Tuesday, November 30, 2010

"I'm not a glutton-I am an explorer of food." ~ Erma Bombeck

    One of the many things I love about "Babe" is his willingness to explore with his taste buds and openness to try new things.  This is not an easy task for most health nuts, that seem to live their lives with under indulgences and limited moments of culinary joy.  Babe has his balance in check - he eats very healthy, exercises religiously, and every once in a while, enjoys some of life's most wonderful gifts, like almond M & Ms, a new pastry recipe I'm trying out, or this bowl of San Francisco clam chowder served in a Boudin Sourdough bread bowl - unforgettable goodness!

     This recipe comes from the San Francisco A La Carte cookbook by Jr. League San Francisco, and is very close to the taste of the original.  I add a couple extra slices of bacon, just because I can.  Depending on where you live, the hardest part may be finding good quality sour dough bread bowls, but keep in mind, Boudins will ship it to your door.  This is the perfect time of year to cook up a pot of this chowder,  cooler weather always makes me hungry for soups and stews.  Unfortunately, today it's 85 degrees and 127% humidity here in lovely South Florida.

We'll just turn our air conditioner down a few notches and pretend it's Fall...

San Francisco Clam Chowder

4 slices Bacon; coarsley chopped
3 Green onions; chopped
5 medium Potatoes; peeled and cut
2 TB Chopped green pepper
1 Stalk celery; sliced
Garlic clove; minced
2 C Water
1 Tsp Salt
1/2 Tsp White pepper
1  Tsp Worcestshire sauce
4 dashes Tabasco Sauce
2 C Raw clams with juice
2 C Half and half


Saute bacon until crisp in a large skillet. Add onions, potatoes, green pepper, celery and garlic. Add 2 cups of water and season with salt and pepper, Worcestershire and Tabasco. Cover the kettle and simmer for 15 mins; or until the potatoes are tender. In a separate pan heat the clams and their juice for approx 3 mins, or til tender. Add the clams and juice to the kettle, pour in the half and half. Heat, stirring until piping hot. **Do not boil*** 
Makes 6 servings.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Pasta Principessia

Mmmmm, pasta with beef and pork, quick and easy.  This is a version of my Mother's sauce which I am sure you will enjoy.  Growing up with an Italian Mother had it's benefits - we were the only kids on our block that ever ate eggs and salami, braciole, and homemade pasta sauce every Thursday and Sunday.  All four of my siblings make delicious versions of my Mom's sauce, but try as we might, it is never exactly the same flavor.  I think she has garlic in her pores.  Years ago we nicknamed her Principessia, Italian for "princess".  My Mom is now 88 years old, and doesn't cook anymore.  I miss it, very much.

I wished I had paid more attention to our times in the kitchen.  I should have taken notes.

Pasta Principessia

2 lb.s ground sirloin
1 lb.  thick cut pork chops, on the bone
1 small can tomato paste
1 14 oz. can tomato sauce
1 28-32 oz. can crushed Italian tomatoes
5 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 red or green bell pepper, chopped
1 cup beef broth
1 T dried Italian herbs
2 t sugar
salt and pepper
olive oil
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese, plus extra for topping
1/2 cup fresh basil, chiffonade
1 lb. of your favorite pasta

In a large, heavy pot, heat 2 T of olive oil over medium heat, and brown the pork chops (seasoned with salt and pepper) on each side, 4-5 minutes.  Remove from pot, then add the ground sirloin and brown till no pink is visible.  Remove the sirloin from the pot, and drain off the fat.  Add another 2 T of olive oil to the pot, and lightly brown the garlic.  Stir in the onion and pepper, saute for 2-3 minutes.  Add in the tomato paste, and cook quickly for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly.  Add the sirloin and pork chops back into the pot.  Stir in the crushed tomatoes, 1/2 can of tomato sauce, 1 cup of beef broth, herbs, and sugar.  Stir well.  Lower the heat, and allow to simmer, covered, for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.  You can add more beef broth if the sauce is too thick.

