I am constantly amazed at how animated and talkative people get when you mention food. The mere aroma of certain foods can evoke memories that transport us back to a special place and time. Food can bridge the gap between all ages, races and ethnicities.
Let's face it, the only thing that should ever come between people is a table and some serving bowls.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Squashing my need for Spaghetti

If I had my druthers, I would eat pasta/macaroni almost seven days a week. Unfortunately though I am someone who also struggles constantly with weight and in my case I really do seem to have the greatest success at dropping pounds by greatly reducing my “carb” intake. So I thank the powers that be for “Spaghetti Squash”. Sure it doesn’t taste starchy or feel chewy like spaghetti. But it does taste very good and you can twirl it on your fork plus it works well with any sauce, meat, cheese, spice that you choose to use. Spaghetti squash gives me the psychological effect I need to cut back on the pasta without feeling cheated or deprived. I still have the real deal once or twice a week and it works out just fine.

Herbed Spaghetti Squash

1 large spaghetti squash
1 tbsp. minced fresh parsley
2 tsp. butter
1 small clove of garlic minced fine
1/2 tsp. dried whole basil or preferrably fresh if available
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

Follow any of the cooking methods below when squash is done use a fork to remove spaghetti-like strands from squash; discard shells. Place strands in a serving bowl; add parsley and remaining ingredients, and toss gently. Garnish with a fresh basil sprig, if desired.

Different ways to cook Spaghetti Squash:

Bake It -Pierce the whole shell several times with a large fork or skewer and place in baking dish. Cook squash in preheated 375°F oven approximately 1 hour or until flesh is tender.
Boil It - Heat a pot of water large enough to hold the whole squash. When the water is boiling, drop in the squash and cook for 20 to 30 minutes, depending on its size. When a fork goes easily into the flesh, the squash is done.
Microwave It - Cut squash in half lengthwise; remove seeds. Place squash cut sides up in a microwave dish with 1/4 cup water. Cover with plastic wrap and cook on high for 10 to 12 minutes, depending on size of squash. Add more cooking time if necessary. Let stand covered, for 5 minutes. With fork "comb" out the strands.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Pretty in Pink

With all the picnics and family gatherings lately I have noticed more and more, that the majority of stand out dishes being passed around have either Jell-O or Bisquick somewhere in there list of ingredients. It makes you wonder how we ever lived without these products.
I haven’t had a Jell-O or Bisquick recipes yet that I have not enjoyed.
This cake is no exception; it is just bursting with the taste of strawberries. Surprisingly as far as cakes go, this one is not overly sweet; as a matter of fact it actually tastes just like fresh strawberries.
You can’t beat the color; this would be a great birthday cake for that little girl in your life who loves everything pink.

Strawberry Jell-O Cake

1 pkg. white cake mix
1 box strawberry Jell-O
3/4 cup cooking oil
1/2 cup frozen strawberries, thawed
3 tbsp. flour
1/2 cup water
4 eggs

Add flour, eggs, Jell-O, water and oil to cake mix and beat 2 minutes at medium speed with mixer. Add strawberries and beat 1 minute until smooth. Bake according to cake mix instructions.

1 stick butter, softened
1/4 tsp. salt
1 box powdered sugar, sifted
1/2 cup frozen strawberries, thawed

Cream butter until smooth. Add sugar, salt and berries as needed. Beat well. Spread on cake. Garnish with fresh berries when serving.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Italian Rice Balls (Arancini)

A delicious way to use up all that leftover cooked rice or the perfect excuse to make more rice. As a kid these things were better than getting a cookie. They are round, sticky, with melted cheese inside and they are fried, how can that not be good. Like with most recipes you can experiment with other ingredients, different cheeses, meats, vegetables or even seafood works well. But this recipe is pretty traditional and so are the flavors.

