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160 posts categorized "12) My Eastern European & Italian Heritages"


~ Lemon-Pepper Pasta & Oodles of Zucchini Noodles w/Butter, Basil, Peperoncino & Parmgiano-Reggiano~

Pasta and noodles. Noodles and Pasta. It's hard for most of us to resist either in any shape or form any time of the year. Both staples in the world's kitchens, over the years, on our travels, I've experienced myriads of cultural versions. To the best of my recollection, I've never encountered a pasta or noodle dish that I didn't like, and, I don't think I've ever observed anyone eat either and walk away in a bad mood. Pasta and noodles are quintessential feel-good fare. What exactly is the difference between noodles and pasta? The difference between noodle dough and...... View full recipe for "~ Lemon-Pepper Pasta & Oodles of Zucchini Noodles w/Butter, Basil, Peperoncino & Parmgiano-Reggiano~"


~ My Electric-Extruder Pasta-Machine Pasta-Dough ~

I love my pasta machine. By today's standards, it's is a dinosaur. It celebrated its 25th birthday over the weekend. I celebrated my 60th birthday over the weekend. It was my 35th birthday present. How's that for Kitchen Countertop Appliance Statistics 101. I'm hoping "they still make 'em like they used to" because the Italian-made Simac is an amazing piece of high-quality equipment. It has earned a place on my kitchen counter right next to my Simac gelato machine. No store-bought pasta product compares to scratch-made pasta in taste or texture. I've hand-mixed plenty of pasta dough and a put...... View full recipe for "~ My Electric-Extruder Pasta-Machine Pasta-Dough ~"


~ Golden Goddess: Shiro Plum & Egg Custard Tart ~

Plums fall into two categories: European and Japanese. Did you know that? I never knew that. I grew up thinking all plums were blue-ish purple and they showed up in farmers markets in August. Mostly I remember my mom putting them in a bowl on the kitchen counter for us to snack on 2-3-4 at a time -- nobody can eat just one plum. My grandmother turned them into thick jam, which we adored slathered on crepe-like pancakes called palacinki. And -- you can't grow up in an Eastern European house without acquiring a taste for slivovitz (plum brandy). Mel...... View full recipe for "~ Golden Goddess: Shiro Plum & Egg Custard Tart ~"


~ Hungarian Sour Cherry Soup (Hideg Meggyleves) ~

In my opinion, sour cherries are one of the most regal, refined fruits you will ever eat. My grandmother simply referred to these ruby-red jewels as "pie cherries", but, if you are on a quest to purchase them, they are sometimes marketed as "tart cherries". Joe and I live at a high elevation here in Central Pennsylvania, which I have come to learn is ideal for them, which is why our tree thrives, and thrives, and thrives. That said, even in this ideal environment, the sour cherry season is quite brief, with the cherries being ready to pick at the...... View full recipe for "~ Hungarian Sour Cherry Soup (Hideg Meggyleves) ~"


~ Cheese-Filled Blintzes with Sour-Cherry Topping ~

Whoa Nellie -- please hold -- wait a minute -- is Mel making blintzes or blini? That's a valid question with an all-too-often misunderstood answer. Most experts will tell you the name is used interchangeably all over Central and Eastern Europe, with "blinchick" being the generic word for pancake in general, and, "blintchiki" being the plural. The slang terms "blintz" and "blin" were born from those words, and, nowadays, here in the USA, what they're called depends upon where your European ancestors came from, where they settled when they immigrated to America, and, who your American grandma got her recipe...... View full recipe for "~ Cheese-Filled Blintzes with Sour-Cherry Topping ~"


~Eliot's Angel Hair Pasta with Creamy Vodka Sauce~

Eliot, our middle son, developed a somewhat serious interest in cooking around the age of fourteen (1985-ish). I allow myself to believe it had something to do with me, but, if there is one thing I have learned over the years it's: you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink. Not the case with Eliot and cooking. For the most part, he had a natural instinct for combining the right spices with the right ingredients. When he got old enough to take on a Summer job, he became a waiter in an upscale, downtown Italian...... View full recipe for "~Eliot's Angel Hair Pasta with Creamy Vodka Sauce~"


