CUCINA CARA MIA.......Random thoughts from "my dear kitchen" about food, travel, Italy, San Diego and life!

Thursday, November 8, 2012


Four and a half years ago I started this blog. I was excited and inspired by traveling to Italy and finding a stronger passion for cooking and baking. I spent a lot of time looking at other blogs, making connections and finding like minded souls along the way. Then in 2010 I decided to start the business of Cucina Cara Mia, selling Italian desserts, as well as some savory products at my local Farmer's Market. It was great exposure, I enjoyed meeting and chatting with people about my products, and giving out samples, but I knew it was not quite the right market, yet I hung in there for over a year and a half. This past spring I decided to follow a new path...dessert catering. I have been a vendor at several large events in San Diego and it has definitely been a learning experience. Someone said your business will evolve, and I didn't quite understand what that meant, but now I do. If you had told me five years ago that I would be catering Italian Inspired Desserts, I would have said, "No way". Just last week, I FINALLY had a website designed and it really looks great. I would love for you to check it

So where has this blog taken a place of creativity, pride, confidence.wonder and anticipation of what is yet to come.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Another gluten free success story (well, almost!)

Finally accepting that I have to come up with more gluten free products, I discovered this Lemon Polenta Cake -one of Nigella Lawson's recipes. The only ingredient I hadn't used before was almond meal/flour...Down to Sprouts I drove and purchased Bob's Red Mill Almond Meal/Flour, naturally Gluten-Free. It was $9.99 for a one pound I know why they charge so much for gluten free baked goods.


1 3/4 sticks (14 tablespoons) soft unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
1 cup superfine sugar
2 cups almond meal/flour
3/4 cup fine polenta/cornmeal
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder (gluten-free if required)
3 eggs
Zest 2 lemons (save the juice for the syrup)


Juice 2 lemons (see above)
Heaping 1 cup confectioners' sugar
Special Equipment: 1 (9-inch) springform pan

For the cake: Line the base of your cake pan with parchment paper and grease its sides lightly with butter. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Beat the butter and sugar till pale and whipped, either by hand in a bowl with a wooden spoon, or using a freestanding mixer.

Mix together the almond meal, polenta and baking powder, and beat some of this into the butter-sugar mixture, followed by 1 egg, then alternate dry ingredients and eggs, beating all the while.

Finally, beat in the lemon zest and pour, spoon or scrape the mixture into your prepared pan and bake in the oven for about 40 minutes. It may seem wibbly but, if the cake is cooked, a cake tester should come out cleanish and, most significantly, the edges of the cake will have begun to shrink away from the sides of the pan. Remove from the oven to a wire cooling rack, but leave in its pan.

For the syrup: Make the syrup by boiling together the lemon juice and confectioners' sugar in a smallish saucepan. Once the confectioners' sugar has dissolved into the juice, you're done. Prick the top of the cake all over with a cake tester (a skewer would be too destructive), pour the warm syrup over the cake, and leave to cool before taking it out of its pan.

Make Ahead Note: The cake can be baked up to 3 days ahead and stored in airtight container in a cool place. Will keep for total of 5 to 6 days.

Freeze Note: The cake can be frozen on its lining paper as soon as cooled, wrapped in double layer of plastic wrap and a layer of foil, for up to 1 month. Thaw for 3 to 4 hours at room temperature.

I decided to make mini cakes and used my favorite fluted silicone pans...and they were delicious except I probably should have purchased finely ground Polenta--so they came out a little gritty, but buttery and lemony!

It's a perfect little bite to have with tea or a cappuccino!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


And sometimes that thing is pizza, well, I think many colors, so many choices of toppings..Recently, I bought a new pizza pan at Crate & Barrel - a round metal crisping pan with holes on the bottom...after I broke 3, yes THREE pizza stones, I thought I better try metal for a safer pizza experience. It actually worked very well the first time, the crust was thinner and crispier...This one is just cherry tomatoes, arugula, Pecorino, and mozzarella..

Friday, June 8, 2012

When you think think Dorie Greenspan

And according to the award winning author of 10 cookbooks, she burned her parents kitchen down at the age of 13!! She didn't really start baking until she got married...She is a part time resident of Paris and has a wonderful blog "In the Kitchen and On the Road with Dorie"!

