Mom’s Cookbook

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I love cookbooks. My collection of recipes is ridiculous. The collection started in high school, from a co-worker at a part-time job after school. I worked at an accounting office during tax season after school and on the weekends. One day, Tess, a tax consultant brought in this amazing sour cream coffee cake. To this day, Tess’s recipe, handwritten on a piece of paper from the tax office is still part of my collection of recipes. I was hooked from that day forward on collecting and trying recipes. Tess’s recipe was the first but not the last. Now, I read a cookbook, make a copy of the recipes I want to try and then donate the book to the local library. Not all of the books, thank goodness get donated.

Recently, I took a good look at all the recipes I have accumulated over the years. I felt overwhelmed by how many cookbooks and cut out recipes I have. I decided to purge the cookbooks and get rid of most of my collection.

Autographed cookbooks are here to stay, that’s a given. There are a few that I still enjoy going through again and again, but the majority will be donated. This task of getting rid of my cookbooks isn’t easy for me but slowly I am getting it done. Then a miracle happened. To my surprise, I found my mom’s 1951 The American Family Cookbook. Inside, she had cut out magazine and newspaper recipes with check marks next to recipes she must have tried. Not only did she save recipes but a there was a four-page article on wine and a cocktail guide using Sambuca. Mom did love her cocktails! Mom and Dad were great entertainers and good cooks, both of them. Many a party, holiday, and Sunday dinner was at our house. Of course we had a bar in the basement where all the adults gather and I guess those cocktail recipes came in handy.

Among her handwritten recipes I found how to make meatballs and sauce. This must have been told to her by my gramma, my dad’s mom. It was common in my mother’s generation, to receive recipes from their Italian husbands’ mothers. I know my mom and her sisters, all married to Italian men, got instructions from their mother-in-laws. The hand-written recipes are the icing on the cake for someone like me who loves to collect recipes. Nothing could be more precious and priceless than finding my mom’s recipe cookbook and handwritten recipes. For me finding this cookbook and her recipes, was my mom telling me – I am still here with you. What better joy is there than that!

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Ricotta Pecan Coffee Cake

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Ricotta Pecan Coffee Cake

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: Easy
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2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/ 2 cup butter, softened

3/ 4 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 cup ricotta cheese

 

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup chopped pecans

1 1/ 2 tablespoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon nutmeg

 

1/ 2 cup sweetened and salted whole pecans

Powdered sugar

 

  • Grease lightly the bottoms of 2 8-inch baking pans, then line with parchment paper.
  • Beat the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs and ricotta cheese. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  • Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and continue beating until well blended. Batter will be thick.
  • Pour 1/ 2 of the batter into lined baking pans equally and evenly.
  • Combine the brown sugar, chopped pecans, cinnamon and nutmeg. Sprinkle 1/ 2 of the topping over the top of the cake batter. Repeat another layer of batter and topping.
  • Lastly, press lightly the sweetened and salted whole pecans on top.
  • Refrigerator uncovered for 1 hour.
  • Oven to 350 degrees. Bake cakes for 40 to 50 minutes. Test center with a toothpick for doneness. Cool completely.
  • Optional – Before serving, sprinkle top with powdered sugar for decoration.  
  • ENJOY! – Best coffee cake with ricotta cheese ever!

This recipe came about because of two reasons. Reason number one, an unexpected guest was coming on Sunday for coffee at around 11:30 am and it was already 9:00 am. Reason number two, I found all of the ingredients handy in my refrigerator including just the right amount of ricotta needed. The topping of sweetened and salted whole pecans was a total last minute thought that turned out to be a great addition. Sometimes you have to be quick on your feet when it comes to entertaining at the last minute. I am always up to the challenge of whipping up something, even if it isn’t all homemade.

Years ago, my husband mentioned to me, last minute, that he invited some of his family over for dinner because they would happen to be in our neighborhood, in a few hours. I had no idea what I would serve; then like a drill sergeant, I started barking commands to the family. To my husband, “Get the dining room table pulled out and set up the room so I can serve buffet style.” To my son, who was driving at the time, “I need you to go to Price Club and buy two bags of frozen stuffed shells and one bag of frozen ready made meatballs.” There is always homemade spaghetti sauce in my freezer and I had everything to make a salad. The menu for dinner for about 15 people altogether was two trays of stuffed shells, a pot of meatballs in sauce, a tray of salad and Italian bread. When the family arrived for dinner, it was as if a tornado had touched down in my house and whipped up all the food into a cyclone and took it away. They came, they ate, they left. Nothing but a few meatballs at the bottom of a pot of sauce was left standing. When you use your own homemade sauce, everything you serve with it tastes ten times better. Don’t sweat the small stuff, so what if I didn’t make an elaborate dinner, I made dinner and in a short amount of time no less. That is what is important at the end of the day. Dinner was served.

