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The Perfect French Toast..and Easy!

French Toast
1 cup of skim milk
2 eggs
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tspn ground nutmeg
1/4 tspn vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract

7-8 large pieces of day old seedless Italian bread, like scali. Fresh bread will rip when moistened with mixture, so day old or stale bread is the best.

Heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat with 1 tbsp of olive oil.

1 cup of milk

1 cup of milk

2 Eggs

2 Eggs

1 tbsp ground cinnamon

1 tbsp ground cinnamon

1 tspn ground nutmeg

1 tspn ground nutmeg

1/4 tspn vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract

1/4 tspn vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract

Whisk together

Whisk together

In a large bowl whisk all the ingredients.

Take a slice of bread and dip it into the mixture, letting the mixture saturate the bread for a few seconds. Then place 2 slices at a time on the heated skillet and let cook for 4 minutes on each side, till golden brown.

Finished Dish!  My kids love them cut into long strips to dip into their maple syrup.  YUM!

Finished Dish! My kids love them cut into long strips to dip into their maple syrup. YUM!

Serve with 100% maple syrup and enjoy!

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Baked Meatballs

I often reference my Mother, the Sicilian Goddess of the kitchen, because she really is an amazing cook.  Really I should get her an apron with that personalized.  Her meatballs are savory, bite-sized portions of perfection. One thing my Mom taught me about her meatballs, which is something she learned from my Nonna, is that they are not made perfectly round. They are a touch flat. Not sure how this came about; but I love them, and continue to make them the same way.  The ingredients are simple and wholesome.  Which is the reason for my blog.  For me, cooking isn’t meant to be difficult with recipes that have a mile long ingredients list.  Good quality food is simple.

Below is my recipe, which is the same as the one I grew up eating, except I don’t fry my meatballs. And they taste the same. This recipe though yields enough for 45-48 1 inch meatballs, about the size of a walnut. YES! This day I made 48 meatballs! Froze 3 portions then used 1 portion for dinner. I consider a dinner portion anywhere between 10-12 meatballs (figuring for a family of four, 10 will be eaten for sure – 3 per adult and 2 per child – and then a couple left over in case someone wants another). Meatballs are super easy to freeze in zip-loc bags after they are cooled.  Even easier to reheat in a sauce, over a skillet, in the oven, or the microwave. It’s makes for a quick meal..a homemade meal, anytime!

Meatballs
2.5 pounds ground beef
2 1/2 cups of whole wheat bread crumbs (or plain bread crumbs)
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano
3 whole eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
1 1/2 teaspoons dried parsley
2 large garlic cloves, chopped
1 teaspoon of each S&P

Need: Parchment covered baking sheet drizzled with extra virgin olive oil.

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees F.

In a large mixing bowl, mix all the dry ingredients: bread crumbs, cheese, basil, parsley, salt and pepper.

Valeria's Meatballs

Bread Crumbs with herbs

Valeria's Meatballs

Breadcrumbs, herbs and freshly grated Pecorino Romano

Add in the wet ingredients: the ground beef, eggs, and garlic.

Valeria's Meatballs

Bread Crumbs, Garlic, Eggs, and Ground Beef ready to be mixed!

Using your hands,  mix all ingredients until well incorporated.

Valeria's Meatballs

Mix well.

Next, using your hands, shape the meatballs into balls, about the size of a walnut/1 inch, and place on baking sheet.

Valeria's Meatballs

Roll into balls

Valeria's Meatballs

Ready for the oven. Place rolled balls onto a lightly oiled baking sheet (shown here with olive oil on parchment) Still browns like a skillet!

Bake for 15 minutes, then turn them over, place back in the oven for 7 minutes until browned and cooked through.

Valeria's Meatballs

Finished!

Stay tuned for my other meatball recipes later this year; especially my veal with ricotta! YUM!

