Tuesday, June 21, 2011


Yesterday was such a sad day for our family.  We had to make the ultimate sacrifice and put our dog to sleep.  She had been our best friend, and companion for the last 10 1/2 years.  She was such a big mush, but boy did she have a great bark! She scared the hell out of our mailman, that's for sure!  She got the paper for us every morning, and sometimes she'd sneak off the property and borrow a paper from one of our neighbors. She'd do anything for food!
Layla Stella By Starlite
November 2, 2000 - June 20, 2011

With permission I would like to share with you a message that I received yesterday.  Through tears, while reading this, I knew that the piece of my heart that went missing yesterday would some day heal.  Reading this message from someone who doesn't really know me, but took the time to write such a wonderful  tribute to my dog, and all other dogs, touched my heart in a big way. I know it will touch your heart too.

Thanks for taking the time and visiting with me today. It means so much to me.

    • Hi Lorraine,

      We haven't met, but I just saw your FB post/album about your beautiful Layla -- I'm so sorry to hear of your loss!

      In my Planet Earth life, I'm Laura Martin Bacon, a Williams-Sonoma writer and lifelong dog lover.

      I lost my almost-15-year-old black lab, Chester, a little over a year ago -- and I still miss him like crazy.

      It’s funny the way a dog can teach you things you need to know about yourself: like when it’s time to explore, to eat, to rest, to love.

      Human life tends to be so complicated and abstract, caught in the tangles of obligations, deadlines and desires. But animal life is simple and immediate – happiness is as close as the nearest tennis ball or bite of hot dog or pool of sunlight. Spending time with the creatures we love seems to bring life into focus, encouraging us to abandon a runaway train of muddled thoughts for the pristine clarity of the moment.

      As you well know, the bond humans have with our dogs is one of the most ancient and purest imaginable — and that loss affects us in a way that’s not like any other.

      The Kalapalo Indians of Brazil have a word that beautifully expresses the singular power of this bond: ifutisu, which seems to describe a particular sort of gentleness, generosity and capacity for genuine intimacy. When we bring a dog into our home, that creature is often with us during our most intimate and unguarded moments.

      Our dogs have seen us in every possible mood, followed us into the bathroom, slept at the foot of our beds, curled up on the kitchen floor as we cook and dream and ponder our past, present and future. And through it all, there is no judgment, no criticism, no betrayal. Only a pure, unconditional acceptance of what the moment holds — and, often, an intuitive understanding of what we need at any particular moment.

      Because they don’t scramble their minds with analysis of their own lives, I believe that a dog can, in some ways, know us better than we know ourselves.

      And somehow, they communicate that knowledge by leading us to the places inside ourselves where we’ve always been afraid to go. Their natural goodness creates an alchemy that transforms us in the ways we need most.

      I believe that, wherever their spirits choose to soar, Layla and Chester are savoring the glorious freedom that lies just beyond this life — and that their wisdom and love will endure in our hearts forever.

      Please know that you're in my thoughts!

      All the best,


Friday, June 17, 2011

Father's Day BBQ

I'm posting this a little early without pictures, just in case you need or want an easy recipe for BBQ sauce. After all, what would Father's Day be without the grill going with a great BBQ?
Today's Food Crawl is all about the BBQ sauce. I know that there are a ton of them out there. But for some reason, this one is very special.
Growing up, my mother made this all the time. Our neighbors loved it, and it was frequently requested at all picnics and neighborhood events.
I don't know about the rest of you, but my husband loves a BBQ. So while he's on the golf course I am at home lovingly preparing him a BBQ for his Father's Day Dinner.  I have mentioned before that my "boys" love the gooey, goopy, stuff that some people call BBQ sauce.  I am so not into it...however, I just love this BBQ sauce that my mother used to make!  I have to say that my mother used to make the best BBQ sauce, and she used it on her chicken. This sauce is spectacular! I have no idea where she got the recipe, for all I know it could be out of a Betty Crocker cook book, or a magazine!  It's really soooo good. The recipe that follows makes a very small batch. I would suggest that you at least triple this. It stays good refrigerated for at least a week, if not more.  Once you try it, you will want to use it on anything that goes on the grill!
I'm going to slather this all over my chicken and ribs this Sunday. What will you be making?

Mom's BBQ Sauce
2 Tablespoons butter
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons vinegar
1/2 teaspoon tabasco
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon mustard, we used Gulden's  (use whatever you have in the frig)
1/4 cup water
that's the recipe... it says...
 bring it all to a boil! lol
So go ahead, and do it. You won't believe how delicious this sauce is! Yum! Yum! Yum!

