Category Archives: Recipes

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

Sweet Potato Casserole

2014-11-27 19.36.54 SWEET POTAOTES

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

Hi again everyone,

I hope you had a chance to look over the Sage Stuffing recipe I posted yesterday, because here comes another favorite side.

This is my second favorite side dish and it is a little on the sweet side, (no not pie, that’s later). My husband loves this one too. We were fortunate to have this at a Ruth’s Chris Steak House and it was a bite of heaven. 

You know what I mean, the bite that you savor, close you eyes and you are whisked away to another planet just for a brief moment. It’s that bite of heaven.

It really should be a dessert instead of a side.


Wait until you see the ingredients for this one; a lot of butter and sugar, but once you take your first bite you will be amazed and forget about the calories.

I was fortunate to find the recipe and I have been making it ever since. Give it a try.

2014-11-27 19.36.54 SWEET POTAOTES

Ruth’s Chris Steak House Sweet Potato Casserole

  • Time 30 minutes
  • Serves 6


  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1 cup chopped nuts (pecans preferred)
  • 1/3 stick butter — melted (Do not omit or reduce this amount)
  • 3 cups mashed sweet potatoes (Garnets looks best and I bake mine first)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 eggs — well beaten
  • 1 stick butter — ( 1/2 cup) melted (You can leave it out or reduce it, if you wish)


  • Combine brown sugar, flour, nuts and butter in mixing bowl. Set aside.
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Combine sweet potatoes, sugar, salt, vanilla, eggs and butter in a mixing bowl in the order listed. Mix thoroughly.
  • Pour mixture into buttered baking dish.
  • Sprinkle the surface of the sweet potato mixture evenly with the crust mixture.
  • Bake for 30 minutes. Allow to set at least 30 minutes before serving.
  • Cooks Note:
  • Serves 6 -Double the recipe. People will love the leftovers, which also freeze beautifully.

I hope you have the opportunity to try either one of my favorite side dishes this year for your Thanksgiving table if you want to try something new.

Stay well and have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

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.

Sage Stuffing

2014-11-27 19.37.08- SAGE STUFFING

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

Hi again everyone,

With Thanksgiving approaching at a rapid rate, I wanted to share a few of my favorite side dishes for the big day.

But before we start, if anyone is of Italian descent like me, then you know that it takes a while to get to the turkey and the side dishes so no need to worry if you get a late start cooking the turkey… 

If you are not of Italian descent, sit down, this will take a few minutes to explain. 

Italians have many course around the TURKEY. Because there isn’t a nonna alive that isn’t going to have a pasta course at a holiday, expect pasta.

This is the menu for an Italian /American Thanksgiving.

First is the antipasto tray– cured meats, olives, pickled vegetables, fennel, and a variety of cheese and roasted peppers. Antipasto is one of my personal favorites. 

I would always look for the sharp provolone cheese and pickled eggplant.

DSC00028 - antipasto tray

Followed by the soup – in my case, it was “Uncle Vinny’ soup.  I really hope you have a chance to try that soup, it’s a keeper.

2015-11-08 23.30.01 CLOSE UP SOUP

Followed by the pasta course – usually lasagna – this is vegetable lasagna with no bechamel.

2015-07-16 21.04.27- slice of veggie lasagna- WITH TEXT

Followed by a salad -Our salad was a mixed green salad with an orange & cranberry goat cheese, sliced pears, cranberries, and sliced almonds covered in a poppy seed dressing.

(You can slice goat cheese with dental floss if it is too sticky for your knife).

When my grandmother was alive we followed a European tradition in our home and had the salad at the end of every meal. However, I found this hard when you have guests who are not familiar with this tradition and expect their salad at the beginning of the meal, so we changed the order.

2014-11-27 18.46.35 -SALAD SIDE DISH


See how much time you had to get to this point?

The menu is not finished after the turkey. Even though I am concentrating on the side dishes, an Italian / American Thanksgiving keeps going.

For a better understanding of the Thanksgiving I had growing up, I am listing the remainder of the courses. 

The turkey and sides are…..

Followed by – fruit, nuts and cheese  

fruit-nut-platter # 2

Followed by – TAKING A BREAK…..

Taking a break in my house growing up meant that the women cleaned up, small children went to play and the men took a nap. At this point you had to have a break because you ran out of dishes and had to wash them and start over.

