Stuffed Eggplant Parm

So it has been awhile since my last post, over a year. I have been on a new journey, getting healthy, exercising and losing weight, Yuck! I have to report that as of today I have dropped my cholesterol level by 120 points, my blood pressure has dropped and I have lost seventy pounds. I’m feeling great! Calorie counting has been a challenge and so I’ve worked on tweaking recipes to reduce the calories or looking for recipes. Cutting down on carbs, grains and sugar has been an active goal. So now I have decided to share this journey and some recipes that are healthy and taste great. BTW I’m not fond of rabbit food so you won’t see any salads! So here is my first and one of my favorite recipes!
2 cups of marinara sauce
Your favorite or homemade
2 medium eggplants
1 onion chopped
2 cloves of garlic minced
1 tsp Italian seasoning or a combination of fresh herbs diced
1 cup of fresh tomatoes chopped, cherry tomatoes work well
1 large egg beaten
11/2 cup grated cheese I prefer sheep milk based Locatelli and mozzarella however you can use Parmesan, mozzarella or a combination
1 to 2 tbsp EVOO
Salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
In the bottom of a 9×8 baking dish spread half 3/4 c of marinara sauce
Cut the eggplants in half lengthwise and with a spoon scoop out the inside creating a boat. Place the boats in the baking dish and lightly season with salt and pepper.
Place a large skillet on medium heat and add half the EVOO. Add the onion to the hot oil and sauté. In the meantime chop the eggplant pulp the add to the onion along with the herbs, garlic and season with salt and pepper. Cook about 3 to 5 minutes and then remove from heat. Place mixture in a bowl add tomatoes, egg, 1/2 cup of marinara and 1 cup of cheese. Mix until combined. Divide mixture evenly between the two boats. Spread the remaining marinara sauce evenly on the top and then add the remaining cheese.
Bake for about 45 minutes until the eggplants are tender and the cheese is melted and slightly brown. Enjoy with a glass of Pinot Noir!

Fermented Food and Drink

In anticipation of the opening of the 2017 Collingwood Farmer’s Market I would like to pass on my excitement about a new guest vendor; Inspired Brews.  Fermented foods like sourdough bread, sauerkraut, pickles, Korean kimchi and kombucha are the lasted craze for good gut health.  In my past life I have made my own sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles and a sourdough starter for bread, however this beverage eluded me.   Kombucha is a fermented beverage I had heard a great deal about especially from Al Roker on the Today Show.  He frequently touted the immense benefits of this fermented beverage as he sipped from a “to go cup!”  I was lucky enough to join David Hodges for a visit to local brick and mortar fermentary in Philadelphia called Inspired Brews.  Run by a small group of amazing women this company brews  small batch kombucha using local fresh ingredients.  I was delighted to sample Philly Strawberries and Cream and Philly Rose Pomegranate.   I was hooked after the very first sip!  Luckily my local Whole Foods in Cherry Hill carries Inspired Brews on tap, so I am able to enjoy this heathy drink as well as try different brews.  If you are a fan of the market as I am give Inspired brews a try!
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Inspired Brews, Historic Old City Philadelphia

Leftover Copycat 

Most of you had been to the Olive Garden at least once.  For a chain they do a decent job of Italian dishes with an American touch.  My Mom loved their lunch of soup, salad and breadsticks.  I have to admit that I love the Zuppa Toscana!  While browsing my email I noticed a copycat recipe for this soup.  After checking out the recipe I decided I could create my own lighter version with leftovers I had in the fridge.   The copycat version had bacon and cream which I decided to omit.  First I took a link of already cooked Italian sausage, some previously sautéd spinach and fresh mushrooms from the fridge.  With a small onion, a clove of garlic, olive oil, butter, and chicken stock I was ready to tackle my masterpiece.  Trying to reduce my intake of carbs and with only a small amount of sausage I was replacing the potatoe and increasing the meaty feel with the mushrooms.  So I began chopping, sautéing, and tasting resulting in an amazingly healthy version of  this Tuscan style soup.
1 large link of cooked Italian sausage chopped in small pieces (you could use fresh and brown it first in a large pot)
1 small onion diced
1 large clove of garlic diced
2 cups of cremini mushrooms cleaned and roughly chopped
2 cups of baby spinach or baby kale (I used leftover spinach that I had already cooked)
1-2 tablespoon of olive oil
1 tablespoon of soft butter
1 tablespoon of cornstarch
2 + cups of chicken broth
Heat a large pot and add olive oil. Begin by sautéing the sausage in the hot oil if yours is fresh; then remove from pan. If not start with the sliced mushrooms. Do not salt the mushrooms; cook about 11 minutes until nicely browned.  Add the onions and garlic cooking about 3 minutes then add the cooked sausage. While they are cooking together mix the soft butter and cornstarch to make a paste. Now add the chicken stock deglazing the pan and bring to a simmer. Mix in the butter paste and stir as the soup thickens. Add more stock if you need to thin the soup.  Taste for salt and pepper adding if necessary. Finally add the spinach and simmer until spinach is cooked!  Place a nice ladle full in a soup bowl then garnish with fresh grated Parmesan!  If you have had this soup at the Olive Garden you will be pleasantly surprised with this lighter version!

