lola rugula how to make easy pasta carbonara

easy apple pie tarts

Have you recovered from your Thanksgiving food overload yet? I hope you all had a great day. I’m blessed to be able to be the host for our families each year and this year was one of my best turkeys ever. I’ve played around with different recipes throughout the years and have finally settled on fresh Amish turkey with a dry salt brine being the best way to go for flavor and juiciness. I splayed my turkey this year, which is the “new” part and it definitely helped the turkey cook more quickly and evenly.

If you’re not familiar with splaying a whole turkey or chicken, it’s cutting the skin between the leg/thigh and breast and then pushing down on the thighs until they pop and lay flat in the pan. My dry salt brine is a tablespoon each of chopped rosemary, parsley and sage, a tablespoon of minced garlic, 3 tablespoons kosher salt (use 1 tablespoon for every 5 lbs. of turkey), and about a teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper. On Tuesday, 2 days before the holiday, I pat the turkey dry, rub it all over with the salt mixture, getting under the skin where I can and also in the cavity. Place in a bag (I use turkey roasting bags) and refrigerate. Wednesday morning, flip the bird over and leave refrigerated. Remove the turkey from the fridge and bag, pat dry and let it come to room temperature 40 minutes before roasting. Place bird directly in the pan (no rack), put into a preheated 450-degree oven for 10 minutes and then reduce heat to 350. Add 2 cups of broth (your choice) and 1 cup of wine to bottom of roasting pan and roast until the thigh temperature reaches 165. Remove from oven and let sit for at least 30 minutes before carving. Delicious!

Anyway, I’m not really here to talk best turkey recipe ever, so, let’s talk dessert.


I’m not much of a dessert eater, so my mom typically brings dessert for Thanksgiving. This year, however, I already had some apple pie filling that I made and froze just a month or two ago. I also have these adorable mini-tart pans, so I knew they’d be perfect for some individual apple pies. Since I needed something easy for a crust, I picked up some frozen puff pastry. Now, I didn’t write down exactly how I made these, but this will give you the general idea. These photos are actually from the test run I did of my tarts, the weekend before Thanksgiving. These are a little more rustic looking than the final tarts, on which I did a little fancier lattice work top.


Let the puff pastry come to room temperature but not completely warm – about 30 to 40 minutes. Carefully unfold each sheet. Divide each sheet into thirds, cutting at the fold line. On a lightly-floured surface, roll out each section a bit, until more than wide enough to cover the tart pan. Cut sheet in half, so that you basically have 2 squares of pastry. Each square will fit one mini tart pan. Repeat with remaining sections, leaving at least one section forslicing up for decorative lattice work, if desired.

Grease your tart pans with cold butter. Line each pan with a square of puffed pastry. Add a couple of big heaping tablespoons of apple pie filling. Fold overhanging edges in, adding some lattice work from a strip of pastry, if desired. Top with a sprinkle of sugar and cinnamon.

When all of the tarts are made, place the tart pans on a baking sheet and bake immediately or refrigerate until ready to bake. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 40 minutes.


Now, obviously you can make these with canned pie filling and any fruit should work here. I served these with vanilla bean ice cream and everyone really loved them. I threw them in the oven while we were all enjoying our dinner, so our house smelled super delicious and they were still warm to enjoy for dessert.

So, if you need an easy fruit and puff pastry dessert recipe, hopefully this helps you out. We’re all ready for the next round of holidays, right? Happy Thanksgiving weekend, everyone!

lola rugula how to make easy pasta carbonara

apple pie filling for the freezer

Apple overload? If you live just about anywhere in the U.S. right now, you’re well aware that it’s apple season. We’ve been very blessed because, for the 2nd year in a row, a friend has gifted us with a huge bag of great, big, beautiful homegrown apples; no trip to the local orchard needed.

I honestly don’t even know what kind of apples they are (help me out here, friends) but I DO know they’re apples and I DO know they’re very delicious. Behold, a few of my apples:


Beautiful, right?

I’ve got a busy weekend ahead of me and I’m sure you can do without me waxing poetic about apples, so I’ll make this short and sweet. Last year I made apple butter with this gift o’ apples, but since we really don’t eat a lot of toast, no more apple butter. This year I decided, “You know what would be great? It’d be great to make a big batch of homemade apple pie filling and have it for the holidays”.

Boom. Done.


apple pie filling for the freezer

  • 4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (2-3 lemons)
  • 6.5 – 7 lbs. apples (approximately 7 large apples)
  • 2 cups pure cane sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 3 teaspoons cinnamon (preferably Ceylon)

Squeeze lemon juice into a large stockpot, Wash, peel, core and slice apples and place in stockpot, tossing with lemon juice as you go; this helps prevent the apples from discoloring.