Once the break was over, the next course was

Dessert–  a variety of pies pumpkin pie, apple pie, coconut custard pie, mince meat pie and sweet potato pie; just in case you weren’t sure what you were in the mood for. Lots of ice cream and whipped cream along with after dinner drinks. This is when I was allowed to sip amaretto or creme de menthe.

And let us not forget, Italian cookies and pastries with espresso.

 I remember the first time my husband came over to my home for Thanksgiving when we were dating; he was in total shock with this meal. We didn’t move for hours and he couldn’t believe more and more courses kept coming out of the kitchen. He expected  turkey, gravy, stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, apple cider and cranberry sauce. Oh, we had that too plus a little extra. After 30 years, he has adjusted.

This complete meal is followed by feeling so full and bloated, you swear you will never eat so much again- until Christmas Eve that is.

Then it’s the Feast of the Seven Fishes. We’ll discuss that at another time or your head will explode now. Too much to take in at once.

But one thing is for sure, we are all GRATEFUL for this feast and for our family and friends and for being able to share another year together.

Okay, now that you know the menu, let’s get back to my favorite sides….

Of course the star of the day is the TURKEY; but for me it’s more about the side dishes, and there were plenty to choose from. I am not going to list recipes for all of my side dishes because I am sure we make many of the same things, stuffed artichokes, glazed carrots, brussel sprouts, mashed potatoes, stuffed mushrooms, etc… I am just listing a few recipes of my favorites that I wanted to share with you.

First one, my all time FAVORITE side dish is SAGE STUFFING.

Oh, I could just eat stuffing with some gravy and be a happy girl. Although I would have to make a double batch because my son feels the same way I do about this stuffing.

Once I found this recipe, my family insisted that this would be the ONLY stuffing they would ever eat; so delicious. You have to try it.

2014-11-27 19.37.08- SAGE STUFFING


(You have to make this with corn bread so I will include my recipe for sour cream cornbread.) 

8 cups coarse fresh bread crumbs (from a 1-lb white loaf with crust removed)

4 cups coarsely crumbled corn bread
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter
2 medium onions, finely chopped (1 1/2 cups)
1 turkey liver or 3 chicken livers (2 to 3 oz total), trimmed and finely chopped
1 cup finely chopped celery
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup turkey giblet stock or low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 325°F.

Spread all breadcrumbs in 2 shallow baking pans and bake in upper and lower thirds of oven until dry, about 15 minutes total. Cool crumbs in pans on racks, then transfer white bread and corn bread to a large bowl and stir in parsley, sage, salt, and pepper.

Melt butter in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, and then add onions and liver and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Add celery and cook, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes. Transfer to bowl with crumbs and toss well.

Add eggs, stock, and cream and toss well.

Transfer stuffing to a buttered 2 1/2- to 3-quart shallow baking dish. Bake, covered, in middle of oven 30 minutes, then uncover and bake until browned, about 30 minutes more.

Cooks’ note:
• Stuffing can be assembled (but not baked) 2 days ahead and chilled, covered. Bring to room temperature before baking.

Sour Cream Corn Bread

1 Cup All-purpose flour

¾ cup yellow cornmeal

¼ cup sugar 

2 tsp. baking powder

½ tsp baking soda                                                         

½ tsp salt

1-cup sour cream

¼ cup whole milk or Buttermilk

1 egg (beaten)

2 TBSP melted butter

 Preheat oven to 425 degrees

 In a bowl, mix 1-cup all-purpose flour, ¾ cup yellow corn meal. ¼ cup sugar, 2 tsp baking powder and ½ tsp each baking soda and salt. Stir in 1 cup sour cream, ¼ cup milk, 1 beaten egg and 2 TBSP melted butter.

 Pour into a greased, 8-in square pan. Bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes or until a pick inserted in center comes out clean.

Cut in 16 squares. Best served warm.

 My next post and side dish will be Sweet Potato Casserole.

Until then, 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.

Polenta with Mushroom and Sausage Sauce

2015-10-05 19.04.40

Hi everyone, 

Today I was inspired by my dear friend Marie Renello of Proud Italian Cook to make polenta. I saw her post and it brought back a rush of memories about my grandmother. It just so happened that I had all the ingredients in the house and I took that as a sign to make my rendition of polenta.