Enjoy your day!
Happy Father's Day!

Buon Appetito

Stuffed Portabella's

Food Crawl with Portabella's!
I made these the other night for our guests. My family and friends went gaga over them.  It's not like I've never made stuffed mushrooms before! My secret ingredient in these must have been the prosciutto!
To make these you'll need
8 large portabella  mushroom caps
8 links of Italian Sausage
1 large onion, chopped
2 - 3 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped
fresh chopped parsley
handful of breadcrumbs
handful of parmigiano cheese
salt and pepper to taste
mozzarella  cheese

Take the sausage meat out of the casing and in a large frying pan, cook the sausage with the onion and the garlic. I added a pinch of rosemary to the cooking sausage. Just a pinch! ;)

After it is cooked through, put it all in the food processor and pulse it a few times. Put your meat mixture into a bowl and add a handful of seasoned bread crumbs.
Just a handful, not too much. If you'd like, add a handful of parmesean cheese at this time.
I sliced up some prosciutto and some mozzarella cheese and added it to the mixture.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and then lightly stuff the mushroom caps.
Just before putting the mushroom caps into the oven I topped them with a slice or two of rolled mozzarella cheese and prosciutto. Drizzle with olive oil and bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 15 - 20 minutes. You want the mushroom to wilt a little and the cheese to melt.
When you take them out of the oven they should look something like this!
I served these with a grilled Romaine Caesar Salad!

Stephen getting ready to fire it up!

If you've never grilled Romaine, you should try it. Delicious!

Buon Appetitto

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Egg Rolls, Stella Style

Last summer I discovered Stella Ristorante in Floral Park, New York.  It's not a modern Italian restaurant by any stretch of the imagination, but the food is really very good.  I am very picky when I go out to eat  and I can be very critical. I have to say that I could not find one thing bad about this place. In fact everything was a step above really good. The Chicken Rollatini was divine, and if they have the home made pappadelle with a veal and mushroom sauce, OMG! order it!  You won't be disappointed!
Phyllis, my father's friend suggested that we start with the egg rolls. Ok, sure. Egg rolls in an Italian restaurant? What the heck!
What a surprise when they came to the table, the egg rolls  were filled with sausage, broccoli rabe and roasted red peppers. I can not even begin to describe the dance that these wonderful morsels played in my mouth! I turned to my sister and the rest of the group who was with us and said, "I am going to make these!"
The next day I went out and bought the ingredients that I thought were in them. I omitted the roasted red peppers, because I felt that broccoli rabe and sausage was a good enough combination for me, which got me thinking about making some egg rolls filled with sausage and peppers! We've played with many mixtures for fillings, and so far the two favorites are the Broccoli Rabe/Sausage and the Sausage/peppers  and onions. My family loves them both, and which ever one we make it seems that I can never make enough.
Broccoli Rabe and Sausage

Here's what you will need.
Egg Roll Wrappers ( one package usually makes 20 - 22 egg rolls)
sweet and hot sausage (family pack)
broccoli rabe or  sweet peppers
 2 large bunches of rabe *, or if using peppers one each of red, orange,  and yellow
mozzarella cheese, - 1/2 pound - 1 pound
mascarpone cheese or cream cheese - 8 ozs
grated parmesan cheese - one cup
and any other cheese you like!!!
one large onion
 a few cloves of garlic
salt and pepper to taste
* if using broccoli rabe, clean them,  cut off the bottom part of the stem and chop into small pieces. Cook  in a frying pan with garlic and olive oil, don't over cook, they should remain a little firm with a bite.
We're making the egg rolls with sausage and peppers. I could not find Broccoli Rabe (Rapini) in Ralph's while in California.  We made these as an appetizer for my father's 85 birthday dinner. It's so wonderful to have help in the kitchen. Marlene actually did most of the work on this one! Thanks Marlene!

Take the sausage out of the casing and breaking it apart into small pieces, saute the sausage in a frying pan until cooked through.
Phyllis frying it up!
In another frying pan cook your peppers and onions with garlic until they are tender. My sister Marlene chopped the peppers, garlic, and  onions very fine. She used a mezzaluna, her favorite tool in the kitchen!
slicing up the mozzarella
Smiling for the camera!
Drain the fat from the sausage and add the peppers and onions to the meat. In a large bowl add everything together with your cheeses.  You can adjust the cheeses to your liking. I've used swiss cheese, gouda or whatever is in the cheese draw in a pinch!  Everything should be in small cuts so you don't rip the egg roll wrapper. Marlene wanted to use the mozzarella cheese, cream cheese and parmesan cheese for these so that's what we used.
adding the cheese to the meat
This brand can be found in your grocery store. I usually find it by the tofu and vegetarian items.
Now it's time to roll!
Place your wrapper on a cutting board on an angle. Put some stuffing towards the bottom of the egg roll. With a pastry brush that you've dipped in water go around the edges of the egg roll wrapper. This will help the egg roll stay sealed.

fold up the bottom point toward the top, away from you.

