Archive for the ‘recipes’ Category

One New Year’s Eve, Vonnie and Linda decided to eat dinner together– they had no idea it would become a 30-year (and counting) tradition for them and their families.

Food traditions are often started on a whim or out of convenience, but these little decisions change the flavor of our lives by adding a richness and stability that we look forward to. Linda and Vonnie are close friends for lots of reasons, but one dinner one night created a bond, a ritual, that has lasted for most of their adult lives.

They’ve even created a blog to chronicle their New Year’s memories and recipes, check it out at http://www.thirtynewyears.blogspot.com/

Although they had a hard time picking one recipe, they ultimately choose Steak Diana. This beef tenderloin dish has been cooked more than any other  (3 times) and it’s from The Cook Book, published by the National Council of Jewish Women.

Steak Diane

Four 4- to 6-ounce beef tenderloin steaks

2 Tablespoons flour

1/2 teaspoons salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

4 Tablespoons butter

1 1/2 Tablespoon Dijon mustard

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

2 cups sliced mushrooms

2 Tablespoons minced shallots

1/4 cup brandy

1/2 cup beef bouillon

Pound steaks between two pieces of waxed paper. Dredge in flour mixed with salt and pepper.  In a large skillet melt 1 Tablespoon butter. Add steaks. Brown one minute on each side. Remove to platter.  Spread both sides with mustard and sprinkle Worcestershire sauce & set aside.  In same skillet melt rest of butter, sauté minced shallots briefly, add mushrooms and sauté a minute or two. Add brandy and flame. Stir in bouillon and remaining Worcestershire. Cook and stir until hot. Return steaks to skillet, reheat 2 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.


Read Full Post »

My friend Megan and I decided to watch Julie and Julia together, so why not make dinner too. We put on pearls and cooked up The Ghost of Julia Child Menu from one of my favorite cookbooks, The Veganomicon. How would Julia feel about vegan food? I know you may find this hard to believe, but I think she would love it. Why? Because it is fearless, challenging, and Julia loved a good adventure especially when it came to her taste buds.

The Ghost of Julia Child’s Dinner Menu:

Sautéed Seitan with Mushrooms and Spinach

Herb-Scalloped Potatoes


Homemade old world bread

Heart Shaped Apple Galettes

Herb-Scalloped Potatoes

Serves 4

2 lbs. white potatoes (3 average sized) scrubbed & sliced into 1/8″ thick disks
3/4 cup vegetable broth
1/2 cup unsweetened soy milk
1 tbsp. olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp. nutritional yeast or flour (I highly recommend nutritional yeast for this)
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/4 tsp. dried rosemary
1/4 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. salt
Several pinches of freshly ground black pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 400*. Lightly grease a 9 X 13-inch glass baking dish or ceramic casserole pan

2. Layer the potatoes in the pan, allowing them to slightly overlap. Lay them across the short way first, overlapping a little less than a half of each potato slice. In each subsequent row, overlap the potatoes by about one-quarter of each potato slice. It should look something like this:

3. Pour most of the vegetable broth over the potatoes, reserving about 3 tbsp. (no need to be exact). Pour the soymilk and drizzle the olive oil over potatoes, making sure to coat each one. If you need to use a little more than 1 tbsp., that’s ok.

4. Scatter the minced garlic over everything, then sprinkle 2 tbsp. of the nutritional yeast over all the potatoes. Drizzle the remaining vegetable broth- try not to wash all the nutritional yeast off the potatoes; you just want to get it moist, so drizzle slowly. Then sprinkle with the last tbsp. of nutritional yeast, the herbs, and the salt.

5. Cover loosely with foil and bake for 35 minutes. Uncover and bake for an additional 15 minutes.

Read Full Post »

Monic’s note said it better than I ever could…

“See, gumbo is a tradition in my family.  Every New Years Day, my mom would fix gumbo.  It was the same every year.  Chip and dip to hold us over until the gumbo was done.  And around noontime or after, she’d announce it was done and we would come running.”

