Friday, January 29, 2010


This dish was fabulous!  It came from a cookbook that I have had for years titled, "The New Basics Cookbook" by Julee Rosso & Sheila Lukins.  I decided to search for something in the pork loin category as it is so lean, as well as very "Italian".  I came upon this recipe which made the house smell like an Italian restaurant...the fragrant smells of rosemary and garlic swarmed through the hallways, as the smokey trail of roasted prosciutto just gave me the "Ahhh...Giada would be proud!"  (For those of you who don't know who I am referring to, Giada is one of the cooks featured on "The Food Network").  She is absolutely adorable and oh so talented with her culinary skills!

Roast Pork Romana
1 boneless pork loin (about 2 1/2 pounds)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 ounces prosciutto, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1 tablespoon minced garlic
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
6 small Belgian endives, halved lengthwise
2 cups Vin Santo or other sweet dessert wine

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
2.  Using the tip of a sharp knife, cut slits 1 inch long and 1/4 inch deep all over the surface of the roast.
3.  Combine the butter, prosciutto, rosemary, and garlic in a small bowl, and mix thoroughly.  Spread this over the surface of the roast, making sure it gets into the slits.  Season the roast with pepper.
4.  Place the roast in a small roasting pan, surround it with the endive, and pour the wine over it.  Cook for 1 and 1/4 hours.
5.  Remove the pan from the oven, and cover the roast loosely with aluminum foil.  Let it stand for 15 minutes.  Then transfer it to a platter and arrange the endive alongside.  Serve it with the pan juices.

I served this with buttered linguine tossed with fresh parmesan cheese and steamed green beans as the veggie.  It was wonderful!  Joe said, "Jenn, this is getting boring when all I do is give thumbs up everytime."  I smiled and felt appreciated!

Well, the kitchen will be closed for the next two nights as I am off to teach for bar review...I now hope to feed the brains of the tired and stressed students, hoping they can feel positive and hopeful while envisioning their success!

On Sunday night, my children will be doing their virtual shopping donation at as it will mark the end of January.  We will empty our jars and begin again, all while stocking the food pantry with items for those who need it most!

Until Monday...Buon Appetito!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

"Chopped Italian Salad"

This salad was very enjoyable...your typical, "Antipasto" ingredients, with olive oil and red wine vinegar as the dressing:  It is the Italian way!  Obviously very easy to make, I probably don't even need to post the recipe as most have had this type of salad before.  I found the recipe in a  "FOOD & WINE" magazine-book that I had purchased one random day at "Barnes and Noble" because the title caught my eye:  "quick from scratch italian cookbook" (lower-case letters are intentional, as that is how the title is written on the book).  As Moms, many of us are searching for good-tasting, quick and somewhat healthy recipes to make for our family...which is why this magazine ended up in my basket:  A big bold circle on the front states:  "FAST RECIPES FOR GREAT FOOD EVERY DAY".  That's what I'm talking about!!!

With every recipe I follow, I am aware and grateful that I have the ability not only to purchase the ingredients required, but also the good fortune of being able to ingest it.  With every chop and every measure of ingredient, I have a vision of feeding many!  I hope to make a difference...starting of course with my children's awareness, but also in the real lives of real, deserving human beings.  We all have a duty to give back to others if we have the means to.  I may not yet be making a huge difference or impact on these precious people, but God knows my heart and God is bigger than any earthly challenge, so I look forward to watching His miracles unfold.

