Hi and thank you for visiting my blog. My name is Tina, I am 42 years old and married to a wonderful man named Robert. I live in the Cleveland, Ohio area with my husband and our two pugs, Koko and Lucy and a special kitty, named Trixie.

I am of Italian decent and love to cook not just for my family but for everyone! I have a lot of weeknight dinner guest and try to keep it casual but delicious! My Mom passed away a few years ago and was my great teacher.

In 2012 I have changed the way I eat. A real lifestyle change to be healthier, eat a nutrient dense diet and remove all processed foods, refined flours and sugars from our diet. I do cook a lot healthier than my Mom did and do a lot more vegetarian meals, poultry and fish. I'm trying to find a way to keep the traditions of family, friends and good food in my house always.

I plan to post my weekly menus, update with new recipes, health information and articles and how to eat mostly organic in an economical way. I will also periodically post personal updates of my journey to regain health and hope.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Deconstructed Chicken Pot Pie

Okay, so as much as I want to eat healthy and clean, I can't just throw food away, I guess it is my Catholic guilt and all those starving kids in China or Africa. So, this is another dinner from the clearing out the pantry resolution....and surprisingly it was actually very delicious! The girls on the What's Cooking board on the nest call all Campbell's cream soups.."Cream O Crap" and I am almost embarrassed to blog this recipe..but it was easy and rather tasty so I thought I would share the love.

Deconstructed Chicken Pot Pie

3 boneless, skinless chicken breast, diced fine
1 medium onion, diced
2 ribs of celery diced
2 cans of Campbell's Healthy Request Cream of Chicken Soup
2 cups of skim milk
1 tsp. poultry seasoning
1 tsp. black pepper
1 bag of frozen mixed veggies
1 can of Pillsbury Grands Biscuits

In a large skillet saute onion and chicken in a little olive oil until chicken is cook through (no pink showing). Add in celery and saute for about 2 -3 more minutes. Add in soup, milk and seasonings (DO NOT add additional salt...the soup has plenty in it). Bring to a simmer until the soup is incorporated, add in the mixed veggies and simmer on medium low for about 30 minutes. It should reduce and thicken nicely to the consistency of the inside of pot pie.

Cook biscuits according to package directions and serve hot.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Everything but the kitchen sink scones!

Like I said in my previous post, I am trying to clear our the pantry. We have a very small kitchen and limited cupboard space and I tend to buy a lot of variety of food. The problem is I like to eat a lot of variety and end up throwing a lot of food away. I have an excess of things left over from holiday baking and wanted to use them up. I didn't have a lot of one thing..so I made up this scone recipe. It was SOOOOOO good. These scones were moist, bright and delicious! The basic scone mix is a recipe that came with Cuisinart food processor...which also makes this recipe a quick mix.

Cranberry, Orange and Almond Scones
2 cups of flour, plus 1/4 cup more for bench
1/3 cup of sugar (I used turbinado)
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1 stick of cold butter, cut into pieces
1 cup craisins or dried cranberries
zest of one orange
1/2 cup sliced almonds
3/4 cup half and half
1 tsp. vanilla
1 egg

1 egg for brushing
Sanding sugar

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees
In the bowl of your food processor with the blade attachment, combine flour, salt, baking powder and nutmeg and pulse a few times to sift and combine. Add butter and pulse into mixture resembles small beads. Add in cranberries, zest and almond, blend slightly. In a small bowl beat egg, vanilla and half and half pour mixture slowly into the flour mixture while processing. Process until dough is formed into a ball (may be sticky and be careful not to over-knead). On a counter coated with flour, pour out mixture and form into a large disk (about 9"-10" in diameter. Add flour as needed. Place atop parchment paper on a cookie sheet and brush with egg and sprinkle with sanding sugar. Cut into 8 wedges and bake for 20-25 minutes or until browned all over.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Lame Lemonade Cake