Mangia, and the whole world Mangias with you!

Pancetta and Brussels Sprouts Risotto

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1/2 pound Brussels Sprouts
1 cup Arborio rice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
3 ounces pancetta, chopped
16 ounces chicken broth
1/4 white wine

Romano cheese grated

1. Remove the outer leaves and stems of the Brussels sprouts, rinse with water and cut in half (If very large Brussels sprouts, cut into quarters), set aside.
2. Meanwhile, in a medium pot, bring chicken broth to a boil. Gently put the Brussels sprouts into the boiling chicken broth. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes. With a small strainer, remove the
Brussels sprouts to a bowl and set aside. Keep the chicken broth to use when preparing the risotto.
3. In a large frying pan, add the olive oil and onion, saute until tender. Add the pancetta and cook a few minutes more, until golden. Add the Arborio rice to the pan and cook until
lightly toasted, continuously stirring while cooking. Add the white wine and continue cooking until the wine is absorbed.
4. With a ladle, spoon the chicken broth in the pan one ladle at a time until the liquid is absorbed before adding another ladle of chicken broth. Continue Until you have the last ladle of
chicken broth to add, then put the Brussels sprouts in the pan at the same time as the last ladle of chicken broth. Cook until rice is al dente, 10 to 15 minutes.
5. At this time taste the risotto, if a bit too hard, cook a few more minutes until more tender.
6. Serve immediately, garnishing with grated Romano cheese on top.
7. ENJOY! – “Risotto” is the new rice!

This recipe is one that originally came to me from an email newsletter I subscribe to called Sunday Pasta, which sends different recipes for Sunday dinner.
The website is garrubbo.com.

The combination of Brussels sprouts and pancetta in risotto piqued my interest enough to attempt to prepare this recipe. But the recipe was for twice the amount then I wanted to make, so I took the liberty of adjusting the ingredient amounts to half. My preference was to use chicken broth and Romano cheese in my version of the recipe and I eliminated the pepper.

The traditional Sunday dinner is disappearing from my own family’s dinners. Sunday dinner was sacred at one time. Dinner time was late afternoon, no one played with their cell phones and the meal would last for 3 hours. Whether dinner was at home or at an Italian restaurant it was never rushed. Just a few weeks ago, I tried to plan for my kids and grandkids to come to a Sunday dinner at our house in the upcoming weeks. Well, Sunday will not work out because of prior commitments, but Saturday will work. At this point, I am thrilled to have the family for dinner no matter what day of the week it is. Times are different but the value of sitting down to a meal together with generations of family remains the same. Of course, Sunday Pasta will be served!

Christmas Traditions

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Christmas traditions are what make the holidays memorable. Whether it’s the seven fishes dinner on Christmas Eve with family, opening presents Christmas morning together, attending church the same time every year or making handmade Christmas ornaments for the tree, all of these traditions make for some wonderful memories to cherish.

Ever since I became a gramma, I wanted to cook and bake with my grandchildren. My granddaughter, Mackenzie, really enjoys baking. ChiChi (her nickname) and I started the tradition of baking Christmas cookies together when she was about four years old and we continued to do it every year. Mackenzie, now eleven years old, gets to pick which cookie she wants us to bake together. Her choice this year was Aunt Ellia’s butter cookies (you can find the recipe on Somebody’s Mom) and peanut butter cookies.

ChiChi, I hope you want to bake cookies with me every year, no matter how old you get. May you carry on the tradition of Christmas cookie baking with your family one day and remember fondly our time together spent in the kitchen.

This Christmas tradition is one that warms my heart as much as the oven warms the kitchen.

