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Monday, July 9, 2012


Ok ladies and gents it has been a while...ok a very long while since I last posted...BUT...the last Francesconi "Bun" is out of the oven.  Baby #4 - Leo Michael Francesconi was born on June 5th weighing in at a whopping 10 lbs 2 oz and 20 inches long.  We have made it through the first month (just a barely) w/ four kids four and  under!!  If you can believe it or not I have been trying some new recipes and plan to post them when I can.  Please bare w/ me and keep checking for my new posts.  Don't forget to check out my old posts either!!

Monday, January 16, 2012


I'm back!!  Well, I am back for at least the night.  Let's take the blog posts one post at a time!  For those of you who are not aware...I am pregnant with my fourth!  Yes, we will now have twin four year olds, a 15 month old and a new born....ahhhhh!!!!  I have not been able to post because I was so ill during my whole first trimester.  Now I am well into my second trimester, but to find any time to myself with a house full of little bambinos is close to impossible!  I have in fact found the time tonight and am very excited to tell you about a new cook-book I have fallen in love with.  The cook book is called  " Cucina Povera - Tuscan Peasant Cooking".  I have always labeled my cooking as "rustic gourmet".  I do not cook fruffy food with funny, unknown ingredients.  I cook using simple and fresh ingredients that are not complicated.  This cook book is simple italian food that reminds me of my grandma big time.

  Within the last week I made three recipes , the first of which is called "Ciambellone" a tuscan ring cake.  Italian deserts are my most favorite, because they are high in flavor, but low in sugar. This cake uses 8 ingredients that most of us have in our kitchen at all times with some added lemon zest and  fresh squeezed lemon juice.  It also calls for a cup of extra virgin olive oil which makes this tremendous crispy crust on the outside of the cake while leaving the interior of the cake moist and delicious.  These recipes are very old fashioned and do not use any high tech kitchen gadgets.  When mixing the ingredients to this recipe I used just a regular wooden spoon as not to overmix anything.  I sprinkled some powdered sugar atop the cake and served a dollop of fresh whipped cream on the side.  Super simple and super yummy!

Sunday, November 6, 2011


We have a Halloween get together every year and every year I try to find a fun dessert that my girls can make with me.   This year I found a really cute recipe for Spider Cupcakes that were super simple to make, easy for my girls to decorate and yummy for the kids (and some of the adults too!) !

Thursday, November 3, 2011


This is a re-post from last year at this time.  I rarely do re-posts, but this recipe deserves it!  These cupcakes are my absolute favorite!  The cake part is not overly sweet and they go so well with the cinnamon cream cheese frosting!  These cupcakes will be the hit of any holiday party Thanksgiving thry New Years!

  • 3/4 cup butter, softend
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 can (15 oz.) solid pack pumpkin
  • 2 1/3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 TB. pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tsp. bkg. powder
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 package (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  1. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add pumpkin. Combine the flour, pie spice, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, baking soda and ginger, and to the creamed mixture alternately with the buttermilk, beating well after each addition.
  2. Fill paper lined muffin cups three fourths full. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks to cool completely.
  3. For frosting, in a large bowl, beat cream cheese and butter until fluffy. Add the powdered sugar, vanilla and cinnamon, beat until smooth. Frost cupcakes.
* Makes about 2 dozen cupcakes
** I suggest you keep them in the fridge since they have cream cheese.

Monday, October 3, 2011


I have started making some terrific fall recipes and I cannot wait to post them all (when I have time)!  But...I realized I do in fact have a bunch of summer recipes that I have not posted yet.  I am going to try to "squeeze" the last bit of summer out this week and post some summer favorites that I made for family and friends recently.  The first of these recipes is a super simple and quick Orzo Salad that I made for a friend to take to a baby shower a month or so back.  There are so many recipes out there for pasta salads you could make one every day for a whole year and still not get any where near making them all.  The one thing I have realized is that pasta salad is very filling.  For this reason when making a starchy salad for an all women's party I try to stick to either orzo or couscous.  Does it make any sense when I say it is more "lady like" when eating more of a dainty pasta like orzo or couscous rather than a big tortelinni?  That being said this recipe is also great along side a simple piece of grilled chicken and grilled salad for a fast summer meal!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