Meanwhile, prepare your favorite pasta according to the package directions.  While the pasta is cooking, add the Parmesan cheese to the sauce, and stir well.

If you like, you can break up the pork chops so you can share with others.  Or, you can be selfish and take a whole one for yourself.  

Serve over hot pasta, be generous with the Parmesan and fresh basil, and enjoy - Eat Happy!

I promise you, it will taste like you cooked it all day, and you have garlic in your pores.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Perfect Martini

How to make the Perfect Martini

I could tell you the exact proportion of the perfect vodka or gin to vermouth.

I could tell you to use cubed ice or crushed.

I could tell you how to perfectly stir or shake.

I could tell you where to buy the perfect olive or how to make the perfect twist.

I could tell you how to perfectly chill the perfectly shaped glass.

But after all these  years, and more martinis than I like to admit to, I can honestly tell you this...
the perfect martini isn't a result of any of the above.

The perfect martini is the one you share with the one you love.

Happy Thanksgiving! 

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Mick's Easy Beef Stroganoff with Noodles

I am fortunate to have an artistic son.  Mick is my oldest, and a phenomenal musician and the lead singer for an awesome reggae band - Spred the Dub .  Every so often, he enjoys using his creative talents in the kitchen, and this is his go-to recipe.  I always dreaded making Beef Stroganoff because it was so time consuming.  It goes so much faster when all I have to do is sip on my martini and watch Mick do the cooking.

Mick's Easy Beef Stroganoff

3 lbs. top sirloin cut into bite size pieces
6 T flour
2 t Lawrys Seasoned salt
1 t ground pepper
1 t ground garlic
2 medium sweet onion, sliced
1 lb. sliced baby portabella mushrooms
32 oz. good beef stock
1 1/2 T worcestershire sauce
8 oz sour cream
1/2 cup sherry

Mix the flour, salt, pepper and garlic in a 1 gallon ziplock bag.  Toss in the sirloin and shake till meat is evenly covered.  Heat 3 T olive oil in a large pan or dutch oven, and brown the meat in batches till lightly browned, adding more oil if needed.

Add the onion and mushrooms to the browned meat and stir well.

Stir in the beef stock and worcestershire sauce and bring to a simmer.   Cover and allow to simmer in all it's glory for 45-60 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Relax and have another martini.

Meanwhile, cook your favorite noodles according to the package instructions.

Remove the cover and add the sour cream and sherry, stir to incorporate well.  Allow the mixture to return to a low simmer.  Serve over hot noodles.

Now, if I could only get Mick to do the dishes...

Eat Happy!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Chestnuts roasting in a gas oven...

Living in South Florida deprives me of some of life's simple pleasures - like having a basement, a change of seasons, Cheerwine, or a fireplace.  


Luckily, I have a great gas stove top and oven which I love.  The recent weather has dipped down into the 70's, so we immediately pull out the sofa blankets, Jacques Torres Wicked hot chocolate (so good I would trade one of my kids for a case of this stuff),  and our winter bathing suits.  This weather also brings out my craving for Roasted Chestnuts.  These are almost as good as the ones sold piping hot by the street vendors in Chicago.

They are easy to make, once you get past cutting the 'X' part, and they are healthy for you.  Did I mention that my Babe is an athlete, fitness fanatic, and health nut?  Naturally low in carbs and fat, high in vitamins C and B and delicious, so he enjoys them more.

These can also be made in an electric oven.

Chestnuts in the Tropics 

Wipe the chestnuts with a damp cloth.  Place, flat side down, on a cutting board, then CAREFULLY cut a cross shaped mark on each one.  This allows the steam to escape while roasting.  Skipping this step because you just got a manicure,  may result with nuts exploding in your oven.  Trust me on this one.

Add 4 T of kosher salt, and 2 T sugar to 4 cups of water and stir to dissolve.  Soak the chestnuts in the water for about an hour.  Drain and lightly towel dry.

Preheat oven to 425*

Place on your baking sheet, and roast for 15 minutes, turn over, and roast an additional 10-15 minutes.  The shell will have pulled back from the nut inside.  Allow to cool for a few minutes, peel and enjoy.  Eat happy!