ZUCCHINI TOTS

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Olive oil

4 zucchini, grated

Salt

1/ 4 cup Mozzarella, shredded

3 eggs, beaten

1/ 2 cup Panko bread crumbs

1/ 4 cup Romano and or Parmesan cheese

1/ 2 teaspoon basil

1/ 2 teaspoon oregano

1/ 4 onion, minced

1 to 2 garlic cloves, minced

salt and pepper

  1. Oven 400 degrees
  2. Line a large cookie sheet with aluminum foil and then brush foil with olive oil.
  3. Place grated zucchini in a colander (place in the sink) and add a few sprinkles of salt. Toss the zucchini and salt a few times and then let it sit. After 5 minutes or more, place tossed zucchini on paper towels to drain excess water.
  4. Place the drained zucchini to a large bowl. Add beaten eggs, mozzarella and grated cheeses, Panko crumbs, onion, garlic, basil, oregano, salt and pepper. Mix well.
  5. With your hands, form zucchini into 1-inch approximately sized tots. Place tots onto oiled cookie sheet leaving a bit of space between tots.
  6. Bake 20 to 30 minutes depending on your oven. Turn tots two times during baking, to get a golden brown color on both sides. Serve warm or hot.
  7. Optional – After completely cooled, you can place in a Ziploc bag and freeze for future use.
  8. 6.   ENJOY – It’s not Potato Tots it’s Zucchnini Tots!

 

If you work in Manhattan or Westchester or anywhere, buying lunch every day can be very expensive.   My daughter, Mia, who works in Manhattan and I, who works in Westchester, bring our lunches to work as often as possible. 

Our lunches don’t necessarily fit the norm all the time for regular packed lunches. Today for example, Mia took some baked ziti with a side container of marinating home grown tomato slices and some corn cheddar muffins.  She loves to take my homemade chicken soup, potato patties, eggplant or spinach balls, etc.   You get the picture; you never know what is going to be in that brown paper lunch bag.  Mia tends to eat small portions.  So, she will either split her lunch into two days or she will share it with her co-workers.  That is where these zucchini tots come into play.  I made so many zucchini tots last week; I gave her quite a few to take to work.  Being Mia, she shared them with her two co-workers, Jessica and Kendyl.  Mia would definitely tell me if she liked or disliked something I made.  Well, there was no reason to worry if she liked the zucchini tots because they were such a big hit that her co-workers asked for the recipe. Happily, she not only liked the zucchini tots but asked if there were any zucchini tots left over to bring to work for lunch again.  That is all I needed to know to make these zucchini tots a part of my personal recipe collection. 

 “Sharing is Caring” really means, “Do you have any extra zucchini tots?”

QUICHE LORRAINE

 

2 9-inch deep dish piecrusts

3/ 4 cup Durkee French Fried onions

1 lb. package bacon, cooked crispy

1 cup heavy cream

1 cup half and half

9 eggs

2 cups shredded Swiss cheese

1 tablespoon margarine, softened

 

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  1. Oven 425 degrees
  2. Cook bacon until crispy. Drain well on dish lined with paper towels. When bacon is completely cooled, cut into small pieces. Place bacon pieces in a bowl.
  3. Pierce piecrusts with a fork sporadically around sides and bottom of crust. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove and cool.
  4. Spread softened margarine in the bottom and sides of the cooled piecrusts with a pastry brush.
  5. In the bacon bowl, add the French fried onions and 1 cup of Swiss cheese. Toss and mix together. Split the mixture between the two piecrusts evenly.
  6. In a separate bowl, beat eggs with half and half and 1/ 2 cup of the heavy cream. Pour egg mixture over bacon/onion/Swiss cheese mixture in piecrusts. Sprinkle the remaining 1 cup of Swiss cheese over the top of each quiche.
  7. Pour the other 1/ 2 cup of heavy cream over the cheese on both quiches.
  8. Bake for 15 minutes. Turn oven to 325 degrees and continue cooking for 35-45 minutes longer.
  9. Let stand 15 minutes before slicing. Serve immediately.
  10. ENJOY – Bacon, Onions and Swiss Cheese together, Oh my!

 

F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote in The Great Gatsby, “Nick tells Gatsby, “You can’t repeat the past,” and Gatsby replies, “Why of course you can.”

No truer words were spoken that reflected a recent trip down memory lane with my closest friends, Linda and Julianne from high school.

