Thursday, November 7, 2013

Turning into an Italian

I am a girl who hales from somewhere around 51.5072 degrees N by 0.1275 degrees W. Italian food is not my culinary heritage. Beef, lamb, potatoes covered in a dark gravy encased in pie crust. That's what my ancestors ate, when they could get it.
I don't know what it is lately, but I am craving Italian food all the time.For me Italian food is good, but it doesn't call to me like Mexican does. Oh Mehico, I love you! I digress. I normally eat pizza once every 6 months. Make spaghetti once every three and so on. Imagine my surprise when I am craving this wonderful earthy mushroom soup that is not only super flavorful, but when I made it, it helped me relax and feel connected to the earth. Yes, I know that sounds weird. (recipe to follow so you can connect to the earth too). Or I find myself craving pizza, a lot. And in this weeks meal planning, I am not only making pizza but also lasagna. My version is going to have pumpkin puree, spinach and cream sauce. I think. It's a idea in progress.
Barbara Kafka in her book Vegetable love, says that tomatoes are the most popular flavor in the world. I guess I would have to agree with her when I think about ketchup and salsa distribution along with all of the bottles of pasta sauce, barbecue sauce; not to mention the million soup variations. The list is endless. 
As our world has become more connected, the things our taste buds crave have connected also. All genetic heritage aside, it's okay to want something different. So I am going to enjoy my pizza, lasagna, and mushroom soup. Too bad my ancestors couldn't try my Italian favorites, they would have loved them. And the next time you look for me I might be in 37.5000 degrees N by 14.0000 degrees E. Bon Appitteto!

Minestra di Funghi
Recipe originally published in "A Taste of Italy" by Michelle Scicolone Pg 91-92

1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 oz. sliced panchetta, finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 celery ribs, finely chopped
8 oz white mushrooms, thinly sliced
8 oz wild mushrooms such as porcini or shiitake , thinly sliced
4 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 medium all-purpose potatoes, peeled and finely chopped
salt and pepper to taste
4 cups canned beef broth plus 4 cups water
1/2 cup pearl barley

In a large sauce pan over medium heat, cook the olive oil and panchetta until panchetta is golden about 10 minutes. Add the onion and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes, or until tender. Add the mushrooms, 2 tablespoons of the parsley and garlic. Cook, stirring until the mushroom juices evaporate about 10 minutes. Stir in the potatoes, salt and pepper. Add the broth and water. Bring soup to a simmer. Add the barley and cook, uncovered over low heat for 1 hour, or until the barley is tender and the soup is thickened. Sprinkle with remaining parsley and serve.

Eat this soup with some crusty bread and a salad and you will be in heaven, without feeling heavy.

Friday, April 19, 2013

This Week in Dinner (Spring)

 Over the winter I read this amazing book called Vegetable Love by Barbara Kafka. It was very inspiring. Alas, I do not have a garden to grow such delicious vegetables in. In celebration of Earth day (don't ask me exactly when that is) the grocery stores in my area are having a sale on vegetables. With book in hand, I looked up all the recipes that went with each veggie on sale and selected some to make and eat this week.

So here is what I am having for dinner:

Steak with golden pepper potato puree and corn bread

Green chili cheese crisps and avocado, pink grapfruit and papaya salad

Persian cauliflower koo koo (which is kind of like a fritatta)

Broccoli potato soup and pepper cheese biscuts

I am also making a fresh strawberry pie, which I know is not a vegetable, but strawberries were also on sale. I can't pass them up for $0.99/lb.

Here's hoping you will be inspired to make you dinner this week fabulous.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Macaroni and cheese in the crock pot

Ever get a hankering for something you haven't had in a long time? I do! This time it was macaroni and cheese. Yes, I know it seems juvenile as my taste buds have grown up, but all grown-ups are true kids at heart.

I knew that my husband couldn't eat this dish (he is allergic to dairy). I knew that I didn't want to eat the whole pan, no matter how big the craving. I mentioned it to two of my co-workers April and Hannah. To my surprise they both wanted to contribute to the lunch I was bringing. April brought salad and Hannah brought bread. Wow! Thanks guys.

This recipe is super easy with great results. All you do is melt your butter in a sauce pot with grated cheese. I chose extra sharp Cheddar for its flavor. While you are melting, boil your noodles for 6 minutes. Dump the butter/cheese mixture into your crock pot. Add the other ingredients including the macaroni. Stir. Cook it on high for 2.5 hours stirring occasionally.

