Italian Hoagies

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An Italian hoagie, as we call such a sandwich in our area, is one of our favorite sandwiches of all time, when done right. You have chewy and delicious bread, a great place to start for any sandwich, topped with flavorful meats, provolone cheese, crisp lettuce, tomato and red onion. The whole thing is capped off with some red wine vinegar, olive oil and a little oregano. Over the years, we’ve had some really great ones. The first time we realized how much we liked them was years ago after our cousin’s baptism in Staten Island, NY, where an insanely delicious Italian hoagie was served. I have no idea where it was from, but boy, was it good.

Where we live in suburbia good hoagies are difficult to come by (Wawa’s don’t count) so we’ve made our own over the past few years. The key is to use high-quality meat and cheese as well as excellent bread (ours was from La Baguette Magique) and you really cannot go wrong. Unless you’re A) vegetarian or B) missing several wisdom teeth following surgery this past Monday and cannot bear the thought of eating a chewy hoagie right now. But otherwise, this will not disappoint!

Italian Hoagie

Serves 4 generously

Recipe from Food Network

Ingredients

12-inch loaf of Italian bread (or French baguette, which is what we used)

5 tablespoons red wine vinegar

5 tablespoons olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/4 lb. sliced provolone

1/4 lb. sliced Genoa salami

1/4 lb. sliced ham (not smoked)

1/4 lb. sliced mortadella

1/4 lb. sliced capicola

1/2 head iceberg lettuce, finally shredded

1/4-1/2 cup sliced pickled pepperoncini (this is optional- we omitted this time but they do add a nice spice and tang)

3 plum tomatoes, sliced thinly

1/2 large white onion, thinly sliced (let soak in cold water for 15 minutes to reduce their bite)

1 1/2 tsp. dried oregano

Directions

Split bread lengthwise and remove some of it from the inside. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons each of the olive oil and vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Layer cheese and meat on the bottom half of the bread. Drain onion and pat dry; top the meat with onion, lettuce, pepperoncini, and tomatoes. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the vinegar and olive oil and sprinkle with the oregano. Season with more salt and pepper. Drizzle the cut side of the bread with the remainder of the vinegar and oil and place on top of the sandwich. Cut into 4 slices and serve. Enjoy!

Raspberry Chocolate Layer Cake

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Sorry for all the silence here recently! The summer has been flying by and we haven’t had quite as much time to cook and blog as we like. Since we’re both recovering from wisdom tooth surgery this week, it’s the perfect time for us to share some recipes that we’ve neglected to post about.

Anyway, a couple of weeks back it was our grandmom’s birthday and she requested a cake with a lot of chocolate involved. This cake definitely delivered. It was three layers of dense, fudgy chocolate cake (almost like a brownie but a little softer) with a fresh raspberry filling and a super fluffy chocolate frosting. While it was delicious, I’d recommend not making it a triple-layer cake (I think two layers would be perfect). If you do go the triple-layer route, small pieces are a necessity since it’s so rich.

Rather than listing out all the instructions here, I’m going to just link you to the blogs behind the recipes! For the most part, we followed them pretty completely and all of them have great detailed posts. Check them out. This cake is not one you want to miss!

Chocolate Cake recipe from Annie’s Eats

Frosting from Sweetapolita (We suggest making a double batch to frost this cake; we also omitted the Nutella for some unknown reason- I think it would go great with the raspberry flavor!)

Raspberry Filling from Annie’s Eats (We recommend cooking it a little longer than the recipe suggests when you’re using it to fill a cake, just so that it’s stable)

Mixed Greens Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette, Apples, Feta, and Candied Almonds

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Making your own salad dressing is so worth it, in my opinion. For a start, everything tastes better fresh (and you know those bottles sitting on the shelf in the grocery store can’t really be called fresh). Second, they are really, really easy! Most dressings just take a couple of minutes to whip up. Third, they are totally customizable. You can control the amount of salt, sugar, and oil in your salad to your liking. No more being disappointed by your salad- a great dressing can take your salad from being mediocre to being a wonderful meal!

One of our favorite salad dressings ever is this fancied-up balsamic vinaigrette. It has a great smooth texture and is full of flavor, thanks to the addition of Dijon mustard, shallot, and honey. It pairs really nicely with candied nuts (or toasted ones if you want to avoid the extra sugar) and some fruit. Apples and pears both work really well, but dried cranberries would also be delicious. A bit of crumbled feta is the perfect antidote to the other sweet toppings and adds a nice saltiness to the salad. We usually like to use mixed greens or spinach, but feel free to use whatever greens you like best.

