Sweet Potato Balls

Thanksgiving is almost here. It’s my favorite time of the year. The smell of delicious food and laughs with family and friends is simply the best. These sweet potato balls are great as an appetizer, side dish or even perfect for those leftovers.

I️ wanted to create that perfect bite of sweet potato casserole. Some people use marshmallows or pecans to top their casserole. I️ used both in this little bite. I️ promise you this will be a crowd pleaser for all those sweet potato lovers.

I️ hope everyone has a fantastic thanksgiving. Remember to “Gobble til you wobble”. Happy Thanksgiving!!

Sweet potato balls


2 cooked sweet potatoes (mashed)
Salt, to taste
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 teaspoons milk
1 1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon allspice
3 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 egg
5 cups vegetable oil, for frying
2 cups panko crumbs
1/2 cup chopped pecans
Mini Marshmallows, for stuffing

Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Add peeled and cubed sweet potatoes, cook until tender 20 to 30 minutes. Set aside until cooled.

In a medium bowl add the butter, flour, milk, 1/2 brown sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, allspice, ginger, vanilla, egg and a good pinch of salt. Mash some more to make them super creamy.

Place the panko crumbs, pecans, remaining brown sugar and cinnamon in a shallow bowl. Use a tablespoon amount of sweet potato and place them in the breadcrumbs. Gently roll the sweet potato balls through the breadcrumbs, forming balls as you go and evenly coating each ball. Make a small indent to add marshmallows and roll back up. Place balls on parchment-lined baking sheet. Place the balls in the refrigerator for about an hour.

In a medium pot add vegetable oil bring to 350 F degrees. Place 4 balls in at a time and fry until golden. Remove from oil and on to paper towel to drain. Toss in cinnamon and sugar.

Place on serving dish and enjoy.



Christmas Kid Friendly Desserts


Just wanted to share this fun segment I did on Fox 29 here in Philadelphia. This is perfect for entertaining guests and the little ones. Below you will find recipes for all the desserts.

Santa Hat 

16 mini brownie bites

16 small strawberries (tops cut off)

Homemade frosting or store bought

Next, place the frosting in a zip lock bag and snip off the corner. Then place a swirl of frosting on top of the brownie.

Finally, put the strawberry on top and added a little dot of frosting on top to complete the Santa hat.

Refrigerate until ready to serve. Best served the same day.

Peppermint candy platter 


To make a 9-inch platter, unwrap about 65 to 70 peppermint candies. (If you want tomake a larger platter, unwrap more candies and use a bigger pan.)


Line the base of a 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper. Arrange the candies in the pan, placing them in a circle around the edge about ¼ inch apart from one another. Continue until you’ve filled the pan, trying to keep an even amount of space between the candies. 


Transfer the pan to a preheated 350°F oven, and bake for 6 to 8 minutes or until the candies are melted and flat. Cool the pan and the peppermint platter completely before unmolding.


Unmold the platter, then top it with cookies and candy. Pat yourself on the back.

Pretzel rod wreath 

2 packages (10 to 12 ounces each) white baking chips

1 package (10 ounces) pretzel rods, halved

1-1/2 cups green and red sprinkles

In a microwave, melt white baking chips; stir until smooth. Dip pretzels in chocolate, allowing excess to drip off. Add sprinkles; place on waxed paper until set. Arrange pretzels in a circle on a decorative serving plate.
Melted snowmen 
Line a cookie tray with either a silicon baking mat or wax paper
Melt chocolate according to the directions on the package
Cut the bottom portion of the peanut butter cups off and put them back together, but slightly off alignment (this gives it the “hat” look)



Apple Tart Tatin

Apples are one of Autumn’s staple fruits.  It’s used in so many recipes throughout the holidays.  This recipe will satisfy that sweet tooth.  Instead of making an apple pie, try making an apple tart tatin.  As soon as it comes out of the oven, slice it up, and scoop some vanilla ice cream to serve.  This will make everyone happy. 
1 pepperidge farm puff pastry sheet
4 large Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and quartered 
1 stick unsalted butter 
1/2 lemon juice 
1/4 cup Apple cider or orange juice 
1 cup sugar 
Vanilla ice cream, for serving 
Preheat oven to 400 F degrees.
Place the apple cider, sugar,  & lemon juice in a 9″ inch cast iron skillet.  Stir to combine.  On high heat bring the mixture to a boil brush down the sides of the pan occasionally with a pastry brush dipped in water.  After 5 to 6 minutes the mixture will begin to turn light brown.  Whisk the mixture a bit.  Cook for another minute or so until you reach deeper amber color.  Remove from the heat and stir in the butter, 2 pieces at a time.  The mixture will bubble up.  That’s normal just be VERY CAREFUL.  Making caramel can be dangerous.  When all of the butter has been melted, start to arrange the apples rounded side down in circles.  Make this look pretty because the bottom will become the top. 
Take the puff pastry & place it on top of the apples.  Trim the edges and tuck it in.  Place in oven for about 20 minutes or until the dough is golden brown and crispy.  Let the tart cool for 10 minutes.  Place a serving platter upside down on top of the skillet and CAREFULLY flip and the pan over.  Let the tart fall gently out of the pan.  Slice and serve with some vanilla ice cream. 

