Sunday, September 28, 2014

Sicilian Spaghetti Sauce

It's officially fall and today is a nice balmy day at 64 degrees so far.  I do love the cool mornings, but I'm sure that this won't last for long as we've had one hot summer...and it's not over yet.

As I'm sitting here watching Rick Steves' ITALY Cities of Dreams shows I'm taken back to my trip to Italy with my mom and the wonderful memories we made.  One of my best vacations ever!  Of course the food was outstanding.  I can remember every dish we ate all those years ago.  Now that's an impression, and that's some good food.

So I'm getting a hankering for some comfort food.  So let's make some pasta.  Fall is the perfect time for comfort food.

You may recall that a neighbor of mine is from Sicily.  She's passed on now but I treasure the time I got to spend with her hearing her stories of traveling to America at the age of 14 on a boat, landing in New Orleans!  What an adventurous woman.  And her food?  to die for.

Today's recipe is a meaty pasta sauce and is a variation of her Sicilian Spaghetti Sauce. Oh! this is soooo good.  The recipe makes quite a bit of sauce, but not to fret, this freezes wonderfully.  I've placed my extra sauce in a airtight container and it will keep in the freezer for several months to take out and have again on a cold fall night.  Perfect double duty!  It also takes a while to make this sauce so make sure to do this on a weekend.

While I've never been to Sicily it's certainly on my bucket list. Thank you Nettie (my 4th grandmother!) for all your stories and your inspiration. Nettie's tomato marinara, Sicilian Sauce is wonderful if you don't like meat in your sauce.

Manga! Manga!

Sicilian Spaghetti Sauce

adapted from my Sicilian neighbor Nettie

serves 6

1/2 lb. sweet or hot Italian sausage, ground or casings removed
1/2 lb. 10% lean ground sirloin

1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 15oz cans of good quality tomato sauce
1 6oz can of tomato paste
3 cups water
1 t salt
2 t dried parsley
1 t dried basil
1/2 t dried thyme
1/2 t red pepper flakes
Cooked spaghetti
Grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

Cook sausage and ground sirloin in a large skillet over medium heat about 6 min.  Stir meat as it cooks until it crumbles.  Add onion and garlic to the meat and continue to cook and stir another 4 minutes or until onion is soft and meat is no longer pink.  Drain if necessary.  Set aside.

In a large soup pot or Dutch oven, add tomato sauce, paste, and water.  Stir to combine.  Add your spices, salt, parsley, basil, thyme, and red pepper flakes.  Stir to combine.  Add your meat and onion mixture. Cook on medium low for about 40-50 minutes or until sauce thickens slightly.  Serve over hot spaghetti and top with grate Parmesan cheese if desired.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Fall Flavor Profiles: Pumpkin

Falling leaves, falling temperatures, and comfort food remind me of Fall!

While it's not quite fall here...(still dang hot!) it's lurking around the corner though.  I can feel it.
Or at least I think I can...

So let talk about Fall seasonal ingredients...Pumpkins are on the list today.


Small pumpkins start appearing in the markets in late September; larger varieties become available in October, although I seen quite sizeable pumpkins available already. Choose pumpkins that feel solid and heavy for their size. For cooking, choose small, sweet varieties with a thick flesh and a fairly small seed cavity, such as the Sugar Pie, Baby Bear or Cheese pumpkin. Hard shells will protect pumpkins from easy spoilage. Most will keep for a month or longer if stored in a cool, dry place. Once cut, pumpkins should be wrapped tightly in plastic, refrigerated and used within 3 to 4 days.

Or you can use canned!

Here are some of my favorite pumpkin recipes.

Chicken and Pumpkin Stew
Comfort food at it's best!

Pumpkin Pie Bars
Oh yum!!

Spicy Pumpkin Fool
A quick and easy dessert.  Kids love it!

Layered Pumpkin Bread
Oh, this is a good one...

Let's not forget pumpkin for breakfast.

Pumpkin Pie with Orange Marmalade
A special pie with a little umph.  Great for Thanksgiving!