“If the gumbo could talk, it would chronicle all the laughs and stories my family and friends have shared over the years.  It would tell you how many people’s noses ran while eating just one bowl.  It would recant the number of times my dad said “don’t pick out the shrimp from the pot!  Whatever comes up in the spoon is what goes in your bowl.”  And it would marvel at how a simple tradition has kept my family (and friends) connected for so many years.”

Monic’s Modified New Year’s Gumbo recipe:

Mom’s Seafood Gumbo

Time: about 3-1/2 hours

2 pounds raw shrimp, in shells

4 large green onions chopped, tops reserved

4 tablespoons bacon fat

3 tablespoons flour

1 large onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 bell pepper, chopped

3 stalks celery, chopped

1-1/2 pounds hot Creole sausage sliced into 1-inch chunks

1 pound canned tomatoes

Tabasco, salt and pepper to taste

4 bay leaves

1/2 teaspoon thyme

1/3 teaspoon basil

1/2 cup chopped parsley

1 pound crabmeat

6 cups chicken stock

Dash file powder

Cooked rice

Peel and de-vein shrimp.  Cut all vegetables and meat.

Make a roux by melting in a heavy pot 4 tablespoons bacon fat.  Blend in 3 tablespoons flour.  Cook over low heat, stirring constantly until a very dark brown.

Add chopped onions, garlic, bell pepper, and celery.  Stir and brown slightly.  Add sausage and tomatoes and chicken stock.  Add Tabasco and up to 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper, salt and pepper to taste, bay leaf, thyme and basil.  Let simmer slowly for 1-1/2 to 2 hours.  (Check to add more salt, pepper and cayenne as necessary.)  During last half hour of cooking, add green onions, parsley, crab meat and shrimp.  (Start cooking rice.)  Sprinkle a pinch of file powder over each serving and serve with rice.

Makes at least a dozen servings.

Read Full Post »

Oh, fruitcake! It gets such a bad rap. I was delighted when Anne asked me over for dinner and to talk about her husband’s grandmother’s fruitcake recipe. Even more fun, she made it right in front of me!

Yes, we started the evening with a lovely dinner of wine and chicken ravioli in a walnut sauce. It was very yummy indeed.

Then it was on to the fruitcake. This recipe was passed down to Anne and she is the only person in the family who makes it. It requires some specific ingredients. She traditional buys boxed Nonesuch mincemeat, but this year, the stores in her area stopped stocking it. Anne had to go for a different brand and a jar version.

First, we had to open the jar…

And Anne’s story…

Finally into the pan!

I left before the cake was finished, but it turned out well, jarred mincemeat and all.

So many of our food traditions just find us and sharing them with others keeps us connected to the people who took the time to write the recipe card in the first place. Food is a perishable way of keeping memories alive, which is both wonderful and fleeting at the same time. I was so happy on the day before Christmas Eve, Anne knocked on my front door with a slice for me. It was gone before I could take a picture of it.

Grandma Lewandowski’s Holiday Fruitcake

9-oz. pkg. Nonesuch mincemeat
½ c. water
½ c. sifted flour
t. baking soda
eggs, lightly beaten
14-oz. can condensed milk
c. (1-lb. jar) mixed candied fruit
c. walnuts, coarsely chopped
c. raisins
c. dates
Break mincemeat into pieces in a medium saucepan. Add water. Stir over medium heat until lumps are broken. Boil 1 minute. Cool.
Butter a 10-12″ springform pan, line with waxed paper, and butter again.
Sift flour and baking soda together. Combine eggs, mincemeat, condensed milk, fruit, and nuts. Fold in dry ingredients. Pour into prepared pan. Bake in 300 degree oven for 2 hours or until center springs back when touched.
Cool and turn out. Remove paper.

Read Full Post »


After interviewing Julie about her family’s Christmas ravioli extravaganza I was inspired. I love dough and pasta, then heck, I should make some ravioli’s too!

So it began.

For 2 weeks I made ravioli’s by myself. I made pumpkin which turned out a little too pumpkin-y and chicken sausage, which was good, but I was wearing out. Yes, as I should have learned from the interview, making lots of ravioli might require more hands. I called SOS and my trusty help came running. Thank you family.


