RE-Stuffed Potatoes

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


6 Idaho large potatoes, baked and cooled
3 scallion stalks, chopped
3 1/ 2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons parsley, chopped
8 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded
1 / 4 cup milk
1 / 4 cup sour cream
Salt and pepper

1. Oven 400 degrees.
2. Wash potatoes, stab with fork all around the potato skin and place in oven on top rack. Bake 60 to 75 minutes or until baked thoroughly but not too soft. Remove from oven and set aside to cool for 10 minutes.
3. Hold potato with a pot holder and take a serrated knife, cut the potato lengthwise in half. With a tablespoon, scoop the inside of the potato into a bowl containing the 3 1 /2 tablespoons of butter. Try not to scrape all the way to the skin, otherwise it might break after re-stuffing it and baking again. Place the scooped out skin onto a cookie sheet. Continue until you have 12 skins.
4. In the bowl with the potatoes and butter, add milk and sour cream. Whip potatoes with a mixer until all lumps are gone. Then add the parsley, scallions, 4 ounces of cheddar cheese, salt and pepper. Stir with a wooden spoon at this point until everything is mixed.
5. With a large spoon, put the potato mixture back into the potato skins. After stuffing all the skins, sprinkle the remaining 4 ounces of cheddar cheese over the tops of the potatoes.
6. Place the re-stuffed skins back in the oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes more on a 375 degrees oven.
7. Serve immediately.
8. Enjoy! – Re-stuffed will never taste overstuffed or stuffed enough!

Who doesn’t love the combination of potatoes and cheese? I ask you…is there a better dish to please both man and child? Kids seem to especially love the cheddar cheese topping for its high gooey factor, while the guys tend to relate to the re-stuffed potato because it brings to mind their favorite haunt – the sport’s bar! In fact, it’s probably where I first chowed down on one of these “make a meal of it” potatoes. When I like something, I usually try to make it myself at home. My family loves their sport’s bar menus; cheeseburgers, onion soup, buffalo wings and potatoes. And I do mean potatoes of any kind.

Recently, all 10 members of my family spent a day in Manhattan walking around together at the Central Park Zoo. Less than an hour had passed when that familiar buzzing began: “Where are we eating?”, followed by “When are we eating?”. As a person who loves to cook, I love that my family loves to eat. My son, Tom, and my daughter, Marisa, usually take charge, searching the internet via their cellphones scoping out restaurants in the area. Not only were they looking for something close by but also someplace relaxing and reasonably priced that could accommodate a large family. With Marisa in the lead, we walked and walked and walked. I am not kidding, we walked 25 New York City blocks (which I personally think are much longer than blocks anywhere else) for what seemed like an hour. So where did we end up? A sports bar, of course. We sat down and I proceeded to tell our waitress that after walking 25 blocks, this better be the best cheeseburger I ever had. Everyone ordered cheeseburgers, waffle fries, wings, sweet potato fries and soup, typical bar food. At the end of the meal, our waitress thoughtfully brought us an extra pitcher of beer on the house because we walked 25 blocks to eat there.

Obviously, there is no limit to how far one will go for a good burger or a good re-stuffed potato!

ZITI WITH ROASTED VEGETABLES

1 head of broccoli
1 head of cauliflower
1 red onion
3 tablespoons olive oil
Garlic powder
Parsley
Basil
3 ounces grated Romano cheese plus
extra cheese for garnish
Salt and pepper

1 pound ziti pasta

1. Oven to 425 degrees.
2. Cover a large baking sheet with Reynolds non-stick aluminum
foil.
3. Core and cut the cauliflower and broccoli crowns into bite
size pieces. Fill a large bowl with vegetables and cover with
water. Drain and repeat again. Drain and leave crowns in
bowl.
4. Cook pasta according to package. Drain and return to pot.
Add a drop of olive oil and toss to prevent sticking.
5. Cut red onion into bite size pieces and then add to bowl
with cauliflower and broccoli. Add olive oil, garlic powder,
parsley, basil, salt and pepper. With a large spoon, toss
everything until vegetables are well coated. Spread
vegetables on baking sheet.
6. Roast vegetables for 15 minutes. Toss on sheet and rotate
pan front to back. Bake for 10 minutes more. Test for
tenderness with fork, bake 5 to 7 minutes more if needed.
7. To the pasta pot add roasted vegetables and 3 ounces
Romano cheese. Toss everything together.
Garnish with additional Romano cheese when serving.
8. ENJOY! – Vegetables taste even better roasted and
toasted!

