Ice Cream Cookie Sandwiches

cookie pic
There is a lot more Italy to come.

However, since we've been back, I've been doing my best to cool things down around here since it's so darn hot, so let's talk about a few things to beat the heat.

If macaroni and cheese is the fall's best comfort food, then ice cream sandwiches take the cake for summer's best comfort food.

And something about this cookie with that ice cream is about the most addicting thing I've ever had.

I've always been a Blue Bell girl, but Mr. Hungry requested these one night and he likes Hagen Daaz.  So I thought I would choose my battles and go with Hagen Daaz and man, am I glad I did.  There is something about the texture and taste of Hagen Daaz that fits perfectly with this cookie.

You really can't mess this up so I've got one piece of advice... make a lot.  They go quick.

{All you need}

A batch of my favorite chocolate chip cookies  +  Vanilla Hagen Daaz ice cream

{All you do}

Leave the ice cream out and let it get really soft.  Or you can stick it in the microwave for about 15 seconds. Scoop a small bit on to one cooled cookie.  Smash together with the other cookie.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Freeze sandwiches without touching each other for at least one hour.  After sandwiches have frozen separately, they can be stored in an airtight container for up to one month.

From my little kitchen to yours... Enjoy. 


Little Kitchen Giveaway- NOW CLOSED

It's Monday... let's spice it up a little, shall we?  I have a really great giveaway from Taste Florence.
taste of florence pic
Taste Florence brings travelers to the city’s tastiest foods, educating them as they experience the best Italy has to offer.  Read all about the tour here. This is my kinda tour.  I don't mind learning about history as long as there is food involved.  And you are in one of the most amazing historical cities in the world so you can feel like you got your dose of history as well.

One lucky reader will receive two free tickets to "The Original Taste the Best Tour."  This is a 158 euro value (which in case you are not in the know about the dollar right now,  that comes out to over $200 U.S.).

Maybe winning these tickets will be just the nudge you need to finally book that trip to Italy! You have two years to use the tickets and if all else fails and you can't get there, this would be a great gift for a friend or family member traveling to Italy.

How to enter:
Simply leave a comment below that you want to be entered.  You can either leave contact info in your comment or check back to see if you won.  Entries who do not leave contact info, have one week to check back and see if they won.  If they do not respond, another winner will be chosen.

Extra entries:  
*Follow KitchenLittle on Twitter*
*Post about this giveaway on Facebook or your blog*
{Leave a separate comment saying if you are following on twitter or posted about this}

Good Luck!

{The Details}
One reader will win two tickets to "The Original Taste the Best Tour" in Florence, Italy. 
You have two years to use the tickets. 
Value: 158 euro
This is an international giveaway so you don't have to be in the U.S. to win!
Contest open until Friday, July 29.  Winner will be picked through random.org and announced on Monday, August 1.


Homemade Gnocchi

Homemade pasta use to scare me.  Maybe scare is the wrong word, but I would have never thought about diving into such a task on my own.  That all changed on my first trip to Italy and was reaffirmed this summer when I went back.  There are just a few ingredients and the taste you get doesn't come close to what you buy at the grocery.

I thought gnocchi would be a great first pasta dish to share because there is no special equipment needed... just patience.  This is not a dish for the faint of heart.  It can take practice and patience.  I am probably not winning you over right now on the idea of venturing into gnocchi making, but I don't want to make this seem like all rainbows and butterflies.  However, if you get it right, you will jump for joy at what you have created.

Gnocchi is little pillows of pasta made out of potatoes.  It pairs really well with fresh tomato sauces or thick cheese sauces.  I wanted to share the recipe I learned at Villa San Michele.  Simple and just so fresh.

