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…….