naan pizzas

It wouldn’t be summer if I wasn’t wiping noses and playing Bop It alone in a dark room.  (click on the link for a description of Bop It a.k.a the greatest game in the universe).

Wait, what?! You all probably expected me to say something more glamorous like “putting on tanning oil and playing volleyball in Aruba.” Nope, not me.

I’ve been working at the same summer camp for the past six summers.  Every year by week three, I ask myself why in the world I come back every year to clean up “accidents” and listen to “Down By the Bay” for the millionth time.  But nevertheless,   I find myself back at camp every June — with a box of Clorox wipes and an open mind.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.

If there’s one thing that playing with kids as a job has taught me, it is the importance of being able to roll with the punches.  I never know when a game of duck duck goose will turn into a WWA showdown.  I’ve learned that it can be an emotional experience when the lunch ladies switch from strawberry to grape jelly.  I’ve learned never to let my kids play Doodle Jump on my phone — it always ends in a dead battery and a lot of goo on my screen.  I’ve learned the importance of censoring spooky stories before telling them (recapping the Paranormal Activity 2 = not the move).  I’ve learned that when I tumble down a concrete staircase while daydreaming and sipping my Venti triple-shot latte, I need to take a break (I have the knee bruises to prove it).

I play patty-cake on the reg.  I can climb up a plastic slide faster than you ever will.  I smell like Clorox, play dough, and sunscreen.  Unstoppable? Kind of.

Working with the little munchkins is a ton of fun, but it can get noisy, messy, and sticky really fast.  I have no time to color-categorize pony beads, disinfect Legos, or bedazzle our class sign.  I just dump multicolored glitter on everything and call it a day. #yolo

Just like a class sign that is not made with a ruler, there’s something to be said about a recipe with no measurements.  That leads me to the recipe of the day: naan pizza.  Super easy, super savory.  It gives me time to scrub the tie-dye off my hands, and it’s always a hit. You’re a bacon guy?  Throw that hickory-smoked goodness all up in this pizza.  You’re vegan?  Slather this with tofu.  Go nuts with it (meaning you could even add some pine nuts to this).   Or just let it be, and make an easy-peasy Margarita with pesto like I did.  Just toss things on, add a little extra cheese, and add some fresh herbs to be classy.

Dinner = done.
Now I have time to buy more puffy paint at Micheal’s. 

With love,
Erica

Ingredients
Naan
Cheese
Basil
Toppings of Choice (pesto, tomatoes, Parmesan, bacon, whatever your heart desires)
Olive Oil

Preheat your broiler.
Heat a glug of olive oil in a frying pan.
Assemble all of your toppings (cheese + everything else) onto the naan.
Grill the pizza in the frying pan over medium-high heat for 5 min
Transfer pizza to the oven and broil until cheese is melty.
Enjoy!

 © Cannella Vita. All images & content are copyright protected. Please do not use my images without my permission/linking back to Cannella Vita. If you want to republish this recipe, please link back to this post.

p to the seventh panini

The school year has finally come to a close, and I’ve accumulated a lot on the way.

Confession: I lug around a lot.  You can tell by the weight of my backpack as I struggle up the metro escalator (I believe that life’s to short to stand on an escalator).

So I like to hang onto things, and it comes in handy sometimes.   My friends put up with my embarrassingly large bag so they can take advantage of my phone charger.  I’m kind of like Mary Poppins when she pulled a lamp post out of her enormous diaper bag. 

Oh so you need a pencil for your test? I have a pencil case full of mechanical pencils (one of which works).
Just opened your yogurt and need a spoon? I have a set of clean silverware in the front pocket.
Getting a pedicure during your free period? Don’t fear, I have extra flip flops.
Forgot you have to wear shorts in PE today?  I have a razor and travel soap.
That boy from 7th period texted you and batteries at 2%?  I have three iPhone chargers.  Worship me.
See? All my mismatched items come together harmoniously into one, supercharged survival kit.

… kind of like this sandwich (that was not the smoothest transition, but bear with me).  This sandwich has a crazy hodgepodge of things: sweet pears, seedy raspberry jam, an assortment of cheeses, seedy bread, and bacon… lots of bacon.  However, it all comes together harmoniously into one, supercharged sandwich.  It also has an awesomely nerdy name: P to the 7th Panini, because I was procrastinating from my math homework when I invented it.

Pears, prosciutto, preserves, Parmesan, provolone, poppyseed bread, and a panini press.
7 words that all start with P.  Mash-bang them together and you have this beauty of a sandwich. I’m a genius, what can I say. 