Chicken Stew Over Creamy Polenta

All winter I craved stew and yet I never made it, not one time!  So today while on my weekly trek to Whole Foods I bought a package of boneless skinless chicken breasts and decided to make a healthy chicken stew.  I remember my mother-in-law making Chicken Cacciatore or as she often called it Chicken Stew.  I have read several similar recipes, there are many versions on line and in Italian cookbooks.  In some recipes the chicken is in a brown gravy made with garlic, wine, and water.  Others like mine, the chicken is cooked in tomatoes with vegetables.  In most recipes the chicken breast are left whole; I followed Mom’s lead and cut the breast into chunks like you find beef for stew.  Mom would put this stew over rice or pasta however,  I had desire for polenta, creamy soft cheesy polenta!   So on this cool Spring day I made this delicious healthy dish and you can too!
Preheat oven to 275 degrees
3 boneless skin less chicken breast cut into chunks  (you can use thighs if you prefer)
1/4 cup almond flour mixed with 1 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper
8 ounces of cremini mushrooms sliced
1 medium onion chopped
2 cloves garlic of diced fine
1 medium zucchini cut into pieces
1 28 ounce can of plum tomatoes  (I like Cento San Marzano)
1 tablespoon tomato paste  (you can find it in a tube for easy use)
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup red wine
Place chicken chunks in a bowl;  add almond flour mix and coat the chicken pieces.
Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium heat in a dutch oven.  Add the mushrooms cover and cook about 10 minutes or until brown. Do not salt the mushrooms!!  Add the onions and garlic to the mushrooms and cook about 5 more minutes   Remove the vegetables from the pot.  Add  the other tablespoon of olive oil to the pot then add the chicken pieces and brown slightly.  Move the chicken to the sides and add the tomato paste to the hot pot and cook for 2 minutes. Return the mushrooms, onions, and garlic to the pot and deglaze the pan with 1/2 cup of red wine.  Cook about 3 minutes then add the tomatoes,  bay leaf, Italian seasoning and red pepper flakes.   Bring to a simmer, taste for salt and pepper.  Cover pot and place in the oven for about 1 hour. Add zucchini and stir.  Cook for another 1 1/2 hours.
About 30 minutes before the stew is done start the polenta.
1 cup Bob’s Red Mill polenta
3 1/2 cups chicken stock
1/4 teaspoon salt  (1/2 if you are not using cheese)
1/2 cup grated parma cheese  (you can omit if your not eating dairy)
1 tablespoon Kerrygold butter  (it is delicious grass fed butter)
In a medium size sauce pot bring the chicken stock to a boil.  Once the stock starts to boil slowly whisk in the polenta and reduce heat to low. Simmer the polenta for 20 minutes  stirring often as it  thickens.  Add the butter and whisk in; remove from heat and add cheese. Whisk again.
Cover the bottom of a shallow bowl with the creamy polenta. Top the polenta with the delicious chicken stew.  Pour a glass of red wine; grab a fork and dig in!
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 Hello Spring

I don’t know about the majority, some of you may have a love affair with snow, not me!  My mind has been frozen!   I am tired of being cold, trapped inside a puffy down coat reserved for those who live in Alaska.  So with thoughts of thawing ground, blooming Tulips and pollen I was inspired!   As I have mentioned, cooking shows are my soap operas of choice.  On an episode of Pizza Masters, a pesto sauce was made that made my mouth water.  Then  while reading an e-mail from Saveur Magazine a similar recipe was featured.  With thoughts of Spring dancing in my mind I was ready to create a dish to escort the change of season into my life.  Finding fresh basil in the grocery store, tomatoes on the vine, pine nuts, and with ingredients I have on hand;  garlic, extra virgin olive oil, parma cheese a dish of pasta with pesto was on the menu.  As I placed the ingredients in my mini food processor I was propelled to those lazy, hazy summer days, sitting by my daughters pool sipping some white sangria while grazing on fresh Jersey tomatoes sliced and topped with fresh mozzarella  sprinkled with sea salt, drizzled with EVOO, then decorated with fresh basil leaves.  YUM!  So here is a my version of this pesto that brings together those wonderful flavors of Summer which is now right around the corner.
In a small fry pan toast 1 tablespoon of pine nuts.  You can use walnuts however I suggest that you toast them also to bring out their flavor.
In the bowl of a food processor add the following ingredients.
1/2 cup of fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup of cherry tomatoes  (I found cherry tomatoes on the vine at Whole Foods)
1 tablespoon of pine nuts  (or walnuts)
1 large clove of garlic chopped roughly  (it will process better if chopped a bit)
1/2 cup of grated parma cheese
1/4 teaspoon red chile flakes  (optional)
2 anchovy filets  ( optional however I highly suggest you add them)
Pulse the food processor until just blended. Because of the juice from the tomatoes you only need about 3 tablespoons of EVOO.  Taste for salt and pepper.
Place in a glass jar and you are ready to use this delicious pesto with pasta, on fish or in a risotto.
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Spider Crab 

