Spaghetti, meatballs, parmigiano reggiano and basil

This is such an easy and delicious dinner to have on a week night, provided you have some sauce/gravy in your freezer.  You can use my recipe below, or even use a jar of a store brand that you like. 

Just remember, good ingredients can make an easy and simple meal taste and look like it came from a fine restaurant.

By the way, did you know that spaghetti and meatballs is an American dish?  Yep, it's not an Italian dish.  But thats okay, we have some good traditions here as well, because who doesn't love this dish.

I buy a wedge of parmigiano reggiano and keep it in my refrigerator.  Use a vegetable peeler and slice off a few slices and set aside.  Fresh basil adds such a wonderful fresh flavor to any spaghetti/pasta dish.  So do try it and see what you think.
Buy a bunch of basil and chiffonarde about 4 leaves.  That's a fancy cooking term for taking the leaves and laying them on top of one another, rolling them up like a cigar and thinly slicing them.  Basil will keep in your refrigerator if you wrap a paper towel around it and place it in a plastic container, tightly sealed. Lasts about a week. 

Okay, so now you heat up your sauce. My sauce had meatballs in it, but you can skip it if you don't have any. While your sauce is heating up, cook your pasta as directed.  I only use Barilla and I tend to undercook it by about 1 minute.  After your pasta is cooked, drain it well.  Use a set of large tongs to grab some cooked pasta and pile it on the center of your plate.   Add a couple of tablespoonsful of sauce on top of your pasta.  Place a meatball on top. Toss on the parmigiano reggiano and the basil.  Voila...  Dinner, in about 20 minutes.  And it's so good.



Ina Garten's Strawberry Country Cake

I love this simple cake and I only make it when the strawberries at my market are bright red and large.  It's such an easy cake and it looks so pretty, when you get those extra large, ripe, very red strawberries.  So yesterday,  I was at the market looking for fresh produce and saw the perfect strawberries from California.  I felt like I struck gold......

Your family and friends will thank you and think you have spent the entire day in the kitchen. Only you haven't, but that can be our little secret....

The only change I make it to fan the strawberries on top.  I feel it makes such a pretty presentation and it's not hard at all.  Again, it's the large, juicy strawberries that are the star of this recipe.

To fan the strawberries, you place one on your cutting board and cut the strawberry just like you were going to slice it, but leave just a tiny part of the top not sliced.  Use the stem as your guide.  Once you have sliced the strawberry, place your palm  over the strawberry and press down gently to flatten and it will fan out.  I used three for the top on this cake, but mine were very large.  So you may need four.

And to serve it, I just cooked down 1/2 pint of sliced strawberries with 1/4 cup of cranberry juice, 2 Tablespoons of sugar and the zest of one orange.  Cook on medium low for 4-6 minutes.  Take pan off the heat and let cool.  I mashed mine down fine with my potato masher, or you could use your blender.  It's nice to place a spoonful of sauce on top of, or to the side of the cake.  If you want to get fancy, take a large tablespoon of sauce on the outside of a plate.  Take the tip of the spoon or a thin spatula and drag a stream of the sauce in a circular pattern.  It should almost look like the number 6 on the outside of the plate.  Then place your cake on the plate.  ;)

Here's a linke to Ina's recipe:


Roasted Garlic, Tomato and Mozzarella Pizza ~

Pizza again, but this time it's Roasted Garlic, Tomatoes and fresh mozzarella.  And it's put together in about 15 minutes, provided you have let your dough sit on the counter all day in a bowl wiped with a little olive oil and covered with a towel.  Don't worry, your dough will not go bad, or spoil.  To get the best results with pizza dough, you need to allow it to rest all day.

1 lb. of pizza dough (I used store bought)
1/4 C. Chunky style, canned, crushed tomatoes (Pastene)
2 cloves of garlic minced
2 Tablespoons of olive oil
1 teaspoon of kosher salt
1 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
8 ounces of fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced thinly (I used Costco)
Parmesan cheese for grating on top.  I don't measure and I grate it right before it goes in the oven to bake.

Preheat oven to 500 degrees F.
On a 1/2 sheet pan, sprinkle a couple of tablespoons of cornmeal.
In a small bowl, mix your minced garlic and olive oil together, set aside.

