Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Coffee Almond Biscotti

       Was craving cookies this evening and decided to make my homemade biscotti again. Didn't want to do the old standby of chocolate and orange so thought how good it would be to make traditional biscotti, one with almonds. What would go good with almonds other than coffee? So, I decided to create my own Coffee Almond Biscotti. This recipe makes about 15 individual biscotti. I used the same recipe as the one for my chocolate orange but instead of adding the chocolate chips and the orange zest I used sliced almonds and instant coffee. Add a little dash of brewed coffee and viola; you have delicious moist coffee almond flavored cookies that you will definitely gobble up. Coffee Almond Biscotti.
  • Biscotti recipe below
  • 2 tbs instant coffee crystals
  • 1/3 cup sliced almonds
  • 1 tbs brewed coffee
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • Powdered sugar
  • Milk
     Follow the recipe for the biscotti cookies listed above. In the recipe above you will take the 2 tbs of instant coffee and mix it into the butter sugar mixture prior to adding the dry ingredients. Next pour in the brewed coffee.  After adding the dry ingredients stir in the sliced almonds. Mold into a log and bake according to above recipe. 

     In a small bowl mix powdered sugar and milk until you have the nice icing consistency you want. Mix in the little bit of almond extract for that extra almond flavoring. Once cookies have been baked and cooled. Dip one end into the icing and let dry. Simple and delicious.  Hope you enjoy.

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Bake Time: 40 minutes
Cool Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 15


Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Pork Pappardelle

Pork Pappardelle

     A fantastic dish inspired by my last trip to Italy. This dish is based on a wonderful meal I had in Tuscany, specifically the little famous village of Pisa. I had heard they were famous for a wonderful hearty wild boar pappardelle. I ordered it at this little café on one of the back streets of Pisa. My cousins and I were looking for a little place, not full of tourists, but that had to have homemade pastas on the menu. You know we like our homemade pastas. We make and eat it all the time so we know what is good when we order.

     We started out walking down this little cobblestoned alley, past a pharmacy and a little shop, and right there at the end of the path was this little café with a little menu board out front with "fresh pasta" written in bright blue chalk. Their special for the day was wild boar pappardelle and I know this was where we had to eat. The dish was amazing. The pasta was perfectly cooked and the wild boar was so tender and had the best hearty tomato flavor that I fell immediately in love.

     Because of where I live and the availability of finding boar in the store I had to substitute this dish with a good cut of pork loin. The meat may have been different but the heart and flavor were still there. I made simple tomato based sauce and cooked the whole loin in my crock-pot in order to have this complete and ready by the time I got home from work during the week. Hope you enjoy Pork Pappardelle.

  • 1/2 medium pork loin
  • 1/2 cup diced white onion
  • 1/2 cup diced celery
  • 1/2 cup finely diced carrot
  • 1 10oz can tomato sauce
  • 1 clove diced garlic
  • Handful chopped basil
  • Large bay leaf
  • Olive oil
  • Salt/pepper
  • Crock-pot

1. In a large sauté pan pour in a little olive oil over medium high heat. Toss in your onion, celery, and carrot and sauté until nice and tender.

2. Toss in the diced garlic and sauté until fragrant

3. Pour in the tomato sauce, chopped basil, bay leaf and salt and pepper. Let simmer on low heat just to incorporate the flavors. Remove sauce from heat.

4. This fourth step I did in the morning before going to work so as to have it all ready when I arrived home. Place the pork loin into the crock-pot. Pour the premade sauce over it. Cover and set to low. This will cook for 8-10 hours.

5. Make homemade pasta. I chose hand cut pappardelle. I used my pasta recipe, rolled out the dough, and hand cut it to thick size about 1 1/2 inch in width. See below for the pasta recipe

6. Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water until it floats to the top and is tender.

