Thursday, February 25, 2010

"Spaghetti With Pork Bolognese"

This Ten-Dollar bill pictured here was found within the numerous bills in our "Donations Jar" when counting our total contributions to donate this month. Our total amounts to $106.51! We are so excited to be giving all of that to the "Doube R Ranch" as I previously posted. I also have started gathering clothes, shoes and such to give to the Orange County Rescue Mission as it will be used to clothe those living on the streets! I found it interesting that this Ten Dollar bill apparently has traveled from Vatican City in Rome, Italy! Italy of all places! Furthermore, it appears that the person who defaced this bill claims to be Pope John Paul or at least wants this bill to be returned to him; However, perhaps that person should check the correct spelling of his name.

The recipe to post for this entry was again from the "Cooking Light best recipes 2010" magazine edition. It is titled, "Spaghetti with Pork Bolognese" and was very delicious and hearty. It called for cinnamon stick and nutmeg which gave it a very robust flavor. A great family-meal for those Italian lovers! Count us in!!! Here is the recipe and magazine review for you all to enjoy:

A rich sauce with plenty of meat feels like the old-world Italian dish but fits in the new-world nutrition sense. A little liquid remaining in your sauce helps coat the pasta.
Yield: 8 servings

Ingredients:1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups finely chopped onion
1/2 cup finely chopped carrot (about 1 medium)
1/2 cup finely chopped celery (about 1 stalk)
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped garlic
1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1 bay leaf
1 pound ground pork tenderloin
3/4 pound ground pork
2 ounces pancetta, finely diced
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 cups chopped plum tomato (about 1/2 pound)
1 1/2 cups organic vegetable broth (such as Swanson)
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup 1% low-fat milk
1/8 teaspoon grated whole nutmeg
1 (2-ounce) piece Parmigiano-Reggiano rind
1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
8 cups hot cooked spaghetti (about 16 ounces uncooked)
1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley

Preparation :
1. Heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion, carrot, celery, garlic, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and bay leaf to pan; cook 8 minutes or until vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally. Increase heat to medium-high. Add ground pork tenderloin, ground pork, pancetta, and 1/4 teaspoon salt; sauté 8 minutes or until pork loses its pink color. Stir in tomato paste; cook 1 minute. Add tomato and next 5 ingredients (through rind); bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 45 minutes. Add cinnamon; simmer 30 minutes or until most of liquid evaporates. Discard bay leaf, rind, and cinnamon stick; stir in remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper. Arrange 1 cup noodles on each of 8 plates; top each with about 3/4 cup sauce. Sprinkle each serving with 1 tablespoon grated cheese and 1 tablespoon parsley.

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Sunday, February 21, 2010

"Chicken With Olives"

This recipe was very tasty--just the right amount of savor from the tang of the olives. The chicken was tender and the tomatoes and garlic gave it the Italian signature! Joe was happy! Sophia only had one thumb-up for this, and Giovanni, surprisingly gave it two huge thumbs-up!!! There is a first for everything, I suppose. I am sure that one day, when he is eating us out of house and home, I will miss the days of his bird-like consumption.

This dish was one of the "Prize Tested Recipes" and was the $400 winner in the "Better Homes & Gardens" September 2008 publication. Its author is Donna Ricci from Scottsdale, AZ. Very easy to make as well - I am learning to do all of the preparation before I even begin so that I am simulating the cooking shows with adding a little bowl of this, a pinch of that, and a bowl of this, and a pour of that. The soiled prep bowls then make a mound in my sink, but at least the cooking part is smooth-sailing.

The fact that this recipe is published in "Better Homes & Gardens" brings me to another point of awareness. There are so many people without families or "homes" in the family-sense of the word, and my heart aches for the voids their hearts must endure. I will never grasp the maltreatment of a child or the suffering that some children have to endure, let alone encounter the loss or absence of a parent. Or even worse, living with a parent that is abusive or neglectful. WHY? I will never know, but I can try to help in some way through loving acts. So I attempted to research some other hunger/homeless charities in Orange County, CA, in addition to the Second Harvest Food Bank. My goal is to donate everywhere possible to legitimate organizations, through money, volunteering and food donations.

