Happy 7th Blogiversary!

Hi everyone,

I hope you are all well and staying healthy and safe.

I can’t believe I am saying this but today marks the 7th year that I am posting DishingwithDiane and it has been a wonderful part of my life. I consider all of my members my extended family and I wish I could meet you all in person.

I hope in some way over the years, I have entertained you with my family stories and inspired you to celebrate life with a tablescape idea or a new recipe.


The last anniversary tablescape that I posted was the blog’s 4th Anniversary in 2019 and that was just before I received the call from the hospital to receive the greatest gift of all, a second chance at life and that was my heart transplant. Who knew when I was cutting that slice of anniversary cake that 6 days later my life would change forever.

As you know, I was too weak to post the 5th anniversary in 2020 a year later after a few complications and setbacks but I did take pictures and set a partial table and I will get that together and post it for you to see.

And last year for the 6th anniversary in 2021, Bob and I were recuperating from having Covid and I did not prepare a tablescape and only posted a cake recipe that I hope you all enjoyed.

But this year is different. This year with your love and support over the past three years and the fabulous transplant team that looks after me I am ready to prepare a tablescape.

I have the strength back and I am allowed to lift and carry a little more as approved by my transplant team. But I will admit I am a bit rusty remembering to take all the photos I usually take. I get so excited to prepare the tablescape that some little details might have slipped by. I will do my best.

Bob and Michael bought me these Kate Spade dishes by Lenox (pattern Deco Dot) for Mother’s Day last May, and as soon as I received them I knew this would be my anniversary tablescape. Each 12 piece set comes with 4 dinner plates, 4 salad plates, and 4 mugs. Kate Spade seems to add monthly to the accessories to this pattern and my inventory is growing from her collection. It seems as soon as I add a piece she comes up with more great additions.

I hope you enjoy the tablescape and continue to enjoy the postings from Dishing with Diane. It would be a personal favor if you could spread the word and ask your family and friends to join DishingwithDiane either on Facebook or via email.

My goal is to welcome at least 10 new members this anniversary. So please, make a few calls and have some of your friends join the family. Thank you.

So let’s get started.

JANUARY 25, 2022

I have absolutely LOVED polka dots since I was a young teen and it has just carried over into my adult life. Here is some proof….

And I have loved the black and white combination since I saw “My Fair Lady” with Audrey Hepburn and the black & white ball that was a famous scene in that movie so this tablescape was a little bit of heaven for me.

Since I only had two colors to work with, this was supposed to be an easy tablescape right? No!…. not every black and white shade matches exactly and at times can get a little frustrating but it all works out in the end.

I started with one of my many white tablecloths but I chose this particular tablecloth because the scalloped edges reminded me of the round edge of a dot and the pattern could pass for dots as well.

(Sorry it is not coming out a true white due to the lighting but it is a very bright white).

Of course, my tried and true black placemat was an easy choice. I love how the combination with the tablecloth matches the dish pattern with the large black dots against the white background.

Now for the chargers– I have two glass chargers. I highly recommend owning a glass charger if you only want to keep one charger on hand. They are so versatile, you will use them constantly.

I usually favor a completely clear glass charger with the bubble pattern edge, but for this tablescape, I chose a glass charger with a slight ribbed pattern and a steel gray edge that I thought would accent the black and white much better.

Next, the star of our tablescape, the dishes. As I said earlier they are the Deco Dot pattern from Kate Spade. I am also using the mugs from the set along with glassware.

KATE SPADE FOR LENOX-DECO DOT PATTERN

The glassware is part of the Kate Spade collection (Deco Dot pattern)… I have to say that I was very surprised and very disappointed in the quality of these glasses. They are listed as glass but when I opened the box, they are very light and feel like plastic. They hand wash beautifully and don’t get cloudy like plastic does, but I thought Kate Spade would have a better product, but visually they work.

For the cutlery, I chose casual flatware with a matte-finished black handle.

The napkins are NOT from the Kate Spade collection and they are 18 X 18 polyester napkins that I purchased from Amazon a few years ago. The white is slightly off from the shade of white in the dishes but there was no chance of me finding an exact match and I think they work well with the dinnerware.

The napkin ring is from my personal collection I purchased over the years and they are black and white beaded in an abstract pattern. I love them paired with the napkins.

Now for the complete place setting… Casual and a little fun.

Complete place setting

For the centerpiece, I used black and white silk flowers and pearl sprays in a 9″ Waterford crystal vase.

I didn’t want too many accents on the table because I wanted to add a few snacks in addition to the cake so I just used a few votive candles not to crowd the table and two serving containers that match the Deco Dot pattern from the Kate Spade collection to hold some black junior mints and white buttermints.

The votives I chose came from my safari collection of animal prints and they were the only two in black and white and I think they were just enough for the table.

Now some snacks…. Bob and I were celebrating late afternoon with coffee and the anniversary cake and then I got the idea in my head that I wanted some black and white desserts and the first snack that came to mind was black and white cookies – a childhood favorite and together with the ultimate black and white cookie -Oreos, this theme could work.

I ordered the mini black & whites cookies from Costco and I have to say -big mistake! They were tasteless. The Oreo’s are an old standby that I still enjoy and I placed a few in black and white polka dot cupcake liners to continue the theme.

