Italian Pasta

I feel a bit awkward writing this post since it’s been a good four months since I’ve written anything!  Let’s just say a haitus was necessary.  Between caring for my mom and step-father and writing two genealogy blogs a day, I felt the need to release some of my responsibilities for a bit.  Ritchey has been able to eat as soon as dinner was ready – I haven’t even been photographing my food!  But tonight I felt it was time to return – not an every day post as before – but as an occasional blogger, when there’s something special to share.

Another reason for tonight’s reappearance is a new blog – Food, Flowers, Herbs and Life – The Next Generation!  Yes, my daughter Kate has a new blog.  She has taken up the pen, the skillet and the camera – and brings the world her way of cooking and living life!  We’ve very different in many ways, but deep down we’re very much alike – as it should be!

Tonight’s supper was a throw together twenty minutes before Ritchey got home.  But I’ve come to love those last minute, throw something in the skillet meals!  This was a basic pasta dish, with some good things sauteed in the skillet while the pasta was cooking.  Paired with a great wine, it was all we needed for a great meal!  That’s all you can ask for!

  • 1 pound sausage
  • 2 handfuls pine nuts
  • 1 large red onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 pound tiny, fresh green beans
  • 1/2 pound cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/8 pound Parmigiano Reggiano, cut into small cubes
  • oregano
  • 1/2 pound medium pasta shells, cooked according to package directions

In a large skillet brown the sausage, cutting it into small pieces.  Put the water on for the pasta while the sausage is cooking.  When the sausage is starting to brown add the onions and pine nuts.  Add the green beans and cook for about five minutes – or until crisp-tender.  Remove the skillet from the stove.  Add the tomatoes and Parmigiano Reggiano and stir well.  Add cooked pasta.  Sprinkle with oregano.  Enjoy!

On Being Kreativ

An award, an award – my kingdom for an award!  You have been far too kind in the last month or so nominating me for awards!  And now Marie, at My Little Corner of Rhode Island, has nominated me for the Kreativ Blogger award!  It made me smile that she mentioned cooking and Middle Earth in the same sentence!  How cool is that?  I fell in love with Marie’s blog the first time I visited – and saw gorgeous pictures of her gardens – long, slim beds with brick walkways!  This is our dream of a back yard.  Perhaps one day!  And I love Marie’s outlook on life!  I raise my glass to her!

Now comes the part where I tell you ten things about myself you don’t know.  Hm, I’ve already done this for one award, but let’s see what I can come up with.

1.  I have at least 346 cookbooks – yes, I just tried to count them and I’m sure I missed a few along the way!  And the doesn’t include the 150 I sold to Half-Price a few years ago.  Some are very old, some are new – I love getting an idea for a recipe, then making it my own!

2.  I’ve been the finance officer for a local school system for 21 years.  I like my job, but it does take up quite a bit of my time!  Can you tell I’m longing for retirement?

3.  I’m probably the only person you know with photo albums and SD cards with just gravestone photos – at least 2,000 total!  But I’m a genealogist – not a lunatic!

4.  My favorite colors are purple and green.

5.  My birthday is June 30th and I know very few people born on that day – is that lucky or unlucky?  Even with all the people in my genealogy file there are only one or two.  Strange.

6.  I could read all day given the chance – but I find very little time for it.  Histories are my favorite, biographies – I’m always sad to get to the end of the book – I’ve come along on such a journey through each life, and then come to the final moments.  David McCullough is one of my favorite authors.

7.  I dearly love my KitchenAid mixer!

8.  Old Kentucky Chocolates makes the very best dark chocolate covered grapes.  Ritchey, tomorrow is Monday – dark chocolate day – shouldn’t we make a trip to the big city?

9.  I am the oldest of five – I have three sisters and one brother.

10.  I love to have my picture taken with my hubby!

I hope you didn’t fall asleep!  Now to pass the award on to those who have not received it.

Back Road Journal – Karen has beautiful recipes to share, as well as travels – you feel as if you are tagging along!

Rufus’ Food and Spirits Guide – Greg and Katherine have such wonderful and varied recipes and it’s just such a fun blog!

The Southern Lady Cooks – Judy is a also Kentuckian, and really knows everything about southern cooking!