I came across the Orange County Rescue Mission and was so touched by the amount of assistance and aid that they provide to the homeless, neglected and hungry individuals that are existing in our own County in substantial amounts--a great number of these individuals are neglected and abused children. I get so angered by the thought of someone abusing anyone, let alone an innocent soul and defenseless child. How easy it is for the map of that child's life to be altered forever by this abuse and abandonment. With love, patience and care, that route can be redirected toward a life of fulfillment and happiness--this is my prayer.

There is a facility called the Double R Ranch (the "R"s stand for Redemption and Restoration),which is operated through the Orange County Rescue Mission, where foster children (who have been placed in group homes) are taken to this ranch to interact with animals as a form of therapy so that they can learn trust and a positive part of relationships. The stories of some of these individuals whose lives have been forever positively changed are very emotional and very real.

There are volunteer opportunities where an individual, or an entire family, can go to the Ranch for a day to volunteer services in the chores/maintenance of this facility. The website lists various dates that are open -- my family will definitely be doing this as soon as Joe returns from Spring Training travels. We look forward to doing what we can to make even the slightest bit of difference. Our donation at the end of this month will go 100% to the Double R Ranch. Thank you to the Orange County Rescue Mission for being there for these deserving individuals. Please let this goodness continue so that these worthy individuals can find hope in their hearts.

"Hope is important because it can make the present moment less difficult to bear. If we believe that tomorrow will be better, we can bear a hardship today."--Thich Nhat Hanh

Here is the recipe for you to enjoy:
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (1-1/4 to 1-1/2 lb. total)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 15-oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 5.75oz. jar sliced pitted green olives, drained
1 2.25-oz. can sliced pitted ripe olives, drained
2 Tbsp. capers, drained
2 Tbsp. finely shredded lemon peel
1 tsp. dried oregano, crushed
3 Tbsp. snipped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley

1. In a large skillet brown chicken in hot oil over medium-high heat for 5 minutes, turning once. Remove chicken from skillet; set aside. Add onion to skillet. Cook over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes or until tender and lightly browned, stirring occasionally and adding garlic the last 1 minute of cooking.
2. Stir tomatoes, olives, capers, lemon peel, and oregano into onion mixture. Place chicken on tomato mixture. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 13 to 15 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink (170 degrees F).
3. To serve, place chicken on platter. Season tomato mixture to taste with salt and black pepper. Spoon tomato mixture over chicken. Sprinkle with parsley. Makes 4 servings.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

"Garlic and Sun-dried Tomato Corn Muffins"

Since my family had a busy sport-night (softball and T-ball practices), for dinner we had grilled cheese sandwiches and some delicious Trader Joe's soup -- I highly recommend the Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup from Trader Joe's -- comes in a box and is oh, so yummy! 

To go along with the soup, I looked to Giada for some delightful muffin or roll recipe.  I decided on the "Garlic and Sun-dried Tomato Corn Muffins" from my new cookbook that Heidi sent me from Oregon.  They were moist, flavorful and filling.  Recipe below...

2 (8 1/2-ounce) packages corn muffin mix (recommended: Jiffy)
2 cups frozen whole kernel corn, thawed
3 garlic cloves, minced
2/3 cup diced sun-dried tomatoes (from an 8-ounce jar)
2/3 cup buttermilk
2/3 cup sour cream
2 large eggs

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease 2 muffin tins.
In a large bowl combine the muffin mix, corn, garlic, and sun-dried tomatoes. Stir to combine. In a small bowl whisk together the buttermilk, sour cream, and eggs until well blended. Add the buttermilk mixture to the muffin mix. Stir to combine. Spoon the mix into the muffin tins, filling up the cups about halfway. Bake until golden brown on top, about 15 minutes. --from "Giada's Kitchen - New Italian Favorites".

