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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Stuffed Zucchini with Artichokes

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4 large zucchini
olive oil
1 /2 onion (small), chopped
1 14 ounce can whole artichokes in water
2 t0 4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon oregano
Salt and pepper
1 /2 cup Italian flavored bread crumbs
1 /2 cup grated Romano cheese

1. Oven 350 degrees
2. Wash zucchini and cut in half lengthwise. With a spoon scrape out the inside of the zucchini
shell carefully starting in the center, leaving a shell for filling later. Steam the shells in
the microwave for 2 to 5 minutes. Place on paper towels to absorb water from steaming.
3. In a large frying pan, add olive oil to semi cover the bottom, use medium heat.
Add chopped garlic and onion. Cook a few minutes. Add scooped out zucchini.
4. Drain water from artichoke can. Cut up artichokes into bite size pieces. Add to frying pan, and
continue cooking. Add oregano, basil, salt and pepper, sauté until everything is tender.
4. Turn off heat and stir in grated cheese and bread crumbs. Mix thoroughly. If too wet looking,
sprinkle in a tablespoon at a time, more grated cheese and/or bread crumbs.
5. Spoon mixture into zucchini shells and place stuffed side up on an oven pan or cookie sheet. Bake
20 to 25 minutes. Then turn oven to broil and broil for 1 or 2 minutes to brown the top, keeping
an eye on the zucchini, they brown quickly. Serve immediately.
6. ENJOY! – Zucchini and artichokes were meant to be together!

If you love zucchini and artichokes as much as I do, you will love this recipe. Combining the right vegetables is like combining the right guests for a meal. One will compliment the other.

I entertain frequently and I enjoy bringing people together to my table. Sitting people together over a meal usually means there is no loss for conversation. All that I need to get strangers to converse with each other, is to talk about what I am serving. I am fearless in cooking and try new dishes on friends and family all the time. This is definitely a great way to break the ice and get the conversation going. I encourage comments and feedback on the new recipe that was prepared. Whether they love it, hate it or have no opinion, it gets everyone talking.

Don’t be afraid to try a new dish and or to bring people together the next time you entertain. Either way the results may surprise you. Just sit back and enjoy the conversation as well as your company!

ORZO WITH TOMATOES AND GARLIC

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1 lb box of Orzo or some other small pasta
3 – 4 large pulp tomatoes (egg shaped tomatoes), chopped
2 large garlic cloves, chopped
¼ cup scallions, chopped or 1/2 red onion, chopped
Basil and or parsley
olive oil

Good Seasons Italian Dressing

1. Cook orzo according to directions. Rinse under cold water to prevent sticking.
2. Chop tomatoes, garlic and scallions or red onion. Mix together with well drained pasta in an
attractive bowl for serving.
3. Make the Good Seasons Italian Dressing. My secret is this. I use less water than the
Directions call for first of all. I use half the water portion and substitute it with
vinegar. Where it says vinegar, I use half the portion with red wine vinegar and the
other half with balsamic vinegar.
4. After making the salad dressing according to your taste, pour about 1/4 to 1/2 cup of the dressing into the pasta salad and mix together. Let that sit for awhile. Refrigerate the pasta until nice and cold. Just before serving drizzle olive oil (about 2 to 3 tablespoons, I don’t measure, I just drizzle) and some more dressing if needed. Toss and taste.
5. ENJOY – Mama Mia what a pasta for me a.

Justine, my niece, recently texted me with a request for my Orzo with Tomatoes, her “favorite recipe”! As you can imagine, that was music to my ears. For someone who takes pride in their cooking, a request for one’s recipe is a compliment of the highest order.

I told Justine she could find it on my website, only to discover this family favorite wasn’t there. So, I quickly poured through my secret stash of recipes and added it to my site. Justine, this one’s for you! I hope you won’t mind sharing it 

Scarsdale was and still is a great place to live and work; however, eating on the cheap is not something this town offered. When I worked downtown years ago, I was too busy playing Supermom to have any time to make my own lunch to schlep to work, and how much pizza can one person eat in a given week? One of my favorite places was a gourmet chicken take-out store. I would typically order a small container of chicken salad or pasta with tomato and garlic to the tune of $6 … which was about $3 too much at the time.

I always feel challenged to make something at home just as tasty but cheaper, and this pasta was just the inspiration I needed. It has become a focal point and huge hit at all my barbeques, proving, once again, that a good recipe does not have to be expensive or complicated. I do feel compelled to let you know that I did not request their recipe out of respect. Back in the day, folks believed it to be fair business practice to pay for recipes, especially if they were purchasing a food business. Well, times have changed and many folks feel it’s a compliment to be asked for a recipe. I know as I have done this many times over the years, and I have never been turned away.

