Thursday, April 18, 2019


Easter Sunday dinner 2019
The theme, once again, is Italian.
Our gardens are in full bloom!
Easter is my favorite holiday. It represents new beginnings, hope, and limitless possibilities for love, joy and happiness. Being brought up in a non-religious household I did not learn the true meaning of Easter until much later.

In our house Easter was a time of feasting! This Easter is extremely special for me because I am ONE year cancer free! I am grateful for a complete and successful recovery and forever thankful to my husband, Jerry and my friends and family who supported me throughout my recovery.

However, this year also marks a very sad note as it is the first Easter celebration without our dear friend Dennis who passed away in October 2018. We have shared Easter dinners with Dennis and Diana for nearly 15 years. Cheers to you Dennis! Thankful for so many fabulous times together.

Jerry and Dennis Easter 2006
La Dolce Vita!






Friday, April 12, 2019


I am in love with all things Italian and food is high up on the list. Here are a couple easy Italian goodies I made recently, which I hope you enjoy.


Previously I posted a recipe for Focaccia Bread (, but I think this one is even better because it uses more olive oil and lots of fresh herbs. If you don't have fresh you can always substitute dried herbs. This ancient Italian bread dates back to the Estruscan period, although some believe it may have been invented by the Greeks. However, the Estruscans, Romans, and Greeks were so intertwined back in the 8th - 6th century BC it's hard to tell where recipes originated. It's also thought to be the precursor to modern-day Italian pizza as it is a flatbread with lots of leeway for toppings. As with so many recipes I find online I have doctored this one a bit with more herbs and more garlic.

1/2 cup Extra-Virgin Olive Oil*
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 Tbsp. chopped fresh thyme or 3 tsp. dried
3 Tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary or 3 tsp. dried
1/4 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
1 cup warm water
2 1/4 tsp. active dry yeast (1 packet)
1 tsp. honey or a tsp. of sugar
2 1/2 cups white flour
1/2 tsp. fine sea salt

*This time the extra-virgin is important as olive oil is a dominant flavor in this bread. You don't have to buy a super expensive oil, just one you really like the taste of.


In a cold medium skillet, combine olive oil, minced garlic, thyme, rosemary and the black pepper. Place the pan over low heat and cook, stirring occasionally, 5-10 minutes or until aromatic, but before browning garlic. Set aside.
In a large bowl, combine the warm water, yeast, and honey. Stir a few times then let sit for 5 minutes. If the yeast mixture does not begin to grow (foam up), then either your water was too cool, too hot, or your yeast is dead and you will need to start over. The water should be quite warm to the touch, but not scalding. 105 to 110 degrees is ideal.

Add 1 cup of flour and a 1/4 cup of the infused garlic/herb/olive oil mixture to the bowl with the yeast and honey. Stir 3 to 4 times until the flour has moistened. Let sit for another 5 minutes.
Stir in the remaining 1 1/2 cups of flour and the salt. I like to use the dough hooks on my hand mixture as it shortens the kneading time necessary because the hooks act somewhat like the kneading process getting air pockets out and stimulating gluten process resulting in a light, fluffy dough. Because focaccia is a flatbread the crust becomes crisp and interior is moist and soft.
When the dough comes together, transfer to a floured board and knead 10-15 minutes until very smooth in texture. Transfer the dough to a large oiled bowl, cover with a warm, damp towel and let rise for 1 hour. You want to keep the dough out of drafts so consider rising in your oven (with no heat on).
This is the dough after rising for an hour.
After it has risen to about double in size, punch it down, knead for a couple minutes and transfer to a lightly greased 9x12 baking sheet or pan. Using your fingers spread the dough evenly pushing out to reach the edges of the pan, dimple the dough, pressing down into the pan with your fingertips.

Drizzle the top with remaining garlic/herb/olive mixture.

Let the dough rise until it puffs slightly; about 15-20 minutes. Bake in preheated oven 15-20 minutes until golden brown. Remove from oven and if you like sprinkle with course sea salt and a little freshly chopped rosemary. Cool baked focaccia on wire rack. Cut into 2 inch squares. This bread freezes well for up to a month.

Here's a twist on another Italian favorite...


I also found this recipe online. It's from the Food Network with just a couple tweaks from me. Hard to improve on a Food Network recipe!