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Chili

Beef Chili
2.5 pounds ground beef
1 15 oz can white beans, drained and rinsed
2 28 oz can tomato sauce
1/2 cup of room temperature water
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 large red pepper, chopped
1 cup chopped carrots
¼ cup chile powder
¼ cup paprika
3 tablespoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon of each S&P

Get the leanest beef you can find - 2.5 lbs.

Get the leanest beef you can find – 2.5 lbs.

In a large stock pot, on medium heat, brown the ground beef breaking it up with a spoon. Once browned drain fat off (with the leaner meats there is less to drain).

Brown meat over medium heat.  Breaking down the beef with a spoon until into finer pieces

Brown meat over medium heat. Breaking down the beef with a spoon until into finer pieces

Beef almost browned

Beef almost browned

Return to the heat, add onions and garlic, heat until the aromas fill the air and the color of the onions are translucent.

Garlic and Onions

Garlic and Onions

Then add in carrots.

Beef Chili

Adding in the carrots

Two cans of no salt kitchen ready tomatoes

Two cans of no salt kitchen ready tomatoes

Add in tomatoes and water. Stir to mix well. Reduce heat to a medium low and simmer for 20 minutes.

beef chili

After mixing in the tomatoes

Then add in s&p, chili powder, cumin and peppers. Let simmer for 20 minutes.

1/4 cup of chili powder

1/4 cup of chili powder

Adding in cumin

Adding in cumin

Red Peppers- we like to use these to add a sweeter taste

Red Peppers- we like to use these to add a sweeter taste

Beef Chili

Adding in the chopped red pepper

Adding in white beans. you can use any type of pinto bean; white is a fun alternative

Adding in white beans. you can use any type of pinto bean; white is a fun alternative

Then add in beans. Turn down the heat to low.

Let chili simmer for an hour, stirring to make sure it’s not sticking to the bottom. At this point the temperature should be lowered enough to just simmer, not be bubbling all over.

 

DONE!

DONE!

 

And it’s done!

I love to serve it piping hot with colby jack cheese shredded on top, then a few pieces of chopped scallion and a salty avocado/tomato mash. Then eat it with tortilla chips. YUM!

Super easy, right?

 

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Football Fun- Sangria!

Today we are all in our Patriot’s gear ready for some football! 

This afternoon we will be jetting off to our friends nearby for the game and good family fun.  We decided that we’d make our chili to bring over…and some of our sangria.  The chili, which smells amazing, is still simmering, so I thought to post my recipe for the sangria. Usually, sangria is my summer time late evening in the sun drink, but it’s also a great winter drink, too! Really can you ever go wrong with wine? NO!

Last night, I took a slim water glass and filled it with 1 cup of good no pulp orange juice then slipped it into the freezer.  I LOVE using frozen juices in the sangria rather than ice cubes, cause it keeps it chilled while the juice melts slowly to flavor the drink nicely.  Make sure that if you choose to freeze juice that you remember two things…1- all liquids expand when frozen so don’t fill anything to the top, and 2- measure the opening of the container you will be using so you get the frozen items in them. I generally don’t use ice cube trays cause it’s the size of the larger frozen pieces that make the difference. So good luck!!

My Winter Sangria
3 cups of red table wine
3 cups of cold ginger ale (sprite or seltzer water will work, I like using ginger ale so no more sugar is added)
3/4 cup brandy
1 cup of orange juice, frozen
1 tspn of ground nutmeg (I mix it into the brandy and then pour it in)
1 large orange, washed and sliced thin, save some for cup presentation

Here I have a cup of frozen orange juice in the glass carafe, surrounded by all the ingredients we need.

Here I have a cup of frozen orange juice in the glass carafe, surrounded by all the ingredients we need.

3 cups of a good house red wine, here we used MezzaCorona's Merlot.

3 cups of a good house red wine, here we used MezzaCorona’s Merlot.

Then add in 3/4 cup of brandy and 3 cups of cold ginger ale

Then add in 3/4 cup of brandy and 3 cups of cold ginger ale

Winter fruits are a tough one, but Oranges are actually warm weather's winter fruit!  So we washed a ripe navel orange, which smelled amazing when we cut it open, and sliced it up thin; then added it to the wine.

