SAUSAGE AND PEPPERS

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2 lbs sausages (sweet, hot and/or chicken)
1 large onion, sliced
1 pepper, sliced
olive oil

1. Oven 350 degrees.
2. In a 9 x 13 pan, drizzle olive oil on bottom of pan, sparingly. Add sliced onions and peppers. Lastly, arrange sausages on top of peppers and onions. Cover pan and bake for 30 minutes.
3. Remove cover from pan and with a fork, poke the sausage to allow the steam to come out. Continue baking in oven for another 20 minutes with the cover off.
4. Check on the sausages, they should be starting to brown. Turn sausages over to brown the other side. If the pan seems dry, (no juices) add a couple of tablespoons of water. Continue to bake for another 20 minutes, or until the topside of sausages are browned.
5. Optional – Serve on semolina Italian bread with melted provolone or mozzarella cheese if you like. Otherwise serve over pasta. Serves 4 to 6.
ENJOY – It’s a sandwich or it’s a meal, either way what a deal!

Oh boy, what a summer I had! Talk about bad timing, the first day of my vacation I slipped and fractured my ankle. The next three weeks were spent on my couch staying off my foot. I wasn’t able to climb stairs or drive a car for at least 5 weeks since my foot was encased in an awkward cast that was starting to grate on my last nerve. Cooking became a bit of a challenge as I couldn’t stand on my foot too long. Preparing dishes that were easy to prep while sitting at the kitchen table was fine, and cutting, slicing, and dicing veggies and salads was also manageable. But let’s face it dear readers, sometimes cooking is work even in the best of times! However, this sausage and peppers recipe isn’t.

Many years ago, my mom told me to fry the sausages on the stove in a large frying pan, which I did in my early years of marriage. But, I like to change things up a little and not take too many unnecessary steps while cooking. Preparing many dishes at once is a welcomed challenge, so I try to take shortcuts that will give me more time to make several dishes simultaneously. So, I improvised by baking the sausage and peppers in the oven. They are just as delicious as if prepared on the stove. Sometimes, I add potatoes and bigger chunks of peppers to create a heartier meal. Either way, oven cooking is often better time wise and taste wise than stove top cooking for some recipes. One example is bacon. I bake it in the oven on a rack on top of a rimmed cookie sheet. The bacon is crispier and less greasy. I also bake “fried” eggplant and meatballs in the oven on lightly olive oiled cookie sheets. I turn often so the eggplant is browned evenly on both sides. It’s delicious, doesn’t have to be monitored so closely, and the stovetop stays a whole lot cleaner!

Baking is better, and no one can seem to tell the difference anyway. So, let’s keep this between us!

BROCCOLI CHEDDAR QUICHE

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1 head of broccoli florets
2 9-inch deep dish piecrusts
1 1/ 2 cup Durkee French Fried onions
1 cup milk
1 cup half and half
8 extra large eggs
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon margarine, softened

1. Oven 425 degrees. Punch fork holes on bottom and sides of piecrusts. Bake 10 minutes. Take out piecrusts and set aside to cool.
2. Spread softened or melted margarine in the bottom of the piecrusts with pastry brush.
3. Cut broccoli up into bite size pieces. Steam broccoli florets. Place broccoli on paper towel after steaming. In a large bowl, place broccoli florets, French fried onions and 1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese. Toss and mix together. Split the broccoli mixture between the two piecrusts evenly.
4. In a separate bowl, beat eggs with milk. Pour mixture over broccoli mixture in piecrusts. Sprinkle 1/ 2 cup of shredded cheddar cheese on top of each quiche.
5. Pour 1/2 cup of half and half evenly over the cheddar cheese on each quiche.
6. Bake for 15 minutes. Turn oven to 325 degrees and continue cooking for 35-45 minutes longer.
7. Let stand 15 minutes before slicing. Serve immediately.
8. ENJOY – Quiche and Brunch go together like icing on a cake!

Every Sunday I cook. Sunday left overs are perfect for work week lunches. My daughter, Mia, and I bring our lunch to work a majority of the time. Every office now-a-days has a refrigerator, microwave, coffee pot, etc. Some even have mini kitchens available for employees to encourage brown bagging lunches. When employees bring lunch, they usually eat at their desks which means less time away from the office.

