Orecchiette with Broccoli-Rabe & Sausage

orechiette bowl **

In honor of my dad….a signature dish from his place of birth, the Puglia region of Italy.

To be specific, he was born  in Santeramo in Colle, Provincia di Bari, Puglia, Italy.

Recipe:  serves 4

1 pound orecchiette ( a Puglia pasta, named for the shape it resembles, “little ears”).

1/4 cup olive oil

4 large garlic cloves, crushed and peeled

1/2 pound sweet Italian sausage, meat removed from casings and crumbled.

2 pounds broccoli-rabe, cleaned and roughly cut

1/4 tsp crushed red pepper (can add more to taste)

1/4 tsp. of salt or to taste

1/4 cup grated pecorino romano or parmigiano cheese.

  1.  Heat the olive oil in a large, deep, heavy skillet with fitted lid. Add the garlic and saute until golden, about 2 minutes.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and add the orecchiette and cook until al dente.
  3. Meanwhile, add the sausage meat to the oil and garlic.  Cook, stirring about 5 minutes, or until meat is browned.
  4. Add to the broccoli-rabe to the meat, along with 1 cup pasta water, 1/4 tsp. of salt, and the pepper flakes.
  5. Cover pan and steam for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  6. Remove cover and cook over high heat for 3 minutes or so, until the liquids are slightly reduced.
  7. Drain the pasta and add it to the sauce, and toss gently.
  8. Sprinkle on half the cheese, toss again and then add remaining cheese over the pasta.
  9. Serve immediately and pass more grated cheese if desired.

** You can eliminate the sausage by cooking the broccoli rabe in a large pot of salted water.  Remove it by using a slotted spoon.  Squeeze as much water out of the broccoli-rabe as possible.   Then cook the orecchiette in the same water.  Add it all to the pan of sautéed garlic,  red pepper, and oil,  and toss with the cheese.

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My Hearty Pasta e Fagioli (Beans)

my fagioli plated **

Looking for a hearty dish to make for dinner? If you live in the two thirds of our country that’s in a deep freeze right now, I’m quite sure you are! With these frigid temperatures and snowstorms that are plaguing most of our country, we need a meal that warms our hearts, souls, and bodies. My hearty pasta and beans is just that meal.

My husband adores this dish, especially on a cold evening with a hunk of crusty Italian bread and a glass of red wine. However, he refuses to call it “pasta e fagioli.” Please do check the blog archives for what he considers traditional pasta e fagioli. I blogged his recipe years ago. It is absolutely delicious. I love it when he makes it, but I also love my pasta e fagioli. They are different, and both delicious. No one has ever turned down a dish of either.

It does make me laugh when we confront each other in the kitchen to decide(argue) who’s recipe will we use on any particular night. I want it my way, and he wants it his way. You would think that a 50/50 compromise would settle it. Actually, I let him make it his way 75% of the time. He feels triumphant, and I get a delicious homemade meal without doing the cooking. I just have a glass of white wine and watch.  What could be better?

I hope you’ll try both recipes……and stay warm!

Recipe:  serves 4

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 carrots,  chopped finely

2 celery stalks, chopped finely

2 Tablespoons tomato paste or 1/3 cup leftover marinara sauce

3 Tablespoons olive oil

1 tsp. crushed red pepper or to taste

salt and pepper to taste

fresh sage leaves (optional, but oh so wonderful), roughly chopped and for garnish

8 to 12 ounces of chicken or vegetable broth or bouillon

1 29 ounce can of white cannelloni beans (I sometimes add another small can of beans)

