Archive for February, 2008

Italian Wedding Soup


Recently, my mother was over my house skimming my cookbooks. She asked if I had a recipe for Italian Wedding Soup. I knew I had seen one in Giada DeLaurentis’ book, Giada’s Family Dinners, so I grabbed it off my shelf and she copied it down. Fast forward a few weeks later and I’m not feeling so hot with some sort of flu (despite the darn flu shot!) and I want nothing more than a big bowl of soup. I really wanted Chicken Noodle Soup but I was in no shape to cook so I headed over to Costco and bought a tub of their soup. No good. Very disappointing and very peppery.

A few days later, I’m starting to feel a little bit better and I still want some soup. That Costco Chicken Noodle Soup is fresh in my mind so I can’t even think about making my own Chicken Noodle Soup. I remember now that recipe for Italian Wedding Soup. As I start flipping through Giada’s book, I also notice on the preceding page a recipe for Escarole and Bean Soup. I keep flipping back and forth trying to decide which one to make. I really wanted some meatballs but I wanted that escarole with beans. So, I did what any cook would do. I combined the two and made my own Frankenstein of a soup.

The two soups are very similar with a chicken broth base. I am printing below the recipe for Giada’s Italian Wedding Soup. But here you can find her recipe for the Escarole and Bean Soup. As an added link, here’s Rocco “hottie” Despirito’s recipe for Italian Wedding Soup.

What I did differently is start out by sauteing some diced carrots, onions and carrot in olive oil and caramelizing for several minutes. I then add the escarole for one to two minutes before adding the broth. I also pan-fry the meatballs until they are almost done before adding to broth. I just do not like adding meatballs raw to soup or sauces. Just my thing. I also add a can of rinsed cannellini beans. You could even add some small pasta to this to make it even more heartier.

I loved this soup. In fact, I’ve made it again since these pictures were taken. It’s delicious and filling. The flavors blend very well together and the addition of the egg and cheese at the end is a nice touch.

Overall rating – 5 stars

Italian Wedding Soup

Recipe courtesy Giada De Laurentiis

1 small onion, grated
1/3 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 large egg
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1 slice fresh white bread, crust trimmed, bread torn into small pieces
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
8 ounces ground beef
8 ounces ground pork
Freshly ground black pepperSoup:
12 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 pound curly endive, coarsely chopped (1 pound of escarole would be a good substitution)
2 large eggs
2 tablespoon freshly grated Parmesan, plus extra for garnish
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
To make the meatballs: Stir the first 6 ingredients in a large bowl to blend. Stir in the cheese, beef and pork. Using 1 1/2 teaspoons for each, shape the meat mixture into 1-inch-diameter meatballs. Place on a baking sheet.To make the soup: Bring the broth to a boil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the meatballs and curly endive and simmer until the meatballs are cooked through and the curly endive is tender, about 8 minutes. Whisk the eggs and cheese in a medium bowl to blend. Stir the soup in a circular motion. Gradually drizzle the egg mixture into the moving broth, stirring gently with a fork to form thin stands of egg, about 1 minute. Season the soup to taste with salt and pepper.Ladle the soup into bowls and serve. Finish soup with parmesan cheese if desired.

Recipe Summary
Difficulty: Easy
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Yield: 8 servings

User Rating: 5 Stars

Episode#: EI1D13
Copyright © 2006 Television Food Network, G.P., All Rights Reserved



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I haven’t done one of these things in awhile, but I like them and it gives me a break from sorting through my horrendous food pictures trying to find a decent one to write a post about 🙂

Robin over at Caviar and Codfish, a fellow New Jerseyan with a great blog I read quite often, tagged me to write five random things about myself. So here goes…

1.  I am a complete Disney nerd. That’s right. For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of hearing me talk endlessly about Disney, just don’t get me started. I’ll have you talked out of any vacation you are going on and end up at MCO (Orlando International Airport) with reservations at Scopa Towers (Pop Century) and ADR’s(dining reservations) at Le Cellier for some cheddar cheese soup. I even freelance write for some Disney-related websites listed on my blogroll here….

2. I am also a complete Jane Austen nerd. I am always reading either one of her novels (right now Sense and Sensibility) or something related to herand her works. I love almost every adaptation of her novels to films (particularly the BBC’s 6-hour version of Pride and Prejudice, because you KNOW Colin Firth IS Mr. Darcy) and I’ve recently ordered some Jane Austen bumper stickers from this site. You might have noticed some Jane Austen sites on my blogroll too…

3. I’m on Weight Watchers. Doh! Yes, I’ve mentioned on the blog I eat low-carb/low-calorie but I didn’t want to turn readers away if they thought it was a diet blog. Because, hey, let’s face it, sometimes I make and eat very bad things 🙂 But I’ve been on a diet for a year now (or just this particular latest diet since it seems like I’ve been on a diet since I was 12…)  and started WW last summer when the low-carb/low-calorie one was taking forever! In the last year, I’ve lost 32 pounds and am shooting for another18…Black bikini for the summer in sight….sigh….