Fall, I'm waiting for you!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Dessert To Go: S'mores in a Jar

Hi there, I'm back!

I've been having computer problems and have decided it time to retire my laptop and upgrade to something new.  I've been looking at Chromebooks lately.  Anyone have one and want to share their likes or dislikes? As such with my current laptop it takes me about 2 hours to complete one post!  So, I'm sorry that the posts slowed down, but I'm working around that with an interim fix.

Last time I brought you Dinner To Go.  This was a wonderful Asian Pasta Salad dish that we took to a concert at the Hollywood Bowl.  It was the perfect dish in every way; taste, and ease of transport.  I hope you enjoyed this and if you haven't made so right away!

Today I wanted to bring you the perfect Dessert To Go. Again, this was born out the need to create a comforting yet delicious dessert that was easy to transport.  I could have made a cake and cut it into pieces, but I wanted something a little more special.  This is my take on S'mores in a Jar!

I love putting desserts in a jar so that each person have their own individual serving.  I use these jars which you can get here.  I love the design but any regular jar or container will do.  These Peach Raspberry Crisps were baked straight in the jar and we took these to a concert several years ago. 

As chocolate was on my mind I wanted to get on the S'mores train and create a portable dish.  I wouldn't have a fire to roast marshmallows so I improvised and used the flavor of S'mores and built a wonderful layered dessert.  Using chocolate fudge pudding, graham cracker crumbs and small marshmallows worked perfectly.

Layering these ingredients in a jar, makes it cute!  It also allows you to get all the flavors in one bite.  The desserts were easy to pack and totally hit the spot during the concert intermission.  We even got comments from our neighbors on how pretty the dessert was, and what a great idea to use the jars.


S'mores in a Jar

serves 4

1 3.9 oz box of Jello instant pudding, chocolate fudge flavored
2 cups 2% milk
2 sheets of graham crackers, crushed
1/2 cup of miniature marshmallows
4 mason or other canning jars - 8 oz.

Make the pudding according to the directions on the box and refrigerate until set and ready for use.

To assemble jars:  Evenly distribute half of the graham cracker crumbs in the bottom of 4 mason jars.  Divide half of the pudding among the four jars layering on top of the crumbs. Divide all of the marshmallows on top of the pudding.  Follow with the remaining pudding divided equally and topping with the remaining crumbs.

Secure lid and keep cold until ready to serve.  NOTE:  if packing these for travel make sure that they are packed with ice packs and that they stay upright.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Dinner to Go: Asian Pasta Salad with Hoisin Grilled Chicken

Last week MGG and I got to do one of our favorite summer things...taking in a concert at the Hollywood Bowl!

It was a night of Hitchcock.  There is nothing better than listening to music under the stars.  The program was absolutely amazing.  They showcased 17 Hitchcock movies taking popular scenes from each and showed them on the big screens while the LA Phil Orchestra played the music in time with the movie. FABULOUS!!!  

We arrived early to eat alfresco while the sun was setting. Sometimes we buy hot food to share for our picnic, but quite often I cook our meal, planning out a great dinner and dessert.

This time I decided to fix a dish that would be delicious either cold or at room temperature.  Flipping through my memory I recalled a dish that a wonderful chef taught me that I fixed for a concert my mom and I attended.  This Asian Pasta Salad is filled with good things such as Hoisin flavored chicken, carrots, and strips of crunchy sweet red peppers among spaghetti.  This is all tossed in a Ginger Cilantro dressing that is to die for.  This meal is really all about the me and don't skip this part!

It's the perfect item to pack in individual containers making it travel ready and also easy to eat.  I served it along with some small appetizers to round out the meal.  MGG was bragging about the flavors of this dish for about 1 week. Now that's a compliment!

So if you are eating under the stars, in a park, or the backyard, this dish is perfect.  