Warning: If you stick the mac and cheese hot from the crock pot into the fridge it will separate. My mac and cheese was done at 11:00pm. A good 13 hours before I was going to be serving it at work. It still tasted good though. When I re-heated it, I had some burnt cheese come up from the bottom. UMMM burnt cheese!

The salad and bread that April and Hannah brought really rounded out the meal and we had a true lunch together. At 12:30 most of us were eating in the break room.

The day of the lunch a couple more of my co-workers suggested a sign-up sheet so they could bring stuff to contribute also. Which is a good idea. I will have to do that in the future.

Once lunch was over, I went to go and wash the crock pot, but Diana had already beaten me to it. I have to say that, that meant so much to me. As an artist, you enjoy creating, but never cleaning. Cleaning is a necessary evil, that makes creating possible. So a million thank you's to those of you who are willing to do the grunt work of cleaning.

If you would like to make this childhood remembrance in your cooking district here is the recipe.



  • 2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni (an 8-ounce box isn't quite 2 cups)
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stuck) butter, cut into pieces
  • 2 1/2 cups (about 10 ounces) grated sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 (10 3/4-ounce) can condensed Cheddar cheese soup
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • Directions

  • Boil the macaroni in a 2 quart saucepan in plenty of water until tender, about 7 minutes. Drain. In a medium saucepan, mix butter and cheese. Stir until the cheese melts. In a slow cooker, combine cheese/butter mixture and add the eggs, sour cream, soup, salt, milk, mustard and pepper and stir well. Then add drained macaroni and stir again. Set the slow cooker on low setting and cook for 3 hours, stirring occasionally.
    Photo credit:

    Original recipe created by Paula Deen

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Forever Ginger ---Almost

A few months or so ago I was watching Rachel Ray on the Food Network. During her program she mentioned freezing ginger.

I thought, what a great idea! Ginger is one of those ingredients that is always better whole than in powder form. But, because it is so powerful, recipes only call for it in small quantities. If you had purchased a big twisted hunk of ginger, like my friend up there. It would inevitably go to waste. Either that, or you move to China and set up shop as a street vendor. I hear competition is really steep.

Since I'm guessing you lost your passport, the only thing left to do is freeze your ginger. I purchased mine from a local grocery store. Still not that big hunk up there, but enough that I would use in about 4 months time.

Once home, I peeled the ginger, wrapped it in tinfoil and stuck it in the freezer. When I need it, I unwrap the tinfoil and grate it into the dish I am making and then back into the freezer it goes to be used again later. What a good idea. Thanks Rachel!

Photo Credit:

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Awesome Party!!!

Yesterday I hosted a book club party. Although officially we are not a book club. It was just some of the girls from work reading the same book at the same time as a suggestion of another co-worker. So it was an impromptu book club. Whatever it was; it was super fun!

As the host I made treats that were super delicious. I worked hard in my cooking district all day to have this cornucopia ready for the party.

The menu was as follows

Pulled pork sandwiches


Frog eye salad

Summer squash pasta salad Umm!

Then for dessert I made individual lemon meringue tarts.Donnie and Tracy were very impressed and could hardly believe that these treats were all home made.

To make this party even funner, I had a couple of mixed drinks waiting for my guests. Since we are all of the non-alcoholic persuasion, these mixed drinks had no alcohol in them. I got them from Which has hundreds of non-alcoholic beverages on there along with all the alcoholic ones as well.
 The two I picked were "Safe Sex On the Beach" and "Southern Ginger"
They were a big hit too!

So now that you know the food was amazing, the conversation was equally top notch. We answered questions about the book posted by LitLovers. They were good, but we also came up with our own questions and answered them as well. I was so impressed with Dawney and Tracy's thoughtful comments and questions.

Then we watched "Rebecca" directed by none other than the great Alfred Hitchcock (It was his first movie). Due to the lateness of the hour and our full bellies, we all fell asleep at different points along the way, but we always woke up again.

All in all, I would say this party and book club have been a success. And if nothing else, we now have a name for our book club. Which will now be known as the Impromptu Book Club. New members will be accepted.

Due to the exhaustive cooking done in this district for this post, if you want a recipe contact me directly.

Happy Cooking!!!