Italian Fresh Purple Grape Cake

I was so excited earlier in the week – I found a lovely recipe for grape cake – a simple cake, with fruit, and just a touch of powdered sugar on top.  My kind of cake – no icing!  I bought my grapes and was prepared to make it this weekend – and couldn’t find my recipe!  Where did it go?  I thought for sure it was in the new Mediterranean cookbook I paid full price for at Joseph-Beth Booksellers at the end of December.  Let me just say, it was worth the money!  But it did not have the grape cake recipe.  I checked through a few of my other cookbooks at home – no luck.  Where did I see it?  I remember well the beautiful picture – my mouth salivated at just the thought of a tiny piece!  I thought perhaps it was in one of the two cookbooks I bought at the half-price bookstore last week – when my sister said, I’m sooo glad you got a cookbook, since you don’t have any.  Did anyone recognize the sarcasm dripping off that sentence?  Okay, so I have a few cookbooks!  But to the pressing matter at hand – I don’t have one with a grape cake recipe!  So what else was I to do – I went to the internet!  Found a great recipe at allrecipes.com!  This cake was just as good as I imagine – better, actually!  The lemon and orange zest gave it an over-the-top flavor – and the grapes were soft and warm.  I added a dusting of powdered sugar – since that was a completion of the picture I had carried around with me all week!  Try this recipe – you will love this cake!

Italian Fresh Purple Grape Cake

  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 cup white sugar
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 – 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 2 tablespoons grated lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons grated orange zest
  • 10 ounces small purple grapes

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Generously butter and flour a 9 inch springform cake pan, tapping out any excess flour.  Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk, beat the eggs and sugar until thick and lemon-colored, about 3 minutes.  Add the butter, oil, milk and vanilla extract, and mix until blended.

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a large bowl.  Add the lemon zest and orange zest, and toss to coat the zest with flour.

Spoon the flour mixture into the bowl of batter and stir with a wooden spoon until thoroughly blended.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix once more.  Set aside for 10 minutes to allow the flour to absorb the liquids.

Stir in about 3/4 of the grapes into the batter.  Spoon the batter into the prepared cake pan and smooth out the top with a spatula.

Place the pan in the center of the oven.  Bake for 15 minutes, then sprinkle the top of the cake with the remaining grapes.  Bake for about 40 minutes more, until the top is a deep golden brown and the cake feels quite firm when pressed with a fingertip.

Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.  After 10 minutes, run a knife along the sides of the pan.  Release and remove the side of the springform pan, leaving the cake on the pan base.  Serve at room temperature, cut into thin wedges.

Sprinkle with powdered sugar.  Enjoy!

Taco Salad

Tonight’s supper is an old favorite of Linton and Kate’s!  Taco Salad!  There is not really a recipe, it’s more about bringing together all your favorite ingredients – and they can vary greatly from cook to cook – or family to family!  Our taco salad is an easy fix, something to have on a rushed evening – when there was a basketball game or play practice to attend – not something that’s on the agenda any more!  Browned hamburger seasoned with chili and cumin is one of the hardest steps in making this salad!  Everything else is opening a can, shredding some cheese, washing the lettuce!  I do insist on homemade guacamole – which you can find in a previous blog.

The building of a taco salad is an art in our household – no two people make their salad alike!  All ingredients are placed in separate bowls and each person concocts their dinner according to their preferences.  Of course the correct way to fix a taco salad, my way!, is to start with a nice bed of salad greens.  Next comes my seasoned hamburger – then the cheese, so it can melt just a bit.  Tomatoes are next, then black olives and a bit of salsa.  If you need a recipe for salsa try my fresh tomato salsa.  Three dollops are the crowning piece de resistance – sour cream, refried beans and guacamole!  Served with tortilla chips it is so good – a burst of flavors in every bite!  And even though I have instructed my family in the proper way of making a taco salad, being the very independent souls that they are, filled with ingenuity and stubbornness, they cling to their design.  Kate makes small little piles of ingredients – with no lettuce.  Taco salad and no lettuce – I’m still pondering on that one!  Linton, bless his dear little heart, does not eat guacamole – or at least not in previous years.  He missed out on the best part!  Ritchey is not as particular of the order of his ingredients – dare I say he puts his hamburger on the plate first?  Ah, what can I do with them?  Just love them I suppose!  How do you like your taco salad?

And now after that bit of silliness – I was tagged by Linda at Savoring Every Bite for the 10 Question Quiz:

1.  Describe yourself in seven words. 

I love life with Ritchey, Linton, Kate!  That about sums it up – even though we are all alike in many ways, our differences make life very interesting!  We love Renaissance Faires, Tolkien conventions, food, music, the beach, books, gardening, being green, traveling and genealogy (I must admit this is mostly me!).

2.  What keeps you up at night?

Not a thing, once my head hits the pillow that’s it till morning!

3.  Who would you like to be?

No one but myself!  I love being who I am and where I am in my life.

4.  What are you wearing now?

Jeans, a shirt and sweater – it’s cold here in Kentucky!