~ Farfalle w/Roasted Asparagus & Grape Tomatoes ~

Today we enjoyed our first thick, juicy outdoor-grilled steak of the Spring season. Yes, Joe does grill off-and-on throughout the Winter, but, there's just something celebratory about the official opening day of grill season. This simple, straightforward side-dish was the only thing I needed to turn a steak-on-a-plate into our entire meal, and, we gobbled it all up. While this pasta dish goes great with chicken or shrimp tossed into it, I enjoy it the most served next to a steak. That said, it is also well-balanced enough to be served "as is" as a dang-good meatless meal. This has...... View full recipe for "~ Farfalle w/Roasted Asparagus & Grape Tomatoes ~"


~ Macadamia-Mango, Coconut-Rum Banana-Bread ~

From the day I got married, I began celebrating two Easter holidays. One for Joe's loud, Italian-Catholic family and one for my quiet Russian, Eastern Orthodox family. While the theme for both is the same, the foodie traditions are very different. To make a long story as short as possible, they fall on different dates because the Orthodox religion follows the Julian calendar (the calendar of Julius Caesar that was introduced in 46 B.C.), and, the Catholic church follows the Gregorian calendar (instituted by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582). The Pope's reformed calendar was slow to catch on in religions...... View full recipe for "~ Macadamia-Mango, Coconut-Rum Banana-Bread ~"


~ Creamy Smashed Cheddar 'n Mint Gold Potatoes ~

Lots of people add cheddar cheese to mashed or smashed potatoes. It's a well-documented fact that "everthing tastes betta with chedda". That said, if you've never tasted cheddar potatoes with dried mint flakes added to them, I implore to take a page out of my playbook. Don't roll your eyes. I've served these potatoes to a couple of schooled restaurant chefs who have changed their menus to serve "Mel's potatoes" with lamb or lamb chops. You gotta trust me on this one! I didn't invent the pairing of potatoes, cheese and mint. My Eastern European ancestors did that for me....... View full recipe for "~ Creamy Smashed Cheddar 'n Mint Gold Potatoes ~"


~ Aurora's 'Famous' Chicken Pepperoni Seems Like Old Times (Dinner and a Funny Movie Review too!) ~

I've got a movie on my menu tonight. Neil Simon's 'Seems Like Old Times' (starring Chevy Chase, Goldie Hawn and Charles Grodin) is a feel-good blast from my retro 1980's past. I'm not usually a fan of romantic comedies, but, this one keeps me laughing out loud from start to finish every time I see it. It's no secret that in order to write this blog and do my TV segments I work almost nonstop in my kitchen. Having always been a movie buff, movies on my kitchen TV keep me company throughout the entire day. Seems Like Old Times...... View full recipe for "~ Aurora's 'Famous' Chicken Pepperoni Seems Like Old Times (Dinner and a Funny Movie Review too!) ~"


~ My Grandma's Butter-Braised Cabbage & Carrots ~

Both of my grandmothers' kitchens were close to home -- dad's mom lived 4-5 miles from us, mom's mom lived 9-10. We visited them both often, and, both of them every Sunday -- lunch at mom's mom's, dinner at dad's mom's. Until I was age ten or eleven and invited to my girlfriend Cathy's house for Sunday dinner, I assumed everybody's house smelled like cabbage on a Sunday. We Eastern Europeans cook "Sunday cabbage" like Italians cook "Sunday gravy"! Braised cabbage is buttery & melt-in-your mouth tender! I like cabbage a lot, but I wouldn't say I'm "crazy for cabbage"....... View full recipe for "~ My Grandma's Butter-Braised Cabbage & Carrots ~"


~ A Dream of a Creamy Caraway-Spiced Carrot Soup w/Carrot Coins & Caraway-Seeded Rye Croutons!!! ~

I believe I've loved carrots since the day my mom fed me my first spoonful of Gerber strained carrots -- right out of the jar. Next to onions and celery, the carrot gets used often in my kitchen. I'll eat carrots raw, boiled, sauteed, steamed or roasted. I like them candied, pickled or marinated. I have no ax to grind with folks using canned or frozen carrots as a time saver. I love carrots in soups, stews and braises, I make a great carrot souffle, and, let's not forget carrot cake! Did you know that besides being a great source...... View full recipe for "~ A Dream of a Creamy Caraway-Spiced Carrot Soup w/Carrot Coins & Caraway-Seeded Rye Croutons!!! ~"