Mixed Greens Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette, Apples, Feta, and Candied Almonds

Recipe from Cooking Classy

Serves about 5 people

Indredients:

For the dressing:

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon honey

1 teaspoon dijon mustard

1 1/2 tablespoons finely diced shallot

Salt and pepper to taste

For salad assembly:

1/2 cup chopped almonds, pecans, or walnuts

1 tablespoon salted butter

1 tablespoon packed light-brown sugar

7 ounces of your green of choice (spinach or Spring mix are great)

2 ounces of crumbled feta (or more to taste)

2 apples or pears, sliced

Optional: dried cranberries

Directions:

Combine the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, honey, dijon mustard, diced shallots, and salt and pepper (maybe start with about 1/4 teaspoon of each). Using an immersion blender (or a food processor or blender), mix until smooth and emulsified.

To candy the nuts, melt together the light brown sugar and the butter in a small saucepan. Add the nuts and cook until caramelized, about 2 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Place the lettuce in a bowl and top with the sliced fruit, crumbled feta, and candied nuts. Drizzle with the dressing and toss to combine. Serve and enjoy!

Coconut Cream Cheese Brownies

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While summer is probably best suited for lighter desserts incorporating all the gorgeous fresh fruit that is available, brownies know no season! These particular brownies are extraordinarily fudgy with a thick ribbon of coconut flavored cheesecake. We made these when our brothers had friends over to watch the NBA Finals, and it took some real effort to put aside a couple for photographs! But these are meant to be shared- they’re just too good not to. The brownies pictured here are chilled, which is my personal favorite way to enjoy them (plus, they slice very neatly). Next time we may try replacing the butter in the brownies with coconut oil for enhanced coconut flavor. I think toasted coconut would also work very nicely in the filling!

P.S. Please pardon the slow posting! We worked a lot last week and have been busy, but this week we’re trying to get back on track!

Coconut Cream Cheese Brownies

Makes 1 9×13 inch pan

Idea/Coconut filling from The Baker Chick; Brownie recipe here

Ingredients

For the brownies:

4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
3/4 cup butter, salted (if using unsalted add a heaping 1/4 teaspoon of salt)
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup flour

For the coconut cheesecake filling:

1 (8oz) package cream cheese, softened

1/4 cup sugar

1 egg yolk

3/4 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 cup shredded sweetened coconut (if using unsweetened, up the sugar by a tablespoon or two)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In the bowl of a stand mixture, beat together the cream cheese, sugar, egg yolk, vanilla extract, and coconut for the filling. Beat until creamy and then set aside.

Melt the chocolate and butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat and stir in the sugar, vanilla, and eggs. Stir in the flour.

Line a 9×13 inch pan with foil and spray with cooking spray. Pour in half of the brownie batter, and then top with the cheesecake filling, spreading it as evenly as possible. Top with the other half of the brownie batter.

Bake approximately 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the brownies comes out clean (these will likely take a little longer than a regular pan of brownies). Let cool in pan for about 30 minutes, and then remove to a wire rack to finish cooling. Serve at room temperature or chilled, and store any brownies not being served within a couple hours in the fridge. Enjoy!

Blueberry Pie

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I think we can all agree that one of the best parts of summer is the fabulous fresh berries that are available. Most berries, like strawberries and raspberries, I love eating plain from a bowl. Blueberries, on the other hand, I think are much better when cooked. I like plain blueberries, but when they are cooked and turned deliciously juicy and purple they are just so much more wonderful. So, when we had a ton of blueberries in our refrigerator last week, we knew that we wanted to bake with them.

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Finally it hit us- blueberry pie! Pies are delicious, but we rarely make them and had never tried making a blueberry one before. It was the right decision, let me tell you. This pie was magical- the crust was flaky, the filling was both sweet and tart at the same time, and it was really easy to make. I think the secret to making this pie so excellent was the lemon and cinnamon in the filling. These two flavorings were key to preventing a flat, blah filling. This pie is sure to become a summer baking staple!

One thing to note- while the pie tasted better warm, it is MUCH easier to slice when fully cooled in the fridge.