As a South Jersey girl Blue Crabs are a delicacy like none other!  The meat from blue crabs is sweet and delicate, perfect for crab cakes or just about anything that calls for crab. Snob that I am I will only purchase local crab meat for my recipes.  However  I am open to new ideas especially when food is involved.  So in Santa Barbara at Stearn’s Wharf, I was introduced to Spider Crab!  My sister and her husband  raved about this  tiny restaurant at the very end of the Wharf known as the Santa Barbara Shellfish Company!  The actual restaurant was filled with tanks of fresh shell fish; Spider Crab, Spiney Lobster, Rock Crab as well as Dungeness Crab.  Surrounding the open kitchen was a formica counter with wooden bar stools that also wrapped around along the windows that looked out on the bay.  Every stool was occupied by a patron happily devouring their shellfish of choice accompanied by onion rings that made me drool!  Outside attached to the restaurant were four small tables also filled with patrons.  On a post by the door hung a clip board to which we added our name and began our wait.  There was never a doubt that this would be a gastronomic event well worth the wait.  In years past my husband and I would meet my sister and her husband in Delaware.  The four of us would spend a long weekend eating dozens of blue crabs in various small towns along the Chesapeake.  They know Crab!! So we ordered a bottle of wine and began our wait which lasted about 45 minutes.  We were lucky and snagged a table outside. Our waiter explained a few specials and took our order. Cups of clam chowder, shrimp bisque along with onion rings and a 10 pound Spider Crab for us to devour.  In past trips to California I have had Dungeness crab which is good however nothing like Blue Crab.  Spider Crab on the other hand was delicious with huge legs and enormous body! A thick shell protects the sweet meat within. A true competitor to my Blue Crab!

Spider Crab Santa Barbara, CA

Bar-B-Que and Beer

As you know I love good food and awesome spirits.  While traveling through Southern California with my sister and her husband I recently enjoyed a delicious brisket and rib sandwich accompanied by a local beer. My first beer was Hangar 24, Betty IPA a deliciously smooth craft beer, brewed in Redlands, California.  Jeff at Zeke’s Smokehouse in Glendale, California then recommended the Hangar 24 Iconic IPA.  What a treat; a great beer with citrus notes, hoppy with a honey finish.  I’ve fallen in love with this craft brewer.  On another excursion to Rose City Pizza in Rosemead, California,  I enjoyed another Hangar 24 brew. Chocolate Bomber an American Style Porter, was a decant beer with hints of chocolate and vanilla, simply delicious.   I’m hoping on my return to New Jersey that I will be fortunate to find this craft brewer in my local liquor store! 

Hangar 24 Iconic IPA

Christmas Halibut 

Over the years our Feast of the Seven Fishes has evolved, transformed and developed into a variety of gourmet delicacies.  When I first met my husband it was a extravaganza of fried fish; flounder, shrimp, oysters, calamari, accompanied by baccala stew, clams casino and pasta with anchovy.  It later evolved into flounder stuffed with crab meat, shrimp and scallop scampi, along with the baccala stew, clams casino and pasta puttanesca.  We then changed the menu to mini crab cakes, clams casino, smoked salmon, flounder florentine,  shrimp and scallop scampi, baccala salad along with pasta ala oil and garlic.  This year we felt we were in a rut!  I know that my husband and mother-in-law were shaking their heavenly heads in dismay as we pondered our changes to this year’s menu.  We were inspired by a meal made by my older daughter a few weeks before, which included halibut, roasted tomatoes and broccoli rabe.  We were awed by the beauty of the dish and how festive it was.  We decided on spinach sautéd with garlic, red pepper flakes and olive oil.  Our fish was topped with a mixture of gluten free bread crumb, parsley, salt and pepper.  We drizzled the fish with a combination of olive oil, butter, lemon juice and lemon zest that we let sit for 24 hours so the flavors would marry together.  We roasted the fish with fresh grape tomatoes at 375 for 30 minutes.  Once the fish was cooked we plated it a on top of the spinach surrounded by the tomatoes.  I must say it was a Christmas masterpiece in taste and appearance!  This is definitely a new  awesome change to our Seven Fish Feast!  Mom and Joe would be very proud.

Buono Appetito!

The Christmas Angel

The Christmas Angel sits atop the tree.
As she watches over each family.
Her wings are as white as new fallen snow;
Shimmering brightly with a delicate glow.
A soft hum from her harp fills the room.
And you hear a familiar Christmas tune.
She spreads a halo of light that embraces the tree.
As children giggle and laugh happily.
The Christmas Angel spreads peace and joy from above;
Filling hearts with an abundance of Love.
A Blessed Christmas to One and All!
2016 PDJ
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Rockefeller Center, NYC
 