Friday, February 19, 2010

"The Generous Heart of a Stranger"

I usually awake each morning believing that there is more "right" than "wrong" in this world, more "good" than "evil", and that therefore, there is room to shift the pendulum more in the direction of "right".  The smallest of deeds and simplest of actions are so able to turn into waves of triumph with persistent effort -- so I keep on trying to do right.  Each day I attempt to do something positive, something to assist the needy, and hope that my small actions may make a difference to somebody, someday.   I am only one person, but I know that nothing is impossible, and the faith I have in the Man upstairs just puts a smile in my heart.  I am so grateful for what I have been given, and I know that prayer is a powerful force.  I pray for the homeless and the needy daily, and I believe that good will out-do evil everytime...

As a perfect example of the goodness that exists in the human realm:  I met with an acquaintance of mine who happens to own a neighboring business called "Wine Styles", and informed her about my endeavors of this project.  As I was informing her of the nature of our project, an additional patron joined us and she asked me if I would share with him the specifics of same.  I did, and he quickly reached for his wallet and handed me $60.00 to add to our Jar!!!  $60.00!!!  I was so touched and blown away by his generosity, but more importantly, amazed at how he understood our project's mission from the first few words!  This generous person, who was a complete stranger, cared enough about our task that he opened his heart and wallet knowing that he could make a difference.  He most certainly did as his gift put us close to $100.00 for this month's donation, and we are only mid-way thru February! 

When I began this project, I was hopeful--I was optimistic.  Now, I am inspired more than ever to witness generosity in the heart of a stranger...all because we care about the homeless and the hungry.  Caring matters.  I saw a great bumper sticker on a car the other day which spoke volumes.  It said, "Because nice matters".  Amen to that!

"A generous heart, kind speech, and a life of service and compassion are the things which renew humanity."--Buddha  

This night's recipe was absolutely delicious -- my favorite so far!  So lean, and so tasty!!!  Enjoy!  It is from the "Cooking Light best recipes 2010" magazine.

Grilled Pork Chops with Shallot Butter
8 (7-ounce) bone-in center-cut pork chops
1 teaspoon salt, divided
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh chives
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons butter, softened
2 1/2 teaspoons minced shallots
1/4 teaspoon grated lemon rind

1. Prepare grill to medium-high heat.

2. Sprinkle both sides of pork evenly with 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper. Combine oil, chives, thyme, rosemary, and garlic, stirring well. Rub oil mixture evenly over both sides of pork. Place pork on grill rack; grill 6 minutes on each side or until a thermometer inserted in the thickest part of pork registers 155°. Remove pork from grill; let stand 5 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt.

3. Combine butter, shallots, and lemon rind, stirring well. Spread about 1 teaspoon butter mixture over each pork chop; let the pork stand an additional 5 minutes.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

"Giada, Giada, Giada..."

The name of a cook that I so greatly admire will probably remind you of the famous Seinfeld episode where "Yada, yada, yada" was introduced and quickly became universally popular as a means of making a long story short.  Well now that I am engulfed in cookbooks and "The Food Network", I can't help but find myself replacing the infamous saying with "Giada, Giada, Giada"--not as an ending to a story, rather the answer to whom I admire in the kitchen.  She is a talented culinary artist, and her recipes usually attempt to add the healthy flair.  Surely I need not tell you how ecstatic I was to receive her cookbook in the mail as a gift from my loyal and ever-so-supportive friend, Heidi.

I couldn't wait to see the recipes in this book...I said that I would attempt to make the first thing that I opened to, and that happened to be "Orzo-Stuffed Peppers".  It just so happens that we were going over to my Dad's house yesterday evening to celebrate my nephew's birthday, so I vowed to make this and bring it for everyone to hopefully enjoy.

This recipe is completely vegetarian, with the exception of the chicken broth.  I found it delicious, with the flavor of mint making it unique!  It seemed like most people liked it, but I think it was more of a "middle-of-the-road" review.  Joe loved it and had the leftovers for lunch today. 

