Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Black Bottom Cupcakes

Combining rich chocolate cake with a creamy cheesecake filling, these adorable mini black bottom cupcakes are a delicious treat! We will be serving these at our Christmas events this season and we want you to have the recipe.


The original recipe probably dates back to the 1940’s when butter, eggs and milk were rationed. With the yummy filling, no frosting is needed.

  • 1 8oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 c. sugar
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 6 oz. mini semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 c. water
  • 1/3 c. vegetable oil
  • 1T. white vinegar
  • 1 t. vanilla extract
  • 1 1/3 c. all purpose flour
  • 1 c. sugar
  • ¼ c. baking cocoa
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt

Mixing the ingredients

To make the filling batter, in a mixing bowl beat cream cheese, egg. sugar and salt until smooth. Stir in the chocolate chips and set aside. For batter, combine water, oil, vinegar and vanilla and set aside. Combine remaining dry ingredients in mixing bowl and with mixer on low, gradually add wet ingredients. Beat until smooth (mixture will be thin). Spoon about 2 tsp. of batter into paper lined miniature muffin tins. Top with about 1 tsp. filling. Fill cups about 75% full. Bake at 350 degrees for 18-23 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in chocolate portion comes out clean. Cool for 5-10 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely. Yield: 5 dozen

Baked cupcakes can be stored in the refrigerator for 3-4 days or well wrapped and frozen.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Design Studio Gazpacho

When we make this forty-one-year-old recipe, we always double it because our friends and family adore it.  We hope this picture of the finished product will inspire you! This cold, Spanish soup is guaranteed to tempt your appetite and can be made zestier with the addition of hot pepper flakes. Best made the day before you serve it, it keeps in the refrigerator for a week (but it never lasts that long).
  • ¾ cup finely chopped onion
  • ¾ cup minced garlic
  • 1 ½ cups finely chopped green pepper
  • 2 ½ cups diced, peeled tomatoes (see notes)
  • ½ tsp. sugar
  • ¼ tsp. pepper
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 2 T. chopped chives
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 cups V-8 juice

Combine onion, garlic, green pepper, tomatoes, salt, sugar, pepper, paprika and chives in a large bowl. Stir in oil, lemon juice and tomato juice. Chill several hours or overnight.

NOTES:  We start with several cans of fire roasted, diced tomatoes if pressed for time or weather does not permit flavorful, fresh tomatoes. Diced English cucumbers are a flavorful addition or garnish. Sometimes we add 2 T. dry sherry for a twist.

Design Studio Pesto

There are as many recipes for pesto as there are ingredients to use. This is our version of that summer favorite.  Growing in pots on the deck, two favorite varieties are boxwood basil for garnishes or summer tomato salads and sweet basil, which we use in this recipe:
  • 4 cups packed fresh basil leaves
  • ½ cup toasted pine nuts (see notes)
  • 5-6 garlic cloves
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
In a food processor, pulse the pine nuts and garlic to a chunky consistency. Add the basil leaves and pulse to finely chopped. Add Parmesano and pulse several times to blend. With the processor running, gradually add the olive oil to form a smooth, thick emulsion. Makes about 4 cups.

NOTES: Do not use any stems from the basil—too tough.
Pine nuts, also called pignolia, need to be heated in a skillet for several minutes to bring out the flavor. Stir often and keep an eye on them so they don’t burn. Do not substitute any other Parmesan for the original from Italy—so delicious and flavorful! We do not add any salt or pepper, preferring to add that to the finished dish, if necessary. You may like your pesto thinner—add more oil to taste. As you can see, pesto freezes beautifully—lots of summer taste stored in the freezer for winter! Use on pasta, pizza, and tomato dishes like red sauces, Caprese salad, soups or bruschetta, fish, chicken use your imagination!

Design Studio Crunch

  • 1 ½ cups powdered sugar
  • ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 8  cups Rice Chex or Corn Chex
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • ½ cup smooth peanut butter
  • ¼  cup butter, cut into pieces
  • ¼ tsp. vanilla
  • 1 ½ cups honey roasted peanuts
  • 1 1/3 cups dried fruit bits

In a large plastic bag combine powdered sugar and cocoa powder: set aside. Place cereal in a very large bowl; set aside.

In a medium saucepan combine chocolate chips, peanut butter and butter. Stir over low heat until melted. Remove from heat and stir in butter.

Pour butter mixture over cereal mixture; carefully stir until cereal is evenly coated. Cool slightly. Add cereal mixture, half at a time, to powdered sugar mixture in bag and shake to coat. Add nuts and fruit. Shake just until combined. Pour into shallow baking pan to cool. Store in an airtight container up to a week.

Makes about 14 cups.

Design Studio Herbed-Infused Olive Oil

  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 2 T. fresh, crushed rosemary leaves
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, stacked in a pile, rolled and cut into a fine julienne
  • Crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
  • Kosher or sea salt, to taste
In a small saucepan or microwave safe bowl, place the above five ingredients and bring to a simmer. Never boil! You don’t want to fry the herbs. Let the mixture steep for 5 minutes and let cool to room temperature. Serve with a good dipping bread like Ciabatta or French baguette. Can also use grated Parmesano Reggianno instead of the

Design Studio Layered Hummus Dip

  • 1 container (7-8 oz.) hummus
  • ¼ cup chopped, pitted Kalamata olives
  • ¼ cup drained, bottled mild giardiniera
  • ½ cup crumbled Feta cheese
Spread hummus in an even layer in a shallow dish. Sprinkle olives and giardiniera over hummus. Top with cheese. Serve at room temperature with two hours or cover and chill. Serve with pita chips or bell pepper wedges for dipping.

