Saturday, May 31, 2008


I love quiche. I think it's the perfect meal for breakfast or lunch or dinner. Add a piece of fruit, and you have breakfast. Add a salad, and you have lunch. Add some vegetables and fresh fruit, and you have dinner. A thick slab of quiche made with heavy cream, lots of eggs, and a butter crust will set you back quite a few calories. Besides, who wants to listen to their arteries hardening? This recipe is uncomplicated, quick, and easy on the waistline. It's one of those "skeletal" recipes in that you can swap the meat, add vegetables (spinach and/or mushrooms are particularly good), and use your favorite kind of cheese.

Crustless Quiche
6 slices of Canadian bacon, diced
1 cup shredded 2% Swiss cheese
4 scallions, sliced
1/2 cup Bisquick (or any other baking mix)
1 cup milk (I use skim)
salt and pepper
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a pie plate with nonstick cooking spray (I use glass pie plates). Sprinkle the Canadian bacon, cheese, and scallions in the pie plate. Stir the Bisquick, milk, salt and pepper, and eggs in a bowl, then pour into the pie plate. Bake 30-35 minutes (a toothpick inserted into center should come out clean). Let stand for a few minutes before serving. Yields 6 servings (2 Weight Watcher smiles per serving).

Friday, May 30, 2008


I fell in love with pizza buns in 1958. My family had just returned to New York after a short, but disastrous move to Arizona. We were in bad financial straits and, while my parents saved the money to get our furniture out of storage and moved back home, we lived in an absolutely dreadful 4 room cottage. I was in fourth grade and attending a strange school which I hated. I hated the school, the classroom, my get the picture. I cannot remember having a single friend from that 3 month period (yes, thankfully it was a short time). There were 2 things that got me through that awful episode in my life: the school had a fabulous library with a huge section of Grimm's fairy tales and every Friday they served pizza buns in the cafeteria. Unlike most of my southern Italian family, I do not like my food slathered in sauces and gravies. I do not like most condiments. To this day, I have no problem eating a turkey sandwich dry. So the fact that these pizza buns had virtually no tomato sauce on them was no problem for me. If I had to name my all-time favorite comfort food, it would be pizza; so when I am trying to shed some pounds, I need to be able to have my "fix" as often as I need to. These pizza buns are NOT like the ones served in the cafeteria. They DO have sauce on them as well as a few tasty toppings. If you're not up to making the pizza I posted a few weeks ago, these are fast, tasty, and don't cost too much in terms of calories or fat


5 light English muffins (Thomas' are great for this recipe)
1 cup your favorite tomato sauce (I like Prego Traditional and it's lowfat, low calorie)
1 cup lowfat shredded cheese (I used Weight Watchers, but Kraft 2% is a good choice, too)
garlic salt
olive oil non-stick spray

OPTIONAL TOPPINGS: sauteed red peppers and onions (leftover from last night's fajitas), 4 sliced turkey meatballs (I keep them in the freezer); I've used Hormel's turkey pepperoni on other occasions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Split the English muffins and place them on a cookie sheet. Place a spoonful of sauce on each muffin half and spread to edges. Sprinkle with garlic powder and oregano. Add the toppings: I added sauteed red peppers, onions, and sliced turkey meatballs. Divide the shredded cheese among the muffin halves. Spray the top with olive oil non-stick cooking spray to help the cheese melt. Bake for 15 minutes. Yield: 10 pizza buns. Each one is 2 WW "smiles"


Mom was an excellent cook, but didn't do much baking. That would surprise those who know her because she has a gigantic sweet tooth which is unfortunate since she's a diabetic. I tease her about thinking we were related to the Entennman's since there was always a box of this or that in the house. She did bake cream puffs and eclairs and Christmas cookies, but only for special occasions. Other than that, it was strictly Dugan's, Entennman's, and bakery goods for her. There was a simple dessert that she made that we all loved and that it was a snap to lighten up: chocolate ice box cake. You can tell from the name that it's an oldie. Somehow chocolate refrigerator cake just doesn't sound the same. If you have trouble getting enough calcium or you're looking for something light to satisfy your sweet tooth--or both--this will be just the thing. I loved it as a kid and I love it still. I've made it with a wide variety of sugar free, fat free pudding mixes, but always come back to chocolate.

Marie's Ice Box Cake
2 - 1 1/4 oz pkgs sugar free, fat free chocolate pudding (you can use instant)
4 cups skim milk
16-18 squares graham crackers (7-8 double sheets)
Optional: Cool Whip garnish

Prepare chocolate pudding according to package instructions. If you use the instant, it should be refrigerated overnight before serving to give the grahams a chance to soften up; if you use the cook and serve, you can serve the cake in about 4 hours, the time it takes to firm up and chill.

In an 8 X 8 inch square pan or dish (I prefer glass), make a single layer of graham crackers. You'll need to split one or two to make them fit. Ladle in half the prepared pudding. Top with a second single layer of grahams and ladle in the other half of the pudding. Crumble any remaining graham crackers over the top. Cover and refrigerate. I serve mine with lite Cool Whip. It's really good!

Thursday, May 29, 2008


Yes, you CAN have Mexican food--or Italian, Chinese, Hungarian--and still eat healthfully and take off the pounds. One of the reasons the prepackaged food programs never work for me in the long run is I feel deprived when I can't cook and the meals never taste real. There's always that little off-taste in the background. Any recipe can be lightened, tweaked, and otherwise coaxed into being more in line with what our bodies need. And, this doesn't have to mean that it won't taste as good or better.

This is day 3 back on program and I'm feeling light as a feather (okay, that's an exaggeration, but let's say my stomach isn't protruding quite as much as it was 2 days ago). Tonight we're having slimmed down beef fajitas. You could make the Ole Black Bean Soup as an appetizer and serve these with fat free refried beans and not even miss the rice!

1 package any brand fajita seasoning
2 tsp vegetable or Canola oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 lb flank steak (all fat removed)
2 large red peppers
1 large (Vidalia) onion
4 fat free flour tortillas
Optional: 2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and finely chopped

Prepare fajita package according to label instructions. Place in large ziploc bag with the flank steak. Turn to coat the beef and marinate in the refrigerator at least 2 hours (I often do this the day before). Seed the peppers and cut into 1/2 inch strips. Slice the onion into rings. Heat the oil in a large skillet and add the garlic. Saute on medium for 1 minute. Add the peppers and onions and saute on low for about 20 minutes, turning to prevent scorching (add jalapenos, if desired). Keep warm. Spray a grill with nonstick spray; remove the steak from the marinade; grill the steak, about 6 minutes on each side for medium-rare. (You can also cook the steak in the broiler, if you prefer.) Transfer meat to a cutting board and let rest about 5 minutes. In the meantime, heat the tortillas--either grill them or place in paper towels in microwave for about 10 seconds. Thinly slice the meat on the diagonal. Fill each tortilla with 1/4 of the steak and about 1 cup of the vegetables. I serve salsa and light sour cream on the side. Guacomole will add additional calories, but it's yummy.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


The first day back on program always feels the best. It was a relief not to have to digest anything greasy or sugary. Despite the fact that I love to eat out, being in control of what you eat guarantees you're going to love it. This morning I had a very filling breakfast that would help me confront my first yoga class in over a week. Weight Watchers has a very tasty strawberry cheesecake yogurt. I placed a serving of that in a bowl, then I sliced up a cup and a half of lucious, red, ripe strawberries and placed them on top of the yogurt. Next came half a cup of a lowfat raisin granola and a tablespoon of sliced almonds on top.
Tonight's dinner was an old favorite: fondue shrimp. I remember when fondue parties were all the rage in the seventies. My favorite was always the classic cheese fondue made with gruyere cheese and a good white wine. This dish is a very low fat, low calorie dish enhanced by a small amount of gruyere cheese. With such a virtuous entree, enjoy a glass of a good white wine, maybe a Santa Margherita Pinot Grigot.