4. I am a part-time ballroom dance instructor. Yup, it’s true. I’ve been involved with dancing my whole life. First as a wee tap and jazz dancer, then as a cheerleader, then did some choreography for cheer stuff and dance stuff, then was a professional cheer/dance judge and then finally I took up ballroom dancing last year. Well, this past January, my dance studio asked me to train to become an instructor! So for the last two months, I’ve been teaching/training as a ballroom instructor. I even have my own beginner salsa class I teach 🙂

5. I’m going to see Debbie Gibson, ahem, Deborah Gibson in concert. Yes! Laugh if you must, but she was the first concert I ever saw when I was 13 with my BFF Sue. And recently I found out she is playing for the entire month of May at Harrah’s in Atlantic City. So what’s a girl to do? Oh, we are so having a girls night. A group of my friends are all trying to go down to see this show. haha….

So there’s the most random things I could think of that might peak your interest.

So here’s some other peeps I am tagging from some blogs I enjoy (which you should all check out)….

The Home Cook over at A Taste of Home Cooking

Marilyn over at Exit 117A

Nicole at Nic in the Kitchen

And my buddy over at Black Coffee & Bourbon….

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Black Beans and Rice


One of my favorite things to make when I’m short on time and ingredients is Black Beans and Rice. I’ve been throwing this dish together since I was in high school and find it to be one of my comfort foods. Typically, beans and rice is a side dish, but when I make this, it usually ends up being the main course with some salad. I’m sure there are more authentic ways to make this dish, but over the years I’ve refined my take on it until I found just the right mix of ingredients.

One of the most important ingredients in the dish is the addition of Goya’s seasoning packet, Sazon, which are seasoning packets. Sazon not only gives dishes a nice flavor, but also will turn the dish, a pale yellow-orange color.

This is a great little side dish or main course if you looking for a vegetarian meal. I tend to keep all of the ingredients in stock so it’s a quick and easy dish and I think most of you will probably have these ingredients on hand as well. This is something you could also add some diced, cooked chicken too as I have done in the past. It may not look like much from the pictures, but the flavors are all there!

Overall rating – 5 stars

Black Beans and Rice

1 onion, diced

2-3 cloves of garlic, crushed

2-3 T. olive oil

1 packet Goya Sazon

1 can Black Beans, do not rinse

2 cups rice, I use brown

1 tsp. butter

In a large skillet, heat 1 T. olive oil and add onion and slowly caramelize for 8-10 minutes. Add garlic in the last minute. Add black beans and continue to cook over low heat for 4-5 minutes. Meanwhile, cook rice according to directions. Once drained, add butter and Goya Sazon seasoning packet and mix well. Add this to the skillet and let cook for one more minute. Mix all ingredients well. You may also sprinkle some cilantro or parsley on top.

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Denino’s Pizza, Aberdeen, NJ


The hardest thing about moving is finding good, basic take-out food – pizza, Chinese, diners, etc. I’ve been living in upper Monmouth County, NJ for a little over a year now and have been on a quest to find excellent pizza. I’ve tried at least a half a dozen pizza joints in surrounding towns and none were quite right. Many had way too thick crusts or the sauce was off or the cheese tasted odd. I grew up in Northern NJ, in predominantly Italian neighborhoods, so there was never a shortage of a good pizzeria. I like my pizza thin with just the right amount of sauce and cheese and not too much oregano.

So what’s a girl to do? I can’t try every pizza place! I decided to post on They have a  restaurant forum and I immediately got a few responses. The one that intrigued me the most was the recommendation of Denino’s Pizzeria in Aberdeen. Apparently, Denino’s is a famous pizza joint in Staten Island and they decided to branch out and open a second place in Aberdeen about a year ago.

Well, my first trip was on a Saturday afternoon. I stopped in to get a couple of slices to bring home. The place was packed. Good sign. I brought it home and I thought it was great. Perfectly thin-crust, nice amount of cheese to sauce ratio. The sauce was great and the cheese tasted like real cheese.

Next test was ordering a pie. I’ve been burned a few times before. Having a good slice, only to go back for a mediocore pie. I know, makes no sense. A few weeks later, I ordered a pie at Denino’s, half plain, half onion, on a Saturday night. When I went to pick it up, again the place was packed! When I got home we devoured this pizza! It’s not the best pizza I’ve had in my life, but I will say it’s the best pizza I’ve had in Monmouth County. We’re sticking to this place for now. I even convinced my mother to order a pie recently and they agreed, it was very good.

Overall, I’m completely satisfied with Denino’s pizza. I’ve been back a few times since then and it’s been consistently great. If you’re looking for a great pizza joint in upper Monmouth County, I suggest you give Denino’s a try.