For those of you who are not familiar, Polenta is cornmeal. Sort of like the “Italian grits”. The original polenta was cooked stove top, low and SLOW. And I mean slow. I would remember my grandmother or mom mixing the polenta in simmering water and salt for close to 45 minutes, (they had great upper body strength) then adding cheese and butter once it became thick and creamy.

Thank God polenta now comes in an instant version that you only need to stir for 5 minutes.

Back in the day, when grandma called and said it was “polenta night”, everyone went over. She served the polenta on a wooden pastry board and put the mushroom sauce on top. This was not just any board. It was huge and used specifically for polenta. She had it stored all wrapped up in a clean bed sheet in her closet.

We all sat around the board at the dining room table and grandma would spread the polenta out of her saucepan and top it with her famous mushroom sauce. Everyone picked their spot and started to eat. Polenta starts to get hard around the edges and a little chunky at room temperature and that was always the time that my cousins and I wanted to become creative and make a design in the polenta.

I can’t tell you how many times we ate the polenta with the goal of making it look like the boot of Italy – never happened.

If we had company for dinner outside the immediate family, grandma served the polenta in bowls with her sauce. Not nearly as much fun.

So after strolling down memory lane today, I made my version of polenta with mushroom sauce. I add sausage to my version for a little added kick.

I didn’t eat my polenta tonight off a board but I was basking in the memories the polenta brought back to me. The days when all my family was still with us and we were laughing and eating. We were always eating.

Once thought of as a peasant meal has now become quite popular in Italian restaurants.

I hope you try this recipe (with the instant polenta) and enjoy.

(Please let me know if you try it. I am curious as to what you think).

I usually serve my polenta in shallow bowls and take the remainder from the saucepan and spread it out onto parchment paper in a jelly roll pan. Spread the polenta out as flat as possible. Once the polenta has hardened I cut rounds out of the polenta (with a wine glass or cookie cutter) and save them wrapped in wax paper in a container in the refrigerator.

You can refrigerate for up to 5 days or store frozen for up to 3 months.

Another great tip from my MOM…

Fry the polenta slices the next morning in a 1/2 cup of olive oil in a large skillet on both sides until golden. Drain on paper towels.

Add a fried egg and you now have a polenta breakfast.


Polenta with Mushroom and Sausage Sauce


1 ( 16 oz. ) box of instant polenta 

1- 1/2  lbs. mixed mushrooms (white button and baby bellas are a good choice)- diced

3 sausage links- I usually use 2 hot and 1 sweet- casings removed

1/2 cup of olive oil

1 large onion- chopped

2 cloves of garlic-minced

salt and pepper to taste

dash of red pepper flakes

1 cup white wine 

1 cup beef broth or vegetable broth

2 tbsp. fresh parsley – minced

2 tsp. corn starch OR 1/2 cup heavy cream

8 oz. unsalted tomato sauce

5 oz. unsalted butter – divided

1 cup grated cheese

1/2  tsp. ground fennel (optional)


Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the onion, garlic and a pinch of salt and saute for 5 minutes.

Add the sausage meat and brown.

Add another pinch of salt, pepper, red pepper flakes and ground fennel and mix well with the onion / sausage mixture. (Adjust spices to your liking).

Add the mushrooms and saute until soft with a golden brown color. 

Add the wine and scrape up all the brown bits in the pan from the sausage.

Cook until wine has evaporated.

Add the 8 oz. can of unsalted tomato sauce and 2 tbsp. fresh minced parsley. 

Add the beef or vegetable broth reserving 1/4 cup of broth.

Stir the 1/4 cup broth with the 2 tsp. cornstarch until dissolved. Add the cornstarch and broth mixture to the skillet to thicken the sauce. * 1/2 cup heavy cream can be substituted for the cornstarch and broth mixture.

Lower the heat to simmer and cook for 10-15 minutes until the sauce is thickened to your liking. Taste for seasoning.

While the sauce is simmering, prepare your polenta according to package directions. ( I usually make the entire box and freeze some of the leftover polenta for another meal).

When the polenta is done add 3 tbsp. butter and 1 cup (or more) grated cheese. Mix well and then take off the heat.

Once the sauce is done, take it off heat and add 2 tbsp. butter and mix well.

Ladle the polenta into shallow bowls if you are not going to be using a pastry board and top with the sauce. Serve with additional cheese, if desired.