Fondue Shrimp
1/2 lb very large shrimp
1 tbs lemon juice
1 tbs sherry
1 clove garlic, minced
3 tbs unseasoned bread crumbs
1 oz shredded Gruyere cheese*
1 tbs Olivio (or other spread)
salt and pepper to taste

Shell and devein the shrimp, leaving the tail in place; butterfly the shrimp by splitting each along the back, cutting deeply but not through to the other side. Open the shrimp so they lie flat.

In a small mixing bowl combine the lemon juice, sherry, and garlic. Reserve 1 tbs, then add the shrimp and toss to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes.

In another mixing bowl combine the bread crumbs, cheese, melted Olivio, salt, and pepper. Add 1 tbs of marinade mixture and combine until moistened.

Drain shrimp and discard marinade. Onto the center of each shrimp, spoon an equal portion of the cheese mixture, pressing it firmly so that it adheres to the shrimp. You may cook these two ways.
1)Arrange the shrimp in a circle in a shallow, microwave-safe casserole dish, stuffing side up and tails toward the center. Leave space between each shrimp. Cover with waxed paper and microwave on 50% power for 3-5 minutes. Check for doneness (shrimp should be pink).
2)Arrange the shrimp on a cooking sheet covered with foil. Broil 3-5 minutes, being careful not to burn.
*I bought a half pound brick of Gruyere, shredded it all, and placed what I didn't use in a freezer bag. The cheese will keep, frozen, for a few months.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


Well, it's official: my butt now has its own zip code. I was a very, very bad girl on vacation and now it's time to pay the piper. It's not as if I didn't know what I was doing or that Larry tied me down and force-fed me key lime pie, huge slabs of honeyed ribs, homemade chocolate hazelnut cake, and, did I mention key lime pie????? On the positive side, I read a hilarious book about weight loss, Jen Lancaster's Such a Pretty Fat. Although Jen is almost 20 years younger than I, we have the same bizarre sense of humor. I kept dissolving into hysterics for which I'd get a look from Larry. Each time I'd confide, "I could have written that!" I'm going to check out her blog at I'll let you know how it is.

My Weight Watcher's journal is out on the counter and I'm ready to get serious. Because of other commitments, I'll do it on my own (READ: get a head start) this week and attend my first (well, not my first first, my first THIS time) meeting next Tuesday. It's a new leader; I hope she's as good as the one I had last time. That one only works on Saturdays and that just didn't work. In honor of my recommitment to a healthy lifestyle, today I'll share one of my favorite chicken recipes. You may have noted that I'm a real fan of this bird. I'll add the photo tonight, so you know I'm really doing this.

Hoisin Chicken
1/3 cup hoisin sauce*
1/4 cup white wine or cooking sherry
2 tsp grated, peeled fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 lbs. skinless chicken legs (or thighs, if you prefer)

In a zip lock bag, combine the hoisin sauce, wine, ginger, and garlic, then add the chicken. Squeeze out the air, seal the bag, and refrigerate. Turn the bag a few times while this marinates. I prefer overnight, but a few hours will do. HINT: put bag in a bowl, just in case it leaks!

Preheat the oven to hot (425 degrees should do). Line a baking sheet with foil or use a disposable one. Spray the foil with nonstick spray. Place the chicken legs in a single layer on the baking sheet and roast until the legs are browned--about 25 minutes.
OPTIONAL, if you like crunchy stuff: sprinkle the legs with 2 tsp of toasted sesame seeds before serving.

*Hoisin sauce-if you haven't used this, you're in for a treat and will think of lots of other recipes it will enhance. Hoisin sauce is sweet and spicy at the same time. You need to refrigerate it once it's opened. It's readily available in the Chinese section of your supermarket.

Monday, May 26, 2008


When I bake, it's usually "from scratch." But over the years, I've found several recipes for desserts that use a cake mix or pudding mix as the base. I'll try this out and make any adjustments I think will improve the recipe before adding them to my collection. The recipe for this cake was given to me by Dot, one of my secretaries. I've made it countless times and shared the recipe just as often. It's one of those cakes that people are surprised to learn is very easy to make. Try it as is the first time. Then, if you like, experiment with adding fruit (e.g. drained crushed pineapple, drained sliced peaches) before you pour in the cake mix batter. Leftovers, if there are any, seem to improve with time (a day or two only, though).

Ricotta on the Bottom Cake
1 pkg. yellow cake mix
2 lbs. whole milk ricotta
4 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 cup sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease and flour a 13 X 9 inch baking pan. In a large bowl, prepare the cake mix according to package instructions (using the ingredients called for). Pour into the prepared baking panIn another bowl, beat the eggs, then add the ricotta, vanilla, and sugar and mix until well blended. Gently and evenly pour the cheese mixture over the cake batter. Bake about 1 hour. If still moist, turn off the oven and check every 10 minutes with a toothpick until no longer moist. Cool, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight for best results--do not eat hot! To serve, dust with confectioner's sugar.


I came to Mexican food very late in life. I'd always thought it must be too spicy for my tastes. It might have been better for my waistline if I'd never developed a taste for Mexican food, but all things in moderation is my motto. I'd always loathed the look of red kidney beans, so imagine my surprise when I actually ate them and liked them. That opened the door for me and it was just a matter of time before I tried black beans. First I ate them as an accompaniment to dinner. Then I tried black bean soup and found I really, really liked it and that it was really, really filled with fiber. Here's a very easy recipe that's great any time of year, with or without any other Mexican food. I love it AS the meal, with a green salad and some baked tortilla chips.

Ole Black Bean Soup
3/4 cup diced yellow onion
3/4 cup diced celery
1/2 cup diced carrot
1/4 cup diced red pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tbs. vegetable or canola oil
4 15 oz cans black beans
4 cups low fat chicken broth
1 tbs apple cider vinegar
2-3 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp salt
Garnish: shredded cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese, sour cream, chopped scallions

Heat the oil in a large, heavy saucepan or Dutch oven over low heat. Add the onion, celery, carrot, pepper, and garlic and sweat the veggies for 15 minutes--until the onions are almost translucent. Keep the heat low so the veggies don't brown. While the veggies sweat, rinse and strain the beans. Measure out 3 cups of the strained and drained beans and place them in a food processor with 1 cup of the chicken broth. Puree until smooth. When the veggies are done, pour the pureed beans, the remaining whole beans, the remaining cup of chicken broth, and all the seasonings into the pot and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook uncovered for 45 minutes to an hour (until thick).