Since I was on my black and white dessert idea I thought about mini donuts, so I ordered the Hostess donut variety, and once again- big mistake.

I have come to the conclusion that I have outgrown these desserts. I can no longer tolerate the fake ingredients and they are not worth the added calories to me or the clogged artery that will eventually come along with them.

Now the big challenge, the anniversary cake. Normally I would call up my local bakery and order a cake to go along with whatever my theme was for the occasion. But this year because of the pandemic and the numbers being out of control with Omicron, neither Bob nor I were running off to a bakery, so I decided to bake.

Yes, that’s right me, the one who doesn’t bake cakes was about to bake a cake from scratch. I have baked cookies and muffins and a few holiday recipes for traditional cakes but this is not my comfort zone.

Thank God I had the help of the King Arthur website and I made a basic vanilla cake and vanilla frosting (not bad, I survived) and then I decided to work with black fondant and cut out circles – should I say it again- big mistake. This project confirmed why I order cakes.

After many ovals and not perfect circles, I declared my project complete once I thought I had enough circles and made enough of a mess. I topped it with a few polka dot black and white candles, a number 7 candle, and an anniversary sign, and I was done.

Remind me to hug the girls in the bakery the next time I see them- they are miracle workers to me. Although I was happy with how the cake matched the dishes, cake decorating is something I have to work on.

Here is my finished project and I have to say it was delicious even though it took longer to decorate than expected….. I used a basic black and white enamel cake stand (from Pottery Barn) to continue with the black and white theme.

All in all, we had a lovely celebration and I reviewed some of the pics from previous anniversaries and counted my blessings that I am still here to have these milestone anniversaries, continue to share my family stories and recipes on a blog that I love producing and blessed to receive lovely comments and the opportunity to speak to so many members over the years.

Thank you is not enough to say but you have all brought such joy to my life by being so supportive.

Thank you for sharing in this anniversary post and DishingwithDiane is on our way to more recipes, tablescapes, and stories going into our 8th year.

I hope the next year brings us all many blessings- good health, lots of love, laughs, good times, happiness, and a peaceful world!

Don’t forget to ask your friends and family to join the fun and sign up now via Facebook or email (the right-hand column on the main page).

That would mean the world to me.

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Until my next post, make every day a celebration!

Stay well,

Diane

Please ask your family and friends to “follow”, “like” “share” and JOIN  DishingwithDiane.com 

Once you become a member, you’ll never miss a post…

Also, continue to send me your comments, I love hearing from you.

Corn Bread Blueberry Muffins

Hi Everyone,

I hope you are all enjoying the 2nd half of your weekend this Sunday. The weekends seem to pass by so quickly lately. I can’t believe it is almost the end of January already.

Today in the Northeast we are still having some chilly weather and I am ready for Spring (only 56 more days to March 20th and the first day of Spring).

Whenever it gets chilly and the temperature drops I am drawn to the kitchen to either make some heartwarming soup or stew or bake. Well this morning, baking was calling my name.

I have been making Corn Bread Blueberry Muffins for years and a friend gave me this recipe so long ago I can’t even remember the exact year. I tasted them at her house and I was hooked from the first bite.

I have passed this recipe along to others so many times once they taste them and we never get tired of them. So I wanted to share this recipe with all of you.

Quick to make, simple ingredients and the end result is wonderful (and you get the bonus of the fabulous aroma of baked goods throughout your home).

The best part is frozen blueberries can be used if you don’t have fresh so if you keep a bag of blueberries in the freezer these muffins can be yours in the off-season of blueberry picking.

I hope you try them and enjoy them, and as my morning mug reads, “Happiness is Homemade”…Enjoy!

Corn Bread Blueberry Muffins

Ingredients:

1 cup all-purpose flour

¾ cup cornmeal (I find medium grind to be the best)

2 tbsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

2/3 cup milk

1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted

¾ cup sugar

1 large egg, beaten

1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries (Cook’s Note: if you lightly dust the blueberries with flour they will not sink to the bottom of the muffins).

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees …  Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners

In a medium bowl, stir together flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt

In a large bowl, whisk together milk, butter, and sugar until sugar is dissolved.

Whisk in the egg until completely combined

Stir in the flour mixture, just until incorporated, and fold in the blueberries

Fill each muffin cup ¾ full. Bake 15-20 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center of the muffin comes out clean

Cool in the tin for 5 minutes, then remove muffins to a rack for 10- 15 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature either plain or with butter and jam

I hope you try this recipe and these muffins bring you a tasty treat as well as some comfort on a chilly morning.

Stay well and stay safe…

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Until my next post, make every day a celebration!

Stay well,

Diane

Please ask your family and friends to “follow”, “like” “share” and JOIN  DishingwithDiane.com 

Once you become a member, you’ll never miss a post…

Also, continue to send me your comments, I love hearing from you.

Meatloaf Cupcakes with Mashed Potato Frosting (updated)

Hi Everyone,

I have decided to update another one of my classic recipes from “way back”; this time it’s my Meatloaf Cupcakes with Mashed Potato Frosting. When my son was small, I used to make these meatloaf cupcakes for him after baseball practice and he and his friends loved them. This is a great addition to any gathering when there will be children (maybe you can get a few picky eaters to try a meatloaf cupcake).

