Feb 24 2014

Espresso at Home and a S’Mores Latte #recipe #client #coffeequest

Disclosure: I received a complimentary Capresso EC50 Espresso and Cappuccino Machine for review. No other compensation was received. All opinions and photos remain my own.

espresso brewing

I am a coffee shop addict. Not for the coffee–I have plenty of ways to make my own, thanks to my Coffee Quest last year. But I love espresso. Like big puffy heart love. Like it’s probably a bad thing I work across the street from a well-known and huge coffee chain love. (This may be why I don’t sleep much…?) In lattes and macchiatos, Americanos and cappuccinos: it really doesn’t matter because it’s all good. And now, thanks to Capresso, I can make them at home, too.

Capresso brings the high end coffee shop experience to your home with their affordable EC50 Stainless Steel Pump Espresso and Cappuccino Machine. Retailing just under $100, it costs less than many coffee makers you’re already buying but the results taste a lot better. Right from your own counter.

Capresso EC50

The EC50 is a petite piece of equipment, taking up less counter space than prior coffee makers I’ve had. This is great because space is at a premium in my house! It’s also extremely quick. It doesn’t take long for it to heat up and be ready for brewing. For optimum taste, it’s best to let your cup warm up, too, but it can also accommodate you if you’re in a hurry. No worries!

Capresso’s EC50 is stylish. Sleek and modern with its black and stainless combo, it’s at home in contemporary kitchens but also fits in well in older homes, too, like my 1950s kitchen. It looks like it costs a lot more than it does. Score!


I have to admit that I never made my own espresso before receiving this machine. The fact that I had it up and running, brewing that nectar of the gods, in less than 10 minutes is a testament to the ease of set-up and use. There aren’t very many parts to worry about. The 42-ounce water reservoir is removable so you can bring it right to the sink to fill up. The portafilter and sieve do need to be removed post-brewing for cleaning, but that’s little more than dumping the spent grounds and a quick run under the hot water tap.

Capresso EC50

I did have some problems with frothing/steaming the milk at first. But that’s more because I usually only keep whole milk in the house, which is too heavy to froth beautifully. When I tried with skim milk that hasn’t been ultra pasteurized, I had much better results. (I also found this guide on How to Achieve the Perfect Frothed Milk on Capresso’s website to be quite helpful in troubleshooting that problem.)

s'mores latte

So what’s the verdict? If I were in the market to purchase an espresso machine, I would definitely put the Capresso EC50 at the top of my list. You get a lot of bang for your buck, and the espresso it brews is just divine. Plus Capresso offers a lot of assistance and ideas on their Facebook page, from Twitter, on Pinterest, and right on their own blog, which is full of recipes and tips. I like that they’re there to help you get the most out of your investment.


And now… a recipe. Because you need something to make with all that lovely espresso. I was inspired by the S’Mores Hot Chocolate on Capresso’s website. I wanted to elevate it a bit with a riff off of a Mocha and voila–S’Mores Latte! Now all you need is a comfy seat in front of the fireplace and you’ll feel just like you’re in the coffee shop–at home. Cheers!

5.0 from 1 reviews

S’Mores Latte
Prep time
Total time
Recipe type: Beverage
Serves: 1
  • 1 honey graham cracker sheet, crushed
  • 1½ Tablespoons + ¼ teaspoon chocolate syrup
  • 6 ounces cold skim milk (not ultra-pasteurized)
  • 2 shots (about 2 ounces) espresso
  • whipped cream
  • 2 Tablespoons mini marshmallows
  1. Spread crushed graham cracker in a circle on a small plate.
  2. Apply ¼ teaspoon of the chocolate syrup to a paper towel and run it along the rim of a latte mug to coat, then dip the rim in the graham cracker crumbs.
  3. Drizzle the remaining chocolate syrup inside the mug.
  4. In a large mug steam cold milk using the steaming/frothing wand with the frothing part removed. Heat until 145-160 degrees Fahrenheit, then set aside.
  5. Brew the espresso according to manufacturer’s directions and pour over the chocolate syrup.
  6. Pour the steamed milk into the mug, then spray a little whipped cream on top of that.
  7. Sprinkle 1-2 teaspoons of remaining graham cracker crumbs and the mini marshmallows over the whipped cream.
  8. Enjoy!