Serve with the garnishes and feel virtuous. Look at all the fiber you're getting!

Sunday, May 25, 2008


Since Chinese food is a favorite of mine, I've played with many recipes over the years to lighten them and to make them quick and easy. If you've ever made Chinese food at home, you know that the most time-consuming part of the task is the preparation. Stir fry, as a cooking method, is both fast and healthful. It's assembling all the ingredients and the cutting and dicing that takes time. This is a delicious stir fry that incorporates lots of vegetables for that high fiber, but that uses very little fat. You can play with the vegetables--add more or use your own favorites. You could even substitute shrimp or pork for the chicken. Be adventurous!

Sesame Chicken with Broccoli and Bok Choy
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tbs rice wine (or use cooking sherry)
1 tbs sesame oil
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tsp fresh ginger root, minced
1 tbs sugar (optional)
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken (breasts or thighs), cut into bite-sized pieces
1 bunch scallions, cut in 1 inch lengths
3 cups fresh broccoli florets
3 cups Bok choy (or use Napa cabbage)
1 tbs cornstarch, dissolved in 2 tbs water
1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds
2-3 tbs peanut oil
2 cups cooked rice

Slice Bok choy into bite-sized pieces. In a bowl, stir together the soy sauce, rice wine, sesame oil, garlic, ginger, sugar, and sesame seeds. Add the cut up chicken and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour. In a wok or skillet, heat peanut oil over medium heat (about 2 minutes). Add scallions, broccoli, and bok choy. Stir fry 1 minute. Transfer to dish. Add chicken with marinade to wok. Stir fry about 3 minutes (until chicken is no longer pink). Remove with slotted spoon to dish with vegetables. Dissolve cornstarch in water and add to liquid in the wok. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture boils and thickens, then return the chicken and vegetables to the sauce and cook 1 minute more. Serve with rice.

Friday, May 23, 2008


I confess--I'm a compulsive recipe clipper. Some people clip coupons to save money (I do, too, I just forget to bring them with me half the time); I clip recipes to make "someday." I have it down to a system now. I mark the recipes I want to save the first time through a magazine. After the magazine has been lying around a few days, I go back to those pages I've marked and determine if I still want the recipe. If I do, I clip it. I put all the recipes I clip in one place and when they've sat around a while, I go through them again. I usually end up tossing half of them. The ones I keep, I put in a special location in my kitchen. When I've actually made the recipe, I rate it. My rating system is very simple: a dish gets a 0-10 and I only keep 7's and higher. I write on the recipe any changes I've made and any comments and then and only then does it enter the collection. If it's a recipe for everyday use, it goes into my album. I use a large photo album with the clear sheets. I've divided it roughly into appetizers, entrees, side dishes, and desserts. It's a simple matter of putting it under the plastic on a free page. If it's a recipe for a special occasion (e.g. holiday, birthday, brunch, etc.), then I make up or add it to a folder.

These file folders have made my life soooooo much easier. I have one for Weight Watcher recipes, one for Thanksgiving, one for Christmas, one for Easter, and one for Cookouts right now.
Thanksgiving's folder, for example, holds the following:

  • Thawing/Roasting Guidelines

  • article on "Hassel-free Thanksgiving"

  • article "Making Gravy the CIA Way"

  • Thanksgiving Shopping List

  • Menus from previous Thanksgivings

  • To Do list for the day before and the day of (a timeline)

  • recipe for "Classic Make-ahead Gravy" (the best!)

  • recipe for Sausage Roll Puffs (appetizer)

  • recipe for Quick Candied Sweet Potatoes

  • recipe for Smashed Rutabagas with Ginger-roasted Pears

  • recipe for Corn Casserole

  • recipe for Mashed Turnips with Nutmeg

  • recipe for Bourbon-Pecan Tart

  • recipe for Puree of Roasted Pear and Fennel Parmesan Soup

  • recipe for Spicy Sausage in Carozza

I can see at a glance what I served the year before and I have choices for some of my side dishes. The shopping list may be altered slightly depending on dishes added or subtracted, but a lot of the planning is already done for me. Believe me, this organization has saved me so much time. I highly recommend it.

Thursday, May 22, 2008


I felt really bad about not including a pie crust recipe for those who eschew commercially-prepared, so here's one that I do use, though far less often since the ready-made have gotten better. It's great for the key lime pie, but wonderful with fruit or puddings, too.

Simple Pastry Shell
1/2 cup vegetable shortening (like Crisco)
2 1/2 tbs. unsalted butter
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup ice water

Cut the shortening and butter into small pieces. Add the flour and salt to the mixture and use a pastry cutter to blend, adding water a few teaspoons at a time. Do not overmix. Pat the dough into a disk and wrap in plastic. Chill 1 hour. Roll into a circle on a floured surface. Fill with pie weights or use beans on top of waxed paper and bake for 20 minutes in a 350 degree oven. Remove weights and bake an additional 10 minutes. Cool before filling.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


One of the best--and worst--things about Longboat Key is the food. Every time we visit, there's a new restaurant to try. I won't deny I like dessert, but I seldom order it. I usually content myself with tasting Larry's (okay, sometimes I eat almost half). Unfortunately, when I was introduced to key lime pie, it became a bit of an obsession to find the very best key lime pie. As you read this, I may be trying a taste of a new one or relishing a taste of an old favorite. Because of this obsession, I had to develop a good recipe to make at home. I make this only for VERY special occasions because it is one that I have a hard time not eating. I hope you like it. By the way, I won't include a pie crust recipe here since you can buy ready-made that are so good. I prefer this in a regular pie crust, but it's equally good in a graham cracker crust.

8 oz cream cheese
8 oz Neufchatel cheese
3/4 cup key lime juice
14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp finely grated lime zest
whipped cream and slices of lime (optional)

Blend ingredients in a food processor until smooth. Pour into (baked) pie shell. Pipe whipped cream around the edges and garnish with slices of lime.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


One of my first cookbooks--I have an extensive collection--The Key to Chinese Cooking by Irene Kuo--introduced me to the concept of velveting. If you've ever eaten Chinese food, you can probably guess what this means. Think about the texture of the chicken in your chicken with broccoli or of the beef in your pepper steak. It's a simple process that adds an extra dimension to your dish. Try it in this simple recipe for a stir fry.