"There is no medicine like hope, no incentive so great, and no tonic so powerful as expectation of something tomorrow."--Orison Swett Marden

Chopped Italian Salad
1 head romaine lettuce (about 1 1/4 pounds), cut into 1-inch squares (about 3 quarts)
1/4 pound sliced pepperoni, chopped
1/3 cup drained sliced pimientos (one 4-ounce jar)
1/3 cup chopped red onion
1 1/2 cups drained, rinsed and chopped canned artichoke hearts (one 15-ounce can), or 1 1/2 cups pitted and chopped green or black olives
3 tablespoons red- or-white-wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
1/2 cup grated Parmesan

1.  In a large glass or stainless-steel bowl, combine the romaine, pepperoni, pimientos, onion and the artichoke hearts or olives.  Toss to combine.
2.  Add the vinegar, oil, salt, pepper and Parmesan to the bowl.  Toss thoroughly to combine the ingredients. 
~Serves 4~

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Recipe for "Pasta With Escarole"

From "food network" magazine - January/February 2010 edition

Kosher salt
12 ounces gemelli, fusilli or spaghetti
1 head escarole, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon pine nuts
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
2 tablespoons breadcrumbs
Freshly ground pepper
1/4 pound pancetta, cut into thin strips
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 red jalapeno pepper, thinly sliced (remove seeds for less heat)
2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until just al dente, about 10 minutes. Add the escarole and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 2 more minutes.
2. Meanwhile, toast the pine nuts in a large skillet over medium-high heat, about 1 minute. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil, the breadcrumbs, and salt and pepper to taste; cook until golden, about 2 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a plate. Wipe out the skillet, add the pancetta and cook until crisp, about 5 minutes. Transfer to paper towels and blot dry.
3. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil to the skillet, then add the garlic and jalepeno and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Drain the pasta and escarole, reserving 1 cup cooking water, and add to the skillet. Add half of the pancetta and toss, drizzling in enough pasta water to moisten. Season with salt and pepper.
4. Divide the pasta among bowls, top with the breadcrumb mixture, remianing pancetta and the parmesan. Drizzle with olive oil.
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"Pasta With Escarole"

When my husband said to me, after his first two bites, "Jenn, you are a MUCH better cook than you think you are!", I was so touched.  He said that he could eat this recipe every single is "his type of meal".  Sophia was the one that picked this out as our dinner for tonight, and she also really enjoyed it.  However, after a few bites, she thought it was a bit too spicy (there is a single red jalapeno pepper involved).  Joe usually gets the hiccups the minute he ingests something spicy, and I am proud to say, "No hiccups for Joe, after two helpings!"  Therefore, I conclude that it is probably not the best dish for children due to the spice.  You could always make it without the jalapeno pepper, yet please be advised that there are also pine nuts in this dish for any allergy sufferers.

The flavors in this dish are amazing!  It is the perfect combination of salt and spice...not too much in either category, and yet, so flavorful!  It was a bit of a multi-tasking endeavor...a few things going on at the same time.  However, I did it and it was enjoyed!  If you try it, I hope that you enjoy it, too! 

Total contribution to our Jar now equals:  $65.60.  We will be doing our virtual shopping very soon at

God Bless you all!

"Chicken Parmigiana"

Chicken Parmigiana
3 ounces baked whole-grain wheat crackers, such as Triscuits (about 12)
1/3 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1 can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes (no salt added), with juice
1/2 medium onion (3 ounces), coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped (2 teaspoons)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 large egg whites
6 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (6 ounces each)
3 ounces part-skim mozzarella cheese, grated (about 1 cup)
1 ounce Pecorino Romano cheese, finely grated (about 1/2 cup)

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F; Pulse crackers, parsley, oregano, and 1 teaspoon salt in a food processor until finely ground. Season with pepper, and transfer to a plate. Puree tomatoes with juice, onion, garlic, and 1/2 teaspoon salt with an immersion blender or in clean food precessor until smooth.
2. Coat a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with oil. Lightly whisk egg whites, and transfer to a shallow dish. Dip each chicken breast half in whites to fully coat; let excess drip off. Dredge chicken in crumb mixture, lightly pressing, to coat both sides.
3. Transfer chicken to prepared baking dish, and flip once to coat in oil. Bake until crisp, about 10 minutes.
4. Pour tomato sauce over chicken, allowing some sauce underneath each piece. Top with cheese, and bake until bubbling and top is lightly browned, 15 to 20 minutes.