Since they are easy to prepare, look cute and make a great presentation, I would serve these cupcakes on a buffet for a luncheon with my friends and they were always a hit. Young and old love the look of these cupcakes.

(At the end of the post, I will show you a cute way to serve them for a luncheon).

Bob and I have continued to make them over the years and we make a full cupcake tray and then freeze half the cupcakes for a quick meal for another day.

Below is the updated version of my recipe with a few additions. Give this recipe a try and I hope you enjoy them as much as we do.

Meatloaf Cupcakes with Mashed Potato Frosting

Ingredients:

For the Meatloaf Cupcakes

1 lb. ground beef or ground turkey

1 small yellow onion, grated (if you cry grating an onion, finely mince the onion instead)

1 cup grated zucchini, all moisture squeezed dry with a paper towel – ( I AM SURE THIS ADDITION IS A SURPRISE BUT IT KEEPS THE CUPCAKES MOIST AND FLAVORFUL …plus an added veggie for the kids).

2 eggs, beaten

1/2 cup grated cheese (Parmesan or Locatelli – your choice)

1 cup seasoned breadcrumbs (panko is fine too)

1/4 cup ketchup or unsalted tomato sauce

1 tsp. garlic powder

1 tsp. dried thyme

1 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp. kosher salt

Pepper to taste

For the Mashed Potatoes

(The ingredients listed will only make enough potatoes to cover the top of the cupcakes. You might want to double the recipe if you want some leftover mashed potatoes)

2 large or 3 medium potatoes (I use Yukon gold) – peeled and diced

2 garlic cloves, peeled and halved

1- 2 tbsp. butter

1/2 – 1 cup milk or heavy cream

Salt and pepper to taste

2 tbsp. sour cream (optional)

Fresh chives (optional)

Gravy (optional)

Directions:

Meatloaf Cupcakes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Line a muffin tin with foil cupcake papers or spray with cooking spray (this recipe usually makes 8-10 cupcakes).

COOKS NOTE* – For this recipe, I use Reynolds jumbo foil baking cups in my muffin tin. In a real pinch, these cups are so sturdy that if you don’t have a muffin tin, you can place these baking cups directly on a cookie sheet and bake.

2015-12-11 04.35.18 - BAKING CUPS

In a large bowl mix the drained zucchini and grated onion.

Add the remaining meatloaf ingredients and mix well (using your hands is the best method)

Press meatloaf mixture (approx. 1/2 cup) into muffin tin filling them to the top, making sure the surface is flat.

Bake uncovered for 20-25 minutes or until brown on top and cooked through. After 20-25 minutes, remove from the oven.

While the meatloaf cupcakes are baking, make your mashed potatoes. If you have leftover mashed potatoes from another meal, even better.

Mashed Potatoes

Put the potatoes and garlic in a large pot with salt and enough COLD water to cover; bring to a boil

Cover and reduce heat to a simmer for 20 minutes or until potatoes are tender

Drain and return potatoes and garlic to the pot

Add butter, milk, salt, pepper, and sour cream, if using

(Add extra butter and heavy cream if needed to make the potatoes smooth to your liking).

Mash with a potato masher or stick blender until smooth- not too much or they will get gummy. The potatoes need to be creamy but still able to hold their shape.

Assemble the Cupcake:

Either pipe with a tip and pastry bag or scoop mashed potatoes on the meatloaf cupcakes with a spoon.

Piping the mashed potatoes on the meatloaf cupcakes looks fantastic if you are serving guests, but I usually just add a dollop of potatoes with a spoon on top of the meatloaf cupcakes when it is just me and Bob and then garnish with gravy and chives.

Cooks Note* – if you want a crunchy surface to the potatoes either return cupcakes to the oven and bake for 10 minutes or place it under the broiler for a few minutes

Add a little gravy on top of the potatoes, add some chives (for the sprinkles on a cupcake), and half a grape tomato (for the cherry on a cupcake).

Cooks Note:

  • These cupcakes freeze well…let the cupcakes cool until a fine skin forms on the potatoes so the cling wrap won’t stick to it. Wrap in cling wrap and place in the freezer
  • To reheat, thaw and then reheat in the oven or microwave

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If you would like to serve these cupcakes for a luncheon, line them up on a long narrow serving tray for a buffet setting or in individual cupcake holders for a personal presentation. (see below).

PERSONAL CUPCAKE HOLDERS

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Until my next post, make every day a celebration!

Stay well,

Diane

Please ask your family and friends to “follow”, “like” and “share” DishingwithDiane.com 

Once you become a member, you’ll never miss a post…

Also, continue to send me your comments, I love hearing from you.

Ham, Cheese, Kale, Potato Quiche

Hi Everyone,

As I mentioned in my previous post, there were two very popular requests for recipes from my personal Facebook page this week, and the first recipe I posted yesterday was for the Roasted Eggplant Pizza. Today I am sharing a recipe for Ham, Cheese, Kale, and Potato Quiche.