While roasting vegetables has become a popular grilling experience all summer long, what does one do about the rest of the year? No problem. It’s time to use the oven to keep the house cozy and fill the air with a new fragrance, roasted veggies. It can be tantalizing!

Keep it simple. Just wash and cut fresh vegetables into bite size pieces, keeping in mind that carrots should be smaller than say, broccoli, as harder veggies take longer to cook. Toss them in a bowl with olive oil and spices ensuring that all are evenly coated, and then just place them on a baking sheet covered with non-stick foil. Place in a hot oven, give a shake or flip over after 25 minutes or so, and taste test for doneness. Veggies are like pasta; some like them al dente while others prefer a softer consistency.

There’s something special about roasting cauliflower, broccoli, and other like veggies together. If you’ve roasted too many vegetables for a particular recipe, no problem, put the extras in the fridge for the next dish. Roasted vegetables are wonderful in quiches, frittatas, omelets, soups, etc. They make a delightful addition to any number of recipes.

Truth be told, I made this dish for dinner for my husband and myself recently. I tossed ziti with roasted veggies generously garnished with fresh grated Romano cheese. Nothing could taste better…except when my husband, Tom, is concerned. Even though I watched my guy wolf down 3 plates, he still felt compelled to let me know that he couldn’t find the meat! About 15 minutes after we finished eating, Tom dug into the freezer and found 2 small steaks and insisted on grilling them for a snack. Who does that! Crazy carnivorous men! You can’t make this stuff up! He grilled his steaks (in the tundra that was my backyard) and ate a plate of sliced steak pieces on top of crackers …get this… as a snack! Sometimes, you just have to surrender to the caveman mentality and go with the flow. After all, the man did eat all of his veggies first.

ROASTED RED POTATOES

2 1/ 2 lbs red potatoes
3 tablespoons margarine
3 tablespoons butter
1 large onion
paprika

1. Oven 350 degrees.
2. Leave red skins on potatoes. Scrub the skins under running
water to remove any dirt.
Cut potatoes into quarters or cube. Place in a 9 x 13 pan.
3. Slice onion and mix with potatoes. Toss around.
4. Cut the margarine and butter into pieces and place on top
of potatoes and onions.
5. Sprinkle generously paprika over all the potatoes and
onions.
6. Bake in oven 1 and 1/ 2 hours. Every 1/ 2 toss pull pan out
and with a spatula or large spoon, toss the potatoes and
onions. Add more paprika every time you toss.
7. Serve immediately from the oven and make sure to scrape
the bottom for the good crunchy pieces.
8. ENJOY! – These “new” potatoes will be old and gone
quickly!

Have you ever met a person who didn’t love roasted potatoes?
Not me!

My home is never without a potato; it is usually white, gold or your standard Idaho. When I want some comfort on a cold winter’s day, I slice a little onion, add olive oil, butter, salt, pepper, and fresh rosemary, and I sit back and savor the flavor!

Today’s recipe is all about the red potato. I prepare this baby a little differently by adding paprika instead of fresh rosemary – there’s something special about that combination as it sits so well on the taste buds. I also choose to leave their skins on – I just give the potatoes a good scrubbing before quartering and cooking. Interestingly, not everyone is fond of eating potatoes with their skins. My cousins from Italy visited over the holidays and joined me at my cousin, Steven’s home. Steven and his lovely wife, Trish, served a delicious lunch which included roasted red potatoes complete with skins. Our Italian cousins were rather surprised that we were eating potatoes with their skins on, but politely ate them – skins and all.