Image Credits as follows:

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Whole Wheat Chocolate Bread Pudding

Picture of Chocolate Bread Pudding Recipe

This post is less on timeliness (tomorrow is the 4th of July) and more about using what you have. A 
couple of weeks ago, I had made hamburgers for dinner. We like the Oroweat hamburger buns. Since there is only the hubby and me to make dinner for, I routinely have leftover buns, which sit in the pantry and mold until I through them out.

This is truly unacceptable because those suckers are expensive! What to do? What to do? Ah, I know! I'll make bread pudding.

 I searched on the internet for a recipe and found Paula Deen's Chocolate Bread Pudding. I thought, "the only thing better than bread pudding is chocolate bread pudding". I followed her recipe exactly, except I did not use french bread. I used my old hamburger buns. It turned out great! I mean really, how badly can you mess up a recipe that has heavy cream and brown sugar in it.

The next day I took my creation to work. At first the test bunnies (aka my co-workers)
 were startled.
They had never thought about making a bread pudding from hamburger buns. But since I had fed them before with favorable results and my dessert did have chocolate in it, they ate the whole pan.

Smiles and complements abounded as the treat was enjoyed. My favorite was from Ryan. He told me. "Rada, I am going to save all my leftover hamburger buns, so that you can make me this bead pudding again." Thank you Ryan. If you bring them to work, I probably will.

If you want to make this bun saving dish in your cooking district here is the recipe.

Chocolate Bread Pudding



Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Lightly grease a 13 by 9-inch baking dish and place the bread in the dish. In a large bowl, whisk together the milk, cream, and liqueur. Using another bowl, combine the sugar, brown sugar, and cocoa powder and mix well. Add the sugar mixture to the milk mixture and mix well. Add the vanilla and almond extract, and cinnamon to the beaten eggs. Combine the egg mixture to the milk mixture and mix well.
Stir the grated chocolate into the mixture. Pour the mixture over the cubed bread in the pan. Let the mixture stand, stirring occasionally for approximately 20 minutes or until bread absorbs most of the milk mixture. Bake pudding for 1 hour or until set. Check pudding by inserting a knife through the middle and it should come out clean.

Serve the pudding warm, or refrigerate and serve chilled with whipped cream if desired.

Image Credits to:

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

South Seas Chicken and Bananas

When I was 7 my family moved to St. Lucia so my dad could go to medical school. It was an interesting experience to mingle with a different culture, including the local wildlife (hop toads!) We had no car and either road the bus or walked.

See that little dot on the bottom right corner of the map? That's where we lived. My Mom cooked us as normal a meal as possible that we were used to in the states. My mother was and still is a picky eater. I did have some really good ice cream there though. I can still taste it in my mouth when I remember that afternoon. I have not had that flavor before or since.

When I saw this recipe it reminded me of living in the Caribbean. So for that reason alone I had to try it. I was not disappointed. This recipe is so easy and flavorful. A very different take on chicken, which can get monotonous after awhile.

I found this recipe in  Taste of Home Annual Recipes for 1995 on page 87. Wendy Smith of Eagleville PA sent it in. I just want to ask, Wendy, have you ever been to St. Lucia? Because you nailed it.

If you are tired of cooking chicken the same old 5 ways, give this recipe a try.

South Seas Chicken and Bananas

1/4 cup lemon juice
1can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk
1/3 cup milk
1/2 cup flaked coconut
1/8 tsp cardamom
6 very firm bananas
 5-6 lbs chicken peices
3/4 cup butter or margarine, melted, divided
Sliced kiwi fruit and star fruit optional (I could not find star fruit, so I substituted a papaya instead)

In a food processor or blender, blend the lemon juice, condensed milk, regular milk, coconut adn cardamom until smooth. Pour into a bowl. dip bananas into the milk mixture; roll in cornflakes and set aside. Dip chicken into the remaining milk mixture; roll in remainig corn flakes and place on 2 greased 9x13 inch pans. Drizzle with 1/2 cup of the melted butter. Bake, uncovered at 350 degrees for one hour. Arrange bananas over chicken. Drizzle remaining butter. Bake another 15 minutes longer or until the juices run clear. Garnish with fruit if desired
Yield 6-8 servings
Nutritional Facts 1 serving (13 ounces) equals 856 calories, 42 g fat (20 g saturated fat), 174 mg cholesterol, 592 mg sodium, 79 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber, 43 g protein.
Originally published as South Seas Chicken and Bananas in Taste of Home April/May 1994, p27