1 lb. ground pork
1 lb. ground turkey
4 oz. (1/2 cup)whole milk ricotta
1/3 cup minced flat-leaf parsley (I used curly as that's what I have growing.)
1/3 cup Panko bread crumbs
1/2 medium onion, minced (about 1/2 cup)
4 Tbsp. finely grated pecorino (I used parmesan.)
1 slice bacon, finely minced
2 large cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. milk
1 Tbsp. minced fresh thyme
1 Tbsp. minced fresh basil (My addition.)
1 Tbsp. dried Italian seasoning (My addition.)
1 large egg
2 tsp. Kosher salt
2 dashes Worcestershire sauce
Freshy ground black pepper
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2-3 cups homemade or jarred quality marinara sauce
Fresh basil for garnishing

Mix ground meats and diced bacon, ricotta, parsley, panko crumbs, onion, pecorino, bacon, garlic milk, thyme, egg, salt, Worcestershire and black pepper. Here is my trick. Meatballs become tough if they are overmixed so thoroughly mix all ingredients listed above, except the ground meats. Then add the ground meats and using your hands gently mix until just combined. The mixture is pretty soft.
Using your hands, gently form mixture into 1 Tbsp. small meatballs (make smaller balls if serving as an hors d'oeuvres or larger balls for a dinner entre). Put the raw meatballs on a large plate or tray.
Cover and refrigerate at least an hour or overnight. Bring the meatballs back to room temperature before cooking. Heat the oil in a medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add about 1/3 of the meatballs and cook, turning occasionally until well browned on all sides; about 6 minutes. Transfer the meatballs to a plate and repeat with the remaining meatballs.

After removing the last meatball, drain the oil out of the skillet and wipe clean with a paper towel. Return the meatballs to the skillet and pour in the marinara sauce. Bring to a gentle boil, reduce heat to low simmer, cover and simmer until the meatballs are cooked through, about 15-20 minutes depending on the size of your meatballs. Serve with toothpicks if using as an appetizer with a dollop of sauce over each meatball and freshly chopped basil. Serve either room temperature or warm.

I'm going to close today with the simplest Italian hors d'oeuvres you will ever make. Why I have not made these sooner I do not know, but recently had them at our annual tennis party made by my good friend and tennis buddy Claren Scott. They are fantastic.
Here's Claren off the tennis court!
She looks like a movie star!
Frico in Italian literally means "cooked Montasio cheese', but frico is also a typical dish made in the North Eastern region of Italy--Friuli. It is made either as a 'Soft Frico', which generally includes roasted potatoes and onions cut into wedges to serve, or as a 'Thin Frico', which are little fried or baked crisps used as an appetizer. No recipe necessary for the crisps. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grate about 2 cups parmesan cheese or other well-aged Italian cheese. Originally the fricos, either Soft or Thin were made with Montasio cheese. Place mounded tablespoons of grated cheese on a sheet pan lined with a silpat silicone baking sheet, parchment paper or use a non-stick pan. This is very necessary as crisps will stick to the pan otherwise.
Spread the cheese out leaving about 1 inch in between. Bake in preheated oven until just golden; about 3 to 5 minutes. Let cool for about 1 minute before removing to wire rack to cool completely. These store well in a tightly sealed glass container for 4-5 days.
I made my fricos totally plain since I've never made them before, but next time might try adding:

Lemon zest and fresh basil
Minced garlic
Finely chopped rosemary
Hot sauce or lots of black pepper
Claren added a small piece of salami in the center of each frico. Delicious!

That's it for today.
I'm getting very excited about the Easter holiday,
which is only a week away. I've been working on
my menu, which also has an Italian theme.
I will share it with you next week.


Sunday, March 24, 2019


When does a cookie become candy? I made these "Millionaire Shortbreads" for a festive St. Patrick's Day party our friends, Steve and Debby Vis were throwing. I wanted to bring an Irish dessert so when I Googled Irish desserts this one popped up. I am not sure what is Irish about it, but according to what I read they are mad for these cookies in Ireland. I have been traveling to Ireland annually for nearly 30 years and have never seen these cookies or heard of them, but the recipe sounded delicious so I decided to give them a go! They do taste more like a candy bar and the combination of sweet and salty is very satisfying.

As you can see I have changed the name!

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt

2 (11 oz.) packages caramel squares*
1/2 cup heavy cream

2 cups semisweet chocolate chips (I used Ghiradelli.)

Flaky sea salt for garnish (I used Maldon salt.)