Squash Stew

Burrrrr!!  Harvest moon, wind chill factors and snowflakes falling  brings memories of this delicious dish to mind.  As I saunter through the aisles of my local grocer,  I inspect the variety of squash available today including many different types of pumpkin.  I decide on a perfectly formed, bright orange pumpkin called “Sweetie Pie!”  My mother-in-law made this every Fall with just a small everyday orange pumpkin.  During the Depression when food rations were given out my husband’s family lived on Lansdowne Avenue in Camden, New Jersey.  An empty lot was behind their house  and was often used as a short cut for those traveling home with their rations.  At this time of the year  recipients were given flour, sugar, butter and a pumpkin!   Often times a lone pumpkin would be left in the lot. Mom would send her son out to retrieve each and every pumpkin that was left behind.  She would clean and roast them for puree.  Her pumpkin pies were coveted by the family and a staple at Thanksgiving dinner.  Others were cleaned, peeled, and quartered.  One quarter was  slice thin, dipped in egg then floured and fried until golden brown.  The remaining pumpkin was cubed, combined white beans and other veggies into a delicious  stew.  This weekend when the temperatures dipped  and the wind blew, it was time for my Sweetie Pie to meet its fate!  I cleaned and quartered the pumpkin as I had watched my mother-in-law do so often.  Three quarters went on a baking sheet; skin side up at 350 degree for 45 minutes.   No need to peel the flesh will easily come away from the skin.  Process in a food processor until smooth; Viola! fresh pumpkin puree!  Now for the recipe for this hearty, mouth-watering squash stew.
Peel the remaining piece of pumpkin  (you can use butternut squash) and cube
1 large onion chopped
2 carrots cleaned and sliced
2 ribs of celery chopped
2 cloves of garlic minced
1/2  jalapeno pepper  seeded  (you can use hot pepper flakes, I like the fresh pepper)
1 large potato peeled and cubed
1 16 ounce can of diced tomatoes
1 16 ounce can of white beans, rinsed  (I like navy beans for this)
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon of salt                                                                                                                                              1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
1 small piece of Parmesan rind (optional)
In a large sauce pan heat the olive oil;  add the onion and celery.  Cook together about 3 minutes.  Add the carrots, garlic and hot pepper cooking about 5 more minutes.  Next add the potato and pumpkin cooking for 3 more minutes.  Add the tomatoes, chicken stock, bay leaf, Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper.  Bring to a simmer, cover and cook until the potato is just tender, about 20 minutes.  Add the beans and check for salt.  Cook about 15  minutes more to heat beans.  Grab some crusty Italian bread and Kerrygold Irish butter then enjoy this healthy, hearty dish on a cold, windy night!
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No Guilt Oatmeal Cookies

Something sweet is always in a corner of my mind and at the root of my growling stomach.  My other struggle is losing weight!  Cooking for myself and using fresh whole foods keeps me healthy however, portion control is a must.  I was inspired by my dear friend Lorraine to  go back to the Weight Watchers plan to control, not what but, how much I was eating.  My other issue is the processed so called low fat/diet items that line every grocer’s shelves.  I have issues when I look at the ingredients. Half the time I can not pronounce them nor do I recognize them!  There was only one decision to make, create my own low fat treat.  These cookies are delicious, dairy, gluten free and you will be familiar with all the ingredients!
In a medium mixing bowl whisk together
1 cup of gluten free flour  (I used Bob’s Red Mill 1 to 1)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
Set aside 1 1/2 cups of rolled oats  (Bob’s Organic Gluten Free Rolled Oats)                                                                                                                  1/4 cup chopped walnuts and 3/4 cup raisins
In a large bowl whisk together:
1/2 cup sugar  (I like natural organic sugar)
1/2 cup organic brown sugar
Add to the sugar:
1 large egg
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup organic unsweetened applesauce
Whisk until well mixed and then add in the  dry ingredients. Whisk until well mixed; then add in the rolled oats, raisins and walnuts. Mix well and refrigerate for 15 minutes
Preheat oven to 350 and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.  Once the dough is chilled drop generous tablespoons of dough about three inches apart on the prepared baking sheet.  Bake for 15 to 18 minutes switching baking sheets half way through the baking process.  Cookies will be lightly brown.  Cool slightly on baking sheet then remove and cool on a wire rack.  Makes about 30 cookies.  3 cookies are only 2 points!  Woo Hoo!!
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Cacio e Pepe ala Broccoli