This was very easy and can be put together quickly with any combination you choose. I had leftover ham that I didn’t use from making split pea soup, some kale, two potatoes, and some cheese in the refrigerator and it all came together and gave me the inspiration to make a quiche.

I am one of those people that could eat any type of quiche and a salad for lunch every day and never get tired of it. I have been known to rummage through the veggie bin toward the end of the week and find ingredients for a weekend quiche. This particular quiche was exceptionally delicious.

I hope this recipe inspires you to start experimenting with ingredients and start making a weekly quiche for yourself.

Ham, Cheese, Kale, Potato Quiche

Ham, Cheese, Kale & Potato Quiche

Ingredients:

  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 cup half and half OR whole milk
  • ½ cup real mayonnaise (Optional)
  • 2 TBSP flour
  • 1/3 cup minced red onions or shallots
  • Garlic powder to taste
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 8 ounces shredded, mozzarella cheese
  • 2 tbsp grated cheese
  • 2 yellow potatoes – washed
  • 1 bunch kale- removed from main stem
  • ½ cup of diced ham or half of a pre-cooked ham steak
  • 1 9-inch unbaked frozen “deep Dish” pie shell – OPTIONAL

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Dice the potatoes into bite-size pieces and parboil for 10 minutes in boiling water. After 10 minutes remove from the pot; drain the potatoes -set aside.

Wash the kale and remove the leaves from the main stem and dice the leaves into strips- set aside

Dice the ham into bite-size pieces and set aside

Add 1 tbsp of olive oil (or vegetable oil) to a large skillet and saute the potatoes until they start to turn golden

Add the shallots and a sprinkle of salt and pepper

Add the kale and saute until the kale wilts.

Remove from the skillet into a large bowl.

Add the ham and garlic powder.

Hand whip eggs, half-and-half, mayonnaise, and flour in a medium mixing bowl. Add the mozzarella cheese and grated cheese. Mix well.

Add this mixture to the kale, ham, and potatoes. Pour into a deep-dish pie pan sprayed with cooking spray.

If you want a crust with this quiche, pour this mixture into an unbaked 9-inch, deep-dish pie crust.

Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until the top is golden brown.

6-8 servings

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Until my next post, make every day a celebration!

Stay well,

Diane

Please ask your family and friends to “follow”, “like” and “share” DishingwithDiane.com 

Once you become a member, you’ll never miss a post…

Also, continue to send me your comments, I love hearing from you.

Roasted Eggplant Pizza

Hi Everyone,

This has been a very frigid week here in the Northeast and when it’s cold outside I get the urge to stay in and what else, cook. Cooking and creating in the kitchen brings me great joy.

This past week I have been making a variety of entrees for dinner and some were a little outside of my normal rotation. I posted the dishes to my personal Facebook page and received quite a few requests for recipes so I decided to post them on the blog to share with all of you. I hope the recipes bring you some inspiration to try something new.

The first recipe is for “Roasted Eggplant Pizza”. I purchased a few eggplants last week and made stuffed eggplant (previous post) and had one medium sized eggplant left in the refrigerator that I had no purpose for. I already made eggplant stacks and stuffed eggplant and then the idea popped into my head for the eggplant pizza.

I really didn’t have a recipe but I did have a pizza crust in the freezer, the eggplant, and an idea of what I wanted it to taste like so that is all I needed. It turned out very well and we enjoyed it immensely. I wrote down what I did and here it is. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did…..

The next recipe for Ham, Cheese, Potato, and Kale Quiche will follow soon. Stay well.

Roasted Eggplant Pizza

Ingredients:

1 medium eggplant (washed and sliced thin – approx. 1/8-inch slice (deli slicer works great for this)

1 premade pizza crust  

3 tbsp. olive oil

2 garlic cloves, diced fine OR 1 tsp of jarred minced garlic

1 tsp. dried oregano (optional)

1 tsp dried basil (optional)

½ tsp salt

14 oz of pizza sauce (jarred or homemade)

6 oz of mozzarella cheese (grated or sliced)

6 tbsp of ricotta cheese

½ cup of grated cheese (I use Locatelli cheese)

½ tsp. hot chili flakes (optional)

Directions:

Cooks Note: I used a premade pizza crust or you could use store bought dough or make homemade dough- recipe below)

Line a large baking sheet with parchment or aluminum foil.

Cut the eggplant in 1/8 inch round slices and arrange in 1 layer on the baking sheet

In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, minced garlic, dried oregano & basil

Lightly brush this mixture on both sides of the eggplant rounds and season lightly with salt.

Roast the eggplant in a 350-degree oven for 20-25 minutes until tender and the eggplants start to turn brown. If you want the eggplant a little crispier follow this step with 2 minutes under the broiler.

Assemble the Pizza

Cover the pizza crust with pizza sauce, sprinkle lightly with grated cheese. Arrange the eggplant slices on the pizza and then add the mozzarella cheese and a few dollops of ricotta cheese. Follow with another sprinkle of grated cheese and chili flakes

Bake in the oven as per directions for the crust or dough you are using

For example- 500-degree oven 8 minutes for a premade crust *****425-degree oven for 12- 16 minutes for homemade dough.

Below is the recipe for homemade dough if you are not using a prebaked crust…

Pizza Dough for a 12-inch pie

Ingredients:

1 ¾ to 2 ¼ cups of all-purpose flour

1 packet of Fleischmann Pizza Crust Yeast

1 ½ tsp sugar

¾ tsp salt

2/3 cup warm water (120- 130 degrees)

3 tbsp of oil (I use olive oil)

Preheat oven to 425

Directions:

Combine 1 cup flour, undissolved yeast, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Add water and oil. Mix until well blended about 1 minute.

Add gradually enough remaining flour until a soft dough ball is formed (Dough will be slightly sticky).

Knead on a floured surface adding additional flour if needed, until smooth and elastic; about 4 minutes. With floured hands. Pat dough out to fill the greased pizza pan, OR roll dough to a 12-inch circle and transfer to greased pizza pan

Top as desired and bake on the bottom oven rack for 12-15 minutes until cheese is bubbly and crust is browned.

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Until my next post, make every day a celebration!

Stay well,

Diane

Please ask your family and friends to “follow”, “like” and “share” DishingwithDiane.com 

Once you become a member, you’ll never miss a post…

Also, continue to send me your comments, I love hearing from you.

Shrimp Scampi with Tri-color Spaghetti

Hi Everyone,

Hope all is well and all my Northeast neighbors are staying warm from the Artic blast that we are having.

I wanted to share another updated recipe of mine with all of you today and it is my classic Shrimp Scampi. The update involves using shrimp shells to add extra flavor to the scampi sauce.

Normally, I save all my rinsed shrimp shells and put them in a bag for the freezer, and when I collect a significant amount I make a seafood stock. But today I decided to use the shells immediately for additional flavor.

I gave this new idea a test and it worked out perfectly sauteeing the shells in wine, which added a deeper, richer seafood flavor to the final sauce.

Before I share the recipe, I just want to mention to be careful if you order this dish in a restaurant if you have an allergy to lobster. Some restaurants, usually old-school Italian restaurants may use “real scampi” which is a langoustine and belongs to the lobster family. However, if they use prawns they belong to the shrimp family. There are many variations of this dish but if you have allergies, it is best to ask your server first to double-check for you.

I hope this dish inspires you to try this recipe one day in your home. It is quick and easy.

I served it with tri-color spaghetti (you can use any pasta of your choice or even a simple slice of hot crusty bread for dipping) with the wine, butter, garlic sauce.

Stay well and warm and enjoy the recipe.

Shrimp Scampi

Ingredients:

1 ½ lb. of LARGE shrimp – SAVE THE SHELLS

2 tbsp butter

2 tbsp olive oil

4-5 garlic cloves, sliced

½ cup white wine (OR seafood stock if you prefer)

¼ tsp salt

½ tsp Calabrian crushed peppers (in a jar) OR ¼ tsp red pepper chili flakes

Black pepper, to taste

½ cup fresh chopped parsley

Juice of ½ of a lemon (save some lemon slices for garnish)

½ lb. spaghetti (OR Pasta of your choice)

½ cup reserved pasta water

Directions:

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package directions, reserve 1/2 cup pasta water before draining.

In a large skillet, add ½ cup white wine OR seafood stock and ADD the rinsed shrimp shells. On low heat, sauté the shells for 10 minutes to flavor the liquid- this liquid will be added to the sauce. (The shells will turn bright orange). Strain the shells and set the liquid aside.

In a second skillet, melt butter with olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Add the wine or stock, salt, black pepper, Calabrian crushed peppers OR red chili flakes, 1/2 cup reserved pasta water, and the liquid from the sauteed shells and simmer for 2 minutes.

Add the shrimp and sauté until they turn pink and firm 2-4 minutes. Be careful not to overcook the shrimp and have the tails curl up very tightly or they will be tough. Cook them until they just turn pink.

Stir in the parsley and lemon juice, mix well and serve over the pasta. Serve immediately.

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Until my next post, make every day a celebration!

Stay well,

Diane

Please ask your family and friends to “follow”, “like” and “share” DishingwithDiane.com 

Once you become a member, you’ll never miss a post…

Also, continue to send me your comments, I love hearing from you.

Stuffed Eggplants

Hi Everyone,

Hope all is well and if you are in the Northeast like me, I hope you are staying safe and warm. It is COLD here.

I am not a big fan of cold weather and that is when I stay in, hibernate and cook.

Today, I was going through the refrigerator and noticed I had all the ingredients for stuffed eggplant, so I decided to make that for lunch.

In the past, I have listed a recipe for “stuffed eggplant boats” but this is just an updated version with a twist on some of the ingredients.

I have added ground sausage meat to the ground beef and added some sundried tomato packed in oil to the mix. These additions really enhance the flavor of this dish.

Give it a try and I hope you enjoy it.

Stuffed Eggplant

Ingredients:

2 small long eggplants

14 oz. mushrooms (I use a combination of white button, cremini, and oyster) (OPTIONAL)

2 (1 lb.) pkgs. of ground beef or ground turkey OR 1 lb of ground meat and 1 lb of sausage meat.

3-4 fresh tomatoes, seeded and chopped OR 1/2 pint of grape tomatoes sliced in half

3 or 4 slices of sundried tomatoes in oil, chopped

4 tbsp. grated cheese (I use Locatelli cheese)

6 basil leaves, shredded

Sprigs of fresh parsley, chopped

1 tbsp of dried oregano (remember to rub the spice through your fingers when adding to the pan to release the oils).

2-3 garlic cloves, minced

Olive oil

Mozzarella cheese, shredded for topping eggplants

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees

Wash the eggplant, cut them in half lengthwise, and scoop out the flesh. Salt the cavities, put the eggplant in a baking pan, cover the pan with aluminum foil, and bake for 20 minutes (they should be soft but not mushy)

If usingTrim the roots from the mushrooms, wipe the dirt off with a damp cloth, and dice them lengthwise.

Add the mushrooms and the flesh from the eggplant to a food processor and pulse just a few times to make small pieces to fill the eggplant.

Heat ¼ cup olive oil with the garlic. Season the ground meats with salt and pepper. Add the ground meats (beef and sausage) to the oil and sauté until it begins to turn brown.

Add the diced eggplant and diced mushrooms. Cook for 5 minutes over a medium flame, then increase the heat and add the fresh tomatoes, sundried tomatoes, dried oregano, and basil leaves.

After 5 minutes, turn off the burner, stir in the parsley and grated cheese. Check the seasoning.

Stuff the hollowed-out eggplant with the filling, top with shredded mozzarella and heat them in a 350-degree oven for 10 minutes.

Serve them hot or warm

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Until my next post, make every day a celebration!

Stay well,

Diane

Please ask your family and friends to “follow”, “like” and “share” DishingwithDiane.com 

Once you become a member, you’ll never miss a post…

Also, continue to send me your comments, I love hearing from you.

La Befana & The Feast of the Epiphany…

Hi Everyone,

Hope all is well and 2022 will be the beginning of a year of many blessings for all of you.

Today is January 6th and otherwise known as The Epiphany (the 12th day after Christmas).

According to tradition, trees and decorations should be removed on either the 5th or 6th of January (a practice my mother made sure was followed in our home).

For the Roman Catholic Church, Epiphany on January 6th celebrates the visit of the Three Kings (Magi), Melchior, Balthazar, and Gaspar, led by a star to meet and bring gifts to the infant Jesus.

On the Feast of the Epiphany in my home, we traditionally celebrate by eating Panettone. This marks the end of the holiday season.

Panettone is an Italian cake that is recognized by its tall domed shape. It is a sweet dough with raisins and candied fruit and today there are many varieties on the market and you can buy chocolate, pear, and chestnut to name a few. The store Eataly sells many different brands and varieties. This year we purchased our favorite, glazed chocolate.

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Along with The Feast of The Epiphany, in Italian households, we celebrate La Befana on January 6th…

According to folklore, La Befana is said to be an old woman and many refer to her as a witch who lived alone in the hills of Italy spending her days cleaning and cooking. One night she noticed a bright light in the sky but she ignored the light and went back to sweeping her home.

On this very night, the Three Wise Men arrived at the home of La Befana and asked her how to get to the road to Bethlehem and they asked her to join them on their journey to bring gifts to the Christ child.

She initially refused because she was too busy doing her housework, but then she tried to follow them.

She was unable to follow them or find Jesus and Italians say that Befana is still searching for that baby and, on her quest, she leaves treats and toys, candy and fruits for well-behaved children and the naughty children get chunks of coal, onions, garlic, and dark candy or even straw from her broom.

She rides on a broom and enters the home through the chimney and is a nice old witch, so La Befana is also said to sweep the floor for you.

When I was a child, we followed tradition and left a plate of cookies and a glass of wine for La Befana (this is similar to leaving milk and cookies for Santa). The cookies were always in the shape of a star to signify the Star of Bethlehem that La Befana saw through her window.

I had the pleasure of making these cookies every January 5th with my grandmother while she told me the story of La Befana. We always received gifts from La Befana in our Christmas stockings but my grandmother told me in Italy some children received their treats from La Befana in their shoes.

I could listen to my grandmother for hours on end and she meant the world to me. Still does...

I have posted a recipe for La Befana cookies below that I have been using for years and I don’t remember where I copied it from so I am sorry to the author of the recipe that I can’t mention your name for full credit but it is not my recipe or my grandmother’s recipe- it is a typed copy from an article but very good.

It is basically a sugar cookie with added anisette, vanilla, and orange zest and I hope you try them. Buona Befana! – Happy Befana!

Befanini - Befana Star Cookies
PHOTO COURTESY OF COOKINGWITHNONNA.COM

La Befana Star Cookies

Ingredients

  • 3 ½ cups unbleached flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 ½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 ¼ cups granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons anisette
  • Freshly grated zest of 1 orange
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • Multicolored sprinkles

Instructions

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together and set aside.

In an electric mixer (the paddle attachment), cream the butter and sugar together on medium speed until creamy and light.

Beat in the egg and egg yolks, one at a time, scraping down the sides after each addition, followed by the vanilla extract, anisette, and orange zest. Beat in the dry ingredients at low speed to form a stiff dough. Remove the dough from the bowl, flatten it into a disk, wrap it in plastic, and chill until it is firm enough to roll for about 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease two baking sheets with nonstick cooking spray or line them with parchment paper.

Divide the dough into 3 equal pieces; work with 1 piece at a time, keeping the remaining pieces refrigerated. On a floured surface, roll the dough to a thickness of 1/8 inch. Using a floured 2-inch star-shaped cookie cutter, cut the dough into stars. Place the cookies ½ inch apart on the baking sheets.

Gather the scraps together and repeat rolling and cutting until you have used all the scraps; it may be necessary to refrigerate the scraps until they are firm enough to roll again.

To make the glaze: In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolk with the cream. Using a small pastry brush, lightly brush the surface of the cookies with a bit of glaze and decorate them with sprinkles ( I use confetti sprinkles).

Bake the cookies until they are lightly golden brown, 12 to 14 minutes, rotating the baking sheets halfway through the baking time.

Allow the cookies to cool slightly on the baking sheets, then gently remove them with a spatula to a wire rack to cool completely.

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If you are interested in reading the story of “La Befana” to your children or just want to have the book as a keepsake, the classic story is told by author Tomie dePaola and is sold on Amazon.

Have a wonderful feast day, enjoy some cookies and panettone and enjoy every day to the fullest.

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Until my next post, make every day a celebration!

Stay well,

Diane

Please ask your family and friends to “follow”, “like” and “share” DishingwithDiane.com 

Once you become a member, you’ll never miss a post…

Also, continue to send me your comments, I love hearing from you.

May be an image of text that says 'Happy Feast of the Epiphany!'




Welcome year 2022!

Hi Everyone,

I hope you all had a wonderful and safe New Year’s Eve and a relaxing New Year’s Day! I pray that this year brings us to the end of the pandemic and brings us all good health, happiness, prosperity, and our best year ever….

Bob and I had a quiet New Year’s Eve and I prepared a mini tablescape reminiscent of the days when we had entertained large groups of family and friends to ring in the new year and say goodbye to the old.

I had a great deal of fun taking out the china, the plates, and noisemakers and of course, we had to have a few 2022 items thrown in the mix.

I added something NEW to my place setting this year and they are small signs or sayings of gratitude that I had ordered for Thanksgiving and at the last minute decided they didn’t look right with the Thanksgiving china pattern that I chose.

I thought these signs made a great addition to the place settings tonight and added that special touch of gratitude I wanted to express.

The sayings of Gratitude are * Thankful * Gather * Grateful * Blessed —-

These signs made it festive and added a special touch to the other additions to the table.

To start, a simple centerpiece with a clock to countdown to 2022 and some party favors.

We started our evening with some hors d’oeuvres. I originally planned on making them from scratch but last-minute ordered frozen hors d’oeuvres and they were a very good fill-in when you don’t want to stand in the kitchen cooking all day.

We chose a great assortment of mini-filled pies filled with sauteed mushrooms, roasted chicken and a three cheese blend, black bean empanadas, spanakopita, pepperoni bites, and tikka masala samosas.

We were full after the appetizers but we never fail to continue the Italian tradition for Good Luck in the New Year of eating lentils and some sort of pork product. Pigs symbolized prosperity so my family would eat “cotechino” which is the traditional pork product for this holiday.

Cotechino is an Italian, large pork sausage requiring slow cooking. Usually, it is simmered at low heat for several hours. It is made from pork, lard, and other spices but was never a favorite of mine because it is very fatty.

This is what cotechino looks like if you have ever seen it in a grocery store or Italian butcher and wondered what it was.

New Year Traditions Italy
Courtesy of google.com

As I said, not a favorite of mine so I substitute with another pork sausage and that is a pork sausage made with added broccoli rabe and I served it over sauteed broccoli rabe with lots of garlic and olive oil.

You can also add the sausage to the lentils for a complete meal in one dish.

Lentils are supposed to bring good luck and prosperity so we had our traditional lentils and honestly, I love this dish so much, I could easily eat it every day (recipe below).

The shape of lentils represents a coin and they say that each lentil is a penny so the more you eat the more money comes your way. In addition, I added spinach which also brings good luck and prosperity because it is the green color of money.

I made lentils this year with another pork product for extra good luck and that is pancetta made from the pork belly.

Not to be confused with prosciutto which is made from the hind leg. Pancetta is similar to bacon but is not smoked.

We finished dinner with one of our favorite desserts (usually we have mini Italian pastries on New Year’s Eve but we didn’t go to the bakery this year).

My favorite dessert is creme brulee with a fabulous custard base topped with a crusty layer of hardened caramelized sugar and topped with fresh fruit.

Bob and I watched the ball drop in Times Square in NY and then at the stroke of midnight we kept another Italian tradition alive and we ate 12 grapes, one for each month of the year. (sorry no pic).

The reason behind this is that it requires a lot of willpower to save some grapes from the harvest until New Year’s Eve. When you eat the grapes, you will be wise and frugal with your newfound wealth.

When the clock strikes midnight, you should have a glass of sparkling wine in hand and we always drink Italian prosecco to ring in the new year. The LaMarca brand is our favorite prosecco.