Winter fruits! We washed a ripe navel orange, which smelled amazing when we cut it open, and sliced it up thin; then added it to the wine.

Since we are drinking them later and it’s still too early for me to drink, there is no photo of it in a glass!   But I can assure you that this drink when I tasted it was DEEEELISH!
GO PATS!

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Cocktail: The Side Car

Side Car

Side Car

A great classic cocktail to start off your dinner party, the side car.  It’s easy to make and using fresh squeezed lemon juice is the key!

 

Side Car

ice
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 ounce Cointreau (you can also use triple sec)
1 ounce brandy

Sugaring the rim of the glasses- one of my favorite sips is the first one, if you sugar the rim.  Place the tip of the glass in lemon juice and then coat it in sugar, colored sugar for the holidays or fun celebrations is a must!

In a cocktail shaker, ice (about 3/4 full), lemon juice, Cointreau, and brandy.

Cover and shake.

Strain into a martini glass and garnish with a lemon zest.

Here we added a cranberry!

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My Faux Asparagus Risotto

There are many times I get a dinner idea, and when I look in the pantry I don’t have the ingredients to pull it off.  This dish is one that I made on a whim wanting to have risotto, but didn’t have any Aborio rice on hand.  Believe I was pregnant with my oldest and had a strong desire for rice.  Thinking to take a different type of rice, and, since I wasn’t driving to the store I was making risotto my way…with Jasmine rice.
Jasmine rice when cooked sticks together, it smells and tastes great. When cooked in the way I show below (like you would Aborio rice for risotto) does work into the creaminess you would find in a risotto; but this is in no way a risotto. Using Aborio rice is key for a rich, hearty risotto. Just want to make that you don’t think this is a real risotto.
So this is my Italian asparagus rice dish.

My Faux Asparagus Risotto
1 large clove of garlic, chopped
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 cup of jasmine rice, rinsed
12 stalks of asparagus, washed and then chopped
3 cups of vegetable stock (you can use either chicken or beef)
2 cups of tepid water (the amount of liquids posted in the recipe is an estimate; you may need more or less depending on how much is absorbed by the rice)
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup of grated Parmigiano cheese
1 tsp of each S&P to taste

Heat oil in a large skillet on medium heat.

Add onions and garlic, and cook till translucent.

Chopped onions and garlic

Chopped onions and garlic

Chopped asparagus

Chopped asparagus

Once their color is achieved move onto the outer parts of the pan creating a circle in the middle.  Add the rice to the middle. Gently mix together to get the rice coated with the oil and let cook for about 2 minutes fully mixed with the onions/garlic.

the rice added straight to the skillet

the rice added straight to the skillet

The rice will absorb the oil, so stirring the rice often is important so it doesn’t stick to the pan.

the onion, garlic and rice mixed together

the onion, garlic and rice mixed together

Stir in 1 cup of water until absorbed. Continue to stir.

Then add in the broth, ½ cup at a time. Stirring constantly. Move on to add more broth only when almost all the broth is absorbed. Keep doing this until rice is almost cooked, still has a bite to it. This could take 20-25 minutes.

after adding in 1 cup of broth

after adding in 1 cup of broth

Add in the asparagus and ½ cup of water and stir until fully absorbed. If you need more liquid to further cook the rice, you can add in the water.

Add in S&P and cook until the asparagus and rice is tender.

mix in the asparagus

mix in the asparagus

the rice is cooked, shown here prior to adding in the cheese

the rice is cooked, shown here prior to adding in the cheese

Turn off the heat, and add in the cheese and gently stir to mix it all in.

Serve hot sprinkled with additional cheese.

Done!  My faux asparagus risotto!

Done! My faux asparagus risotto!

 

Please excuse my poor lighting. I was having issues in my kitchen.  :

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Pasta with Broccoli and Cauliflower

This is one of my all time favorite pasta dishes.  My type of comfort food, if you will. Which has also become both of my daughter’s favorite meal all year round.

