Tag Archives: Cookware and bakeware

Roasted Red Pepper Sandwiches with Herbed Goat Cheese Served on Focaccia Bread

Remember those tasty, squared little focaccia samwiches from my focaccia bread post?

If you are entertaining at home this weekend, these mini samwiches (I love calling it a “samwich”) are something that you will want to serve. They are crunchy, creamy and delicious.

Serve them at your next party, or you can just stick them in your lunch box; they are great any way that you want to enjoy them.

You will need:

  • 1 homemade focaccia bread, cut up into squares
  • Red Peppers, 1 per sandwich (my bread recipe should yield 8 to 10 sandwiches)
  • baby portobello mushrooms, sliced
  • Herbed goat cheese spread

For the goat cheese you will need:

  • 1 tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 teaspoons oregano
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 package (3 oz.) of goat cheese


For the Peppers:

  • To roast the peppers, preheat the broiler and line a sheet pan with parchment paper, or grease it lightly.
  • Cut peppers in half, lengthwise, and remove the seeds and stems.
  • Place peppers cut side down on the sheet pan.
  • Broil for about 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Place the peppers in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap.
  • Peel when cooled.

For the Herbed Goat Cheese Spread:

  • In a small bowl combine all of the ingredients except for the goat cheese, mix well.
  • Coat the goat cheese with the mixture, press the mixture into the cheese with a fork and combine well.
  • Cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. If you have the time, prepare this a day ahead; the longer it sits, the better it tastes.

Assembling the Sandwiches:

  • Spread the herbed goat cheese on two squared slices of focaccia.
  • Layer the portobello mushrooms on one slice, then follow up with the roasted pepper.
  • Cover with a slice of focaccia, and serve.



Filed under Dinner A la Diethood, Home

Surviving the Blizzard of 2011: Lentil Soup with Dried Red Peppers

A monster snow storm decided to take us down for three days last week. We had to deal with power outages which meant no TV, no computers, no internet (!!!) and uncharged cellular phones and laptops. You would think that by now, after 20 years of brutal Chicago snow storms, I would have learned to finally buy an electric generator. Nope. Still haven’t. And I don’t know why because I know what’s coming: boredom!

In all honesty, after a few hours we were all kind of sick of each other. What did we do before cell phones and the internet? Can you remember? Slept? Talked? Maybe even argued a bit more? Hmmmm…

Our cars…

My daughter, Ana, and my niece, Teodora, having a blast in the snow!

But, wow, were we happy when that power came back on! My daughter, my niece, and I were back in the kitchen cooking up our favorite lentil soup that I had promised them, while hubby hung out in front of the TV catching up on the latest Soccer news.

Weather Gods, I am talking to you; seven hours without electricity is pretty cruel – give us a break next time around, please. I mean, I don’t mind being snowed in as long as everyone is home and the electricity is working. Thank you for listening.

If my grandma read this, she would say that the world has spoiled us rotten and then she would go into how she grew up with a lantern and gave birth to four kids inside her barely lit, phone-less house.

Speaking of grandma, (HI BABA! :)), this recipe is completely hers, and it is our favorite way to prepare lentil soup.

Lentil Soup with Dried Red Peppers

You will need:

  • 8 oz. of lentils
  • 2 red dried peppers
  • 1 large onion, quartered
  • 3 cloves of garlic, quartered
  • 6 cups of water
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • pinch of dried mint

For the roux:

  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon of cayenne pepper


  • In a large soup pot, or a deep clay pot, add in the lentils, peppers, onions and garlic.

  • Pour in the water and over high heat bring to a boil.
  • Lower it to medium-low heat and let it simmer for 20 minutes.
  • Take out a few of the vegetables into a bowl and season them with salt, pepper, and mint. Mash it all with a fork and return to the pot. Make sure that you’ve mashed up the red peppers.

  • Continue to simmer for 10 more minutes.
  • In a separate sauce-pan heat up the oil over medium heat. The oil is ready when bubbles create around a wooden spoon.

  • Pour in the cayenne pepper into the heated oil and stir continuously for a few seconds; the wonderful smell of the pepper will let you know when it’s ready to be added to the soup pot.
  • Once in the pot, stir and allow the soup to simmer for another 5 minutes.
  • Let it cool for a few minutes before serving.

P.S. I served it to the little ones before adding in the roux. I don’t think they would understand to appreciate all that pepper yumminess.


Filed under Dinner A la Diethood, Home, Macedonian Cuisine

Fruit and Nut Bars

While the rest of you are all cookie’d out and working on a healthier menu, I haven’t even started on my sweets binge. I woke up bright and early (6 a.m.) this morning with a massive craving for something sweet. This Fast is really getting to me now (just 3 more days to go!) – I’m dreaming about cookies, steaks, cheese, etc… I bow to you, vegans!

Because I almost always have to satisfy a craving, I flipped through some of my ‘sweets for Fast’ recipes and came across these fruit and nut bars. The original bars are not Fast-compatible, but I used a banana instead of an egg and made them so. However, I did make another batch for the rest of this household by following the original recipe. If you are interested in trying them without the egg, just replace it with one whole mashed banana.