So here we go.
Gather your ingredients. 
(We will chat about those riced potatoes at the end)
Place your flour, potatoes and egg in a bowl. 
Using your fingers, press the ingredients together until you get a nice ball of dough. 
Knead the ball of dough until smooth with no big lumps. 
Take about a 1/4 cup of dough and roll out into long strands about an inch thick. 
Cut into 1 inch pillows. 
To get perfect ridges, you would need a gnocchi paddle, but you can use the back of a fork to form ridges.  Press each pillow against the back of a fork to indent small lines.  This will help the gnocchi soak up sauce. 
Cook gnocchi in salted boiling water.  The gnocchi will float to the top when they are finished cooking. 

While sauce is still cooking add gnocchi and toss.  Serve hot. And just like that, you've made homemade pasta.

Go on, put yourself out there.. try this in your own kitchen.  If not, just make sure this class is on your bucket list.

Recipe from Villa San Michele Cooking School
Recipe Notes
One more warning.  This is not the normal little kitchen recipe.  It's not quick, it's not something you are going to read and get on the table tonight, but instead a fun kitchen project that is rewarding if you stick with it.
About 2 pounds of starchy potatoes (2 or 3 large russets)
2 or 3 pinches of salt
1 whole egg
1 egg yolk
1 cup unbleached, all purpose flour
Step by Step

Fill a large pot with cold water. Salt the water, then cut potatoes in half and place them in the pot. Bring the water to a boil and cook the potatoes until tender throughout, this takes roughly 40-50 minutes.
Remove the potatoes from the water and allow to cool only enough for you to be able to touch them.  You want to mash them while they are still hot.   Place each potato piece on a large cutting board and peel it before moving on to the next potato. To get the potatoes mashed, you can either push them through a ricer or just use a fork.  If using a fork, you want to create a nice fluffy potato base so you do not want to mash it to death.  Run your fork through the potato until there are no noticeable lumps.  
Cool the potatoes enough so that egg will not cook when added to the potatoes.  When potatoes are cooled, place in a medium sized bowl.  Add the beaten egg and egg yolk, flour and salt. Mix together using your hands until you create a dough ball.  The dough should be moist, but not sticky.  Add a little extra flour if the mixture is too sticky.   Cut dough into 8 pieces.  Roll each piece out into a long skinny log, about a ½ inch thick.  Using a pastry cutter or knife, cut ¾ inch little pillows.  Dust with flour and repeat until you have used all of the dough.  Save the potato water.
Let the potatoes cool spread out across the cutting board - ten or fifteen minutes. Long enough that the egg won't cook when it is incorporated into the potatoes. 
To shape the gnocchi,  hold a fork in one hand and place a gnocchi pillow against the back of the fork prongs.  With pressure, use your thumb and press in and down the length of the fork.   With confidence and an assertive (but light) touch, use your thumb and press in and down the length of the fork. The gnocchi should curl into a slight curved shape, their backs will capture the impression of the fork prongs as tiny ridges, goodperfect  for catching sauce later.   Set each gnocchi aside, dust with a bit more flour if needed, until you are ready to boil them.  This is the step that takes practice.  My first five to ten always look a little rough, but you will get the motion down. 
When you are ready to cook the gnocchi, bring a pot of salted water to a boil.  Drop in about 20 at a time so they are not too crowded.  They will let you know when they are done because they will float to the top.  Using a slotted spoon, remove from the water about 10 seconds after they have reached the top.  Add to whatever sauce you will be serving.  Continue until all gnocchi are cooked.  Lightly drizzle with more sauce or olive oil.  Serve hot.

Serves 6.


Travel & Cook: Morning with the Chef at Villa San Michele

  I spent a month in Italy this summer and now it's time to share.  I will be posting my favorite  cooking experiences that will rock your world (and recipes, too).

Today, I have another jewel to share with you from the hills of Fiesole.


You are finally in Italy and you've got yourself a jam packed schedule.  You have already tried to squeeze too many museums and sights into your day or two in Florence, but you realize how cooking in Italy might be an even more moving experience than seeing the David.  So you get yourself into an easy to find shuttle off of the busy Piazza della Repubblica and you are whisked into Fiesole, a 15 minute drive into the hills above Florence.  You wind your way up and suddenly you get dropped off here...

