Cucina Valentina

Cucina Valentina

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Limoncello Pound Cake with Coconut Lemon Glaze




Happy 97th Birthday, Aunt Theresa!

It isn't every day that someone very dear to you turns 97.

My sweet Aunt Theresa has been in my life since the day I arrived home from the hospital.  My family had waited three long years to adopt an Italian baby, so my arrival was quite a milestone!

Decades later, my Aunt Theresa is one of the handful of relatives I have left, so when it came to celebrating her 97th birthday, a truly incredible milestone, I knew that a very special cake was in order.

An homage to our heritage, it only seemed right that lemons, an Italian staple, play a main role in this recipe.  This pound cake is bright and delicious, perfect for spring, and I think you will love it.

Limoncello Pound Cake with Lemon Coconut Glaze


2 large eggs
3/4 C plain non-fat Greek yogurt
1/4 C butter , melted
1/4 C Sicilian lemon infused olive oil
4 T Limoncello (or use lemon juice if you prefer)
1 t vanilla
1 t lemon zest
1 C sugar
2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

Lemon Coconut Glaze

3/4 cup powdered sugar
2 T Limoncello or Lemon Juice (to achieve desired consistency adjust as necessary)
1 T coconut extract


Preheat oven to 350.
Butter a loaf pan. Set aside.
In a large bowl or mixer, whisk together the eggs, yogurt, butter, olive oil, Limoncello, vanilla and lemon zest. 
In another bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients a little at a time until just incorporated, being careful not  to over-mix.
Pour the batter into prepared pan and bake 30-40 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean and the top of the cake is golden brown.
Remove from the oven and let rest while you prepare the glaze by whisking together the powdered sugar, coconut extract and Limoncello or lemon juice in a measuring cup until smooth.
Invert the cake onto a pretty platter and remove pan, then turn the cake over and drizzle with glaze.

I topped this cake with fresh berries marinated in coconut infused white balsamic vinegar.  Fantastic!

Me and my Aunt Theresa

* Recipe adapted from

Friday, April 7, 2017

Enchilada Stuffed Zucchini

In this foodie realm that we all revolve in, something recently happened to me that I feel bears mentioning.

If you are following this blog you know that I am an Italian girl who loves to cook, loves animals, nature, photography, bird-watching and also boating. I subscribe to multiple food magazines, record most of the cooking shows and belong to several cooking/food/recipe sharing Facebook groups. Yesterday,on one of these Facebook groups, something disturbing took place.

I had just posted a photo of last night's dinner dish, lemon shrimp with roasted asparagus, and commented that it contained no fat, no sugar, as spring is already upon us and I am trying to lighten up our fare.  In the post I also mentioned the word, DIET.

Holy hell! 

Utter chaos ensued. Little did I know that the mere mention of the word could send readers over edge with pent up hostility.  About a second later I was admonished in a comment and warned that my choice of words was insensitive and constituted body shaming. I was asked to remove the "offensive" word from my post.

Censorship? I'm sorry, but no. I would rather leave the group than edit my post. So I did.

Body Shaming? Really? I am no skinny-minnie, and never have been. I love food, cocktails and wine. More often than not, I lack self-discipline. I would never body shame anyone. I was simply posting my life experience, which includes getting ready for summer, which means it is time to put on the (be forewarned; here comes another utterly offensive word) ... bikini.

Deep down I believe everyone desires a healthy body, so regardless of those who disapprove, I will continue to lighten up my recipes for spring and hope my audience appreciates it. This doesn't mean that come next fall there won't be plenty of hearty shepherd's pies and cheesy potato dishes, it just means that for now, I'm going easy on the calories. And really, what could it hurt?

I will give you a great tip. When you are trying to reduce your fat intake, fat free chicken broth, unsweetened cashew milk and non-fat Greek yogurt are your best friends. You can dry saute any vegetable or meat, and when it starts to brown, deglaze with the chicken broth. I promise that in the end result, you will not miss the butter.

I use the cashew milk anytime I would normally reach for the heavy cream.  It is the perfect way to finish a sauce and achieve a rich, satisfying end result.

Non fat Greek yogurt (I use Fage) is a great substitute for mayonnaise and/or sour cream in dressings and dips.  You literally cannot tell the difference.



Enchilada Stuffed Zucchini 


4 large zucchini
1 6oz can enchilada sauce
I T Garlic Infused Olive Oil
1 lb ground turkey or diced chicken breast or thigh
1 large shallot
1/2 red bell pepper
2 jalapenos
5 cloves garlic
1/4 t Chef Merito fajita seasoning
1 t chioptle chili powder
1 t cumin
1 t oregano (or 1 T fresh chopped)
1/2 C fat free chicken broth
1/2 C cheese
1 avocado, sliced
4 T cilantro (rough chopped)
2 T scallions (minced)


Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Scoop out zucchini flesh with a melon baller. Place zucchini shells on a rimmed baking sheet and bake 10-15 minutes.  Rough chop zucchini flesh.

Meanwhile, heat Garlic Infused Olive Oil in a medium skillet, then brown the chicken or ground turkey with chopped shallot, garlic, red bell pepper, zucchini flesh, jalapeno and seasonings.  Drain fat.  Cook over medium high heat until turkey begins to brown, then add chicken broth and let simmer until thick.

