Classic Minestrone Soup

I have made this many different ways and the other night experimented with this recipe by adding fire-roasted diced tomatoes and it was ever so delicious. Feel free to use regular diced tomatoes but the fire roasted ones gave it an extra layer of flavor that was truly delicious. I made this on the stove top and even though it’s ready in an hour I let it sit for a while on a very low flame ( more like 2 hours or more) the flavors meld best this way. This can be frozen but I freeze without the pasta , I like to add my pasta separately to the soup. It’s vegan if you don’t top with parmesan cheese and this recipe should yield at least 6 bowls of soup if not a little more. It’s a delicious vegetarian hearty warm soup that happens to be very healthy and delicious. One of my favorites.


3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided

1 medium yellow onion , chopped

2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped

2 medium ribs celery, chopped

1/4 cup tomato paste

2 cups chopped seasonal vegetables, Potatoes, yellow squash, zucchini, green beans or peas will all work here

4 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1 large can (28 oz.) diced tomatoes with their liquid, or 2 small cans –I used fire roasted diced tomatoes and they were ever so delicious

4 cups vegetable broth

2 cups water

1 teaspoon or more to taste of kosher salt

2 bay leaves

freshly ground black pepper

1 cup small pasta — like ditalini or elbows or small shells

1 can ( 15 oz) cannellini beans, rinsed and drained, or any beans 1 1/2 cups

2 cups chopped kale or baby spinach —

Freshly grated Parmesan Cheese, for garnishing

Warm 3 Tablespoons of the olive oil in a large stockpot or Dutch Oven over medium heat. Once oil is hot, add the onion, carrot, celery, tomato paste, minced garlic, and a little bit of kosher salt. Cook , stirring often until the vegetables soften and the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. Don’t burn.

Add the seasonal vegetables you’re using and oregano and thyme, cook until fragrant while stirring frequently, about 4 minutes.

Pour in the diced tomatoes and their juices, broth and water. Add some salt now , bay leaves and a pinch of red pepper flakes if you like. And add black pepper.

Raise heat to medium-high and bring to a boil, then partially cover the pot leaving a small gap for steam to escape. Reduce heat to a gentle simmer — I honestly let it simmer for up to 2 hours.

I cook my pasta in a separate small pan and set aside.

I add the beans and you can add the greens now if you like and continue simmering uncovered now, probably another 20 minutes or so till greens are tender. If you want a more classic soup omit the kale /spinach but I love it so I add it to mine —

Remove the bay leaves from the pot, taste for salt and pepper. Put some pasta into bottom of each bowl ( doesn’t matter if it’s cold because soup will heat it right up) Garnish bowls with cheese if you like or put on table for everyone to add their own.

Perfection in a bowl and may be frozen for up to 3 months — it’s better to freeze without the pasta and you’ll probably add some vegetable broth or water to it when it defrosts.

Caesar Salad Dressing

Caesar Salad Dressing

FullSizeRender (2)I have already posted this and I am  re-posting it because it sort of got lost under my other salad dressing. ( mustard Vinaigrette) so here it is all on its own with a picture all its own. it is a delicious dressing, easy to make with the mini processor. I put all ingredients into the food processor and chop and blend! so easy and so delicious! and only 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Perfection! I really do make this salad dressing all the time. Always stock anchovies, Worcestershire sauce , eggs, olive oil, lemons and Dijon mustard! Grab some fresh romaine and a protein and you have a perfect meal for lunch or dinner. This is also Joel’s favorite!


2 cloves garlic

1 egg yolk

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard (I go heaping here but I like strong Dijon flavor)

your particular liking)

freshly ground black pepper

4 – 5 anchovies ( i like it salty and use 5 )

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

3 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce

grated parmesan cheese ( fresh is always best) or shaved parmesan


First I put 2 cloves of garlic in mini food processor or regular food processor. and chop them,  then I add anchovies to the processor, and mix together. Then add lemon juice, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and egg yolk. I mix all together, and then slowly add the olive oil in, mix together, and taste for salt, because the anchovies and mustard give it  lot of salt and kick, you can always add more salt, but you can’t take it away. Add freshly ground pepper after everything else is incorporated. I don’t add any additional salt, I think it’s salty enough. It’s delicious.