I had one faux-pas when making this:  I doubled the recipe, and therefore purchased two cans of Italian whole tomatoes, yet when I was checking out from the grocery store, I noticed one of the cans had a bunch of dents in it.  I know that it is so popular to inject botulism into your muscles these days for the sake of erasing wrinkles, but I wasn't risking the chance of erasing anyone's digestive system with tainted tomatoes.  So, I asked the manager to get me a new can as she asked if I needed help.  It was only after I had opened the can and dumped it into the mixing bowl did I realize that she had picked up "pureed" tomatoes -- big difference.  The orzo mixture was a tad more runny than it would have been with the whole tomatoes, but it still worked...

Our contribution to the Jar for this recipe totaled $4.03.  The Jar is quickly filling up again -- can't wait to make our next donation and stock those shelves with more nourishment for the hungry. 

Here is the recipe from "Giada's Kitchen - New Italian Favorites" by Giada de Laurentiis:

Orzo-Stuffed Peppers
1 (28-ounce) can whole Italian tomatoes
2 medium zucchini, grated
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for sprinkling
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 cups orzo (rice-shaped pasta)
6 sweet bell peppers (red or yellow)
1/4 chopped fresh basil, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Pour the tomatoes and their juices into a large bowl and break them into pieces using a pair of kitchen shears or your fingertips.  Add the zucchini, mint, cheese, olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper.  Stir to combine.

Meanwhile, bring the chicken broth to a boil in a medium saucepan over high-heat.  Add the orzo and cook for 4 minutes.  The orzo will be only partially cooked.  Drain the orzo through a sieve, reserving the chicken broth, and add the orzo to the large bowl with the vegetables.  Stir to combine.  Transfer the warm chicken broth to a 3-quart baking dish. 

Slice the tops off the peppers and remove all ribs and seeds.  Cut a very thin slice from the base to help the peppers stand up.

Spoon the orzo mixture into the peppers.  Place the peppers in the baking dish with the warm chicken broth.  Cover the dish with foil and bake for 45 minutes.  Remove the foil, sprinkle each pepper with cheese, and continue baking until the cheese is golden, about 15 minutes.  Remove from the oven and carefully transfer the stuffed peppers to serving plates.  Garnish with basil, if desired.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Fabulous Friends!

When I bgan this blog, in the very first entry I discussed my mission which is to create awareness in my children for the blessings that we have been given.  I cannot describe in words the blessings that not only exist in our material world, but the blessings that exist in our hearts--namely, our relationships with our family and our friends. 

My husband Joe had to undergo shoulder surgery today.  My giving, generous Mom offered to come down here to the O.C. last night and spend the night, only to rise at 4:30 a.m. to take Joe to L.A. and drop him off for his procedure.  Since the children were both home for the holiday today, I planned on getting their breakfast fed and then putting them in the car to venture on to L.A. to pick up Daddy after his surgery was completed.  Meanwhile, my kindred-spirit girlfriend Jen, offered to bring our family dinner for tonight.  She knew that this day would be a tough one and offered to go out of her way to help us.  See??? Blessing!  Furthermore, I opened up our mailbox today and there was this package from my friend Heidi (the one I mentioned was here the day that we launched this project)!  In this package was a "Giada" cookbook!  I shrieked with delight as Giada is one of my favorites!  Yet another blessing slapping me in the face today! 

The other blessings?  The Valentine's Day cards that Sophia and Giovanni received from "Fancy Nancy" and her sister, the one and only "Auntie Bobs" -- two of our absolute favorite human beings!  Nancy included yet another inspirational and thoughtful message, and gave the children $10.00 EACH to contribute to our Donation Jar!  Nancy, you are a HUGE blessing in our life!  You have funded so much toward our contribution to the Food Bank already, and I know that God is smiling down on you for your generous heart!  And, Auntie Bobs, the way you always remember Sophia and Giovanni on the holidays is so precious and special to us.  BLESSINGS!!! Bam, bam, bam, just knocking us out!