Family history has always fascinated me, and I began to seriously research mine about 6 years ago. I started by contacting the few remaining relatives, attempting to find information about my grandparents. So far, my grandfather, Giuseppe, my father’s father, has been the most successful to trace. His sister, my Aunt Peggy, sent me an address of her 1st cousin, Melvina. I wrote to Melvina and, bingo, she answered me through her daughter, Marietta. This letter set me on the most direct route to connecting with more cousins than I could imagine. In addition, I had been in contact via email with Nicla in Italy who spoke and wrote English and worked for City Hall Department of Records in Pescara. In the meantime, Melvina. who lived in Arizona with Marietta, was heading to New York for a visit. Two years ago, I finally met Melvina, Marietta, and her sister, Margie, at my home for a luncheon. As Melvina entered my home she immediately noticed the large family group photograph taken in the ‘40’s of my grandparent’s family and friends. Melvina saw herself, her brothers and parents in the photograph and began to cry, “Why do you have a picture of my family?” I started to cry, “Because it’s my family.” After a good cry and a group hug, we enjoyed lunch, exchanged some family stories about my grandparents and vowed to keep in touch. Marietta and I continue to connect via holiday cards and emails.

A second reunion occurred last summer which I attended with my brother, Jimmy, and Melvina, Marietta, and Margie at my cousin Steven’s house. As I mentioned, Steven’s wife Trish and I are both working on family histories. After the reunion, Trish and I continued to compare notes on the family history through email. One day, I got an email from Trish, “Mariann, you will not believe this, but a cousin from Italy contacted Steven and will visit New York over the holidays.” I couldn’t contain my excitement. “Could I meet them, if possible, even for an hour?” I begged Trish. As the visit from the cousins from Italy approached, Trish emailed me, “Would you like to join us for lunch?” Of course, I would be there! The pieces of the puzzle of my family were fitting together and this opportunity might not come again. The anticipation when I walked into Steven and Trish’s home was overwhelming. Standing around the table were 7 relatives from Italy with black & white photos of not only my grandfather, Giuseppe, but my father, Jackie (Jacamo) and my brother, Jimmy. My grandfather must have mailed them to his brother, Antonio, in Italy over 55 years ago. Antonio’s son, Pietro, must have passed them on to his children, Carla and Renata, who were at that moment standing next to me in Steven’s kitchen.

Life has a funny way of gifting you with special moments. Meeting my cousins, here in New York, from Long Island and Italy was definitely a high point in my life. I am grateful to be a member of such a smart, gracious, funny and warm family. The saga continues, and I for one am looking forward to the next family history entry and seeing my recently discovered cousins again!

SWEET POTATO PIE

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

2 deep dish piecrusts
4 to 6 yams (sweet potatoes)
3 eggs, separated
1 / 2 bar margarine, softened
1 / 2 bar butter, softened
1 cup heavy cream
1 / 8 teaspoon allspice
1 1 / 2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1 / 2 cup of brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 / 4 teaspoon salt
1 / 4 teaspoon ginger
1 / 8 teaspoon cloves

(Topping)

1 / 2 bar butter, melted
1 / 2 cup chopped pecans
2 tablespoons brown sugar

1. Oven to 450 degrees.
2. Peel and cube sweet potatoes. Cook in a large pot with water to cover and pinch of salt until tender. Test potatoes by breaking the potato in the pot with a fork. It will break easy when done. Drain potatoes. Place potatoes in a large bowl. Add butter and margarine cut up to melt quickly. Beat together. Add sugar. Continue to beat.
3. Beat 3 egg whites in a separate bowl until stiff. Set aside in a cool place. Add egg yolks to sweet potato mixture along with heavy cream and vanilla. Add cinnamon, allspice, ginger, cloves, salt and baking powder to potatoes. Blend in well. With a large spoon, fold in the stiff egg whites last. Pour sweet potato mixture into uncooked piecrusts.
4. For topping, mix melted butter, pecans and brown sugar together in a small bowl. Sprinkle over the tops of sweet potato pies just before putting into the oven.
5. Bake on high temperature for 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and continue to bake for 45 more minutes.
6. ENJOY! – The southern sweet potato pie enjoyed everywhere!

Sweet Potato Pie is one of my favorite pies. I really don’t do pies well, except for this one. At Thanksgiving time, it is the most requested recipe from my family and friends. The calls start the week before the holiday for the recipe and the calls continue the rest of the week with questions. I haven’t gotten around to posting it on Somebody’s Mom before this because I am so busy with the holiday myself. This time was no exception. I was so involved with baking my pies, I forgot to photograph all the steps for the website. Luckily, I was able to get a few shots before the pies are all gone.