Last Saturday my beautiful baby girl, her husband, his wonderful parents along with yours truly took a trip to Eataly in New York City.  Eataly is the brain child of Mario Batali, Lida Bastianich and Joe Bastianich.  It is an Italian’s delight with various market- place type stalls offering top quality products imported and produced on the premises.  Patrons can meander through the marketplace sipping on fine Italian wines inspecting the many offerings found in each stall or while waiting for their reservations at the restaurants on site.  We devoured a delicious lunch of appetizers, pizza and pasta.  My choice was the Cacio e Pepe; a Roman dish of pasta, Pecorino Romano and black pepper.  I found it amazing with the creamy cheese sauce, lots of black pepper and al dente fresh pasta. It took me back ten years to Rome and the Jewish Ghetto where I first had this delicious dish a few days before my daughter’s wedding!  So of course the next day while preparing my Sunday meal an idea emerged. My mother-in-law would prepare pasta every Sunday;  an Italian law!  One of her signature dishes was broccoli and pasta, olio crudo which is olive oil drizzled generously over the finished dish of pasta and broccoli along with a generous amount of grated Pecorino cheese.  So why not incorporate her recipe with the traditional Cacio e Pepe?   I found a simple recipe on Splendid Table originating from Leonardo Vignoli’s sauce adapted for the home kitchen. The combination of cheese sauce, broccoli and pasta was Magnifico!
1/2 pound of the pasta of your choice  (spaghetti is usually used for Cacio e Pepe)
1 head of fresh broccoli cleaned and broken into florets (I happened to have broccolini)
1 cup of finely grated Pecorino Romano
1 teaspoon of ground black pepper
a pinch of red pepper flakes  (optional)
1 cup hot pasta water  (remove just before the pasta finishes)
Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt generously and add both pasta and broccoli cooking according to pasta directions for al dente.
In a large bowl combine 3/4 cup of cheese with the pepper.  When the pasta/broccoli is almost done add about a 1/4 cup of the pasta water to the cheese mixture.  Stir with a wooden spoon until it makes a paste.  Strain pasta and broccoli then add to the cheese paste.   Toss sauce with pasta adding a little hot water at a time to make a creamy sauce that coats the pasta and broccoli.  Drizzle a bit of olive oil on top the pasta and then finish with the remaining cheese and a pinch of black pepper!  Buono Apppetito
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Smothered Cutlets with Mushrooms 

Most of us will think of  Chicken Marsala when checking out this recipe.  However,  I like my spin using thin Italian style chicken cutlets, gluten free flour, onions, mushrooms, chicken stock and sweet vermouth!  The thinner Italian style cutlets cook quicker and are an economical imposter for veal cutlets.  Trying to eat healthy and stay gluten free, as much as possible for a pasta/bread lover,  I’m always scheming and tweaking recipes.  I have to give my mother-in-law all the credit, she was always developing a twist on basic recipes or reinventing leftovers.  I recently took my leftover meatloaf and added it to a simmering tomato sauce to make a wonderful easy Bolognese over gluten free pasta!  Check out my recipe for  tomato sauce on my blog!  You’ll never go back to jarred sauce again.  Anyhow here is my recipe for smothered cutlets!
12 ounces of cremini mushrooms cleaned and sliced
1 large onion sliced thin
4 -6 Italian style chicken cutlets (depending on size)
1/4 cup gluten free flour. I was using Cup for Cup but have switched to Bob’s Red Mill 1 to 1.
1/4 cup sweet vermouth
1 to 1 1/2 cups of low sodium chicken stock
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon of ghee or butter (optional)
1/4 cup chopped parsley
Salt and pepper
Heat a large nonstick skillet with olive oil. Place flour on a large platter, mix in a 1/2 teaspoon of salt and a 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. Season both sides of the cutlets with salt and pepper. Dredge the cutlets in the seasoned flour, shake of excess and place in the hot pan. Sauté about 2-3 minutes on each side. They should be slightly brown. Remove from pan a set aside. In the same pan add a tablespoon of olive oil and a 1/2 tablespoon of ghee or butter. Add mushrooms, no salt cover and cook on medium heat for 15-20 minutes. Mushrooms should be brown. Move mushrooms to sides of the pan and add sliced onions with a pinch of salt and pepper.  Cook for 2 minutes then mix mushrooms and onions together, cook for 3-5 minutes more. Add vermouth, cook about 3 minutes to evaporate the alcohol. In a small bowl mix a scant tablespoon of flour with 1/2 tablespoon of ghee and a splash of chicken stock to make a paste! If you are not using ghee/butter then make a slurry using flour and chicken stock 1 to 1 stock and flour ( 3/4 to 1 tablespoon of each mixing well) Add to mushroom mixture cooking about 2 -3 minutes.  Add chicken stock and cook until thick. Nestle in the cutlets and simmer for 15 minutes adding more stock if needed. Transfer cutlets to a platter and smother with sauce and mushroom mix. Dress with chopped parsley. Enjoy with a glass of Cline Zinfandel 🍷

Carbonara 

While watching the Chew recently I saw Alton Brown prepare a breakfast dish he called carbonara using breakfast sausage.  It brought to mind a recipe that has been in my husband’s family for more then 75 years.  Most of us think of carbonara being prepared with pancetta or guinciale.  However my mother-in-law made an amazing carbonara using Italian sausage.  This recipe came from a cousin who had moved from the hometown of Bari to Rome in Italy.  As a young man he had worked in the coal mines of Italy.  He told the story that the coal miners made this pasta dish with browned chunks of Italian sausage that represented pieces of coal.  It is deliciously simple with only a few ingredients. 
8 links of good Italian sausage cut into small chunks
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 eggs
1/2 cup grated pecorino cheese
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 pound linguine pasta
Salt and pepper 
In a large sauté pan heat up the  olive oil.  Add the chunks of sausage and begin to brown the sausage.  Toss pieces until quite brown on all sides.
Into a large pasta bowl break the eggs and beat vigorously with a fork.  Add 1/2 the cheese and 1/2 the parsley and a pinch of black pepper.  Beat again the set aside.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook pasta according to package directions.  Make sure to salt the pasta water well before adding pasta.  Drain pasta and toss into bowl with the egg mixture. Mix hot pasta with egg mixture until egg mixture is just cooked. Then  toss in browned sausages. 
Top with remaining cheese and parsley. Serve immediately with a nice glass of red vino! Serves 6