~ Rich & Creamy Mushroom & Baked Potato Soup ~

If you are a mushroom lover, this rich, creamy and hearty version of mushroom soup is comfort food for a cold day. A big bowl along with a slice of warm bread with a slather of sweet cream butter is a delicious dinner. A small bowl with a crouton floating on top is a sumptuous start to a delicious dinner or a lovely lunch. My recipe is a spin-off from an Eastern European recipe that many refer to as "Russian Mushroom and Potato Soup". I can't use that title. Similar versions of this humble, rustic, peasant soup appear in cold-weather...... View full recipe for "~ Rich & Creamy Mushroom & Baked Potato Soup ~"


~ Decadent & Divine Silky Shiitake Mushroom Soup~

I was a child 'shroomer. I loved mushrooms. Faced with a plate of sauteed mushrooms or a bowl of mushroom soup, most kids I knew would cry or retch, or both. Mushrooms tend not to bring out the best in children. Not me. I'm pretty sure it was because 'hunting 'shrooms' (picking mushrooms) was one of the things my dad and I did together. We went 'shrooming together. Interestingly enough, I was not an outdoors kinda kid. My mother always called me "her little mushroom" because I preferred to stay in my neat and organized pink bedroom quietly reading, drawing...... View full recipe for "~ Decadent & Divine Silky Shiitake Mushroom Soup~"


~ Philadelphia's Famous Cheesesteaks a la Melanie~

If you have never eaten a cheesesteak sandwich in Philadelphia proper, you've never eaten a cheesesteak. Like the soft pretzel, the iconic Philly cheesesteak just tastes better in The City of Brotherly Love. Whether you're standing outside on a sticky-hot sidewalk next to a street vendor in Summer, or, standing inside against a counter in a sweaty-windowed sandwich shop in Winter, the experience, on several levels, cannot be duplicated elsewhere. Many have tried, many have come remarkably close, but everyone agrees: Philadelphia owns this sandwich. A bit about the Philadelphia Cheesesteak: Back in the 1930's, Philadelphians Pat and Harry Olivieri,...... View full recipe for "~ Philadelphia's Famous Cheesesteaks a la Melanie~"


~ Black Pudding, Boudin Noir, Bloedwurst, Verivorst, Sanguinaccio, Morcilla, Kishka (Blood Sausage)!!! ~

Almost every country has a name for it, and, in any language, unless you've actually tasted it by force or otherwise, the mere idea of blood sausage is repulsive -- these two words can screw you up for life. I had a Ukranian uncle in Trenton, NJ. He ate kishka sauteed in a skillet with cabbage and potatoes -- I think Uncle Al added some form of red beets to it too, but, I didn't stick around the stove long enough be certain. I ran. As a child, it was a horrifying experience! Time marched on, I grew up, and,...... View full recipe for "~ Black Pudding, Boudin Noir, Bloedwurst, Verivorst, Sanguinaccio, Morcilla, Kishka (Blood Sausage)!!! ~"


~ Savory Pecorino & Pepper Mini-Pizzelle Snackers~

'Tis the season for cookie baking, and, if you own a pizzelle iron, it undoubtedly is or will be out on your kitchen counter. Pizzelle, which is plural for pizzella (pronounced "pit-sell" with a "ts" sound like in "pizza") are large, thin, crisp, embossed wafer cookies that are formed using a special iron. It is said they were born in central Italy, in or around Rome, and were served to honor important government celebrations and family weddings because they were so beautiful to look at (not to mention delicious). Historically, each family's pizzelle iron was embossed in the center with...... View full recipe for "~ Savory Pecorino & Pepper Mini-Pizzelle Snackers~"


~ When in Rome, start with: Bucatini all'Amatriciana ~

Amatrice is a town in the mountainous northeastern panhandle of Lazio, near Abruzzo (central Italy). "All' Amatriciana" means "made in the style of Amatrice and sugo Amatriciana is one of the oldest Italian sauces. It's a humble, rustic pasta dish commonly found on the restaurant menus of Rome. This immortal sauce is bold-flavored, and, like many Italian classics, it is easily prepared with a short list of ingredients, but, the list is specific and the dish is only as good as the quality of said ingredients. Recipes vary, so there is some room for improvisation, but this is seriously not...... View full recipe for "~ When in Rome, start with: Bucatini all'Amatriciana ~"