7. Break up the roast. After 8-10 hours in the crock-pot it will pull right apart into nice shredded pork.

8. Toss the pasta in the sauce and meat and serve with some fresh graded cheese.

Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 8-10 hours
Serves: 4-5 people

Pasta recipe: http://www.recipesiliveby.blogspot.com/2013/04/Fresh-Pasta.html


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Harvest Soup

Harvest Soup
     It's starting to be autumn here and one good thing about that is it is slowly becoming soup weather. Anyone that knows me knows that I love a good soup. I love making soup. It's so easy and fun all you have to do is throw everything into one pot and you have a delicious, healthy, and warming meal in one bowl. I have many soups in my repertoire. Some are even posted on here. However I am always trying to come up with a new type of soup. I created this one to utilize some of the summer’s end vegetables that I was able to find at my market. This soup is hearty, full of flavor, and so comforting that I went back for not only seconds but thirds and fourths. I am calling this recipe Harvest Soup and it is sure to become one of my favorites and one I will definitely be making for guests from now on. Give this quick and amazing soup a try. Harvest Soup:

  • 32 oz of Chicken broth
  • 1 15 oz can tomato sauce
  • 1 cup diced potatoes
  • 1/2 white onion diced
  • 1 head of kale
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 1 12 oz can cannellini beans
  • 1 cup diced carrots
  • 1 clove diced garlic
  • Salt/pepper
  • Bay leaf

      In a large soup pot or Dutch oven pour in all the chicken broth. Place your frozen chicken breasts into the pot and bring to a boil. Cook for about 15 minutes until the chicken is cooked through and remove. In same pot pour in the tomato sauce. Toss in the diced potatoes, onions, carrots, diced up kale, garlic, and bay leaf. Let simmer until the potatoes are about cooked through. Dice up the chicken and toss back in along with the cannellini beans. Salt and pepper to taste and let simmer for about 15 minutes. Serve with grated parmesan or nice crusty bread. This soup is fantastic. You will definitely fall in love with it.

Prep Time: 15-20 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Serves 4-6 people

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Risotto Tra Amici

Risotto Tra Amici
     This special dish is inspired by a good friend Tina Talerico Inquinto. A new friend with whom I became acquainted with a few years ago created this dish. I had gone to a mutual friend of ours house up state. They took me over to their mother's house where this friend was doing a cooking demonstration for a chef party. Enter Tina.  An Italian proud of her heritage like me, she was giving a cooking demonstration on this exact dish. I immediately fell in love with it as well as the cook behind the stove. She was awesome, personable, and just like me; a cook at heart. Since then we have been good friends. Any chances I get to travel up state we always try to hang out and have a good time. In fact, the last time I was up there for a football game we ended up cooking together in the kitchen late at night following the loss of our beloved Mountaineer football team. This dish is more than just a "risotto" dish, it has memories. It has taste, excitement, and love in it. The name translates into "Risotto Between Friends". That is exactly what this is. The creaminess of the risotto, the tenderness of the peppers, the spice from the sausage; all the above create this exciting explosion of taste in your mouth that it is one great party that only close friends who get together can have. This dish is easy to make and only includes a few simple ingredients. The only time included is how long it takes to cook the rice. Anyone that has made risotto knows that it is one dish you can never leave on the stove. You must stay put, stir, and give the rice all your attention. Please enjoy my, (or Tina's), Risotto Tra Amici.
  • 1 lb ground Italian sausage
  • 1/2 diced red bell pepper
  • 1/3 diced white onion
  • 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
  • Olive oil
  • 1 tbs butter
  • 1/2 cup Pinot Grigio
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup grated Romano cheese
  • Fresh chopped basil
  • Salt/pepper
     First start by browning the sausage in a large skillet over medium high heat in a little olive oil. When cooked through remove. Next toss in the diced onion and red bell pepper and sauté until tender. Remove and set aside along with the sausage. Melt a tbs of butter in same skillet. Toss in the rice and sauté until the rice just starts to get a golden brown color. Mix in the white wine and stir until the rice begins to soak up the wine. Then start mixing in some chicken stock, about a 1/4 cup at a time. Keep stirring as the rice soaks up and cooks in the stock. This process takes roughly about 20-30 minutes until you have used up all the stock. Turn off the heat and mix in the cheese. I used Romano as that was what I had in the fridge. You can use Parmigiano as well. Mix back in the sausage/pepper/onion mixture and toss in some fresh chopped up basil. Salt and pepper to taste and viola! You have an amazing risotto dish that can be served as a side to a wonderful cooked roast meat or as an entrée itself. I hope you enjoy this wonderful dish as I do.  Thanks to my dear friend Tina!!!!!
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 45 minutes
Serves: 5-6