I suggest arriving a little early because it is going to take you awhile to adjust to being in this magical place.

While you are having a coffee on the terrace, the executive chef of 30 years greets you and takes you down to your kitchen for the day.  Along with an assistant chef, you get settled into your personal work station.


You find out you are making a traditional Italian meal with a few secrets, and you are soon busy pulling out silver trays from your personal kitchen with all of your ingredients perfectly portioned.

There's a traditional panzanella salad...
where you even learn a fancy way of plating.
There's gnocchi...
with a fresh tomato sauce.
And then, are you sitting down for this?  You will learn the secrets behind the restaurant's tiramisu.  Traditional, with a twist.

At this point, I had enjoyed myself immensely and thought it was a wonderful experience.   There was only one odd thing... after we made the panzanella, we took a couple of bites of our own creation and then the chef discarded the rest.  Same with the gnocchi.  We made quite a few and we only cooked a couple to taste.  Then, the chef gathered up the rest of our gnocchi and whisked it away to the kitchen.  I briefly thought... surely we are not making gnocchi for them to serve their dinner guests tonight.  Surely we are not a part of their assembly line (not that I would be too sad about that).  But then, when we finished the tiramisu and they whisked it away, I realized we would actually be eating a sit down version of this meal together on the patio.

  And let me tell you, I could live on this patio.

So now, it's time to walk around and soak up this amazing property.  Villa San Michele was a monastery that dates back to the 15th century.  The villa's facade is attributed to Michaelangelo and is still intact.  The rest of the property has kept its amazing Tuscan charm while being transformed into a dreamy getaway overlooking Florence.  While you are waiting on lunch to be served, you've got a couple of options.

You could relax in the gardens overlooking Florence.
You could go smell the lemon trees. Is that weird? I couldn't stop myself. And you don't see lemons like this everyday.
Or you could head up to the pool area for the absolute best views.

Now let's not forget about lunch. Time to head back through the flower adorned paths to the dining room.

Time to sit down on the patio with our new best friends from our morning of cooking and enjoy our lunch... mostly prepared by us, but fancied up by the great chefs at the restaurant.
First, is the fancily plated panzanella salad.
Next, gnocchi with a fresh tomato and basil sauce.

And then, you eat your own creation of this special tiramisu recipe.
And in case you have any room left at all, help yourself to a few cookies and an espresso. 
So there it is.  A Morning with the Chef cooking class that has left you full and happy from all the wonderful sights and sounds you have taken in.  A huge perk to this class is that it will fit into any schedule.  You arrive around 9:45 am and arrive back in Florence by 2:00 pm.

The cooking school is worth the splurge.  Eating dinner on this terrace is also worth the splurge.  But if you are looking for luxury, you can stay at the hotel with very easy access to Florence during the day.  I was lucky enough to peak into a few rooms just to give you an idea of what it would be like to stay here.  Each suite is like a little bungalow tucked into these gardens bursting with lemon trees and hydrangeas.
villa san

villa san

villa san
 It might just be the most quiet and relaxing place I've ever found myself.  What a perfect little retreat after a long day of touring.  The only problem I could find with staying here is you might miss seeing Florence altogether.  Trust me, it's hard to leave.

Put this on your list for your next trip to Italy, but in case you won't be finding yourself in Fiesole any time soon, I will be bringing you the recipes.


Antipasto Platters

I make a mean antipasto platter.

I'm not sure that's really an accomplishment since there is little that you are actually cooking, but they are always a hit at cocktail parties.  It's kind of the perfect answer to what serve at a party in the summer.  You turn on your oven for .5 seconds and then you just assemble.

Granted this is another one of my non-recipe recipes, but sometimes the simpler the better. And what better for a cocktail party than savory food that you do not have to keep warm and can be assembled ahead of time? Perfection.