Feb 22 2014

Roasted Parmesan Broccoli

Growing up, fresh veggies were an infrequent visitor to our table. Frozen vegetables? Yup, and far preferable to their mutant cousins, canned vegetables, which also often accompanied our meals. (Can you say “canned peas”? Yuck!) But fresh? That came later when I was much older. I’m sure my mom found it easier with a house full of kids to rely on quick, easy alternatives–I know I love keeping those steam-in-a-bag veggies on hand because my kids can prepare them by themselves. I can’t really blame her.

fresh broccoli

As I grew older, I learned the magic of steaming fresh vegetables and my world was turned upside down. This helped retain the crispness and keep the flavor fresh. But despite this magic, the veggies were still lacking, somehow. Butter helped, but it wasn’t enough. There was something missing.

Then I learned how to roast vegetables.

roasted Parmesan broccoli

I always knew about roasting potatoes and carrots and onions–a large bowl overflowing with them has been present at Thanksgiving holidays, year after year. But did you know you can roast other vegetables? Not only that, did you know that roasting them would be life-changing? It is! And it’s oh-so-easy, too!

All you need to do is toss your cut vegetables (in this case, broccoli) with some olive oil, season, and set in the oven for 20 minutes or so. The process seals in the flavor and enhances it. There’s just no beating roasted vegetables!

roasted Parmesan broccoli

For my roasted broccoli, I like adding grated Parmesan and Romano cheese to kick it up a notch. Yup, the stuff in the shaker canister. I know I should be ashamed. I should tell you to freshly grate it, but I’m all about the ease. It’s part of the appeal of this dish. You could almost make this in your sleep. But please don’t–like the hairdryers with silly warnings about not operating while unconscious, you know better than that.

Which vegetables do you prefer roasted?

5.0 from 1 reviews

Roasted Parmesan Broccoli
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Side Dish
Serves: 4
  • 12 ounces broccoli florets
  • 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 Tablespoons grated Parmesan & Romano cheese (yup, from the shaker canister)
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl toss the florets and olive oil. Add the grated cheese and toss until evenly coated.
  3. Spread on the prepared baking sheet and bake on the center rack for 20 minutes, stirring and rotating the pan halfway through the baking time.
  4. Serve immediately.


Feb 18 2014

No-Fry Chicken Parmesan Enchiladas #client #NewTraDish

I was recently contacted by Ragú® and asked if I wanted to put a new spin on an old classic recipe. What a fantastic idea! While we have our top 10–the same recipes we make over and over again–it’s good to shake things up a bit and change it all up. I was excited to take on this challenge!


My mission, if I chose to accept it, was to update No-Fry Chicken Parmesan. This is a perennial favorite in our house–and sorely in need of an upgrade. What could I do to this old faithful to make it new again while still utilizing Ragú® Old World Style® Traditional Sauce? I was about to find out…

The great thing about Ragú® Old World Style® Traditional Sauce is that each jar is made with 11 juicy tomatoes, making it its richest, thickest recipe. My kids love the flavor and I love all those veggies packed into each jar. You know you’re getting something good when you pour Ragú® over it!

no-fry chicken parmesan enchiladas

So what did I make? I went completely in a different direction with my No-Fry Chicken Parmesan and transformed it into No-Fry Chicken Parmesan Enchiladas. Adios to the familiar breaded breasts baked in a dish! Instead, I started with shredded rotisserie chicken, significantly cutting down on the baking time. Mix that with some sauce and cheese, roll it up in flour tortillas, and drench in Ragú® Old World Style® Traditional Sauce and cheese. In no time at all, dinner is served. The kids LOVED this twist and I liked that I could make a bunch of them at once and save them for lunches throughout the week. This is not your mama’s Chicken Parmesan…and that is more than okay!

no-fry chicken parmesan enchiladas

Looking for more quick-and-easy authentic Italian recipe ideas? Check out Ragú®’s Facebook page for more great eats! And don’t forget to visit Ragú®’s Better and Better Sweepstakes for a chance to win great authentic Italian-themed prizes, including a grand prize trip to Italy for a family of four! That would be amazing!

no-fry chicken parmesan enchiladas

Chicken Parmesan Enchiladas

Prep time: 15 mins

Cook time: 15 mins

Total time: 30 mins


Author: Carrie @ poet in the pantry

Recipe type: Dinner

Serves: 4


  • 2 cups Ragú® Old World Style® Traditional Sauce, divided
  • 8 8-inch flour tortillas
  • 3 cups shredded rotisserie chicken
  • 3 cups Italian shredded cheese blend, divided
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning blend