Tina and I in the kitchen cooking a bit tipsy.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014


     A Traditional dish from the Lazio region of Italy typically served with a bucatini pasta noodle and often found in Rome this dish is the perfect amount of spice, tomatoey goodness, and satisfaction that it will quickly become one of your favorite pasta dishes. So easy to make that it only takes roughly about 15 minutes from start to finish.

      Many people think that there is only one tomato pasta dish here in America, specifically just spaghetti. In fact many people think that the red sauce is just called spaghetti sauce but this is a fallacy. There are so many different "red" or tomato based sauces in Italy that they all have their own names and all taste very differently. Yes the basis is roughly the same but as I stated they taste much differently from each other. Every region has their type of dish. This one comes from the Lazio region and is actually named after the town of Amatrice. The traditional dish uses guanciale which is pork cheek, but I used pancetta as that was the only closest thing I could find at my market. Please enjoy, (and give this a try), my Amatriciana.

  • 1 pkg sliced pancetta
  • 1/2 small white onion
  • 12 oz can crushed tomato
  • 1 tsp chili flakes
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/2 cup shredded pecorino cheese
  • Olive oil
  • Pasta of choice

     Place a large pot of water on the stove and bring to a boil to cook your pasta. I used homemade spaghetti alla chitarra using my grandmother’s old chitarra board. For a good pasta recipe check here: http://www.recipesiliveby.blogspot.com/2013/04/Fresh-Pasta.html.

     Meanwhile dice up the onion and pancetta and sauté in a pan in a little olive oil until fragrant and the onion has become translucent. Next chop and sauté the garlic until the smell fills the air. Stir in the crushed tomatoes and chili flakes. Let simmer for about 15 minutes. Right before serving stir in the pecorino cheese till it melts and incorporates. Toss with pasta and serve.

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes.
Serves 2-4.


Thursday, October 30, 2014

Brisket Bomber

Brisket Bomber

     Was craving something different the other night and came up with this great idea. I wanted a hearty guy’s guy kind of sandwich. Who doesn't love a good sandwich? They're packed with flavor. They're easy to carry and transport. They're the best meal because you eat with your hands. It was the end of summer and I wanted a nice piece of smoked meat to top this sandwich so I decided on a brisket. I thought it was the perfect cut of beef to make this sandwich pop. A great cut that can be slowly cooked for hours to infuse a wonderful smokey flavor. Top it off with some caramelized onions, spicy mustard, and a cool pickle relish. Surround with a crusty bun and it could be one of the perfect sandwiches out there. I call this sandwich the Brisket Bomber. Plain and simple it's the bomb. Brisket Bomber.

  • Brisket
  • Liquid smoke
  • 1 large white onion
  • 2 tbs butter
  • Bread and butter pickles
  • 1 tsp chili flakes
  • Spicy brown mustard
  • Hoagie buns

Dry Rub:
  • Onion powder
  • Garlic powder
  • Brown sugar
  • Celery salt
  • Seasoning salt
  • Black pepper

     The reason I did not add quantities to the ingredients of the rub is that I just eye balled it. I basically took all the ingredients and poured them into a bowl, mixed up, and based it all on taste. Sometimes cooking is best left to trial and error. You can base this rub on your own taste. I can say that they were all mostly equal parts so if you use 3 tbs of onion powder I would use 3 tbs of garlic powder and so forth. Take the rub mixture and generously rub it all over the brisket the night before you plan on making this. You have to give the rub plenty of time to work itself into the meat. Wrap the brisket in some tinfoil and place in the fridge overnight.