Chicken (or shrimp) Stir Fry
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 egg whites
1/4 tsp salt

1 lb chicken (boneless, skinless breast or thigh) OR shrimp (shelled, deveined)
1-2 tbs vegetable or canola oil
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 tbs fresh ginger, chopped
2 large crowns broccoli, separated into florets
2 carrots, cut on the diagonal
1/4 cup teriyaki sauce
3 tbs cooking sherry
1 tbs flour dissolved in 2 tbs water
1/4 cup cashews

2 cups cooked rice

To velvet the chicken (or shrimp):
Whisk the cornstarch and egg whites together and add the salt. Add the chicken and let stand for about 20 minutes. You can leave it in the refrigerator longer, if you wish.

To complete the dish:
Heat the oil in a wok or in a large, heavy skillet with high sides. Add the garlic and ginger and cook, stirring constantly, for about 1 minute. Remove from oil and set aside in a large bowl. Add chicken (or shrimp) and stir fry until meat is cooked through and opaque (do not overcook). Remove and combine with garlic and ginger that you set aside. Stir fry the broccoli and carrots for about 4 minutes. Return the chicken and garlic/ginger mixture to the pan. In a mixing bowl combine the teriyaki sauce, sherry, flour, and water. Whisk together and add to the pan, bring to a boil as you stir (to thicken sauce). Top with the cashews. Serve over rice.

Notice the texture of the meat!!!

Monday, May 19, 2008


I began quilting in the 80's, hand piecing and hand quilting, as a way to be more sociable when we were cruising. I had a tendency to bury my nose in a book unless we were at a meal or on an excursion. Since I couldn't knit and didn't like to crochet or do counted cross stitch, I decided to teach myself to quilt. Being the cerebral type, I bought a few books on the subject--I know, initially my plan had a flaw--and then bought a kit for my first effort. I still have that small Ohio Star quilt on a stand in our bedroom. Because I was working full time, my output over the next 20 years was small. I loved quilting, mainly because it wasn't something I "did in my head." It relaxed me--yes, even making teeny, tiny stitches with a teeny, tiny needle--and I began to take classes and buy more quilting stuff. You know that stuff is part of every hobby; it's not just a man thing. Probably my most ambitious project from my hand quilting days is the twin sized applique quilt I made for my sister's son, my Godson. He still has it; I haven't seen it, but hope to one of these days.

In 2000 or 2001 , Larry bought me my first sewing machine, an inexpensive Brother. I had asked for just such a machine for Christmas, figuring if my efforts at learning to machine quilt didn't pan out, we wouldn't be stuck with an expensive clothes hanger. That machine sat in the box for over a year, which makes me recall it was 2000. In 2001, I was in a bad car accident and while I was recuperating, thought I'd give the machine a try. My efforts to thread the bobbin and the machine very nearly made me give up. Seven years later, I own 2 Pfaff machines, one an embroidery machine; the walls of our log home will probably not hold any more wall hangings; a generation of babies at the school where I was principal have grown up with one of my baby quilts; and, I am in the process of finishing a rather difficult queen-sized quilt for our bed.

Machine piecing is "the bomb." I don't feel as passionate about machine quilting, though I've done some simple stuff. I now have a sewing room where I can store the many books and quilt-related stuff that I've accumulated and it just doesn't get any better as a hobby. I just made and donated 2 lap quilts to the nursing home center where I volunteer (and mom resides) and I still take classes whenever possible.

I love quilting as much as I love cooking and it's surely less fattening!

Check out my friend Susan's blog on the subject:

Sunday, May 18, 2008


I usually do quite a lot of planning when I'm having a crowd to dinner. That's true even if it's just a cookout. It may seem a long way off to you, but Fourth of July will be here before you know it, so I'm starting to jot some notes down as I plan the menu. I'll have to do a post on my "folder system" soon.

I've been making these simple BBQ wings since the 70's. The original recipe came from my friend Norma. I've tweaked them and they're still easy and still delicious. My one warning is this: make them in a disposable aluminum pan. The clean up isn't worth it!

3 lbs wings, tip removed, separated into 2 pieces
2 tbs vegetable or canola oil
salt and pepper
1 cup honey
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup ketchup
3 cloves garlic, chopped finely

Wash and dry the wings. In a large, shallow disposable aluminum pan, mix the wings with the oil until they are coated, then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Mix together the honey, soy sauce, ketchup, and chopped garlic and pour over the wings, turning to coat. Bake 60-75 minutes, until wings are carmelized. Turn once during cooking. These reheat well, but lose their crispiness if you do reheat.

Friday, May 16, 2008

I'd Rather Eat Appetizers

I'm one of those people who enjoys the cocktail hour food more than the dinner itself. Whether you call them puu puus, antipasti, hors d'oeuvres, tapas, dim sum, or just plain old appetizers, they are, by far, my favorite part of dinner. Yes, I like them better than dessert. I won't lie and say I never take a pig-in-the-blanket off the tray, but my tastes run more to bacon wrapped shrimp or crab cakes or a good piece of sopressata and provolone.

One of my all time favorite appetizers combines 3 things that I just can't get enough of: garlic, pesto, and goat cheese. Make that 4 things: toasted baguette rounds, too. This isn't difficult to make, but it makes a wonderful presentation. More importantly, some of this spread with a good glass of Sangiovese can make me swoon.

Roasted Garlic, Pesto, and Goat Cheese on Toasted Baguette

For the roasted garlic:
1 large head of garlic
olive oil

For the pesto:
2 garlic cloves
1/2 cup pine nuts
2 cups fresh basil
1/3 tsp. salt
2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

For the baguette slices:
1 large baguette
2 tbs melted butter

To make the roasted garlic:
Cut a bit less than 1/3 off the top of the head of garlic. Place on a sheet of aluminum foil. Drizzle with olive oil, grind some fresh pepper and sea salt over the garlic. Wrap foil tightly and bake in a 375 degree oven for 40 minutes.

To make the pesto:
With the motor of your food processer running, drop in garlic and chop finely. Stop the motor and add the pine nuts, basil leaves, and salt. Process until chopped. With motor running, add oil until incorporated. Chill until ready to use. Makes 1 cup.

To make the baguette slices:
Slice the baguette into thin (less than 1/4 inch) slices. Place on a baking sheet and brush melted butter over one side. Bake in a 200 degree (slow) oven for 30 minutes. Check them; if not totally crisp, continue baking and checking every 15 minutes.

Purchase a log of goat cheese.

Assemble the appetizer:
Unwrap the log of goat cheese and let it come to room temperature. Gently squeeze each clove of garlic out of its skin. Arrange the goat cheese, pesto, roasted garlic in small crocks and surround with the baguette slices. Provide cheese spreaders. OR Layer each baguette slice with some goat cheese; top with a dab of pesto and a garlic clove. OR You can combine the goat cheese, garlic, and pesto and serve as a spread with the baguette slices.

Anyway you serve this, you will get raves!


I love collecting apt quotations. I added a new one to my collection today:

"The torch of love is lit in the kitchen."

Isn't that the truth? There are lots of cliches about food and love. The funny thing is that most of them ring true. The kitchen has always been the heart of every home I've lived in. I don't think my cooking every hurt my chances with a man. And you already know my feelings about "Food is love."