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 9″x13″ baking dish and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, mix the shredded chicken, 2 cups of the cheese, ½ cup of the Ragú® sauce, and the Italian seasoning blend.
  3. Lay out a tortilla and spread about 1/2 cup of the chicken mixture in a line in the middle of it.
  4. Roll from one end to the other, then place in the dish seam side down.
  5. Repeat with the remaining tortillas.
  6. Spread the remaining sauce over the enchiladas and sprinkle the remaining shredded cheese over that.
  7. Bake uncovered for 15 minutes.
  8. Serve immediately.


If you don’t have access to a rotisserie chicken, you can microwave skinless, boneless chicken breasts for 5-6 minutes until cooked through, shred them and continue on. You’ll need about 1 pound of chicken for this recipe.

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Legal residents of the 50 United States (D.C.) 18 years and older. Ends 5/6/14. To enter and for Official Rules, including odds, alternate method of entry, and prize descriptions, visit www.RaguSweeps.com.  Void where prohibited.

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Ragú®. The opinions and text are all mine.

Feb 14 2014

Red Velvet Brownies with Cream Cheese Frosting

Happy Valentine’s Day!

I know, it’s a made-up, Hallmark holiday. I know, if you care about someone, you should show it every day. But I can’t help but be drawn in by the pink and red hearts, flowers, and sweets. I’m a sucker for the romantic stuff. I may be a tough girl on the outside, but I melt at the mention of roses appearing on your doorstep and surprise chocolate bon bons in a box. {Sigh}

Red Velvet Brownies

At least, in theory. Most years, my husband has to work on Valentine’s Day. Last year, I celebrated with my mini Valentines instead–my kids–which became a big affair for them. My daughter insisted we spiff up. She donned a dress–a rare occasion–and my son put on his suit. We only traveled half a mile away to this local Mexican restaurant we all like. It may as well have been to a fancy establishment in The City, as far as they were concerned. They were dazzled–happy to be my little dates for the night. And I was happy to be with them.

Red Velvet Brownies

Today I made Red Velvet Brownies for them. My touch of special for this silly little day. We’ll probably eat at home in front of the TV, sharing in a family movie night. It’s not the elegant occasion I once dreamed of in my twenties, but it’s more than enough. I’m spending time with my loves, and that’s what matters.

Red Velvet Brownies

Red Velvet Brownies with Cream Cheese Frosting
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: brownie
Serves: 12
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • ½ cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1½ cups natural unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 Tablespoon warm water
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 20 tablespoons (2½ sticks or 1¼ cups) unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • ½ ounce Christmas Red gel food dye
  • ⅔ cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • ¼ cup (4 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2-2¼ cups confectioners’ sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 9″x13″ baking dish and line with parchment paper. Set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the sugars, cocoa powder, water, salt, and vanilla extract. Set aside.
  3. In a medium saucepan, heat the butter over medium heat, cooking until it’s browned. It’ll go through at least 2 stages of foaming before you get that characteristic nutty smell and browned bits in the butter (about 5-7 minutes). Don’t rush it or you could burn the butter!
  4. Pour the butter into the sugar mixture and stir to combine. Set aside for 5 minutes to cool a little.
  5. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing the first in completely before adding the next. Stir the last egg in until the batter is nice and shiny, then stir in the food coloring.
  6. Add the flour all at once and stir until just combined, being sure to scrape the bottom with every turn.
  7. Pour into the prepared baking dish and spread evenly.
  8. Bake for 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with moist crumbs.
  9. Cool completely.
  10. In a large mixing bowl, combine the cream cheese, butter, salt, and vanilla extract. Mix with a hand mixer until well combined.
  11. Add the confectioners’ sugar, 1 cup at a time. After 2 cups, assess if it’s the consistency desired or if you’d like the frosting a little stiffer (then add ¼ cup more confectioners’ sugar, if needed).
  12. Spread over the cooled brownies.
  13. Cut, serve, and enjoy!
You could add more color for a more vibrant red, but I like the subtlety of this. It looks a little more natural (even though it isn’t) than its vibrant cousins.


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