     Now at 9:00 am I removed the brisket from the fridge and placed in a Dutch oven. I took a ramekin and filled it with 1/2 cup of water and 4 tbs of liquid smoke. Place the ramekin into the Dutch oven next to the brisket.  This simulates smoking as I do not own a smoker and I have found this works pretty darn well.  Of course if you do own a smoker definitely utilize it first. Turn the oven to 210-220 degree Fahrenheit and let cook for 7 hours. Check half way through the cooking process to make sure there is still enough water in the ramekin to keep moister circulating.

     Sauté your onions in the butter until nice and brown and all the sugars inside have caramelized. Take some nice buns and toast them. Spread the spicy brown mustard on one side. Dice up your pickles and add some chili flakes. Slice the brisket against the grain. The outside will be nice and chard with all the goodness from the rub and the liquid smoke. Lay a few slices on the other side of the bun. Top with your caramelized onions, pickle relish, and top with the mustard covered bun. Viola! A fantastic, wonderful, delicious mans sandwich.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

"Straightjacket" Burger

Straightjacket Burger
     This burger is so named because after the first bite you will be so "crazy" with the wonderfulness that is this burger that you will require a straightjacket to finish this. I was just sitting at work one day and discussing things with one of my coworkers and the idea just came to me. I need to create a burger that is so freaking good it will make you go crazy after just one bite. This burger is packed with meatiness, flavor, gooeyness, and taste that if you do not like it something is definitely wrong with you. The burger is simple but the flavors are out of this world. Straightjacket Burger.

Ingredients for simple burger:
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 tbs special seasoning
  • Salt/pepper

     Simply mix the ground beef, seasoning, (something I am a fan of but not going to give away. Just use your favorite seasoning), salt and pepper together. Press down between two sheets of wax paper with the back of a plate and grill until perfect doneness. Makes 5 patties.

Ingredients for topping:
  • Homemade bread and butter pickles
  • 10 slices crisp bacon
  • 5 slice processed cheese
  • Molasses honey mustard BBQ sauce, (1 tbs molasses, 1 tbs honey mustard, 1 tbs BBQ sauce)

      After the burgers have been cooking until your preferred temperature, (consuming raw beef is  not good for your health), however I like my burgers a bit medium. Place already cooked bacon on top and then a slice of the processed cheese. Let sit on grill until the cheese starts to melt over the bacon and burger, enveloping like a straightjacket. On a good crispy bun, spread some of the molasses honey mustard bbq sauce. Top your burger with fresh bread and butter pickles and you have a "crazy" delicious burger ready to be consumed in its entirety. 

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Serves 4-5 people.

      The combination of the processed cheese slice, the spicy but sweet molasses bbq sauce, and the crisp but spicy pickles make this burger fantastic. Enjoy.


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Shrimp Fra Diavolo

Shrimp Fra Diavolo

     Fra Diavolo is a spicy tomato based sauce that can be served on most anything. An Italian-American creation that is sort of combination of different Italian sauces with its spices and flavor. The name means "brother devil" and is a definite when you taste this delicious spicy sauce. The tomato taste and the heat from the chili wake up your taste buds in a blast of flavor. I hadn’t really had this dish before. My mother strictly stuck to the basics of her Italian meals. I have always been one to try different dishes. Combine flavors and influences from other cultures in making a delicious meal. One might say I am more adventurous than her. Oh well.  She occasionally likes my creations.  Shrimp Fra Diavolo.