Buono Appetito

Cauliflower Mushroom Risotto

I love cauliflower and the  versatility of this cruciferous vegetable!  On its own cauliflower is mild and will pick up the flavors that it is married to.  Garlic cauliflower mash is an amazing healthy replacement for mashed potatoes.  Clean and cook a head of cauliflower while roasting two heads of garlic in a 425 degree oven. Drain the cauliflower (reserve some of the water) and return the cauliflower to the pot.  Begin to mash with olive oil and a bit of the water, then add the roasted garlic and mash again.  Season with salt and pepper, Viola!  One of my favorite recipes was one my mother-in-law would make on a Sunday; Cauliflower with pasta and garlic sautéed in olive oil, salt, pepper and grated pecorino cheese, Yum!  Making cauliflower into rice is a fabulous substitute while trying to limit carbs and when following a gluten-free diet.  All you need is a food processor and a cleaned head of cauliflower.  Place about 1 cup of the cauliflower florets in the food processor and process for about 15 seconds until the cauliflower resembles rice, then transfer to a bowl. Continue in small batches until you have used the entire head.  You can purchase the cauliflower already prepared but unless you live near a Trader Joe’s it is a bit pricey!  My daughter has used the riced cauliflower to make a pizza crust, that is next on my list!
Here is the recipe for this delicious and healthy dish!
2 cups of cauliflower rice (any extra cauliflower rice can be frozen)
8 oz cremini mushrooms cleaned and sliced
2 shallots diced
5 scallions cleaned and chopped
2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 tablespoons of butter divided  (you can use earth balance)
1 tablespoon of flour  (you can use gluten-free)
2 cups of chicken stock or vegetable stock
1/2 cup of grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese (optional if you are dairy free)
1/4 teaspoon each of salt and black pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
In a large sauce pan heat 1 tablespoon of butter with the 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. add sliced mushrooms, cover and cook about 10 minutes. Do not salt! Once the mushrooms are browned add the shallots and scallions. Add salt and pepper then cook for another 3 to 5 minutes. Mix the remaining flour with the softened butter to form a paste. Add the paste to the mushroom mixture and cook for 3 more minutes. Add the stock and cook until beginning to thicken. Now add the cauliflower rice and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes or until rice is tender. Remove from heat and add most of the cheese, stir.  Place into a serving bowl, drizzle with olive oil,  sprinkle top with remaining cheese and parsley.
Pour a glass of Sauvignon Blanc and enjoy next to Zuni chicken which is also on my blog!
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Wine and Horses

This past weekend was spent with friends on the Delaware Bay;  Gandys Beach to be exact. We were just sitting around chatting as well as discussing our menu for dinner; surf and turf, steak with fresh flounder accompanied by fresh roasted cauliflower and corn on the cob.  However  we had time and the internet in the palm of our hands.  A brief search using one of my favorite words “wine” we were off on a mini road trip.  A mere 12 miles away, was a horse farm and winery located in Millville.  We piled into the car, set the address in the Waze and we were off.  Our drive took us on the winding roads of Cumberland County, New Jersey.  Cumberland County is situated along the Delaware Bay with 40 miles of coastline. In the 19th century New Jersey was the 4th leading oyster producing state.  Port Norris was once know as the Oyster Capital of the world. Who Knew??  I knew Millville was the home of Wheaton Village Museum of American Glass however, Southwind Vineyard and Winery also call it home.
Located on a 100 acres of grape vines, walking trails and pastures it is a quiet, peaceful place where horses graze under the shade of old magnolia trees.  The tasting room is small with the feel of a vintage French bistro. We were warmly greeted and given what I call the “vino menu”.  We made our selections then sat in the comfort of numerous wine bottles with a bowl of pistachio nuts. Our wine tasting were arranged cleverly on an artist palette looking like various shade of red.  After we had sniffed, tasted and dissected our selections we each chose a glass of our favorite. The wines varied from a Chardonnay to a Port. I had an Outer Coastal Plains Cabernet made with all New Jersey grapes. One of my friends drank the Merlot and the other the Malbec made with Chilean grapes. My purchase to take back to the beach was Grape Kiss a slightly sweet effervescent wine that make a great cooler when mixed with club soda. I also highly recommend the Cheval Fort, also an Outer Coastal Plains wine, a port style that is amazing but, with a piece of dark chocolate incredible!
If your want an adventure travel to Millville and to Southwind Vineyard and Winery. It is a beautiful drive and a lovely quaint place to enjoy a glass of vino!
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Blue Crab