Fennel and potato gratin


Most people know about a traditional potato au gratin dish, but I wanted to give this classic a twist and add some fennel.  The results were delicious. If you’re planning on bringing a side dish to a party or just making it for a weeknight meal. Enjoy!

2 large potatoes sliced into 1/4 inch slices or using a mandolin slicer
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 large garlic clove
1 fennel bulb, sliced into 1/3 inch thick slices or using a mandolin slicer
2 cups milk
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 1/4 cups shredded fontina cheese
1 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup chopped almonds, optional for garnish

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Smear butter in a 1 quart casserole dish.

In a food processor add flour, salt & pepper, Italian seasoning, milk, garlic and butter. Pulse for 30 seconds, add the cheese and stir together and set aside.

Layer 1/2 of the potatoes into bottom of the prepared casserole dish. Top with the 1/2 of the fennel slices, Season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour 1/2 milk mixture on to potatoes and fennel. Repeat.

Next add breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese. Place in the oven for 1 1/2 hours.

Top with almonds and serve.


Check out the other great dishes from this week’s Food Network Blog #fallfest below:

Feed Me Phoebe: Butternut Squash Gratin with Gruyere and Pistachios
The Lemon Bowl: Spinach and Artichoke Stuffed Mushrooms
Homemade Delish: Fennel and Potato Gratin
The Mom 100: Broccoli Rabe with Preserved Lemon
Napa Farmhouse 1885: Rye & Roasted Butternut Squash Dressing
Red or Green: Green Beans with Chipotle Butter
The Mediterranean Dish: Shrimp Bruschetta
The Wimpy Vegetarian: Fail-Proof Cheesy Mashed Potatoes
Elephants and the Coconut Trees: Lobster, Artichoke and Spinach Bake
Creative Culinary: Baked Mushrooms in a Parmesan Cream Sauce
Healthy Eats: 7 Holiday Sides That Won’t Spoil Dessert
FN Dish: 5 Indulgent Side Dishes to Deck Your Holiday Table


Shrimp and Grits topped with bacon

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Happy Holidays!!! I hope you are all having a great holiday season with family and friends.  I wanted to share with you a couple of dishes I prepared on Christmas eve.  Last year in our house we started to make the 7 fishes. Since my husband and I come from Italian descents, we wanted to keep this in our family to share with our kids.  Well this year I wanted to step it up.  In the next couple of posts I will share some of the dishes that I prepared.  I am going to start out with Shrimp and Grits.  I love some creamy, cheesy grits. I think they can be prepared with pretty much anything. The shrimp with some sweet peppers and shallots went along great with the grits.  Then I topped it off with some crispy bacon.  This is a pretty easy dish to prepare at your next gathering or for a weeknight meal.

This recipe can be found in my new cookbook.  Purchase your copy here: or if you have any questions please feel free to email me.


Ham, Cheese and Spinach Croquettes

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December is all about parties with family and friends, and these little guys will have your friends talking at your next party. In Brazil we make these with ground meat. I have had a ham and cheese croquette before too.  I went ahead and gave these a whirl with my own little twist of using half aged cheddar, gruyere cheese and adding some spinach to the mix. Trying to convince myself that by adding spinach into it would give it a little bit of nutrition. I love hot sauce so I just drizzled some sriracha on the dish for dipping.  I hope you enjoy this little treat.


1 Cup of Chopped cooked ham

1/2 cup of Aged Cheddar Cheese

1/2 cup of Gruyere cheese

1/4 Cup of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

3 Tablespoon unsalted butter

2/3 cups of All purpose flour, (Plus another cup for breading)

4 cups of Whole Milk

Salt & Pepper, to taste ( remember the ham and cheese have salt to begin with)

1/4 cup of thawed spinach

1/2 Teaspoon of nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon of paprika, optional

Vegetable Oil or Peanut Oil (for frying)

2 Eggs, beaten, add 2 Tablespoons of water

2 Cups of Italian Panko Crumbs (you can use plain as well)


In a medium sauce pan over medium heat, place butter and olive oil in pan & let melt for about 2 minutes. Next whisk flour in with butter and olive oil. Making it into a paste. Then slowly start to add the milk, whisk until there are no lumps and smooth. Season with salt, pepper, nutmeg and paprika. Next add cheese and whisk then add ham and spinach. Whisking everything together. Place the mixture on a large flat plate or baking sheet and cool for about 1 to 2 hours.