~ Basic, Moist & Classic: Soft White Bread Stuffing ~

This is the stuffing that takes us back to the beginning. Grandma ripped up some stale bread then tossed in some sauteed celery and onion seasoned with salt, pepper, and perhaps an herb or two. Once she mixed those together, she slowly added some turkey stock, just enough to make the mixture really moist without any liquid puddling in the bottom of the bowl. Sometimes she added a lightly-beaten egg too. "Back in the day", oven space in the home kitchen was almost always limited, so, stuffing was almost always baked inside the bird -- a smart way to get...... View full recipe for "~ Basic, Moist & Classic: Soft White Bread Stuffing ~"


~ Nobody's Pizza - For the Somebody in All of Us!!! ~

Pizza makes me happy. I'm not alone. It's my belief that next to watching baseball, eating pizza is America's favorite past time. Everybody goes to the ball park and the pizza shop to have a good time. If you're a traveler in search of the perfect slice, the one made just for you, you already know it's important to not give too much credence to personal recommendations and published "pizza shop reviews". I've been burned way too many times paying attention to that over-rated banter. Pizza, like toothpaste, is personal. Some of the best pizza is the simplest, and, is...... View full recipe for "~ Nobody's Pizza - For the Somebody in All of Us!!! ~"


~ Tettie's Baked Mashed-Potato Stuffing Casserole ~

If you're sarcastically mumbling, "just what the food world needs, another stuffing recipe", you are going to regret it. This is my Great Aunt Mary's recipe -- she lived to be 99 and was one of the best cooks I have ever known. This is a trip back to a kinder, gentler time. A time before self-appointed gourmets and TV celebrities started adding everything from chorogi artichokes to whortleberries to stuffing. This is pure, simple, unadulterated, beloved, comfort food: that warm, soft, subtly-flavored white bread stuffing that nobody talks openly about but everybody remembers, loves and longs for. Cathy Guisewhite,...... View full recipe for "~ Tettie's Baked Mashed-Potato Stuffing Casserole ~"


~Italian Basil, Tomato, Garlic, Parm & Pepper Butter~

Historically, the French and the Italians agree to disagree often over "who invented what" culinarily. While writing Tuesday's post ~ The Savory-Sweet Simplicity of Compound Butter ~ (click on the Related Article link below to read it), I told you the French word for it is "beurre compose". Try as I did, research didn't turn up any historical references to what the formal Italian name for compound butter is. This surprised me, so, I asked my Facebook friend (an authority on authentic Italian regional cooking). "As far as I know, in general Italian cooking, there is no use of compound...... View full recipe for "~Italian Basil, Tomato, Garlic, Parm & Pepper Butter~"


~ Farfalle w/Butter, Basil, Peperoncino & Parmesan (Basic Pasta al Burro con Formaggino w/Panache) ~

When I'm having a serious late night snack attack, the kind that two or three slices of cheese, some salty deli meat and a few crackers can't cure, for me, a one-pot pasta dish is always on my short list. The criteria: it must be simple, straightforward, seriously flavorful, and, on my plate in the time it takes to pour a glass of wine and cook the pasta -- start to finish: 15 minutes tops! Pasta al Burro con Formaggino (Pasta w/Butter & Cheese): The Italians came up with a solution for the snack attack centuries ago in the form...... View full recipe for "~ Farfalle w/Butter, Basil, Peperoncino & Parmesan (Basic Pasta al Burro con Formaggino w/Panache) ~"


~ When Life Hands You a Basket of Grape Tomatoes: Get Sauced - Make a Batch of Oven-Roasted Magic ~

Savvy cooks all know that roasting tomatoes (which contain quite a bit of natural sugar) concentrates their flavor, rendering them a truly succulent and sweet ingredient with a myriad of uses: condiments, dips, salsas, sauces, soups and side-dishes to name a few. If you are a tomato lover like me, this is great news because high-quality store-bought tomatoes can be transformed into a tasty treat with some EVOO, an herb, a spice or two, and, a stint in the oven. Unless you live in an area where high-quality store-bought tomatoes, like Campari tomatoes, ("the tomato lovers tomato") are available, the...... View full recipe for "~ When Life Hands You a Basket of Grape Tomatoes: Get Sauced - Make a Batch of Oven-Roasted Magic ~"


~ Conchiglie Pasta tossed with Crispy Pancetta, a Creamy Gorgonzola Sauce, Spinach & Walnuts ~