1 pound mezze rigatoni or the calamari shape pasta

Grated pecorino romano cheese for passing

  1. Bring a pasta pot of salted water to a boil.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a pot.  Add the chopped garlic, celery and carrots (I throw them all in a food processor and chop finely).  Saute until soft, about 3 to 4 minutes.  Add the chopped sage and red pepper and saute for 2 minutes.
  3. Add the tomato sauce or paste and stir until combined, about 2 minutes.
  4. Add all the beans and the broth, and let cook for 10 minutes over a low heat, stirring occasionally to combine flavors.  Season with salt and pepper.
  5. With a slotted spoon, take 1 1/2 to 2 cups of beans out of the pot and puree until just smooth.  Return to the pot and cook for 5 minutes.
  6. When the pasta is cooking, add 1 cup of the pasta water to the beans.  You can also add more broth if you feel you need it .  Reserve another cup of the water.
  7. Drain pasta when done and add to pot.  Add more water if necessary.
  8. Serve with lots of grated pecorino romano cheese and garnish with sage.
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Healthy Chocolate Avocado Mousse

mousse 4

Had enough sugar yet? Are you counting the days until the Holidays are over and you can get back to healthy eating? I know I am. For me, the Holiday Season means a free pass to eat anything and everything that I normally would not dream of eating.  By the time I get to New Year’s Eve, I’m always moaning that “I just can’t eat or drink another thing!!!”   If I had my choice, I’d toast the New Year with a glass of vitamin packed green juice or smoothie. But not to be a “kill-joy,” I’ll finish up 2017 by indulging (hopefully one last time) in too much food and alcohol

My pre- New Years Eve tradition is to go through my recipe files and cookbooks, and pull out some healthy recipes to start off the New Year.  At the very least, it makes me feel pro-active, and always gives me hope that the end of this insanity is in sight.   As we all know, healthy food can be very delicious, but it takes some time to plan and prepare, and honestly, who has the time during this hectic time of year.

As my sugar high is in full swing, and we still have several days to go until I can officially declare my kitchen a safe haven for those who want to feel better about what is going into their bodies, I have found a recipe that will make you think you are indulging in a decadent dessert, but are actually eating something very healthy. The best part is that the ingredients are staples in my kitchen, so I can whip this up any time. Whip it up indeed…. as all you have to do is throw the ingredients in a blender! It couldn’t be easier.

Chocolate avocado mousse is one of those desserts that every time you serve it, your guests will want the recipe (usually after one bite), and then can’t believe the ingredients. I’ve seen variations of this recipe floating around the internet and on some food shows for years and always thought it looked good, but couldn’t possibly be that good. Well I was wrong. This is decadently delish. It’s so rich that you really do need a small dollop of whipped cream or some berries on top.

If you are in need of a dessert recipe to finish out this year, or start the new one, you can get a head start on healthy eating by making this delicious chocolate avocado mousse. If you don’t share the recipe, your guests will think they are indulging in another rich and delicious dessert before staring their new year’s resolutions. Only you will know that you have started them on their way to a healthy 2018!

Wishing you all a very happy and healthy 2018!

Happy New Year!

Recipe:  makes 6 servings

6 – 7 medjool dates, soaked (you can find these in the fresh produce section)

1/2 cup maple syrup

1 1/2 tsp. vanilla

3 very ripe avocados, mashed

3/4 cup organic cocoa

1/2 cup water

  1.  Once your dates have soaked for 20 minutes or so, pit them and put in the blender or food processor with the maple syrup and vanilla and blend until smooth.
  2. Add the mashed avocado,  cocoa powder and water and process until smooth.  You may have to scrape the sides a few times in-between to mix the ingredients.
  3. Fill each small ramekin or dish.  Top with berries or whipped cream or both.
  4. Serve chilled or at room temperature.mousse ingredients.jpgmousse datesmousse avocado mashmousse dates blendermousse cocoa:vanilla:watermousse closeupmousse plated again



Mashed Potato Pie

potato pie baked **

Mashed potatoes are just not my thing. We never had them in my home growing up. If my mom thought a dinner guest might enjoy mashed potatoes, out came the box of “Hungry Man instant mashed potatoes” and she whipped up an absolutely disgusting blob of “fake” mashed potatoes.   It was hard not to gag if you were brave enough to scoop up some of this bland mush. I learned quickly to avoid it at all costs, and I felt sorry for any non-suspecting guests. It was fun to watch their faces as they happily dug in, and then didn’t know what to do with this blob of something unfamiliar in their mouth. It became a family joke until we finally convinced my mom not to bother any more. Just make pasta!

