Food Local with Big Wheel Provisions

Buzz words can often be misleading and a smoke-and-mirrors tactic to excite the masses into a blur with no real delivery on promises of 'synergy' or something equally as ridiculous. Buzz words are infamous for being all-show and no-go which is totally bogus. Having said that, (any Curb Your Enthusiasm fans in the audience today?) culinary buzz words like such as 'local' 'organic' and 'sustainable' are real goals with active people in communities all across the country reinforcing the monetary and quality value and benefits for buying and eating food that comes right from your community's natural resources. Chef Tony Adams of Big Wheel Provisions in Orlando, FL is a devotee to the local movement creating simply delicious food from products available here in Orlando as much as possible. We sat, chatted, and tasted some of his foods during the Audubon Park Community Market. Get to know more on Chef Tony, Big Wheel Provisions, and how to send gorgeous, local holiday baskets like this one to a foodie friend or relative @

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

My Greatest Idea to Date, RETRO Lab Pie Day

My oh my, how do I love pie! Work parties are a chance to cut loose and enjoy each other other than IMing one another from across the room. Our organization, The Institute for Simulation and Training has a cozy pie day every year where each employee gets to sample one piece of store-bought pumpkin or pecan pie. It's nice, but it lacks the flavor and energy it takes to get me going before celebrating a holiday. Therefore taking a cue from my superiors, I instituted a RETRO Lab Pie Day the Friday before Thanksgiving. The only rule for Pie Day is that all pies had to be as homemade as possible. On top of mounting deadlines, school work, and making personal holiday plans now they all have to make pie. Moo hahaha! Does my domineering evil know no bounds?!?!?

My first plate, the savories.

Ok, so assigning a pie day is far from evil and we truly had a great time. For a lab of fifteen total people we had 10 tens. Even I was shocked and impressed by the showing! I supplied a Tomato and Goat Cheese Pie inspired by Lick My Spoon's post about this regional speciality of my home in SE PA. Tomato Pie I remember as a Friday night treat my Mom would spring for once all our chores were done. The sweet and acidy tomato flavor takes me way back in time, and LickMySpoon's recipe was the first I've come across so I had to try my hand at it. My apologies for no accompanying recipe, but in the spirit of Cat Cora I cooked from the hip. I can tell you I used the Publix whole grain dough and spread goat cheese all over the dough before putting on the tomato filling, and lastly topped each slice with a chiffonade (I just wanted to say it) of fresh basil.

We had sweet and savory pies. Pies for vegans. Pies for vegetarians. Pies for the all-over glutton (I'm in that last category). It was a victorious expression, nay, a triumph for pie and for our lab. I am going to shut up now and let you all bask in our Pie Day Slide Show. (PS-for all managers, bosses, etc. reading this, do a pie day! Eating and baking are fabulous team builders.)

Monday, November 30, 2009

Going All Out for Thanksgiving

There is only one phrase which fits my attitude pre-game for this year's Thanksgiving holiday; "all out." What does all out mean exactly? All out means 8-yes 8-different dishes for Thanksgiving dinner and dessert. All out means cooking from scratch as much as humanly possible. All out means cooking traditionally as well as using modern flavor profiles and pairing them together in a grammy award-winning, sing-song harmony. All out means cooking even after the holiday is over and all your folks have picked up their leftovers and left town. All out is sometimes the only way I know how.

Well, put up or shut up right? For the Joyce Family Thanksgiving holiday sporting approximately twenty guests I prepared the following: 1. Three Cheese Macaroni and Cheese (2 pans), 2. Green Onion and Garlic Scallop Potatoes (2 pans), 3. Sausage and Sage Apple Stuffing (2 pans), 4. Mama Festa's Sweet Potatoes, 5. Apple Cider Cranberry Sauce, 6. Lemon Pepper Spinach with Portobellos, 7. Sweet Potato and Prosciutto Upside Down Lollipops, and 8. Sugar Free Chocolate Walnut Oatmeal Cookies.

Of course I couldn't do this in a day and half all by my lonesome. My Dad, aka Big Poppa, and Shelly my Step-Mom were mega helpers in the kitchen the day before. Naturally we had to have a serious and proper sit-down making sure everyone is on-board with me as Captain of the Thanksgiving Ship. Thankfully they happily complied as a hearty crew would, and handed over the tongs to me. On the day of Thanksgiving, my Uncle Jimmy was equally as helpful and flexible to my culinary demands at the helm of his kitchen. To cook for a feast such as ours, you know it takes a village.