Sprinkle apples with sugar, salt, flour and nutmeg and mix well. Let mixture sit for 30 minutes or so, until the apples start to sweat their juice out.

Place on medium heat, stirring often, just until mixture starts to thicken and apples start to soften slightly, about 8-10 minutes. You don’t need or want the apples to cook all the way – if they do, they’ll be mush by the time they make it to the “cooked apple pie” stage.

Remove from heat, stir in cinnamon (the best part!) and let cool. Divide into 2 1/2 cup portions and pack into freezer-safe containers or bags and freeze. This recipe makes about 4 portions.

This recipe makes about 4 portions.

You now have something delicious to do with a whole bunch of apples and you’re also one step closer to being a rock star at the holidays. Go you.

Of course, if you’re not an apple pie lover, this mixture also works great for apple crisp, apple crumble, apple tart… you get the idea.

Happy autumn, everyone!


lola rugula how to make easy pasta carbonara

no-churn salted dulce de leche ice cream

July is National Ice Cream Month, so I want to share my latest ice cream concoction with you – No Churn Salted Dulce de Leche Ice Cream. Yeah, it’s as good as it sounds, though I will say right off the bat that this first go-round was a little sweet for me. I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, though I do have my moments, but next time I make this it will have a little more salt or some salted nuts mixed in. I put some salted cashews on a serving of this and they put this into one of my favorite ice creams ever. My favorite is still my no-churn coffee ice cream, but I’m a bit of a coffee fiend, sooooo….there’s that.

Now, classic dulce de leche is made with milk and sugar, with vanilla often mixed in. The lazy way to do it is to caramelize a can of sweetened condensed milk. I went the lazy way, though it still requires some babysitting. Now, if you do an internet search of dulce de leche made from sweetened condensed milk, you’ll find most people put a sealed can right into a pan of water and simmer it. I, being the clumsy, accident-prone person I am, was not willing to risk life or limb or sweetened milk all over my kitchen, so I opted for the safe double boiler method. And, since I knew this was going to be an hours-long process, I cooked up two cans because it stores well in the fridge.

This is a pretty involved process (sarcasm), so try and follow along.

Pour a can or two of sweetened condensed milk into the top pan of a double boiler. Fill the bottom pan with water. Cover. Bring water to a boil and then reduce to a steady simmer. Simmer until the condensed milk thickens and darkens. 2 cans took me about 4 hours and required little effort except for an occasional water check and milk stir, to make sure it was staying creamy and condensing down.

Ta da! Behold, my dulce de leche.


Now, you can reduce this so that’s it’s lighter or darker, depending on your preference. But you definitely want it to darken and caramelize. If it gets too thick, it will then become impossible to do much with. I was afraid mine was too thick but it ended up mixing in nicely with the can of sweetened condensed milk and heavy cream that I made the ice cream with. If you make this ahead of time and refrigerate it, you’ll want to bring it to room temperature before making the ice cream, otherwise it may be too stiff to work with.

On to my recipe.


no-churn salted dulce de leche ice cream

  • 1 cup dulce de leche
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 pint heavy (whipping) cream

In a large bowl, stir the dulce de leche, condensed milk and salt together until completely blended and creamy. In another bowl or stand mixer, whip the heavy cream until soft peaks form. Take a couple of big dollops of the whipped cream and stir it into the dulce de leche mixture, until well blended. Then, gently fold in the remaining whipped cream – you want to keep the fluffiness of the whipped cream here, so be gentle.

Pour the mixture into a freezer-safe container, cover and freeze for at least 6 hours.

The real beauty of ice creams made with sweetened condensed milk is they’re typically no-churn, meaning you don’t need an ice cream maker to make and enjoy them. Bonus, yes?



lola rugula how to make easy pasta carbonara

no churn coffee ice cream revisited

It’s been pretty warm and steamy in my neck of the woods recently, so what better way to cool off than my easy, no-churn coffee ice cream? Coffee ice cream is a favorite of ours but all you really need as a base for no-churn ice cream is heavy cream (I’ve used half and half on numerous occasions and it works great, too) and sweetened condensed milk. From there, the possibilities are endless.

how to make homemade ice cream dunkin donuts

In case you missed it above, here’s the link to my recipe:

Stay cool and enjoy!

lola rugula how to make easy pasta carbonara

chocolate bark

Need an easy chocolate dessert recipe? Chocolate bark is a delicious yet still decadent treat that you can make with any number of nuts, seeds or other inclusions.