  • 1/2 lb fresh shrimp
  • 1 10oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 white onion
  • 1 large clove garlic
  • 1/3 cup white wine
  • 1 small handful diced fresh basil
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tbs chili flakes
  • 1 10oz can cannellini beans
  • Olive oil
  • Salt/pepper

     In a large skillet sauté your onion in a little olive oil until translucent. Toss in the garlic and sauté until fragrant. Mix in your shrimp and white wine and sauté until the wine starts to reduce. Mix in the crushed tomatoes, basil, oregano, chili flakes, and beans. Stir, cover, and simmer for about 15 minutes and salt and pepper to taste. That’s it. It doesn’t take long for the shrimp to cook and as for the other ingredients; they blend very well and quickly together to create a wonderful, spicy, full of flavor dish. I served this over a bit of cooked orzo pasta but feel free to try it with rice, spaghetti, or what ever you have in your pantry. Serves about 2-4 people. Enjoy.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Salmon Cake Sammich

Salmon Cake Sammich

     Yes I know sandwich is spelled wrong. It's a fun spin on the dish. Another dish inspired by a memory. Do you remember certain dishes you had as a child? Most still my mother makes and I myself have carried down. Most dishes are traditional to our family or our culture and have been passed down from generation to generation. There are those few that started with my mother and cannot be considered traditional. You know the ones, those simple meals your mother made to come up with a quick meal for the family.  This one in particular is inspired by just one of those dishes. As Irish/Italian and Catholic we grew up almost always having some sort of fish on Fridays. As middle class and trying to feed at least 5 my mother came up with a simple salmon cake dish by utilizing that easy to open red can of pink salmon from the supermarket. This dish is partially inspired by that same salmon cake but twisted and made into a delightful sandwich. Salmon Cake Sammich is what I like to call it.

  • 16 oz can pink salmon
  • 3 tbs pimentos
  • 1/4 cup diced onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Breadcrumbs
  • Egg
  • Arugula
  • Mayo
  • Lemon juice
  • Dill
  • Buns
  • Pepper

      Once you open the can of salmon people get freaked out by the fact that there are some bones in it. These are perfectly edible. Combine the salmon with the diced onion, pimentos, garlic, and the egg. Mix in some breadcrumbs, (roughly about a 1/3 of a cup), just enough to help combine and bind the mixture. Press out your salmon cakes into patties. This recipe makes roughly about 5-6 salmon patties. Gently fry each patty in a skillet or frying pan in some butter till brown on both sides. Lay across your favorite bun or sandwich bread. Top with a mixture of lemon juice, mayo, black pepper, and some dill. Lay some fresh arugula on top and viola; you have a wonderful ready to eat Salmon Sammich. Play around with this recipe. It’s easy, quick, and full of flavor. I’m sure it will help spice up those boring Friday evening fish meals. Enjoy!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Yorkshire Pudding

Yorkshire Pudding

       Another dish based on a book for the month of September and my Foodies+ community. I chose this dish because it represented two of my favorite books. One is the classic Great Expectations and the other has started on its way to becoming a classic in its own right the Harry Potter series. Now I'm not quite sure if this dish is ever mentioned in Expectations but I assume that it was a dish served in Miss Havisham's home as she appeared to be of upper English decent. It is mentioned a few times in the Potter series as it does take place in England.


     This dish is a traditional English item often found on the dinner table during Sunday meal served with roast beef and potatoes. It can also be made into a dessert if needed. It is a simple pastry dish made from equal parts egg, milk, and flour. It has the texture of a slight crispy outside and sort of soft custard type inside. You can pour gravy over it and eat it right away. Now I will admit that it was good, but not my cup of tea. My parents however ate 2 1/2 a piece at our roast beef Sunday dinner. Please give this a try it is simple and easy. Yorkshire Pudding.

  • 4 eggs
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • Vegetable oil
  • 12 hole mini muffin tin

     Turn your oven to 375 degrees and place the muffin tin in it to heat up. Now whisk the eggs in a large bowl. Whisk in the flour and milk until you have a nice smooth batter. Remove the tin from the oven and pour in each hole 1/4 of the way up some oil. Carefully pour in each section some of the batter just before it reaches the top. Place in the oven and bake for roughly 20-25 minutes. Do not open the oven while it is cooking or the batter could fall. Hope you enjoy Yorkshire Pudding.