Always searching for new cookie recipe I stumbled upon her Chocolate Chip Espresso Shortbread. Her many fans rave they have never had a bad result from any of her recipes...and this cookie is amazing!!

So here's the recipe from her cookbook: "Baking from My Home to Yours"
Makes 42 cookies:

I decided to use round cookie cutters so I didn't follow it exactly...

1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
1 tablespoon boiling water
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate (plain, or a toffee variety), finely chopped, or 3/4 cup store-bought mini chocolate chips
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting (optional)

1. Dissolve the espresso in the boiling water, and set aside to cool to tepid.

2. Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter and confectioners’ sugar together on medium speed for about 3 minutes, until the mixture is very smooth. Beat in the vanilla and espresso, then reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour, mixing only until it disappears into the dough. Don’t work the dough much once the flour is incorporated. Fold in the chopped chocolate with a sturdy rubber spatula.

3. Using the spatula, transfer the soft, sticky dough to a gallon-size zipper-lock plastic bag. Put the bag on a flat surface, leaving the top open, and roll the dough into a 9 x 10 1/2 inch rectangle that’s 1/4 inch thick. As you roll, turn the bag occasionally and lift the plastic from the dough so it doesn’t cause creases. When you get the right size and thickness, seal the bag, pressing out as much air as possible, and refrigerate the dough for at least 2 hours, or for up to 2 days.

4. Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.

5. Put the plastic bag on a cutting board and slit it open. Turn the firm dough out onto the board (discard the bag) and, using a ruler as a guide and a sharp knife, cut the dough into 1 1/2-inch squares. Transfer the squares to the baking sheets and carefully prick each one twice with a fork, gently pushing the tines through the cookies until they hit the sheet.

6. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, rotating the sheets from top to bottom and front to back at the midway point. The shortbreads will be very pale–they shouldn’t take on much color. Transfer the cookies to a rack.

7. If you’d like, dust the cookies with confectioners’ sugar while they are still hot. Cool the cookies to room temperature before serving.

I promise you, you will LOVE this one!! Enjoy....

Saturday, May 12, 2012

OK...I admit it...I'm addicted to Nutella!

Looking for a fun dessert to serve at our Mother's Day brunch, I found this recipe on, a Canadian food blog...

Nutella Crumb Bars:

In a bowl toss together
2 t. baking powder
2 cups rolled oats (large)
2 cups flour
1 cup brown sugar

Using your hands, rub thoroughly through the dry ingredients:

1 ½ cups butter, cut in small cubes.

This mixture should hold together when squeezed in your fist.

Divide crumble mixture in half and press half into the bottom of a 9x13 inch greased or parchment lined baking pan. Spread fudge filling mixture over the base. Top with remaining crumb mixture, breaking it into small pieces with your fingers. Bake for 40 minutes at 350 degrees F or until golden brown.

Nutella Fudge Filling

In a double boiler melt together until smooth:

1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup whipping cream (or evaporated milk)
1 cup Nutella

Don't let this mixture get too hot, as soon as the chocolate is melted, take it off the heat. Add

1 cup icing sugar ( i.e. powdered sugar, confectioners sugar)

Blend in until smooth,

It's crunchy nutella heaven!! What's your food addiction?

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


I had a request to make a cake to celebrate a client's great aunt's 90th birthday last week. He wanted something with lots of coconut and a lemon curd filling. Not usually a maker of traditional style cakes, I went on the hunt for a recipe incorporating those usual Ina Garten's (The Barefoot Contessa) recipe seemed to be the perfect fit for this special lady.


3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for
greasing the pans
2 cups sugar
5 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons pure almond extract
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pans
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup milk
4 ounces sweetened shredded coconut

For the frosting:

1 pound cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
1 pound confectioners' sugar, sifted
6 ounces sweetened shredded coconut


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 2 (9-inch) round cake pans, then line them parchment paper. Grease them again and dust lightly with flour.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium-high speed for 3 to 5 minutes, until light yellow and fluffy. Crack the eggs into a small bowl. With the mixer on medium speed, add the eggs 1 at a time, scraping down the bowl once during mixing. Add the vanilla and almond extracts and mix well. The mixture might look curdled; don't be concerned.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the dry ingredients and the milk to the batter in 3 parts, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Mix until just combined. Fold in the 4 ounces of coconut with a rubber spatula.