Thank you, from the depths of my soul, to my thoughtful and generous friends!  You are proof that this project is worth every minute!

There was no recipe tonight, as my friend Jen took care of our dinner for us!  Thank you so much again!  We are so grateful! 

"Friends are the most important ingredient in this recipe of life."--Anonymous

Friday, February 12, 2010

"linguine with tuna, walnuts, lemon and herbs"

Most people might shun at the sound of the word "tuna" as it is not the most-favored fish, but I know that most do like the tuna-fish sandwich or the ever so popular "tuna melt" in restaurants.  I thought that the children would like to try this type of fish as they really enjoy salmon and mahi-mahi.  Does saying it twice in the name mean that it will be twice as delicious???  I think so.  I think so.

My sister Madi said that this was her favorite dish so far!  Sophia gave it a huge thumbs-up and Joe "liked" it -- wouldn't say he loved it.  Giovanni just hands-down hated it!  He dislikes things sometimes just for the sake of doing so, I have noticed.  I thought that the flavors were a faultless combination with the lemon seizing the day!

As we enter the Valentines' weekend, I am so appreciative of my husband who went out of his way to buy me flowers beforehand, along with the most beautiful card I have ever read.  He has to be out of town this weekend due to a death in the family and wanted me to feel valued in his absence.  These are the things that matter.  Yes, life is hard, marriage is work, children are challenging, etc. etc. etc.  But when we stop to really observe all that we have to be thankful for, the blessings are overwhelming!!!  So for every difficult moment that life has dealt, I acknowledge the abundance of easy, care-free, loving moments that were also there and ARE there to make it all worth it!  Life is a gift, and as my dear friend Theresa has known, it surely changes things when you realize the type of gift that you have been given.  So, I hope to raise my children to use their God-given gifts in helping or serving others--Their life was not only a gift to me, but the most prized possession I could ever desire! 

February acknowledges Presidents Day, along with Lincoln and Washington's birthdays, and of course Valentine's Day.  Presidents Lincoln and Washington were all about doing what is right and valuing others, and Valentine's Day is about love...hmmm, I "love" how that all fits into the theme of our project!  Guess the Founding Fathers and Cupid knew all along what is the "answer" and the "reason" behind our existence.  You go, February!...You have a fan in me!

linguine with tuna, walnuts, lemon and herbs
3/4 cup walnuts, chopped
1 pound linguine
1/3 cup olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 6-ounce cans tuna packed in oil
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (from 2 lemons)
2 teaspoons lemon juice
3/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
1/2 cup mixed fresh herbs, such as parsley, chives and thyme

1.  In a small frying pan, toast the walnuts over moderately low heat, stirring frequently, until golden brown, about 5 minutes.  Or toast them in a 350 degree F oven for 5 to 10 minutes.
2.  In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the linguine until just done, about 12 minutes.  Drain.
3.  Meanwhile, in a large frying pan, heat the olive oil over moderate heat.  Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.  Stir in the tuna and its oil and break up the tuna with a fork.  Remove from the heat.  Toss the linguine with the tuna mixture, the lemon zest, lemon juice, salt, pepper, herbs and the toasted walnuts.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

"Hallo Deutschland!"

Well, hello.....GERMANY!  I have always loved the taste of sauerkraut, especially with bratwurst on a hot bun with the addition of spicy mustard!  "Finger-lickin'-good", as my Dad would say!  My love for food most definitely stems from his bloodline.  If you are lucky enough to know my Dad, you know that you will always be accompanied with laughter and good story-telling while in his company.  His passion for life is infectious and admirable.  Never a complainer, although he has encountered health issues that would leave most of us stagnant in the distance.  My Dad possesses such a zest for the experiences that this life has to offer!  Never mind if he probably shouldn't be eating a certain food for dietary reasons--he will say, "Thin may be in, but fat's where it's at!"  So often while growing up, my sisters and I would bow our heads as we shook with laughter at his behavior when it came to food...licking his fingers, or "bowl" for that matter, never letting anything go to waste as he was "appreciative"!...Appreciative for what he had.  I guess that apple didn't fall far from the tree...