1 lb. white rice
4 eggs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 lb. Mozzarella cheese, cut into small pieces
1/4 lb. Genoa salami, cut in small pieces
1 1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs
1 cup of Olive, peanut or vegetable oil for frying
Spaghetti sauce/meat sauce (optional) you can just eat them as is

Cook rice until sticky, let cool. Mix rice, 4 egg yolks, grated cheese, mozzarella and salami in large bowl. Form rice mixture into balls (the size of oranges). Beat egg whites. Dip each rice ball in beaten egg whites and then in bread crumbs. Heat oil in a deep fry pan and fry arancini until well browned.To serve, split open and top with meat sauce or just eat as is.
Makes between 12 and 16

Friday, May 25, 2007

On this Memorial Day, a special thanks to all the men and women past and present who have fought and are still fighting for our freedom.

Most of us we’ll be grilling this weekend or going to a cookout somewhere. Here is a tasty little side dish to pass around. This dish also works just as well with either Coca-Cola or Dr. Pepper. It really adds a nice flavor to the beans.
This recipe should serve about 8-10 people

A&W Baked Beans

1/2 cup A&W Root Beer
4 bacon strips
1 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cans (1 lb, 5 ounce size) pinto beans, drained
1 cup ketchup
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons chili powder
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Cook bacon strips in a small frying pan until crisp; cool and crumble. Reserve 1 tablespoon bacon drippings.
Sauté onion and garlic in the reserved drippings over medium heat for 10 minutes or until translucent. Place bacon, chopped onion, garlic and remaining ingredients in a 2-quart casserole dish; stir until well blended. Bake, uncovered, for about 1 hour or until done.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Weekends at Rubino's

I use to go to an Italian Deli called “Rubino’s” on the weekends with my aunt and my grandmother. I loved the smells in that place;” Big hanging sharp provolone cheeses and salamis” filled the air with their strong biting aromas. My aunt Mimi would always get a chunk of extra sharp provolone, some Genoa salami and those wrinkly black olives. Throw in a crusty loaf of bread and some kind of fruit and we had lunch.
My grandmother on the other hand always had to get a couple pounds of their olive salad. She would make herself sick she would eat so much of it, it really was addictive.
My special treat waited at the checkout. At the end of each checkout they had big glass canisters with little boxes of Torrone (Italian nougat). They had vanilla, lemon and orange all with almonds. I would always get one of each. Those not only were great times, they were also very tasty times.
I like making olive salad myself these days, it’s easy, it keeps a long time, and you can vary the ingredients and seasoning to your liking, plus it make s a handy impressive snack to have for family and friends when they stop by. Goes great with an ice cold beer or a glass of wine.

Olive Salad

3 jars Green olives, drained (get at least one pimento stuffed)
1 pound Kalamata olives, pitted
1 can of ripe black olives
1 medium jar of roasted red peppers
5 to 6 med. cloves of garlic, minced
2 bell peppers, chopped
1 sm. head celery, chopped (leaves included)
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
3 tbsp. Italian seasoning, crushed
3/4 cup olive oil
¼ teaspoon of crushed red pepper
Does not need any salt

Mix all ingredients together and marinate at least 24 to 48 hours before serving.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Sweet Memories

I miss the days of penny candy, not just because you could get a bagful for a quarter. But also because some of the candies I loved are just nowhere to be found. I have been able to find some like; Zotz and black Jack Gum to name a couple. There are some great places to get nostalgic candy these days such as; ‘Hometown Favorites, Groovy Candy, Vermont Country Store, just to name a few. But even with that, I’ve noticed that some of the recipes have changed and they are not exactly as I remember them.
One of my favorite candies in the world is Sponge Candy also known as Molasses Puffs. Granted, you can find Sponge Candy just about everywhere. They even have it in the bulk section of my supermarket. But it just isn’t like the one I use to get as a kid.
We use to get our candy from a store called “Franco’s” it was about three blocks from our house. This store had Sponge Candy that came in a bag the size of a deck of cards. When you opened the bag there was this one big solid piece of Sponge Candy (without the chocolate coating) and it actually looked like a sponge (kind of like an O-Cello sponge you get in the supermarket for cleaning). I wish I could remember the name…..
Oh well! It’s a great memory never the less and I can still get my Sponge Candy fix when necessary.