Buon Appetito!


Stuffed Peppers

2015-09-03 19.14.16- stuffed peppers

Hi Everyone,

I was just going through some of my recipes for some Autumn dinner ideas and I came across one of my all time favorites- Stuffed Peppers. I decided to share this easy recipe with you. I hope you try making these peppers at home and enjoy them.

PS- they can be frozen too

Stuffed Peppers


1 ½ lbs. ground turkey or beef (seasoned with salt and pepper)

1 medium onion –sliced

3 garlic cloves –minced

6 bell peppers- whole

3 (any color combo) bell peppers for FILLING–diced in bite size pieces after seeds and membranes are removed

3 TBSP olive oil

2-3 cans “no salt” 8 oz. tomato sauce …(3 cans will make it juicier)

2 cups cooked brown rice

1 TBSP Italian seasoning

4 TBSP plus of grated cheese

8 oz. of shredded mozzarella cheese

Salt and pepper


  • Cut the tops from 6 green peppers; discard the seeds and the membranes, (Tops can be saved for presentation or diced into filling).
  • Cook the whole green peppers, uncovered in boiling water for about 6 minutes; invert to drain well
  • Start to prepare the rice in either a steamer or stovetop
  • In another saucepan over medium low heat, add the olive oil
  • Allow the oil to heat up for a few minutes and then add the diced peppers and onions, a pinch of salt and cook for approx. 7 minutes stirring occasionally to soften
  • Add the minced garlic to the peppers and onions and cook for 1 more minute
  • Add the seasoned ground meat and cook until no longer pink- separate the meat into bite size pieces with the back of a wooden spoon
  • Once the meat is browned add the 2-3 cans of tomato sauce, Italian seasoning, salt, pepper and 2 TBSP of grated cheese
  • Allow this to cook on a lower temperature for 15-20 minutes with the cover ON until the sauce is done
  • Add the cooked rice, mix well and add the remaining grated cheese
  • Stuff the peppers with this mixture and top with mozzarella cheese
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes to melt the cheese then serve

Depending on the size of your peppers, you will have leftover filling for a quick lunch the next day.

Peppers can be served with additional grated cheese.

2015-09-03 20.08.54- stuffed peppers over

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Apple Cake

DSC00030 - 2005 apple cake

Hi Everyone,

Welcome to September!

I hope you are all enjoying your last days of Summer. It really went by too fast; but Autumn is also a lovely season to enjoy.

I look forward to autumn for all the Fall Festivals to begin while still enjoying the feel of Summer, visiting local farm stands waiting for winter vegetables to start popping up. The farm stands this time of year are great to get winter squash plus pumpkins, gourds and cornstalks for outdoor fall decorations.

It’s also that time of year that within a day or two of Labor Day we will all be overloaded with “Pumpkin” everything!

Don’t get me wrong, I love pumpkin, but here is an alternative to pumpkin just in case you need a break from pumpkin donuts, pumpkin latte, pumpkin oatmeal, pumpkin ice cream, pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin pie milkshakes, pumpkin waffles, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin soup, and the list goes on and on.

It’s my Apple Cake

I just love this cake. All of you know by now that I am not much of a baker, but this cake is one of the easiest to prepare and is a family favorite. Not too many ingredients, simple directions and it always turns out perfect and delicious. What more can you ask for? I was given this recipe years ago and it has been my go to dessert on many occasions.

 Autumn doesn’t officially begin until September 23, 2015, but this is a handy recipe to keep and use after all those days of apple picking and hay rides.

I hope you try this delicious cake and enjoy it. Let me know in the comments what you think.

Until my next post, stay well and make every day a celebration!




  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • ¼ cup Orange juice
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla
  • 1 ½ cup flour
  • 1 ½ tsp. Baking powder
  • ¼ tsp. Salt
  • 3 medium size McIntosh apples (peeled and sliced)
  • ¼ cup sugar & 1 tsp. Cinnamon – blended


  1. Beat the first 8 ingredients until smooth
  2. Pour ½ the batter into a greased and floured tube pan
  3. Layer with half of the apples
  4. Sprinkle with the sugar/cinnamon mixture
  5. Add remaining batter
  6. Add remaining apples
  7. Add remaining sugar/cinnamon mixture
  8. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour
  9. Cool on rack and serve with a coating of powdered sugar

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