Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Sausage, Potatoes and Peas with Butternut Squash Side

Pin It Now! Yesterday morning I made a big pan of sausage, potatoes and peas.  It was really yucky out, nasty, dreary and cold.  I can't believe today it's warm and sunny, I feel like I took off to Florida, but, alas, I'm still here in New York!

Sausage, Potatoes and Peas With Butternut Squash Side


Sweet Italian Sausage
extra virgin olive oil
red pepper

Preheat Oven to 350 degrees.

In a baking pan pour extra virgin olive oil just enough to coat the bottom of the pan.  Place sausages in pan, be sure to poke holes in the casing so the sausage doesn't explode in the oven.  Add in chopped onions and garlic and potatoes.  Season to taste with salt, red pepper and oregano.  Add some water to pan. Cover with aluminum foil and place in hot oven.  Let cook until potatoes and onions are getting soft and sausage is browning.  Stir occasionally.  Add frozen peas and cover with foil again.  Cook until peas are softening.  Uncover and cook about 10 to 15 minutes until sausage is nice and brown and vegetables are soft.

Butternut Squash:

Cut small slits on each side of squash to avoid bursting and place in microwave for about 2 minutes to soften.  Cut in half and remove seeds.  Place in a pan face up.  Add sugar free or regular maple syrup.  Put in oven uncovered and roast until soft.

I will link this recipe to Foodie Friends Friday Linky PartWhipperberry, The Chicken Chick and One Creative Mommy.  Click on the links to check them out!

What's In A Name

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This post made me think.  Meet Buddy's Daughter.  Below is my reply which I posted to her blog.

"Great post. What's in a name, a Rose by any other name would smell as sweet. Names can be so important and play a huge role in how we feel about ourselves at any age. I remember when I married the first time, I didn't want to take his last name. First off, I never liked it, but secondly, it wasn't Italian. But back then, it was the "proper" thing to do. Well, the day I left him, I went back to MY beautiful, Italian last name! Proudly. I've since remarried, to a wonderful man and... he has an Italian last name! LOL I've hyphenated my name so now I have TWO Italian last names. It's who I am and I have such fond and treasured memories of my Italian/American heritage, traditions, family, and values. To not have an Italian last name bothered me. I identify with my name and want it to be instantly recognizable as Italian! :)"

When people think of  Italians, very often they associate it with food, a lot of food.  And that is true.  Food does play a big role.  I love to cook, especially Italian dishes, but there's a lot more to the culture.  I love how we are very family oriented, how we have large gatherings.  I love Italian music, art, architecture and the language.

I grew up listening to my Grandmother speak Italian. She spoke English fluently, but was also fluent in Italian.  Now, almost 20 years after her death, I realize how much I miss hearing the language.  As a kid, it was just something my Grandmother did, I didn't pay it much mind, I was used to it, she would start off in English, switch to Italian and go back to English.  Her and her sister spoke Italian all the time.  I wish I had learned the language.  I tried to take it in school but back then they didn't offer it, so I was stuck with Spanish, which didn't really interest me at the time.

About eight years ago, I was having lunch in a restaurant with some coworkers.  The women sitting accross from me were speaking in Italian.  I had no idea what they were saying, however, I recognized the language. I was listening intently.  I realized that they realized I was listening.  I said to them, "Oh, I'm so sorry, I have no idea what you are saying, I just know you are speaking Italian and I haven't heard it in so long, I was enjoying it, it reminds me of my Grandmother."  They smiled and told me to enjoy listening and went back to their conversation.  They spoke English fluently, so I'm not sure why their conversation was all in Italian, but I am glad it was, I loved hearing it.

Our names are very important.  Our names define us whether we like it our not.  Our names help build us up or could break us down.  A name can cause years of anxiety, ruin a childhood or make one proud and build confidence.  I was always proud of my name and the fact that it was easily identifiable as Italian.  Many people would comment on it in one way or another, some jokingly saying, "a nice Irish girl I see" others commenting that it was also the last name of a famous person and many asking if there was any relation.

At least women have the opportunity to easily change their name if they choose upon marriage.  Men can change their name as well if they choose to, however, it's a process.  The majority of men don't do it, they simply live with it.  I've known several women who were extremely anxious upon marriage to take the name of their husbands and no longer be burdened with their maiden names.  One was a very Italian last name that was extremely difficult to pronounce and spell.  It caused her years of issues and ridicule all through school, never mind teasing from kids.

What's in a name? A lot!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Pepper Steak

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It's been bitterly cold here in New York the last week or so.  I made a big pot of homemade chicken/vegetable soup but couldn't film the process because I forgot my camera at my sister's house.  I was lost without my prized camera!

In any case, it was a lazy Sunday here at our house. So lazy, even the dog was laid out!  Check her out.  Is she not the epitome of  spoiled, living the easy life with all the comforts for her taking.  She swears the couch was strategically placed in the living room just for her.