With love, 
Erica



Ingredients

  • 4 slices poppyseed bread 
  • 4 tablespoons raspberry preserves
  • 2 thinly sliced red pears
  • 6 strips cooked bacon (or other salty meat like speck, prosciutto or even ham)
  • White cheddar
  • Provolone
  • Parmesan
  • 1-2 tablespoons butter
  1. Preheat griddle or panini press to medium-high heat.
  2. Assemble 2 sandwiches in this order: bread, 1½ tbs. preserves, pear, 4 slices bacon, 2 slices cheese, bread.
  3. Spread butter on top and bottom of sandwich, sprinkle with Parmesan, and grill for 4-8 minutes, or until cheese is melted and top is golden brown.
Note:
My slices of bacon were pretty small and thin,
which is why I used 4 on each sandwich (gulp). I think 2 regular slices
per sandwich would be plenty. 

 
© Cannella Vita. All images & content are copyright protected. Please do not use my images without my permission/linking back to Cannella Vita. If you want to republish this recipe, please link back to this post.

sex in a pan

Did I catch your attention? Good.
This is a sinfully decadent, sinfully easy dessert with a sinfully rewarding response.

It’s not the daintiest, nor the prettiest. As a matter of fact, it’s basically a hot mess in a pan.
But you know what? Despite it’s frightening appearance, people just can’t keep their hands off of it.
I made this for the first time for my school’s Winter Sports Banquet.  In the morning, I put it in the fridge, all wrapped up in foil with a big sign saying DO NOT EAT…

When I came back to get it for the banquet, some sneaky little devil had eaten half the pan.  I wonder who it was…
Was it the P.E. teacher, trying to get his chocolate fix before he had to teach another period of freshman Health?
Was it the librarian, trying to drown her sorrows due to the fact that no one checks out anything but textbooks anymore?
Was it that “innocent” little freshman boy from Baking club?
I’ll never know…

However, what I do know is that sometimes you just have to go with the flow.
I served this hot little (half-eaten) mess at the sports banquet and it was a hit.  I love telling people what it’s called — talk about a conversation starter 😉 Plus, the intrigue gets people jumping at the chance to try this naughty little dessert without even knowing what it is!

Speaking of going with the flow, I did a little bit of improvisation while making this.  My chocolate pudding was a gummy mess, so I left it out and added a layer of my favorite chocolate-hazelnut cookies instead.  There’s nothing that two tubs of Cool Whip can’t fix ;).

You could make homemade whipped cream and pudding if that floats your boat — but personally, this is one of the few instances where I prefer instant.  It just adds to the naughty, decadent nature of this recipe.

With love,
Erica

Ingredients:
Crust:
1 cup pecans, chopped

3 tbsp white sugar

1/2 cup butter (melted)
1 cup flour

Cream cheese layer

1 8 oz package cream cheese

1 cup powdered sugar (use 1/2 cup for less sweetness)

1 cup whipped cream or cool whip

Vanilla Cream Layer
1 package of instant vanilla pudding (5.1 oz or 144 g)

3 cups milk (use 2 cups if you want a firmer pudding)

Chocolate Hazelnut Pirouette Cookies (crushed)
2 cups whipped cream or cool whip
Cocoa Powder

Instructions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F degrees.
  2. Spray a 9×13 inch baking dish with cooking spray.
  3. In a mixer mix all the crust ingredients together and press the mixture into the prepared baking dish.
  4. Bake it for about 20 minutes.
  5. Prepare the vanilla pudding as per the instructions on the package.
  6. In a mixer add the cream cheese, powdered sugar and the cup of whipped cream. Mix until light and fluffy.
  7. Let
    the crust cool. Spread the cream cheese mixture over the crust evenly.
    Spread the vanilla pudding over the bottom crust. Sprinkle with crushed pirouette cookies Top with the whipped cream and sprinkle with cocoa powder.
  8. Refrigerate for a couple hours so that it sets.

Adapted from Jo Cooks

© Cannella Vita. All images & content are copyright protected. Please do not use my images without my permission/linking back to Cannella Vita. If you want to republish this recipe, please link back to this post.

red velvet cupcakes

Somehow it has become socially acceptable to dislike Valentine’s Day.  Some people say that it’s a meaningless marketing scam run by card and chocolate companies.  Others try to be witty, saying that we should profess our love every day of the year.


You all need to relax.  I hate Halloween — but you don’t hear me complaining!
I remember in lower school we would get to decorate a big envelope with glitter, puffy paint, and heart shaped doilies. Everyone in the class would exchange cut-out Dora the Explorer valentines and Hershey’s Kisses.  
…and everyone liked Valentine’s Day. 