Serves: 5-8
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 20-25 minutes

Monday, September 8, 2014

Katia's Parmigiana

Katia's Parmigiana

      I already have another recipe on here for Eggplant Parmesan but after traveling to Italy and seeing family and trying my cousins own version of Parmigiana di Melanzane, I was hooked. This dish was so delicious and unusual that I fell madly in love with it. She utilized something’s as simple as hardboiled eggs, prosciutto, and a quick tomato mixture that it was amazing how delicious and simple this dish was. It does take some time preparing but once it is out of the oven and ready to be served you will be so thankful you took the extra steps to build this dish. Grazie cugina per la ricetta!!! Please enjoy Katia's Parmigiana

  • 1 lg eggplant
  • 8 slices prosciutto cooked
  • 6 hardboiled eggs sliced
  • 2 12 oz cans diced tomatoes
  • Olive oil
  • Small handful fresh basil
  • 1 clove garlic
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Mozzarella cheese
  • Flour
  • Salt/pepper

     Now I prepped the eggs, prosciutto, and the tomato mixture the night before but it can all be done the day of. Start out by boiling the six eggs. Cover once the water boils, turn off the heat, and let sit for about 15 minutes. Remove, rinse under cold water, peel, and slice. Now for the prosciutto, quickly and easily pan fry the slices just until they turn a bit brown. Next in a sauce pan take some olive oil and sauté the garlic until fragrant. Toss in the diced tomatoes and fresh diced basil. Smash up some of the tomatoes until practically a nice smooth mixture. Bring to a simmer and cook for roughly 15 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

     Remove the peel from the eggplant. Slice and dredge each piece in a little flour. One large eggplant cuts into roughly 8 slices. Fry each slice in a little olive oil until browned.

     Now for the fun part, spread a little of the tomato mixture into the bottom of a 9 x 9 glass pan. Layer a few of the slices of the eggplant. Top with a few slices of prosciutto and then the sliced eggs.


     Top with a bit more tomato mixture and then spread some parmesan and mozzarella cheese. Start over with the layering process in the same manner until you fill the dish. Place some more mozzarella and parmesan on the very top. Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes. Let cool until you slice and serve it up.

Serves 4-5
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook time: 30-35 minutes

Katia far right

Sunday, September 7, 2014



     What is a Kolach you might ask? It is a Central European wedding dessert mostly Czech and Slovak that is a small piece of pastry with a tiny dollop of fruit placed and cooked in the center. I am making these little bites in honor of the month of September for my Foodies+ community. For this month we are "cooking a book". By this we mean take your favorite book and cook something from the pages of the story or create a dish that could represent that book.  I am also dedicating this recipe to my dear Aunt Candy who passed away and she used to make these quite a bit for reunions and such. Don't know why she did because we are neither Czech, Slovak, nor central European, but she did. Their delicate and delicious, light and tasty. Anyways, onward with the book idea.

     For this post I chose one of my favorite books by author Shirley Jackson called, We Have Always Lived in the Castle.

     A morbid comedy about two hermit sisters who have become recluses in their home with their elderly uncle after the sudden poisoning of their parents and brother years before. The one sister has been accused of murder but was let off. The story discusses their day to day routine of hiding out in their large home on their large grounds. The youngest sister, "Merricat" tells the story from her point of view. A bizarre little girl who dreams of running away to the moon with her cat and sister. She is morbid in her ideas, behaviors, and actions. She practices a sort of magic by burying things around the property for protection against the village people. As the story continues to its end she sets the house on fire in order to protect herself and her sister from the townspeople and a long lost cousin who turns out he just wants the money hidden in the house. You find out that it was Merricat who had poisoned her parents and brother. They end up boarding up and continuing to live in the house that now sort of resembles a castle with turrets as the house no longer has a roof.

     Within the story she discusses all the canned food items in the basement. She tells us that every female in the family would can goods from the gardens all the time to the point that the cellar is stocked piled with everything from vegetables to especially canned fruits and jams. That is where this little dish comes into play. I decided to represent this book by making Kolache. These little pastries are stuffed with some fresh apricot jam. The funny thing is that I actually had trouble making these as some burst opened and broke apart. I think I added too much of a dollop of jam to some of them. Anyways, while photographing these pastries’s my cat jumped on the table to sniff. I thought what a perfect picture just for this post as Merricat had her longtime companion of a cat Jonas. Please enjoy my Kolache.