Sponge Candy A.K.A Molasses Puffs

1 c. sugar
1 c. dark corn syrup
1 tbsp. white vinegar
1 tbsp. baking soda

1. Combine sugar, corn syrup, and vinegar in a large saucepan. Cook, stirring constantly until sugar dissolves. Cover pan for 1 minute to allow the steam to wash down the sugar crystals that cling to side of pan, or whip down the crystals with a damp cloth.
2. Uncover pan; insert candy thermometer. Cook without stirring until candy thermometer reaches 300 degrees (hard crack stage).
3. Remove from heat; stir in baking soda. Pour into a buttered 9 inch square pan. It's not necessary to spread, as the mixture will bubble and spread itself. Cool in pan on wire rack.
4. Break cooled sponge in pieces. Store 2-3 weeks in a tightly covered container with foil or plastic wrap between layers.

If you like yours dipped in chocolate all you have to do is melt some chocolate chips in the microwave. Coat each piece in the chocolate and let cool.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Bert and Angie's Meatball Subs

We use to have this little Mom and Pop store called Bert’s at the corner of our street. Bert and his wife Angie use to offer Meatball subs every Tuesday and Saturday. The store smelled great on those days because Angie would be cooking her sauce and meatballs in the kitchen in back of the store. Once a week my parents and I would get one. They were so big all you needed was one to feed the three of us. Angie would use a whole loaf of Italian bread, eight to ten meatballs the size of your fist, sauce and lots of mozzarella cheese all for only $1.49 sure it was the late 70’s but look at all the food you got for your money. Bert’s went out of business years ago but every now and then we just crave one of those meatball subs.

1 lb. ground chuck
1 cup Parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon of Garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon of oregano
1/4 teaspoon of basil
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs
16oz of your favorite jarred sauce or homemade if you’ve got it
1 Loaf of Italian bread, rolls or what ever bread you like
Mozzarella, shredded or sliced
Parmesan cheese for sprinkling on sub

Mix ground beef, cheese, bread crumbs, adding salt, pepper, garlic powder, oregano and basil, roll into good size meatballs.
Meanwhile put sauce in large pot. When hot, add meatballs to pot of sauce, simmer about 30 minutes.
put meatbals and sauce on your bread of choice, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and cover with mozzarella.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Grandma's Borscht

Visiting my mother this week she started talking about Borscht. When she was growing up it was one of her favorites. Her little Russian grandmother (she was 4’6”tall, absolutely adorable) use to make it. My mother’s maternal grandparents escaped from Russia in a row boat during the war. When they got to this country they taught themselves English and worked long and hard hours to feed their family. It has been hard over the years trying to duplicate some of grandma’s recipes; she wasn’t big on writing things down she would just tell you what to put in. We are still trying to make a carrot cookie that she made that was very thin and very crisp, still with no success. Hopefully we will figure it out someday. But luckily we have had great success with her version of Borscht, it really is delicious hot or cold.

Grandma's Borscht

2 quarts beef stock
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup cabbage, finely chopped
1 cup potatoes, diced
1/2 cup carrots, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 onion, chopped
1 1/2 cups crushed tomatoes
put the beet juice from the can into the borscht
1 cup canned beets, diced
1 teaspoon vinegar
sour cream

In a large heavy pan, melt butter and lightly sauté cabbage, potatoes, carrots, celery and onion for approximately 5 minutes. Add beef stock. Add crushed tomatoes and beet juice to stock. Cover and simmer over low heat until vegetables are tender but not mushy. At this point, add the chopped beets and vinegar. Season well with salt and pepper and remove from heat before the beets begin to lose their color.
Serve with a dollop of sour cream

Thursday, May 17, 2007


This was one of my favorite childhood snack foods. I could just eat a bowl of it, even though technically it is suppose to be an appetizer (I’ve yet to be nabbed by the Food Police)! Now that I am older, I have gotten more creative with it. Caponata makes a great side dish to any meal. Instead of mustard or mayo, try Caponata as a condiment, great on a chicken sandwich or burger. Skip the chicken or burger; caponata makes a great sandwich all by itself, or use it as a topping for bruschetta. Because of the olive oil and vinegar caponata has a pretty long shelf life and will keep in the fridge for about 4 to 6 weeks, so make extra and enjoy.