If you want to "share the love," just whip up these fast, simple flourless cakes with a pudding-like center.

3 sticks unsalted butter
3/4 cup water
12 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped (use a GOOD chocolate)
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 tbs instant coffee
pinch of salt
3 tbs dark rum OR coffee liqueur OR your favorite liqueur
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
6 large eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and butter six (6) one and one-quarter (1 1/4) cup custard cups or souffle cups. Combine the butter and water in a large, heavy saucepan over medium high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring until the butter is completely melted. Remove from the heat, then add the chocolate, sugar, coffee, and salt. Stir until the chocolate is completely melted and the mixture is smooth. Stir in the liqueur and the vanilla. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs until blended. Gradually whisk in the chocolate mixture. Divide the chocolate mixture among the prepared cups. Bake until the edges crack slightly but the center 2 inches remain glossy and soft (about 25 minutes). Serve the cakes warm. They're wonderful with a dab of whipped cream and raspberry sauce or vanilla ice cream.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


"Lighten up" is good advice whether you're talking about life in general or about what you eat. One positive result of being a Lifetime Weight Watcher, albeit one who's not at goal, is that I've learned over the past 35 years how to take a recipe and rework it to reduce calories, fat, and sugar and, when possible, to increase fiber. I've subscribed to Prevention magazine and Cooking Light for a while and have tried many of the recipes and weight loss tips I've read there; but, I think it's more important to take favorite recipes and rework them since these are the foods you obviously like and the recipes that you turn to on a daily basis.

One of my favorite "lite" dishes is eggplant parmigiana. For those of you who garden and find yourselves with a bumper crop of zucchini, this recipe would work equally well, though I must confess I've never tried it since I abhor zucchini. You can freeze this dish, but I find it extrudes too much liquid when it is reheated, so I'd just make one batch at a time.


1-2 eggplants (about 1 1/2 lbs) pared and sliced into 1/2 inch rounds
1 egg white, beaten with 2 Tbs water
1/2 cup seasoned Italian bread crumbs
1 cup ready-made sauce (try to keep calorie count below 140 and fat and sugar low)
3/4 cup shredded 2% mozzarella cheese
3 Tbs grated cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and spray 2 baking sheets with non-stick cooking spray. Dip each eggplant round in egg white, then into bread crumbs. Arrange on the prepared baking sheets. Bake for 25 minutes, turn slices over carefully,and bake another 10-15 minutes. Remove from the oven. In an 8 X 8 inch glass baking dish, spread 1/4 cup of sauce. Arrange eggplant round in a single layer over sauce. Top with 1/2 cup of sauce and 1/2 the shredded mozzarella. Place another layer of eggplant, top with remaining sauce, and sprinkle with grated cheese. Cover and bake for approximately 30 minutes. Remove cover and bake an additional 5-10 minutes. Makes 4 servings.


In just a few weeks it will be the start of barbecue season. I was well into my 20's before I realized that not everyone held the same kind of BBQ's as my family did. I was raised in the Hudson Valley and the Palisdade Park system was a short distance from our home. My mother and her sisters, brother, mother, and assorted children would frequently plan BBQ's in one of the parks that provided grills. The men would often leave as early as 6 AM (to beat the "city folk" to the best spots) and get breakfast started. They'd lug griddles and skillets and start the day with bacon, eggs, sausage, and other "typical" BBQ foods. The women and children would join them in time for a hearty start to the day, and then the cooking would begin in earnest. Huges pots of boiling water would be placed on one grill; pots of sauce which contained meatballs, sausage, braciola, pigs' feet, and other assorted meats would be placed on another grill to reheat. I think my mother's sister-in-law would bring hot dogs for whatever kids wanted them (she, of course, was not Italian). While most parents insisted that their children not go into the water for an hour after eating, our family needed to draw that out a bit given the menu.

This type BBQ was later replaced by a more Americanized version, one which DID include hot dogs and hamburgers and even potato and macaroni salad (all homemade, of course) for those who didn't like our more traditional fare.

When Larry and I began planning our first BBQ in our new home, it was clear that we were from two very different schools of thought regarding cookouts. I'm pleased to say that we've compromised and that you can usually find hamburgers, hot dogs, potato salad, pesto pasta salad, and baked beans in addition to the "real" BBQ food.

One of my favorite BBQ foods is shredded BBQ pork. I have used two different methods to make this wonderful dish. One involves slow roasting in the oven and then shredding with two forks, a lot of work and a bit of clean up. The other is a slow simmered BBQ pork which you can do on the stove in a Dutch oven, or the way I prefer--in the crockpot. I love this dish served with really good cole slaw and either mashed potatoes or potato salad. It's great on a roll as well. I always include it at our cookouts.
2 1/2 lb boneless pork shoulder
3/4 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp salt
pepper to taste
2 cups ketchup
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce

Cut the pork shoulder crosswise into 1/4 inch slices (it slices more easily if it's partially frozen). Combine all ingredients in the crock pot, mixing well. Cook on low setting for 7 or 8 hours (pork should be tender), stirring occasionally.
Combine all ingredients in a Dutch oven, mixing well. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and cover. Simmer for 2 1/2 to 3 hours, stirring occasionally.

The pork shreds itself and has a wonderful flavor, either method you use.

Monday, May 12, 2008


I'm sure there are people who don't like pizza. Personally, I've never met them. Finding a good pizzeria isn't a goal, it's a quest. Whether you like thin crust pizza or thick Sicilian style; tomato sauce and cheese only, or pizza with lots of different toppings, you can make your own pizza at home quite easily. If you have the time and inclination, you can make your own dough. But if it's a quick dinner you're after, you can buy premade pizza dough or get pizza crust in a can. Honestly, it's quite good! Here's a little tutorial on making everyone's favorite food.

1 can pizza crust (look for it in the biscuit/crescent roll section)
1/2 - 3/4 cup of your favorite ready-made sauce
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1/2 tsp butter + 1/2 tsp olive oil
2 piquillo peppers or red roasted peppers, sliced
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella
1/4 cup grated cheese
6 ready-made turkey meatballs, sliced (or substitute sliced sausage or pepperoni)
garlic salt, oregano

In a small saute pan, heat the butter and oil. Saute
the onions over low heat for about 20 minutes . This will carmelize them.

Open can of pizza crust. Lightly spray a 9 X 13 rimmed pan with
cooking spray and pat out the crust.

Top the dough with the sauce, spreading it to within a half-inch of the edge. Season with garlic salt and oregano.

Add half the shredded mozzarella, then layer the meatball slices, the sliced red peppers, the onions, and the other half of the mozzarella. Top with the grated cheese.

Preheat oven according to crust package instructions (usually 400 degrees) and bake for 15 to 20 minutes. Slice and enjoy! You'll get 8 generous slices. Leftovers freeze well if there are any.