I really did encounter this dish in a restaurant at a tennis club in Taipei! Damn straight. The year was 1986. Joe's engineering company was doing business with a manufacturing company in Taiwan. It was owned by an interesting American businessman who, having being stationed in Taipei after the Korean War, decided to return to Taiwan to live for the rest of his life. Thanks to Lee's English-speaking Taiwanese secretary, while the men were conducting business, I spent ten days being chauffered around to sight-see, eat and shop. On the last day of our stay, Lee, who knew that Joe...... View full recipe for "~ Conchiglie Pasta tossed with Crispy Pancetta, a Creamy Gorgonzola Sauce, Spinach & Walnuts ~"


~The Saucey Scoop on Sugo & Ragu (& Bolognese)~

Tomato sauce. There isn't a cook that doesn't have at least one tomato sauce recipe in their repertoire. In tomato-eating cultures, there are as many versions of tomato sauce as there are cooks. They can be fresh or cooked, thick or thin, chunky or smooth, spicy or plain, simple or complex. Some can be made in five minutes, others can take five hours. Hot or cold, tomato sauce can be a condiment or a sauce for meat, poultry, fish, seafood or vegetable dishes, but, it is most commonly associated with Italian cuisine, more specifically, saucing Italian pasta dishes. A little...... View full recipe for "~The Saucey Scoop on Sugo & Ragu (& Bolognese)~"


~ Mel's Rosemary-Kissed Pork Sugo w/Strozzapreti ~

This dish tastes every bit as good as it sounds and just saying it makes me salivate. If you haven't noticed, my past few posts have all included pasta in some form: bucatini (thick, hollow spaghetti), cellentani (hollow corkscrews), pappardelle (wide flat egg pasta), orecchiette (little ears), and now, strozzapreti (priest stranglers). At the end of May, a friend gave me a beautiful box of very special Italian meats, cheeses, all sorts of marinated vegetables, and, a variety of imported organic pasta. It was a thank-you gift, and, for me, it's as appreciated as jewelry. I immediately opened this treasure...... View full recipe for "~ Mel's Rosemary-Kissed Pork Sugo w/Strozzapreti ~"


~ Steak Peperonata (Steak with Peppers & Onions) ~

I love almost all vegetables. When I was growing up, fresh vegetables were served with just about every meal. My mom wasn't a fancy cook, but, roast beef was served with roasted carrots, baked ham came with cabbage or brussels sprouts, meatloaf got peas, pork chops got baked beans, spaghetti got tomato sauce, T-bone steaks got corn in some form, and, hot dogs came with home fries. My dad grew some of the vegetables in his garden, my mom bought the rest at the local Hometown Farmer's Market. What's my point? Veggies weren't a threat. They were a natural part...... View full recipe for "~ Steak Peperonata (Steak with Peppers & Onions) ~"


~ Roasted Campari Tomatoes with Asiago & Basil ~

Over the past couple of days I worked on a very special panzanella salad recipe. I was asked to come up with a twist on this classic Italian salad recipe by my friend and local restauranteur extrordinaire Scott Lucchesi. Let me cut to the chase, he loved my spin on this salad, and, announced it will be appearing on his sports bar and/or restaurant menus very soon. You can get my recipe for ~ Roast-Chicken Caprese-Panzanella Pasta-Salad ~ by clicking on the Related Article link below. After developing and posting any recipe, I'm often faced with primo leftover ingredients --...... View full recipe for "~ Roasted Campari Tomatoes with Asiago & Basil ~"


~ Roast-Chicken Caprese-Panzanella Pasta-Salad ~

Here in the Northeastern part of the United States, the Memorial Day weekend is the official unofficial kick off to the Summer season. Gardeners fertilize their soil and plant their seeds while barbeque grillers iron their aprons and sharpen their knives. Public swimming pools and beaches open, and fishermen put their boats in the water. The young, the old and everybody in between is ready to set up their lawn chairs and move outdoors for a few months. As of yesterday afternoon, I have switched gears. I am officially in Summer meals mode, meaning: During the Summer, what I enjoy...... View full recipe for "~ Roast-Chicken Caprese-Panzanella Pasta-Salad ~"


~ Pappardelle Pasta & Crispy Pancetta tossed with a Creamy Sauteed-Mushroom Asiago-Cheese Sauce ~

If this sounds like a dish you would be happy to find late at night on a restaurant "after hours" menu it is: my own. Here in Melanie's Kitchen (also known as The Preschutti Bar & Grille), we call this: "The House Pappardelle". Just like another of my house specialties, "Spaghetti a la Carbonara", it is pure, simple, perfection. Don't ask me why, but, there is just something magical about feasting on spaghetti at midnight any time of the year under any weather conditions. We've been inundated with a few days of cooler than usual, AC off/put the heat back...... View full recipe for "~ Pappardelle Pasta & Crispy Pancetta tossed with a Creamy Sauteed-Mushroom Asiago-Cheese Sauce ~"