5.  What scares you?

Nothing really.  I’m concerned about the economy and the unconcernedness of the world and people in general today.  I wish people cared more, were more passionate about what they felt and believed in, were more anxious to stand up for what is right.

6.  What is the best and worst things of blogging?

The best – I love all the people I’ve met, the new friends I’ve made.  I so enjoy reading your blogs – and have learned so much from you!  The worst – I think everyone has the same answer – the time it takes!  I write two genealogy blogs a day and a food blog a couple of times a week.  I wish there were more hours in a day!

7.  What was the last website you  looked at?

My genealogy website!

8.  If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be?

To become a minimalist.

9.  Slankets, yes or no?

No.

10.  Tell us something about the person who tagged you.

Even though I am not Italian – unless you go very far back into history – Linda and I must be related.  Our way of cooking is so similar.  I’ve made so many of her recipes and they turn out lovely – the flavors and seasonings are just perfect!  Her photos are exquisite – you can almost eat from the pages of her blog!  I have learned so much from her!

 Who are you going to tag to join the quiz?

Karen - Back Road Journal

Cecilia – The Kitchens Garden

Greg and Katherina – Rufus’ Food and Spirits Guide

Caroline – Sweet Caroline’s Cooking

Joanne – Fifteen Spatulas

Pasta and Goodness

This was such a delightful weekend – we had absolutely nothing to do!  After the craziness of the holiday season we look forward to a time when schedules are much more relaxed and the most pressing decision is what’s for supper?  This was another go to the pantry and fridge and see what’s available suppers!  Sometimes those are the best kind!  Penne pasta, walnuts, sun-dried tomatoes, croutons, red onion and  red pepper flakes from the pantry; an orange pepper, pepperoni and mozzarella cheese from the fridge.  Ritchey declared this one of my best pasta dishes ever!

  • 3/4 pound penne pasta
  • salt
  • olive oil
  • 1 large red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 orange pepper, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 30 pepperoni
  • 1 cup of walnuts, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup of sun-dried tomatoes
  • pinch of red pepper flakes, or more
  • parsley
  • 1/4 pound mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 1 cup croutons, crushed

Bring a large pan of water to boil.  Add a handful of salt and the pasta – cook according to package directions.  In a large skillet over medium-high heat, drizzle olive oil.  Add onions and saute about five minutes.  Add pepper and garlic and saute for an additional two minutes.  Add the pepperoni, walnuts, sun-dried tomatoes and red pepper flakes and cook an additional two or three minutes.  Mix well.  Remove from heat.  Stir in the pasta and parsley.  Top with mozzarella cheese and croutons.  Put under the broiler for just a few minutes – until cheese melts.  Enjoy!

Mediterranean Chicken and Fruit

This is one of my Healthy January recipes!  Chicken, browned in olive oil, dried apricots and prunes, and couscous.  What a flavor-filled meal!  This was the second course to my Orange, Onion and Olive Salad.

Mediterranean Chicken and Fruit

  • olive oil
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1 cup dried apricots
  • 1 cup dried prunes
  • 15 ounces chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 cup couscous

Cut each chicken breast into two or three pieces.  Place each piece in a ziploc bag.  Pound with a mallet until thin.  In a large skillet over medium high heat drizzle a little olive oil.  Season the chicken with salt and pepper and add to the skillet.  Cook until browned on both sides – about ten minutes.  In a large measuring cup whisk the chicken broth, cinnamon and cumin.  Pour over the chicken.  Add the dried fruits.  Allow to cook for a few minutes.  Add the cup of couscous to the skillet.  Stir well.  Remove from heat and cover.  Let sit five minutes.  Enjoy!

Orange, Olive and Onion Pizza

After having such success with my very first homemade pizza Friday night, I decided to branch out a little with the second one!  The recipe for pizza dough from Linda at Savoring Every Bite makes two pizzas.  For the second one, a few nights later, I couldn’t help but remember the orange salad I made the other day.  The sweet, flavorful oranges mixed with thinly sliced red onion and salty green olives was so tasty I thought it should be made into a pizza!  Who knows, perhaps it will become a classic!

After preparing the dough according to Linda’s recipe, add some shredded mozzarella and pecorino romano cheeses.  Peel two large oranges with a sharp knife, leaving no pith.  Slice and add to the pizza.  Add a generous handful of roughly chopped large green olives and some thinly sliced red onion.  I added just a bit more of the pecorino.  Bake at 425 degrees for about 18 to 20 minutes.  A very different taste for a pizza, but one I think you will enjoy!  Ritchey loved it – and so did my sister!