Many years ago, I worked for IBM during the night shift in the computer room. We called it the “Block House”. The computers ran 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. There are no windows in the block house, just the computers and the computer operators. We all worked on teams of four and we had to work every third weekend with other teams. With this schedule and the isolation of the block house, you would tend to get very close with the people you worked with. I have to say I really enjoyed the large group of people I worked with from all different backgrounds and nationalities. To break up the crazy long hours and stressful work, we would have parties all the time in the break room. One year we had our own Thanksgiving dinner a few days before the holiday and everyone brought in their family’s traditional dish. I don’t remember what I brought it, but it was the first time I tasted sweet potato pie. My co-worker, Anita, made the pie from her Southern mother’s recipe. Her pie contained bourbon as an ingredient. Anita gave me the recipe. I decide to eliminate the bourbon and I added the pecan streusel topping instead. I never liked the canned sweet potatoes with marshmallows on top, so I was ready to experiment with a new way to make sweet potatoes. This sweet potato pie has become my traditional Thanksgiving dish every year since then and my family really looks forward to it. Once you tried it, you may never go back to the marshmallow sweet potato casserole again!

GREEN BEAN ALMONDINE

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

1 lb fresh green beans, (or frozen green beans)
1 cup chicken broth, homemade or canned
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 /2 green pepper, chopped
1 /2 onion, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons slivered almonds
Salt and pepper

1. Cut ends from both sides of green beans. Rinse.
2. In a 2-quart pot combine green beans and chicken broth. Bring to a boil. Cook covered over medium heat until green beans are cooked but still a little hard. About 15 minutes.
Drain the broth from the pot.
3. Add all remaining ingredients. Cook for 10 minutes more or until everything is tender and mix together well. Serves 4 to 6 as a side dish.
4. ENJOY! – Exquisite green beans done easy!

My family loves fresh green beans. All year round I prepare them the same simple way. My favorite method is to steam them until almost tender, and then toss the beans with olive oil, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Simple, healthy, and delicious.

You can handle Brussels sprouts the same way. Clean and wash them thoroughly, then cook long and slow in butter, salt and pepper. Only minimal seasoning is necessary.

The third simple featured recipe is green beans almondine, an easy and nice change as the winter months approach.

Canned vegetables were more popular than fresh or frozen when I was growing up. My mom often served the diagonally cut canned green beans which were, and probably continue to be, packed in water with some sugar and salt. Obviously, adding salt and/or sugar to foods really appeals to our taste buds, but it’s not the healthiest way to go. However, back in the day, everybody seemed to be serving the same thing in their homes. The canned veggie was soon replaced by the frozen veggie, and continues to be found in most home freezers. The great debate over fresh versus frozen rages on, but I will always have a variety of frozen veggies stashed in my freezer; who has the time to run to the supermarket on a daily basis anyway?!

As a working person, I can only do food shopping once a week. Occasionally, I go to the supermarket on my lunch hour or at the end of the day to pick up a few things. If I buy fresh spinach and I don’t need it for my planned menu within 3 days, I will prepare it ahead of time so it doesn’t spoil. Once I’m cooking, I take the precious opportunity to cook as many veggies as possible so I’m ahead of the game. Sometimes I have to work late and don’t get home until 6:30. By that time my husband and I are starving. It’s a beautiful thing to throw open that fridge door and see half of one’s meal already prepared.

As fall and winter approach I love to spend weekends cooking; the oven warms the house and makes the air so fragrant. By the way, and excuse me if I’m repeating myself, but try frying some onions in a pan just before your husband comes home. Odds are that he’ll think you’ve been cooking all day from the smell in the house. My first landlady shared that tidbit with me when I was a sweet little newlywed.

So, cook up some onions and get your honey’s juices flowing. While you’re at it, throw in some vegetables to keep the onions company and enjoy the goodness!