So in honor of my Dad's ancestors, a German recipe was in the works for this night's dinner.  (It's from the "Fannie Farmer Cookbook").   It happened to also be my Mother's birthday, February 9th, and she also has German blood in her. Therefore, "To my parents", who gave me a blessed and appreciative existence!

4 cups sauerkraut, drained
3 tart apples, peeled, cored, and sliced thin
1 onion, cut in thin rings
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 cup dry white wine
4 pounds spareribs, trimmed

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Spread the sauerkraut over the bottom of a shallow baking dish.  Cover with the apples, onion rings, bay leaves, salt, and pepper.  Drizzle the wine over and lay the spareribs on top.  Cover snugly with foil and bake for 1 hour.  Uncover, and bake another 20 minutes.  Cut the ribs into 3-rib portions and serve each over a spoonful of apples, onions, and sauerkraut.

Good night to you all, or as in Germany, they say "Gute Nacht euch allen!"

"rigatoni with sausage and tomato cream sauce"

Again, the title of this recipe is purposely put in lower-case letters as that is how it appears in the magazine...Who came up with that by the way?  Who thought it best to intentionally put grammatical errors in publications that are read by many, without the needed disclaimer for our grammar school-aged children?  Oh, the subliminal things that our children are exposed to...some good and some not-so-much!

My late grandmother, God rest her soul, was the queen of grammar.  She would send me spelling words in lists, and if I could define them and use them in a sentence and send the list back to her, then I would receive $5.00.  She inspired me to want to learn and she taught me how to spell.  She taught me how important it is, and sure enough to this day, grammatical errors or "typos" just jump off the page at me like fingernails on a chalkboard sound.  She read nearly a novel a day, and was so touched when her grandchildren took an interest in doing the same.  Oh, how I wish she could be here today to sit and read the daily endeavor of this project.  She would cry, no doubt, at the goodness that shall come from our efforts.  I have no doubt that she is watching me in the kitchen...

This meal was a winner!  It is hard to go wrong with pasta, especially in this family!  The recipe is published in "FOOD & WINE quick from scratch italian cookbook".  I hope that you all enjoy it as much as we did:

rigatoni with sausage and tomato cream sauce
(Serves 4) -- I doubled it and ended up with enough to feed a village (Hopefully our donations WILL!)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 pounds mild or hot Italian sausage, casings removed
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 cups canned crushed tomatoes in thick puree (from a 15-ounce can)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
1/4 chopped fresh parsley
1 cup light cream
1 pound rigatoni
Grated Parmesan, for serving
1.  In a large frying pan, heat the oil over moderate heat.  Add the sausage and cook, breaking up the meat with a fork, until it is no longer pink, about 5 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove the sausage from the pan. Discard all but 1 tablespoon fat.
2.  Reduce the heat to moderately low.  Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add the wine and cook until it almost evaporates, about 5 minutes.  Stir in the sausage, tomatoes and salt.  Simmer, covered, for 10 minutes.  Add the pepper, parsley and cream.
3.  In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the rigatoni until just done, about 14 minutes.  Drain the pasta and toss with the sauce.  Serve with grated Parmesan.

(They capitalized the cheese name, but not the recipe title)...Sorry, it just bugs me, the inconsistency.  I wonder why my daughter sometimes capitalizes at the beginning of a sentence and sometimes doesn't.  She has probably seen it done both ways!  Oh well, knowing that I can't change everything that bothers me, I'll focus on the thing that I can which is donating money to feed the homeless and the hungry.  Surely, that will be a consistency that my children will be proud of, and Gandhi will know that someone was listening.