Cheese filling.


Dad picked his own apron fyi.

Ravioli Exhaustion. I owe her yet again.



This was a BYOB party (Bring your own bowl). I did this partly to save on late night dishwashing and mostly because it was kind of fun to tell people. The party started at 5pm and lasted until 9pm. I wanted people to feel like they could drop by and weren’t committed to midnight.


Cheese Ravioli

Pumpkin Ravioli

Chicken Sausage Ravioli

Dad’s Spaghetti Sauce (with a little help from Paul Newman)

Dad’s meatballs

Garlic Butter Sauce


Garlic Butter

Plain Butter




Sparkling Cider

Diet Coke



Desserts: (another bowl friendly item)

Ice cream: Chocolate Fudge, Vanilla, Cookie Dough, and Peppermint

Toasts and celebrating every hour on the hour!

The party was a smash, at least I think so. The best thing about this experience was that I got to talk to almost everyone! This is usually not the case when I’m hosting. Since I decided to serve each person to order from the stove, I had the chance to chat with my guests. Yes, it was busy night boiling for me, but I wouldn’t want it any other way.

We had so much fun. The pumpkin ravioli’s turned out to be the big hit! Who knew? Certainly not this hearty eater.

And then there were the toasts. Every hour until all the guests left. I thought people might tire of the toasting, but no one did. In fact I think people liked it even more as the night went on.

Each guest took home one or two individually wrapped cinnamon rolls. I made 60 in total! I love the idea of celebrating the sweetness of a new year with something yummy. (I stole this idea from a children’s book author that I like). For the recipe see my blog about my grandmother’s cinnamon rolls.

With one guest left we invited her to participate in our New Year’s ritual.

That night we received a message that one of younger guests was still requesting dad’s meatballs when he was tucked into bed. People did scrape the bowl looking for more.

Here’s the recipe so you can enjoy them too!

Dad’s Meatballs:

1/2 pound of Italian sausage

1/2 pound hamburger

1/2 cup bread crumbs

1/2 cup parmesan cheese

garlic salt and pepper to taste

2 eggs

(dad also tossed in some black olives and chopped tomatoes in some of the meatballs)

Butter for frying (2 to 3 tablespoons)

How to:

Mix all ingredients together (except butter) in a large bowl.

Form golf ball sized meatballs and set aside on a plate.

Melt butter in a deep frying pan. Add meatballs.

Fry in pan until cooked through and brown on the outside.

Serves 10

What an excellent way to start the new year. All that work was so worth it!


Thank you Kendra for the use her pictures, Jennifer for helping out at the stove and Roger for answering the front door!

Read Full Post »

Julie learned her Christmas food tradition not from her own grandmother, but her husband’s grandmother

“My husband’s mother is of Italian heritage. Her parents my husband’s grandparents, lives centered around food and family. They had several customs that are SO much a part of my husband’s childhood. My mother-in-law does not cook at all — so they taught me (and my sister-in-law) many of their traditions before they died.”

This annual chaotic, happy ravioli-making extravaganza isn’t just a group effort but a celebration of the way we become family. I found the idea of making ravioli so exciting, I decided to take it on my self. See the New Years post for more!

Lucille Bivona Piraro’s Ravioli and Meatballs

This recipe makes enough filling for 80-100 large ravioli.  Easy to cut recipe in thirds for smaller amounts.




1 ½ lb ground beef

1 ½ lb ground pork

Handful of chopped Italian parsley

3 packages frozen chopped spinach – thawed, drained

1 cup grated Romano cheese

2 or 3 hard-boiled eggs, finely chopped

3 or 4 raw eggs, lightly beaten

Olive oil – add as needed to moisten filling

Salt and pepper to taste

Brown meat, drain excess fat.  Mix together with all other ingredients.