RICE BALLS

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

3 cups uncooked rice
8 sweet sausages
4 eggs separated
1 box frozen peas
1 8 ounce can tomato sauce
8 ounce whole mozzarella
3 onions, chopped
1 cup Romano/Parmesan grated cheese
Flour
Bread Crumbs
Canola oil

1. Cook 3 cups rice (I use Carolina) with 5 cups water. Put NO salt or butter in rice. After rice is cooked. Place into a large bowl to cool
2. In a large frying pan, remove casing from sausages. Break up the sausages into smaller pieces. Cook loose sausage meat until no longer pink in color. Remove sausage meat and all grease except for 2 tablespoons from frying pan. Set meat aside in a bowl.
3. In the frying pan with the 2 tablespoons of sausage grease cook 3 chopped onions until tender. When onions are cooked till tender, add onions to sausage. Remove any liquid from sausage and onions and set aside.
4. Add 1 cup of grated cheese (I use a combination of Romano and Parmesan cheese together) to cooled rice and mix well.
5. Separate 4 eggs, whites and yolks. Mix 4 yolks into rice and cheese until blended well. Add sausage and onion mixture to rice. Mix everything well with a wooden spoon.
6. Lastly, add 1 box of frozen peas, do not defrost, breaking up peas into the rice mixture and 1 can of tomato sauce. Mix everything together until with a wooden spoon.
7. Take mozzarella and make ½ inch cubes. Place on a dish and set aside.
8. Beat egg whites with a fork in a bowl until frothy. Set one dish with flour and another dish with Italian bread crumbs.
9. Heat Canola oil in deep fryer 1/ 2 way.
10. Scoop up a handful of the rice mixture and place a mozzarella cube into the center of rice before packing into a round tight baseball size ball. Gently roll the rice ball in flour and at the same time, packing the flour around the ball. At this point you can place the balls on a tray until you have half of the rice mixture rolled into balls and floured.
11. The floured rice ball then gets dipped into the frothy egg whites and immediately into Italian bread crumbs. Place on a tray until ready to fry.
12. With the heated oil ready, place 2 to 3 balls at a time into the frying basket. Submerge the rice balls into the oil and cook for about 5 minutes. Pull up basket from oil when rice balls are a golden brown color. Place on a tray lined with paper towel for blotting oil.
13. This recipe makes about 2 dozen rice balls. Serve hot with homemade spaghetti sauce.
14. ENJOY! – An appetizer, a side dish or a meal, all rolled into one rice ball!

Call me crazy, but I really enjoy having family and friends come for dinner. Sometimes I entertain large crowds and skip the china in favor of paper plates, or perhaps it’s Sunday dinner and I break out grandma’s china, silverware from my uncle, and wine glasses from my dear friend Saranne. When my table is all set, whether it be with paper plates or the fancy china, I do take pride in what I’ve prepared and in seeing such satisfaction on my guests’ faces! .

Make no bones about it, this rice ball recipe is not for the casual cook. My dear friend Vivian actually came to my house and made rice balls for the first time with me quite a while ago, and it has become a favorite. Yes, it does involve frying – honestly, have you met a fried food you didn’t like? I enlisted my husband for the frying duty. He doesn’t like me using his fryer, so I had no problem relinquishing this step in the recipe. Let me just add that I’ve altered Vivian’s recipe by adding a mozzarella cube in the center. However, this is not an original idea, since most Italian delis will put a piece of mozzarella in the center of their rice balls too. Vivian also uses 3 egg yolks instead of 4. There is a reason I’ve added an extra egg, which you will find out in this story.

Anyway, I had one of these formal dinners a few weeks ago. My menu consisted of 2 hot appetizers (black bean dip with chips and homemade chicken nuggets with honey mustard dip) served on the coffee table in the living room. Moving on to my dining room table, Rice Balls served as the first course, followed by Osso Buco (veal shanks), roasted potatoes, green beans and spinach. This was capped by desserts and fruit. The process proved to be quite an undertaking. When I created this menu, I assumed I would prepare the rice balls the day before considering the amount of cooking to be done. Well, that didn’t happen because my grandson, Jared, had a basketball game the night before my dinner. For me, anytime I can see my grandkids is a good enough reason not to stay home and cook. Needless to say, everything had to be prepared in one day. On top of the rice balls, my Osso Buco proved to be a time sucker as well. Here I am in the kitchen with pots and pans on every burner. I am now at the point of rolling the rice balls with my hands and yeah, you guessed it….the rice wouldn’t stick together and the balls were falling apart. If you could have seen me with this huge restaurant size bowl filled with sausage, onions, peas and rice. I was only a couple of hours away from my guests’ arrival and I had no back up 1st course to serve. I tried again to roll the rice into balls and struggled to get them to stick together. Time for a meltdown anyone? That was when my husband told me not to panic and to try adding another egg. Remember that one extra egg yolk I mentioned? Well, it did the trick. I couldn’t believe that in this huge bowl of rice, one little egg yolk could make that much difference. The rice balls came out great, and I received many compliments. Of course, only after my husband told everyone how he saved the rice balls with an egg yolk. Guess I’ll never live this one down!