~ Roasted-Chicken Caesar-Salad Focaccia-Panini ~

Those of you who know me know that I consider a high-quality, well-constructed sandwich to be the perfect, well-balanced, portion-controlled meal. For me, a sandwich is much more than just putting a few ingredients between two slices of bread to stave off a hunger attack. Like meal making, sandwich making requires thought, and, I consider myself to be a very thoughtful sandwich crafter. I have eaten enough good and bad sandwiches in my lifetime to qualify as a sandwich snob. Sandwich ingredients can be cheap or expensive, simple or exotic, but, right down to the choice of bread and condiment,...... View full recipe for "~ Roasted-Chicken Caesar-Salad Focaccia-Panini ~"


~ Peppered Ham & Eggs on Roasted Red Pepper & Foccacia Toasts w/a Tangy Asiago Cheese Sauce ~

Don't you just hate it when the title of a recipe is so long that by the time you've read it in its entirety, you've lost track of what it was describing? I do too, but, there is no short way to explain all of the amazing flavor components that come together on one plate for these eye-opening, open-faced, knife-and-fork breakfast sandwiches. Oh yea, these are surprisingly VERY easy-to-make too. All you have to do is slice some high-quality focaccia, whisk together a super-quick four-ingredient spread, stir together a three-minute cheese sauce, and, scramble some eggs! Meet my Italian answer...... View full recipe for "~ Peppered Ham & Eggs on Roasted Red Pepper & Foccacia Toasts w/a Tangy Asiago Cheese Sauce ~"


~ My Rosemary & Cracked Black Pepper Focaccia ~

Focaccia is not pizza and pizza is not focaccia! Although the two resemble each other (they are both relatively flat breads), pizza dough, in comparison to focaccia dough, uses less leavening (yeast), resulting in a thinner, denser, flatter, somewhat flexible crust. Even thick-crust, square-shaped, Sicilian-style pizzas are not as thick and firm as a properly-made focaccia. Focaccia dough, which contains more yeast, rises quite a bit higher, enough for it to be sliced in half lengthwise and used as the bread for all sorts of great sandwich or panini combinations. The added leavening firms the crust to the consistency of...... View full recipe for "~ My Rosemary & Cracked Black Pepper Focaccia ~"


~ Open-Faced Ham, Swiss & Rye Egg Sandwiches ~

It is for my love of Sunday brunch I am posting this, and, you can thank my husband Joe that I am posting it at all. It all started yesterday. Correction, it started at Easter. I baked my usual Berkshire ham, which gifted me with luscious leftovers. Leftovers prompted me to bake a loaf of ~ Try My Rye: It's Homemade in the Bread Machine ~ so we could enjoy ~ Melanie's Hot Russian Ham & Cheese Meltdowns ~ (grilled cheese sandwiches with a special hot Russian mustard on them). You can get these recipes by clicking on the Related...... View full recipe for "~ Open-Faced Ham, Swiss & Rye Egg Sandwiches ~"


~ Try My Rye: It's Homemade in the Bread Machine ~

Rye bread is a staple of Eastern European cuisine, so, I grew up eating rye bread and loving it. We ate it toasted for breakfast, on sandwiches for lunch and as our bread course for dinner. Some of the best rye breads I have ever encountered have come out of the Jewish bakeries of New York and New Jersey. I'm no innocent when it comes to knowing great rye bread. My favorite rye breads are light ryes (as opposed to dark ryes) containing caraway seeds (a staple in the Eastern European pantry). In fact, it is the nutty, pungent, slightly-musky...... View full recipe for "~ Try My Rye: It's Homemade in the Bread Machine ~"


~ Melanie's Hot Russian Ham & Cheese Meltdowns ~

Does anybody besides me have leftover holiday ham in their refrigerator? Raise your hands. I thought so. If you're like me, you bake a big ham for Easter, to insure you will have leftovers. I do the same thing for 'that other' traditional feast -- I roast a really big turkey at Thanksgiving. For a day or two after both of these holidays, I am the first one to make the first sandwich. In case you didn't know, I consider a perfectly executed sandwich one of the greatest gifts to mankind! Say cheese! April 11th was National Grilled Cheese Sandwich...... View full recipe for "~ Melanie's Hot Russian Ham & Cheese Meltdowns ~"


