My son and daughter-in-law, Eric & Beth, bought me this incredible heavy-duty garlic press!  I love it because you can put the garlic clove in unpeeled…. when you press it, somehow it takes the peel off and gives you a great bunch of garlic with no waste and easy clean-up!

It retails for $40, but you can buy it through my link (below or to the right) for just $31 and free shipping!  Makes a great stocking stuffer!

Order here:  Kuhn Rikon Epicurean Garlic Press

This pasta e fagioli (pasta and beans) recipe is a classic Italian recipe, fondly known as “pasta fazool”.  I made it the other night since it was getting quite chilly here and it seemed right to do a nice warm meal.  Rachel Ray calls dishes like this “stoup” – a thick soup or a thin stew! 

My recipe for Pasta Fazool – makes at least 12 servings:

  • enough olive oil to cover the bottom of a large pan (I use my Dutch Oven)
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 2 large carrots, finely chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, finely choppped
  • 8 large cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
  • 4 sprigs rosemary
  • 1 sprig thyme
  • Sea salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
  • 3 15-oz cans cannellini or great northern beans
  • 1 15-oz can kidney beans
  • 2 15-oz cans petite diced tomatoes
  • 2 qts chicken broth
  • 1 cup dry wine (red or white)
  • 3 cups small pasta (I used Ditalini)
  • 4 cups raw spinach
  • Grated Parmesan cheese, at serving

Heat the oil in a large pan or Dutch Oven.  Add the onion, carrot, celery and garlic; saute until translucent.  Add rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper.  Simmer for 3 minutes.

Add beans, tomatoes, chicken broth and wine.  Bring to a boil.  Boil 3 minutes; reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes. 

Increase heat to medium.  Add pasta and spinach.  Cook for 10 minutes, until pasta is done al dente.  Reduce heat to very low.

You can leave soup simmering on low for quite awhile, or serve immediately.

Serve in large bowls, topped with parmesan cheese and accompanied with crusty bread for sopping up the soup. 

It is very good warmed over the next day.  Also easy to freeze.

With the weather getting a bit chilly, it is good to start thinking about warm, hearty meals.  The gist of this recipe works with just about any cut of pork roast:  Loin, Crown, Butt, Shoulder, Tenderloin.  The first pic below is a center tenderloin; the second pic is a pork shoulder – both I made recently.  The garlic is a natural marinade, moistening and flavoring the roast at the same time.

  • 3-4 lb pork roast
  • 10-15 whole cloves garlic, peeled and cut in half long-wise
  • olive oil
  • salt & pepper
  • fresh rosemary branches

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Make 20-30 1/2-inch slices uniformly over the roast.  Insert half a garlic clove into each slice.  Place roast into a PAM sprayed roasting pan.

Rub outside of roast with olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Place rosemary branches on top of the roast.

Bake for 20-25 minutes per pound or until thermometer inserted into middle of roast reads 160-170.

Remove from oven.  Let stand 5 minutes.  Slice and serve.

We experienced a gourmet delight last night at Oceanside’s newest Italian restaurant – Rosina’s!  We were there celebrating our family’s September & October birthdays.  As a larger party, we were treated to “Cena di Stile di Famiglia” – Family-Style Dinner.

Starting off, fresh ciabatta bread was served with a sun-dried tomato and olive oil dipping sauce, as we enjoyed the Chianti and Pinot Grigio!

We had a superb Insalata del Oro - a spring mix of lettuce topped with pears poached in port wine, toasted pecans and gorgonzola cheese - served with a balsamic vinegarette. 

We were presented next with two different pasta dishes.  The presentation in the big, farm-style platters made it truly feel as if we were back at Ristorante Tredici on the outskirts of Rome!   Fusilli all’ Arrabbiata was the best I have ever tasted outside of Italy – with an appropriate “kick” of hot.   I don’t know the restaurant’s name for the other pasta dish, but I will call it Conchiglie con Cavolfiore i Uva Passa – shell pasta with cauliflower and plump golden raisins with an Alfredo-type white cheese sauce.  The raisins nestled into the shells making for a tasty bite.  Heaven!

Our main course was Pollo alla Cacciatora.  Tender chicken pieces with a robust rosemary sauce.  Normally chicken cacciatore is served with peppers and onions, but this was just chicken with the distincive rosemary.  If we weren’t so stuffed, we would’ve eaten til midnight!

Dessert was six or seven different desserts, also presented family-style — meaning we took a bite of each and passed it on down!  While not sure what they all were called, we had a creme brulee, cheesecake in a double crust, chocolate lava cake, and several torte type presentations.

Rosina herself lovingly welcomed us, gave us the background on each dish, and made sure we were all able to Mangia Bene!

Please make a point of taking a trip to Italy while staying in your own backyard – visit Rosina’s.

3613 Ocean Ranch Blvd, Oceanside   760-721-5000

This recipe is for a Pesto appetizer that is terrific on baguette slices or wheat crackers.  It is a coarsely chopped mixture – don’t make it if you don’t like garlic!  It freezes well and can be kept in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Add more olive oil to this recipe and you have pesto sauce for any type of pasta!  It is also very suitable served with boiled meats and tortellini en brodo.  (Recipe to be posted soon!)

  • 5-6 cups fresh basil
  • 8-10 or more cloves of garlic
  • 3/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1 large chunk pecorino cheese (4-6 oz)
  • coarse ground sea salt, to taste
  • coarse ground pepper, to taste
  • olive oil, about 1/4 cup

You will be chopping the first four ingredients in a food processor.  Finely chop them, but take care NOT to puree them, as you want texture!