1/2 cup olive oil
2 medium eggplants, peeled and cubed
4 lg. tomatoes, peeled and chopped
3 lg. green peppers, chopped
3 lg. onions, chopped
2 cups pitted green olives, halved
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup water
2 tbsp. sugar
2 tbsp. capers
1 tsp. pine nuts (optional)
1/2 tsp. oregano
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large, heavy, skillet heat olive oil. Add eggplant and cook, stirring constantly for about 10 minutes. Add tomatoes, peppers, onions, and olives. Cook 10 minutes, stirring a little and remove from heat. Combine in bowl, vinegar, water sugar, adding to vegetable mixture. Add capers, pine nuts, and oregano mixing well and bringing to room temperature. Pour into storage container, cover and refrigerate minimum 12 hours before serving. Add salt and pepper to taste before serving.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

A little girl walks into a bar.........

One of the jobs my grandfather had when I was little was at a country club as bartender.
I use to love going there, they always had the neatest swizzle sticks. They were almost like little toys, some had little whistles that actually worked others had moveable parts. To this day in my china cabinet I have a little jar filled with all the swizzle sticks I collected as a child, there has to be at least 30 of them if not more. Of course a young lady that was all of 4 or 5 couldn’t just get these swizzle sticks unless she ordered a drink and this young lady’s drink of choice…..why a “Shirley Temple” naturally and since I had an in with the bartender, I always got extra cherries!

Shirley Temple

7-Up, ginger ale or club soda
Maraschino cherries
cherry juice/grenadine

Pour glass about 2/3 full of 7-Up. Add about 3 maraschino cherries, also add about 1/8 teaspoon of cherry juice. Mix together and add ice.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Going Green in a Delicious Way

In the late 70’s to mid 80’s I worked as a Deli-Bake Manager at Star Market. On the bakery end we would make fresh donuts daily and on the Deli end there were quite a few of the salads that we made in store. This was the one salad we could never keep enough of; it went as fast as we made it. Back in the early 80’s you would see this salad at every picnic or potluck family get together. It’s no wonder it was so popular, it was a pretty shade of green, it was sweet & creamy, easy to make and very inexpensive. I’m surprised that I don't see it as much anymore. I did happen to spot it this weekend at a local supermarket in the Deli section, it brought back many memories.

Pistachio Salad

1 lg. can crushed pineapple (do not drain)
1 pkg. Jell-O pistachio instant pudding mix
1 sm. container Cool Whip
2 cups of miniature marshmallows
1 cup of chopped pecans

Mix pineapple and pudding. Add Cool Whip, marshmallows and pecans. Mix together thoroughly. Let salad set overnight before serving.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Meat for Mother's Day

My mother lives in a very nice Nursing Home where she is quite happy. The people there are very nurturing and attentive and the quality of care has been exemplary. The only thing that she is unhappy with is that they don’t give her enough meat and she is and always has been a big meat eater. Her food is actually pretty good and she enjoys almost everything that they give her which usually consists of; “quiches, sandwiches, soups, salads, fish, Salisbury steak, meatloaf and some different versions of chicken”. But they are usually all chopped or small pieces added to rice or macaroni. What she misses are pieces of meat that require a knife in order to eat them such as; “pork chops, chuck steak, lamb chops or even a nice roasting chicken”. So this mother’s day I decided to go with the pork chops and because they are thick, they will require a knife which will make my mother quite happy.