Pour half the enchilada sauce into a rectangle baking dish. Lay the zucchini in the dish, top with meat mixture then drizzle remaining enchilada sauce on top. Sprinkle with cheese of your choice, cheddar, jack, feta, cotija... then bake at 400 for 30-40 minutes.

Let rest for 10 minutes once out of the oven. Drizzle with lemon Chipotle Crema, top with sliced avocado and a sprinkling of cilantro and scallions.

Lemon-Chipotle Crema




1/2 C Fage non-fat Greek yogurt
1/2 C mayonnaise
1 - 4 T Cashew Milk
1 t honey
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
1/2 t chipotle chili powder
salt and pepper to taste  

Whisk all ingredients until well blended.

I keep this crema in a plastic squeeze bottle in the refrigerator.  If it's too thick, thin with a little more milk.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Cucumber Jalapeno Margaritas

Happy Friday!

Time for a Margarita, and this one is well deserved. 

Today I dove head first into Sea Salt production for my Cucina Valentina Etsy store, determined to add a variety of infused Sea Salts to my Kitchen Essentials line.  Two of my favorite flavors are smoky chipotle and bright, zesty lime.  I may be Italian, but, oh, how I love my Mexican food.  I can think of dozens of ways to use a chipotle lime salt - and I intend to share them all right here.

I soon discovered that this endeavor is extremely labor intensive.  There's the zesting and the squeezing, then the low-temp baking and then the grinding... 

The end result is amazing, and I'm not complaining, but after zesting a literal bushel of limes, I am ready for a refreshing libation!

This is a truly delicious margarita, as the cucumber gives it a burst of freshness and the jalapeno, the perfect kick.  Thank you to Michael Symon for the inspiration.


Cucumber Jalapeno Margaritas


1/2 C fresh squeezed lime juice
1/2 C Tequila
1/4 C Grand Marnier
1/4 C agave nectar

Jalapeno and cucumber, thin sliced

Chipotle Lime Sea Salt


Wet rim of glasses with a lime wedge then dip and roll into a shallow plate of chipotle salt until rim is coated.

Combine the first four ingredients in an ice filled shaker and shake vigerously.  Strain into glasses and garnish with cucumber and jalapeno.

For stronger cucumber/jalapeno flavor, mix all ingredients in a pitcher and refrigerate at least an hour before serving.

Serves 2 large or 4 small

Adapted from Michael Symon - Food Network

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Portobello Pizza

Hi Friends,

In case you haven't noticed, I have been off the radar for several weeks due to two significant life events, my birthday, and ... wait for it   

My mini kitchen renovation!

Well, the birthday, not so much a life event.  At this stage I would rather do without them, but whatever.  It's just a number, right?

And the mini reno, well, it was actually just having my kitchen cabinets painted.  I know it probably doesn't sound that dramatic, but let me tell you, the difference is immeasurable!  We bought our home 26 years ago, when honey oak was in style.  If you watch HGTV you know that when it comes to kitchens, white is in.  White quartz counters, white Shaker cabinets, whitewashed floors...

While this was not my reasoning for going light, (when it comes to trends, I'm always at least one behind) I felt that going dark would make an already small kitchen feel even smaller, so I went with a cream, Swiss Coffee to be exact, and I have to say, I love it!  Typhoon Bordeaux granite counters that seemed to get lost amidst that orangy oak, now really stand out.



As soon as the kitchen was done, off we went to the lake house to celebrate, which, even though it's the dead of winter, made me realize that spring is almost upon us and with it - bikini season.

Yes, I said it.

If anyone understands what this means, it is you, my audience.  Five months of homemade pastas, cheesecakes, carnitas tacos and shepherd's pies. has taken a toll.  It's time to lighten up, so I have decided to go low carb for awhile, and see if it really works.

There are a plethora of low carb recipes out there, so I have stockpiled what look like the best and intend to try them all during the month of March - and beyond.

These delicious little beauties are one of my favorite so far, and very easy.  No twenty ingredient shopping list here.  In fact, there are no specific quantities in this recipe.  Pile on as much or as little toppings as you like.  You cant go wrong with a pizza!

The key to having the portobello make a good foundation is hot, fast cooking.  If you leave them in the oven too long, the will be sitting in a puddle of their own juice, and you don't want that.  Just a quick pre-broil with garlic and herbs, then add the toppings and broil again.  It doesn't get easier than that!

One thing I can already say about low carb cooking is, Hallelujah.  Cheese is no longer the enemy!

And don't let the size fool you.  This pizza is filling!  The mushroom is dense, flavorful and meaty.  I promise you won't miss the crust!

Pair the pizza with a good bottle of wine such as this 2013 Chateau Montelena Cabernet (you can afford those carbs) and that's it. 
I feel healthier already!

Portobello Pizza


4 Portobello Mushrooms, washed and dried
Italian Seasoning
basil infused olive oil
minced garlic
salt and pepper


Mozarella Cheese
Parmesan Cheese
red onion
green onion

The list goes on...


Preheat broiler to Low Broil

Place mushrooms gill side up on a rimmed baking sheet and brush both sides with basil infused oil, salt and pepper.  Sprinkle with Italian seasoning and minced garlic and broil 8 -10 minutes.

Remove from oven, add toppings and broil again, another 10 - 15 minutes until cheese is bubbling and browning.  Let them sit a few minutes after broiling to firm up, then enjoy this guilt-free indulgence!