Pour the batter evenly into the 2 pans and smooth the top with a knife. Bake in the center of the oven for 45 to 55 minutes, until the tops are browned and a cake tester comes out clean. Cool on a baking rack for 30 minutes, then turn the cakes out onto a baking rack to finish cooling.

For the frosting, in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the cream cheese, butter, vanilla and almond extract on low speed. Add the confectioners' sugar and mix until just smooth (don't whip!).

To assemble, place 1 layer on a flat serving plate, top side down, and spread with frosting. Place the second layer on top, top side up, and frost the top and sides. **I added lemon curd in between the layers to give it a little more lemon flavor. To decorate, sprinkle the top with coconut and lightly press more coconut onto the sides. Serve at room temperature.

The cake looked wonderful, and I anxiously awaited a call from him hoping to hear she liked it...his text said it was a hit, and they had it for breakfast the following this cake would be a great wedding cake, baby shower cake, bridal shower cake, or a "just because" cake...embellished with fresh flowers or lemon slices..

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


Last week, I returned from a week on the island of Moorea in French Polynesia- celebrating my 25th anniversary with my husband in a place that is truly has been on my "bucket list" for a while, and now I can say it is in a place where wonderful memories live forever...


Tahiti is a French country, and the food was amazing, incredible pastries, fresh baguettes at the local market, a great array of fresh fish prepared in unusual ways,exotic fruits, $10.00 bottles of Bordeaux wine....Tahitian vanilla creme brulee and profitorales for dessert...We even found a pizza place that delivered to our hotel, a nice thin crusted pizza and chocolate mousse for dessert....

One of my favorite dishes was something called Poisson Cru, which is very similar to ceviche - ingredients include high quality tuna, lime, coconut milk, cucumber, tomato, scallions, salt and pepper...

I would have to say it was perfection...but isn't that another word for paradise?

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


The more you blog the more you know....recently in checking out some local food blogs I came upon a post for a great idea.....a San Diego Food Bloggers Bake take place at Great News Discount Cookware and Cooking School in Pacific Beach ( on Saturday April 28th from 10AM-2PM...all proceeds go to the Share Our Strength Foundation to stop childhood hunger..

There will be an amazing array of baked goods, all locally made, and Cucina Cara Mia is happy to participate...with our delicious nutella brownies and other Italian treats...come down and get your sweets and help stop childhood hunger!

Great News is located at 1788 Garnet Avenue.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Finally.....a gluten free recipe!!

I have been fighting the whole "gluten-free" bandwagon since I started my business 2 years ago. I thought, how could you make a really good dessert without flour, eggs, or butter? There were many times when customers asked if I could make a gluten free cheesecake or did I have any vegan items on the menu...the answer was always, sorry, no I don't.

We were invited to a wine tasting dinner party tonight, and I volunteered to make a dessert. Looking for something decadent and chocolate I found this recipe on flour, a little sugar, but eggs and dairy.

Still it is "Gluten-Free"...and hopefully with a little Gelato, delicious!

Flourless Nutella Chocolate Torte:

3/4 cup skinned hazelnuts, lightly toasted
9 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
9 ounces milk chocolate, finely chopped
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for greasing pan
1 1/4 cups Nutella
6 large eggs
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup heavy cream, cold


Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350° F. Coat bottom and sides of 9-inch springform pan with butter. Place bottom of pan over large sheet of foil and fold foil up sides to create a waterproof seal.


Place hazelnuts in food processor and process until finely ground, 15 to 30 seconds; set aside. Place bittersweet chocolate, milk chocolate, and butter in heatproof bowl set over saucepan of barely simmering water. Heat, stirring occasionally, until mixture is melted. Remove from heat and stir in Nutella and chopped hazelnuts until combined.


In bowl of standing mixer fitted with whip attachment, Beat eggs with sugar and salt on medium-high speed until doubled in volume, 3 to 4 minutes. Fold 1/3 eggs into chocolate mixture to lighten. Gently fold in remaining eggs until no streaks remain.


