Sunday, May 14, 2017

The Italian First Holy Communion

Several weekends ago was spent preparing an Italian feast for my son's First Holy Communion. Why an Italian feast, you ask? Well, there are several reasons. First, I am Italian, well, one-fifth. Secondly, somehow when I think of Communion and images of The Godfather fill my head. Visions of a room full of  Italian mobsters talking with their hands and tables full of every pasta imaginable. Finally, why not do an Italian feast?!?!?!

Italian parties are typically so easy to put together. Most dishes can be made the day before and go from the refrigerator to the oven. Plus, you can go as simple or as complicated as you'd like. To stay simple, use jarred sauces, frozen bread, frozen meatballs, container of Parmesan cheese and voila, you have an Italian meal. Of course, if you want something more gourmet, you can go the homemade route with fresh Parmigiano Reggiano. I chose the easy way out.

Sausage, Peppers, and Onions
Baked Ziti
Antipasti Platter
Italian Salad
Garlic Bread

I love making Baked Ziti. It is super easy and I always receive rave reviews. So, here I am publishing my famous Baked Ziti recipe.

Baked Ziti


  • 1 pound dry ziti pasta
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 2 (26 ounce) jars spaghetti sauce

  • 6 ounces provolone cheese, sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups sour cream
  • 6 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

  1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add ziti pasta, and cook until al dente, about 8 minutes; drain.
  2. In a large skillet, brown onion and ground beef over medium heat. Add spaghetti sauce, and simmer 15 minutes.

    I doubled the recipe and had to switch to a larger pot :(
  3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Butter a 9x13 inch baking dish. Layer as follows: 1/2 of the ziti, Provolone cheese, sour cream, 1/2 sauce mixture, remaining ziti, mozzarella cheese and remaining sauce mixture. Top with grated Parmesan cheese.  

  4. Bake for 30 minutes in the preheated oven, or until cheeses are melted.

Sausage And Peppers For A Crowd

4 pounds Italian sausage
6 bell peppers ( 2 red, 2 green, 2 yellow ), sliced
4 large sweet onions, sliced
2 tablespoons garlic, minced
2 tablespoons Italian seasoning
1 cup water

Put Italian sausages in roasting pan large enough to fit amount you are making.

Place sliced onions on top.

Put peppers on top of onions.

Season with garlic and Italian seasoning.

Fill with water and bake at 300 degrees for 2 hours.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Chicken and Black Beans with Chorizo

Chicken and Black Beans with Chorizo

Sizzling Skillets and Other One-Pot Wonders
Emeril Lagasse

1/2 cup sherry
1/3 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons paprika (hot or sweet)
1 teaspoon sweet pimenton
1/2 cup thinly sliced yellow onion
1 tablespoon thinly sliced garlic plus 1/4 cup minced
5 tablespoons chooped fresh oregano leaves
One 3-4 pound whole chicken, halved, with the wishbone, backbone, and first 2 digits removed
1 teaspoons freshly ground white pepper
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt
8 ounces firm Spanish chorizo, cut into 1/4 inch thick half moons
2 cups finely chopped onion
1 cup finely chopped green bell pepper
1 teaspoon dried Mexican or regular oregano, crumbled between your fingers
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 cups seeded and small diced ripe tomatoes
3 15-ounces cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1 1/4 cups chicken stock or canned low-sodium chicken broth

1. To make the marinade, place the sherry in a small mixing bowl. Slowly whisk in 1/3 cup of the olive oil, then stir in the paprika, pimenton, sliced onion, sliced garlic, and 3 tablespoons of the fresh oregano.
2. Place the chicken in a resealable 1-gallon plastic food storage bag. Pour the sherry marinade over the chicken and squeeze out as much air as possible before sealing the bag. Gently move the chicken around in the marinade to make sure it is well coated. Place the plastic bag with the chicken on a small baking sheet and transfer to the refrigerator the marinate for about 4 hours, turning once midway.
3. Remove the chicken from the marinade and pat dry with paper towels. Discard the marinade. Season the chicken on both sides with the white pepper and 1 Tablespoon of the salt. Preheat the oven to 400 degree F.

4. Heat the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil in a large Dutch oven or a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Sear the chicken, skin side down, until the skin is nicely browned and develops a crust, about 3 minutes. Cook the other side until lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside, loosely covered with foil.
5. Reduce the heat to medium and add the chorizo. Cook until crisped and brown , stirring occasionally, 5 to 6 minutes. Remove from the pot and set aside. Add the chopped onion, bell pepper, minced garlic, dried oregano, crushed red pepper, and a pinch of salt and cook until caramelized, stirring frequently, about 20 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes release the juices. Stir in the reserved chorizo, the beans, stock, and the remaining 1 teaspoon salt.

6. Carefully transfer the mixture to a 2- to 3-inch deep 3 1/2 to 4 quart dish. Place the chicken halves skin side up on top of the beans and transfer to the oven. Bake, uncovered, until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees F, 45 to 60 minutes. If necessary, tent with foul to prevent further browning. Set the dish aside to rest for about 15 minutes before serving.
7. Cut the chicken into pieces and serve over black beans. Garnish with the remaining 2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Hot Artichoke Spinach Dip

Hot Artichoke Spinach Dip

A Slice Of Paradise
The Junior League of The Palm Beaches

I should call this blog "Return of The Cookbook Queen." Haha! I am back yet again. 