*Of course you can make your own caramel, but using these candies sure did make this recipe fast and easy.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line a 13 x 9" pan with parchment paper and spray with cooking spray. I was out of parchment so used waxed paper and it worked fine.

Make shortbread layer: Cream softened butter with sugar until light and fluffy. Add flour and vanilla until a bread crumb texture forms. Press mixture into the prepared pan and prick all over with a fork. Take care when pricking as the shortbread is very crumbly. Bake until golden, about 30 minutes. Let cool completely in the pan on a rack. Once cooled, invert pan, give a small tap on bottom to release the shortbread. Remove the parchment or waxed paper. Flip the shortbread over and place on a large cutting board to finish the cookies.

Make caramel layer: In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, stir the caramels and cream together until melted, about 10 minutes. Pour over shortbread crust. The most difficult part of this step is removing the caramels from their cellophane wrappers.

Make chocolate layer: Melt the chocolate chips in microwave in 30 second intervals and stir until smooth and shiny. Pour over caramel layer.
Place in refrigerator for 10 minutes to firm up. Remove from fridge. Score the bars marking the cuts you will eventually make and top with the flaky sea salt. This step is important as the bars are still pliable. Return to the fridge for another 10 minutes. Remove and cut completely through. Place on a serving tray and return to the refrigerator until 15 minutes before serving. Refrigerate any leftovers. These cookies freeze well, too.

My big brother, Skip, and his beautiful
wife, Esther were just here for a visit.
We did lots of fun cooking and eating!
Loved having them here in sunny Airzona!

Thursday, March 14, 2019


Recently I made a garlicky Miso Glazed Salmon that was really satisfying and delicious. I found different recipes online and then tweaked them into the following. I use the web for recipes now almost as often as my own massive cook book collection, and of course, I refer to COOK WITH CINDY! favorite source for recipes!

1 lb. wild salmon filet
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. dried ginger (I would've used fresh ginger root if I had it.)
1 Tbsp. miso paste
4 Tbsp. honey
4 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. peanut oil

Combine soy sauce, honey, miso, ginger and garlic in a bowl and whisk well. Place marinade and salmon filet in a zip-lock bag and refrigerate in marinade for 1 hour or overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove salmon from marinade and bring to room temperature. Pour marinade in a heavy-bottomed skillet and heat until the sauce is somewhat reduced and thickened. It will be almost sticky. Remove the sauce from the pan with a rubber spatula.

In the same pan, add 1 Tbsp. of peanut oil and return to high heat. Once the oil is smoking hot, sear the skin side of salmon for about 3-4 minutes until you have a nice crispy crust. Turn and cook the other side for about 2 minutes. Remove to foil-lined pan, skin-side up. Place in oven for about 10 minutes until salmon is cooked through. Serve with the reduced sauce.

I served the Miso Glazed Salmon with Shishito Peppers marinated in a similar Asian sauce. Shisitos are a sweet, East Asian pepper, which I occasionally find in my local grocery store, but am sure specialty Asian markets carry them regularly. They are also grown and very popular in Mexico.

2 rounded cups Shishito Peppers
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 Tbsp. Hoisin

Marinate the peppers in the sauce for at least an hour or overnight. Add about 1 Tbsp. of peanut oil to a heavy-bottomed pan over high heat until smoking. Add the peppers and sear until slightly blackened; about 10 minutes. Add the marinade, which will spatter and steam up. Reduce heat and cook peppers over medium heat for another 5 minutes.

I also steamed broccoli in dark sesame oil and avocado-coconut oil with some chopped garlic until the broccoli was crisp-tender. Top with sesame seeds as a garnish if you like. And finally, I served with a bit of roasted sweet potato. Simple, healthy, and delicious meal!

That's going to do it for today,
but there is plenty more cooking ahead!
Stay tuned for another episode of:

Thursday, February 21, 2019


My good friend JoJo had our tennis group over for a festive cocktail party a couple weeks ago. Everyone brought hors d'oeuvres and we had the nicest time enjoying each other's company. JoJo's friend, Dorine, was visiting from New Hampshire, which was the inspiration for the party! This is a fabulous group of women who are passionate about both tennis and food!

