Cooking For A Cause – Cirillo’s Culinary Academy

Chefs Challenge


On Saturday, February 8th 2014, I was apart of a great cause which united two of my biggest passions, my love for cooking and my interest in charity & fundraising.   Mt. Sinai Hospital hosted the Chef’s Challenge with multiple celebrity chefs attending, including one of my favourites Giada de Laurentiis.  I was thrilled!

I raised enough money to participate in the Chef’s challenge. I competed on stage with the top 50 fundraisers in an “Iron Chef” type setting!  Teams were led by celebrity chefs and given a secret ingredient to signal – it’s show time!  If you were a TOP fundraiser, you got to choose which celebrity chef you’d like to work with, my goal was to have Giada lead my team! This dream did not come to fruition, however, I was led by another amazing chef David Rocco. We had a blast 😉

Given my medical history, treatment at Mt. Sinai and fantasy to be a leading chef I couldn’t think of a more fitting event to put my energy into!  I was really excited to participate and appreciated everyone’s help in getting me on that stage. I look forward to joining again next year!


As a Pre Chef’s Challenge event Narrative Nikki and I spent an evening at Cirillo’s Culinary Academy.  About 50 peopled joined the evening in what turned out to be a super fun cooking class.  We made chicken cacciatore, mushroom risotto and a dessert fit for a queen! The facility was large, clean, functional and perfect for this type of engagement!


Chefs Challenge 2Misnikks cooking classpre chefs challenge - Kate and Giada


Torta Della Nonna

There are many versions of this cake, as the meaning of Torta Della Nonna is grandmothers cake! Kate and I made the following for a dinner party and it turned out okay for non-italian beginners! It needed to be a touch sweeter so keep that in mind when baking 🙂

Pre baked

For the crema pasticcera

  • 1 litre milk
  • 350g caster sugar
  • grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • 6 egg yolks
  • a pinch of salt
  • 125g plain flour

For the cake

  • 500g sweet shortcrust pastry
  • 50g pine nuts
  • 50g raisins, blanched
  • 50ml rum
  • 500ml crema pasticcera (see above)
  • 1 egg beaten
  • vanilla sugar, to serve
    • For the crema pasticcera pour a small cup of milk from the litre and put the rest into a saucepan with half of the sugar, lemon zest and vanillia pod and heat slowly until boiling.

    • In the meantime, lightly whisk the egg yolks and the pinch of salt in a bowl to break them. Sift the flour into the bowl, whisking gently and making sure that no lumps form, then whisk in the remaining sugar, and finally the remaining small cup of milk. Whisk until smooth.

    • By this time the milk in the pan should almost have boiled. Remove the vanilla pod and lemon zest, and then pour the milk on to the egg mixture, whisking briskly whilst doing so. Return the mixture to the heat and bring to the boil, stirring with a wooden spoon all the time. As the mixture boils it will begin to get thicker and then suddenly go very thick. At this point it is ready and you need to remove the saucepan from the heat and cool the mixture as quickly as possible. A good way to do this is to place the base of the saucepan into cold or iced water and stir the mixture gently so a skin does not form as it cools.

    • Now for the cake, preheat the oven to 180C and roll out the pastry and cut out a disc with a diameter of about 25cm and transfer to a baking sheet. Mix the pine nuts, raisins and rum with the crema pasticcera. Spread the mixture over the shortcrust pastry to form a dome shape. Roll out the remaining pastry large enough to cover the dome. Press the edges together and cut it neatly. Brush with the egg and pierce a few times with a folk. Bake in the preheated oven for about an hour or until golden. Remove and let it cool. Transfer to a plate. Sprinkle with vanilla sugar and serve.


Finished product


Basil Breadcrumbs

Great to add to homemade burgers, pasta’s, stuffings and more!

The process is super easy and fast. Make sure you have a blender and some ziploc’s for storage

In the blender place your bread and fresh basil. Don’t over blend the two items, you want the breadcrumbs to be able to separate easily.

I tried a new breadcrumb by making a separate batch of truffle salt and bread. Same goes for these, do not over blend.

Pretty easy?!?…i think so 😉

For storage place in the freezer or fridge, depending on when your using them.

truffle and basil breadcrumbs

Banana Bread with Sour Cream ;-)

Try out this recipe for Banana Bread, its a little different from the usual but yummy!