"Be the change you want to see in the world."--Mahatma Gandhi

Monday, February 8, 2010

Savory Stuffed Zucchini

The Finished Product...recipe posted below...
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"Savory Stuffed Zucchini"

Hello to my 9 followers...I am so sorry that it has been a few days since my last blog.  I left on Friday for a teaching trip to Chicago...I was so blessed to have chilled weather, but nothing unbearable whatsoever.  Usually, at this point in the calendar year, I am dealing with snow, cancelled flights, wind problems, etc.  The cold crisp air was so refreshing, and my wonderful high-school friend, who has hotel connections in Chicago, hooked me up with the most awesome room that was much cheaper than BarBri's corporate rate!  So, I lucked out and had a comfortable stay.

However, I did not sleep well, as a Mother never does...The day before I left, Giovanni had a 104-degree temperature that we knew was related to a virus...but his heart rate was accelerating constantly which was very concerning.  We took him to the Pediatrician who wanted us to watch it closely, and even made an appointment for us at the cardiologist in the event it didn't come down.  I know that heart rates can accelerate when the body is in fever-mode, but it is always scary with your kids.  Thank the Lord, he is just fine, and his body reacted EXACTLY as it should have once the fever came down.  So grateful that his little immune system is stronger because of it!

The night before I left I made delicious stuffed zucchini.  I did not have tiime to blog about it, but wanted to definitely post the recipe.  I have so many vegetarian friends, and I respect their choices immensely, so this one is definitely made in their honor.  It is from an issue of "Family Circle" magazine, yet I do not have the publication information as this is a recipe I snagged from some waiting room, somewhere.  At least I am honest--wait, what about the ripping it out?  The receptionist did say, "Go ahead, we don't need it"...

I am glad that I did, because we enjoyed it and money is going into our jars as a result...

Savory Stuffed Zucchini

5 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise
3 Tbsp. "I Can't Believe It's Not Butter" Spread
1 medium onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 tsp. dried oregano leaves, crushed
1/4 tsp. grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Scoop out pulp from 8 zucchini halves;set aside.  Arrange zucchini halves on baking sheet.  Meanwhile, coarsely chop remaining zucchini and pulp.

Melt spread in nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and cook chopped zucchini and onion, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender.

Add red pepper, garlic and oregano.  Cook, stirring frequently, 1 minute; cool slightly.  Evenly spoon vegetable mixture into zucchini halves.

Top with cheese.

Bake 30 minutes or until tender.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

"Chicken Rollantini With Pesto"

I am sure that my ancestors are voicing their opinions from above about the repetitive choice of Italian dishes night after night.  However, it is one of my favorite foods and I know that it makes my husband happy, so they'll just have to wait their turn...also, the little angels, a.k.a., the "critics", love anything with pasta, so I am happy to oblige.  Keeping in mind that there are months where my ancestors will reign in their glory, i.e., "St. Patrick's Day", and of course, "Oktoberfest"!  So, please stay tuned for the variety...

Last night, I made a chicken dish that was very authentic in the Italian department: Very breaded, yet very delicious!  It took some time and preparation, as the breading and browning were the pre-cursor to the baking.  Anyway, my food-handling classes (that I was forced to take throughout my waitressing years) sure came in handy as this recipe called for dealing with "raw chicken" in numerous steps.  Having Lysol wipes "handy" was key, as I would continuously wipe down the counter tops anytime raw chicken was anywhere near! 

I am making a vegetarian item for tomorrow's blog to honor those who choose the non-meat menu--which, by the way, we all know is WAY healthier!  Just look at the animals from which we derive protein...what do they eat?  Answer:  Grass and grains!!!  However, I can't deny how much I love a good steak or hamburger from time to time, let alone the low-fat chicken sandwich!  So, I will try to honor both the vegetarian cuisine and meat-eating cuisine, as I wish to appeal to all diets so that there will be something that everyone can utilize in the recipe arena. 