In 1977, my mom and I decided it was time to break this mashed potato curse. It was my daughter’s christening, and we had planned to make all the food for the party. We would make everything the day before, and then serve it buffet style for the 20 or so family members attending. I’m sure we made a baked pasta dish, but I remember deciding that this was a perfect time to try out her friend’s recipe for baked mashed potato pie…….using real potatoes! I should have known it was a mistake when she took the recipe over the phone, with no measurements or directions. I must admit it sounded easy enough.

We peeled 10 pounds of potatoes, and cut them into cubes. We salted the water as if we were cooking pasta, and kept an eye on the boiling potatoes , testing frequently. Once they were soft and easy to mash, we shut off the water and left the potatoes in the hot water while we prepared the rest of the ingredients……set the table….fed the baby, etc. All in all, the cooked potatoes must have been resting in the hot water for over an hour.

We melted the butter, and started to mash with an electric beater.   It was like glue!! It looked like we were making taffy. We honestly had no idea what we had done wrong. This was unknown territory to us. We continued fighting with the potatoes, stretching and pulling, and finally made one very large pie. We convinced ourselves that once baked, it would be delicious.

I think by now you can guess what happened.  It was inedible! Everyone was very polite, and ate a bite or two. We questioned what we had done wrong, and we learned that you never leave the potatoes in the hot water after they have cooked. You must drain them immediately.

Since 1977, we have made many successful potato pies. It’s simple, delicious and can be made ahead of time. It’s a lovely change from plain mashed potatoes, and infinitely better than instant potatoes!

I hope you enjoy!

Recipe:  serves 6

2 to 3 pounds of potatoes

1 stick of butter, melted plus 2 TBSP for greasing the casserole

8 ounces mozzarella

1/4 cup grated parmigiano reggiano, plus 4 tablespoons

1/4 cup (approximately) Italian seasoned breadcrumbs

salt and pepper to taste

  1.  Boil the potatoes in salted water.  Drain immediately when soft.
  2.  While the potatoes are boiling, heavily grease a casserole dish with the 2 TBSP butter.  Then coat the buttered dish with breadcrumbs.  Also slice the mozzarella and set aside.
  3. Add the melted butter to the drained potatoes, and mash.  Add 1/4 cup of the grated cheese, and salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Add half the potato mixture to the casserole.  Top with some mozzarella and more grated parmigiano.  Then add the remaining potatoes, mozzarella, grated parmigiano and sprinkle the top with breadcrumbs.
  5. Bake at 350 for 40 minutes, until the top is browned and bubbling.

** I’ve come across a secret ingredient for my mashed potatoes. It’s totally not necessary, but truffle salt (just a little ) turns regular mashed potatoes into something special, and it also added that “extra something” to this dish as well.  It’s worth a try sometime.  It’s certainly a long way from that box of “Hungry Man!”

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Sweet Potato Pie

sweet potato pie baked

Need a change from pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving? Your family and guests would probably revolt, but I do have an interesting addition/replacement.   Sweet potato pie is very similar to pumpkin pie, but with a texture all it’s own. Also, the taste of the sweet potatoes is very apparent and sweeter than pumpkin, but not in a sugary way. Sweet potatoes are naturally sweet, with so much flavor, that you barely taste the spices.

This handwritten recipe is from Thanksgiving, 1973. I was teaching second grade in Camden, New Jersey, and all the teachers were preparing a “Thanksgiving feast” for the children. The second grade teachers were in charge of potatoes. I brought in my mom’s recipe for candied yams (the recipe is in the archives), and Audrey brought in sweet potato pies, her grandmother’s recipe. With these two side dishes, the turkey and stuffing were just an aside.   Everything was devoured, and I certainly did my part on the sweet potato pies.