In the unwashed mixer bowl, whip cream on medium-high speed to soft peak, about 30 seconds. Fold into chocolate mixture just until no streaks remain. Pour into prepared pan.


Place pan in roasting pan and fill pan with 1-inch hot water. Bake until center is just set and torte doesn't jiggle when shaken, 60 to 70 minutes. Remove springform pan from roasting pan and place on cooling rack to cool about 30 minutes. Chill until completely set, 2 to 3 hours.

Friday, February 3, 2012


My love affair with Nutella continues...and in honor of World Nutella Day I found this recipe on the Food and Wine website... Hazelnut Nutella Sandwich Cookies 2/3 cup roasted hazelnuts 2-1/2 c. all purpose flour 1/2 t. baking soda1/2 t. salt 2 sticks (8 oz.) unsalted butter, softened 1-1/4 c. sugar 1 large egg yolk 1 t. vanilla extract Nutella Directions: 1. In a food processor, finely grind hazelnuts. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour with the ground nuts, baking soda and salt. In a standard electric mixer fitted with a paddle, beat the butter with the sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the egg yolk, and vanilla, scraping the side and bottom of the bowl. Beat in the dry ingredients at medium low speed. Divide the dough in half. Pat each half into a round, wrap them in plastic and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes. 2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Position the racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. On a lightly floured surface, roll out each piece of dough, 1/8 inch thick. Using a 2 inch biscuit cutter, stamp out rounds as close together as possible. Arrange the rounds on large baking sheets, about 1 inch apart, Gather the scraps and reroll, cutting out more cookies. 3. Bake cookies in batches for about 10 minutes, until golden, shift the pans from top to bottom and front to back halfway through baking. Let the cookies cool on the sheets for 5 minutes, and then transfer to racks to cool completely. 4. Sandwich the cooled cookies with Nutella..
They are super crunchy, light and heavenly!

Monday, January 9, 2012


I was in the mood for a one pot meal tonight, and started thumbing through some of the Barefoot Contessa's cookbooks and came upon her Coq au Vin. I am not usually one to make a french recipe, but her Beef Bourguignon recipe came out amazing, so I decided to go for it - got all the ingredients, came home and started slicing carrots...and realized I forgot to buy a bottle of wine, ie: Burgundy...some Zinfandel in the house and a few bottles that are just too good for a stew...but there in the wine rack was a bottle of MY HUSBAND'S WINE....DUH!! Steve took a wine making class last spring and made 36 bottles of Cabernet Franc--some he gave out as Christmas gifts, and some are sitting in our wine rack.. Thanks Steve for saving the day!! Here is Ina's Recipe: 4 ounces good bacon or pancetta, diced 1 (3 to 4-pound) chicken, cut in 8ths Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 1/2 pound carrots, cut diagonally in 1-inch pieces 1 yellow onion, sliced 1 teaspoon chopped garlic 1/4 cup Cognac or good brandy 1/2 bottle (375 ml) good dry red wine such as Burgundy 1 cup good chicken stock, preferably homemade 10 fresh thyme sprigs 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, divided 1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour 1/2 pound frozen small whole onions 1/2 pound cremini mushrooms, stems removed and thickly sliced Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F. Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven. Add the bacon and cook over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove the bacon to a plate with a slotted spoon. Meanwhile, lay the chicken out on paper towels and pat dry. Liberally sprinkle the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper. When the bacon is removed, brown the chicken pieces in batches in a single layer for about 5 minutes, turning to brown evenly. Remove the chicken to the plate with the bacon and continue to brown until all the chicken is done. Set aside. Add the carrots, onions, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper to the pan and cook over medium heat for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the Cognac and put the bacon, chicken, and any juices that collected on the plate into the pot. Add the wine, chicken stock, and thyme and bring to a simmer. Cover the pot with a tight fitting lid and place in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes, until the chicken is just not pink. Remove from the oven and place on top of the stove. Mash 1 tablespoon of butter and the flour together and stir into the stew. Add the frozen onions. In a medium saute pan, add the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter and cook the mushrooms over medium-low heat for 5 to 10 minutes, until browned. Add to the stew. Bring the stew to a simmer and cook for another 10 minutes. Season to taste. Serve hot.