Don’t believe that it’s easy? Here’s the general idea: You melt some chocolate jussssst to where it’s almost melted, stir until completely melted, toss in your add-ins, stir until everything is covered in chocolate, then pour onto a baking sheet and chill for an hour or so. Break into pieces and you’re done.


homemade chocolate bark recipe

  •  1 lb  chocolate (I prefer 60-70% cocao bittersweet)
  • 2 cups chopped nuts, coconut and/or seeds
  • Coarse sea salt (optional)

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Break chocolate into chunks into a large glass bowl (preferably one with a pouring spout). Microwave on high for 1 minute. Stir. Repeat in 30 second increments until chocolate is almost melted. Stir until chocolate melts completely and add your nuts, etc.

Pour chocolate onto lined baking sheet and, using a spatula, spread out into a thin layer. Sprinkle quickly with coarse sea salt, if desired, before chocolate sets.

Place in refrigerator until chilled, about 1 hour. Break into large pieces and store in a cool place.

I also use white chocolate for bark, when I have it, but be warned that it doesn’t harden back up like real chocolate.

So now, next time you need an easy dessert recipe, you’ve got one! Enjoy!

lola rugula how to make easy pasta carbonara

olde fashioned fudge cake with walnuts

When my friend Mike Franzman, the talent behind mf photography, recently shared this recipe of his Aunt Elvie’s Fudge Cake with Walnuts, I just knew I had to challenge myself and try to make it.

homemade fudge cake with walnuts recipeAs anyone who’s been following my blog knows, I don’t eat a lot of sweets nor do I often attempt to make them. I love to cook but I’m not much of a baker, so this recipe, with it’s lack of directions or even ingredient amounts for the frosting, intrigued me. It seemed like a terrific challenge for me plus I knew if it came out great, my husband would love me even more than he already does.

For the sake of authenticity, I wanted to follow the recipe to the letter, but I admit I changed one minor thing: I added an extra teaspoon of vanilla extract. Here is Elvie’s recipe, with that extra teaspoon of vanilla:

Homemade Fudge Cake with Fudge Frosting Recipe

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk (I used whole organic since I already had it on hand and I figure Aunt Elvie as a whole milk kind of lady anyway)
  • 1/2 cup + 1 rounded teaspoon cocoa powder mixed together in a small bowl with 1/3 cup hot water

Preheat the oven to 350°

Grease and flour 2 eight or nine inch cake pans. (mine measured 8 1/2 on their interior)

And here’s how I put it all together:

  • In a large bowl (I used my stand mixer) cream together the sugar, eggs, shortening and vanilla extract
  • In a separate bowl, using a fine mesh colander or flour sifter, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt
  • Add the flour mixture, milk and cocoa/hot water mix to the creamed ingredients and blend it all together well
  • Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl well and then resume mixing for about 3 more minutes or until well blended
  • Pour the mixture into 2 greased & floured cake pans, dividing the batter equally between pans
  • Bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes (I baked mine for 35)

Ta Da! I achieved cake! food_1.11.13 042 I let the cakes cool in their pans for 15 minutes and then gently ran a butter knife around the edges before turning them over onto plates.

Probably everyone who’s made any kind of cake requiring frosting has tried to frost it right away and most likely everyone, including me, has found this to be a recipe for a crumby disaster. (pun intended)

So while my cakes continued to cool, I tackled the frosting.

I did a little internet research on frosting made with Aunt Elvie’s ingredients and it seems that it’s a pretty standard mix of ingredients. The amount of each ingredient varied a lot though, depending on the recipe, so I just went for it and here’s how I made the chocolate frosting:

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter, completely softened
  • 4 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 4 tablespoons cocoa powder

Now these amounts are approximate – I played around with the sugar and milk a bit to get the consistency I was looking for. You may like it a little thinner, thicker, or sweeter, depending on your taste.

  • Cream together the butter, sugar and vanilla
  • Add milk and cocoa and beat until well blended and fluffy

Once the cakes had cooled, I set one layer on a large plate and added a good amount of frosting to it. Then I sprinkled on about a cup of walnut pieces, so there’d be walnuts inside the layer. I then added a little frosting to the bottom of the second layer and set that frosted bottom on top of the walnuts.

Then I frosted the rest of the cake and sprinkled chopped walnuts all over it. Mike remembers Elvie’s cake with whole walnut halves on top but, sadly, I didn’t have any whole walnut halves to get decorative with. Hopefully his Aunt Elvie will forgvie me.

food_1.11.13 104

food_1.11.13 085

The results? Delicious! My husband has set about devouring it, though I admit I had a good-sized piece myself. I had to at least try it, right?

Thanks again to Mike for letting me share this recipe and story – it was a fun challenge for me. I truly feel that I did his Aunt Elvie’s recipe justice and I’m thrilled that I, a non-baker, pulled this off so well. I credit the recipe here, much more than the cook.

This experience has made me want to dig through my own pile of old recipe cards and see what I discover. Do you have any old family recipes that you still make?