I couldn’t wait to get this recipe down on an index card, and file it away in my brand new index file. My collection of recipes was very new and rather sparse in 1973. I treasured this recipe then and I still do now. I can see all the happy, smiling faces on some very grateful second graders.

NOTE* This recipe will make one deep dish pie, or if you add 1 more large sweet potato, you can get 2 shallow pies, without increasing the other ingredients. Also, you can adjust the sugar to taste. I never use the full cup because I like to get the sweetness from the potato.


1 nine inch unbaked pie shell

1 1/2 cups masked cooked (or substitute canned) sweet potatoes.  This is usually 2 large sweet potatoes.

1 1/2 cups evaporated milk

1 cup sugar ( I usually use 3/4 cup)

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. nutmeg ( I use a little more)

1/2 tsp. allspice

1 tsp vanilla

3 eggs, slightly beaten

  1.  Bake sweet potatoes in a 350 degree oven for one hour, or until soft.  I usually do this day before, just to make it easy.
  2. Peel and mash with a fork.
  3. Combine mashed sweet potatoes, evaporated milk, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and vanilla, and mix until blended.  Beat in the eggs.
  4. Turn into pastry shell.
  5. Bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes, then at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

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Sandy’s Pear Custard Squares

pear tart plated

You know how there are some desserts that after just one bite, you know you must have the recipe? Well this pear tart is that dessert. A friend brought this to a dinner party, and after one bite, I asked her for the recipe. She said she was happy to write it up for me. I was already planning when I would make this, and who would be the lucky ones to share in this delicious dessert.

Receiving her handwritten recipe (I always love the handwritten ones), made me very happy.   It brought me back in time to my index box full of handwritten recipe cards. My first little yellow box had dividers, such as poultry, fish, meat, desserts, appetizers, etc.   I cherished each handwritten 3 by 5 card. I still do. But this handwritten recipe had an extra special twist. She had painted a beautiful still life in watercolors of pears on the front of the card! This might just be the most beautiful recipe card I have ever received.

I was very careful while preparing this, as I wanted to make sure the painting didn’t get stained with ingredients. I tend to be a messy baker. Now that I have this posted, I plan to frame this picture and put it in my kitchen.

If you’re looking for an easy, crowd pleasing dessert, you must give this a try!



1/2 cup butter

1/3 cup sugar

3/4 cup flour

1/4 tsp. vanilla

2/3 cup chopped macadamia nuts


1 8 ounce pkg. cream cheese

1/2 cup sugar

1 egg

1/2 tsp. vanilla

3 pears, sliced 1/8 inch thick

1/2 tsp. sugar

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

  1.  To make curst, cream butter and sugar.  Beat in flour and vanilla.  Stir in nuts.  Press into greased 8 inch square pan.
  2. Bake in 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes or until lightly browned.
  3. Cool.
  4. Meanwhile in mixing bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth.  Add sugar, egg, vanilla until combined.
  5. Pour over cooled crust.  Arrange pear slices over filling.
  6. Combine the 1/2 tsp sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle over pears.
  7. Bake 28 to 30 minutes (center will be soft set and will become firmer upon cooling).
  8. Cool 45 minutes.  Then cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before cutting.

*Recipe can be doubled

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Island Rum Punch

rum punch glass**?

Please bear with me for just one more cocktail recipe.  I must share this with you!  Who knew that having no kitchen for a few weeks would turn me into a “mixologist”?  Well, not really.  I’m just following recipes, but it gives me the same satisfaction that I get after creating a delicious dish…only with an extra “kick,” if you get my gist.