Fast-forward 5 years, and (unlike a few of my friends) I still like Valentine’s day — maybe I’m a bit biased because I love arts and crafts, chocolate, and sparkly, corny love notes. 

Valentine’s Day shouldn’t be a day to be sad that you’re single, or rolling your eyes at every lovey-dovey couple you see.   It’s a national holiday, so you might as well get into it. I can’t think of a better way to do that than with cupcakes. There’s something special for everyone (and it all starts with these cupcakes).

If you have a significant other, good for you.  Make a batch of these cupcakes, turn on a good movie or romantic music. Valentine’s Day = done. 
If you’re crushing for someone, an you see a glimmer that he or she might feel the same — maybe you can finally get something going.  What better way to do so than with a cupcake that says “text me” on it.  Bazinga.  Valentine’s Day + new number = done. 
If there is a boy who’s always on your bus, and you’ve been wondering what his name is, what books he reads, and what your children would look like, speak up today! Better an ‘oh well’ than a ‘what if’ right?! If you get a positive vibe, you can go back to your place and give him one of these cupcakes.  New love  + Valentine’s Day = done. 

If you’re spending Valentine’s Day with your girlfriends,  thank them for listening to all of your boy woes for the past year.  Nothing says “thanks for listening” quite like red velvet.

If your friends are all with their boyfriends or they don’t condone Valentine’s day (their loss), it’s all good. Just make these cupcakes and share some with all of the people in your life who touch your heart every day — teachers, little kids in the neighborhood, the ladies at the local community center, and the postman with the really nice smile. 
 
It’s Valentine’s Day, why not spread a little love?

With love, 
Erica

Red Velvet Cupcakes

Ingredients 
1 (18.25 ounce) package red velvet cake mix
1 (3.4 ounce) package instant chocolate pudding mix
1 cup sour cream
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon coffee granules dissolved in 1/2 cup warm water

Preheat oven to 350

degrees F.   Line 24 muffin wells with paper liners.
Beat together the cake and pudding
mixes, sour cream, oil, eggs, vanilla and instant coffee mixture until well combined.
Distribute the batter between 24 muffin wells. (I like to use an ice cream scoop)
Bake for 18-22 minutes or until the tops of the
cakes spring back when lightly touched. Allow cupcakes to cool inside
muffin tins for about 10 minutes.
Remove cupcakes from muffin tins and allow to fully cool on a wire rack. Once cupcakes are cool, prepare your frosting.

 Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients 


 

1 stick softened butter
1/2 cup crisco


8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature


2 teaspoons vanilla extract


5-6 cups powdered sugar


1-3 tablespoons milk

 
Place butter, crisco and cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat until smooth.
Add
vanilla extract and powdered sugar (1 cup at a
time) and blend on low speed until combined. Increase to medium speed
and beat until it begins to get fluffy.


Slowly add the milk until you reach desired consistency.


Beat until fluffy, about 1 minute.

© Cannella Vita. All images & content are copyright protected. Please do not use my images without my permission/linking back to Cannella Vita. If you want to republish this recipe, please link back to this post.

“gourmet” auntie anne’s pretzels

Today I went shopping with my friend Tessa.  Exams are starting on Monday, and after hitting the chemistry book for hours on end, we both deserved a little bit of retail therapy.  A few peplum tops and lululemon sports bras, and my woes of homogenous mixtures were far behind me!  
While we were shopping around, I realized how much I love mall food.  That fruity smell of self-serve fro-yo, the basil and oregano wafting out of Sbarro pizza, freshly popped buttery popcorn filling the air from the cinema — it’s the aroma of retail therapy! The smells and tastes of the mall remind me of that inexplicable joy that comes with finding the perfect pair of shoes for half-price, or finding the perfect jeans, or getting a complimentary hand massage at one of those little kiosks. 
There is not a mall in America that doesn’t have a Cinnabon and Auntie Anne’s (I made the infamous Cinnabun a while back).  Today, I tackled Auntie Anne’s big, buttery, twisty mall pretzels.  Except these are better (take that Anne!).  I topped mine with some delicious, gourmet ingredients that elevate these from the standard sprinkle of kosher salt.  I dipped some in truffle oil and sprinkled them with truffle salt, I sprinkled some asagio cheese on some, and even did a maple-butter glaze!  Of course, I had to make a few plain cinnamon-sugar ones. 😉
With love, 
Erica


Ingredients

1 cup milk
1 packet active dry yeast
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoons fine salt

1/4 cup baking soda
1 1/2 cups warm water
Coarse salt
4 tablespoons butter, melted in a shallow dish 