~ Happy Easter to You All: Enjoy Your Family Feast ~

Happy Easter! I've been cooking up a storm for the past few days in anticipation and preparation for my family's annual Russian Orthodox Easter feast. Whatever your heritage, if you are of the Christian faith and the family cook, you are well aware of the organizational skills it takes to 'pull off' this yearly extravaganza. If your heritage dictates that you serve the same traditional ethnic food each year, from time-honored recipes handed down from generation to generation, you didn't learn how to do this by osmosis. Somewhere along the line you took it upon yourself to learn how to...... View full recipe for "~ Happy Easter to You All: Enjoy Your Family Feast ~"


~An End of Winter Ricotta & Spinach 'Pizza' Quiche~

Pizza quiche? If you're thinking those two words don't belong together in the same sentence, you have two choices: read on or move on. Busy moms who know how to cook are notorius for pulling an inventive, delicious meal out of their apron pocket in the blink of an eye. Busy moms who have the creativity to give it a kid-friendly name, especially if it's got spinach or broccoli in it, are natural born story tellers. As I always say, "there is more to a recipe than a list of ingredients. There is either a history or a story behind...... View full recipe for "~An End of Winter Ricotta & Spinach 'Pizza' Quiche~"


~ Ricotta & Spinach Gnudi (Dumplings) w/Marinara ~

There was a period in my life when I taught cooking classes on a regular basis (which I'm just too busy to do nowadays). It was a rarity if I chose the subject matter. When a group of people or an organization wants to take a class, they usually know what it is they want to learn before they come a calling. In every class, one of the things I enjoy the most are the questions that get asked. Questions reveal two things: What is spinning around in the heads of people interested in food, and, what food trends are...... View full recipe for "~ Ricotta & Spinach Gnudi (Dumplings) w/Marinara ~"


~ Ditalini Pasta con le Lenticchie (Pasta with Lentils)~

Over the past week I've shown you how to make two of my favorite "legume meals". I soaked some dried kidney beans to make hearty red beans and rice, then I made some luscious split pea soup in my slow cooker. In a nutshell, legumes are the dried seed pods of beans, peas and lentils. It wouldn't be right for me to close the pantry door on legumes without cooking some lentils, so, I'm tying a bow on the trio by making my favorite lentil dish today: pasta with lentils! In Italy, pasta with lentils is very common. Here in...... View full recipe for "~ Ditalini Pasta con le Lenticchie (Pasta with Lentils)~"


~Mom's Traditional Ham, Cabbage and Potato Soup~

What makes this ethnic, hearty, peasant soup traditional? Every time my mother has a meaty ham bone in her hand, she makes "ham and cabbage". It is a brothy concoction of ham, carrots, celery, onions and potatoes seasoned with nothing but salt and pepper. I grew up loving cabbage and I adore this "boiled dinner". I am Russian Orthodox (Eastern European). Cabbage juice runs through our veins -- Russian babies are born into the world loving cabbage (and potatoes). This soup was one of my father's mother's specialties! Over the course of the past week I've been extolling the joys...... View full recipe for "~Mom's Traditional Ham, Cabbage and Potato Soup~"


~ Under Pressure: Ham, Cabbage and Potato Soup ~

After months of reading two of my Facebook foodie friends (Melissa Trainer and Teresa Gottier) extoll the virtues of their pressure cookers, I finally gave in. I bought one. I didn't want one, but I bought one anyway. After consulting with both friends, I decided on the kind that I believe every virgin pressure cooker owner, or, anyone who has ever witnessed one explode should buy: An electric model that can be plugged in out in the garage or down in the root cellar (and run away from as an added precaution). It arrived Wednesday. Here's why I don't trust...... View full recipe for "~ Under Pressure: Ham, Cabbage and Potato Soup ~"


~ Mel's Got Spaghetti "a la Carbonara" on Her Mind (A Simple Recipe w/Fond Memories & Rich History) ~