You will need:

  • 1/3 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups walnuts, chopped
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries
  • 1 1/2 cup dates, chopped
  • 1/2 cup dried apricots, cut into pieces
  • 1 large egg OR substitute with 1 (one) mashed banana
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  • Line an entire 8 x 8 inch baking pan with aluminum foil.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
  • Stir in the brown sugar, walnuts, and dried fruit. Use your fingers to make sure that all the fruit and nuts have been coated with the flour mixture.

  • In a separate bowl, with a wire whisk beat the egg and vanilla until light colored and thick.
  • Add the egg mixture to the fruit and nut mixture and mix until all the fruit and nut pieces are coated with the batter.
  • If you are using the banana substitute, mash the banana with a fork real well then add in the vanilla extract. Blend it all together and mix it into the fruit and nut mixture.

  • Spread into the prepared pan, pressing to even it out.

  • Bake for about 40 minutes, or until the batter has pulled away from the sides of the pan.
  • Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool.
  • When cooled, lift the bars from the pan by the edges of the aluminum foil.

  • Makes 16, 2-inch squares.

Grab a cup of coffee or tea and enjoy!


Filed under Home, Sweets. Now. Please.

Wafer Cookie filled with Almonds and Figs

The first time I thought of making this dessert, a wafer filled with a mixture of figs, was for my daughter’s first birthday. Even though I had ordered a 3 tier cake for only 20 people, I had this need to make more sweets. (It’s the foodie in me). I ended up with 3 different types of desserts plus the cake. Then I was left with leftovers. Sweet ones, that is. No worries, hubby and I finished them off. The wafers were the best ones of the bunch – my taste buds were singing hallelujah!

As a result, and since the holiday is upon us, I have decided to make these again and gift them to a couple of my dear friends for Christmas. They loved them at the party so I am playing it safe. I just hope that they will stick to the “5$ spending limit” Christmas gift deal! I like to play by the rules. Well, not always, but when it involves more people, I’m a good teammate.

You will need:

  • 4 (8×10) wafer sheets
  • 2 cups dried figs, chopped
  • 1 orange, zested
  • 1 cup almonds, toasted and ground
  • 3 cups water
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 packet (0.32 oz.) vanilla sugar
  • 4 tablespoons instant grits
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder


  • Pour 3 cups of water in a large saucepan and warm it up over medium heat.
  • Add  in granulated sugar, followed by the vanilla sugar and grits. Dissolve.
  • Stir in the chopped figs and the orange zest.
  • Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Mix in the toasted and ground almonds, and let the mixture simmer for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

  • Stir in the cocoa powder and combine.
  • Take the saucepan away from the heat and let it cool – the mixture will thicken as it cools.
  • Set one wafer on a cookie sheet (this is to eliminate the mess on your countertop from the drips of the sauce).
  • When the fig mixture has completely cooled (about an hour), spread it over the entire wafer.

  • Cover that with a wafer sheet.
  • Repeat this two more times; cover with the last wafer.

  • Place a cutting board on top just until it sets so to keep the top wafer from folding up on the sides.
  • Allow the dessert to set in the fridge for about an hour or two before cutting it.
  • You can cut it into the shape of squares or the shape of diamonds.


Filed under Home, Macedonian Cuisine, Sweets. Now. Please.

Mini Peanut Butter Cups

I have been craving these little gems for over a month now. I kept putting it off because I had other food orders to fulfill, but I couldn’t put it off any longer – today was the day – and they need to be delivered by 3 pm. Did I mention that I had an order for 250 cookies for this weekend? Yeah, you can say that I’m sort of busy these days, but I don’t mind – it’s all for a good cause.

Do you remember how badly you wanted these when you were a kid? Well I want them just as bad even now – I find it hard to share them. I’ve already had 4 – I feel kind of sick, but I know that in about an hour I will go for more. I have to deliver 40 of them, but I made 60 because I know how I am. 🙂 And, I made them in a mini muffin pan because, 1) the order was for bite-sized sweets, and 2) I ate 4, but in reality I only ate 2! That’s how I play tricks with my mind. Whatever works!

Lets get to these beauties! (Makes 12 mini peanut butter cups)

You will need:

  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable shortening
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 tablespoon margarine
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  • Set a pot with an inch of water on the stove over high heat. Bring the water up to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low.
  • Set another pot on top of it.
  • Add in the chocolate chips and shortening.

  • Stir occasionally until melted.

  • Line a 12-cup mini muffin pan with liners. I didn’t have any mini muffin liners so I made my own with a thin aluminum foil.

  • Put a spoonful of the melted chocolate in each cup.
  • When done, put the muffin pan in the fridge for about a half an hour.

  • In the meantime prepare the peanut butter mixture.
  • Again, set a pot with an inch of water on the stove over high heat. Bring the water up to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low.
  • Set another pot on top of it and pour in the peanut butter, margarine, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract.
  • Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until melted, about 5 minutes.
  • Take  the muffin pan out of the fridge and begin by putting a small lump of peanut butter filling in the chocolate cup, but don’t spread it. You want to leave the sides empty so that the chocolate which goes on top will cover up the entire cookie.

  • But, before you cover them with the rest of the melted chocolate, put them back in the fridge for another 15 minutes so that the peanut butter can set just a bit.
  • Pour the rest of the melted chocolate on top of each cup and put them back in the fridge for another half an hour.



Filed under Home, Sweets. Now. Please.