Now fold in each side, making an envelope shape.
Finish by rolling the egg roll until the egg roll is enclosed.
I then let them dry out a little bit on a baking rack.  These can be deep fried, or if you want brush them with vegetable oil and bake them on a cookie sheet on high heat until golden and crispy.  I would suggest a temperature of 425 degrees.

I'd love some feedback if you decide to make these. They are truly a crowd pleaser. As I said earlier, when I make these I make more than I think I need.  You can also freeze these! They are better when you make them fresh, but they do freeze well,  just make sure that you wrap each one individually. When you're ready to make them, defrost them in the refrigerator.

Buon Appetito

Thursday, June 9, 2011


Food Crawling with Fritcialing's!
Sound it out!  Fritch -ah- ling! lol and no, it's not a bad word!
When I was growing up my mother would make some dishes that were so simple, sometimes using what was left over from a previous meal. In our house nothing went to waste. It was just her way. She grew up in Italy and was deprived of food. Later on in life she felt the need to make sure we would never be without food, and I have to say that we always had  abbondanza! (plenty)
My mother's parents left Italy, one at a time, to come to America. My grandfather came first, and when he earned enough money he sent for my Grandmother,  Sabina. (we called her Nona Vera.) 
My mother was left in Torino,  Northern Italy with an Aunt and Uncle  along with her two siblings. My mother, Ottavia, was the oldest in her family, and became the matriarch of her little family at the young age of 12.  By the time she was 14 she had become a Partisan, doing what ever she had to do. Sometimes that meant stealing food and other times it meant bombing German trains. She did not have an easy life.
from left to right Frank, Josie and Ottavia 

From what we were told, my mother and her siblings were not always treated fairly by her relatives that they were left with. They were treated as if they were a burden. And I suppose that they were. Food was sparse during the war and the relatives were stuck with three more mouths to feed, probably wondering how they were going to feed themselves. 
My grandparents sent the money to help defray the cost of food for their family, but sometimes the money wasn't spent on food for them.   This is how my mother learned to make something out of nothing.
Today our food crawl is about Fritcialings! 
I know, it's not a word, and if you ask anyone who grew up in my neighborhood, they'll know what a fritcialing is and they'll want one!
The root word is probably frittata.
These were always made with some left over spinach and rice.
I never saw my mother measure anything for these. For that matter, I never saw her measure anything unless she was baking!  I hope my measurements will help you a little. 

about 2 cups rice
about 3 cups of cooked spinach
6 eggs
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste
Vegetable oil for pan frying
In a bowl mix up the spinach and rice . 
Add eggs
mix it all up and add the cheese

Now you can stop at this step  and have a nice vegetarian fritcialing, or you can add some meats to the mixture. My mother added what ever she had on hand, it might have been a piece of chicken, or a piece of steak, nothing went to waste.
I had steak made with mushrooms and onions left over from the other night.  They went into the food processor and I hit pulse a few times.

I used an ice cream scoop to form the patties.

Pan fry the fritcialings for 5 - 6 minutes on each side, on medium heat until they are a nice brown color.

My brother, Mark and a childhood friend, Ed loved eating these with ketchup! I say, no way to that!
I usually have to hide these if I want to serve them with dinner.  I, can be very satisfied with one or two of these and a nice salad.

Buon Appetito

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

660 Curries

The curry revolution begins!

The Cooking Challenge is on . PLease join us on Saturday June 11th,  2 pm eastern time.  We will all cook together and post pictures of our recipes.

Acclaimed chef and Cookbook author, Raghavan Iyer will moderate the challenge. We will be cooking out of his book 660 Curries. He has a sumptuous menu laid out for us.

You can either cook the entire menu or do 3 dishes alone. Recipes of the the three dishes will be posted on The Food Crawl.  For those of you who have the cook book we will provide you with the page numbers of the receipes .

Cook books are available through Amazon.com.

So let us start the curry revolution and start cooking. We are looking forward to seeing you all on the weekend.