Asian Pasta Salad with Hoisin Grilled Chicken
source:  slightly adapted from Phillis Carey "Fast and Fabulous Summer Chicken"

serves 4

4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 c vegetable oil
2 tablespoons Hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon dry sherry
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
12 oz spaghetti, uncooked
1 tablespoon Asian sesame oil
1 small red bell pepper, cut into julienne strips
1 small carrot, cut into julienne strips

Ginger-Cilantro Dressing:
2 garlic cloves, peeled
3 slices fresh ginger, peeled
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 cup rice vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil


Trim chicken and pound to an even 1/2 inch thickness.  Season with salt and pepper.  Place in a zip lock bag.  In a small bowl, whisk together the vegetable oil, Hoisin sauce, sherry, soy sauce and ginger.  Pour over chicken, turning to coat.  Let chicken stand at room temperature for 30 minutes or refrigerate for 2-3 hours.

For dressing, using a mini food processor add garlic and ginger and process to mince.  Add the cilantro, vinegar, mustard, sugar, and oil.  Puree until well blended. Remove chicken from marinade and grill for 3-5 minutes per side or until chicken is cooked through.  Set aside to cool slightly and then cut into thin strips.

Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti until tender.  Toss noodles with sesame oil in a large bowl.  Add the peppers and carrots to the warm noodles.  Set aside for a few minutes to cool slightly.  Add enough dressing to coat noodles well. Serve at room temperature or may be served cold.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Grilled Chicken with Tomato-Avocado Salad

Grilled Chicken with Toamto-Avocado Salad takes advantage of summer's fresh corn and tomatoes (Yum!) and pulls together a dinner that is light and bold with flavors! - Slice of Southern


Today's dish screams summer.  

We're taking advantage of our warm evenings and grilling our dinner for a night under the stars with good food and good company.

I encourage you to take advantage of the last summer bumper crop of corn and tomatoes (Yum!) and pull together a dinner that is fresh and light. This dish was adapted from a Cooking Light recipe of the same name, and is perfect to throw together this weekend.  

Grilled Chicken with Toamto-Avocado Salad takes advantage of summer's fresh corn and tomatoes (Yum!) and pulls together a dinner that is light and bold with flavors! - Slice of Southern

The grilled chicken is flavored with a spicy rub that's easy to put together.  The salad is fresh with several types of tomatoes, avocado, and corn.  Top it with a homemade dressing made with buttermilk.  It's the perfect topping to the salad.  

Grilled Chicken with Toamto-Avocado Salad takes advantage of summer's fresh corn and tomatoes (Yum!) and pulls together a dinner that is light and bold with flavors! - Slice of Southern

Serve your fabulous dinner with a mixed fruit salad to keep the fresh theme going.

Grilled Chicken with Toamto-Avocado Salad takes advantage of summer's fresh corn and tomatoes (Yum!) and pulls together a dinner that is light and bold with flavors! - Slice of Southern

The result?  Killer dinner!!!  Your family and guest will think you are a genius! (shhh!  don't tell them how easy this was...)

Hope you enjoy this dish and take time to savor the end of summer.

Grilled Chicken with Tomato-Avocado Salad

serves 4

For the Dressing:
1/4 cup nonfat buttermilk
3 tablespoons canola mayonnaise
2 tablespoons minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon minced shallots
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
1 garlic clove, minced

For the Chicken:
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, pounded thin
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon onion powder
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon chipotle or ancho chile powder

For the Salad:
2 ears yellow corn, shucked
1 yellow heirloom tomato, sliced
1 red heirloom tomato, sliced

1 orange heirloom tomato, sliced
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 sliced peeled ripe avocado

Preheat grill to high heat. Combine first 9 ingredients in a mason jar, shake to combine. Chill buttermilk mixture until ready to serve.

Combine oil, onion powder, cumin, and chipotle or ancho chile powder. Rub evenly over chicken. Arrange chicken and corn, on grill rack; grill 8 minutes or until done, turning chicken once and corn occasionally. Remove from grill; let stand 5 minutes. Cut corn kernels from cobs.

Slice chicken. Arrange on a platter or individual plates.  For the salad, arrange tomatoes on a platter alternating colors, and adding cherry tomatoes randomly.  Top with corn and avocado evenly on the platter.   Drizzle with dressing and serve.  


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