Design Studio Triple Chocolate Kiss Cookies

  • 1 18oz. roll refrigerated chocolate chip cookie dough, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2/3 cup chocolate flavor sprinkles
  • 2 T. milk
  • 40 dark Hershey kisses, unwrapped
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease cookie sheet and set aside. 
  2. In a bowl combine cocoa powder and cookie dough. Knead to mix well.
  3. Place sprinkles in a shallow bowl. Place milk in a separate shallow bowl. Shape dough in 1 inch balls. Dip ball in milk and roll in sprinkles. Place on cookie sheet 2” apart.
  4. Bake about 9 minutes or until edges are firm. Immediately press a kiss into center. Transfer to a wire rack until cool.

Design Studio Southwest Chicken Soup

  • 1 12-ounce jar salsa verde
  • 3 cups cooked shredded chicken (1 small deli rotisserie chicken)
  • 1 15-ounce can cannellini beans, drained
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • Tortilla chips, optional

Empty the salsa into a large saucepan. Cook two minutes over medium heat, then add the chicken, beans, broth and cumin. Bring to a boil, lower heat to a simmer, and cook for 10 minutes , stirring occasionally. Top each bowl with a sprinkling of onions, a dollop of sour cream and some tortilla chips, if desired. Serves four.

Lemon Pistachio Cookies

We are excited to share this wonderful cookie recipe with you! Rita, a dear friend and great baker/cook, is our source for this yummy treat—thank you!  These were a hit at our Design Studio Fall event ...

  • 1 cup butter       
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • ½ tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1 T. grated lemon peel (yellow portion only)
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • ¼ tsp. baking powder


  • ¾ cup sifted confectioners’ sugar
  • 3 T. lemon juice
  • ½ cup chopped shelled pistachios

Beat butter and sugar in large bowl with electric mixer until light. Beat in egg, vanilla and lemon zest.
In small bowl, mix flour with baking powder. Stir into batter. Form dough into cylinders about 2 inches by 6 inches in length. Wrap in waxed paper. Refrigerate or freeze 1 to 2 hours until firm.
Slice into ¼ inch rounds. Arrange on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 9 to 12 minutes or until cookies are just beginning to turn golden. Cool on wire racks.
Prepare glaze by combining confectioners’ sugar with lemon juice. Brush on tops of cookies. Sprinkle with pistachios.
Instead of an electric mixer, a food processor was used. Silpat baking sheet liners were used instead of parchment.

For the Chocolate Lover ...


We want you to try our newest gourmet product by CaffĂ© Amore—Sipping Chocolate. Available in two sizes, this Bellagio Sipping Chocolate makes entertaining easy.  Try it as a base for chocolate martinis or add to whipping cream to make dessert bites or dips for fruit and use as a fabulous chocolate frosting.  Perfect for your own entertaining or hostess/teacher gift giving.

Bellagio Sipping Chocolate Bulk (32 oz) Recipe

In a 32 oz or larger container dissolve 6 scoops (9 oz or 18 rounded Tbsp.) of Bellagio Sipping Chocolate mix into 8 oz of Half & Half. Mix well. Add more Half & Half to equal total of 4 cups finished Sipping Chocolate. Keep refrigerated.

Bellagio Sipping Chocolate Individual Martini Recipe

In a martini shaker filled with ice add:
2 oz of prepared Bellagio Sipping Chocolate from above bulk recipe.
2 oz of vodka
1 oz Irish cream liquor
½ oz of vanilla syrup (optional)
Shake until cold and pour into 6 oz martini glasses.

Bellagio Sipping Chocolate Martini Party Recipe

Did you know that 32 oz of prepared Bellagio Sipping Chocolate will make 16 delicious 5 oz martinis? Here’s how:

Use a 1-gallon container and to the 32 oz Bellagio Sipping Chocolate Bulk recipe add 32 oz of Vodka, 16 oz of Irish Cream liquor and 8 oz of vanilla syrup (optional). Stir to mix. Pour Bellagio Chocolate Martini mixture into a martini shaker filled with ice. Shake until cold and pour into 6 oz martini glasses. Now, you’re ready to party!

Bellagio Sipping Chocolate Mousse/Ganache

Base for all of the following dessert bites
6 scoops (9 oz) Sipping Chocolate
4 cups cold whipping cream
Pour whipping cream into large bowl.
Wisk cream, while slowly adding Sipping Chocolate until mixture is smooth.
Add mixture into a pastry bag for piping.
Yields 5 cups (40 ounces)

Design Studio Lemon Kisses Cupcakes

Prepare a box of yellow cake mix with these additions:
To the dry mix, add the zest of 2-3 lemons and the juice of two lemons to make the water content (the box mix we used needs 1 1/2 cups water). Vegetable oil measurement does not change.
Bake in mini cupcake pans with mini cupcake liners--makes 72
Bake at 350 degrees for 12- 13 minutes. Dip the cupcakes into our decadent Bellagio Sipping Chocolate topping, made with whipping cream..perfect for showers, parties, gatherings....indulge!

Click here to go purchase Caffe D’Amore/Bellagio Sipping Chocolate at our on-line store

Design Studio Entertaining

Here at the Design Studio, we love to cook for our families, friends and ourselves. Inspired by home gardens, farmers markets and family traditions, we are expanding Design Studio Entertaining. We want you to see step by step how to prepare our favorites for you and yours. Also, let us know how you like this idea … post your comments, too! 

Feel free to cook using these recipes as guidelines and inspiration, not necessarily strict rules. Bon appetit!
Carol & Paula