I love the way this recipe for rum punch came to me.  I was in my writer’s workshop class, and my classmate began to read her piece on St. Kitts island and her family’s rum business, Brinley Gold Shipwreck Rum.  I was immediately carried away by the beauty of her description of what sounds like an absolutely magical island.  I was mentally making plans to visit this paradise, as it sounded irresistible.  Then, in the middle of her piece, she included a recipe for Leeland’s rum punch, and gave us each a glass of this nectar from the St. Kitts gods.   One sip and I had to have the recipe.  We all asked her to repeat the recipe , and I furiously wrote it down.  I knew right there and then that I was headed to the liquor store after class to buy the necessary ingredients for my dinner guests that evening.  They would love this!  Well, actually this was a bit off a gamble as no one was a rum drinker.  But neither was I until I was introduced to this brand of rum, and the creative recipes provided by the owners on their website.  I’ve converted many a “non-rum drinker” this summer, so this punch would certainly do the trick for this crew.  I was certain of it.

It was a perfect night for this indoctrination.  The sun was out, and there was a delightfully cool breeze, so sitting on the deck made it feel like you were on vacation.  I had the pitchers of punch chilling in my (new and shiny) refrigerator (I had just polished it).  Everyone was game for “just one drink.”  They looked skeptically at the pitcher, but only I knew what would transform this pitcher of what looked like plain fruit juice, into something so heavenly that they wouldn’t have just one drink.  What is that special ingredient?  Freshly grated nutmeg, atop each individual drink, is the key to this delicious, tropical libation.

Everyone loved it.  Everyone had one more. Everyone wanted to know when I would start using my ovens.  I told them “next week for sure.”  Cheers!

Recipe:  makes a lot

2 cups Shipwreck White Rum  (1/2 bottle)

1 cup Shipwreck Coconut Rum (1/4 bottle)

1 cup fresh lime juice

4 cups orange juice (I used less….maybe 3 1/2)

4 dashes of bitters

freshly grated nutmeg ( on each glass)

Combine all the ingredients except the nutmeg in a large pitcher and keep chilled in the refrigerator.  Serve over ice.  Grate fresh nutmeg on top of each individual glass.

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Halibut Baked with Mushrooms

halibut plated **

Finally…..I have my kitchen back! It looks beautiful. I’m absolutely in love with my appliances. However, I need a PhD in “Appliance Use and Cleaning.”   Seriously, I have about 4 hours of tedious reading to do before I will feel comfortable using them. Instead of cooking, I seem to be busy polishing away every fingerprint that might mar their beauty. I find myself gazing fondly at them, and then I spot a mark on the gleaming stainless, and out comes the “recommended polish, and chamois cloth”! I’ve got to gain some control, and start cooking again.

I’m now using the range top. I haven’t figured out which burner is high speed and which is the lowest “special” simmer, as I was told in the showroom, but that’s not so important. I’ve never been such a careful cook. I don’t want anything to spill over and stain the burners or grates. I use a “recommended polish and soft cloth” after every use, and make sure it’s sparkling before I leave the kitchen. I’ll check back later to make sure there are no streaks.  I don’t know what’s come over me!

I just can’t bring myself to use the ovens. One is a steam/convection oven and I have no idea how to use it yet (the manual is enormous!). The other is just too gorgeous to get dirty. To deal with this dilemma, (and some hungry people who are sick of grilled food), I’ve decided to use my outdoor gas grill as an oven until I’ve gotten over this love affair with my new ovens. Plus, it’s summertime, and why not cook outside as much as possible? This is what I tell myself…and anyone who might ask!

I decided to try a new recipe, so no one would complain that it didn’t taste as good as perhaps the last time I made it. I had been holding on to a recipe for “halibut baked with mushrooms” for sometime now, and it looked like it would fare well baked in a pan on the grill. My sister loved this recipe from Lidia Bastianich, and gave it to me ages ago, telling me I must try it. Neither Lidia, nor my sister, is ever wrong about a recipe, so I was excited to try it. I made a few changes to accommodate the fact that I would not be baking it in an indoor oven.