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Ricotta Cake

Please welcome once again, guest blogger, my dear cousin Liz. This time she shares with us a recipe for Ricotta Cake. No pics this time folks! Liz told me it was gobbled up so fast in her home there was no time for pics! Without further adieu….

Have you ever been so “gung-ho” about holiday baking that you totally go overboard and buy too many baking needs in anticipation of making all of the cookies, cakes and desserts you clipped, circled, highlighted or tore out of the newspaper? Then, due to time constraints and holiday shopping, only accomplish about two recipes. Yes, that was me this holiday season. So in finding ways to use my “leftover” ricotta cheese in a race to beat its expiration date, I found this easy recipe for Ricotta Cake. I don’t have too much faith in recipes that cut corners, but much to my surprise it was delicious. Even my kids couldn’t get enough. In variation, you can use a chocolate cake mix or try others as well.

Ricotta Cake

1 (18.25 oz) pkg yellow cake mix (I used the butter recipe yellow)
24 oz. ricotta cheese
3/4 cup white sugar
3 eggs
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
1/8 c. confectioners sugar for dusting

1. Preheat oven to 350. Lightly grease one 9×13 in. pan.

2. Make yellow cake mix according to package directions. Pour batter into greased 9×13 in. pan.

3. Mix together ricotta cheese, sugar, eggs, and vanilla extract. Spoon over cake batter.

4. Bake for about 45 min. Sprinkle cake with confectioners sugar when cool.

Recipe from

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Hunter’s-Style Chicken with Rosemary


So I’ve been sick all week with an upper respiratory infection and fever and have been eating a lot of soup. It’s so bad I actually went to Costco and bought chicken soup instead of making it on my own. Ah, what can you do when you feel like death? Write. Well, at least until the couch calls me back to it. Here’s another great recipe from Lidia Bastianich for Hunter’s-Style Chicken with Rosemary (aka Chicken Cacciatore). It’s from Lidia Bastianich’s cookbook, Lidia’s Italy. You can find some of her recipes online here, but not this one.

This is another one of Lidia’s recipes that is simple and flavorful with few ingredients. I prefer it with some sort of pasta, but Lidia suggests polenta. Either way it’s great. Lidia also mentions that when you see lots of fresh rosemary in the dish, you know it’s from Tuscany. Finally, she suggests making it in advance as it gets better as it sits.

(oh, yeah, Happy Valentine’s Day!)

Tutti il tavolo a mangiare!

Overall rating – 5 stars

Hunter’s-Style Chicken with Rosemary

4 pd chicken cut into 8-10 pieces (I used boneless, skinless breasts)

1 1/2 tsp. sea salt or kosher salt or to taste

1/2 c extra virgin olive oil

8 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced in half

2 short branches fresh rosemary with lots of needles

1/2 tsp. peperoncino flakes or to taste

4 cups or a 35 oz can of canned Italian plum tomatoes, preferably San Marzano, crushed by hand

Rinse chicken and pat dry. Season with salt. Pour olive oil in pan and set over medium high heat. Place chicken skin side down in pan to brown for 2 to 3 minutes. Turn them over and brown another 2 to 3 minutes. Scatter the garlic into the hot fat in between chicken and then drop in rosemary stems and sprinkle peperoncino over.

Keep turning chicken until nicely browned all over, 10 minutes or so, then pour in tomatoes slowly. Slosh the tomato can with a cup of water and pour that in too. Sprinkle another 1/2 tsp salt, raise heat, and turn and stir chicken in juices as they come to a boil.

Cover pan, leaving slightly ajar. Adjust heat to maintain steady bubbling. Cook for 20 minutes stirring occasionally and turning chicken. Remove cover and cook another 20 minutes until chicken is tender and cooked through.


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Roasted Fingerling Potatoes


I tend to not focus on side dishes and prefer to devote my time and energy to the main part of the meal. So often, my side dishes are just plain veggies,brown rice, couscous, you get the idea. But when I am craving some potatoes I think they are one of the simplest items to prepare with just a little work. Take these Roasted Fingerling Potatoes. There is only a handful of ingredients, a small amount of prep time, a toss in the oven, and they’re done. I like to cut the larger ones in half so the skins get a little crispy. They taste wonderful and look perfect next to many meals. Serve with roasted chicken, a grilled steak, anything!

Overall rating – 5 stars

Roasted Fingerling Potatoes

2-3 pounds of fingerling potatoes, rinsed and peel of any bad spots

2-3 sprigs of fresh rosemary

sea salt, freshly ground pepper, extra virgin olive oil

Rinse and pat dry potatoes. Cut in half bigger ones and throw all in large mixing bowl. Rinse and dry rosemary and remove sprigs and chop into smaller pieces. Toss into bowl with potatoes. Add salt, pepper and olive oil to bowl. I use about 1/4 to 1/3 cup of olive oil. Mix all ingredients together and place on roasting sheet. Place in oven at 400 for about 20 – 25 minutes until knife goes softly through a larger potato.

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