What could be better than immersing yourself in heaps of cooking for the love and joy of your family? Literally nothing except a photographer who would work for free snapping and capturing the cookery moments of magic as they happened that day so I would be able to share all my glory with all of you. But alas, no such free photographer attended dinner. I have just a few iPhone photos that don't do the food any justice. I suppose you will have to take my word for it every dish turned out wonderfully and tasted even better. Now I must warn you I do not have any pictures of the stuffing or the cranberry sauce. You'll just have to imagine those!

Sweet Potato and Prosciutto Upside Down Lollipops with sage, dates, and manchego cheese. (Inspired by Mark Bittman's Sweet Potato with Prosciutto).

Sugar Free Chocolate Walnut Oatmeal Cookies

3 Cheese Mac-n-Cheese. Gruyere, Swiss, and Sharp Cheddar peppered with pieces of black pepper ham.

Green Onion and Garlic Scallop Potatoes

Mama's Brown Sugar & Molasses Sweet Potatoes

Lemon Pepper Baby Spinach with Baby Portobellos

One would think after all that cooking and a bit of baking, I would be done going 'all out' for Thanksgiving. Yet, if you thought that you would be wrong. Friday morning I packed up my car and left Naples for the lovely community of West Palm Beach to visit my dear friend Becky Osborne-Phillips. Not only is she a killer in the kitchen, she is a cake artist rivaling Cake Boss and Ace of Cakes. For real. If you live in South Florida and want some cake art, call Becky!

Upon my arrival to her abode we immediately starting planning dinner. Using her leftovers, we whipped up a stuffed and breaded chicken breast with her homemade tangerine-cranberry sauce, feta cheese, and grated fresh nutmeg on the inside with a flour, egg, and panko breading on the outside. We fried and baked the breasts while we slowly roasted asparagus with fresh rosemary from Becky's garden and topped the asparagus with a devilish lemon butter. Sure we could have stopped there, but we didn't. Remember that whole 'all out' thing?

I still had the baking bug and have had an itch to make's Pumpkin Chocolate Chip 'coffins' or cookie-muffins. Well, (pause for dramatic deep breath) while Becky and I were at Publix shopping for dinner necessities and beer, we searched for pumpkin and were greeted with empty shelves and black-and-white flyers describing what we already know as the Great Pumpkin Shortage Fallout of 2009. Cursed rains! Blasted drowned fields! Foiled yet again. However could I make this situation right? I needed to make a sweet something and with my cookie plans spoiled, my good friend Becky-after splitting a 6-pack of Peroni and a bottle of Mad Housewife Merlot together-tisply asked me at 3am, "How about ice cream? I got an ice cream maker." Boom.

How about yes. I tried homemade ice cream without any kind of tool that eases the process and it was an epic fail. So when a chance to use an ice cream maker presented itself I jumped, and first thing the next morning (ok early afternoon) we started making Homemade Milk Chocolate Ice Cream with a Peanut Butter Ripple. Here is the only recipe I was able to write-down during my all out Thanksgiving weekend, and it is a collaboration with Becky Osborne-Phillips. Enjoy!

Makes 4-6 servings

Milk Chocolate Ice Cream
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk
dash of salt apprx. 1/8 tsp.
1 1/2 egg yolk (just do it)
2 oz. Ghiradelli milk chocolate chips
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 tsp. vanilla

PNB Ripple
1/3 cup chilled smooth peanut butter
2 oz. Reese's Peanut Butter Chips, melted.

Combine milk, salt, cocoa powder, and sugar over medium heat in a saucepan continually stirring. Bring mixture to a simmer.

Combine cream and vanilla in a bowl and chill.

Lightly beat egg yolks in a bowl. Stir 1/2 cup of the heat mixture gradually into the egg yolks, and then return it to the saucepan.

Heat until thickened, but do not boil! Be patient! This could take up to 10 minutes.

Remove from the heat and stir in the milk chocolate chips until they melt completely.

Freeze in a shallow, chilled dish (casserole is perfect) for 20-30 minutes stirring occasionally.

When milk chocolate mixture has completely cooled stir in the vanilla and cream pre-chilled.

Pour into an ice cream maker and freeze for 15-20 minutes (or follow your ice cream maker's directions).

Mix 1/3 cup of chilled smooth peanut butter and the melted peanut butter chips in a bowl and stir until combined. Keep heated so the mixture is pourable.

When the milk chocolate ice cream is frozen, add the peanut butter through the top feeder so it creates the ribbon throughout the ice cream. Turn-off the machine and remove the metal bowl. Put it in the freezer about 7 minutes longer and voila! The greatest homemade milk chocolate ice cream with peanut butter ripple is ready for spooning. The all out dessert to end the all out holiday.