Those of you who cannot cook on Saturday please feel free to cook on Sunday and post pics.

All questions can be posted on The Food Crawl and they  will be answered for you.

Thanks so much for the visit. I hope you check in with us on Saturday on our facebook page, The Food Crawl,  and take part of our virtual cooking challenge, 660 Curries. 


Monday, June 6, 2011

MasterChef Season 2 - So you think I'm adorable?

Tonight, the night of June 6th,  MasterChef Season 2 is premiering!  I am so excited for the people who have made it on to the show and can't wait to see if my friends get an apron!  It's all been very secretive up until this point.  The gig is up and tonight's the night! I was invited to the Premiere party tonight in NYC! I can't wait to meet all the contestants from N.Y., who made it to the final audition in Los Angeles, and cheer them on! I can't wait to find out who get's a MasterChef Apron!
I'd like to tell you about my audition for the show. I had a blast!  It was a great day, waiting in line among a thousand plus people who lined up the first day of auditions, meeting some fabulous people, establishing new friendships, and going through the process of an audition, which was something totally foreign to me.
My day began at 3 am! I wanted to make everything fresh for the audition. I wanted to bring a dish that represented my style of cooking. I was going to make Osso Bucco with a side of homemade ravioli. I'm not talking about store bought homemade ravioli, I'm talking about ravioli that I made!  A recipe that has been handed down in our family and is made with love at least once a year with family and friends.
At 3 AM I started braising the Veal Shank with a trinity of carrots, celery and onion.  I don't think my house has ever had that aroma going that early in the morning.  I was finishing the Osso Bucco in the oven so I went back to bed for a little bit.  I didn't sleep at all, I was too excited for the day that was about to begin.  After finishing the Osso Bucco and making the ravioli's we left the house with the food in insulated bags to try to keep everything warm. We arrived in NYC at 8 am and got in line. I was the 10th person in line!

As you can see I have a huge bandage on my finger. I sliced it open on the lid of a can 2 days before.  5 stiches! ouch!
 Hanging out, meeting producers ....
having fun, surrounded by many interesting people. At one point, I had to look and see how many people we waiting in line. I understand that over 1000 people showed up on the first day of auditions. The line wrapped around the building and went down the street!

I think it was around 10:30 AM when Joe Bastianch showed up, and the crowd went wild!
We were ushered into a room and given 3 minutes to plate our food!
Now 3 minutes is not a long time, especially when struggling with a lame hand and the person next to me who took up all my work space with his freaking lobsters. The cameras were all over him, and I kept pushing his crap to the side. I popped a stitch, and started bleeding and was trying to hide my hand. If I wasn't so nervous I think I would have cried.
The first round was a tasting round. They had professional tasters, as well as producers, come through the room tasting all the dishes. Joe Bastianich commented on my dish, called my brown sauce a fancy name and said, "Classic Italian" Very nice!" and kept walking. I said, "excuse me, Joe...aren't you going to taste my food?" I mean what the heck, I practically made this dish just for him!  He replied,  "I wish I could!" I was later told by producers that he couldn't taste any of the food that day. They didn't want him to have any favorites going into the later rounds. Does that really make any sense? This is supposed to be about the food, right?
I made it through several rounds of that audition process. First the tasting round, then there was a culinary IQ test, which was very simplistic, and then a personality test, which was a Q & A with producers and Joe.  People were crying during this process, turning it on, some people got quiet, some people just kept talking and talking.  Me,  I'm just a suburban housewife,  the mother of 4, without a hard luck story, who can cook and has a great personality.  I really thought I had it in the bag!
The producers loved me, they told me I was adorable and I know they enjoyed my food. Who the heck wouldn't love a nice dish of homemade ravioli?   I'm not talking about the usual ricotta cheese stuffed variety! These were stuffed with a ragu made of veal, beef, pork, with spinach and parmesan cheese topped with a meat, onion and porcini mushroom sauce.  The tasters went back for seconds on the Osso Bucco, and Joe Bastianich himself was impressed!

My husband Steve and my sister Marlene were waiting downstairs in the lobby area, wondering what was going on, I was gone for hours! My cell phone died, so my sister kept pestering the producers for a status updates. They told her, the longer she's gone... it's a good sign. She begged them "Please! Find out what's going on with her?"  So the producer asked Marlene,  "What did your sister make?" and when she told them he immediately replied " Oh,  Joe is very impressed by the Osso Bucco Lady!"
I was one of the lucky few who made it to the next round of auditions, and was thrilled to be asked to come back for additional auditions, and tapings. Unfortunately, I didn't get that last email or communication inviting me out to LA to cook for the judges and get a MasterChef apron.  I know if they had given me that chance to cook for them I would have been one of the last people left in the competition.
There's always Season 3!  You know,  I'm going to go for it again! After all, I was told that I was adorable and, I really want that cookbook deal!  lol
Leave a comment, and make my day!