Pasta with Broccoli and Cauliflower (shown topped with toasted breadcrumbs)
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 large crowns of broccoli, washed and cut into a slightly bigger than bite sized pieces*
1 large head of cauliflower, washed and cut into a slightly bigger than bite sized pieces*
1 medium yellow onion chopped
1 large clove garlic chopped
3 cups of room temp water
1.5 tsp salt
1 tsp fresh ground pepper
1lb of cooked pasta, preferably a larger cut pasta like the rigatoni shown here.

*You can substitute 2 cups each of frozen vegetables if you don’t have access to fresh.

The perfect Cauliflower

The perfect Cauliflower

Trimming the cauliflower stem and leaves

Trimming the cauliflower stem and leaves

Chopped cauliflower- bigger than a bite size and washed

Chopped cauliflower bigger than a bite size and washed

Two large crowns of broccoli with stems and leaves attached

Two large crowns of broccoli with stems and leaves attached

Chop the broccoli stem off and seperate the crowns into larger than bite sized pieces (chopping them in half etc)

Chop the broccoli stem off and separate the crowns into larger than bite sized pieces (chopping them in half etc)

chopped broccoli, larger than a bite size

chopped broccoli, larger than a bite size

1 medium yellow onion chopped and 1 large clove of garlic chopped

1 medium yellow onion chopped and 1 large clove of garlic chopped

In a stock pan, one large enough to hold all the vegetables, heat up the olive oil on medium-high heat. Saute the onions and garlic until translucent.

Sautee the onion and garlic

Saute the onion and garlic in heated olive oil (on medium heat)

One they are translucent, add in the broccoli and cauliflower. Mix well to coat them in oil. Stir for about a half a minute, then turn down the heat to medium. Add in the water. Then S&P. Stir.
At this point you can start your water for the pasta.

Mix the cauliflower and broccoli in the pot with the olive oil, and add 3 cups of water (shown at the bottom of the pan)

Mix the cauliflower and broccoli in the pot and coat with the olive oil; then add 3 cups of water and stir

Cover the pot and let cook for 10 minutes at a medium simmer. Continuing to stir every minute or so. As you are stirring the pieces of the vegetables will start to break down into smaller bite sizes.

After 10 minutes, there is significant wilting and change of color

After 10 minutes, there is significant wilting and change of color

Turn down the heat to a medium low and let simmer for another 10 minutes.
By the end of the 10 minutes your pasta should be cooked, ready to be drained and for the vegetables.

In a bowl, mix together the stock from the broccoli and cauliflower with the pasta (to coat and to absorb the flavors). Plate the pasta in a bowl, top with the vegetables and you are done!

I love to sprinkle toasted bread crumbs and pecorino cheese on top. Super delicious!

Done!  Finished Dish! Shown with toasted breadcrumbs

Done! Finished Dish! Shown with toasted bread crumbs


TOASTED BREAD CRUMBS

This will only take 5 minutes.

Set stovetop to high heat.

In a small frying pan place a cup of dried, plain bread crumbs.
Add in 1 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil.
Mix until the bread crumbs change color and get coated with the oil.
The heat will start to toast the crumbs. Keep stirring and moving the crumb until it is toasted to a golden brown.
It can easily burn if you let it sit for a second too long, so keep moving it! My trick is to flip it. Like you would sauteing something. It helps to flip the crumb and you can see the toasting color.

Once golden take off the heat and remove from pan.

The bread crumbs shown with 1 tbsp of Extra Virgin Olive Oil.  Mix the bread crumbs well making sure they get coated. The color of the crumbs will stay the same and the addition of the oil helps the texture and the browning. The next photo shows the finished toasting color.

The bread crumbs shown with 1 tbsp of Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Mix the bread crumbs well making sure they get coated. The color of the crumbs will stay the same and the addition of the oil helps the texture and the browning. The next photo shows the finished toasting color.

Bread crumbs toasted in the pan.

Bread crumbs toasted in the pan.