Have you ever had that one meal or recipe that you are constantly on the search for "the perfect one"?  I did and it was a quest for the perfect pulled pork recipe.  There are complicated recipes for pulled pork where you have to use a smoker.  There are recipes where you add smoke flavor.  There are recipes where you use the slow cooker.  There are recipes that call for Carolina bbq sauce that is vinegar based.  There are recipes that call for Texas bbq sauce that are  tomato based.  Let me tell you....I have tried them all.  All the recipes I have tried have just been ok, but they have not been that "keeper" recipe that you can make again and again.  A few months back I found THE ONE!  I actually found it on another blog called Kevin & Amanda.  They said it was the perfect pulled pork and they did not is the perfect pulled pork.  You first brine the pork roast for at least 8 hours.  Then you completely cover the brined pork roast with the best dry rub mix.  Next, you slow cook the roast at 225 degrees for about 8-12 hours until it shreds like butter!!  I paired this perfect pulled pork with a super simple bbq sauce recipe by Emeril.  You don't even have to cook the BBQ sauce.  The only thing I added to the bbq sauce was a bit of hot sauce or Franks' Red Hot to spice it up a bit.  I have made this recipe for the past several catered parties and it is always a huge hit!  You can use any type of bun or roll that you want....but I drive about 1/2 hour to a deli in Naperville to get the best Challah rolls ever.  They really do make the sandwich!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


This Farmers Market Pasta was the second pasta I served at my parents 40th anniversary party.  Like usual I found a recipe that seemed like a good one BUT I tweaked it here and there to make it my own.  The original recipe I found was a Tyler Florence recipe.  His recipe included ground pork sausage, but I switched that out for grilled and sliced italian sausage.  I also added sliced mushrooms and quartered artichoke hearts.  I roasted some grape tomatoes with sliced garlic and olive oil with some kosher salt and fresh ground pepper and that created the "sauce" when mixed with a little of the salted pasta water.  This dish was a hit!  The key to making the dish a success was to cook/saute each fresh ingredient one by one.  In this way they are cooked the way each ingredient should be cooked.  The zuchinni is not overcooked and mushy and the mushrooms stay in tact and keep their shape.  Once everything is grilled, cooked, roasted and sauted you can add them quickly to the pasta so not to overcook anything.  Toss it all in in a big bowl with a ton of fresh grated parmesan cheese and you will have a pasta dish that everyone comes back for seconds for!!!!

Sunday, August 7, 2011


This was #1 pasta out of two that were passed around the 30 person seated dinner party at my parents 40th anniversary party.  I have posted this pasta recipe before, but it is my families all time favorite; therefore it deserves a second posting!  You start by making a super simple tomato butter sauce.  Make the pasta al'dente and place in a large pasta bowl.  In the center of the pasta place diced up burrato  mozerella cheese.  Ladle some piping hot sauce over the top which slightly melts the cheese and the cream just pours out of the cheese.  I have an embarassing confession to make.  The first time I bought burrato cheese was by accident at Costco.  I was having a large family party and I meant to buy fresh mozerella that was to be used for eggplant parmesan.  When the day of the party came and I was making the eggplant parmesan, I cut into the mozerella cheese and all this white, creamy liquid came pouring out.  I tried another mozerella ball and the same thing happened.  I opened a whole secocond package and the same thing happened to all the mozerella balls.  Well, I just thought Costco had put out a really bad batch of mozerella cheese.  I returned both large packages the following day and told customer service that it was a bad batch of mozerella.  What is embarassing is that the cheese was actually Burrato, a form of mozerella that has a yummy fresh cream and creamy strips of soft mozerella in the center.  When you cut into the ball the cream and cheese come pouring out.  Long story short....when the tomato sauce hits the creamy cheese you have heaven in a bowl!!!!!