Blueberry Pie

Yields 1 pie

Pie filling from Annie’s Eats (originally from Williams Sonoma), crust adapted from the Betty Crocker Cookbook

Ingredients:

For the crust:

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon shortening

1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon butter

4-6 tablespoons cold water

For the filling:

4 cups blueberries

1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

¾ cup sugar

3 tbsp. cornstarch

½ tsp. finely grated lemon zest

¼ tsp. salt

¼ tsp. cinnamon

1 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces

1 egg

1 tbsp. water

Turbinado or granulated sugar, for sprinkling over the pie

Directions:

For the crust:

Mix the flour and salt together in a medium bowl. Cut in the shortening and butter using a pastry blender or two table knives until the largest pieces of butter or shortening are the size of small peas.

Sprinkle with the cold water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until all the flour is moistened and the dough almost leaves the sides of the bowl.

Gather the pastry into a ball and divide into two. Flatten each piece a bit an wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for about 45 minutes, or until the dough is firm and cold but slightly pliable.

Roll the pastry on a lightly floured surface (rolling it on a piece of lightly floured parchment paper makes transfer easier). Make sure the circle is two inches larger than an upside-down 9-inch pie plate.

Gently press the pastry into a 9-inch glass pie plate. Take care not to stretch the pastry, which will cause shrinking.

For the filling:

Put the blueberries in a large bowl and toss with the lemon juice. In a small bowl, stir together the sugar, cornstarch, lemon zest, salt and cinnamon. Sprinkle the sugar mixture over the berries and stir to evenly coat the berries.

For assembly and baking:

Right after assembling the filling, transfer it to the dough-lined pan. Dot with small butter pieces. Place the second dough round that has been rolled out on top of the pie. Crimp the dough rounds together to seal the edges.Cut vents in the pie with a sharp knife to allow steam to escape during baking.

Refrigerate the pie for 20-30 minutes. Meanwhile, place an oven rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat it to 375 degrees F. Beat the egg with the water and brush over the pie. Sprinkle with turbinado or granulated sugar if desired. Place the pie on a foil-lined baking sheet (to catch any bubbling blueberries that escape).

Bake the pie for about 50-60 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbling. Let cool before serving. Enjoy with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream!

Black Bean Tacos with Pico de Gallo and Avocado

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One of the best things about spending more time in the kitchen over the years is gaining a more expanded view of traditional meals. Growing up, our mom made regular ground beef tacos frequently, which are good, but there is a whole world of tacos out there to be explored. We’ve made a few different ones, but our favorite is this recipe for black bean tacos, served with pico de gallo and avocado. Not only is this meal really simple to make (calling for ingredients that are easily accessible and taking very little time to cook), but it’s delicious and filling as well. We’ve made these tacos at least four or five times and each time they are devoured. The pico de gallo recipe we like comes from a Mexican restaurant in New York City and it is wonderful- make a double batch and enjoy the leftovers with tortilla chips!

Black Bean Tacos with Pico de Gallo and Avocado

Serves 4-6

Recipe for the tacos from Annie’s Eats, and pico de gallo via Epicurious

Ingredients

For the pico de gallo:

3/4 pound tomatoes (about 2 medium), seeded and finely diced (1 1/2 cups)

1/3 cup chopped cilantro

1/4 cup finely chopped onion

1 small jalapeño or serrano chile, finely chopped (include seeds if you like your pico de gallo spicy)

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice

1/2 teaspoon fine salt, or 1 teaspoon kosher salt

For the tacos:

2 tsp. olive oil

½ cup finely chopped onion

2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed

¾ tsp. kosher salt

¾ tsp. ground cumin

½ tsp. ground chipotle powder

Dash ground cayenne

2½-3 cups cooked black beans (about 2 cans, drained and rinsed)

1 cup veggie broth or water

Juice of 1 lime (be careful- if your lime is really juicy, don’t add all the juice)

Flour tortillas

Pico de gallo

Avocado slices

Directions

For the pico de gallo:

Stir together all the ingredients together in a bowl- you can make it up to a day in advance (make sure to drain off any extra liquid before serving if you make it ahead).

For the tacos:

Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté until it begins to soften, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic, salt, cumin, chipotle powder and cayenne and cook just until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Stir in the beans and then the veggie broth.  Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to medium-low and continue to simmer for about 8-10 minutes until almost all of the liquid has evaporated and the beans are tender.  Remove from the heat and stir in the lime juice.