When cooking actually becomes a labor of love, accept the praise you get in the end – you deserve it!

CHERRY TOMATOES WITH BUTTER

DSC07591DSC07596tomatoes with butter31 cherry tomatoes
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons fresh parsley
salt and pepper

1. Remove stems from tomatoes. Rinse tomatoes and set aside.
2. Boil water in a medium pot. Drop tomatoes in a few at a time. Boil
for 5 to 10 seconds, till skin loosens. Remove with a slotted spoon
and set aside for a few minutes to cool enough to handle.
3. Wash and chop parsley, set aside.
4. With a sharp-pointed knife, cut around each tomato and pull off
the skin.
5. Heat butter to bubbling in a medium frying pan. Put in peeled
tomatoes and shake around pan covering all sides with butter.
Toss in parsley with salt and pepper. Continue cooking a few more
minutes. Serve immediately.
6. Serves 4 to 6 people
7. ENJOY! – Buttered tomatoes are mmmm good!

Julie & Julia & Me

I saw advertisements on TV and the papers about a new movie Julie & Julia, whose main theme is about Julia Child and Julie Powell. My interest was definitely peaked because of my love for cooking.

I had watched a few of Julia Child’s cooking shows several years ago before the movie premiered. Usually I am too busy cooking to take the time to watch cooking, but if I did occasionally watch cooking shows I would watch the Galloping Gourmet with Graham Kerr. I liked him and especially his enjoyment of his tasting the finished recipe with his glass of wine.

Since the movie opened, I started to look for Julia Child’s cookbooks at the library book sales I attend. Since I have so many books at home, that I have no room for, I really didn’t want to buy another book, if I didn’t have to. But somehow, buying a book at a library sale which benefits the library seems okay to me. I found two Julia Child paperback cookbooks for about 70 cents. You can’t beat that price. Unfortunately, neither one was The Art of Mastering French Cooking; however once I got home, I reviewed both books. No recipes in either book interested me. I do admit I began to read the forward in one book by Julia and began to like her from what I read. She sounded like a woman who could be your friend.

Maybe it is the French food that didn’t interest me, or the complicated steps it took to complete a recipe. Either way, I found this one recipe for cherry tomatoes, which I happened to have in the refrigerator already. I changed the recipe around, it isn’t Julia’s exactly. I had to compromise and make do with what I had on hand rather than the ingredients in the recipe. I served these tomatoes to my neighbors for dinner. All of us enjoyed the dish, but we felt like it should have been served around a roast as garnish. The next day, the tomatoes didn’t taste as good as when just served.

Anyway, I went to see the movie with my good friend, Mela, who is also my movie buddy. Right before my eyes my life being played out on the screen. There are definitely similarities between Julia and Julie and I. Julie lived in Queens above a pizza parlor. I grew up in Queens with the Long Island Railroad in my backyard and three factories on my block. Julie wrote a food blog. I write a food blog. Julie had a cat. I have 2 cats. Julia and Julie were secretaries, and I am still a secretary/office manager during the day. We all love to cook. We all had cooking mishaps. Julia and I were similar in that respect. I always laughed and did the best to correct a mistake in the kitchen. I never had a real melt down over cooking like Julie did. Not that I don’t have melt downs, I do, but never over cooking something. Julia and Julie were pearls all the time. I have my mother’s pearls that I only wear on special occasions. Julia Child gave cooking lessons, I gave cooking lessons.

Is it just me, but doesn’t anyone else see the connection I have with these 2 women. Maybe I should just change my name to Julimariann!