My “gourmet” toppings:

  • Instead of dipping in butter, dip in truffle infused olive oil, and spinkle with truffle salt
  • Mix in some Vermont Maple Syrup with the butter for a maple-glazed version
  • Sprinkle with some grated Parmesan and Asagio 
  • When all else fails, roll ’em in cinnamon sugar

Warm up the milk in the microwave for about 1 minute. It should be about 110º. If it’s too hot it will kill
the yeast.  Stir in the yeast and let it sit for about 3 minutes. Add the butter and
sugar. Add the flour about 1 cup at a time and the add the fine salt.
Kneed for about 10 minutes with a stand mixer, or by hand. Put it in a
greased bowl and cover with greased cling wrap. Let rise for 1 hour in a
moist, warm place until doubled in size. Preheat the oven to 450º.
Punch down dough and divide into 8 chunks. Roll them all out as thin as you can. Combine the warm
water and baking soda in a wide bowl. Form the dough into pretzel
shapes, then dip in the baking soda water. Place on a greased baking
sheet and sprinkle with coarse salt. Bake for about 7-11 minutes or
until browned. Dip each in the melted butter while hot and roll in desired toppings. 

Adapted from Yammie’s Noshery

recipe showdown: baked mac and cheese

Most of the trees in my neighborhood have lost their leaves.  I have to wear a coat to school everyday.  I’ve swapped my iced chai teas with pumpkin spice lattes.
What does this all mean?  It’s time to whip out comfort food recipes!
Nothing hugs the soul on a chilly day like buttery, cheesy goodness.

I can’t think of anything more “comforting” than a bowl of buttery noodles, swaddled in gooey cheese and topped with toasty bread crumbs.
I have a bunch of comfort recipes up my sleeve (mainly because they all look oh-so enticing when they pop up on my Pinterest board).  However, mac-and-cheese is the ULTIMATE comfort food, so I had to get this recipe out to you before Thanksgiving rolls around!

I tried recipes from some of my favorite blogs: The Cooking Actress, Martha Stewart, Brown Eyed Baker, and A Cup of Jo.
The winner of this Showdown was the Cooking Actress’ Brown Butter Mac and Cheese. It won me over with that lovely, nutty aroma of brown butter.  I got nervous when my dad said that it was “interesting” (he is quite the traditionalist, and “interesting” isn’t always great); however, he said that it was diffrerent in a good way.  The only change that I made to the Cooking Actress’ recipe was I used Honey Wheat Ritz crackers as opposed to regular Ritz.  The Honey Wheat crackers added a nice sweetness to the dish, which complemented the sharp cheddar and parmesan.

If you’ve got a family full of kids (or adults), this will be much appreciated at your Thanksgiving table.  As always, feel free to challenge my recipe!
What is your favorite comfort food?
With love,
Erica

oh-so cheesy


Description
It bakes up thick, cheesy and bubbly with a Ritz cracker crust. Completely irresistible, I tell you.
A baked mac and cheese with a Panko bread crumb crust.  (I omitted the pancetta for consistency)
Famously comforting with real bread crumbs and a dash of nutmeg.
Traditional, baked macaroni and cheese with nutty brown butter and a Ritz cracker crust.
Tasters’ notes
Too much pepper!

Funny taste
Good
Crunchy
Too many bread crumbs
Enjoyable
More traditional
Love the nutmeg!
Cheesy crust
Less cheese
Interesting
Different
Brown butter = yum!
Love that you used honey wheat Ritz, it adds sweetness!
Rating (best = 1)
4
3
2
1
I'm ready for my close-up
Ingredients:
  • 12 oz. pasta (I used a combination of elbow macaroni and egg noodles)
  • 6 tbsp. butter
  • 2 tbsp. flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • heaping 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese 
  • heaping 3/4 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup buttery crackers, crushed (I used Honey Wheat Ritz)
  • 2 tbsp. melted butter
Cook macaroni according to package directions, drain.
In a medium saucepan, melt 6 tbsp. butter over medium heat. Whisk constantly as it foams and then small brown flecks form. Immediately whisk in flour.
Add milk and continue to whisk over medium heat until smooth and thickened.
Whisk in cheeses until smooth and not clumpy.
Turn off heat. Pour cheese over cooked macaroni.
Prepare a large casserole/baking dish by spraying with non-stick cooking spray. Pour macaroni and cheese in.
Stir 2 tbsp. butter with the crackers. Sprinkle over the top of the mac'n'cheese.
Bake on middle rack of your oven on broil for 5-8 minutes (watch carefully to make sure it doesn't burn!).
From the Cooking Actress