2 cups flour

3/4 cups sugar

3/4 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

3 bananas (ripe so you can mash well)

6 tbsp butter (melted and cooled)

2 eggs

1/4 cup sour cream

1.  Preheat your oven to 350 Fahrenheit.  Grease an 8.5 x 4.5 inch loaf pan (or grease 3 mini-loaf pans)  
2.  In a large bowl, whisk together your dry ingredients.  Set aside.  In a medium bowl, combine bananas, butter, eggs, sugar and yogurt.  Gently fold the banana mixture into the flour mixture with a rubber spatula (do not overmix). The batter will look thick and chunky.
3.  Scrape the batter into the prepared pan(s) and smooth the top. 
4.  Bake until golden brown and only a few moist crumbs cling to a toothpick inserted in the center (about 50 minutes for a regular pan, about 20 minutes for mini pans). Let the loaf cool in the pan for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack. Allow to cool for 1 hour before serving.

image1 image2 image3 image4 image5


Miso Marinated Flank Steak

This recipe was delicious. We marinated 2.5 lbs of flank steak & two nights later we marinated a pork shoulder using the same recipe. Both dishes were equally tasty.  Served with BBQ peppers, a fresh salad and baked sweet potato fries….Mmmmmm!!!!

The Marinade:image3

1 tablespoon Miso (white)

1 lb of skirt steak

1 1/2 tablespoons of sesame oil

1 tablespoon of rice wine vinegar

1/4 cup brown sugar

2 tablespoons Sake

1 teaspoon ground ginger

3 cloves of chopped garlic

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl, cover, refrigerate for a few hours or over night.

We decided to BBQ the steak as well as the pork.  If barbecuing ensure you remove as much of the marinade as possible before placing on the grill. You don’t want the outer surface of the meat to burn from the sugar. DO NOT WASTE THE MARINADE! Place the left over marinade in a small pot and boil it for 5-10 minutes.  The reduction sauce will serve well over the meat once plated!


Bon Appetite

Miso Marinated Flank Steak image2

Lemon Cupcakes with Raspberry Cream Cheese Frosting

For her birthday this year Kate did something a little different, she made her own cake, her own cupcakes to be exact!! Lemon filled Raspberry Iced CupcakesSometimes, when you know you can do it better, store bought just doesn’t cut it.


We decided to make a night out of it and invited our sisters over for some baking fun.  Kelly, Kate’s sister, served the white wine and antipasti platter while Krissy, Kate and I got busy with the baking. Alongside the lemon cupcakes we whipped up chocolate ones too, however I must say the lemon ones, hands down, were the favourite by far.


Lemon Cupcakes with Raspberry Cream Cheese Frosting

For cupcakes:

1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
zest and juice of three lemons
3 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup milk
Lemon Curd filling

For Frosting
8 oz cream cheese, room temp
1 stick butter, room temp
1 lb powdered sugar
4 tbsp raspberry preserve

Pre-heat oven to 350F.

Cream together butter and sugar.  Beat in eggs one at a time.  Add lemon zest and lemon juice and sour cream.  In a bowl, combine dry ingredients.  Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet.  Alternate between adding the flour mixture and the milk.  Mix until just combined.

Pour batter into lined cupcake pan.  Bake 17-20 minutes (depending on your oven).  Mine took 17 minutes.  Also accidentally wayyyy over baked the first 12 and had to throw them away.  Beware!  These might not look done on top but poke them with a toothpick after 16ish minutes to see when they’re ready!

Allow the cupcakes to cool completely, then cut holes in the top using a knife and scoop some out.  Then put some lemon curd in a ziploc bag, cut off an end and pipe some lemon curd into each cupcake.

Next make the frosting, throw all the ingredients in a bowl and let your hand/stand mixer do the work.  If it’s too stiff, add some liquid (or more raspberry preserve), if it’s too runny, add more powdered sugar.  Adjust accordingly.

Frost your cupcakes and serve them up.  They don’t have to be perfect or uniform.  They’ll be delicious either way.

Raspberry Icing! photo 2


















White on White, Black on Black – With Oreo Cupcakes Opposites Attract

With super moist cake and a thick creamy frosting, these cupcakes are fantastic for fancier functions! They definitely dress to impress, are easy to prepare and pretty to plate.

Since Kate has blogged these delicious cupcakes before, just click the link to find the recipe!



The Start of a Beautiful Thing

Post baked and topped with icing

The Biltmore Cupcake Workshop Oreo Cupcake

Sprinkled with crushed Oreo and toped with one too!