Of course I mean DIET. I've spent the better part of my adult life trying to lose a few pounds. Unfortunately, I've lost and found the same pounds countless times. I'm a Lifetime member of Weight Watchers, but quite a few pounds over my goal. Those few pounds, you see, have added interest now. I jumped on the Phen-Fen diet about 12 years ago and got back into a size 6. I was blissfully unaware of food, often forgetting to eat; I was filled with energy. I stayed thin for as long as I took those little pills, then over a period of 3 years, put back most of it. I spent a year on the beach--South Beach, that is--but couldn't get past the 12 pound mark. I spent one very long month on Medifast and lost the same 12 pounds. Medifast severely limits calories and I still didn't lose any faster. I just had an argument, one-sided, with an "expert" on TV. She was talking about Jenny Craig and how anyone would lose on a 1200 calorie-a-day diet. Oh, yeah??

To be perfectly honest, I know how to lose weight and I know how to keep it off. It's just really, really hard. It's even harder when you love everything about food. I love to read about it; I love to play with it; I love to seek it out. Most days I follow a healthy eating plan. I exercise at least 3 times a week. BUT, we travel often and eat out frequently and the other 4 days that I don't exercise means that all that spells disaster. I'm getting ready to return--bodily, this time--to Weight Watcher meetings (I need another week or two to wrap my head around it) and hope that I will follow through with my new resolve. I know I'll never see size 6 again, but I'd be mighty happy to return to a healthy size 10.

With this in mind, let me refresh MY memory and share with those who might be interested, a few healthy recipes designed to promote weight loss.

8 oz cooked, shredded chicken
1 can fat free refried beans (or substitute 1 can drained, rinsed black beans)
1 small jar salsa
4 oz shredded 2% cheddar cheese
shredded lettuce
4 tsp low fat sour cream
Spray an 8X8 inch pan with cooking spray and spread beans evenly. Layer the chicken, salsa, and cheese on top. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Cut into 4 portions and top each with shredded lettuce and sour cream.

1 8oz package reduced fat crescent rolls
4 oz Canadian bacon, diced
1 cup 2% cheddar cheese
1 cup diced veggies (e.g. red pepper, onion, mushroom, asparagus)
1 1/4 cup egg white product (OR, 3 eggs plus 2 more egg whites)
1/4 cup skim milk

Place crescent roll triangles onto an ungreased pizza pan or pan with rimmed sides. Press together to make crust. Spread Canadian bacon, veggies, and cheese on top of crust. In a bowl, whip egg white product and milk together. Pour over crust. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 25-30 minutes. Cut into 8 pieces. (Great reheated, too)

1 1/4 lb uncooked, boneless and skinless chicken breast
1 can fat free cream of mushroom soup
10 reduced fat homestyle biscuits
2 cups water
1 tbs. chicken bouillion
season to taste
Cut chicken breast into bite-sized pieces. Add chicken, soup, water, and bouillion to a crock pot. Season (salt, pepper, thyme or your favorite). Cook 5 1/2 hours on low. Tear biscuits into 1 inch pieces and add to pot. Cook 30 minutes more, adjusting to high heat. Makes six 3/4 cup servings.

Sunday, May 11, 2008


Before I retired, I had to find a solution for getting dinner on the table at a reasonable hour despite a job that required me to work long hours and a commute that was one hour each way. I also took into account the many evening meetings that would keep me from making dinner at all. While Larry was single for many years and could feed himself, I knew that his menu would be severely limited (hot dogs, fishsticks, take-out Chinese being his best dishes). My plan of attack was two-fold: I developed a number of dishes that could be on the table in 30-45 minutes for those days when I got home at a reasonable hour; and, recipes that could be made ahead with either enough leftovers for a second night or a completely different dish from essentially the same ingredients. Of course, this meant that I was usually doing some cooking on Saturday night or Sunday morning, but that sure beat racing home from work and not having any time to decompress before starting in on dinner. I'm including recipes for each of these approaches.


Italian-style Stuffed Peppers and Meatloaf
2 lbs. lean ground beef
2 eggs

6 cubanelle peppers
1/2 cup grated cheese
1 cup bread crumbs
1 cup cooked rice (white or brown)
1 clove garlic, chopped
salt, pepper
1 cup lukewarm water

1 package onion soup mix
1 can tomato soup

Place ground beef in a large bowl. Add both eggs, bread crumbs, salt and pepper and mix well. Gradually add the cup of lukewarm water and mix until it has been completely absorbed. Divide this mixture in half.

Into the first half add the garlic, grated cheese, cooked rice, 1/2 can tomato soup, and salt and pepper to taste. Remove stem and seeds from the cubanelles and and place on a microwave-safe dish. Cook at full power for about 5 minutes. Be sure to drain on paper towels, then stuff each with 1/6 of the mixture. Top with the other half of the tomato soup. Bake for 45 minutes at 375 degrees.

Into the second half add the onion soup mix. Be sure to mix well. Add pepper (probably won't need salt). Shape into a loaf. Bake for 35-40 minutes at 350 degrees.

Voila! Two night's worth of dinners that reheat in the microwave.


Italian Wedding Soup
1 small onion, grated
1 egg
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp salt
1 slice of crustless white bread torn into small pieces
1/2 cup grated cheese
1 lb. lean ground beeft

12 cups chicken broth (commercial is what I use)
1 lb. escarole, chopped
2 eggs
1/4 cup grated cheese

To make the meatballs: Stir the onion, egg, bread, and garlic together. Add the cheese and beef. Add the salt and mix well. On a baking sheet, shape into 1 inch meatballs.

To make the soup: Bring the broth to a boil in a large pot. Add the meatballs and the escarole and simmer about 8 minutes. Whisk the eggs and cheese together. Stirring the soup in a circular motion, gradually add the egg mixture into the swirling broth with a fork so that thin strands of egg form (about 1 minute). Season to taste with salt and pepper.

This recipe makes enough for 2 nights. On the first night, I serve the soup as the main course with a salad to start and garlic bread. On the second night, I serve the soup as a hearty appetizer and follow with a panini or a pizza.

The meatloaf and the soup freeze well and will keep in your freezer for 3 months.

Saturday, May 10, 2008


You know how some women can't pass a cosmetics' counter without picking up something? That's the way I am--and have always been--about food gadgets and appliances. I discovered Williams Sonoma as a young bride, back in the early 70's. I'd literally drool when I received the catalogs. Later, when his stores opened up locally, I thought I'd died and gone to Heaven. Some of the must have's I've purchased over the years include:

cake pans and cookie molds for just about any dessert e.g Madelaine pans (remember those cookies Proust wrote about?)
mezza luna
dumpling maker
non-stick straight-sided skillet
pasta machine
espresso/cappuccino machine
food processor
stand up food mixer
electric slicer
panini grill
quesadilla maker
Le Creuset Dutch oven
crock pot
Tassimo single cup beverage machine
deep fryer
turkey fryer

The list could go on and on, but you get the picture. Let me be perfectly honest and say that if I had to hone this list (and the many items that are not on this list but are sitting in my closets) down to those absolute essentials, they would include my food processor, which is 33 years old; my Le Creuset Dutch oven in which I made soups, sauces, pot roast, and lots of other good stuff; my stand up mixer, which makes bread-making and baking a snap; my panini grill, which I've waxed eloquent about in another post; and, my deep, straight-sided skillet, which doubles as a wok. With these 5 "tools," I can make just about anything.