It was indeed delicious, and a big hit. I can tell that this is a recipe I’ll be making over and over. And yes, eventually I’ll be baking it in my new oven.   Just not yet!

Oh dear, I see a spot on the fridge…..gotta run……where did I leave that polish??????


Recipe:  serves 6

1 lb. assorted mushrooms of choice, sliced

7 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil

3 medium onions, thinly sliced

6 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

1 teaspoon kosher salt

6 halibut filets, about 2 1/4 pounds in total

Juice of one lemon

1/2 cup dry white wine

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley ( I forgot this somehow….maybe I got distracted by a fingerprint)

  1.  Preheat oven (no!!!) or gas grill to 400 degrees.
  2. In a large skillet, heat 3 tablespoons of the oil over medium heat, and add the onions and garlic.  Cook until wilted, about 5 minutes.
  3. Spread the onions and garlic on an oiled sheet pan.
  4. In the same skillet, over medium high heat, heat 2 tablespoons of oil and then add the sliced mushrooms.  Drizzle with a little bit of water, and cook until softened and browned, about 5 minutes.
  5. Spread about 2/3 of the mushrooms on top of the onions on the sheet pan, and season with 1/2 tsp of salt.
  6. Season the halibut with half the lemon juice, the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil.  Pour the remaining juice and the white wine over the vegetables and sprinkle with parsley.
  7. Set the halibut on top, and top each filet with the remaining mushrooms.
  8. Bake until cooked through, about 20 minutes.

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Vodka Cucumber Smash

vodka smash

Still no kitchen! So what am I cooking tonight? Vodka Cucumber Smash.

There’s not much back story to this recipe, and frankly, at this point, who needs a story??!! I need my kitchen back. With my kitchen in turmoil, I’m like a fish out of water. I know it won’t be too much longer, but in the meantime, I’ll spend my time collecting (and making) recipes for cocktails. I have to admit, this has been fun!

I first had this cocktail, “Vodka Cucumber Smash,” at Tommy Bahamas Restaurant, in St. Armands, Circle, near Sarasota, Florida. It was so refreshing, and I’m a cucumber lover, so I was instantly in love. The bartender was nice enough to show me how to make it, while he was making me my second one.

Of course, the key to just about any drink is to use your favorite brand of alcohol.   I know that most of you have a favorite brand of vodka, but I’m going to recommend my new favorite…”Fair Quinoa Vodka.” Yes, quinoa. It’s really delicious. And could it be healthy??? Probably not, but if you are gluten intolerant, this is a good choice since most other vodkas are made from wheat.   Even if you aren’t gluten intolerant, it’s a delicious vodka. “Fair” is not easy to find, but I get it at “UnWined Boutique” in Millburn, New Jersey. As a matter of fact, this is a great little wine/spirits store, where you’ll find many uncommon wines and alcohol from boutique vineyards and distilleries. This is where I found  “Fair Quinoa Vodka,” and I’ve been a fan ever since.  It’s a great store to visit. Check out UnWined Boutique at www.unwined-boutique.com.   You just might find something as unique as quinoa vodka.

Cheers and Happy Forth of July!


2 ounces vodka

1 ounce St. Germain

juice of 1 lime

4 or 4 slices of peeled cucumber

splash of sparkling water, if you like

1  Peel and slice the cucumber, putting 3 or 4 slices into a glass, reserving one slice for garnish.

2.  Squeeze the limes into the glass with the cucumber.  Muddle (which really just means smash).

3.  Add ice cubes to the glass, then the vodka and St. Germain.  Stir well.

5.  Garnish with lime and cucumber.  Add a splash of sparkling water, if you like.

*Note:  You can make this in a shaker.  Shake it well and then pour into a glass and garnish.

**Note:  If you want this a little sweeter, you can always add a little sugar when you are muddling.

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