  • 1 store bought pastry roll
  • Apricot jam
  • Drinking glass

     Roll out one slice of the pastry crust. Take a normal size glass and start pressing out little circles of dough. The one sheet makes roughly 15-18 little circles. Take a small, I stress small, dollop of apricot jam and place in the middle. Bring up the two sides in the middle, pinch, and press down till it makes a little bow tie looking pastry. Place on a greased baking sheet and bake in the oven at 425 degree oven for 10-12 minutes. Viola!  A simple and quick little pastry with a fresh bite.

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 10-12 minutes.

Silly cat

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Moon, Eye, Pizza Pie....... That's Amore...

     It's that time again when I am struggling to keep to my routine. Itching to get away and relax. Needing some release and a breather from the hustle and bustle of life. That time for a lengthy vacation away from the normal bumps in my world. It had been nine long years since we last seen Italy. Nine long years of seeing our cousins. The same cousins we just found out existed nine years ago. Cousins with whom we have gotten really close to with the help of modern social networking. Family that before researching ancestry records we would have never known were still around. Still in the same village our grandmother immigrated from. The same village she never spoke of, with exception of once when I was little. Our roots, our family, our history, our heritage, it was time to go back. I and two cousins chose to take the trip. A fourteen day long trip across the wonderful country of Italy.

     This time around we decided to see our family but also to try out different cities and villages compared to the last time we were there. Our first trip we stayed primarily in the northern region. Our one side of the family is from the middle area just east of Rome in a region known as Abruzzo. We chose this time to start in the Tuscan region, go south as far as the Amalfi Coast, then head to Abruzzo and back up to Tuscany for an amazing summer trip.

     Our first two days we spent wondering the streets of Pisa and along the famous river Arno. Sightseeing and taking the obligatory shot of one of us holding up the Leaning Tower for hoots and giggles. We then headed south on a long train to Naples to catch yet another train to Sorrento followed by a bus to Praiano along the famous Amalfi coast. Our first train had been canceled so we had to wait around and upgrade for another just to get there in time for check in. We chose a wonderful little B&B that hung out over the cliffs onto the Tyrrhenian Sea. What a beautiful view. It is not enough to say how wonderful a place this was. I immediately fell in love with the Amalfi coast. I soon felt so relaxed and like I was home that I have since named it my Shangri-lah. My oasis as it may be, my heaven, my serenity. The crystal blue turquoise water, the ringing of the bells from the church tower, the warm breeze coming off the ocean, the smell of the salt air, the buzz of vespas flying by above on the upper streets. I could continue describing the sounds, sights, smells, and tastes but I would eventually bore you. However I will mention how amazing the fresh fruit and vegetables were. The olives growing right next to my window were the size of lemons and so green you couldn't image such a color existed. Their taste was even better. Speaking of lemons, they along with the limes, figs, peaches, oranges, etc. were the size of grapefruits. Chili's, or pepperoncini, hung out to dry everywhere. I'm not making this stuff up. I know it sounds like something you only see in the movies, but it's true.  We even spent a day visiting the ruins of Pompeii and seeing Mtn. Vesuvius. Oh, how I miss you already.