The next time you enjoy something from a restaurant, a store, or even a party, don’t be shy — ask for the recipe. Go home and give it your best shot; you’ll be amazed with the results. Make this dish for the next party in your life, and I am sure you too will be asked for your recipe!

Maura’s Pot Roast

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1 – 2 ½ pound Brisket or Rump roast for pot roast
salt and pepper
meat seasoning (Adobo or Accent)
flour

1 to 2 tablespoon olive oil

1 14.5 ounce beef broth

1. Sprinkle meat seasoning, salt and pepper on all sides of roast. Rub it in.
2. In a dish, add flour. Dredge roast in the flour, covering generously all sides of roast.
3. In a large frying pan add olive oil. Heat oil on medium flame. Once oil is hot, add floured roast and brown on all sides evenly. Place roast fat side down and add beef broth and cover the pot. Cook long and slow until tender, about 3 hours on a very low flame. Turn roast every 20 to 30 minutes.
4. Optional – Cook roast for 1 and 1/2 hours and then add large chunks of peeled and cleaned potatoes, carrots and celery. Cook another 1 and 1/2 hours or until vegetables are cook all the way through.
5. Serve sliced pot roast immediately over cooked egg noodles or with vegetables.
6. ENJOY! – Savory Pot Roast that will make your mouth water!

Maura is my sister from another mother.

She and her family moved next door to me when we were about 3 years old, and we’ve been as tight as peas in a pod ever since. As the years flew by, we married our true loves; Maura moved to New Jersey, and I moved to Westchester. Different lives & different towns did not make a difference in the friendship between these two little sister-friends. We still take a vacation together with our families and other childhood friends every year on the Jersey shore, and make it a priority to visit each other as often as time permits. As far as I’m concerned, it’s never enough, as for Maura, perhaps not so much. I say this with a wink because I know she is reading this story.

Both of us get up at dawn on the weekend and, over time, created a ritual I hold dear to my heart. We have maintained a strong connection throughout our lives by phoning each other every Saturday morning. We chat and catch up on our lives as our families sleep. Years ago, when every phone call appeared on the monthly phone bill, my husband, Tom, would go crazy over that one page of calls to Maura in Jersey that totaled sometimes over $30. Eventually, Tom couldn’t complain once I explained that he was getting a break because a therapist would cost him $50 an hour. After all, I was actually saving him $20!

With all the snow we’ve been having lately in the tri-state area, being snowbound at home isn’t so much fun anymore. Personally, I love to cook and bake, so it has been great to prepare those time consuming dishes in the kitchen on a snowy day. As a special education teacher, Maura’s idea of the perfect snow day is to do work for her students or to spend time cleaning. (Wish I had that gene!) But just these past few weeks, Maura has gotten into cooking. She has always cooked for her family and prepared all of the holiday dinners. But now, she is getting into cooking for the joy of it and recently made this pot roast, a simple recipe with few ingredients. Happily, she shared it with me. There is no great secret to a good pot roast, except patience. Believe me, it’s worth the wait!

Maura, I am really looking forward to us cooking together! I know, I know, I will have to keep waiting for that to happen. But, in the meantime, what are we going to make together on our next snow day?

Lamb Meatballs with Spinach and Tomatoes

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1 1/ 4 ground lamb
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 egg
2 tablespoons bread crumbs
Salt and pepper
1/ 2 teaspoon rosemary

Oil for frying

1/ 2 cup chicken broth
1/ 2 cup of spinach, cooked and drained
1- 14 ounce can petite cut tomatoes, drained or 3 tomatoes diced into
1/ 4 to 1/ 2 cup heavy cream or half and half
salt and pepper

8 ounces box of orzo pasta, cooked

1. In a bowl, mix lamb, garlic, egg, bread crumbs, rosemary, salt and pepper together. Shape into 24 to 30 bite size meatballs.
2. In a large frying pan, add olive or canola oil, about 2 tablespoons to cover the bottom of the pan. Add meatballs, fry until cooked through and browned all over. Remove meatballs from pan and set aside. Drain off fat.
3. Add chopped tomatoes and sauté until tender, add cooked spinach. Lower flame and simmer, add chicken broth, cook 10 minutes, then add half and half or heavy cream with salt and pepper. Cook 5 to 10 minutes more. Add meatballs back to frying pan and simmer a few more minutes until everything is heated through
4. Serve immediately while still warm over cooked orzo.
ENJOY – Lamb, spinach and tomatoes, oh my and oh so good!

My observation about lamb is that people either love it or hate it. They will either embrace their plate of lamb or push it away; there is no in between.

While my husband and I love it, we only choose to enjoy it on occasion as not all our kids share the love. Every time I make lamb, I return to my childhood kitchen table with my dad sitting next to me. Cooked lamb has a strong aroma, and it’s this aroma that always triggers memories of my dad.