In small batches, place basil leaves in food processor and chop.  Do about 1 cup of basil at a time.  Transfer to a medium-sized mixing bowl after each batch.

Repeat the process with the garlic cloves, the pine nuts and the pecorino cheese; add each to the mixing bowl.

Add salt and pepper.  Drizzle in the olive oil only to wet the ingredients, it should not be liquidy.  Mix well and let sit covered for several hours in the refrigerator for the flavors to blend.

Serve with slice of baquette or crackers.  Or, add more olive oil and heat to serve as a pasta sauce.

~The BEST Caramel Corn~

My great friend, Linda Marshall, makes this addictive snack!

  • 1 cup butter
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 6 qts popped corn

Preheat oven to 225 degrees

Heat butter, brown sugar, corn syrup and salt in a saucepan; bring to a boil, stirring frequently.  Boil 5 minutes without stirring.  Remove from heat.

Add baking soda and vanilla; stir well.

Pour over popped corn & mix.  Put in two 9×13 pans lightly sprayed with PAM.

Bake for 1 hour, stirring every 20 minutes.

Cool and seal in ziplock bags or other airtight containers.

For added pizazz, you can drizzle melted chocolate over the caramel corn.

THANKS, Linda!

What a treat we just enjoyed!  I’m sure those in Texas and cowboy-land have heard of this, but I had not; so I decided to give it a try.  We now have a new favorite Tex-Mex snack!

  • 1 can black beans, drained
  • 1 can black-eyed peas, drained
  • 1 can whole kernel corn (shoe peg is best), drained
  • 1 small red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 ripe avocados, cubed
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar

Mix all ingredients together.  Let sit for at least 1/2 hour (best if refrigerated overnight to let flavors blend). 

Serve at room temperature with tortilla chips or Fritos.

We didn’t grew up eating biscuits very often, so they are not something I make from scratch.  When my hubby wants biscuits and gravy, he is happy when I pop open a can of store-brand biscuits – the homemade gravy more than makes up for it!

I stumbled across a copycat recipe for the Cheddar Bay Biscuits that Red Lobster serves.  I doctored up the recipe a bit, as I always do, and they were great – and so very easy.  I’ve since made them in a variety of ways, substituting the cheese and parsley with different types of cheeses and spices.  I’ve made them with parmesan and oregano for an Italian flair!  They have a nice kick when made with hot pepper jack cheese and cilantro!  The recipe calls for Bisquick, but I have had good luck with both Krusteaz and Aunt Jemima buttermilk pancake mixes.

  • 2 cups Bisquick
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1/3 cup butter, melted
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp dried parsley

Preheat the oven to 450.   Mix together biscuit mix, milk and cheese until a soft dough forms; beat vigorously for about 30 seconds.  Dough will be thick.  Drop by spoonfuls onto ungreased baking sheet. 

Mix melted butter, garlic and parsley together.  Brush 1/2 of the butter mixture onto the biscuit mounds. 

Bake for 8-10 minutes, until golden brown.  Immediately brush remaining 1/2 of butter mixture over the biscuits.  Serve hot.  Makes about 12, depending on size of spoonfuls you use!

Mangia bene!

My husband just fell in love with me all over again!  We love jalapeno poppers, but I have never attempted to make them until last weekend.  WOW!  They were great!  This is what I used:

  • 10 peppers (nice large sized, with stem still on)
  • 3/4 cup Monterey Jack Pepper cheese, grated
  • 5-6 shakes Tabasco sauce
  • 4 eggs
  • I cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 tbsp oregano
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • about 2 cups of oil for frying

I made a “T-cut” into each pepper, taking care to not cut all the way through – just enough to open the pepper to clean out the seeds

Mix together the cheese and Tabasco sauce.  Fill the opening in each pepper with cheese mixture and press shut.

Mix together breadcrumbs, oregano, garlic powder, salt and pepper.  Beat eggs til well blended.  Heat the oil to 320-330 degrees.

Dip the stuffed chilies into the egg, then dip in the breadcrumb mixture.  Repeat to coat each pepper twice.  Place in the hot oil.  Brown on all sides – about 5 minutes.  Drain on paper towels.  Cool slightly.

I served it with apricot jam mixed with jalapeno pepper jelly.  A spicy hot/sweet treat!

I catered a dinner party the other night and normally I don’t use a recipe I have never prepared before at a party.  But I saw these and came up with a variation of my own, and they were a hit!

Fried Ravioli

  • Olive oil for frying
  • 1 pkg frozen ravioli, any kind (I used cheese)
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
  • 2 tbsps chopped parsley
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 3 eggs
  • salt & pepper

Boil ravioli for about 2-3 minutes only, then transfer to bowl of ice water to stop cooking.

Heat oil in deep skillet or deep fryer.  Mix cheese, pecans and parsley in a large shallow plate.  Beat milk, eggs, salt & pepper in a separate bowl.

Dip the ravioli in the milk/egg mixture, then dredge in the cheese/nut mixture, twice.

Fry in oil about 2 minutes on each side, or 3 minutes total in a deep fryer, until golden.  Drain on paper towels.

Serve hot with a creamy marinara sauce.  I used a jarred marinara sauce, added about 1/2 cup of whipping cream, and doctored it up with some fresh rosemary and fresh garlic.

Mangia Bene!

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