(Total cost for us to make: $28.58; $2.86 going into Jar).
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"Thumbs Up!"

As you can see, this low-fat version of Chicken Parmesan recieved a dual thumbs-up from the critics! You will see from the posted picture of this dish (shown above in "Chicken Parmigiana"), that it looks quite sloppy, but whenever a dish calls for cheese to be melted on top, the cheese takes on a life of its own.
This recipe came from the Martha Stewart magazine called "Living", and it is featured in the "Healthy Living" section. Martha gives us a healthy version of this infamous Italian, breaded, and usually, deep-fried dish. This version called for Triscuit crackers, parsley, a bit of salt, and oregano as the "breaded" portion, with egg-whites as the batter. I have to say, this recipe is so-far my favorite in the taste category...and I love that it is guilt-free in the nutritional department!

In yesterday's mail, I received a lovely hand-written letter from my wonderful mother-in-law with her "Chicken Cacciatore" recipe. Just seeing her handwriting makes me feel so special, as I know she took the time to sit down and write out this recipe for us to add to our collection. She also included five dollars for our Donations Jar. We are so grateful! This new Cacciatore recipe came from the children's "Italian Grandma", who loves them more than words can express, and who took the time to contribute to our project. We will certainly be making that soon! How we wish she lived closer as her wisdom and culinary skills could teach me a lot in the kitchen! Her letter is going in the jar as well, right along side Nancy's.

Joe's comments about this recipe were, "Jenn, this is OUTSTANDING!" So glad to be keeping my husband's belly full and happy!

Recipe to follow...but I'll leave you with a funny quote that I came across:

"The trouble with eating Italian food is that five or six days later you're hungry again."--George Miller
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Monday, January 25, 2010

"Corned Beef with Dijon Glaze"

"Top of the mornin' to ya..." as we venture into the region of Ireland!  If one were to guess what my genetic background is, they would probably have "Irish" at the top of the list as the fair-of-skin is a dead-giveaway.  In fact, when I was young, my Aunt used to jokingly call me "Casper"...

For last night's dinner, I attempted the classic "Corned Beef" from Ireland, but found a recipe that included a "dijon mustard glaze".  This was delicious.  A bit salty for my taste buds, but husband and children gave it universal thumbs-up!  I prefer spicy to salty, but I did enjoy the taste of this very much.

I found this recipe on the internet and it is published on cost us $20.00 for the ingredients that I needed, so another $2.00 is added to our Donation Jar.  In case you weren't aware, the Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County has a virtual shopping link on their website where you can actually "click and drag" food items into your virtual shopping cart and donate that way.  They list the cost of these items, so that you know that you are actually purchasing food for the individuals who need it.  Their website is:

Corned Beef with Dijon Glaze
1 (3-pound) corned beef brisket, trimmed
4 cups water
3/4 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
2 bay leaves
8 whole cloves
3 garlic cloves, split
Dijon Glaze (recipe follows)

1.  Place brisket in a large Dutch oven.  Add water, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, bay leaves, cloves and garlic; Bring to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 2 1/2 hours to 3 hours or until tender.  Drain.
2.  Return brisket to Dutch oven.  Spread with 1/2 cup Dijon Glaze.  Bake at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes.  Serve with remianing glaze.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Dijon Glaze
1/2 cup Dijon mustard
1/2 cup orange marmalade
2 tablespoons prepared horseradish
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
--Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan.  Cook over medium heat, stirring mixture constantly until bubbly.  Makes 1 1/4 cups glaze.

An Irish Prayer

May God give you...
For every storm, a rainbow,
For every tear, a smile,
For every care, a promise,
And a blessing in each trial.
For every problem life sends,
A faithful friend to share,
For every sigh, a sweet song,
And an answer for each prayer.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

"I Saw God Today..."