After an hour or 2. Take out the mixture from the refrigerator and begin to form little balls about the size of a golf ball. Then place them in the flour, beaten egg and then panko. Place each ball to the side until they are all done.

Next, using a large dutch oven or large pot fill with vegetable oil halfway through.  Oil should be between 350 to 360 degrees.  Slowly drop the balls in a couple at a time. Fry for about 1 to 2 minutes per side. Remove and place on a plate with paper towel. Let cool for a couple minutes before biting into them. (WARNING: They are super hot when removed from oil)


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Gnudi Delights

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This is the perfect starter to a dinner party.  With the holidays upon us we all need ideas on what to serve to keep our guests satisfied until dinner.  Gnudi is perfect with a great tomato sauce or with this recipe where I made an earthy mushroom sauce.  You may also enjoy this as your main course with a salad and bread. Totally up to you on how you want to play with it.  Gnudi is like the inside of a ravioli (creamy, light and full of cheesy flavor.)  Enjoy with a nice glass of Cabernet.


2 lbs of Ricotta Cheese, drain for at least a couple hours or overnight

1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese

Salt & Pepper, to taste

1/2 cup of sauté spinach, chopped

6 Tablespoons of All Purpose Flour

4 Tablespoons of Panko or Bread Crumbs

Pinch of nutmeg

2 Egg yolks

Crushed red pepper, optional

Wild Mushroom Sauce:

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 Tablespoon of Butter

6 oz of Exotic Mushrooms

4 Cups of Vegetable Stock   

Salt & Pepper, to taste

2 Shallots, chopped

2 Garlic Cloves, minced

Preparation of Gnudi:

In a medium bowl mix together; Ricotta, egg, spinach, panko, salt, pepper, flour and nutmeg. Don’t over mix. Then begin to form small golf size balls (you can make them bigger or smaller).  Take 4 to 6 balls at a time and place them in boiling salted water.  When they start to float to the top about 2 to 3 minutes.  Take them out and place them in ice cold water for a couple seconds.  Take them out and place to the side and drizzle some olive oil on them until ready to serve.

Preparation of Exotic Mushroom Sauce:

In a medium sauce pan add some olive oil and butter on medium heat.  Add shallots cook for about a minute. Then add garlic and mushrooms.  Cook for about 3 minutes or so until mushrooms start to sweat out the juices.  Then pour the stock and cook for another 4 to 5 minutes then take that and put into a food processor and pulse. Pour sauce into a plate and add the gnudi. Top with some fresh parmesan cheese. 

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“Pass the Prosciutto- Scallops on Endive”



In our house we are big fans of Prosciutto.  I love-making different things with prosciutto for appetizers around the holidays. I figured I could bring you something gluten free.  This little treat is full of flavor, and it will keep your guests wanting more.  Prosciutto di Parma is celebrating its 50th anniversary so I think they know a little something about making something about delicious flavor.  Here’s a little appetizer I concocted for any occasion; especially the upcoming holidays.


1 Endive

6 Slices of Prosciutto de Parma, into strips

1 small Shallot, diced

1/2 cup of granny smith apple, diced

1/2 cup of Balsamic glaze

1/2 lb of fresh scallops, chopped or baby scallops

2 Tablespoon of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 Teaspoon of unsalted butter

Pepper (Salt if you would like but the prosciutto has a good amount)

1/4 cup of Lemon juice

1/4 cup of rum, optional for Flambé


Begin with chopping your scallops. Place in a bowl and add lemon juice and pepper.  Put aside.  Slice prosciutto into strips.

In a medium sauté pan on medium heat add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and butter.  Then add scallops.  Cook for about 4 minutes or so then add prosciutto.  Cook until scallops and prosciutto begin to get golden brown.  (About another 3 minutes.)  If you feel like it add rum and either take it off the fire and light it with a lighter or what I usually do is just tilt the pan so it can flambé.

Move pan to back of stove while you prepare the Balsamic sauce.  In another sauté pan on medium heat add the rest of the olive oil and add shallots.  Cook for about 1 to 2 minutes then add apples.  Cook for another 2 minutes.  Add the balsamic glaze stir for about 1 minute or so and let bubble.  Turn off heat.

Prep you endive on a long dish.  Start to add your scallop mix and to top it off add the glaze. Enjoy!!

Follow Parma Ham on Twitter for a chance to win $50 worth of the world’s most famous ham. Click on the banner below to participate. This post is a collaboration between the blogger and Parma Ham. 

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