Pour dressing on Romaine right before serving, incorporate well, mixing from the bottom a few times till lettuce is covered. You can add croutons if you like, they sell awesome ones these days in the market. Or make your own from stale bread!

Usually use 2 heads of Romaine for this. I’ve stretched it to 3 , but it’s really best on 2. You can double the dressing, and use 4 heads, I know they usually sell 3 heads of romaine to a bag.

Chicken Meatballs

I made these delicious meatballs last Sunday night and they are from my Italian Wedding Soup. I served with my Sunday Night Sauce ( Marinara) and Spaghetti. These are delicious, moist meatballs that I bake in the oven. I don’t fry these . I highly recommend these for pasta and of course in soup!

Perfect Meatballs and Spaghetti but made with Chicken and Sausage . If you can find Chicken Sausage use it and if you can find ground chicken made with dark meat I would recommend using that. I couldn’t find dark meat ground chicken so used what I could find and I used Hot Spicy Pork Sausage because I couldn’t find Chicken Sausage here in Colorado.

This is how I make my Chicken Meatballs. Enjoy!


1 lb. Ground chicken — I prefer ground chicken to ground turkey but you can use it as well. Again if you can get ground dark meat chicken use that.

1/2 lb. Chicken Sausage, or Pork Sausage and you can use Sweet or Hot

3 slices Bread for Bread Crumbs — using the food processor I remove crusts and using steel blade make crumbs — app. 1 cup you can use whole wheat bread or white bread — whatever you have in the house — of course you can use regular Italian Flavored Bread Crumbs but I find the bread crumbs that you buy are a little dryer than the fresh bread crumbs.

2 -3 Garlic Cloves – minced app. 2 teaspoons

1/4 cup grated Parmesan Cheese

3 Tablespoons Milk — I have 2% and it’s fine so whatever you have in the house

1 Egg – lightly beaten

1 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper ( coarse black pepper)


Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.

I use Silicone liners for baking sheet but if you don’t own these absolutely fantastic Silpat liners use parchment paper or just use cooking spray, or parchment paper or aluminum foil.

Place all ingredients for meatballs in a large bowl and mix till just mixed with a fork or your “clean” hands. I use a teaspoon and make 1- 11/2″ balls. Don’t over mix and when you make the balls don’t pack super tight. Just loosely roll balls with wet hands. Place onto cookie sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes, until cooked through and lightly browned. Set aside and add to your Sunday Night Sauce or whatever sauce you’re making and place in sauce before you’re ready to eat and heat through.

That’s it! Enjoy!

Sunday Night Red Sauce (Basic Tomato Sauce) Marinara

Sunday Night Red Sauce with Perciatelli

This is my basic go-to red sauce. You can serve it and freeze the remaining sauce for a long while and then the next time you want to use it, you merely take it out in the morning and then you’ll have dinner for that night! Tonite I am making this sauce with Chicken Meatballs made from my Italian Wedding Soup Recipe and will serve with sauce and spaghetti. A perfect Sunday night meal if you’re cooking home. This is a great meal anytime and I love that I have a container or two frozen for another meal. Sauce should keep in the freezer for at least 3 months. It never makes it for that long since I use it pretty often especially when my family comes to visit.


1 whole onion –chopped

6 cloves garlic (average size; increase or decrease depending on size of cloves), peeled and chopped

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 28oz cans of whole, peeled tomatoes with their juices (San Marzano type)– the whole tomatoes take a bit longer to break down so if you’re short on time or just don’t feel like using whole tomatoes use diced tomatoes in the 28 oz. sized can.