I love lemon cake. Every year for my birthday I ask for a lemon coconut cake and Aunt Judy always makes me a delicious one! I am trying to clear out the pantry and get rid of all processed food items and I came across a lemon box cake mix. I went on AllRecipes and looked for a recipe that would use this Lemon cake mix. I found Lemonade Cake III that look really easy and good. Honestly, I haven't used a box cake mix in awhile preferring from scratch cakes, but I don't know if we are now just cake snobs, but this cake was just not up to our standard. It was okay...but I wouldn't make it again. While it wasn't the best tasting cake..it looks pretty though.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Warm up with Pasta Fagioli

This weekend is suppose to be very cruel and cold. It is going to be a busy weekend with lots to do so I want to make a big pot of soup that we can warm up for meals and snacks. My Dad never liked beans and this is not something my Mom would make on a regular basis. I remember on Sept. 11 as we, like the rest of the nation, stared into the television in disbelief my Aunt Theresa brought a pot of pasta fagioli to my Mom's house and it was all ate the whole day. My version is adapted from many trials and errors of recipes. This pot was especially delicious...I don't know how that happens...but that is the problem of never cooking with recipes.

Pasta Fagioli

1 lb. Ditalini pasta

1/4 cup olive oil

1 large onion, diced

1/2 lb. panchetta, diced fine

4 cloves garlic, diced or minced

3 ribs of celery diced

3 carrots julienned (I buy the bag and use 1/2)

3 14 oz. can of Cannelini beans

8 cups chicken stock

4 cups water

1 Tbsp. oregano

2 Tbsp. black pepper

1 tsp. red pepper flakes

1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes

In a very large stock pot saute onion and panchetta in olive oil until panchetta is cooked through. Add in the garlic, carrots and celery and dry seasonings. Cook until vegetables are just tender, about 2-3 minutes. Add in the chicken stock, I like the Kitchen Basics chicken stock it is lower in sodium than most of the brands that claim low sodium. Add in the tomatoes and bring soup to a full boil. Once boiling turn down to a simmer and simmer for about one hour, stirring occasionally. Add in beans and simmer for another hour. In a separate large pot, boil water and cook pasta according to package directions. Put pasta in a bowl and add about a cup of the soup to keep it from sticking. Serve soup with pasta and enjoy.

TIP: Many recipes tell you to cook the pasta in the soup, in my experiences the pasta absorbs all the soup and you get a more stew like consistency. Also, the pasta tends to turn mushy and overcooked if you add into the soup and re-heat it a few times. I like to keep the pasta and soup separate until serving. It works great!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Grandma Fran's Salmon & Stir Fry

In our continuing effort to eat two fish per week, I decided to try to make salmon at home. I had mixed emotion to salmon, sometimes I've liked it and other times its been too fishy tasting but I had never made it myself. Since this fish it is pretty readily available I decided to give it a try. I wasn't sure how to cook salmon so I ask my BFF , Megan, call her Grandma Franchesca and get her ideas as she is a regular salmon eater. She had a ton of ideas but I was looking for something Asian...so this is the one I went with. This was really delicious and healthful. Both Robert and I decided we liked salmon...at least this way. I will be trying more of Grandma Fran's salmon recipes as the year goes on. Oh yeah, Suki and Koko both had some and they loved it too!Grandma Fran's Salmon
2 Tbsp. Butter
2 Tbsp. Sesame Oil
2 Salmon Mignon (about 6 oz. each)
1/4 cup Teriyaki sauce
Juice of half a lemon, reserve other half for serving.

In a saute pan over medium high heat, heat butter and sesame oil. Add garlic and salmon, season salmon with pepper and brush on teriyaki sauce and squeeze a lemon over fish. Sear on one side for about 4 minutes, turn over and season the other side. Cook until salmon is no longer translucent (about 6 minutes.)

Serve with white rice and stir fry veggies. I used onion, napa cabbage, red pepper, snap peas, water chestnuts and zucchini.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Broccoli & Pasta...what could be better?