3 cups all-purpose flour (or ½ cup semolina, 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour)

1 tsp salt

4 eggs

1 TB olive oil

2 TB water

Mix flour and salt in large bowl or on clean work surface.  Make a well in the center and add eggs, olive oil and water.  Beat eggs with a fork and begin incorporating flour mixture until a firm dough forms.  Need the dough for 10 minutes until pliable and smooth.  Cover it with damp cloth and let it rest for a few minutes.  Take handful of dough and work with through a pasta machine, starting with highest setting and repeat running it through three or four times.  Gradually work down to lowest setting (or desired thickness).  Use ravioli molds as directed to assemble.


On floured work surface, lay the long strip of pasta flat.  Place rounded tablespoonful of filling (or use small ice cream scoop) on the strip approx 3-4 inches apart.  Brush  water around filling and add another flat strip of pasta on top (or fold the bottom one over).  Gently press two strips together, while pressing the air out around the filling.  Evenly cut the ravioli to desired size using a rolling pastry cutter.  (I make approx 3 ½ – 4 inch squares).  Use the ends of a fork to crimp the edges of each one, being careful not to poke holes in the dough.  Cook immediately or freeze on cookie sheets until no longer sticky.  Transfer to plastic bags for longer storage in freezer.  Cook in boiling water (without thawing).

Serve with pasta sauce and meatballs!


This recipe makes 12-15 meatballs.  I triple it to go with the full recipe above.


½ lb ground beef

½ lb ground pork

2 slices white bread with crusts cut off, soaked in milk

½ cup Italian bread crumbs

½ cup romano or parmesan cheese (or combo)

1 beaten egg

¼ cup parsley, chopped

1 garlic clove, pressed

2 tsp dried oregano (or 1 TB fresh)

1 tsp dried basil (or 1 ½ tsp fresh)

dash of red pepper flakes

salt and pepper

Mix all ingredients together, gently.  Lightly form meatballs, approx 2” in diameter.

Put meatballs in 9×13 baking dish and add beef broth to ½ inch to 1 inch in-depth. Bake in 425 degree oven for 25 minutes.  Add to simmering tomato sauce to continue cooking.

Basic Tomato Sauce

This is enough sauce to go with 12-15 meatballs.  I usually triple it as well, if needed.

½ onion, finely chopped

1 garlic clove, pressed or minced

2-3 small cans tomato paste

8 cans water

1 14.5 oz can diced or crushed tomatoes



1 TB sugar

dash cinnamon

basil, parsley (fresh or dried) as desired

1 bay leaf

Brown onion in olive oil until soft.  Add garlic and stir for a minute.  Add tomato paste and water, stirring until paste is dissolved.   Add all other ingredients, stirring.  Bring to a boil and simmer for an hour or more, stirring occasionally.  Add meatballs and continue simmering until meatballs are cooked through

Read Full Post »

Liz truly cherishes her friends and their Girl’s Night Out dinners.

For three years her and her friends have fun getting together, sharing stories, laughing, dining, and supporting each other.

GNO’s can also turn into GNI (Girl’s Night In) when Liz and her friends cook together in the kitchen.

“We filled the kitchen, each working on our own tasks — someone might chop vegetables, someone might pour the drinks, someone might set the table, someone might gather all of the ingredients — everyone contributed.“

Liz and her friends prove once again that food brings us and keeps us together.

Liz’s Recipe and a Girl’s Night Out Favorite….

Layered Greek Dip


1 8 oz pkg. cream cheese softened

1 Tbsp. lemon juice

1 tsp. dried italian seasoning

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 1/2  cups prepared hummus

1 cup chopped cucumber

1 cup chopped tomato

1/2 cup chopped pitted Kalamata olives

1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

1/3 cup sliced green onions

Pita chips and/or multi-grain tortilla chips


1) In a medium mixing bowl beat cream cheese, lemon juice, Italian seasonings, and garlic with electric mixer on medium speed until smooth and combined.

2) Spread cream cheese mixture into a deep 9-inch pie plate or shallow serving dish. Evenly spread hummus on cream cheese layer. Top with cucumber, tomato, olives, feta cheese, and green onions. Cover and refrigerate 2 to 24 hours. Serve with pita chips and or multi-grain chips.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »