Monthly Archives: December 2015

Shrimp and Clam Chowder

2015-12-28 19.31.28.jpg SHRIMP CLAM CHOWDER II

(Click on PHOTO to enlarge and then hit the back arrow to return to original size).

Hi Everyone, 

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas with your family and friends. My son is visiting for three weeks, so I am having a great time. That is why has been so quiet lately, I am enjoying every minute that my son is home.

But I will be back in 2016 with more stories and more tablescapes.

I just had to stop what I was doing so I could share this fantastic recipe with you. I know, more fish. You think I would be sick of fish by now right after Christmas Eve and the Feast of the Seven Fishes, but no. I could have fish every day of my life.

This recipe was given to me by a dear friend and fellow blogger, Peter Battaglia. Peter has a terrific website called, A FOOD OBSESSION (see link below).

You have to give it a look for yourself. Peter is a wonderful chef and not only does he share his great recipes on his blog, he also shares stories of his Italian heritage and experiences of his travels.

I saw Peter’s “Shrimp and Clam Chowder” recipe and I immediately stopped in my tracks. Everything I loved all in one recipe; soup, clams and shrimps. I hit the trifecta.

I looked over the recipe and both the ingredients and directions were quite simple so I decided to give it a try. I am so glad that I did, it was delicious. The chowder is smooth and velvety, not too fishy and a hint of heat – just perfect.

 I originally planned to make the chowder as part of my Christmas Eve menu but with all the other fish dishes that evening, I decided to wait for another night.

I am so glad that I waited because during the week, we had a cold rainy day that was the perfect weather for soup. I could now savor the flavor of the chowder and really enjoy it. Like I said, it was delicious. My entire family loved it and my husband said it was restaurant quality that reminded him of a soup we had at the famous Oyster Bar in NYC.

I immediately got in touch with Peter to let him know how terrific this chowder was and asked if I could showcase it on

So with Peter’s permission, here is the link to A FOOD OBSESSION and this wonderful recipe. You won’t be disappointed, give it a try.

I hope you have a safe New Year’s Eve and 2016 brings you the best life has to offer.

I wish you good health, happiness and many blessings.

Until my next post, make every day a celebration!


Please ask your family and friends to follow and share either on facebook or sign up for emails directly from the web page.

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

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

Merry Christmas

Christmas 2012 046 - EGGNOG MUFFINS

Hi everyone,

While I am taking a break from cooking and enjoying some eggnog muffins, I wanted to take this time to wish all of the family a very Merry Christmas and a Blessed 2016.

I hope you have a wonderful day with your family and friends. Make some new memories, enjoy some old family traditions and enjoy the holiday food.

Until my next post, make every day a celebration!


Please ask your family and friends to follow and share either on facebook or sign up for emails directly from the web page.

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

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

Seafood Salad

Christmas 2012 027- SEAFOOD SALAD

(Click on photo to enlarge)

Hi everyone,

As Christmas approaches many of you are preparing your Holiday Menus. In my family the menu for Christmas Eve was always more important than the Christmas Day menu.

Christmas Day was very simple with stuffed shells or lasagna, turkey and some vegetable side dishes. The end.

But Christmas Eve was a different story. Christmas Eve was the Feast of the Seven Fishes (or La Vigilia  a day of abstinence.) In the Catholic Church this prohibits the consumption of meat, so La Vigilia was ALL fish, NO meat. The Feast of the Seven Fishes is celebrated in southern Italy from Rome on down and my family comes from Naples and Bari.

Okay, I know you will ask, Why the Seven Fishes?

The number seven is mentioned hundreds and hundreds of times in the Bible.

In my family I was raised that the Seven Fishes represent the “Seven Sacraments” – baptism, confirmation, Eucharist, penance or reconciliation, anointing of the sick, holy orders, and marriage.

I have also heard many different reasons for the seven fishes and they are as follows:

The Seven Virtues – faith, hope, charity, temperance, prudence, fortitude, and justice

The Seven Deadly Sins – lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, and pride

Seven days it took God to create the world

The Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit – wisdom, understanding, counsel (right judgment), fortitude (courage), knowledge, piety (reverence), fear of the Lord (wonder and awe)

The number of days it took Mary and Joseph to travel to Bethlehem

Miracle of the Seven Loaves and Fish – Jesus fed 4,000 people with only seven loaves and fish

The Seven Hills of Rome

So you get the idea, there isn’t one correct answer. It varies by region. To really get you confused, some families insist on 13 fish dishes for Christmas Eve to represent Christ and his 12 Apostles.

We’ll move on….

This has to be my favorite holiday meal all year. I always looked forward to all the fish dishes with such anticipation. Maybe because I would always go fishing with my Dad all the time as a child and as an adult; that is the reason I love fish so much.

Here is a sample of My Christmas Eve Menu and I think I go over the seven fish requirement.


Shrimp Cocktail 

1st course:

Linguine with Fish sauce (consisting of crabs, clams, mussels, scungilli (conch), shrimp, tuna, calamari (squid), and scallops).

2nd course:

broiled salmon

stuffed calamari

coconut shrimp

fried calamari

baked clams

mussels in white wine and butter

crab cakes

seafood salad 

and the two most traditional fish dishes

Baccala (dry salted cod fish) with potatoes in a tomato sauce


fried eel 

Sauteed broccoli rabe with LOTS of garlic


 tossed green salad

3rd course:

Fruit and nuts – including roasted chestnuts



Variety of Christmas cookies -including pignoli


Italian bow tie cookies topped with honey and sprinkles (similar to Struffoli) sorry I don’t know the name.

Yes, dinner lasts for hours and hours and every bite is so delicious.

When my husband and I were dating (he is not Italian), his first Christmas Eve with us was very overwhelming. Now, after 30 years, he is accustomed to the menu and all the courses; and he even has a few favorites.

After this huge fish dinner, we went to Midnight Mass, came home to sausage and peppers (you could eat meat after midnight) and then we opened all of our gifts.

Buon Natale !

Recently, I had a request from a DishingwithDiane follower for my recipe for seafood salad, which consists of calamari, shrimp and scallops, octopus is optional.

Many years ago, I found a terrific recipe from Italian Food Forever and have tweaked it over the years and here is the end result. I hope you enjoy it.

Have a wonderful Christmas and a Blessed 2016!

Until my next post, make every day a celebration!


Please ask your family and friends to follow and share either on facebook or sign up for emails directly from the web page.

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

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

Christmas 2012 027- SEAFOOD SALAD

Seafood Salad – serves 6


3 Cups White Wine

5 Bay Leaves

2 Cloves Garlic, crushed

2 Lemons

1 Pound Calamari, cleaned and cut into rings

1 Pound Medium Shrimp, cleaned and deveined

1 Pound Scallops

1 Cup Black Olives

Chopped celery


1 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1/2 Cup Lemon Juice

3 Large Garlic Cloves, thinly sliced 

1/4 Cup Chopped Parsley

Dash Red Pepper Flakes

Salt & Pepper To Taste


 In a stockpot, combine 3 quarts of water, the wine, bay leaves, and crushed garlic. Slice the lemons in half and squeeze the juice into the mixture. Drop the lemons into the pot. Bring the mixture first to a boil, and then reduce the heat to medium low.

First cook the shrimp, cook 2 minutes and remove from the pot. Cook the calamari 1 ½ minutes and remove from the pot as well. If you are cooking scallops, cook in the same manner for 2 minutes. Mix the seafood together and set aside.

 Place the seafood in a bowl and add the chopped celery. Add the dressing ingredients and mix well. Cover and let marinade a minimum of 12 hours. Just before serving, adjust the seasonings, and add the black olives if you are using them. Serve at room temperature.

If you want to include Octopus in this salad, you will need 3 cups cooked Octopus chopped into 2 inch pieces. 

If you are cooking octopus, add it to the pot after cooking the scallops (once all the other seafood is removed from the pot), and cook it for about 45 minutes to an hour or until it is tender.
Remove it from the pot and let it cool.
Remove the skin and suckers, and cut it into bite sized pieces.
Mix the octopus with the other ingredients.


Arancini (Rice Balls)

(Click on PHOTO to enlarge and then hit the back arrow to return to original size).

2015-12-11 17.40.00 RICE BALL

Hi Everyone, 

Food always brings us back to a place, a person or a memory and today I was thinking about my Grandmother once again. She was such an important part of my life. My Grandmother could whip up a great meal from odds and ends in the refrigerator and it was always delicious. I was so in awe of her talent. Bob teases me when I “whip” something up, that Grandma would be proud.

Every Friday night when I was a child, my Grandmother would put on her Italian albums, ( Jerry Vale, Jimmy Roselli, Perry Como and Frank Sinatra) and she would dance and sing in the kitchen as she made snacks for us.

I am proud to say that I can sing along with most of those songs. I have no idea what I am saying, but I can sing along to the Italian songs.

Keep in mind that we just had dinner, but there was always room for Grandma’s snacks. They ranged from pizzettes, calzones to zeppoli and then the ultimate snack –  Arancini / RICE BALLS.

Arancini means “little oranges”. Arancini are rice balls stuffed with meat, peas and mozzarella, coated with breadcrumbs and deep fried. In Sicily, saffron is used in the risotto giving the rice an orange color. The name derives from their shape and color. 

 I just LOVE rice balls. The best street fair food at any Italian Festival as far as I am concerned. You can keep your sausage and peppers, just give me the rice ball.

I have been on a quest to find a rice ball as good as my Grandmothers and it’s not easy. My son likes rice balls too and we have sampled a lot over the years. I like the traditional filling made with meat sauce, peas and mozzarella.

Many, many times I have purchased rice balls that looked fantastic and golden and crispy, only to find that they didn’t make them the traditional way with the meat, peas and mozzarella and instead they only have a small mozzarella cube inside or they are too dry. Very disappointing. 

I have tried my hand at making my own in the past, but never had any luck when it came time to assemble them. My rice balls never looked like Grandma’s and they were all different sizes. My hand is not that big, and can’t hold all that rice and filling. Plus, the rice is sticky and not easy to handle.

Recently, a video popped up on Facebook that caught my interest immediately. A rice ball maker. Could this be the answer I was looking for? The video was in Italian but the demo looked too easy. Easy and rice balls in the same sentence was just too much for me to handle.

I have another friend on Facebook (Paula) who is as big a “gadget girl” as I am and she saw the same video. We both knew this had to be our next purchase and we were on a mission to find this gadget. Paula found it on ebay and shared the great news. So off to ebay I went.

There were two shapes to choose from, round or a cone; I chose the round like Grandma’s. I remember when I was younger that the cone shape was used to let you know there was a different filling other than the meat and peas.

This gadget is very pricey for three pieces of plastic ($47.74 with shipping) but to me, it will be worth every penny if it lived up to it’s promise. 

Well, it finally arrived and I have to tell you, I LOVE my new kitchen gadget!

(Click on photos to enlarge)

2015-12-01 10.43.28 - arancini I

The instructions are in Italian but with only 3 pieces and a photo it wasn’t hard to figure out what to do.

2015-12-01 10.43.38 - arancini II

So here is my journey in pictures of my rice ball experience…

I made risotto with Arborio rice according to package instructions and let it cool.

2015-12-11 02.16.52 RISOTTO II

COOKS NOTE*- you can put a sheet pan in the freezer and when you are ready, take it out and add the hot rice. This will cool it faster.

I made a quick meat sauce with added peas.

2015-12-11 02.17.04 - MEAT AND PEAS

 I diced half of a fresh mozzarella ball into cubes.

I just had to snack on the other half- it’s a weakness I have. I love fresh mozzarella too.

2015-12-11 02.17.17 DICED MOZZ

 My work station.

2015-12-11 02.19.07 - work station

Step 1

Fill the bottom half of the gadget with cool risotto. 

2015-12-11 02.19.33 STEP 1

Step 2

Put the plastic cap on the rice and using one of the tools provided, make a well for your filling.

2015-12-11 02.20.34 - step 2

Step 3

Add your cooled filling of meat & peas with mozzarella cubes.

2015-12-11 02.21.08 step 3

Step 4

Add additional rice to close the ball.

2015-12-11 02.22.01 step 4

Step 5

Remove the cap and invert the rice ball into your hand.

2015-12-11 02.22.22 step 5

 My first rice ball fell apart and I was very upset.

2015-12-11 02.17.36 FIRST ONE WAS A FLOP

I had to cool the meat filling a little more and the problem was solved.

2015-12-11 02.23.25 step 6

 I made 12 perfectly round rice balls just like Grandma.

2015-12-11 02.31.18 I MADE 12 RICE BALLS

2015-12-11 02.31.29 CLOSE UP

I popped them in the refrigerator for half an hour to firm up.

Prepared my dredging station…flour, eggs and breadcrumbs.

2015-12-11 16.12.48 DREDGING STATION

All rice balls coated and in the refrigerator for 15 minutes while I set up the fryer.

2015-12-11 16.42.21 READY FOR FRYING

The fryer is ready at 350 degrees. This is so much easier than using a saucepan filled with oil; since it eliminates a lot of the hot oil splashes. This model is the Waring compact counter top fryer. If you ever have an opportunity to purchase one, I highly recommend this.

2015-12-11 16.51.26 -FRYER

Love to hear that sizzle.

2015-12-11 17.12.45 COOKING IN THE FRYER

All done; sprinkled with a little grated cheese instead of salt.

2015-12-11 17.36.59 DONE

I am so happy ….they tasted just like Grandma’s.

Bob absolutely loved them. I can’t wait for my son to come for Christmas, so we can make them again and he can taste them too. My search for the perfect rice ball is finally over.

2015-12-11 17.40.00 RICE BALL

Well, you could say that this new rice ball maker was worth every penny.

I think it is the best gadget I ever bought.

Now on to the recipe…

The recipe I used is a combination from Chef Sabrina DiPasquale, owner of DiPasquale’s restaurant in Baltimore, MD and my added touches.

Arancini / Rice Balls


For the risotto:

3 tbsp. of butter – ( 3 tbsp. of olive oil can be used if you prefer)

1 lb. Arborio rice- ( 2- 1/2 cups)

6 cups of chicken broth

1/2 cup white wine

1/2 small yellow onion, diced

1/2 cup grated cheese (Locatelli or Parmesan)

Salt and white pepper to taste

1 package of saffron powder (optional)

For the meat filling:

3 tbsp. olive oil

1/2 yellow onion, finely diced

1 celery stalk, finely diced

1 carrot, finely diced

1 lb. ground beef

6 ounces (1 small can of tomato paste)

1 cup water

1 -1/2  cups frozen peas, thawed ( more can be added to your liking)

1/2 cup of fresh basil

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

For assembly you will need:

Fresh mozzarella ball, diced into 1/2 inch cubes

1 cup all purpose flour

Salt and fresh ground pepper

4 eggs, beaten

Breadcrumbs, for coating

Vegetable oil, for frying


For the rice: 

Follow package directions


Follow the instructions below

Heat 6 cups of chicken broth in a sauce pot- (If using saffron add it to the broth now).

Heat the butter in another pot over medium high heat

Add the onions and saute until translucent, adding a pinch of salt

Add the rice and stir until evenly coated. Toast for a few minutes.

Add 1/2 cup of white wine. Once the alcohol starts to burn off, start adding the first ladle of HOT chicken broth

Once the broth has been absorbed, continue to add a ladle at at time of broth, stirring occasionally.

Once ALL the broth has been absorbed, the rice should be tender and creamy, but “al dente”

Remove the pot from the heat and add 1 tbsp butter and the grated cheese and mix well. 

Pour the rice onto a baking sheet and place in the refrigerator for 2 hours to cool.

The rice should be able to form into a ball once cooled properly.

For the filling:

Heat 3 tbsp. of olive oil in a saucepan

Saute the onion, celery and carrot until translucent

Add the ground beef and season with salt and pepper to taste

Once the beef is added, with a wooden spoon, break down any chunks; the beef should be as fine as possible.

After browning the meat, if you find there is too much fat, simply drain some of the fat out and continue (you don’t want to make the rice soggy)

Add the can of tomato paste and 1 cup water. Mix well

Once the ground beef and the tomato paste begin to simmer, turn down the heat to low and cook for 30 minutes.

If the mixture begins to stick, add a touch of water

Add the peas and 1/2 cup of torn fresh basil

Cook for another 5 minutes to heat the peas

Transfer to a bowl and cool in the refrigerator

For Assembly:

Set up a dredging station of flour, eggs and breadcrumbs

Remove the cooled rice from the refrigerator and add two egg yolks to help bind the rice mixture

Remove the cooled meat mixture from the refrigerator

“If you do not have a rice ball maker, follow the directions below”

Take a handful of cooled rice, form a ball and flatten slightly while forming and indentation in the middle of the ball

Take a teaspoon of the cooled meat mixture and mozzarella cubes and place in the indentation of the rice

Take another handful of rice and finish forming the rice ball. The rice will be sticky so dip your hands in water to better handle the rice

Repeat with the remaining ingredients until all the rice balls are formed

Place the tray of rice balls in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to firm up

Now to the dredging station:

Add a pinch of salt and pepper to the flour. Add some grated cheese to the breadcrumbs. Added parsley to the breadcrumbs (optional).

Dip each rice ball in flour, then egg and then the breadcrumbs to evenly coat

Once all the rice balls are coated, place in the refrigerator for 15 minutes while you get the fryer ready.

After 15 minutes, fry the rice balls in 3 inches of oil in a sauce pot (or fryer) at 350 degrees for approximately 3-4 minutes until golden brown.

Once they are done, place them on a cookie sheet lined with paper towels to absorb any extra oil. Sprinkle with some grated cheese.

COOKS NOTE: If you don’t have a candy thermometer to test the temperature of the oil, just heat the oil and toss in some breadcrumbs. If they sizzle, you are ready. Don’t overcrowd the pan or the temperature will drop.

Have a great time cooking and enjoy your arancini!

They are best served hot, but can be served at room temperature as well.

Serve with marinara sauce (optional)

Until my next post, make every day a celebration!


Please ask your family and friends to follow either on facebook or sign up for emails directly from the web page. 

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

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

2015-12-11 17.36.59 DONE

Meatloaf Cupcakes with Mashed Potato Frosting

2015-12-09 20.29.57- meatloaf cupcakes CLOSE UP

(Click on photos to enlarge)

Hi Everyone,

I can’t believe that this year is coming to an end so quickly and I am not ready for the holidays yet. I think I need another week to get ready.

I am sure many of you are in the same boat. I just ordered my Christmas cards (I have never ordered them this late). I hope I get them in time. At this rate, I might be sending out Happy New Year cards instead. I still have gift wrapping to do and I need to finish decorating, both inside and out. Plus, I have to write a holiday food shopping list and call in my fish order for Christmas Eve.

And last but not least, bring up my Christmas dishes from the basement so I can SET THE TABLE for the holiday.

Yup, I need another week.

On Wednesday I spent the entire day making 100 cookies for cookie exchange parties; and I had to have a quick dinner. I didn’t want to order out so I made “Meatloaf Cupcakes with Mashed Potato Frosting” and a quick and easy vegetable side dish.

I had some leftover mashed potatoes in the refrigerator so this dinner would be quick.

While preparing dinner, I thought this would be a good recipe to share for anyone else who is looking for something different to serve for dinner as it gets closer to Christmas and time is limited.

I wish I could say that I thought of this idea myself, but that wasn’t the case. It is a combination of two recipes I found online, one from “Key Ingredient” website and one from “Recipe Tin Eats” website. Both are very similar so I combined them to make it more to my liking.

 It is a really cute presentation and doesn’t take that long to prepare. And if you happen to have leftover mashed potatoes, you are already half way done.

I don’t make the meatloaf cupcakes the same way I make regular meatloaf. This recipe calls for grated zucchini and ketchup; two ingredients I normally don’t use in my meatloaf.

The good thing about the meatloaf cupcakes is that they cook in 20 minutes as opposed to the hour for a regular meatloaf. The same 20 minutes needed to prepare the mashed potatoes.

I always have ground beef in the house and I just happened to have zucchini as well, so this was coming together nicely. Since I didn’t use all the zucchini for the cupcakes, I sauteed the remaining zucchini with grape tomatoes, basil and lots of garlic for a side dish.

Give this recipe a try...I think you will really enjoy it.

Meatloaf Cupcakes with Mashed Potato Frosting


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

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 tomato sauce

1 tsp. garlic powder

1 tsp. kosher salt

Pepper to taste

This recipe also calls for 1 tsp. dried thyme and 1 tsp. dried oregano, but I choose not to use either spice. Feel free to include them.

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)


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 cupcakes).

COOKS NOTE* – For this recipe I use Reynolds jumbo foil baking cups in my muffin tin. In a real pinch, 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

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

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 it’s shape when either piped or piled on the meatloaf cupcakes with a spoon.

Top with gravy and fresh chives.

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

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

  • 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

Until my next post, make every day a celebration!


Please ask your family and friends to follow either on facebook or sign up for emails directly from the web page. 

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

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

2015-12-09 20.30.08 MEATLOAF CUPCAKES