The Shrimp Dip is in the center.
Doreen on the left and JoJo to the right.
I brought an old-fashioned Shrimp Dip that I found in my home-made Cookbook collection of recipes clipped over the years from magazines, newspapers, and old recipe files. I don't have a clue where it came from, but it sure was yummy!
1/4 cup packed fresh flat-leafed parsley, chopped (I used curly as that's what I have growing.)
1/2 medium onion, diced
2 scallions, both white and green parts sliced
3/4 lb. cleaned, cooked shrimp, roughly chopped
4 oz. softened cream cheese
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup sour cream (I used Greek style yogurt.)
2 Tbsp. bottled chili sauce, such as Heinz
1 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp. drained bottled Horseradish
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp. minced garlic
3/4 tsp. lemon pepper seasoning
Couple dashes Tabasco sauce
Optional garnish: one whole shrimp and smoked paprika

Finely chop the onion and parsley. Thinly slice scallions. Coarsely chop the shrimp. In a medium bowl stir together cream cheese, sour cream (or yogurt), and mayo until smooth. Stir in parsley, onion, scallions, shrimp, and remaining ingredients until well combined. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with one whole shrimp if you like and smoked paprika. Cover and let the flavors marinate in the fridge for a couple hours or overnight. Dip keeps for up to a week.


Spaghetti Carbonara was my sister Cathy's "signature" dish. It was her go-to dish when she needed something fast, yet elegant.
Cathy's on the left and I'm on the right.
We used to spend hours together planning
menus and that is what we're doing here.
I saw Marc Murhpy make Carbonara on 'Chopped' the other night so decided to try his version. Did you know Marc Murphy was born in Milan Italy?

I happened to have a nice piece of guanciale from my friend Jay Bileti so used that instead of the bacon. Guanciale is cured pork from the pigs jowl or cheek. It is rich with a deep porky flavor. Pancetta works well, too, and is a bit more mild. Pancetta comes from the pigs belly. Both are fatty cuts and are great in Carbonara. Because bacon is both cured and smoked it provides a completely different flavor. Bacon was Cathy's choice of meat in Carbonara and it seems it is Marc Murphy's too! I LOVED the guanciale because it is such a rare and unique flavor.
Jay displaying his guanciale.
1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
1 pound slab bacon, cut into small dice (or guanciale or pancetta)
1 pound spaghetti (I like to use Bucatini as it is thicker and holds up well to the sauce.)
3 whole eggs, at room temperature
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
Kosher salt
Guanciale rendering.

Bring 1 gallon of water to a boil. Add 2 Tbsp. salt. Add pasta and cook 10-12 minutes or until just al dente. Render the bacon or guanciale until crisp. Do not drain fat. Add 2 Tbsp. Olive Oil. Remove from the heat and keep warm. Combine eggs, cheese and black pepper in a large bowl. Drain the pasta and add to the egg mixture. Add a couple Tbsp. of pasta water, which thickens the sauce. Add bacon/guanciale and fat. Stir until eggs are cooked and pasta is well coated and creamy.

That's it for today!
I'm going to pop a chicken in the oven
stuffed with lots of fresh herbs, lemon
and garlic. In about 1/2 hour the
house will smell great!
Keep Loving in your Kitchen!

Sunday, February 10, 2019


I've been on a Miso kick and have made Miso Soup twice in two weeks. Mine is not a classic recipe, but it's quite yummy. Miso is fermented soy bean paste, which sounds pretty disgusting, but is salty deliciousness! Traditionally Miso Soup is made from a Dashi broth.

Dashi is a Japanese stock. It's a fundamental ingredient in many Japanese dishes. Dashi can be made from kombu (dried kelp), katsuobushi (dried and smoked bonito/skipjack tuna that is shaved into thin flakes), iriko or nibosh (anchovies/sardine), or a combination of all. I did have a can of both sardines and anchovies, but decided to try it with the chicken broth. It tasted surprisingly authentic!
I generally have a quart of chicken broth in the freezer so putting this soup together was fast and easy.

1 qt. chicken stock or Dashi broth
1 clove garlic, minced
1" knob of fresh ginger root, grated
1 large scallion, both white and green parts
1/2 cup firm tofu, cubed
3 Tbsp. White Miso paste*
1 sheet Nori seaweed, cut into 1 inch pieces
4 pieces Nori chips (optional, but if not using add more regular Nori)
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. Oyster (or fish) sauce

If you are using Dashi broth I don't think you will need the soy sauce or Oyster sauce. I added those ingredients to bring out the umami flavor.