Babe and I did, with a cup of Hot KoKo Nut!  Drink happy!

Hot KoKo Nut

Jacques Torres Wicked Hot Chocolate
   (made according to package directions or you can use your favorite hot chocolate recipe)
Add 1 generous ounce of Frangelico Hazelnut Liqueur, top with a dollop of whipped cream.  No cherry required.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Why didn't I think of this??

For those of you that are interested in making the turkey recipe I posted last week, but like me, don't know how in the world you are going to shove a 5 gallon bucket in your side-by-side refrigerator so you can brine your turkey:


This product from Grill Friends allows you to brine a turkey, up to 20 pounds, in a much smaller space in your refrigerator.  It is available online and at Bed Bath & Beyond stores for about five bucks.

I've also decided to add a little something special to my Thanksgiving brine this year.  I will be adding in  2 cups of Old Whiskey River Bourbon.

This bourbon, which is commissioned by Willie Nelson, is really smooth with warm carmel under tones.  One of my favorites, and it reminds me of the wonderful Thanksgivings spent at my sister Jean and her husband Matt's home in Nashville.  Cool crisp weather, piles of Fall leaves on the ground, and some of the best food and drinks ever devoured over the course of three days.

I would usually start with one of these:

Thanksgiving Highball

Fill a highball glass with ice - pour a steady 6 count of Old Whiskey River bourbon over the ice - add a splash of ginger ale.  Sip slow but steady.  You'll enjoy your family more.

If you are feeling really festive, you can garnish the rim with a turkey wing.

A Random Act of Kindness You Won't Believe

Saturday, November 13th, was National Random Act of Kindness Day.  I wished we could all make this happen more often than once a year.  I try to instill it in my kids, and sometimes it works.  This part of the country suffers from great lacks of kindness.  Floridians should take a few lessons from the fine folks in the Carolinas.

I have to share something, nothing short of miraculous, that happened to me on Sunday...in Costco.  Yes, Costco.

As I was rushing to my niece's birthday party, her Mom called and asked if I could do her a huge favor and pick up the cake at Costco.  On a Sunday.  Early holiday shoppers and all.  Being the good friend I am, I said, "sure, no problem."  Is there a reason she didn't bake her a homemade cake, I thought to my selfish self.  But, I would do anything for my niece.

Costco's parking lot was jam packed, so Babe drops me off at the front door.  I hurry back to the bakery department, grab the cake, and do the mad dash to the check-out lanes.  Nightmare.  Carts by the mile are lined up in front of me.  Even the self check-out lanes are backed up with mostly seniors trying to figure out the new fangled contraptions.  I quickly position myself in the shortest lane.  Only six carts in front of me.  The cake is now weighing about 50 lbs. in my arms.  Okay, maybe 45 lbs.

And then, I heard the voice of an angel...actually, it was a 73 year old man, that offered to let me go in front of him.  What??  An act of kindness right here in South Florida, in the middle of a Costco, on a weekend?!  I felt light headed.  I think I may have even stumbled a bit.  But just as I was coming out of my shock and thanking him for his generous offer...it HAPPENED AGAIN!  The women in front of him, made the same offer, and just like dominoes, I was at the front of the line!  This was an absolute first for me, and not something I will soon forget.

I promise to pass this act of kindness on tomorrow.  And now, I'm going to have a nice glass of Old Vine Red Zinfandel to celebrate!  Drink happy!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Sausage Dip ala Leslie

Today I went to my sweet niece, Jo Jo's 4th birthday party and brought along a crowd favorite.  I had my first taste of this outrageously delicious dip about three years ago when my angel of a sister-in-law, Leslie, made it for us.  To die for.  It is also the recipe most requested, perfect for football Sundays, and VERY easy to put together.  For my friends Jill and Shawn that were at the party today, here ya go:

Sausage Dip

Brown two packages of Jimmy Dean's sausage in a deep skillet, or electric pan.  I usually use one hot and one regular sausage, but you can substitue either way.  Add in 1 large chopped sweet onion and let simmer 5 - 7 minutes.  Drain off fat.