Last night I went out to dinner with my parents and my daughter but tonight I stayed in and made a big pot of pepper steak; comfort food, perfect for a cold winter's night. I took the easy way out and some short cuts, but, hey, I deserve it once in a while.  It was delicious either way.

Pepper Steak


extra virgin olive oil
beef strips
onion (fresh or frozen, I used fresh)
garlic (cloves or powder, I used cloves)
peppers (fresh or frozen, I used frozen)
basil (fresh or dried, I used fresh which I had frozen in my freezer)
red pepper
crushed tomatoes

Coat the bottom of a sauce pan with a small amount of extra virgin olive oil, heat.  Add chopped onions and garlic.  Cook, stirring often on low heat until onions brown and soften a bit.  Add salt and red pepper to onions and garlic.  Add in beef.  Cook, stirring often until beef browns, turn heat up a bit if necessary, stir often.

Add in a can of crushed tomatoes.  Season with basil.  Stir and cover partially.  Let simmer on low heat, stirring so as not to burn bottom.  When the meat is fairly tender and the onions almost soft, add in peppers (if using frozen peppers)  If using fresh peppers, add in with beef.

Let mixture cook, partially covered, approximately 45 minutes to an hour, stirring fairly often.

Cook brown rice.  Serve pepper steak over brown rice.  Enjoy!

I will link this recipe to Foodie Friends Friday Linky PartWhipperberry and One Creative Mommy.  Click on the links to check them out!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Alfredo Meal

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Due to food allergies (gluten and nuts), I often substitute one item for another.  A great substitute for pasta is spaghetti squash.   I love alfredo sauce and so, I made a delicious dish with spagehtti squash and chicken breast.  Hubby loved it!

Alfredo Meal

1 large spaghetti squash
thick chicken breasts
garlic powder
half and half
parmigiano reggiano cheese

Grill chicken cutlets. I used my George Forman Grill but you can do it on the barbecue or on top of the stove.  Season cutlets with some garlic powder.

Cut holes in spaghetti squash as demonstrated in video.  Cook in microwave 6 minutes.  If squash is soft enough after 6 minutes, cut it in half, if not, put back into microwave for another 5 minutes.  When squash is soft, cut it in half and place in plate inside down.  Cook in microwave until inside is soft.

Melt butter in pot.  Add in half and half and cheese.  Cook until hot on medium heat and let cheese melt.

Cut grilled chicken into bite sized pieces.  Remove seeds  from spaghetti squash.  Scrape spaghetti squash into a bowl.  Add chicken to squash and top with alfredo sauce.  Stir well.  Serve topped with cheese.

I will link this recipe to Foodie Friends Friday Linky PartWhipperberry and One Creative Mommy.  Click on the links to check them out!

If you have any questions, want tips or would just like to chat, feel free to email me at Reenepisi56@gmail.com!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Escarole (Scarola) and Beans

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This dish and the video and pictures were made and taken back in September, 2012.  I had hurt myself at the time and I mention the injury in the video.  We also had a close family member who had been very ill and then passed away.  We had a lot of people coming and going and some staying from out of town.  I did a lot of cooking and brought food to the family.  I cooked in large quantities so that there would be enough should people show up unexpectedly and/or enough for leftovers for another night,

I linked this recipe to Foodie Friends Friday Linky Part, Whipperberry and One Creative Mommy.  Click on the links to check them out!

Sometimes it's a good idea to cook in advance.  Soups and anything in a sauce always taste better if they sit overnight.  Dishes such as baked ziti, lasagna, chili, stew, meatloaf, and soups when left to sit overnight soaks up the flavor.  Most Italians I know will make these dishes the day before they are going to serve them.  My mom almost always does as do I, especially for a large gathering.  For some theories as to why some dishes taste better if made in advance click hereherehere and here.

If you are going to have a houseful, especially at an emotional and busy time, cook in advance.  Choose a dish or dishes that can be made in advance, the day before, so that the day of the event, you aren't spending all your time in the kitchen, especially when people are coming and going all day long and/or staying with you.  Isn't it better to be able to get up in the morning and enjoy the day with your houseguest(s) knowing dinner was taken care of before they arrived and it will taste better to boot?  It's a win/win situation!  Try it, you will love it.  Professional caterers often cook dishes the day before a large event.

I grew up on various Escarole (Scarola) dishes.  Escarole is Scarola in Italian and I grew up hearing my grandmothers and mother refer to it as such, my mom still says it that way. 

scharol’/scarol – escarole/money (scarola) [shkaa-ROAL]

Escarole (Scarola) Dish

2 large heads of Escarole
2 large cloves of garlic
1 large Spanish onion (use about 3/4)
2 stalks of celery
2 cans Cannellini beans
chicken with skin
sweet skinny Italian sausage
1 pound small pasta (I substitute with brown rice)
black pepper if desired (I don't use it as I don't like it)

Fill large pot about half full with cold water.  Add chicken.  Bring to boil, lower and simmer, covered.  Always keep pot covered - you don't want your liquid to evaporate.