Blue claw crab sautéed in olive oil, butter and garlic, Yum!  I love crab!  However my introduction to the whole creature is quite the story.  My sweet husband worked for RCA and as a manager belonged to the “Management Club.”  Every month different mangers organized an amazing event and hosted the other “men”!  On those occasions I would take my mother-in-law visiting.  Sometimes it was to Pennsauken to visit Mike and Margaret or  other times to Haddonfield to visit Lena.  This particular trip was to Lavallette  to visit her sister-in-law who happened to live right on the beach in an old Victorian style home. We planned to spend the day and left right after breakfast.  When we arrived later that morning we took notice to a few dozen crabs waiting to be cleaned.  My mother-in-law was swooning over those beauties.  It was suggested that we take them home.  As was the custom my mother-in-law would always bring a signature dish to whom ever we visited and we happened to have a cooler!  Mom was tickled pink, the crabs were blue and feisty; I was terrified!  The decision had been made that I would clean the crabs.  Me?  I ate crab but had never cleaned one!  Gently, Mom pulled me to the side and explained the procedure to me.  She handed me a pair of heavy rubber gloves, an ice pick, a pair of tongs then led me to a huge concrete double sink outside of the house.  A bushel basket was placed at my feet filled with angry blue crabs waiting to meet their fate.  One by one I lifted each crab with the tongs as their claws twisted to snap at my gloved hand.  Mom watched as I cleaned the first few and then smiled with pride as she strolled away to have coffee.  I have to admit it was quite an experience however, the outcome of crabs and spaghetti the next day was worth it.
Now on to this much simpler recipe of mushrooms and crab.  I recently had this as an appetizer at a restaurant in Cherry Hill called Tutti Toscani.  It is so delicious I created my version of this recipe and ate it as a meal.
8 -10 ounce of cremini mushrooms cleaned and sliced   (I love the mushrooms from Davidson’s Exotic Mushrooms at the Collingwood Farmers Market)
2-3 scallions cleaned and sliced   (Formisano Farms)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoon of butter or ghee   ( place 1 tablespoon in a small bowl and let soften)
1 tablespoon gluten-free flour   (I like Cup 4  Cup)  You can use regular flour
4 ounces jumbo lump blue claw crab   (local is best;  you can find fresh crab from Maryland in Wegman’s seafood department)
1 tablespoon dry sherry
1 tablespoon sweet vermouth
1/4 cup chicken stock
1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley   (Formisano Farms)
salt and pepper to taste
Bring a saute pan to medium high heat.  Add olive oil and 1 tablespoon of the butter heat slightly and then add sliced mushrooms.  Do Not Salt!  Cover and cook about 15 minutes. The mushrooms will release their water and brown nicely.  Next add the sliced scallions and cook about 3 minutes.  Add the flour to the softened butter and blend well.  Stir into mushrooms and cook about 1 minute.  Deglaze the pan  with the sherry and vermouth then add the chicken stock and a pinch of salt and pepper.  The liquid will thicken.  Taste for salt.  Add crab, stir gently, cover and remove from heat.  Let sit about 5 minutes to warm crab meat.
Pile the mushroom crab mixture on a platter and garnish with parsley.  Enjoy with some toasted bread.  Villa Barone sells a fabulous loaf also found at the Collingwood Farmers Market that would be perfect!
 
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Lunch and a Play

Two weeks ago I was taken back in time. My eldest granddaughter was in her first play and she was amazing! No wonder, she has the genes, her mother’s genes that is. My daughter Rachele was a wonderful actress in high school. I remember being in awe as I read lines with her. She had captured a lead in the play Arsenic and Old Lace. Her lines were numerous and she was on stage for the entire play!  Watching my granddaughter brought a rush of pride for her and for her Mom as I thought of that wonderful time watching her on stage.  So many of my teaching colleagues had been to the play and their praise for my daughter’s performance flooded my heart and mind as I watched my granddaughter’s performance.
So on to lunch; a delicious salad of quinoa, chicken, sugar snap peas, tomatoes, basil and strawberries if I remember correctly. Thoughtfully prepared by Grand Hon, shared with Nana along with a lovely Rose’ wine. Now I must admit I’m not a quinoa fan but this salad won me over.  So when I came home I rummaged through my pantry to find the quinoa that had worked its way to the very back. Next, to my fridge to see what I had to replicate this salad as closely as possible. What I came up with was some fresh veggies bought at the Collingswood Farmer’s market as well as a chicken breast I had poached with the plan to make chicken salad. The results were awesome and I hope you will give this heathy salad a try.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees with a saute pan inside
1 cup quinoa rinsed well  (this is important as quinoa has a coating that will make it bitter when cooked. I think that’s why I wasn’t a fan, sadly I don’t think I rinsed it enough)
Place the rinsed quinoa in the hot pan and toast for 20 minutes (stir after the first 10)  The quinoa will be brown and have a nutty flavor which I love. You can skip this step and just cook the quinoa after it is well rinsed. Add 2 cups of chicken stock, vegetable stock or water to the quinoa. Bring to a slight boil on the stove top, reduce to a simmer, cover and cook 20 minutes. Cool
1/4 pound sugar snap peas blanched 2 minutes and cooled in ice water
1  large ear of fresh corn  remove the kernels and set aside
2 scallions finely chopped
1 cup of cherry tomatoes cut in half
1 cooked chicken breasts chopped  (a rotisserie chicken will work well)
4-5 fresh basil leaves (you could use mint leaves or parsley)  finely chopped
Cut the sugar snap peas in half and put all the ingredients in a large bowl. Fold in the cooked cooled quinoa.
For the dressing take one ripe avocado and mash with 1/2 of a lime juiced,  1-2 tablespoons olive oil and a generous pinch of salt. When all the ingredients are mashed well and smooth fold into the quinoa veggie mix. Refrigerate for a few hours or over night. Enjoy with a nice  Rose’ as we did that lovely Saturday.
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Manicotti