10 ounces frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
1 (14-ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained
1 cup mayonnaise
1 1/2 cups Parmesan cheese, shredded
1 1/2 cups Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
Garlic salt to taste
2 teaspoons Tabasco sauce
Melba toasts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Squeeze excess water from thawed spinach. Finely chop artichoke hearts. Combine all ingredients and mix thoroughly. Pour into a 1 1/2 quart, ovenproof dish. Bake for 30 minutes.  Serve warm with crackers.

Yield: Servings for 12

Monday, May 23, 2016

Mild Turkey Chili with Cilantro Cream

Mild Turkey Chili with Cilantro Cream

Weight Watchers: My TurnAround Program Cookbook

Well, I think I am back! I have been so busy working full-time and with my new Avon business, I have little time left to devote to my blog. We have been spending a lot of time and money eating out so in effort to eat home more often, my husband made a simple at least one blog entry a week. Since I like my husband, A LOT, I will try my best to honor his request.

To cut back on calories, I immediately whip out from my Weight Watchers' collection this cookbook and found Turkey Chili. I always associate chili with the colder temperatures but turkey chili is lighter and refreshing which is perfect fro the warmer weather.

The recipe originally called for cubed turkey which I disregarded and used good ole' ground turkey. This may not have been the best decision as the recipe has you add the turkey to the chili rather than the chili to cooked turkey. This result was grainy ground turkey but it pulled together well when I added the beans.

1 teaspoon canola oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 zucchini, diced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ancho chili powder
1 (16oz) jar mild picante sauce
1/2 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 pound skinless, boneless, turkey breast, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 (15 1/2-ounce) can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
6 Tablespoons fat-free sour cream
2 Tablespoons fresh cilantro

Heat the oil in a nonstick Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic; cook stirring frequently, until golden, about 5 minutes. Add the zucchini, cumin, and chili powder; cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, about 2 minutes.

Stir in picante sauce and broth; bring to a boil. Add the turkey; reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, until the flavors are blended and the turkey is cooked through, about 20 minutes. Stir in the beans; return to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, until heated through, about 3 minutes.

Combine the sour cream and cilantro in a small bowl. Serve the chili with the cilantro cream.

Serves 4

Monday, October 19, 2015

Mexican Casserole

Mexican Casserole

A Taste of Heaven
Resurrection Council of Catholic Women

This is the local church cookbook that belonged to my aunt. I had discovered it several years after she had passed away. She had presented all the women in our family one of these cookbooks as a gift for Christmas. Almost 15 years after this book was originally published, this is coincidentally where my son attends first grade. Aww, how sweet.
As I mentioned before I'm always looking new ways to spice up Taco Tuesday. On a busy night, I prefer making casseroles because I'm able to stick it in the oven for about 45 to 50 minutes and try to do something useful.
The recipe is a little vague yet simple. I used three cloves minced garlic and one large onion, chopped and approximately four soft tortillas. I was not able to find the enchilada seasoning, so I accommodated by using 3 tablespoons taco seasoning which worked perfectly.

1 1/2 pound lean ground beef, browned
1 large onion
soft tortilla
1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce
1 package enchilada seasoning
1 pound shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 pound shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 can chili beans

 Mix seasoning with tomato sauce. Sauté garlic and onion, add to brown the hamburger. Spread small amount of sauce and bottom of 9 x 13 pan. Layer tortillas, beans, hamburger, cheeses and sauce. Repeat, ending with cheese and little sauce. Bake covered at 350° for 40 to 60 minutes.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Spaghetti Squash with Turkey Bolognese

Spaghetti Squash with Turkey Bolognese

The Skinnytaste Cookbook

Gina Homolka

Skinnytaste is one of my favorite cooking blogs. Gina Homolka prepares low calorie home cooked with loads of flavor.  In 2014, she published her first cookbook and of course for Christmas, I asked Santa for her cookbook. I have cooked so many dishes from her blog but none from the cookbook. I chose this lower carb spaghetti substitute to break it in.

The original recipe calls for microwaving the squash but I prefer mine roasted. Luckily, Gina includes instructions on how to bake as well. There is one thing I feel is missing and that is...garlic. I added three cloves, minced.

2 ounces pancetta, chopped 

1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter 
1/2 cup chopped onion 
1 celery stalk, minced 
1 medium carrot, minced
1.3 pounds 93% lean ground turkey 
kosher salt 
fresh cracked black pepper
 1/4 cup white wine 
1/2 tablespoon tomato paste 
3/4 cup 1% milk 
1(28- ounce) can crushed tomatoes 
1 Bay leaf
2 medium spaghetti squash
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

In a large Dutch oven, sautéed the pancetta over medium heat until the fat melts, about three minutes reduce heat to medium low, add butter, onion, celery, and carrots and cook until soft, 5 to 6 minutes. Increase the heat to medium high, add the turkey season with 3/4 teaspoon salt and pepper to taste. Cook until no longer pink, 7 to 8 minutes, breaking the meat up with a wooden spoon. Add the wine and cook until reduced, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the tomato purée, milk, tomatoes, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, 20 to 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, using a sharp knife, pierce the squash eight or nine times. Microwave on high for 6 minutes. Turn the squash and cook until the shell is tender, 5 to 8 minutes depending on the size. Let cool for 5 minutes. Halve the squash lengthwise. (There should be no resistance, but if there is, microwave it for a few minutes more. Remove the seeds and use a fork to scrape out the spaghetti like strands of squash.

Remove and discard bayleaf; stir in the basil. To serve put 1 cup spaghetti sauce squash in each of the 6 serving bowls and top each with a generous 3/4 cup of sauce.