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

*red pepper flakes (also optional; I love the heat) if you like it Arrabiata style and I do you can 2 Teaspoons of Red Pepper Flakes but taste as you go

* Italian herbs (You can usually buy this in a jar. Spice Islands makes an excellent one–it’s a combo of oregano, marjoram, thyme, basil, rosemary and sage. It’s a perfect blend of spices in a jar and saves a whole lot of time. This is also optional.)

*Teaspoon of sugar (also optional; I use it because it removes any acidic flavors)

* Red wine (optional but if you have it, use about 1/2 cup)

* Fresh basil (optional; you might not have on hand and it’s really okay without it but so fresh tasting with it. I actually had some in my herb pot and went out and cut some, but this certainly doesn’t always happen.)

Fresh grated parmesan cheese

You can use all of these spices or as many as you like at your own discretion. Season to your taste.

Pasta of your choice (This time I used Perciatelli. It’s thick and ropey and we love it.)


Heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil in as large a saucepan as you have. It needs to be fairly large. Add the chopped onion and garlic and continue cooking on a low flame for about 10 minutes until the garlic softens and onions are translucent but don’t burn the garlic or the onions.  Add the 2 cans of tomatoes and their juice and if you have fresh basil, add a few leaves now. (A lot of the tomatoes already have basil in them.) Turn up the heat and bring the sauce to a boil. Then bring the heat down and simmer for about one hour, at the very least. I usually cook it for about 1 1/2 hours. Use the back of a wooden spoon to crush the tomatoes; continue stirring often and add as many herbs and seasonings as you like. Taste it for additional salt; throw in about a teaspoon of sugar; and if you have red wine, put in approximately 1/2 cup (and then you have my permission to drink the rest with dinner). Continue crushing down tomatoes and stir occasionally. It will thicken up and your house will smell like Italy or at least you’re favorite Italian Restaurant.

Cook pasta according to directions on the package.

I use about 8 oz pasta for the two of us

* Serves 4 as a main with 16 oz of pasta or 8 as a side dish

Sunday Night Red Sauce on Stove

Fusilli and Roasted Cauliflower

This is a wonderful recipe with very few items that deliver a full punch of flavor.  I had a head of cauliflower in the house, some capers , garlic, pasta and parmesan cheese. All the ingredients for this delicious pasta dish. It would have been delicious with some added pignoli nuts but I didn’t have any. Next time I’ll be better prepared. In any event this is what I did and while it’s not the most low in calories it’s high in flavor! Just delicious and the really good news is that Joel now loves cauliflower which is nothing short of a miracle . He ate this pasta with gusto and gave it a big thumbs up!

Perfect meatless meal for those of you who are vegetarians.

*this was for the 2 of us with a little left over will probably feed 3 perfectly -you can double up easily!


1/2 head of cauliflower –cut into small bite-sized florets

3 Tablespoons drained-capers–if you hate capers you can omit — I wouldn’t because they add a lot of flavor and zest but if you hate them just omit

1/4 cup plus 1 Tablespoon extra virgin Olive Oil

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt plus more as needed– I didn’t need extra

Freshly ground Black Pepper to taste

2 medium garlic cloves, grated or minced well

Finely grated lemon zest of 1 lemon

Fresh Lemon Juice of the 1 lemon you just zested

1 Tbsp. unsalted butter softened at room temperature

3 Tablespoons grated Parmesan Cheese plus more if you’d like at the table

8 oz. Fusilli Pasta or any other macaroni that you’d like to use–I just like Fusilli because it grabs on to the sauce well

*1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted in oven for about 3-4 minutes –I didn’t have in the house but this would add a delicious layer of crunch


Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees

In a bowl, toss the cauliflower and 2 Tablespoons of the drained capers with the 1/4 cup of olive oil , 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt and a few grinds of the pepper mill. Spread the mixture out in a single layer on a large rimmed baking sheet and roast it, tossing it occasionally, until golden brown — app. 30 minutes.

Mince the remaining 1 Tablespoon of drained capers and add to minced garlic in a large bowl and add the lemon zest, butter, remaining 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil and I added the 3 Tablespoons of Parmesan Cheese. I mashed it all up together.