Over the years the number of food catalogs I receive has increased dramatically, but I still find most of what I need at Williams Sonoma. I try to limit the number of junk drawers in my kitchen to 3, but I'm always on the lookout for another toy. After all, why should men have all the fun?

Friday, May 9, 2008


I've always been a fan of sandwiches. Who can resist gooey grilled cheese with a side of tomato soup? And, I like to think I was ahead of the pack when it came to wraps. I was using flour tortillas to house my grilled veggies long before "real" wraps hit the markets. One of the first kitchen tools I purchased at Williams Sonoma was a sandwich maker that turned out shell-shaped toasted beauties. How I long for a gas stove! But it was love at first sight when the panini grill was invented. It took me 3 Christmas lists to finally score one, but I'm so glad it did because I got the Cadillac of panini grills, the Breville Ikon. This little beauty has pride of place on my counter, is a breeze to clean, and turns out one perfect panini after another in less time than it takes to assemble the ingredients. I've used many types of bread--potato rolls, Cuban rolls, whole wheat tortillas, whole grain bread--but my favorite by a mile is Arnold's Brick Oven WHITE sandwich bread. Yes, this health-conscious baby boomer has returned to white bread, if only for panini. It takes no great imagination to put together a good panini: bread, some type of spread, maybe some meat and/or veggie, and, of course, cheese, the primo ingredient. My two favorite concoctions so far are the Cubano panini and the chicken salad supreme. The recipes that follow are guidelines. Be creative!

2 slices Arnold's Brick Oven white sandwich bread
spicy brown mustard
sliced roast pork, Genoa salami,
Swiss cheese
Kosher dill pickle slices
Spread each slice of bread with mustard. On one slice layer the roast pork, salami, Swiss cheese, and pickles. Top with another slice of Swiss cheese and second slice of bread. Grill until cheese melts. (Great with a glass of Sangria)

Chicken salad:
4-5 oz poached chicken breast
2-3 Tbs. Craisins or dried cranberries
2-3 Tbs. sliced almonds
salt, pepper to taste
1/2 - 1 tsp onion powder

I like to put the chicken, mayonnaise, salt, pepper, and onion powder in a food processor and chop finely. Mix with mayonnaise (I didn't give a measurement since I like it dry and most people like it creamy.) Then, I add the Craisins and almonds.

2 slices of bread
2 slices cheddar cheese
2 strips cooked bacon

On 1 slice of bread place a slice of cheddar, then chicken salad. Top with the bacon and second slice of cheese. Grill. This one is addictive!

Thursday, May 8, 2008


I wasn't born a food snob. Like all prejudices, it began at home. I remember the school nurse calling my mother to report that I was not eating my lunch--not a problem these days, regrettably--and suggesting that she make me peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. My mother gave her an earful on the subject of peanut butter and jelly, something we did not have in our home until my father developed a taste for it when he was well into his 50's. We also did not have cream cheese, cottage cheese, sour cream, fish sticks, canned ravioli, casseroles of any kind--what my mother, a second generation American, deemed "ah-meh-dee-gan"; or, "American" food. Sad to say that my disdain for "inferior" foods only grew worse. Many foods were relegated to inferior status: iceberg lettuce; all canned fruits and vegetables; bottled sauces and salad dressings. Early on, I guess you could say that anything that wasn't prepared from scratch was deemed inferior. I am a harsher critic of restaurants than any NY Times critic--just ask Larry! Then, about 10 years ago, I noticed a seeming contradiction in my formerly "pure" palate. I began to like, then crave, certain dishes that could only be described as the lowest form of cooking. Suddenly casseroles and desserts prepared from store-bought ingredients made it to my table, first just for the two of us and then for company. It had finally happened. I was now truly assimilated. If you promise not to tell, I'm going to share two of my favorite "dirty little secrets."

(I call these church potatoes because this is just the kind of casserole you might find at a covered dish supper. These are equally good at brunch or dinner. People practically lick the bowl clean.)

1 2 lb package frozen hash brown potatoes
1 10 3/4 oz cans cream of mushroom soup
3 cups grated cheddar cheese
1 cup sour cream
3 finely chopped scallions

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Mix well. Transfer to a lightly greased 13X9X2 glass baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees for about 75 minutes.


7 Hershey Skor bars, finely crushed (leave wrappers on to do this)
1 chocolate pudding cake OR pan of brownies OR any chocolate cake, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup coffee liqueur
4 boxes of chocolate mousse, prepared according to package instructions
freshly made whipped cream (1 pint cream; 1/4 cup confectioner's sugar; 1 tsp vanilla)

In a pretty glass bowl layer:
1/2 chocolate cake pieces
1/2 mousse
3 Skor bar pieces
1/2 whipped cream

Repeat and top with 7th Skor bar. Refrigerate and serve. Be ready for lots of moaning.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008


Pasta isn't just for Italians anymore. In fact, when I was growing up, we never called it pasta; we called it macaroni. No matter what you call it, no one ever seems to get enough pasta. It's inexpensive, delicious, and easy to put together. There's a pasta for everyone: meat eater, vegetarian, dieter, child, and old codger. Shapes run the gamut from tubes to butterflies to shells to wagon wheels. Why, there are even colored pastas if plain old beige doesn't do it for you. Whether you have an afternoon or just 30 minutes to prepare a meal, you can find a pasta dish that will feed you inexpensively and well. Here are a few of my favorite pasta dishes.


6 slices diced bacon
1 finely chopped onion
1 28 oz can plum tomatoes, crushed or blended
1 1/2 tsp sugar
salt and pepper
1 lb. farfalle pasta
1/4 cup heavy cream
Asiago cheese, grated

Brown the bacon, discarding all but 2 Tbs. of fat. Set bacon aside. Saute the onion in the bacon fat. Add the tomatoes with juices, sugar, salt and pepper to taste. As sauce simmers, prepare pasta according to package directions. When pasta is done, add cream to sauce, then add drained pasta. Top with reserved bacon and Asiago cheese.


2 Tbs. butter
1 diced shallot
4-6 diced, seeded plum tomatoes
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup vodka
fresh basil ( a few leaves)
3/4 lb. penne pasta
Asiago cheese, grated

Melt the butter in a heavy skillet or Dutch oven. Saute the shallot a few minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook 5 minutes. Add the cream, vodka, and basil and simmer 5 - 8 minutes. Turn off heat while you prepare the pasta according to package instructions. Turn heat back on under sauce until hot, then add pasta, toss to coat, top with cheese, and serve.