With fresh spinach, tomatoes, basil, and ricotta available at the farmers market this was a no brainer! I hoped that fresh garlic would still be available however, I had purchased some a week or so before from DanLynn Organic farm, no worries!  So I made my way through the Collingswood Farmers Market. First, I purchased plum tomatoes from Viereck farms. Next, to Flaim farms for baby spinach and basil. My final stop was for the fresh ricotta from Hillacres Pride. This ricotta is superb for cooking, as it is dry which makes it perfect for ravioli and in this recipe manicotti. My mother-in-law would have loved this ricotta. I learned from her that to make a superior ravioli, manicotti and even cheese cake the ricotta should be on the drier side. I remember her draining the supermarket ricotta overnight in cheesecloth to remove the excess water before she would use it in a recipe.   Oh, let me not forget fresh eggs from Nature’s Own farm. Then on the way home a quick stop at  Severino’s on Haddon Avenue in Westmont for some fresh egg pasta sheets.  My heart was racing as I thought of this dish as it would come together and then fill my mouth with delight.
For the tomato sauce; 12  large plum tomatoes scalded and cooled slightly. Remove core, skin then  cut in half and remove seeds. Chop roughly and place in a bowl.
2 -3 cloves of garlic finely chopped
1/2 cup large basil leaves chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
a pinch of red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste
Heat olive oil in a large space pan. Add garlic and sweat about 3 minutes, add pepper flakes, chopped tomatoes, basil, and a big pinch of salt. Bring to a soft boil then reduce heat and simmer about 30 minutes.
Next wash the spinach and drain well. I used two bags of baby spinach. Finely chop another 2-3 cloves of garlic.
In a large saute pan heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil, sweat the garlic about 2 minutes and add the spinach, salt lightly and toss with tongs to mix the garlic and oil with the spinach. Reduce heat and cook for about 5 minutes max!  Cool
Beat two eggs in a large bowl, add 1 pound of ricotta, 1/2 cup of grated cheese (I use Pecorino Romano), and 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper. Mix well and then fold in the sautéed spinach.
I purchased 5 sheets of egg pasta. I cut each sheet into thirds Place about a 1/4 cup of filling  and mound along one edge, end to end. Roll until the end meets the sheet. Overlap the dough just a bit. Trim with a knife where the end meets the sheet; you will have a log. Place the manicotti in a large shallow baking sheet. Continue until you have used all the ricotta. I made about 15 manicotti. With the scraps of the pasta sheets you can cut them by hand into fettuccine.  They freeze quite nicely and you cook  them right from the freezer. A great quick meal with the remaining tomato sauce!
Finally cover the manicotti with your fresh made sauce. Sprinkle the top with some grated cheese and bake at 350 for about 30 minutes or until the sauce is slightly bubbly.  Remove from oven and cool slightly. Serve with a salad as well as a great Italian wine. Try “Unlitro” from Tuscany!  Buon Appetito
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Happiness and Sorrow

As I write  this my heart is filled with happiness and sorrow. Happiness for a sweet, wonderful woman Rocchina, who is now with the love of her life  Peter, her brothers, sister, mother and father. Sorrow for me and her loved ones in our loss of this amazing woman.  Roccie was funny, elegant and talented. She could tell a  joke,  was always put together in her style and baked a mean Italian Cream Cake that was coveted by all!  As a little girl she took care of her baby brother, then as a wife and mother she raised five children while running a huge house in Drexel Hill. As time progressed and her family grew she would throw dinner parties for twenty plus. One holiday her wonderful sense of humor emerged as she placed a telephone next to her husband who was at one end of a long, long, long table and a telephone next to her, as she was at the other end. She then picked up the receiver saying “Hello, Hello, Pete are you there?” All the while she was orchestrating the serving of  an Italian five course meal!  For me marrying her baby brother, brought to me the meaning of a close-knit family and the traditions they held dear. I admired my sister -in-law and loved her deeply. She was thoughtful and kind. We spent a great deal of time together; weekends at the shore, dinners at each others home and chatting on the phone over a recipe. She was my go to for advice when my children were born and my cheerleader when I accomplished a dish from a treasured family recipe. Her children, their families and all those that loved Roccie are in my thoughts and prayers. God Bless!
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