Cook Pasta according to directions for al-dente and drain

When the Pasta is cooked and drained add to the bowl along with the roasted cauliflower and pine nuts with the mashed caper mixture. I squeezed in 1/2 the lemon juice to taste. Season with salt and pepper but I didn’t think it needed more because it tasted salty enough for us. Toss well and serve!

Add additional parmesan cheese at the table if you’d like.

Sexy and Sassy Shrimp for Valentines Day – Fra Diavolo

photo (3) photo (5)photo (2)OK it’s Valentines Day and that’s the reason for the sexy, and the reason it’s sassy is because this shrimp packs some heat known as Fra Diavolo sauce. What a perfect meal for Valentines Day and it’s red!!! this was so delicious and light. I highly recommend it and it really was an easy dish to make. I would say it’s downright easy to make.  I made it with Bucatini pasta, which is a thick ropey spaghetti, you can use whatever type of spaghetti you prefer or none at all. I would say that this whole dish start to finish took 1/2 hour. That’s so perfect. Buy your shrimp peeled and deveined which will save you time. Happy Valentines Day!

*don’t leave out the fresh herbs, they kick it up a notch


1 lb. large shrimp, peeled and deveined

1 teaspoon of kosher salt , plus more as needed

1/2 medium yellow onion, chopped

1 (14 oz. can) diced tomatoes

3 tablespoons olive oil, plus 2 teaspoons

1 cup dry white wine

3 garlic cloves , chopped

1/4 teaspoon oregano leaves

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper, I didn’t think this was too spicy ,  you’ll have to adjust to your own taste buds. I actually thought 1 teaspoon was pretty mild, next time I will add more, but we like it spicy.

3 tablespoons chopped fresh italian parsley leaves

3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves


In a medium bowl toss the shrimp with 1 teaspoon of kosher salt and crushed red pepper flakes. Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp and saute for a few minutes, toss around a bit and continue cooking until shrimp is just cooked through. ( you’ll want it pink and slightly curled up)

Remove shrimp to a bowl, set aside.

In the same skillet add 1 – 2 teaspoons of olive oil and add onions and saute until translucent and soft, about 5 minutes. Add the can of tomatoes with their juices, wine, garlic, and oregano.  Simmer until the sauce starts to thicken up, about 15 minutes. If sauce sits for a while it may loose some of its liquid , you can just add a little bit of water at a time to get sauce where you’d like it, but just a little at a time.  When you’re ready to serve, add the shrimp back into simmering sauce with any juices that they may have accumulated, toss to coat the shrimp, and cook for about 3 minutes . You can cut into a shrimp to make sure it’s cooked , it should be opaque not translucent. Stir in the parsley and basil. Taste for salt, and serve.

*prepare pasta according to directions and serve shrimp and sauce right on top.

Spinach and Artichoke Dip – Game Day Dip

Game Day is finally here, it’s two days away. If you’re looking for a delicious dip , this is it. This recipe belongs to my daughter Jenn, she always makes it and it is always delicious. It goes perfectly with any kind of chip , or you can toast pita bread and cut into triangles. I know it’s fattening, but what the hell ? Superbowl comes but once a year right? This is a Super Snack, and if you like you can use Lite Mayo and Lite Sour Cream, just not fat free, it won’t work out well at all. This is just a great dip to make anytime of the year, and ingredients are super easy to obtain. Just make sure you squeeze out the excess water from the spinach.


1 box or bag of frozen chopped spinach * (defrosted)  drained and squeezed out of all liquid, this is the most important thing here is to get the spinach as dry as possible.

1 Can Artichokes drained and coarsley chopped ( if you can buy them quartered already do so)

1 1/2 cups Mayonnaise ( Lite is fine)

3/4 cup Sour Cream ( Lite is fine)

3/4 cup Shredded Parmesan Cheese (not grated)

* In order to get spinach as dry as possible, I put it in colander to defrost, or leave it out for a few hours. I then literally squeeze it out to get all the liquid out of it, you don’t want it wet, the liquid will ruin the dip. So first defrost, then drain it, then wring it out with your clean hands.