Linda, Julianne and I reconnected here in New York this summer. It was a planned “girls” long weekend.   The girls would be staying at my home for a few nights.  We would be very busy during the daytime, so, I decided to prepare dishes ahead of time to serve.  This Quiche Lorraine was served for breakfast but it goes great as a lunch dish served with salad on the side.  Either way, your friends will love it as much as mine did!

Julianne lives in New Mexico, Linda in Connecticut and I in New York. We decided to be tourists in New York City by going on a tour bus and boat ride around Manhattan. As luck would have it, or should I say unluckily, all our pre-made plans got changed.   The tour bus and boat ride fell through. Here we were stranded just a few blocks from the Staten Island Ferry. The Staten Island Ferry is FREE. One of the best attractions New York City has to offer. Turns out that this is the second time Linda, Julianne and I went on the Staten Island Ferry together. The first time was our high school senior prom. Tradition in those days for prom night was to end the evening, early morning with a ride on the Staten Island Ferry and then home, which we did.

When I was preparing for Linda and Julianne to stay at my home, I went searching for pictures from high school of the three of us together. Lo and behold I found one of those old photo booth pictures that came on a strip of four, of the three of us on during our senior day trip to Rye Playland.  The night before Julianne was to leave to return to New Mexico, we decided to go back to Rye Playland. We were determined to recreate our photo booth memory. Sure enough, Playland still had a photo booth, which we squeezed into to recreate our moment in time.

Can you repeat the past? Yes, you can with a lot of laughs and good friends that are up for anything. The way I see it, it was fun in the first place, and repeating those moments again can only be better and even more memorable the second time around!

Julianne and Linda, thanks for the memories, then and now,

 

Then and Now

Crock Pot Beef Shanks

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Beef Shanks

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: medium
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3 or 4 beef shanks (about 2 ½ pounds)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup flour
Salt and pepper

2 carrots, peeled and cut into 1 to 2 inch pieces
1 small onion quartered
2 stalks celery, cut into 1 to 2 inch pieces
3 cloves garlic, quartered
¾ cup of homemade meat sauce (use jar sauce if you have to)
¾ cup red wine
1 cup beef broth, homemade or canned
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
4 fresh oregano leaves, cleaned
4 fresh basil leaves, cleaned
Salt and pepper

Cavatelli pasta, cooked and drained

Parmesan cheese, grated

1. Step one – Rinse the beef shanks and pat dry with a paper towel.
On a pie plate, place flour and add salt and pepper, mix well.
In a large frying pan, add olive oil, heat on medium high. Dredge the beef shanks
in the flour, tapping off the excess. Place shanks in frying pan, browning quickly,
about 5 minutes on each side, searing the meat.
Transfer meat to a crock pot. Put crock pot on low.
2. Step two – Into the frying pan, add onion, carrots, celery and garlic. If needed add another tablespoon of olive oil on a medium flame. Stir vegetables while cooking for about 10 minutes and get tender. Add meat sauce and blend well for a few minutes. Continue cooking, add wine and using a wooden spoon scrape up and beef bits from the bottom of the pan. When everything is scrapped up and mixed well, transfer vegetables to crock pot.
3. Add beef broth, vinegar, basil and oregano, salt and pepper. Cook on low until meat and vegetables tender to the touch, 6 to 8 hours.
4. Serve hot over Cavatelli or other pasta. Option: Sprinkle grated Parmesan cheese for garnish.
5. ENJOY- Slowly goes it, but quickly it’s gone!

©  This recipe courtesy of Somebodys-Mom.com

 

One of the gifts I received at my wedding shower was a crock pot. It still works perfectly after all these years, and it is just the right size for me.  Crock pot cooking has made life easier to some degree for us working moms and dads.  You still need to take some time  for prepping vegetables, meat, etc. for a recipe you plan on cooking in the crock pot.  The fact that it is done in advance and cooks slowly for three to ten hours, depending on your crock pot, all together in one pot makes it a great accessory for the kitchen, and for cooks everywhere.

When entertaining the crock pot is great to keep food warm. Many a party, I used my crock pot to hold meatballs in sauce on the buffet table to keep them warm throughout the day.  The crock pot is a versatile tool for all cooks!  So, run don’t walk to get your CROCK POT today, if you don’t have one already.

Sharing is caring – What’s your favorite crock pot recipe?