Quiche of any kind is Mia’s favorite choice for brown bagged lunch. I never make one quiche at a time. I prepare two. One can be frozen or used for lunch for work. Salads also make great lunches. My Sunday dinner will always have a huge salad. Leftover chicken or steak cubed and added to a salad makes for a heartier lunch. Throw in some leftover steamed asparagus or broccoli and it is almost a complete meal.

Sunday dinner is really all about what are we bringing to lunch on Monday and Tuesday. There is nothing better on a Monday morning, rushing for work, knowing that your lunch is packed and ready to go!

POTATO SALAD

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POTATO SALAD

1/2 bag potatoes ( 2 1/2 lbs.)
3 eggs
3 stalks celery, diced small
4 stalks scallions, diced small
Mayonnaise, 3 extra-large tablespoons
water
salt and pepper
paprika

1. Place potatoes in a large pot with skins on fill with cold water to cover potatoes. Add 3 eggs,
( I put a pin hole in each egg before boiling, it makes it easier to peel later). Bring water to a boil. Time it for 10 minutes at a full boil. Your eggs should be done. Remove the eggs with a spoon from the pot to cool down. Run cold water over them or place them in a bowl of cold water. Peel the eggs and set aside to cool, then chop.
2. Continue to boil the potatoes for 10 to 20 minutes more on a full boil, keep checking for doneness by putting a fork in them. If the fork goes in hard, not done, goes in easy, done. Try not to overcook the potatoes if you can.
3. When potatoes are done, cool for a bit, but it is good to peel while they are warm, the skins come off easier. Dice the potatoes into small cubes.
4. Add potatoes, celery, eggs, scallions, salt and pepper into a large bowl. I add about 3 hefty scoops of mayonnaise to start, more if preferred. Secret is to add water, about 1 to 3 tablespoons depending on look and taste. The water will cream out the mayo.
5. Decorate with paprika on top if you want before serving. Serves 8.
6. ENJOY – Summer without potato salad is like summer without sunshine!

During years of backyard barbeques, graduations, baby showers, and outings, a lot of potato salad has passed my lips; however, my mom’s potato salad is still the best I’ve had. Everybody loves it. I should know; I’ve been making it for years and hearing the satisfied sighs as my friends and family devour it by the forkful.

My mom, Helen, was a good cook and enjoyed cooking and entertaining. To know me is to know that I am my mother’s daughter. She taught me to always chop ingredients into small sizes, believing that it was more pleasing to the eye if the potatoes, celery, and scallions were cubed in small pieces. She did this to regular lettuce salad too. She’d cut up everything into small pieces, including the tomatoes and cucumbers. Mom was right! Smaller is better. Who wants a big chunk of potato or a huge leaf of lettuce when eating? Not me.

The only change I made to the original recipe that she gave me is that I add a bit of water. Many years ago my life-long friend, Joanne, made potato salad for a party, and I noticed that hers was creamier than mine. Her secret was adding water. At the time, I was adding a bit of milk to thin out the mayo in my potato salad. I’m convinced that water is better than milk and makes for a creamier potato salad.

Summer isn’t summer without Mom’s potato salad. When something is this good, you never get tired of making it. My family and friends will agree, because they never get tired of eating it!

STEAK PIZZAIOLA

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2 pounds bone-in chuck steak
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 to 3 tomatoes, chopped
1 14 ounce can petite cut tomatoes, drained
Salt and pepper
1 teaspoon oregano
1/ 2 cup white wine

1. Oven 350 degrees.
2. In a 9 x 13 oven baking dish, sauté garlic in olive oil. Cook garlic on the stove till slightly tender. Add chuck steak to dish and brown / sear both sides of meat.
3. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, add chopped tomatoes, can tomatoes, salt, pepper and oregano. Toss together. Add white wine and mix well. Add mixture to the top of the steak.
4. Cover dish and place in oven.
5. Bake for 1 1/2 hours. Remove dish and serve immediately over pasta or polenta.
6. Options – Add chopped olives and capers to the tomatoes mixture after taking out of the oven and before serving.
ENJOY – Steak Pizzaiola or Steak Pizzazz!….

Talk on the street had it that Steak Pizzaiola could be a memorable dish. Sure, I’d heard about it, but I never took up the challenge until I consulted my hairdresser, Paul De Carlo, the owner of De Carlo’s Salon in Bardonia up in Rockland County.