Sunday, July 31, 2011


This salad is the second salad I served at my parents surprise 40th anniversary party.
 I wish just going to serve one salad to start...that was the plan...but I had found some hearts of palm at Costco recently and I decided I just HAD to make something with hearts of palm.  I found this recipe on a fun blog called The Wednesday Chef.  Let me tell you....even though this was just an "extra" salad, to me this was one of the stars of the show. I have to admit that I was once one of those people who could not stand fruit in my salads.  Savory recipes that included fruit I would completely bypass. My taste buds have changed for the better because I absolutely loved this salad! I changed it up a bit is by adding a small bit of thinly sliced red onion.  The oranges in the salad are supposed to be blood oranges, but since blood oranges have a very short season, I used navel oranges instead.  Also, it calls for the salad to lay on a bed of "frize" salad.  I could not find just frize anywhere...not even Caputos, so I used a spring mix that included some frize in it.  It turned out great.  This recipe is for sure a keeper!

Sunday, July 24, 2011


Arugula is awesome!  If you have never tried arugula you have to go out to the store grab some and make this salad!  It is spicy and crisp and just the  best greens around.  I found this recipe on a blog that I follow (  She always posts fresh, easy and true italian recipes.  This was the first salad I served family style at my parents 40th anniversary party.  It is super simple with just a few ingredients: arugula, shaved fennel, toasted walnuts, shaved parmesan all tossed with a simple balsamic vinegrette.  Although the recipe is super simple...the flavors are tremendous!

Thursday, July 21, 2011


I have to say I am a bruchetta junky!  I also have to say that it is rare that I find a bruchetta that I absolutely love .  If the bruchetta is already pre-made for you the bread gets really soggy.  If you have to place the tomatoes atop the grilled bread youself some people get lazy and choose to eat something else where they don't have to "work" for their food.  I have played around with different recipes over the years and have come up with what I believe to be the very best bruchetta of all time!  My secret.....I mix up some home made ricotta ( I find home-made ricotta cheese at Caputos) with some olive oil, salt, pepper and crushed red pepper.  I spread this atop my grilled bread before I place my bruchetta topping on top of the bread.  This helps seal the bread in a way where the juices from the tomato topping do not seep into the grilled bread.  Thus, the bread does not get soggy.  You can pre-make the bruchetta right before your guests arrive and place them all on a pretty platter.  When your guests arrive they have fresh (not soggy) bruchetta that is all pre-made and therefore do not have to "work" for their appetizer.  The other secret to this recipe is plain and simple: fresh ingredients.  There are only five main ingredients to this recipe; bread, tomatoes, basil, garlic and olive oil.  Use fresh ingredients and you cannot go wrong!!


This past week-end my husband and I hosted a surprise 40th anniversary for my mom and dad.  For the past few summers my mom has wanted an al'fresco italian family dinner.  She always talked about how she wanted one big long table lines with old fashioned table clothes and big bowls of pasta and  big platters of food being served family style. little mind got to thinking that this 40th party was going to be based on the summer italian party my mom had always wanted.  There was only one problemo....the temperture this past Sunday (the day of the party) was 93 degrees with an even higher heat index.  Long story short...we set up the beautiful table, made a ton of awesome food, set up some fans and we threw one hell of an italian party!  The menu was really extensive so I will be posting my recipes over the next several blog posts.  Also, have to give a ton of credit to my Aunt P who helped make some of this wonderful food! Just to give you an idea of what is to come I decided to post the menu for you to view first:

  • Italian Margaritas

  • Tomato & Basil Bruchetta w/ Fresh Ricotta
  • Prosciutto, Cantelope & Mozerella Skewers
  • Italian Meat and Cheese Platters
  • Arugula w/ Shaved Fennel & Toasted Walnuts w/ Balsamic Dressing
  • Hearts of Palm & Orange Salad w/ Citrus Vinegrette
  • Roasted Red Peppers w/ Olive Oil & Shaved Parmesan
  • Seashell Pasta w/ Tomato Butter Sauce w/ Burrato Cheese
  • Farmers Market Pasta w/ Italian Sausage
  • Lemon Chicken
  • Braisole
  • Brocolli Rabe
  • Prosecco & Peach Sorbet
  • Rustic Peach & Apple Pies
  • Anniversary Cake
  • Caputos Cookies