Mix together all ingredients and put in a nice oven proof dish that you’ll want to serve it in and bake at 350 degrees till brown and bubbly , about 30 – 35 minutes.

Seven Layer Dip

Winter cont'd 021Seven Layer Dip 005This is a super easy and beautiful dish to entertain with. Since Super Bowl is this Sunday it would be most perfect! It’s great in a glass bowl where you can see all of the layers. I prefer to make this without meat but if you would like make one of the layers ground beef or ground turkey. Just drain the meat before adding and make sure that the meat has cooled before adding all the other ingredients. Feel free to play around with ingredients, whatever works for you. This recipe is best served at room temperature, I’ll usually make it earlier in the day and take it out of refrigerator an hour or so before serving. Another thing I would suggest is to go to a local Mexican restaurant that you like and buy your refried beans, guacamole and salsa there. It’s usually the best. Sometimes I will make my own guacamole etc. If you’d like to you can double down on all the ingredients. This will probably serve 12 as an appetizer.

Enjoy the game!


16 oz. refried beans

1 package taco seasoning

1 cup sour cream, I used light not fat-free

1 cup guacamole

1 cup salsa

1 cup Mexican blend shredded cheese

4 ounces black sliced or chopped olives

1 cup chopped tomatoes

*if adding meat use app. 1 – 1 1/2 lbs. ground beef or turkey and make sure it is drained and cooled down before adding it to dip.


Layer in this order

1. refried beans mixed with 1 package of taco seasoning – I remove 2 tablespoons of the taco seasoning for the sour cream, if you don’t it’s no biggie I just do it to give the sour cream a little punch

2. 1 cup sour cream mixed with 2 tablespoons of taco seasoning

3. 1 cup guacamole

4. 1 cup salsa

5. 1 cup Mexican cheese

7. 1 cup chopped tomatoes

*if using meat just heat up a little bit of olive oil in pan and cook meat and drain meat after cooking. You’ll want to cool meat down completely before adding to dip.

* if you like cilantro you can sprinkle on top or sliced green onions are a nice touch

*lime wedges are a nice touch as well

Cover with plastic wrap, refrigerate and remove about an hour before serving. Serve with chips for dipping and have a spoon handy to help serve it.

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies – Old Fashioned Goodness

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Misc. dinners and New Years Eve 054Misc. dinners and New Years Eve 061Oatmeal Raisin 002

I have made many oatmeal raisin cookies in my day, but this one just suited me perfectly. I like a crispy cookie and I really think the secret behind this one was refrigerating the dough. This is a combination of many years of baking oatmeal raisin cookies. No chocolate in this one and no nuts, I do it differently when I add chocolate to my oatmeal cookies. I made this for New Years Eve because if you just want a little something sweet , it’s perfect. Who doesn’t like a cookie? I actually had this dough in my freezer from another time. I just put dough into a freezer bag, if you put it in smaller amounts you’ll be able to take dough out for a dozen cookies at a time. If you would like you can double this recipe ( this recipe should make 2 dozen) This cookie bakes up in about 12 minutes, but you’ll have to check after 10 minutes. Edges are crispy and cookie is soft at the same time. Perfection!


1/2 cup ( 1 stick) unsalted butter softened

2/3 cup light brown sugar , I have to admit I only had dark brown sugar and they were perfectly fine. I think they look better with light brown sugar though.

1 large egg ( room temperature)

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon table salt ( I know it’s a lot but I like how it comes out)

1 1/2 cups rolled oats ( not instant)

3/4 cup raisins

*optional 1/2 cup chopped walnuts


In bowl of mixer, (or electric hand beater) cream together the butter, brown sugar, egg and vanilla until smooth. In another bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Add to the butter/sugar mixture, and stir in the oats , raisins and walnuts with a spoon by hand.