Stir in two cans of Rotel tomatoes, and mix well.  Add two 8 oz packages of cream cheese and cover for a few minutes to allow the cheese to start melting in all it's glory.  I like to add in a few dashes of Frank's Red Hot sauce, since the Babe likes his spicy.

Add 8 oz of sour cream, and stir well.  Allow the mixture to simmer, uncovered, till thickened.  It won't take long.

I keep mine in a small crock pot set on low, and serve with your favorite tortilla chips.  You probably won't have to look for a Tupperware container for any leftovers.

This went perfectly with our Bloody Marys.  Eat happy!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Best turkey recipe ever!

I am not a fan of the tofurkey (tofu turkey).  If I were a vegan, I would just fill up on the smashed potatoes and stuffing.  Certain things are just not worth eating, tofu turkey being one of them.  I am also not crazy about the turducken - a de-boned chicken stuffed inside a de-boned duck stuffed inside a de-boned turkey.  My brother Dean made this one year...I didn't bring home any leftovers if you know what I mean.

Keep my turkey simple and pure.

The best recipe I have come across is Alton Brown's Good Eats Roast Turkey, which is brined before roasting.  It simply is the most moist turkey you will make.  If you are lucky enough to not live in South Florida where we are still running our air conditioners, and you are enjoying the cooler Fall weather, you can set your brining bucket outside while your turkey is soaking.


  • 1 (14 to 16 pound) frozen young turkey

For the brine:

  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 gallon vegetable stock
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons allspice berries
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped candied ginger
  • 1 gallon heavily iced water

For the aromatics:

  • 1 red apple, sliced
  • 1/2 onion, sliced
  • cinnamon stick
  • 1 cup water
  • 4 sprigs rosemary
  • 6 leaves sage
  • Canola oil


Click here to see how it's done.
2 to 3 days before roasting:
Begin thawing the turkey in the refrigerator or in a cooler kept at 38 degrees F.
Combine the vegetable stock, salt, brown sugar, peppercorns, allspice berries, and candied ginger in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Stir occasionally to dissolve solids and bring to a boil. Then remove the brine from the heat, cool to room temperature, and refrigerate.
Early on the day or the night before you'd like to eat:
Combine the brine, water and ice in the 5-gallon bucket. Place the thawed turkey (with innards removed) breast side down in brine. If necessary, weigh down the bird to ensure it is fully immersed, cover, and refrigerate or set in cool area for 8 to 16 hours, turning the bird once half way through brining.
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. Remove the bird from brine and rinse inside and out with cold water. Discard the brine.
Place the bird on roasting rack inside a half sheet pan and pat dry with paper towels.
Combine the apple, onion, cinnamon stick, and 1 cup of water in a microwave safe dish and microwave on high for 5 minutes. Add steeped aromatics to the turkey's cavity along with the rosemary and sage. Tuck the wings underneath the bird and coat the skinliberally with canola oil.
Roast the turkey on lowest level of the oven at 500 degrees F for 30 minutes. Insert a probe thermometer into thickest part of the breast and reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Set the thermometer alarm (if available) to 161 degrees F. A 14 to 16 pound bird should require a total of 2 to 2 1/2 hours of roasting. Let the turkey rest, loosely covered with foil or a large mixing bowl for 15 minutes before carving.

I have been a fan of bloggers (mostly foodies) for quite some time, and have come to the realization that they usually have better ideas and recipes than the pros on the Food Network. I come from a family of awesome Italian/Czechoslovakian cooks, and my new brother and sister-in-law are also fabulous in the kitchen. We share recipes, menu ideas, and many bottles of wine, and now, I would like to share some of these with you. Bring your own bottle.

My inspirations are eclectic. I admire Ina Garten, Julia Childs, and Jacques Torres. I think David Tutera and Colin Cowie are amazing. Jim Beam and Johnny Walker are always welcome at my table.

I will try to mix in some positive thoughts and bright ideas, and hopefully, a smile to your day.

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