He’s been doing my hair forever, and just a few months ago I was in the chair and we got into our favorite subject – cooking. I asked him if he ever made Steak Pizzaiola and, if so, would he give me the recipe. He said he got the recipe from his aunt who advised him to use only oregano and a chuck steak with the bone in. Angela, who also works at the salon and whom I have known just as long as Paul, is another good cook and wanted to give me her tips as well. So, she shared her recipe which called for olives and capers. Between Paul and Angela, I noted the essential and varied ingredients for Steak Pizzaiola on a piece of paper. Immediately upon leaving the salon, I went to the market and purchased the ingredients I needed. One change I made from Paul’s original recipe was the amount of tomatoes. I doubled the amount using a combination of canned and fresh. As a side dish, I prepared polenta and thought it would be good to have extra tomatoes to use as a topping. The steak pizzaiola turned out to be tender and delicious.

A few weeks later I went to Buffalo to visit my daughter and son-in-law, Marisa and Jeff, two promising cooks! I told Jeff about Steak Pizzaiola and promised to make it for him while I was visiting. Jeff and I went food shopping together and could not find a chuck steak with the bone in. Jeff went to one or two more supermarkets and still no luck. Sadly, Jeff never did enjoy my Steak Pizzaiola. When Jeff and Marisa came to see us shortly thereafter, I made it my mission to make him the Steak Pizzaiola. Would you believe the weekend came and went and still no Steak Pizzaiola?? We were very busy all weekend and there was no time to prepare it!

Jeff, I still owe you that Steak Pizzaiola dinner. So, when will you be coming again?

The Original Pancake House Breakfast Review

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We’re back! Mela and I are hitting the road again in our quest for some good eating breakfast joints.

My co-worker, Larry, a very trustworthy fellow foodie who’s really into no holds barred breakfasts, told me about a new place that opened recently in White Plains called The Original Pancake House. Larry had dined at The Original Pancake House in Rockland, and told me I should check it out.
We set out on a recent Sunday morning to find what we always hope will be our new “go-to” breakfast place. Could it be The Original Pancake House? We found metered parking right in front, and parking is free on Sundays….sweet! Parking any day other than a Sunday at 9:00 am may be difficult.
There was a large, welcoming poster in the window that we couldn’t miss, but nothing permanent at that time. Our waiter, Greg Hoffa, from White Plains, was upbeat and solicitous. The coffee was served quickly, and we both agreed it was a strong cup of Joe. The place was on the chilly side, so the warmth of the coffee (along with our jackets) served us well until they cranked up the heat a bit. We were impressed by the simple, contemporary décor and everything appeared to be new and clean.

Our order consisted of a Broccoli Cheddar egg white omelet that came with 3 average sized buttermilk pancakes. All omelets come with pancakes. While broccoli cheddar omelets aren’t listed on the menu, they had no problem letting us substitute ingredients. It’s always a good sign when you can change up something on the menu. Toast and home fries were extra, but with pancakes, who needs them. The omelet was very fluffy, and the broccoli was fresh, not frozen, and had just the right bite to it. Happily, the cheddar was not overwhelming either, which we’ve experienced at many diners.

The pancakes were disappointing as they lacked flavor and were slightly doughy rather than fluffy. This is a pancake place after all. We commented to the hostess and she said it was the first time she heard that, and this could have been an off batch. The one item on the menu that was new to our breakfast jaunts was the Dutch Baby. Mela never had one and I love them. It took a little convincing to get her to try something new. Well, Mela tried it, and she liked it! We both loved the Dutch Baby with real maple syrup. It was excellent! Over all, the presentation of the meal was visually enticing. By 10:05 am, the place was packed and a crowd of people was waiting to be seated.

At $32.89, without tip, our breakfast was about average for a specialty breakfast place. Even though the pancakes were not as fluffy as they should be, we decided there was potential enough for there to be a next time. Dreaming of that Dutch Baby right now!