To celebrate my brother Adam's (a.k.a. "Bobo") 29th birthday, our family went to Jesse James' Cisco's Grill which is right next door to the infamous Jesse James "West Coast Choppers".  Our reason for going there is because Adam has a strong affinity for motorcycles, as he is currently building his very first one.  My Mom thought it would be fun to go there and have a burger, so we did.  Giovanni was again my date as Daddy and Sophia were not home from the mountains just yet.  We had some great grub while gawking at all of the cool motor bikes that continuously entered the parking lot. 

After finishing our lunch, the family decided to take a walk next door to look at Jesse James' showcase bikes through the window, as Sunday is a closed showroom day.  Almost immediately upon exiting the restaurant a man, who looked a bit disoriented, mumbled something to us and noone was able to decipher his words. My brother-in-law, Luke, then asked him to repeat what he had said.  The man said, "Can you buy me a hamburger?" to which my wonderfully gracious brother-in-law replied, "Sure!  I'll buy you a hamburger!", and off they went--back to the restaurant.  We all whimpered with delight as the feeling of seeing our Luke jump at the chance to help was so touching!  (Not surprising because that is the type of guy that Luke is).  I looked at my adorable siblings and said out-loud, "You see how wonderful it is and feels to feed people???"  We all were smiling ear-to-ear knowing that Luke made a huge difference in that man's life today. 

When Luke returned, he shared part of their conversation with us.  He said that the man told him, "You can come with me to buy it so that you can see that I don't want your money. I only want a hamburger."  Luke then proceeded to share that when the two of them entered the restaurant, Luke attempted to buy him the large size hamburger to which the humbled, hungry man replied, "No thank you, I only want the small one."  He even refused the offer of french fries and a milk shake. 

This is how I believe God works...He uses people to accomplish His mission of loving one's neighbor as oneself. There is a great country song that George Strait sings called, "I Saw God Today", as it describes a man experiencing the birth of his little girl.  Well, I too saw God today...and he was dressed in Luke's clothes.

How fitting to leave you today with a quote that Luke's mom, Nancy, sent to me:

"To a man with an empty stomach, food is God."--Mahatma Gandhi

"Our Contributions Runneth Over"

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We're starting to make some real our love cup runneth over for the needy, so too shall our jar!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

"Table For Two"

Last night my kitchen was closed because my four year old son took me out on a dinner date to his other favorite kitchen:  Buca di Beppo.  "Boo-kuh",as he says it, is his favorite Italian hangout.  With a name like "Giovanni Antonio", he fits right in!  However, he inherited Mommy's fair skin and blue eyes which makes it hard to believe that he is of the Sicilian Sambitos, yet his striking resemblance to his Daddy confirms it.

He loves our date nights, and for me to say that I do as well would be the understatement of the century!  I am so aware of the limited amount of time that I have with him wanting to snuggle with me, and wanting me to "be his date", so I bask in every minute!  It is the same with Sophia.  I look at her sweet face and I just know that one day she very well might roll her eyes at me for telling her just how much I love her.    

I picked up Giovanni from pre-school and with our appetites in tow, we headed for the restaurant where he politely requested a "table for two".  We had a delicious meal!  Most of you probably know that Buca di Beppo is famous for its family-style dinners, which is another way of saying "humungous portion size".  I decided to ask the food server if there were a way for me to order from the lunch menu as that menu contains "Meals for One".  She answered in the affirmative so I ordered the grilled salmon with broccoli romano; However, I asked for the pesto sauce to be put on the side because it is far from being figure-friendly.  Giovanni had his staple of spaghetti and meatballs, and we had a wonderful dinner together while talking about what Daddy and Sophia were doing at that very same time, and about Giovanni's day at pre-school.