As is the custom in many other places, it is traditional to seal the countdown to midnight with a kiss (or a double cheek kiss for friends) and to wish them all the best for the new year.

There are a few other traditions that we followed.

On New Year’s Day, Italians make sure they start the new year right by having some money in their pocket or wallet. This tradition is based on superstition.

Apparently, if you leave home with money in your pocket on the first day of the year, you’ll always have something in your pocket to spend every day of the year. My grandmother would give each of her grandchildren five dollars on New Year’s Eve to carry in our wallets. She wanted to make sure we had enough cash in our wallets at all times.

I know it sounds odd but even today after all the years that have passed since grandma gave us cash on New Year’s Eve, I always tuck the New Year’s Eve money in a compartment in my wallet and I call it the “emergency fund”. I make sure Bob and my son still have extra cash in a compartment in their wallet for their emergency fund and we carry it for the entire year. Some family traditions just don’t go away even after years and years.

The next tradition that we followed when my grandmother was alive was to ” Frighten away spiteful spirits”.

Some Italian families have fireworks for this reason (especially true in Naples, Italy where my maternal side is from). Instead of fireworks, we went out into the streets in front of our homes banging pots and pans with wooden spoons to scare away evil and spiteful spirits that were supposed to be lurking in the shadows during the transition from the old year to the new year.

As children, we loved to just make lots of noise and not get in any trouble for 20 minutes or so (it helped that grandma was front and center)….ahh, the good old days.

The last tradition that was introduced to us as children by my grandmother was to wear red undies on New Year’s Eve to bring good luck to you for the full year to come.

I had to research the reason behind this (courtesy of google) because grandma stopped at “it brings good luck”.

“Lots of market stalls and shops in Italy sell red underwear in the days between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Apparently, in order to get the most out of this good fortune, Italians only wear red underwear on December 31st.”

“For the red underwear to be really lucky, it should only be worn on NYE and thrown out the next day. The reason behind this New Year’s tradition dates back to the ancient Romans who wore red tunics during battle which represented blood and strength and instilled fear in their enemies”.

New Year Traditions Italy
Courtesy of google

And on that note, I am going to leave you guessing if Bob and I wore red underwear this year.

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I know there are so many more Italian traditions but these are the traditions that my family practiced.

Have a Happy, Healthy, and Prosperous Year with all the Good Fortune your heart can hold…. and thank you for being so supportive of my blog all year. I love sharing recipes, stories, and life’s ups and downs with you. Enjoy the lentil recipe…

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Lentils

Ingredients:

2 tbsp. olive oil, plus extra for drizzling

1 medium red onion, chopped

3-4 carrots, peeled and chopped

3 celery stalks, chopped

3-4 garlic cloves, chopped

Salt and fresh ground black pepper

Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)

1 (14 ½ oz.) can of diced tomatoes with their juices

1 bag of lentils (usually 16 oz.)

8 cups low sodium chicken broth (2 boxes) or homemade broth

4- 6 sprigs of fresh thyme

2 bay leaves

1 cup grated cheese

Cooks Note: I always make lentil soup when I have the bone of a spiral ham. You could use a ham hock, bacon, pancetta or skip this ingredient entirely.

Directions:

  • Sort lentils for any stones, rinse with cold water – set aside
  • Heat the oil in a heavy large pot over medium heat
  • Add the red onion, celery and carrots and a pinch of salt to sweat the vegetables.
  • After 2-3 minutes add the garlic and pinch of red pepper and sauté until all the vegetables are tender, about 5-8 minutes
  • Add the tomatoes with their juices
  • Simmer until the juices evaporate a little and the tomatoes break down, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes
  • Add the lentils and mix well to coat. Sauté 1-2 minutes
  • Add the broth, bay leaf, thyme springs, and ham bone, if using
  • Bring to a boil over high heat
  • Cover and simmer over low heat until the lentils are tender, about 30 minutes
  • Remove the ham bone; when cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the bone. Discard the bone; dice the meat and return to the soup. Discard the bay leaf
  • Add salt and pepper and taste for seasonings
  • When serving, you can drizzle soup with a little olive oil and serve with grated cheese

 Cook’s Note– salt the lentils at the end of cooking, rather than the beginning, so that they don’t remain hard.

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Until my next post, make every day a celebration!

Stay well,

Diane

Please ask your family and friends to “follow”, “like” and “share” DishingwithDiane.com 

Once you become a member, you’ll never miss a post…

Also, continue to send me your comments, I love hearing from you.

Happy New Year!

Hi Everyone,

I just wanted to wish all my members a very Happy and Healthy New Year and thank you for being so supportive of me personally and this blog these past six years.

I consider you all a part of my extended family and I wish you all the best that life offers and many blessings in the new year. May all your dreams come true.

I pray we all have Good Health, Happiness, and a pandemic-free world in 2022.

I raise my glass to all of you….salute!

Here is to the year 2022!

Until my next post, make every day a celebration!

Stay well,

Diane

Please ask your family and friends to “follow”, “like” and “share” DishingwithDiane.com 

Once you become a member, you’ll never miss a post…

Also, continue to send me your comments, I love hearing from you.