Roll or stretch your dough on a lightly floured surface of your counter, until it nearly equal the entire 1/2 sheet pan.  Place dough on sheet pan.  Spread the garlic and oil over your dough, leaving about a half inch border on all of the edges.

Spread the tomatoes over the oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Place and gently press the mozzarella cheese all over the top of the tomatoes.  Grate your cheese all over the top of the pizza (I am kind of heavy handed).  Place pizza in the oven and set your timer for 15 minutes.  Take the pizza out and lift crust with a butter knife.  The crust should be slightly brown.  If it's not, then place pizza back in oven for 2 minutes longer...... no more than that.

Take pizza out of oven and let sit on a surface to cool for 10 minutes.  It should look all bubbly and melty, like this:

Can't get much better than this, unless you are heading into Regina pizza in Boston.  Enjoy ~


Chocolate Banana Cake ~

This recipe is from Tish Boyle, who calls it a chocolate banana cake.  However, to me, it's a rich and delicous dark chocolate cake that is extremely moist and a has very subtle flavor of banana. 

It's very easy and very, very good.  Do give it a try....

Chocolate Banana Cake - Adapted from Tish Boyle

Makes one 9 X 5 inch loaf or a 9 inch round (serves 8-10)

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/3 cups mashed ripe bananas (about 3 medium)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup sour cream

4 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 350. Grease bottom and sides of 9 X 5 inch loaf pan or 9 inch round pan.

Sift together flour, coca powder, baking soda, and salt into a medium bowl. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, using paddle attachment beat butter at medium speed until creamy, about 1 minutes. Gradually beat in the sugar and beat at high until well blended, about 2 minutes. At medium speed, beat in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add the mashed bananas and vanilla extract and mix at low speed until blended. Add the flour mixture at low speed in three additions, alternating it with the sour cream in two additions. Remove bowl from the mixer stand and stir in the chopped chocolate. Scrap batter into the prepared pan and smooth top with spatula.

Bake cake for 55 to 65 minutes (loaf pan) or 45 to 50 minutes (round pan), until a cake tester into the center comes out clean (except for any melted chocolate.)
Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes.

Unmold cake onto the rack, turn right side up and cool completely.

I dusted it with a little confectioner's sugar and sliced it.  Yum.


Curried Cauliflower with Capers ~

Adapted from Cooking Light Magazine

This cauliflower dish is delicious and of course it's easy to do.  Who doesn't like roasted cauliflower?  But this recipe gives us a reason to "love" cauliflower.  I know it has done it for me

I do switch recipes around, using whatever ingredient I have on hand. This time instead of capers, I added julienned basil.  And instead of cutting the cauliflower into florets, I sliced it 1/2 inch thick, making "steaks".

I also wanted to let you see the difference that natural sunlight has on your pictures. 
So in the first photo, I put my dish in direct sunlight.  In the second shot, I placed my plate right next to the window, with the sunlight coming in indirectly.

I like both pictures, which doesn't happen a lot....

Here is the picture next to my window.

6 Cups Cauliflower florets (about 1 large head)
1/4 cup extra-virgin Olive Oil, divided (2 T. and 3 T., separated)
2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 t. curry powder
1/2 t. kosher salt
1/4 t. freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
1/4 cup capers, drained

Preheat oven to 450 F.

Combine cauliflower and 2 tablespoons of olive oil in large bowl, toss to combine. Transfer to a 1/2 sheet pan and roast for 30 minutes, turning once.

Combine remaining 3 T. olive oil, lemon rind, and next 4 ingredients in a large bowl and whisk together. When cauliflower is roasted toss in a large bowl and add dressing, carpers and parsley.

Here is the picture in the direct sunlight.

Both say yum to me.  :)

I'm joining the lovely Michael West at Foodie Friday today ~


Ricotta and Zucchini Galette ~

I have always found zucchini a bit boring up until I made this dish.  It turns zucchini into a yummy vegetable, not boring at all.  Leave it to Deb at Smitten Kitchen to dream up this recipe.  I followed it, except.. you guessed it, I cheated a teeny, tiny bit.  I used a sheet of puff pastry.... yes, that's right.  I think it made it better, but sshhh... don't tell anyone.  Look at the picture.  Would you guess it's made with a short cut?  Nope, but I did.  Which ever way you want to make it, do so.  It's delectable.