Our meal came to roughly $20.00, so $2.00 is being placed in our jar.  Upon returning home and after Giovanni's bath, I tuned into George Clooney's "Help For Haiti" telethon.  With tears streaming down my face, I wished that I could reach into that television and grab as many of the pictured orphans as I could and bring them here to love and to feed.  Knowing that I couldn't, I did what I could, and I picked up the telephone and donated money.  If the advertisements are correct, maybe, just maybe, hundreds of mouths will be fed in Haiti from this simple action??? 

I'll depart today with another fitting quote that my sister's mother-in-law, and my dear friend, Nancy, sent to me in honor of this project:

"Almost everything you do will seem insignificant, but it is important that you do it."--Mahatma Gandhi

Friday, January 22, 2010

"German Potato Soup"

It is time to venture into a different country...Germany was calling for some attention as Mommy's maiden name is "Newmeyer"!  It turns out that I am the proud owner of the "Fix-It and Forget-It Cookbook; Feasting with your Slow Cooker" by Dawn J. Ranck and Phyllis Pellman Good.  In perusing its pages, I immediately went to the index to see if I found anything with the word "German" in it, and there it was..."German Potato Soup"!  It just so happens that outside was experiencing a torrential down-pour as I was searching,  so this title peaked my interest.

Glancing at the ingredients, it seemed very quick and simple.  I quickly removed the Crock Pot from the cupboard and went to the store for my ingredients.  The only time-consuming portion of this was cooking the bacon.  However, I fried it up and crumbled it into a little plastic sandwich bag, and put it in the fridge for the final 10 minutes of cooking this delicious soup.

German Potato Soup
1 onion, chopped
1 leek, trimmed and diced
2 carrots, diced
1 cup chopped cabbage
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
4 cups beef broth
1 lb. potatoes, diced
1 bay leaf
1-2 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. salt, optional
1/2 tsp. caraway seeds, optional
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1 lb. bacon, cooked and crumbled
1/2 cup sour cream

1.  Combine all ingredients except bacon and sour cream.
2.  Cover.  Cook on Low 8-10 hours, or High 4-5 hours.
3.  Remove bay leaf.  Use a slotted spoon to remove potatoes.  Mash potatoes and mix with sour cream.  Return to slow cooker.  Stir in.  Add bacon and mix together thoroughly.

Cost of this recipe:  $16.07
Contribution to Donations Jar:  $ 1.61

This is a delectable choice for a cold, rainy day, or even for an indoor sports get-together!  The guys will love it as it is primarily "meat and potatoes"!

Joe gave a huge thumbs-up for this one!  The kids didn't taste this, as they opted for hot dogs and applesauce.  That's sort of "German-like" isn't it??--could say that the dogs are in the Bratwurst family! 

I'll leave you with today's total in the "Donations" Jar:  $50.26!  It doesn't seem like much, but this is only day four of this project.  We WILL be contributing a great deal throughout the year, and I am hopeful that many mouths will be fed from our contributions.

"If you can't feed a hundred people, then feed just one." --Mother Theresa

Thursday, January 21, 2010


This recipe came from "Better Homes and Gardens Special Interest Publications entitled 'Italian'," and was issued in the Fall/Winter 2009 publication.  I am known to sporadically buy cooking magazines and books for the sole purpose of filling up the "Cookbook Cabinet".  Hence, I have quite the selection each day in fulfillment of this project.

This particular recipe received mixed reviews from my family as it calls for a somewhat-mature palate.  It is the type of dish that is delicious when you combine multiple flavors in each bite.  (I didn't know this before making it...)  I noticed and learned from watching "Top Chef" that the contenders are often receiving favorable comments from the show's judges for accomplishing this endeavor. Did I accomplish it? Who knows!!!  My husband thought it was a bit bland before taking chicken bites accompanied with the tomatoes and shallots. After doing so, he thought it was wonderful. Our son, Giovanni, is the pickiest eater I've known to date, but he really liked the chicken. Sophia had a drumstick and a half, all while giving me thumbs-up. It is an experience bringing different food to our children's plates...they are convinced that they are not going to like it until they take that first bite. I love watching their face go from "blah" to all smiles with their thumbs rising in the air! I know that there will undoubtedly be recipes that receive a unanimous thumbs-down, but I am trying to keep that at bay...:)

Ever since seeing the movie "Under the Tuscan Sun", I fell in love with merely the word "Tuscany".  It just "sounds" romantic, and the scenery from its landscape, depicted in pictures and in this named movie, is just breath-taking!  I look forward to visiting there someday. 