One of the reasons I love Italian food is it celebrates the fresh, goodness of the food without a lot of fluff. This meal is a perfect example of simple Italian cooking. This is another one pot meal, it is another very inexpensive meal, less than $5.00 and it is quick and easy!
Broccoli & Pasta
8 oz. pasta of choice (I used spaghetti tonight)
2 heads of broccoli, chopped into florets
4 cloves of garlic, sliced or minced
Crushed red pepper flakes (about 1/2 tsp.)
2-3 Tbsp. olive oil
Peccorino Romano or Parmesan Cheese

1) Bring water to boil in a large pot, add salt and pasta.
2) Five minutes into the cooking, add the broccoli.
3) Drain when pasta is a la dente.
4) In the pasta pot add a few tablespoons of olive oil, the garlic and crushed red pepper. Saute until garlic is just browned. Toss pasta back in and coat well.
5) Sprinkle with cheese and EAT!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Comfort Food in a One Pot Meal

When I first lived on my own and started cooking for myself this was one of those meals I loved. I used convenience foods at the time and Rice-A-Roni and pre-cooked chicken were the starts of this dish. As my palate matured and our dietary requirements changed I re-worked the original into a really good meal that is quick to cook (30 minutes or less) and a breeze to clean up.
Almost Chicken and Rice-a-Roni
3 chicken breast halves (about 1 lbs.), diced
2 Tbsp. Olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1/2 lb. vermicelli, broken into small pieces
1 cup of white rice
4 cups low sodium chicken stock
1 bag frozen mixed veggies
salt and pepper

In a dutch oven over medium high heat, heat olive oil and saute chicken and onion. Season meat with salt and pepper and cook until chicken is browned lightly and no pink shows. Remove chicken and set aside. Add rice and vermicelli and brown slightly. Add in chicken stock, the mixed veggies and the chicken to the pot; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cook about 20 minutes or until rice is cooked through and all the stock has been incorporated. Adjust seasonings to taste, we like a lot of black pepper on this dish.

TIP: Original version was one box of chicken rice a roni, one package pre-cooked tyson roasted chicken and one bag of frozen mixed veggies. Follow directions on box of rice a roni, when you add the water and seasonings add the chicken and veggies. It is quick, cheap and easy. If it didn't have a gabillion grams of sodium I would still eat it like this. :-)

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Dinner in the crockpot - Olé!

I spent the entire day hanging with my favorite aunt, Aunt Judy. I wanted to have a hot, healthy, dinner when I did got home so I decided to break out the old crockpot. I made Mojo chicken and served it on soft tortillas with all the toppings and taco rice. It was nice to come home after 8 hours and have a great smelling dinner waiting...now I know what my husband must feel like every night! This dinner tasted a lot better than it looks in the picture, I swear!Mojo Crockpot Chicken
1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breast
1 large onion sliced
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes
2 Tbsp. chili powder
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. salt
1/4 to 1/2 tsp. cayenne (to taste..we like it hot)
Juice of one lime
1 cup of water

Throw everything in to the crock pot and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours or high for 5-6 hours. Shred chicken with two forks and serve with tortillas, lettuce, pico de gallo, cheese and sour cream.

Pico De Gallo
2 Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
1/4 red onion, diced
1 clove of garlic, diced fine
1 jalepeno, diced
2 tsp. chopped fresh cilantro
lime juice

Mix and refridgerate for at least one hour for the flavors to meld together well.

Healthier Taco Rice
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 cup of brown rice
1 medium red onion, diced
1 tsp. cumin
1 Tbsp. chili powder
1 tsp. salt
3 cups of water

In a large sauce pan saute the olive oil, rice and onion until just translucent. Add in the rice and the seasonings bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a low simmer and cook for 45 minutes or until rice is just tender.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Three P Pasta - Pasta, Peas and Prosciutto

I was inspired to make this dish by Giada De Laurentis' show Everyday Italian. She made the peas and prosciutto as a side dish and I've made it as a side many times and everyone loves it. When you combine the sweetness of the peas and the savoriness of the prosciutto you get a mouthful of WOW. What I really love to do is make it a meal by adding pasta. My recipe is somewhat different but for Giada's recipe click HERE. This meal is also very quick & economical. A full meal that serves two big appetites, plus leftover for lunch the next day cost approximately $7.00 to make and 15 minutes from start to finish is a winner in my book. Pasta, Peas and Prosciutto
1/2 lb. pasta of choice
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, sliced
1/2 lb. prosciutto, sliced thin and cut into ribbons
1 lb. package frozen peas
1/4 cup Parmesan or Romano cheese
Black pepper to taste

Cook pasta according to package directions.