Oh, it's simple to make too.  Yummy goodness, I tell ya.  But don't believe me, go and make it yourself ~

Here's a link to Smitten Kichen's recipe and pictures:


Easy, Creamy Chicken Curry ~

If you are looking for a traditional curry dish, this isn't the one you want.  But if you are looking for a delicious, easy, curry dish, try this one out.  It's a fantastic little dish.

This chicken dish is my "go to" spring and summer dish on work nights.  Although, I have friends who have served it to company and said it got rave reviews.  The best thing about this dish, beside it being delicious, it's a simple dish to put together.  I serve it with Cilantro rice and roasted vegetables.  It makes lots of yummy sauce for the leftovers too.


2 halves of boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup milk, or cream
1/3 cup Mango Chutney (Major Grey or Trader Joe's)
1 teaspoon cumin
2 teaspoons curry
3/4 teaspoon tumeric
1 tablespoon of whole grain mustard (I use Trader Joe's)
3 tablespoons olive oil
cilantro for garnish

Heat a large skillet with the 3 tablespoons of oil.  Cut chicken into 3 or 4 pieces (ke-bob sized).  Place chicken in skillet with oil and brown on each side for 3 minutes (medium heat).
While chicken is browning, mix together all ingredients with a whisk (except for cilantro).
When Chicken has browned on both sides, turn the heat on the skillet down to low.  Add cream mixture, stir well and remove from heat.  Cover and let sit for 15 minutes.  Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve with rice and vegetables.

You can thank me later for this one.... trust me, it's that good.


Carmelized Upside Down Pear Tart ~

From Helen Rennie's cooking class, "Easy as Pie".

This dessert is so easy and can be be prepared (except for the last step) early in the day that you plan to serve it.  And it has the "wow" factor.  Plus, one can cheat as I did here and use a sheet of puff pastry and have a no fuss, but spectacular dessert that will make your friends think that you are a real pastry chef. 

Here's what you'll need.

4 ripe but firm bosch pears
1/2 stick of butter
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
2 Tablespoons of freshly minced ginger
1 sheet of puff pastry

Peel, halve and core pears.  In a 9 to 10 inch non-stick skillet, melt butter over moderate heat until foam subsides.  Stir in sugar (sugar will not be dissolved).  Arrange pears, cut side up, with the skinny end of the pear, pointing to the middle. If your pears are short and there is a circle in the center that is large, then cut a circle of the last pear half and place it in the center of the pan, cut side up.  (my pan was a nine inch, so I didn't need this step).  Cook the pears, without stirring for 10-25 minutes.  I know this is a large time span, but it depends on how long it takes the sugar to carmelize.  You don't want to rush this step, or the sugar could seize in the pan.  So, cook the pears on the slower side, just to be safe.  Cook until you see the sugar is bubbly and a deep carmel color.  Turn off heat, cool and sprinkle with cinnamon and ginger.  So, if you are ready to bake this dessert, then pre-heat your oven to 425 degrees.   If not, you can loosely put a sheet of foil over your pears and let sit on top of the counter until you are ready.  I wouldn't leave this overnight, do the same day as you prepare the pears.

Take out your sheet of puff pastry and let sit on a floured counter for a few minutes and unfold gently.  With a rolling pin, gently roll the pastry to make sure the seams are well stuck together.  Cut, the pastry to 1 inch wider than your pan.  Place the dough on top of the pears and tuck the edges of the dough into the skillet around the pears.  Bake 25-30 minutes, remove from oven and let cool for five minutes.  Take a plate that is at least an inch wider than the base of the skillet.  Place plate over the top of the skillet and flip over (I do mine over the sink). Make sure you use an oven mit in case of spilage. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving. 

I serve mine with Haagan Danz ginger ice cream, but even vanilla is fantastic.


Winter Citrus Salad - adapted from Mark Bittman

This is a fabulous winter salad, gorgeous on the plate and exciting to eat during the Winter.  So great to serve at a Holiday too!