This is my personal version of an antipasto platter.  Traditionally, they are made with a variety of meats and cheeses, but I like to spice it up a bit.  I thought I'd share my favorites, but let's get real, the possibilities are endless.

So let's get started...

I always include marinated tomatoes.  Click here for recipe. They have such great flavor and very addicting.  You just need to think about these the night before so they can marinate, but that's about all the prep work there.  Moving on...

These prosciutto wrapped asparagus are what make this platter feel fancy.   Check below for recipe...

My favorite cheese to serve is this marinated mozzarella.  This big tub comes from Costco and is super cheap for the quantity.  I prefer this to just plain fresh mozzarella balls because these have a lot more flavor.

You need some crackers to balance all this.  My two favorites are Carr's table water crackers and these Italian breadsticks that can be found at most specialty grocery stores.  They also add nice height.
And then I like to pile on olives.  But I'm an olive person.  If you are not, let's talk about some other ideas.

Thin slices of prosciutto, cuts of salami, artichoke hearts, sliced hearts of palm, piles of nuts, dried apricots... again more of my favorites, but they all work pretty well.

Hopefully you have something to work with here.  Now go ahead and invite your friends over.

From my little kitchen to yours... Enjoy.
Proscuitto Wrapped Asparagus
Recipe Notes
The key to this is having extremely thin proscuitto.  If it is thick, it will be hard to bite through.  Costco sells a great prepackaged very thinly sliced prosciutto at a great price.  Or ask your butcher to cut it paper thin. Be careful to not overcook the asparagus.  You want it slightly cooked, but still crunchy... not mushy.  Asparagus size can vary dramatically so if you have very thin spears, keep your eye on them.
Asparagus (2 to 4 per person)
Prosciutto, about 1/2 a slice per piece of asparagus, sliced paper thin.
olive oil
kosher or sea salt
freshly ground pepper
Step by Step
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Trim the white, woody ends of Spread the asparagus in one layer on a rimmed baking sheet.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Roast asparagus for about 5 minutes (see recipe note for timing).  Remove from oven and allow to cool.

Cut each piece of prosciutto in half, so you have two strips.  Wrap each piece of asparagus with a half piece of prosciutto.  Repeat until all asparagus have been wrapped.  Can be made up to 6 hours in advance and kept refrigerated.  Serve at room temperature. 



 I spent a month in Italy this summer and now it's time to share.  I will be posting my favorite  cooking experiences that will rock your world (and recipes, too).

Hi, it's me again... but this time I actually have a recipe.  Gosh, it had been so long it took me awhile to crank this one out.
At least it took about twice the time as it did for me to down this tiramisu.

This is the recipe of the moment for so many reasons...
A. No turning on the oven required. Here in 102 degree Houston that is reason enough, but wait, there's more.
B.  It's so easy! Maybe it's just me, but I thought tiramisu was fancy and you had to be real fancy in the kitchen to make it.  False.  Easy as can be.
C.  You can make this in advance.  In fact it actually tastes better the next day.  I absolutely adore recipes made in advance.  I absolutely hate slaving away at the last minute before mealtime.

So just in case you needed convincing, I hope you're on board now because here we go!

Wait... a fun fact before we get going.  Did you know?  The translation of Tiramisu in Italian is "pick me up", due to the sugar and caffeine combo in the recipe.

Now we are ready...

All you need is to prep your different layers and begin building...
Layers of coffee & liqueur soaked lady fingers... 
with delicious creamy filling....
topped with cocoa. It's just dreamy. 
This was one of my favorite recipes I picked up at Cooking in Tuscany.  Simple, but so good.  
Can't beat that with a stick. 

From my little kitchen to yours... Enjoy.