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


I am always looking for a great coffee cake recipe.  I love to serve coffee cake and fresh fruit for a quick breakfast treat for guests and for my family over the week-end.  I already have a great blueberry coffee cake recipe and also a recipe for a great cranberry vanilla coffee cake.  This time around I was looking for a beyond good cinnamon coffee cake.  My main goal was to find a recipe where there was an awesome sweet and crunchy streusel on top.  I found what I was looking for with a Martha Stewart recipe.  Now, I don't want to "knock" Martha, but I usually find Martha's recipes a little too plain at times and her a bit "artsy crafty" for me.  To be honest I have never really been too interested in searching her recipes.  I just happened to put in a photo google search for "Cinnamon Streusel Coffee Cake" and a ton of pictures popped up.  I don't know about you, but I eat with my eyes!  This picture with a mile high streusel topping just jumped off the computer at me.  It just so happened that this picture belong to a recipe from Martha.  So....long story short...this recipe turned out to be a winner.  I have made it several times in the past few months.  I recently cooked for a family for a big 8th grade graduation party and they chose this coffee cake for me to make for their breakfast the next day.  It is a perfect wrapped package as it looks  beautiful, but it also tastes as good as it looks!

Thursday, June 23, 2011


I have pretty much always stayed away from making any kind of "ice-cream" cake or pie.  Most of the recipe just seem a little too simple...meaning why don't I just serve my guests a bowl of ice-cream.  I have changed my mind after making a great, great dessert:
Frozen Tiramisu.  For father's day I was looking for a dessert that I had never made before and my family had never tried before.  I found this recipe in a Better Home & Gardens special interest magazine called " Just Grill It!".  Not only did I find the recipe for the Frozen Tiramisu, but I also marked the pages for some more frozen desserts and a ton of grilled recipes...look for it on the magazine rack!  So this Frozen Tiramisu turned out awesome!!!!!  It may have started out a bit slow.  My husband kids and I got home from a party last saturday at about 9:30 at night.  We put the kids to bed and I decided to look over the recipe so I would know what to do the next day to make it.  While reading the recipe over I realized that I needed to make this dessert in layers and needed to freeze it for 3  hours between layers and when done freeze the entire dessert for 8-12 hours...AHHHHH.  So at 10:00 at night I am making this darn dessert and then I realize I am out of butter.  My dear husband (pretty awesome) ran out to get me some butter. While he was gone I looked behind the milk carton in the fridge and realized I did in fact have butter.  Long story short...once I finally got started  the dessert was pretty easy to make.  It was well worth it as the dessert was awesome, awesome, awesome!!!!  Plus you can freeze the leftovers and snack on it later in the week!

Thursday, June 9, 2011


A few weeks back I meant to post two new dips I have made recenlty.  One was the Roasted Red Pepper & Feta Dip.  The other dip was a Green Goddess Dip.  I actually forgot to post this recipe and am posting it tonight.  I had never made a Green Goddess Dip before, but saw recipes for it all the time.  I finally decided to make this dip and realized what it really is....a fantastic dip  made with fresh herbs, mayo, sour cream and a bit of other ingredients.  I actually have an herb garden growing in my back yard so this dip was a breeze for me to make.  For most people who don't grow herbs in their backyard you can run out to your local grocery store and find fresh packaged herbs to use.  This dip is best served cold with a ton of fresh vegies.  The recipe is from Bon Appetit and says that you can make this dip a few hours ahead of time.  I actually  made this dip the night before my party and it turned out great!


  • 2 cups (packed) trimmed watercress sprigs (from 1 large bunch)
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup crème fraîche or sour cream
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • Assorted cut-up vegetables (For dipping)
  • Assorted chips (for dipping)
Combine first 5 ingredients in processor; blend 5 seconds. Add next 6 ingredients. Blend until herbs and garlic are finely chopped, scraping down sides of bowl occasionally. Season dip with salt and pepper. Transfer to bowl. DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 hours ahead. Cover and chill.
Place bowl of dip in center of platter; surround with vegetables and chips.

* Recipe & photo courtesy of