The Original Pancake House, 170 Hamilton Avenue, White Plains, NY 10601 (914) 683-3770

Nutella Pound Cake

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1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
2 sticks salted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups sugar
Half of one 13-ounce jar Nutella
1. Preheat the oven to 325°. Lightly grease and flour a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan. In a bowl, sift flour and baking powder.
2. In a separate large bowl, using a handheld mixer, beat the butter with the sugar at medium-high speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes. With the mixer at medium-low speed, gradually beat in the eggs and vanilla until fully mixed. Add in the flour mixture gradually, beating at low speed between additions until mixed well. Continue to beat for 30 seconds longer.
3. Open the jar of Nutella and microwave for 30 seconds to get it spreadable/smooth. Stir with butter knife. If still too thick, microwave again for another 10 seconds. Set aside
4. Spread one-half of the batter in the prepared pan, then spread some of the Nutella, (about 3 to 4 ounces, or 1/ 4 of a jar) on top of batter. Repeat with the rest of the batter and then top with another 1/ 4 of a jar of Nutella and then gently swirl with a butter knife the Nutella into the batter. Do not overmix.
5. Bake the cake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Invert the cake onto a wire rack, turn it right side up and let cool completely, about 2 hours. Cut the cake into slices and serve (coffee ice cream goes very well with it).
6. ENJOY – You tella, me tella, it’s wonderful Nutella!

Somebody Else’s Mom – Julianne’s Spanish Rice

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This is my friend Julianne’s Spanish Rice recipe. Julianne’s husband and sons give high praise for this Spanish Rice recipe as their favorite dish.

6 sweet sausages
4 tablespoons olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 small onion, chopped
1/ 4 cup green pepper, chopped
1/ 4 cup red pepper, chopped
1 15 ounce can Goya Green Pigeon Peas, undrained
1 8 ounce can tomato sauce
2 envelopes Sazon Goya con Cilantro y Achiote
3 cups long grain rice, rinsed
3 cups water

1. In a large pot, heat olive oil. Add crumbled sausage meat and cook through or until there is no pink coloring. Add the garlic, onion and peppers. Saute for a few minutes. Add pigeon peas and tomato sauce, along with the Sazon seasoning.
Simmer for another few minutes.
2. Meanwhile, put the 3 cups of rice in a bowl and add cold water to cover the rice. Let it sit for a few minutes, and then drain the water from the bowl.
3. Put the pot on a low- medium flame. Add rice and cook for 2 minutes. Then add the water. Cover the pot. Cook for 30 to 45 minutes or until water is absorbed. (In between, stir the rice once after water is absorbed and put the flame on low.)
Serve immediately.
4. Options – Substitute sausage with chicken or pork or ham steak or prepare the rice meatless.
5. Makes about 8 servings.
ENJOY – You don’t have to be Spanish to love Spanish rice!

My high school prom was June 1974.

The passage of nearly 40 years has not diminished my wonderful memories of the Monsignor Scanlan prom; reminiscing about that night still fills me with joy and gratitude. I look back at my childhood friendships with Julianne and Linda who bonded with me from our first days of starting Monsignor Scanlon, and whose friendships I still cherish. We ate lunch together every day in the cafeteria, attended some classes together, and shared young girls’ dreams about our futures. When our senior prom was planned, it was a given that we would go together with our dates in one limo and sit together at the same table. Our prom was held at the Marina Del Ray catering hall in “The Bronx”. My beloved Uncle Dom, a father figure to me since my Dad passed when I was only 12, had made a few suggestions about where to go after the prom. The real fun started after the prom dinner and began with a night on the town in Manhattan. Our first stop was Rodney Dangerfield’s Comedy Club. We had front row seats and Mr. Dangerfield actually headlined that night! Next up was the Rainbow Room in the Empire State Building, another suggestion my uncle had made. To our delight and unbeknownst to us, my uncle reserved a really good table adorned with 2 bottles of champagne already ordered and paid for. In a club that was so sophisticated and classy, we felt like adults on top of the world and acted as such. To top off this amazing evening, we headed to the Staten Island Ferry which was considered a traditional ending to prom night at the time. Before we knew it, it was 6:30 a.m. and we were back at Linda’s house for rides home. It was a night to remember forever.

Today, I live in New York, Julianne in New Mexico and Linda in Connecticut. Different locations have not kept us apart. Julianne occasionally visits New York, and during those visits the three of us always manage to figure out how to connect. Last year, for the first time, Linda and I flew to New Mexico to stay with Julianne for a few days. We laughed, we cried, and we bonded as if we never left high school.

Proms usually represent an end to high school friendships. However, what I really know for sure is that my Monsignor Scanlan prom proved to be the beginning of treasured, life-long friendships.

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