* Miso comes in many different colors (red, brown, white, etc.) and flavors. Its uses vary regionally throughout Japan.
I bought these chips at my local Safeway.
They are not that good on their own,
but worked well in the Miso Soup.
Bring 4 cups of chicken (or Dashi) broth to a boil. Add minced garlic, the white portion of the scallion sliced thinly, grated ginger root, soy sauce, oyster or fish sauce. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Add miso and stir until completely dissolved. Taste. Add more miso if needed. Drop in tofu cubes, and seaweed. Gently simmer 5 more minutes. Serve topped with the sliced greens of the scallion.

Miso Soup is commonly eaten for breakfast in Japan, often served with rice, eggs, fish or pickles. When my husband, Jerry and I were in Hawaii we had it every day for breakfast. It's salty, but very satisfying and if you like a savory breakfast it's a great way to start the day.

Next, I am going to experiment with Miso Glazed Pork Tenderloin and Crispy Garlic Miso Glazed Salmon.

All for today!
Until next time, thanks for tuning in
for another episode of:

Sunday, February 3, 2019


Making your own pizza dough is easy. It just takes a little time. Last week I made pizza dough with my good friend Dorita Pina. She is a fabulous home chef, but had not made pizza so we did it together. Seems to be a trend of late, which I enjoy tremendously. Cooking with friends is fun, especially when they share the same passion for food as I do...and Dorita definitely does!

Dorita punching down the first rising.
This recipe is from Giada DeLaurentis. I've made it before. Find the recipe here:
One of the things I like about pizza dough is the simplicity of ingredients: flour, yeast, water, salt, a little oil for drizzling. That's it!

This recipe makes 3 very thin pizza pies. This time I doubled the recipe, but still made only 3 pizza pies. The pizza was more like a thick-crust Chicago-style pizza. I prefer a thinner dough so next time would make 5 pizzas from the doubled recipe. Once cooked, they freeze well. The day before Dorita and her husband Rudy arrived I made a pizza sauce.
This was enough for 3 pizzas.

1 12-oz. can tomato paste
2 Tbsp. Sun-dried tomato paste (optional)
12 ounces warm water (110 degrees or warm to the touch, but not scalding)
6 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
2 tsp. minced garlic
3 Tbsp. honey
1 1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. dried marjoram
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper (or more if you like it hot)
1/8 tsp. dried red pepper flakes (ditto)
Salt to taste. I used 2 tsp.

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan. Heat until cheese starts to melt. Will keep covered in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Our appetizer was an antipasti platter featuring
the homemade Tuscan and Calabrese salami
I made with Jay Bileti and the homemade
pepperoni (top left).
Rudy and Jerry solving the world's problems.
Once your dough has risen a second time, using your hands spread it evenly over a pizza pan.
Dorita is a pro, instinctively
knowing just how to spread the dough.

I had also prepared a bunch of different toppings ahead of time so everyone could 'weigh in' on what they wanted.
Toppings included:
Pre-cooked Italian sausage
Pre-cooked Ground Beef
Green Pepper, cooked slightly
Mushrooms, cooked slightly
Roasted Red Peppers
Caramelized Onion
Raw Onion
Red Pizza sauce
Basil Pesto Sauce
Various grated cheeses: Mozzarella; Parmesan; Provolone


This is Brian Boitano's recipe. He served his
Tartufo with a caramel sauce and also cut
the Tartufo's in half exposing the cherry.
I left them whole so the cherry would be a surprise!
Tartufo is an Italian ice cream dessert originating from Calabria. It usually consists of 2 or more flavors of ice cream, fruit or fruit preserve all wrapped in a chocolate shell. The shell is either formed by molding melted chocolate or you can simply crush chocolate cookies, which is what I did. 
You could also make this dish with homemade ice cream, but I used Haagen Dazs Vanilla Bean and for the fruit...these fabulous Amerena cherries.
For the chocolate crust I mixed a whole bag of Pepperidge Farm chocolate, chocolate chip crispy cookies with 1/2 of a Ghirardelli 60% Cacao Bittersweet chocolate bar. Blend together in a mini-food processor until fine crumbs form.

Slightly soften the ice cream so it is easily scoopable. Fill the scoop and then carefully punch a hole into the scoop of ice cream using the handle of a wooden spoon and insert the cherry. Cover over with ice cream and gently roll in the chocolate crumbs. Refreeze until ready to serve.

What a fun dinner party we had! Jerry Vale was serenading us throughout the evening and we almost felt like we were in Italy.

Until next time...