Assemble tacos with tortillas, pico de gallo and sliced avocado. Enjoy!

Ultimate Birthday Cake

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Remember that decadent dessert we promised? Well, here it is! We don’t really make big layer cakes all that frequently because when we do, we like to go all out. A few weeks ago, I ordered The Sweetapolita Bakebook, and the first time I flipped through the book, I almost passed over this cake. Based on the outside, I assumed it was simply a vanilla cake with sprinkle-filled vanilla icing; pretty, but nothing too special. However, having followed the Sweetapolita blog for a few years now, I should’ve known better. What really makes this cake fabulous is the filling. A portion of frosting is mixed with eggless sugar cookie dough cubes and sprinkles, and then crumbled colorful cupcakes are sprinkled between the layers.

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Man, is that filling fantastic. It’s such a fun surprise, and the sugar cookie dough bites are definitely the best ones! We’re definitely going to try the eggless cookie dough method for other cakes (chocolate chip cookie dough, anyone?).

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It’s also so fun to have the sprinkles stirred into the frosting. While it made it a little bit harder to frost the cake neatly, it was a really cool effect that I will definitely be using on other cakes in the future.

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We followed the recipe from the book exactly, and since it’s a brand-new book we have chosen against posting it here. You can find the recipe in the book, or find a 3-layer version of the recipe on Sweetapolita’s blog. It was one of our brother’s favorite cakes of all time, and I’m sure we will make it again for a special occasion.

Roasted Tomato, Kale and Feta Pizza

kalepizza1 Freshman year of college is officially over! We moved back home this Tuesday. It feels good to be home, but we’re going to miss school and our friends who live throughout the country this summer- it’s certainly an adjustment going from being surrounded by thousands of other people your age to being with your family again (wonderful people as they are!). One plus, though, is we will have time to get back to blogging. In honor of coming home, we made a very decadent cake this past Wednesday which we’ll be sharing soon, but first, something a bit healthier- kale pizza!

Even if you’re not a fan of kale, I would really encourage you to give it a try here. Anything is improved by cheese and carbs, right? Especially when the cheese is feta and the carb component is homemade pizza crust! Roasted tomatoes add a nice touch, as does the garlic oil that serves as the sauce base. As we approach summer and tomatoes get better, they’re best fresh, but the ones around here aren’t quite there yet and roasting brings out their flavor. Give this pizza a try!

P.S. We made an Instagram for our blog! Follow @weliketwocook if you’d like!

kalepizza2 Roasted Tomato, Kale and Feta Pizza

Recipe from Annie’s Eats

Makes 1 medium-sized pizza

Ingredients

For the tomatoes:
4-5 medium tomatoes
Olive oil
Pinch of sugar
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
For the pizza:
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
3-4 cups kale leaves, stemmed and roughly chopped
1 ball pizza dough
2 ounces mozzarella, shredded
3-4 ounces crumbled feta cheese
Directions
For the tomatoes:
Preheat the oven to 300˚ F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Slice the tomatoes into slices that are about ½-inch thick.  Lay the slices in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet.  Drizzle with a little olive oil, sprinkle with a pinch of sugar, and season with salt and pepper.  Bake 50-60 minutes, flipping the slices halfway through baking, until roasted and lightly browned.  Transfer tomatoes to a plate lined with paper towel and refrigerate for several hours until excess liquid is drained.
For the pizza:
In a small skillet, combine 2 tablespoons of the olive oil with the garlic and red pepper flakes.  Warm over low heat for about 10-15 minutes and then remove from heat and set aside.
In a medium skillet, heat the remaining 2 teaspoons of oil over medium-high heat.  Add the kale to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, just until the leaves are wilted.  Remove from heat and set aside.
Heat the oven to 500˚ F and preheat a pizza stone for at least 30 minutes (the longer you heat your pizza stone, the better your crust will be!).  Roll out or press the pizza dough into a 12-14 inch round.  Brush the dough with the garlic-red pepper oil.  Sprinkle the shredded mozzarella over the dough. Top with the wilted kale, roasted tomato slices, and feta.
Transfer the pizza to the preheated pizza stone and bake until the cheese is melted and bubbling and the crust is lightly browned, about 11-12 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let cool slightly, then slice and serve. Enjoy!