Make sure you're holding it up

Our view

Festival of lights in Praiano

Pompeii ruins




Little black pebble sand

     We swam in the ocean, rode the bus threw the villages, ate so much fresh seafood, pastas, fruit, but all the while lost weight. After a wonderful five days we headed back north towards Rome where we caught a bus to our family’s town. Just east of Rome, about an hour drive, we landed in Abruzzo. A small village called Pratola Peligna/ Bagnaturo. I speak of the both as our grandmother, Nonna, was born in a little stone house in Bagnaturo right next to Pratola, but more like a neighborhood section of Pratola. Our family now lives in Pratola right outside of the bigger city Sulmona. Our one cousin Sabrina met us at the bus stop and took us right to our B&B before heading to her parent’s house for dinner and drinks. Just like the first time we met them we were welcomed with great big hugs, double kisses, laughs, tears, and screams. It's as if we had never left. It was like we had been seeing each other every day since we last were there. This time around my Italian had improved quite a bit so communication was much better. (At least that was what they told me). I still think I was a bit shy and timid with using my language skills but I digress. The children had all grown up into young adults now. Some had just obtained their driver license and others were venturing into the ideas of college. We sat and ate some of the most amazing and delicious food we had in all our travels in Italy. I must admit I may be biased but Abruzzi cooking is fantastic and probably one of my favorite. The simple cooking of the mountains. The use of fresh vegetables and game from the farms. Fantastic....  We had everything from Eggplant Parmigiano, Lamb-Arrosticini, sautéed zucchini, peppers, sbricciolata, fruit, etc. Oh and don't forget all the homemade wines: reds, whites, blush, limoncello, arancello, etc. You name it, it was on that table.

Giovanna, Sabrina, Katia

Michella, Domenico


Our next day was spent visiting our grandmother’s old home and traveling through the still owned family vineyards until heading back to their house to help, more like watch, as their mother Giovanna made homemade gnocchi with a meat ragu. Followed by leftovers of the night before, more wine, and more after dinner drinks. This was just lunch.

Grandma's home

Making gnocchi


     Later that night after a wonderful nap we headed downtown to the church piazza where the town was holding a festival of the grapes, or Le Uve formally. We received souvenir wine glasses and we went from one family's wine cellar, (cantina), to another sampling all the different wines while obtaining a small plate of fresh food ranging from pasta, to meats, pork, vegetables, etc. Some even had music playing or dj's performing. By the last wine stop the piazza had a wonderful Beatles tribute band playing late into the night. We headed back to Sabrina's house for pizzelle, cannoli, wine, and say our goodnights and goodbyes.
Le Uve with cugini

Walking the streets of Pratola tasting wine

Cugini sitting around eating, Barbara on right.

cugini and new friends


Tears of joy

     We left the next morning in tears but promising to come back and headed back to Tuscany. We chose a small village outside of Florence famous for its walled structure. An entire city built inside a huge wall to protect itself: Lucca. We had the fortunate chance to stay in an old horse barn converted into a three story flat perfectly outfitted with a kitchen, bathroom, two bedrooms, and a sitting area. We were also luckily enough to have a nice little yard with a grill and sitting area and bicycles to ride around the city. What a wonderful way to spend our last few nights in beautiful Tuscany.

Our kitchen

Old barn converted into flat

The outer wall

      Now for some of the best parts of our amazing trip to Italy: the food.........  We ate some of the best dishes ever. Octopus and potatoes, veal, beef, scampi, shrimp, pasta, pizza, stuffed zucchini flowers, lamb, pork, tomatoes, olives, eggplant, peppers, chicken, eggs, fresh fruit, grapes, fresh made wine, cheeses, etc. You name it we had it. All made fresh right in front of us. All grown locally and not filled with preservatives, additives, etc. That is one of the amazing things about Italy; everything was fresh and good for you.

Mushroom risotto
Parpadelle with Wild Boar

Oh the olives



Fantastic Polpo e Patate

Shrimp and a pepper sauce with gnocchi


Stuffed zucchini flowers

Caprese pizza


Pizza margharita





Prosciutto e melone

Steak and mushrooms

Tortelli Lucchese

Ah, pistachio and watermelon gelato

Cantuccini with Vin Santo

     I must admit that this time around was one of my favorite trips to this wonderful country. To this day I am still talking about it and comparing everything around me to what it was like in Italy. I truly feel that country. I feel it in my bones. I feel that I am supposed to be there. Like the song says, "when the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that's amore." That's what it is, Love for this wonderful, enriched, and steeped in history country. My love I miss you but will see you again someday. Italia, mi amore…….