This received a thumbs-up from all (and I promise to give you the "thumbs-down" reviews, but I am hoping to keep them on the far, so good!).  To think that in less than one month, our financial contribution will transform into 570+ meals, I am exceedingly optimistic and hopeful as to what the future holds as a result of our efforts.
"Let your hook be always cast.  In the pool where you least expect it, will be fish."--Ovid

Here is last night's project:, which came from "365 Easy Italian Recipes" by Rick Marzullo O'Connell.:

Chicken Rollantini With Pesto
8 skinless boneless chicken breast halves, about 5 ounces each
4 thin slices ham, preferably prosciutto, halved
8 ounces mozzarella, cut in 2 x 1/2 x 1/2 - inch sticks
3/4 cup pesto, homemade or jarred
1/2 cup flour
2 eggs beaten with 2 tablespoons water
2 cups dry bread crumbs
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Cut pocket in each chicken breast.  Roll a piece of ham around each piece of mozzarella.  Smear inside of chicken pocket with  1 1/2 teaspoon pesto.  Place ham and cheese roll in pocket and press together.
2.  Dredge chicken in flour; shake off excess.  Dip in egg; dredge in bread crumbs.  In a large frying pan, melt 1 tablespoon butter with 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add half the chicken and cook 3 to 4 minutes on each side, until lightly browned.  Remove to a baking dish.  Repeat with remaining butter, oil and chicken.
3.  Transfer chicken rollantini to oven and bake 20 minutes.  Pass remaining pesto on the side.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010


In deciding what to make for last night's recipe, I was thinking about making something with Italian sausage because it is my husband's favorite.  I ventured over to my cookbook cabinet and selected an oldie, but goodie:  "The New Complete Book of Pasta" authored by Maria Luisa Scott and Jack Denton Scott.  I have had this cookbook for years, and can't remember ever daring to break it open.  So, I closed my eyes and opened it up to a random page to see if there was any coincidental mystery as to why I selected this particular book for last night's recipe.  I couldn't believe my eyes when I read the title that I spontaneously found:  "PENNE ALLA GIOVANNINO"!!!  For those of you that don't already know, our son's name is Giovanni, and it just so happens that the main ingredient in this pasta dish is Italian sausage!  I think I'll go and buy a lottery ticket...

This had a fantastic taste--the sweet and salty savoriness of the prosciutto, coupled with the sweet and spicy sausage was delicious.  I also cooked the penne al dente which gave it a nice texture.  The verdict?  Thumbs up from the critics! 

I wasn't sure if our last night's virtual donation processed correctly, so I went ahead and did it again just to make sure.  I donated the same items and amount of food totaling $ 66.80 (as we had $71.00 and some change in the Jar), and then learned that our first attempt had gone through.  For some reason, the first confirmation ended up in my "Deleted Items" folder in my computer.  Therefore, we have now donated $133.60 in food items, and have created 534 meals!

"Three grand essentials to happiness in this life are something to do, something to love, and something to hope for."--Joseph Addison

4 four-inch hot Italian sausages, casings removed
4 four-inch sweet Italian sausages, casings removed
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 slices of prosciutto, chopped
4 cups (one 2-pound can) plum tomatoes with basil leaf
1 pound penne
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup grated Romano cheese

In a saucepan, over medium heat, cook the sausage meats in the oil until brown; if very fatty, pour off half of the fat.  Add prosciutto and the tomatoes, which have been pushed through a food mill.  Simmer, stirring, for 25 minutes.  Cook penne al dente, drain, and toss with the cheeses.  Serve in hot soup bowls with the sausage sauce spooned over right from the pan.  Serves 4 to 6.

Our First Donation

Here are my partners making their first donation to the Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County. We purchased cans of green beans, jars of peanut butter and bags of beans and rice. They had fun utilizing the "virtual shopping cart", and they were so happy to know that their purchase was going to go on a warehouse shelf to then be distributed to the hungry. From our purchase, the food bank informed us that we donated enough to feed 267 mouths! Praise the Lord! And, this is only the beginning...stay tuned!
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