Funfetti Rice Krispie Treats

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Two weeks from now, freshman year of college will be OVER. I feel really bittersweet about it; on one hand, it will be awesome to be done with academic work for three months, but this place has become a second home over the past eight months. I’ve made so many memories here, met tons of amazing people, and been able to experience a new (to me) city- Boston. I feel so lucky to be having such an incredible experience, and I am really excited for the next three years.

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One thing I’m looking forward to about being home this summer is getting to cook again! A couple of weeks ago I was able to make pancakes and cupcakes in a kitchen on campus with a couple of friends, but it’s definitely more difficult to find a way to cook and bake here. My plans for the summer include lots of salads and homemade ice cream!

These rice krispie treats are from Easter break, but they’d actually be super easy to make in a college kitchen. They’re a low maintenance and fun recipe- melt butter and marshmallows and stir cake mix into it before adding rice krispies and sprinkles. Cake mix in rice krispie treats may sound a little weird, but these are addictive and have a definite cake batter flavor. If you like funfetti, give this dessert a try!

Funfetti Rice Krispie Treats

Recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction

Ingredients:

3 Tablespoons unsalted butter

1 (10 oz.) bag of marshmallows

2/3 cup boxed yellow cake mix

6 cups rice krispie cereal

1/2 cup sprinkles

Directions:

Spray a 11×7 baking pan with nonstick spray or coat it with butter. Put it aside.

In a large saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Add the marshmallows and stir constantly until melted. Stir in the dry cake mix until combined. Remove the pan from the heat.

Stir in the cereal until it is evenly coated with the marshmallow mixture. Stir in half of the sprinkles. Press the mixture into the prepared baking pan and top with the remaining sprinkles. Let the rice krispie treats set, and then slice and enjoy!

Italian Chopped Salad

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It’s been so quiet around here lately, hasn’t it? Celine and I just got back from college Wednesday night after having been away since January. Perk of going to a Catholic college: you get a few days off from school around Easter! The last few months have been busy so it’s been great to be home- especially to use our kitchen. We’re in the baking club, but it doesn’t meet that frequently and it isn’t the same as when you’re in your own kitchen. The things I would do to have a kitchen in my dorm room!

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This salad was the first thing that we made when we got home. There’s something about dining hall food that leaves you craving a really great salad! This unique and delicious combination was just the thing. A combination of spinach and chopped romaine lettuce makes for the perfect base to load up with all the toppings: roasted red peppers, herbed and marinated chickpeas, sliced red onions, and shredded Gouda. A simple vinaigrette is just the right finish for this salad. Delicious as it is as written, I can also imagine that it would be good with mozzarella balls to replace the Gouda and some type of salami or other Italian meat added to it.

Italian Chopped Salad

Recipe from Annie’s Eats

Makes about 4 servings

Ingredients

1 red bell pepper

1 cup chickpeas

3 tbsp. plus 2 tsp. olive oil, divided

2 tsp. lemon juice

½ tsp. oregano

¼ tsp. red pepper flakes

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

¼ small red onion, thinly sliced

1½ tbsp. red wine vinegar

1½ tbsp. balsamic vinegar

3 cups baby spinach leaves

3 cups chopped romaine lettuce

3 oz. Gouda, shredded

Directions

Preheat the broiler on high. Put the bell pepper on a baking sheet that has been lined with foil. Put the pan under the broiler and allow to cook for about 5-6 minutes or until the first side is completely blackened. Flip the pepper with tongs and continue to cook until the skin of the other side is also blackened. Remove and wrap in the foil you used to line the pan. Let it sit for at least 15 minutes. Once the pepper is cool enough to touch, peel away and discard the skin and remove the stem and seeds. Slice the pepper and set aside.

Combine the chickpeas in a bowl with 2 teaspoons of the olive oil, the lemon juice, oregano, and red pepper flakes. Stir well to blend and evenly coat the chickpeas. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Fill a small bowl with ice water and put the onions into the water. Let them soak for about 30 seconds, then drain and blot away excess liquid. This step will help remove the harshness of the onions.

In a liquid measuring cup, place the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil and the vinegars; whisk until well combined. Season with salt and pepper.

In a large bowl, combine the spinach and romaine. Add the majority of the dressing and toss well (add more if desired). Top with the sliced onion, red pepper, chickpeas, and Gouda. Serve and enjoy!