Total cost for this recipe: $26.55
Contribution for jars: $2.66

From the magazine's recipe commentary:  "...Tuscans enjoy food that is simply prepared, often unadorned except for a drizzle of locally produced olive oil and perhaps a sprinkling of herbs."  In my opinion, this recipe is not difficult to make whatsoever, but you need to incorporate all of the ingredients into your bites.  Here is the recipe from "Better Homes and Gardens Special Interest Publications: "Italian" (Fall/Winter 2009):

Roast Tarragon Chicken

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 1/2 teaspoons dried tarragon, crushed
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 pound cherry tomatoes
8 small shallots
2 1/2 to 3 pounds meaty chicken pieces (breasts, thighs, and drumsticks)

1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  In a medium bowl, stir together olive oil, tarragon, garlic, pepper, and salt.  Add tomatoes and shallots; toss gently to coat.  Use a slotted spoon to remove tomatoes and shallots from bowl, reserving the olive oil mixture.
2.  If desired, skin chicken.  Place chicken in shallow roasting pan.  Brush chicken with the reserved olive oil mixture.
3.  Roast chicken in the preheated oven for 20 minutes.  Add the shallots; roast for 15 minutes.  Add the tomatoes; roast for 10 to 12 minutes more or until chicken is tender and no longer pink and vegetables are tender.  Makes 6 servings.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

"Not-a-Boar Meat Sauce and Pasta"

This recipe came from the "Everyday with Rachael Ray" magazine...and in a word, "SCRUM-DIDDILY-UMPTIOUS"!  My husband Joe said, "This not only gets two thumbs up, but I'll throw in a couple of toes, too!"

Apparently, the original recipe calls for "wild boar" (can we say, "What?!?!"), but even Rachael can't find that in her NY supermarket.  So, instead, she supplements with ground pork and ground beef--and of course the "EVOO" is a must!  The most expensive ingredient was the pecorino romano cheese (about $13.00). However, the flavor of that cheese just sealed the deal!

As I was getting all of the ingredients in order, one of which is unsweetened cocoa powder, I encountered my first "Oh, NO!, I really am an amateur" moment.  I had purchased a box of unsweetened cocoa powder and took the lid off to open it, only to find that there is a tight plastic seal which needs to be removed.  In so doing, about a cup full of this brown, but oh-so-wonderfully smelling, powder leaped from inside the box all over my kitchen cabinets and floors.  The smell of chocolate caused our dog Fenway to come running in my direction, which immediately prompted me into doing some rapid karate moves trying to keep him away from it, as chocolate is lethal for dogs.  A hidden camera would have probably earned us $10,000 from "America's Funniest Home Videos"--something to consider, as this is definitely a learn-as-I-go routine.

The total cost of this recipe was $39.30 (based on the ingredients I needed); However, $23.00 of that amount was for the wine and cheese alone.  Of course, I had to buy a $10.00 bottle of chardonnay because Two-Buck-Chuck just won't do.  So, another $3.93 is added to our jars bringing our total contribution thus far to $45.99. 

Here is the recipe...