Traditional Tiramisu
From Cooking in Tuscany
Recipe Notes
This is one of those recipes that you cannot really mess up if you have your different parts made correctly.   I prefer to use small individual dishes, but you could also make this in a shallow dish to feed 4 together.  If you need to feed more, use a larger dish and double or triple the recipe.
3 large eggs, separated
3 Tbs sugar
8 oz.  mascarpone cheese
2 Tbs. coffee liqueur or amaretto (optional)
4 Tbs. ml espresso or strong coffee, cold or at room temperature
8 to 10 oz.  lady fingers
cocoa powder
Step by Step
With an electric mixer, beat the egg yokes and sugar until the mixture is thick and pale.  Add the mascarpone and keep whisking.  Mix in the liqueur or amaretto and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk the egg whites and a pinch of salt until firm.  You want your egg whites to get stiff.  Using a spatula, gently fold them into the mascarpone mixture.  Place the cold coffee in a shallow bowl.  Dip the biscuits in the coffee then place them in the serving dish in a single layer.  Pour the mascarpone mixture on top of the layer of biscuits.  Place another layer of coffee-soaked biscuits on top and repeat the process until all biscuits have been used.  End with a layer of the mascarpone mixture on top.  Cover the dish with plastic wrap and chill for a few hours or overnight.  Before serving, dust the tiramisu with cocoa powder or freshly grated chocolate.


Travel & Cook: Cooking in Tuscany

 I spent a month in Italy this summer and now it's time to share.  I will be posting my favorite  cooking experiences that will rock your world (and recipes, too).

Close your eyes. Um, I mean finish reading this post and then close your eyes. I would like you to take a small break from your day... you deserve it... and let's talk about where you need to find yourself next summer.

Go ahead and pour yourself a nice glass of chianti and then let's chat. Feel free to have a couple of glasses because at the end of this post, we are booking a trip to Italy.

Are you ready?

Imagine yourself walking along the Arno river in Florence.  You walk yourself to an-easy-to-find corner and you find a charming older gentleman named Aldo who is waiting for you.
You hop in his van with possibly a few other delightful vacationers and you head to the hills of Tuscany.
You arrive at a beautiful villa and get dropped off right in front of your kitchen for the day.

You meet a wonderful Italian chef who gives you an apron, offers you espresso and a cookie and lets you get settled in.

You get introduced to the menu of the day, which is sure to be chock full of Italian favorites and seasonal delights.
Next, you jump in and start cooking, while listening to Andre Bocelli.
Along with the chef and other classmates, you spend several hours learning about different methods of Italian cooking and having a completely hands on experience.
There are nibbles along the way and and glass or two of vino to keep you going.

Just a few hours later, you sit down with your new best friends and eat a 5 course meal complete with lovely wines that came from just outside in the villa's vineyard.

You might be eating vegetable risotto with a homemade vegetable stock and shaved parmesan...

or a baked pork with grapes and rosemary...
perhaps fresh sheets of tagliatelle pasta with a porcini mushroom sauce...
and if you're lucky... real lucky... you might make individual servings of tiramisu that will knock your socks off.
So who's ready to book that trip?

Okay, so I know that 's a big commitment and maybe you need to think it over or at least find a few lucky friends, family members or strangers to join you.  But when you are ready, I want you to have all the information at your fingertips. 

This cooking school is called Cooking in Tuscany.  This is just the tip of the iceberg of what they can actually offer you.  They have week long cooking schools, market tours, wine tours, night classes, day classes and so much more.  They also rent villas near the school, and throughout the Tuscan hills outside of Florence.  If you need more info, email me... or you could cut me out altogether and check out the website... but I sure love a good email... and I have a lot more to say.

Don't worry... if you don't see Italy in your immediate future, I am bringing it to you.  I can't just leave you hanging with all the pics, can I?  I know it's hard to believe since it has been so darn long, but this is a cooking blog and I will be sharing these recipes starting now. Well, not now... maybe tomorrow?  Does that work for you?

Seen you soon... ciao.