Coat frying pan with a small amount of extra virgin olive oil.  Add chopped onion and chopped garlic together and cook in pan until sightly tender.  Add to pot with chicken. Add chopped celery to pot.  Salt to taste.

Clean escarole as shown in video.

Fry sausage (poke holes in casing) until brown.  Cut into bite sized pieces and add to pot.

When chicken is tender (falling off bone) remove from pot and then add small pieces back into pot (be careful not to add small bones)

Chop escarole into small pieces and add to pot. Let cook until tender, stir often and remember to keep covered.

Boil pasta or rice.

Add pasta or rice and beans (do not drain beans) to pot, stir and let simmer just long enough to allow beans to get hot.

Be careful not to overcook as you will have a big pot of mush and paste.  You don't want that.

Serve and enjoy. This particular dish is delicious when you first make it but even more delicious the next day.  It's a great dish to make ahead of time.  It also freezes well.

dry peas and beans in my pantry

If you prefer to use dry beans, soak, clean and prepare them in advance, preferably the night before.  I use dry sometimes, I often make pea soup or lentils with dry, but today I was in a rush so I used canned.

It is a bit time consuming.  From prep to finish I would allow two hours, though you don't have to be in the kitchen the entire time.  While different foods are cooking in the pot I am doing other things. Just be sure to stir.

Below are some pictures of the process.

getting started - adding chicken to cold water
chopped onion and garlic

chopped celery

chicken stock

you can see the sand in the sink after first rinsing, always rinse at least twice

Escarole draining

large bowl of Escarole - it will cook down

keep pot covered - Escarole cooking down

beans for dish, you can use dry if you prefer

the finished product - in bowl ready to serve

leftovers in the fridge - mmmmmmmm, the dish will taste better tomorrow than it did today! 

Below is some information on a dish I mention in the video.

Manest - click here to go to recipe site

Manest photo

An Easter Tradition This recipe is made for a large crowd. If you are expecting less people, cut the recipe in half. Serve family style with lots of Italian bread.


  • 3 racks of babyback ribs
  • (cut up leaving 2 ribs in between cuts)
  • 6 pepperoni cut in thirds
  • 2-3 heads cabbage
  • 4 heads escarole
  • 1 tbsp fennel
  • 1/2 cup lard
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • 3 bay leaves
  • Very large pot


  • Wash all vegetables, core and cut cabbage in quarters.
  • Cut top of escarole and wash leaves to make sure sand is removed.
  • Boil pepperoni and ribs separately. Boil each for 15 minutes.
  • Once ribs are cooked, drain and rinse. Do same to pepperoni.
  • While meat is boiling add lard, fennel and garlic - mix together and place in the center of a piece of cheese cloth. Place the 3 bay leaves on top, pick up the ends of the cheese cloth and tie with string, making a pouch. Leave the string long enough to tie to handle of the pot.
  • Secure pouch to the pot, make sure it goes to the bottom so it sits in the water.
  • In same large pot, put cabbage on the bottom, then pepperoni and ribs.
  • Add water to cover cabbage.
  • Top with escarole and cover.
  • Once water comes to a boil, lower flame to medium and let simmer.
  • Cook until cabbage is soft (check by inserting fork).
Here is another version of Manest.  The stories are a bit different, some say it's an Easter tradition, some call it something different.  I was always told it was called Manest and that it means mess, though it may have been a slang term and/or it may have been a Sicilian term (my family is Sicilian, which differs from other areas in Italy).  The language and words differ and sometimes they do not understand one another easily, similar to how someone from New York may not understand someone from Georgia and vice versa; different terminology, traditions, etc.  You can't bulk all Italian together, it's different in different areas, just like here in the States.

It could be spelled menest and I've found other variations.  I honestly do not know which is correct, I've never seen it spelled out, I've only heard it pronounced.  It's times like this that I really miss my Grandmother.  I wish I could call her and ask.  I miss her all the time, but sometimes, more than others.

This woman could make a cardboard box taste good. She was a fabulous cook. I miss cooking with her.
She was also a wonderful singer and dancer, had the most awesome outgoing, fun personality,
and loved to laugh and have fun!  I miss her desperately.  I can't believe it is almost 20 years that she's gone.
I am so thankful I got to know all four of my grandparents, they were a huge influence and
I feel privileged to have known them and shared history with them.  The memories we made will last a lifetime.  I will never forget. 
If you have any questions, want tips or would just like to chat, feel free to email me at Reenepisi56@gmail.com!

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