Dad was a butcher, so we’d eat meat five nights a week. He’d explain to me what we were eating and what part of the animal it came from. These days, with everyone so sensitive about eating meat, I understand that some of you might find this offensive or even barbaric. However, please keep in mind that this was the 1960s, vegetarians were very rare, and folks felt blessed to even have food on the table. Our parents lived through tough times and experienced the feeling of hunger on a regular basis. Being a butcher was my father’s livelihood. He was the head of the house and took pride in his ability to keep his family safe and well fed. I so loved and respected him for that.

This recipe, with the combination of the tomatoes, spinach, and lamb meatballs in a slightly creamy sauce, is so flavorful that you may actually discover a new found love for this dish.

To this day, I still enjoy meat. No, I no longer eat it five nights a week, but I will not deny my attraction to its taste and aroma.

I send love and thanks to my Dad for letting me appreciate a good meal made with meat.

After Christmas Shopping

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Christmas is over, it is so sad. But wait, there is more to shop for. Happening right now is 50% to 75% off Christmas items. But hurry it will end quickly.

I bought one wrapping paper design from Joann’s and the other at Target. A few years ago, while doing my after Christmas shopping, I came across solid blue and solid red wrapping papers for 75% off. The light bulb went off in my head, I used these solid color wrapping papers for Valentine’s Day gifts and birthday presents throughout the year. These days I buy only one or two Christmas design wrapping paper for next year and then I look for solid color wrapping papers to use for other gifts. Last year I bought a beautiful white on silver plain design paper and used it for all of my wedding shower / engagement gifts.

The other items for next Christmas that I look to buy on sale are things that I ran out of this year. Whether it is bags, bows, paper plates, napkins or gift tags, I buy what I need to replace that I finished this year. When packing all my Christmas decorations away, the last two boxes I pack are my Christmas cards and paper goods. The reasoning is that the first job for the holidays for me is to write my Christmas cards. I follow the LIFO method I learned in accounting when packing up Christmas in the attic, Last in, first out.

What are you waiting for? Go shopping now for your wrapping paper for the year and while you are at it, pick up your Christmas cards for next year on sale too!

CHRISTMAS CUTTER COOKIES

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5 cups flour (all purpose)
1 cup butter, softened
1/ 2 cup margarine, softened
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
4 eggs
4 teaspoons of vanilla extract
2 teaspoons of cinnamon

Extra flour for rolling

Icing
Decorations – sprinkles, candies, etc.

1. Place the flour, baking powder and cinnamon into a bowl. Sift together.
2. In a mixing bowl, cream butter, margarine and sugars. Add eggs and vanilla. Gradually stir in flour mixture. Mix until a dough forms.
3. Cut dough in half and place into 2 separate Ziploc bags. Chill for at least one hour or more in refrigerator.
4. When ready to bake – Oven 350 degrees
5. Flour surface, (table top) where rolling out dough. Flour hands and rolling pin.
Remove dough from refrigerator. Cut one chilled dough into 4 pieces and place one
piece of dough onto floured surface. Generously, sprinkle top of dough with flour.
Roll dough to 1/ 4 inch thickness. Dip cookie cutters into flour before using on
dough. Cut shapes.
6. Place cookie shapes onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake for 6 to 13 minutes, depending on cookie shape size, and oven temperatures (some ovens run hotter than others) or until lightly browned. Makes about 7 dozen cookies.
7. Cool completely on wire racks. Decorate with icings and colored sugars, sprinkles, etc.
8. ENJOY – Baked especially for you by a child’s little hands!

Cookie cutters bring out the child in me. Whenever I see one, it makes me smile. Of course, you need a great recipe to put your cookie cutter to good use, and I just happen to have one for you!

I’ve experimented with many cookie cutter recipes over the years, but none have worked for me as well as this one. However, don’t bother asking me where I found this recipe, I have zero recollection. Let’s just say it’s an oldie but goodie. I’ve enjoyed this recipe for both Easter and Christmas cookies, and anytime I need shaped cookies. Trust me, it’s fool proof.

No matter how many cookies I have baked with my children and others over the years, and now with my grandchildren, there is no cookie more loved than this one. Children take great delight in choosing the cookie cutters and rolling the dough. What they especially love is icing and decorating these cookies.

I recently made these cookies with my granddaughter, Mackenzie. She was so excited to use the rolling pin, and shared with me that this is her favorite thing to do. Could I have a budding baker in the family? Afterwards, she took a container full of cookies home to share with her brothers and parents.

Bake some happiness with cookie cutters, flour, and a smile. What a perfect gift to give and to share with a child. One baked with love!

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