"Not-a-Boar Meat Sauce & Pasta" (from Rachael Ray):

Salt and pepper
1 pound rigatoni pasta or broken curly-edge lasagna noodles
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)
3/4 pound ground pork
3/4 pound ground beef
1 small carrot, finely chopped or grated
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 sprigs thyme, stems discarded and leaves finely chopped
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
2 pinches ground cloves or allspice
1/4 cup tomoato paste
1/2 cup dry white wine (eyeball it)
2 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup whole milk
1 cup grated pecorino romano cheese

1.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt it, add the pasta and cook until al dente.  Drain.
2.  While the pasta is working, in a dutch oven or heavy pot, heat the EVOO, 2 turns of the pan, over medium-high heat until smoking.  Add the pork and beef and cook, stirring, until browned, 10 to 12 minutes.  Stir in the carrot, onion, garlic, thyme, bay leaf, cocoa and cloves; season with salt and pepper.  Cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes.  Stir in the tomato paste for 1 minute, then stir in the wine.  Stir in the chicken stock and milk, lower the heat and simmer until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.  Discard the bay leaf.
3.  Stir the pasta into the sauce and simmer for 5 minutes longer.  Stir in the cheese to coat.  Serve the pasta in shallow bowls.

I served this with a fresh spinach salad and some steamed broccoli --I am grateful that my babies love it! :)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

"Italian-Style Roast"

This recipe was given to me by my dear friend, Jen, and it is from "The New Creative Crock Pot Slow Cooker Cookbook."  It was a tremendous success!  I received universal "thumbs up!"  I was blessed to have my long-time girlfriend Heidi here visiting from Oregon for the kick-off party for this project.  

In the pictures that you see of the jars below, you will notice that there is already money in them.  This generous gift of $20.00 was sent to us from our wonderful Nancy!  Nancy is my sister Goo's mother-in-law and I adore her!  When I told her of this project, she sent us the most beautiful card wishing us luck on our mission to help others.  Thank you from the bottom of our hearts, Nancy!!!  Also, please know that that twenty dollars will feed many.  I was astonished at researching some of the world hunger sites, that for a dollar a day, you can feed an entire family.  Imagine just how possible that is!

Well, as God works, we received yet another donation from my friend Heidi of another $20.00!  Thank you, thank you, thank you!  So far, we have collected $42.06 and it is only day two of this mission.  I am optimistic; I am hopeful!
Total cost of recipe (ingredients I needed): $20.66;

Total amount contributed to "Donations Jar": $2.06;
Total amount collected to date: $42.06.
The recipe was quite easy to follow...gotta love the Crock-Pot!  A great recipe for those sport-filled days or when you just want to "fix it and forget it."  (I believe there is a cookbook out there with that title). There was some chopping involved, but very easy to make.  Here it is for any of you that want to try it:

Italian-Style Roast

1-6 oz. can tomato paste
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pkg. dry onion soup mix
2 tsp. fresh oregano, chopped
2 tsp. fresh thyme, chopped
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 lbs. chuck roast, trimmed of any excess fat
1-16 oz. can tomatoes, drained and chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
2 medium carrots, chopped
1 medium potato, chopped
1 large celery stalk, sliced
2 bay leaves

In a small mixing bowl, combine the tomato paste, garlic, onion, soup mix, oregano, thyme, salt and pepper.  Rub this mixture all over the chuck roast and place the roast in the Crock Pot slow cooker.  Add the remaining ingredients and any leftover tomato sauce.  Cover; Cook on Low 8 to 10 hours (or on High for 4 to 5 hours).  Makes 6 servings.

*You may double all the ingredients for the 5, 6 or 7-quart Crock Pot slow cooker. 

I served this with orzo pasta that I tossed with two humungous handfuls of freshly grated parmesan cheese!  Delicious!!!  (Also, some fresh steamed broccoli because as I learned from all my years of waitressing, "No green is obscene!")

So, today is a new day and a new recipe is in the mix for tonight's dinner.  Hopefully, thumbs-up are in order. Have a beautiful day everyone, and please say some prayers for the Haitian people...donations will be made there as well!

Monday, January 18, 2010

"Our Donation Jars"

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"My Beautiful Babies and Partners"

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"I have a did Martin Luther King!"