Carbonara. A word every foodie is familiar with. Not familiar with it? Not a foodie. Don't like the word foodie? Go write your own material. Carbonara is Italian, and, if you have ever eaten it in its city of origin, Rome, or had it prepared for you by someone from Rome, you have little patience with American bastardizations. Carbonara is the definition of "simply extraordinary"! Carbonara = Pasta, Pork, Eggs, Cheese & Pepper A bit about carbonara (kar-boh-NAH-rah): (The following is a run-on sentence.) Carbonara is a dish of al dente pasta (usually bucatini or thick spaghetti) tossed into a...... View full recipe for "~ Mel's Got Spaghetti "a la Carbonara" on Her Mind (A Simple Recipe w/Fond Memories & Rich History) ~"


~ Rainy Days & Lazy Fridays: My Winter Minestrone w/Anelletti Pasta & Garnished w/Parm & Pancetta ~

After almost two months of weather-related captivity, I am declaring a ban on weather forecasts. They stop now. I will no longer listen to them or watch them. It's high time I stood up to these masters of disasters. I've wasted precious time allowing them to affect me. I am a domestic goddess -- this title comes with priviledges. I do not have to go outside. From this day forward: "What happens outside, stays outside. All that really matters each day is what's cookin' on the inside!" ~ Melanie Today is a soup day. I decided to make minestrone because...... View full recipe for "~ Rainy Days & Lazy Fridays: My Winter Minestrone w/Anelletti Pasta & Garnished w/Parm & Pancetta ~"


~ Chocolate, Vanilla and Butterscotch 'Icebox' Cake~

My three favorite flavors of pudding are chocolate, vanilla and butterscotch. Banana pudding comes in a close fourth. About the only thing I like better than any one of them is all of them layered on top of each other with graham crackers separating each flavor. This dessert was one of my mother's specialties and was my favorite. Whenever she would make it, after I got done "counting, cracking and crushing" the graham crackers for her, I would sit motionless on the counterstool, eyes transfixed on the glorious process, patiently waiting for my lick of the spoon as each pudding...... View full recipe for "~ Chocolate, Vanilla and Butterscotch 'Icebox' Cake~"


~ Joy's Italian-American-Style Stuffed Bell Peppers ~

Shiver me timbers, my parade of snowstorm dinners continues! I usually make stuffed peppers once a year, in the Fall, when Joe has an excess of peppers in his garden (as pictured here). When I'm using poblano peppers, I make a Mexican-seasoned version, and, when I'm using bell peppers I go to Italian-American seasonings. While picking up a short list of staples for this weekend, I found some big, beautiful bell peppers at Wegman's today, which fast-tracked me into writing this blog post. Joe will be pleased as he really enjoys these! "Mango" is a term for "green bell pepper"?...... View full recipe for "~ Joy's Italian-American-Style Stuffed Bell Peppers ~"


~ I Just Love My Mom's Cracker Stuffing Casserole ~

I just love my mother's "stuffing". When I was growing up, I could not wait for her to make it for Thanksgiving. Truthfully, I always wished she would have made it more than once a year, but, alas, that was not the case. It's a simple mixture of saltine crackers soaked in milk and eggs with sauteed celery, onions and ground beef added to it. Yes, I said ground beef. My mom disliked turkey giblets (thankfully I did not inherit that gene), so, she substituted the ground meat to mimic the look and mouth feel of them. That substitution makes...... View full recipe for "~ I Just Love My Mom's Cracker Stuffing Casserole ~"


~ How to: Make 'French' Crepes (Sweet or Savory) ~

I'm pretty certain everyone knows what a crepe is, but, I'm not so sure everyone knows how simple they are to make. I say this because almost every time I serve them, someone inevitably remarks how intimidated they are at the thought of "tackling" them. While I can't say crepes are a staple in my kitchen, I don't hesitate to get out my crepe pan and make a few for breakfast, lunch, dinner or dessert. That is how easy they are. Crepes are to a chef what an empty canvas is to a creative artist: they are the perfect foil...... View full recipe for "~ How to: Make 'French' Crepes (Sweet or Savory) ~"


~Fall's Coming: Potato Chowder w/Caraway Cheese~

While Mother Nature is a force that can't be reckoned with, like any woman, she is quite predictable. If you live in a part of the United States that celebrates four distinct seasons, you know there comes a day at the end of August or the beginning of September when you walk outside and say "Fall is in the air". Today is that day here in Happy Valley, Pennsylvania. The air is crisp, cool and clean, and, people are murmuring about a possible frost this weekend! Joe spent the Labor Day weekend picking pumpkins and butternut squash (destined to become...... View full recipe for "~Fall's Coming: Potato Chowder w/Caraway Cheese~"