Sunday, June 5, 2011

Macaroni and Cheese

Food crawl with Mac and Cheese!
Everyone has a favorite Macaroni and Cheese recipe. I know that one of the latest twists on this classic American favorite has been to add Lobster and or Shrimp.  It is delicious, especially when the seafood is loaded into the creamy mixture of the elbow macaroni and cheese sauce.
The other day, my daughter Zoe ordered a grilled cheese sandwich with sliced tomato.  What a great combination! It got the wheels turning!
For days, I couldn't get that combo out of my mind!  So while totally bored out of my mind, one night after 10 pm I started making Mac and Cheese! from scratch!
All you need is a few simple ingredients to make this dish. (not ingrediences Teresa!,  God help us, she has a cook book )  If you have the few basic ingredients needed to make this, you can add anything that you want. Want lobster? Add it! Want broccoli? Add it! Want TOMATOES? Add them! Use your imagination, think about combinations that you like, and the possibilities are endless. Play...have some fun! Make this one of your signature dishes. Your family and friends will ask you to make this again! Some of my son's friends actually beg me to make this for them. Now, that's what I'm talking about!
This is all you need, butter, milk, ( yes, I have a milk man!)  flour,  macaroni, cheese and breadcrumbs. That's it!
The recipe that follows will make 2 trays of Macaroni and Cheese. I think I used 3 pounds of Elbows.

1/2 Gallon Milk ( I used 1%)
3 pounds Elbow Macaroni
1/2 cup flour
1/2 stick butter or 1/4 cup
1/2 - 1 cup bread crumbs
2 pounds Sharp or Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese
salt and *pepper to taste
* I like to use white ground pepper in this recipe
In a large sauce pan start off by making a roux.  Usually a roux is made by using equal parts of flour to equal parts of butter. The more flour and butter used, the longer it will take to make it. My measurements are a little off the Roux Rules, but it works for me!
Gently melt the butter and then add the flour all at once, stirring with a wooden spoon or with a wire whisk. This should take approximately 6 - 8 minutes to make. If you increase the amounts of flour and butter it will take longer.  The longer you cook it, or yikes, burn it, the less thickening power it will have later on. Make sure the heat is on medium! Don't over cook the Roux!
While you are making the Roux, get the water boiling, remembering to salt the water. While making the sauce you'll be cooking the macs!
Slowly add one cup of milk, and stir in, you'll start to get a thick mixture, keep stirring, getting out any lumps. We don't want lumps!
Slowly incorporate the rest of the milk.  This is the beginning of a beautiful Bechamel Sauce, which can and is used in many Italian recipes!
Add the cheese, a handful at a time. I used 1 1/2 pounds of the cheese in the sauce and reserved the rest of it to grate for the topping. With the addition of cheese the sauce becomes a Mornay Sauce! Mornay is usually made with half amounts of Gruyere and Parmesan cheeses. I've added cheddar so I'm calling this a Cheddar Mornay.  My mother just called it cheese sauce! lol
 The sauce will start to thicken up and become velvety and creamy.
I like to cook the elbow macaroni for only 8 minutes. As soon as it's in the boiling water I start the timer for 8 minutes! Do not wait for the water to come to another boil before setting the timer! Take the elbows off the heat and drain in a colander, and immediately rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process.

While the macaroni is cooling, toast the bread crumbs in a frying pan with a little pat of butter. It's an extra step, but it imparts delicious flavor into the bread crumbs.
It's time to put it all together.
You'll need a huge lasagna pan for this one, or divide it up to make two trays. I'm making two trays. One with tomato and one without.

If using tomatoes, I used about a quart size jar of tomatoes that I had jarred last season.  They were whole and I broke them apart with my fingers. If using canned tomatoes I like to use RedPack, whole tomatoes in thick puree.  Mix the tomatoes into the elbows.
Add the cheese sauce...It will be soupy, don't worry. It'll absorb!

Top with the reserved cheese that you've grated and then sprinkle with the toasted bread crumbs.
  The picture below is the tray made with tomatoes.
And without!
Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30 - 40 minutes. I like the top layer to get nice and crispy!

Buon Appetito