Today we commemorate a legendary man who had compassion in his heart and who “had a dream” that one day there would be equality among all – a man that wanted to make a difference. A man who did just that as we celebrate him and his vision each and every calendar year. Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., we are forever grateful for the seed of hope that you planted, and for the awareness that you created through your compassionate heart.

Well, this brings me to the point…I, too, have a dream: A dream of making a difference in the lives of the hungry and homeless; A dream that I hope to bring to reality through the eyes of my children with education and compassion at the forefront.

I have pondered and attempted to tap into every creative juice that I possess looking for a fun and memorable way to accomplish this. One of my favorite lines from the Movie “Jerry McGuire” is: “…Most of the women my age are trying to get a man, Laurel, not me; I’m trying to ‘raise’ a man.”

Well, for me, I am trying to raise “humanitarians”. I wish for my children to be acutely aware of just how abundantly blessed we are, how “lucky” we are to have food on our table, clothes on our backs, and shelter over our heads. Yet, I do not wish for them to feel “guilty” for these blessings—Rather, I pray for the ability to teach them the “balance” of being grateful coupled with the desire to serve those in need. I believe that one cannot teach values without modeling them. Our head Pastor at our church, Kenton Beshore, once said to our congregation: “…If you feel that you have been blessed, in whatever way, know that you have been blessed to be a blessing!” It is sort of the “pay-it-forward” premise as I see it, and I am blessed to not only know this, but to feel it in the very depths of my soul. I have compassion in my heart for others, and I want to be a blessing.

Just looking into the eyes of my family: two beautiful children who are healthy, smart and loving; a loyal and committed husband, parents and siblings who genuinely love and care for one another…I have been blessed!

Now, back to the creative way I hope to make a difference: I love to cook, yet I have never really been taught. I have been teaching myself over the years, and I am not half-bad. Now, Gordon Ramsey might want to scream in my ear, but he would not know who he is messing with! However, I aspire to be a great cook. I want to be the type of cook that when my now four-year-old son, Giovanni, comes home from sports practice one day and says, “Mom, I’ve invited some of the boys for dinner”, then I can reply with, “Sure, honey”, and whip up some scrumptious and filling masterpiece –only to have them longing to come back for more. “Comfort Food” is what some may call it – I hope that my children always find home a comforting place where they wish to have fellowship with friends, classmates, teammates, family, etc.

The only way for me to get better at cooking is to dive right in – totally my style! My friends can attest to my zest for life and for a challenge. I need to practice by doing…so therein lay the premise behind my desire to make a difference. In 2010, I am attempting to cook recipes from various cookbooks, all representing our family’s genetic background. I have never been to Europe, so I hope to teach culture to my children, Sophia and Giovanni, through recipes from the countries that are in their blood. Namely, Italian since their Daddy is from 100% Sicilian fabric; yet Mommy was woven from Ireland, Germany, Sweden and Wales. This should make for some interesting cuisine! What better way to teach the children about their heritage than through meals?

As a family, we discuss the hunger problem that is not only global, yet drastically local as well. My husband and I speak to our children about the need to assist with this problem. We attempt to fill their minds with awareness and the importance of giving to others. As I spoke of modeling the behavior earlier, that is what I am attempting to do with this project. I am going to be cooking for my family, teaching them about the cuisines from whence they came, while donating 10% of the cost of each recipe to our local Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County. We have a deal with the kids that they are to taste everything that I make and give a critique of “thumbs-up or thumbs-down”, and I will blog not only the recipe, but also about the experience of making it. I foresee many humorous tales emerging from “Cooking To Contribute”, a.k.a., “The Trial and Error Culinary Institute of Irvine, CA.”

Stay tuned…the first recipe is in honor of my husband’s ancestors who so bravely landed on Ellis Island a few years before the beginning of World War I…fresh from Sicily and undoubtedly hungry for the Italian cuisine that we all know and love so well. So, here’s to the Sambitos and the Olivieris…an Italian Roast cooked via crock-pot—the Americana-Mama way! Manga!