I usually chill my dough for a while at this point, clean up the kitchen and go about my business. When I’m ready I scoop cookies using a small ice cream scooper , and I am now addicted to the Silpat liners which I use for baking . If you haven’t bought these use parchment paper. ( I highly recommend making the investment in Silpat liners they are worth every penny)  Preheat oven to 350 degrees and when oven is ready bake for 10 – 12 minutes. I baked for about 12 minutes actually. You’ll have to check at 10 minutes depending on your oven and how cold the dough was when it went into the oven.

Cookies should be at least 2 inches apart, or they will melt into one another. They should be golden at the edges but still a little undercooked on the tops. Let them sit on the baking sheet till they cool down ( at least 5 minutes) .

Yummy! Joel loves Oatmeal Raisin Cookies, and he loved these. Great with a glass of milk, tea or coffee.

Chicken Cacciatore

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My daughter Jennifer turned me on to this delicious and I do mean delicious recipe. Original recipe from Giada de Laurentis . I took a few liberties with it and it turned out just perfectly. I usually use 4 thighs and 2 breasts with skin on and bone in, if you’re not comfortable with the skin I would take out skin but leave the bone in.  I am certain that  there is enough sauce for at least 1 more thigh and 1 more breast , there was more than enough sauce.  I served over brown rice and it was just perfect. . I used my Le Creuset pot and it was a one pot meal. Thanks to Jenn for pointing it out to me, this one is a keeper.


4 – 6 chicken thighs with skin on and bone in– I actually used 8 smallish thighs last night and no breasts this is your call

2 -3 chicken breasts skin on and bone in — if breasts are large cut in 1/2 or have butcher do it

Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper

1 box ( 8 oz.) of Mushrooms, I used sliced Cremini ( Baby Bella)

3 tablespoons of Olive Oil

all-purpose flour for dredging

1 large red bell pepper, chopped

1 onion, chopped

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

3/4 cup white wine

1 28 oz. can of diced Tomatoes with juice

3/4 cup chicken broth

1  1/2 teaspoons of dry oregano

*1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper — totally optional but added a nice little kick

*3 Tablespoons drained capers — added a wonderful layer of briny flavor also your call if you don’t like capers

*fresh basil for serving 


First thing I do is dry all the chicken pieces on paper towels, this will help hold the salt and pepper and make a crackly crust. Sprinkle dried chicken pieces with Salt and Pepper generously. Dredge the chicken pieces in flour to coat lightly. In a large heavy pot ( I used my Le Creuset) heat the oil over a medium-high flame. Add the chicken pieces to the pot and saute till just golden brown, about 5 minutes per side. If all the chicken doesn’t fit , do it in 2 batches, I did thighs and then I did breasts. Transfer the chicken to a plate with tongs and set aside. Add the bell pepper, onion and garlic to the same pan and saute over medium heat until the onion is translucent and pepper is soft, about 8 minutes. Then add in mushrooms  season with salt and pepper and cook for another five minutes.  Add the wine and simmer until reduced by half, about 4 minutes.  Add the tomatoes with their juice, broth, and oregano.  Then return the chicken to the pot and turn chicken pieces to coat in the sauce. Bring the sauce to a simmer. Continue to simmer over low-medium heat until the chicken is just cooked through, at least 30 minutes, I cooked for 40, and chicken was perfect.

Using tongs, transfer the chicken to plates. If you’d like you can boil the sauce without the chicken till it thickens, my sauce was perfectly thick. Spoon the sauce over the chicken and serve.

The last time I made this I prepared in the morning and took it out at about 4 p.m. in the afternoon — brought it to a low simmer on the stove top for an hour or so and it was totally delicious and heated through. A low simmer should be perfect and the lid of pot was open a bit for steam to get out and I stirred it every once in a while. Making the night before is also perfect! The longer the flavors marinate the better.

I served over rice but you can serve over pasta as well. Fettucine would be most perfect here.

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