Pork Chops with Dried Fruit

6 large center cut pork chops,1 1/2 to 2 in. thick
1 cup chicken broth
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
6 oz. dried apricots
6 oz. prunes or figs
3 yellow onions, sliced
1/4 c. brown sugar

Use a wide open casserole. Arrange pork chops in a single layer. Cover with fruit, onions, chicken broth, mustard and brown sugar. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 1/2 hours. Open foil, push fruit aside and allow to brown for 30 minutes.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Italian Bread Salad "Panzanella"

Growing up in an Italian family we always had a good hearty bread with our meals.
Unfortunately for the birds, our family also had a delicious way to recycle some of the stale bread beyond the usual bread crumbs or stuffing mix. They would take the stale bread and mix it with fresh vegetables, herbs, olives, garlic and olive oil to make a salad. This wonderful salad that I just described is called Panzanella. It’s a great way to enjoy the fresh vegetables and herbs of the season.


Tomatoes, any kind will do (amount is up to you)
3 or 4 cups of stale bread, use a good crusty bread (bite size chunks)
1/2 bunch fresh basil
1/2 bunch parsley
1 large clove of fresh garlic, minced
1 small Red onion (sliced or chopped)
Salt and Pepper to taste
1/4 cup extra virgin oil
1 Tablespoon of red wine vinegar
Olives (optional)
Arugula (optional)
Cucumbers (optional)

Break bread or cut into nice size chunks. Chop basil and parsley. Mince garlic. Cut red onion; mix all ingredients together, except bread. Add bread just before serving. Serve at room temperature.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

High School Chicken Ala King

When I was in high school which was many moons ago I remember hating just about everything in the cafeteria except their version of chicken ala king it was very creamy and thick and they would serve it over a scoop of their plaster of Paris mashed potatoes. I actually looked forward to chicken ala king day (it really wasn’t so bad, very comforting). The other days of the week were less than inviting, sure on any given day you could get their drier than a drive-in hot dogs or their infamous hamburger with those still to this day unknown white and clear plastic like bits (yum). Pizza day wasn’t too bad, more like eating a thick slice of bread with tomatoes, meat and cheese or you could get some chicken flavored fried breading if you ordered their version of chicken nuggets. On a really good day if you were lucky you got to snag some of the really good food your friends brought from home.
All in all it was always a culinary adventure into the mysterious that you got to share with your friends and classmates.

Chicken Ala King

1/4 cup butter
1/3 cup flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup milk
2 cup chicken, diced
1 (3 oz.) can mushrooms
1/4 cup pimento, chopped or red bell pepper (optional)
1 (16 oz.) bag frozen peas
Instant mashed potatoes, noodles, toast or rice to pour mixture over.

In a saucepan, melt 1/4 cup butter. Blend in 1/3 cup flour and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Add 1 cup chicken broth and 1 cup milk all at once. Cook, (stir constantly until sauce is thick and bubbly). Add 2 cups diced cooked chicken, drained mushrooms, chopped pimento and frozen peas, stir to combine. Heat thoroughly and serve over mashed potatoes, noodles, toast or rice.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Another Blast From The Past

Here is another blast from the past; do you remember Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers? I hadn’t until our family kept reminiscing about things we use to make and eat years ago. It seems like all the recipes we grew up with as kids came from the back of a box or package of something. As we were talking we were remembering how much we enjoyed these recipes and wondered why we ever stopped making them. Most of these recipes were quite easy and affordable; I guess like with everything else things just get away from us. Maybe it is time to start making these recipes again and recreating some of those special times.

Famous Chocolate Refrigerator Roll

This chocolate cookie roll is frosted with whipped cream and may be made ahead of time and kept in freezer, just thaw about 30 minutes before serving.

1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups heavy cream, whipped, or 1 (8-ounce) container frozen whipped topping, thawed
1 (9-ounce) package NABISCO Famous Chocolate Wafers
Chocolate curls, for garnish

1. Stir vanilla into whipped cream or topping.
2. Spread 1/2 tablespoon whipped cream or topping on each wafer. Begin stacking wafers together and stand on edge on serving platter to make a 14-inch log.
3. Frost with remaining whipped cream or topping. Chill for 4 to 6 hours. To serve, garnish with chocolate curls; slice roll at an angle.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Jell-O "Poke" Cake

We were at my Aunts for dinner the other night and we were reminiscing about the different kinds of birthday cakes she use to make. One that she made often was a white cake with stripes of lemon and lime Jell-O running through it with cool whip on the top. We loved it, so we looked to see if we could find the recipe and this is what we found.