8 oz. spaghetti
1/2 cup grated cheese (I prefer Locatelli Romano here)
salt and pepper to taste
1 large egg plus 1 large egg white
2 oz. chopped Pancetta (if unavailable, use chopped center cut bacon)
2 large leeks, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, finely minced

Be sure to clean leeks thoroughly. Boil water for the pasta. At the same time, cook pancetta in a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat until crisp. Remove pancetta from skillet and add leeks to pan drippings, sauteing 3-4 minutes. Add garlic to skillet and cook an additional minute. Combine cheese, salt, pepper, egg, and egg white in a bowl, stirring with a whisk. Gradually add 1/3 - 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking liquid. Drain pasta and add it to skillet with leeks and garlic. Reduce heat, add cheese mixture and pancetta and cook for 1 minute, tossing well to coat. Serve immediately.


1 lb. lean ground beef
1/2 lb. ground pork
1/ lb. ground veal
2 eggs
1 garlic clove, finely minced
1 small onion, grated
salt and pepper
1 cup grated cheese (I prefer Locatelli Romano) OR 2 cups seasoned bread crumbs
4 slices white bread, crusts removed, torn into pieces
1/4 cup milk
2 cups lukewarm water
1 cup oil

Soak the breadin the milk for a few minutes. Combine in a large bowl: bread, beef, pork, veal, eggs, cheese, garlic, salt and pepper to taste. Use your hands to blend ingredients. Add bread crumbs, then add water, 1 cup at a time, until mixture is moist. Shape the meat into 3 inch balls. Heat the oil in a large skillet and fry the meatballs in batches. Don't crowd the skillet; you want the meatballs to brown and be slightly crispy. When bottom half is browned, gently turn over and brown the other side. Drain well on paper towels.

1 carrot
1 stalk celery
1 medium onion
2 garlic cloves
1 large can Italian plum tomatoes (San Marzano, of course)
salt and pepper
basil, 3-4 leaves
2 Tbs. tomato paste
3 Tbs. olive oil

In a food processor, chop carrot, celery, onion, and garlic. In a heavy skillet or Dutch oven, heat oil until hot, but not smoking. Add chopped vegetables and saute about 5 minutes. Add tomato paste and cook on low an additional minute. Blend tomatoes and juices to consistency you prefer (I don't like chunks, so I puree). Add tomatoes and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook 1 hour. Add meatballs and cook for an additional 20 minutes. Serve over your favorite spaghetti (I love spaghettini) and top with lots of grated Asiago.

These are some of my favorite pastas. The farfalle with bacon-tomato sauce and the penne vodka are very easy. The spaghetti carbonara is all about timing. And, who doesn't like spaghetti and meatballs. Of course, the cook gets to sample the just-out-of-the-frying pan crunch of the meatball and, if there are any leftovers, they make great sang-wiches, as my mother's family used to call them.



Even if you comb the flyers, you won’t always be prepared for some of the specials you’ll find during your weekly shopping trip. While I try to limit the number of “impulse” purchases, I won’t pass up a good sale. What this does is build up my stash of cupboard staples for those weeks when we’ve spent too much and the grocery budget is shot, or I’ve gotten lazy and haven’t hit the supermarket. That’s when my creative juices get flowing and I “shop my cupboard” for dinner. Some of the meals that have come out of this adventure have actually made it into my regular rotation. Let me share just a few to give you some ideas so that you can shop your cupboard and save time and money. I like to try this about once a month. I won’t claim that I can go a whole week without shopping for anything (milk, bread, and fresh veggies just don’t last), but I can get by for quite a few days.

1 pound of any type pasta (except spaghetti-style pastas) or egg noodles
1 large jar of ready-made tomato sauce
1 container of cottage cheese or ricotta cheese
2 eggs
salt, pepper, garlic powder, oregano
grated cheese

Prepare pasta according to package instructions and drain. Spray a large casserole dish with cooking spray. Mix eggs and cottage/ricotta cheese together and season to taste with salt, pepper, garlic powder, oregano, and grated cheese. Pour pasta into casserole dish and stir in cottage cheese mixture. Add jar of sauce and combine well. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 45 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes, then serve. Makes 6-8 generous servings.

1 pound skinless, boneless chicken (breasts or thighs work)
1 can cream of mushroom (or chicken or broccoli) soup
1 cup rice
1 package frozen broccoli, defrosted

1 1/3 cups water

Cut chicken into bite-sized pieces. Spray a large casserole dish with cooking spray. Add broccoli, rice, soup, and water. Mix well. Lay chicken pieces on top. Cover and bake at 375 degrees 45 minutes or until rice and chicken are done. Serves 4.


8 eggs
½ onion, sliced thinly OR several scallions, sliced
sliced red peppers (1 fresh OR several jarred OR ½ package frozen)
1 can drained mushrooms (use fresh, if you have them)
1 Tbs. olive oil

cheese (any kind)—shredded (no more than 3-4 ounces)
seasoning (I love Sazon, but use whatever you have on hand)

OPTIONAL: several slices ham or Canadian bacon, diced

Beat the eggs, adding just a splash of water. Slice and dice all other ingredients. Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Saute onions, peppers, mushrooms (any other veggies) several minutes over medium heat. Add beaten eggs and seasonings (and meat, if you wish) and cook over medium heat, without stirring, until bottom begins to brown (you can lift the edges of the frittatta and tilt the pan so that the runny egg runs underneath). Turn omelet over (you may want to slide it on a dish, then invert it into pan) and allow other side to brown. Top with cheese and slice into wedges.


1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 can cannelloni beans, rinsed and drained
1 can corn, drained
½ onion, chopped
red pepper, chopped (use roasted if fresh not available)
vinegar, red wine or Balsamic
olive oil
salt, pepper, oregano

Combine first 6 ingredients in a large bowl. Combine 1 Tbs. vinegar, 3 Tbs. olive oil, and seasonings to taste and pour over ingredients. Toss gently. A great side dish to hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken, ribs.

*feel free to use other types of beans


1 cup Arborio rice
½ onion, chopped
3 ½ cups broth, chicken or vegetable
1 Tbs. olive oil
1 Tbs. butter
grated cheese

Optional add in’s to make this an entrĂ©e: cooked chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces; cooked shrimp; diced leftover pork or beef

In a microwave safe bowl, add 1 Tbs. olive oil and 1 Tbs. butter and microwave uncovered for 2 minutes. Add chopped onion and microwave for another 3 minutes. Stir in 1 cup Italian Arborio rice and microwave for 5 minutes. Stir rice and onion mixture, then add 3 ½ cups broth. Microwave for 9 minutes. Stir the mixture well and microwave for an additional 9 minutes. Top with grated cheese. (If adding in cooked meat or seafood, add during the last 3 minutes, just enough to heat it.)

Most of the recipes I create when I shop my cupboard are quite simple, relying on just a few ingredients and generally taking between 30 to 45 minutes, start to finish. Here are some suggestions for items to stock your cupboard (and freezer):


cream soups
spaghetti sauce
mushroom pieces
roasted red peppers
Arborio rice
frozen vegetables (broccoli, stir fry, asparagus)

I hope this gets you started. I'll be adding "Shop Your Cupboard" recipes as I invent them.