I didn't have tarragon, so I substituted basil here in the picture.  The first time I made this salad, I used dried cranberries and mint and so far that's my favorite.  I made it for brunch both times and it was a huge hit.

Here is a video that Bittman made showing his genius.

Joining the lovely people over on Foodie Friday, at Rattlebridge Farms.


Easy Apple Tart ~ Yum!

I made this easy and delicious apple tart from The Pioneer Woman Cook's blog.  I did leave the skin on my apples and cut them paper thin.

Here's the link:


PW's Pesto, Fresh Tomato and Mozzarella Pizza ~

Nothing says Friday night better to me.  I adore pizza, grew up on store bought pizza because I lived in a City and we had a few great pizza places to order it from.  Then, we moved to New Hampshire and we only had a pizza chain that did not make great pizza at all.  So, I set out to make pizza on my own.  How hard could it be?  Well, it's not hard, but making the dough didn't appeal to me at all.  So, and trust me on this one, frozen pizza dough from the grocery store is a great source.  And so are your bakeries, or even pizza places.  Often these places sell their dough and cheaply.  In my pizza, I use a pound of pizza dough per pizza.  If it's frozen, I remove it from it's package and place it in a bowl, wiped with a little olive oil, cover with a kitchen towel and let it defrost on the counter for the day.  You want the pizza dough at room temperature.  Your dough will not stretch enough if it's cold, so let it sit and forget about it.  It will rise, but just punch the air out of it and place it on a floured counter and let it rest for 10 minutes, like this:

Next you are going to stretch your dough.  First, place the heel of your hand (palm), into the center of the dough ball and make a dent.  Then as you turn the dough around you are pushing the heel of your hand out away from the center.  Keep doing this a few times and then lift and stretch the pizza a little, fliping the dough over a few times.  It should start to stretch out and look somewhat like this:
Next, you can lift and stretch your pizza dough again and again, to get it wider.  I have my 1/2 sheet pan ready, sprinkled with a couple of teaspoons of course corn meal like this:

Pick up your pizza dough and place on the sheet pan, stretching it to almost fit the whole sheet, like this:

If you have a tiny tear in the center like I do, just patch it by pinching the dough together.  And don't worry about it, after a couple of times at dough stretching, you will feel like a pro.

I forgot a couple of things.  Before you start, pre-heat your oven to 500 degrees F. 
Slice 3-4 roma tomatoes and add a couple of pinches of kosher salt on them and let them sit for 15 minutes like this:

Get a ball of fresh mozzarella, about 6 ounces like this:
 Next ingredient you want is 3 Tablespoons of prepared pesto.  I make my own and freeze it in ice cube trays, but store bought brand is great too.
Now we are ready to spread it on the crust.  It doesn't have to cover the entire crust, just use the back of a spoon to help spread it.

Next you want to add your sliced mozzarella cheese on top.  And press it into your dough a bit, covering most of the area.
Now the same with your tomatoes.  And, I do like to pat my tomatoes with paper towels to take most of the seeds and water off of them.  Too much moisture willl make your pizza soggy.  Place them pretty close together, as they shrink while they bake.
Next, my favorite ingredient, good parmesan.  Reggiano.... and I grate it right over the tomatoes, not ahead of time.  Here I am ready with my bit chunck of cheese and trusty microplane.  Also, after the cheese, add a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper.

After the grated cheese is sprinkled all over the top, take a teaspoon of olive oil and sprinkle the top.  Trust me on this one.

Now, pop it in the oven (place rack in the middle of the oven).  I don't use a pizza stone, but you could if you like.  Set your timer for 12 minutes.  Pull the pizza out of the oven and check the bottom crust.  It should look like this, or close to it.  I use a butter knife to check.

And the top should look like this, or even better....
And another shot.  Melted cheese and all crispy, brown crust.  Here is my last rule of great pizza.  Let it sit for 10 minutes before you cut it, or slice it.  I use kitchen shears to cut mine, but a pizza wheel will work nicely to.  Mangia ~
I hope you'll give pizza making a go, because it's easy and so delicious.  And with fresh ingredients, it makes a nice meal to share with your family and friends.