Jell-O “Poke” Cake

1 box. Yellow or white cake mix
(use two cake mixes and two different kinds of Jell-O to get the layered cake effect)

1 (3 oz.) box Jell-O (any flavor or color you choose)
1 (8 oz.) carton Cool Whip
9 x 13 baking dish

Optional flavor combination: lemon cake mix - orange or lemon Jell-O (I guess you can pretty much use any cake mix and Jello flavor that you like).
Bake cake according to package directions. While cake is cooling in its pan, poke holes all over with handle of a small wooden spoon or a fork would do just fine. Mix Jell-O according to package directions. Drizzle Jel-O liquid over cake. Make sure Jell-O penetrates all holes. Chill several hours or overnight, frost chilled cake with whipped topping and serve.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Give Anchovies a Chance

All you have to do is say; “Anchovy” and most people immediately turn up their nose. They instantly associate them with those smelly little fish that have been the ruination of good pizza the world over. But did you know that anchovies are used in many authentic Italian dishes. Most of these dishes are extremely popular despite their use of the highly misunderstood little fish. Anchovies are loaded with flavor and really add a dramatic layer to many recipes. The key is the quality of the anchovy that you use and the quantity.
You can purchase anchovies in a variety of ways; “packed in salt (which must be soaked in water before using), cured (which are dried and sometimes smoked), packed in olive oil (one of the better choices for most recipes) and paste (comes in a tube just like toothpaste, also convenient for most cooking). Whichever you choose to use, remember that anchovies pack a powerhouse of flavor so you’ll only need to add a small amount to most recipes.

Pasta Puttanesca:

1/8-1/4 cup pancetta, finely diced
3 tablespoons olive oil
5-8 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 large can (approx 35oz) whole peeled Italian tomatoes
1 dozen oil-cured black olives, pitted and chopped
3 anchovies, finely mashed
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
a pinch red hot pepper flakes
2 tablespoons each fresh basil and oregano (If you don't have fresh herbs available, substitute 1/2 teaspoon each dry oregano and basil).
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
Romano or Parmesan cheese
1 lb pasta( any variety you like), cooked according to package directions
salt and pepper, to taste

In a large skillet, sauté pancetta over low heat in olive oil until soft and translucent; bring heat up and allow to pancetta to brown slightly on edges.
Add garlic, oregano, basil, red pepper flakes, parsley and olives. Mash the anchovies well into the oil, using the tines of a fork. Add the can of whole tomatoes (including the juice in the can). Simmer over medium-low heat for 20 minutes or so, until the sauce begins to thicken slightly. Stir in wine vinegar during final 10-15 minutes of cooking. Taste and adjust seasonings.
Meanwhile, as sauce simmers, bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook pasta according to package directions and drain.
In a large bowl, combine pasta with enough sauce to coat. Add a little of the pasta cooking water if sauce is too thick, or a teaspoon of olive oil. Sprinkle pasta with a little fresh parsley and cheese before serving.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Heavy cream, butter and cheese aren’t so bad, as long as you throw in some seafood for nutritional value. Excuses aside, Alfredo is a wonderful sauce that is really very easy to make and compliments any type of seafood, vegetable or meat.
Because it is so rich a little goes a very long way, so indulge.

Fettuccini Alfredo with Shrimp

1 cup heavy cream
3 Tablespoons butter
2/3 cup parmesan cheese, fine
3/4 to 1 pound cooked fettuccini
Black pepper or Red pepper flakes to taste
Dash of nutmeg
1 pound shrimp

Cook fettuccini, keep warm. Add all other ingredients to large fry pan. Keep stirring until thickened. Boil shrimp in water for about 5 minutes. Add fettuccini and shrimp to sauce.