In a large skillet with about 3 Tbsp. olive oil saute onion until slightly translucent, add prosciutto and cook until crispy add garlic and brown slightly. Add in peas and cook until just hot. Add the cooked, strained pasta into mixture and toss together and cook for about 1 or 2 minutes until all combined. Serve hot with cheese.

TIP: Occasionally I make pasta, peas and prosciutto with an asiago cream sauce or alfredo sauce..it is really, really good but not as healthy for you.

Soup and a Fish Sangwich in a Hurry

I was thinking of my Nana today when making this cauliflower soup. She used to make the best pasta with cauliflower and the smells of this reminded me of her house when she made that. She used to always call Sandwich...Sangwich and that always cracked us up as kids. Tonight's meal was simple, quick and perfect for a weeknight meal. The soup recipe was inspired by William-Sonoma's recipe. My changes to their recipe are in red, mostly I tried to add flavor and lower the fat & sodium by eliminating the salt, heavy cream and using skim milk and bread to thicken. For the original recipe, click HERE.
Cheddar and Cauliflower Soup

2 Tbs. olive oil
1 vidalia onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, sliced
1 head cauliflower, about 2 1/2 lb., cut into florets
5 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 cups skim milk
2 tsp. Freshly ground pepper, more to taste
8 oz. white cheddar cheese,
2 slices of crusty bread diced
Salt, to taste

In a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the cauliflower, garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until light golden brown, about 5 minutes. Remove about 1 cup of the cauliflower to add back in later. Add the broth, milk and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the cauliflower is easily pierced with a fork, about 10 minutes. Add in the bread cubes and simmer for an additional 3-5 minutes until the bread is thoroughly soaked. Using an immersion blender, blend the soup to a fine puree, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the cheese and stir until melted and well combined with the soup. Add in the reserved cauliflower. Adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper. Ladle the soup into individual bowls and serve immediately with toasted bread. Serves 6 to 8.

The soup had great flavor, but the texture was a little odd. I think using the heavy cream would have fixed this...but not worth the calories and fat for a weeknight meal.

I served this soup with grilled fish sandwiches. I took fresh wild caught perch, sprinkled it with a little old bay and sprayed with my MISTO olive oil sprayer and broiled it for about 7 minutes, 3.5 minutes on each side. Served on fresh sesame seed rolls with lettuce, tomato, cheddar and homemade tartar sauce.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Tiramisù for you!

I had a volunteer meeting tonight and the dinner was spaghetti and meatballs so I offered to bring Tiramisu. Perfect ending for any meal, especially Italian. Tiramisu is one of my favorite desserts to make because it requires no baking. The origin of this dessert has many variations and no one clear originator. It is said to be made by Italian women who freshend up left over dry cake soaked in coffee to give to their husbands as they headed off to war to keep them alert. Whatever the origin, the truth is it is luscious, creamy yumminess! My recipe, like the cake, has no clear origin it has just been adapted my own to my taste over the years.
Makes one 9 x 13 pan

2 packages lady fingers (approximately 48 cookies)
6 egg yolks (Use Fresh & Organic)
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup whipping cream
21 oz. marscapone cheese (it comes in 7 oz. containers
2 cups strong cold coffee
1/2 cup Godiva chocolate liquor or coffee liquor
Cocoa powder
Instant espresso granules (optional)

1) In a cold bowl whip the egg yolks, sugar and heavy whipping cream until smooth, creamy, light yellow and fluffy, add in the marscapone cheese and whip until combined.
2) Combine coffee and liquor in a bowl.
3) Pipe in 1/3 of the cheese/cream into the bottom of the 9x 13 pan.
4) Dip lady finger into coffee/liquor mixture and place in bottom of pan and arrange until bottom is covered. Arrange cookies up the sides (as shown in picture for a fancy display).
5) Pipe in next 1/3 of the cheese/cream atop of the cookies.
6) Sprinkle with instant espresso and cocoa powder.
7) Repeat layering dipped cookies, cheese/cream and top with cocoa powder.
8) Refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving, longer is better.

TIP: Don't be afraid to break cookies in half to make sure the bottom/sides are covered.

Disclaimer: The recipe contains raw eggs which should not be consumed by young children or pregnant women.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Grilling in January!

We've been having unseasonably warm weather here in Cleveland, a balmy 50 degrees here today. So we decided to take advantage and use our new grill again. Tonight I made grilled pork tenderloin, roasted red skinned potatoes and steamed Brussels sprouts. A very basic meal, but a good and easy one for a busy weekend. I didn't have any of my usual ingredients to marinate pork and we had just had teriyaki the other day so I decided to wing a marinade.Tina's Tenderloin
2 - 1 lb. pork tenderloins
1 bottle of beer (I used Great Lakes Brewery Edmond Fitzgerald)
1 Package of Onion Soup Dry Mix
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 cloves of garlic
1 tsp. dried rosemary
1 tsp. black pepper
1) Mix all ingredients in a zip lock bag and marinate for at least 4 hours and up to overnight.

2) Grill on medium low for about 20-30 minutes or until meat thermometer reads 160 degrees in the center.

Served with Steam Fresh Brussels Sprouts (the best things ever) and Roasted Red Rosemary Skinned Potatoes.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Grilled Chicken Chopped Salads

Today we ate terribly. First we had chili dogs for lunch, then we had Arthur Treachers Hushpuppies for a pre-shopping snack and then we saw this sign that said "Hot Donuts Now" and we stopped for a post-shopping snack. So, I decided to make a pretty healthy and light dinner for a Saturday night.

Grilled Chicken Chopped Salads
2 stalks of Hearts of Romain
1 small onion, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
2 radishes, sliced thin
1/2 cucumber, diced
1 stalk of celery sliced
4 strips of turkey bacon
3 hard boiled eggs
1/2 cup shredded cheddar
3 grilled chicken breast, marinated in FF Italian Dressing.

Served with low fat Sweet & Sour Dressing

Two fish per week in 2008!

The other day I saw a nutritionist on television say that we should be eating two fish servings per week for optimal heart health. So, considering Robert and I both have heart disease in our families I thought it was about time we started eating more fish. We both enjoy fish but it always seems out of my repertoire to cook it well. Sooo, we will be doing a lot of fish experiments this year.
Teriyaki Glazed Trout

1 lbs. of fresh wild trout
1/2 cup Teriyaki Sauce
1/4 cup Brown sugar
2 Tbsp. lime juice
1 Tbsp. Sesame Seeds
1 Tbsp. fresh chopped cilantro
Salt & Pepper to taste
1) Rinse fish well in cold water, and pat dry.
2) In a zip lock baggie add fish and other ingredients. Shake well.
3) Marinate for about 30-60 minutes.
4) Place on a broiler pan sprayed with olive oil skin side down.
5) Place under broiler for about 8-10 minutes.
Serve immediately. I served this with fresh steamed broccoli and lime cilantro rice.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Guess who is back?

Me! The end of 2007 was a bit hectic, computer problems, illness and busy with other obligations. I didn't stop cooking it was just not to many "blog worthy" food post and then I was so far behind it seems more appropriate to just start off 2008 with a fresh start. I have made a commitment to update my blog at least once a week but hopefully more often as time allows.

Thanks for all the emails, phone calls and comments asking me to come back.

Happy New Year to All!!