Saturday, May 25, 2019

The Importance of Lemon, Lime and Orange Zest!!!

It is Memorial Day Weekend and I have a quart of home grown strawberries (@$5.99/qt.) and
home grown rhubarb (@$3.00/bunch) so I decide it is time to make the fabulous Strawberry-
Rhubarb Cobbler!

I have already done the shopping for the weekend at two different stores plus the farmers market.

All the ingredients are set out and I realize that a most significant, albeit subtle, ingredient is.....
drum roll please.......zest of an orange!

Well, s and d!  I do not have an orange!  However, another drum roll, if you please.....I do have
grated zest of oranges in little packets in my freezer!

Voila!  I take a packet out of the freezer, chop it up nice and fine and sprinkle it over the berry/
rhubarb mixture.  Nothing could be easier!

The reason I am going through this whole scenario is to let you know that many, many recipes
call of a bit of zest of lemons, limes or oranges and the very easiest trick is to zest any of them
prior to use and freeze them!  (please tell me I am not sounding like Martha on this!)

It really is just the easiest to do!  I put the zest on saran, roll it up and put it into a little baggie.
In my freezer I have three baggies guessed it!....the zest of lemons, limes and

This has served me so very well over the years.  I don't know where I first got this tip.....okay,
it probably was from Martha!.....nonetheless,  something that takes such little time and effort is
a huge get for anyone who cooks and bakes a lot!

Just sayin'..........

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Yummy Macaroni and Cheese.....possibly best ever!

Everybody loves, loves mac and cheese!  Children love it....even if it is out of a box!
Adults love it.....mmmmm.....with goat cheese, a stilton, so very gourmet!

I have made it (from scratch) many, many times!  I have made it from every famous chef
I follow!

Each time I had great expectations........and they all fell short!

Something that should be so simplistic.....creating so many pitfalls and problems!

One recipe may be nice and cheesey but not saucey enough.....or the reverse!

I remember when this was the most economical dish.....cheese was not expensive back
in the day (!).....of course, we were not using imported, gourmet cheeses back then either!

Anyway, I determined that for my own personal taste I liked my mac and cheese to be quite
saucey with a lovely cheesey taste.

Every time I would see a recipe for mac and cheese, I would make it....following the recipe to
the letter.....and always was left "wanting"......

Then I found (recently) this recipe on the internet by the chunky chef........I did make some
changes/additions but I think I finally found the "one"........please try it and let me know if you
like it as much as I did!!!

Mac and Cheese

1 lb. dried elbow pasta
1/2 c. butter - either salted or unsalted
1/2 c. all purpose flour (or Wondra)
1-1/2 c. whole milk and 2-1/2 c. half and half (I used ALL whole milk)
4 c. grated medium sharp cheddar cheese, divided and
2 c. grated Gruyere cheese, divided ( I used 4-1/2 c. cheddar + 1-1/2 c. Pepper Jack for top)
1/2 T. salt (or less, depending on the cheeses you are using as they have a lot of sodium
1/2 t. black pepper
1/4 t. paprika

1.  Preheat oven to 350* and grease a 3 qt. baking dish with butter.  Set aside.
2.  Bring large pot water to the boil.  Once boiling, add 2 T. kosher salt, dried pasta and cook as
per directions for pasta.  Drain well.
3.  While waiting for water to boil, grate cheeses, mix, if not using separate cheeses,  and divide into bowls:  3 c. for sauce, 1-1/2 c. for middle layer and 1-1/2 c. for topping.
4.  Melt butter in large saucepan over medium heat and sprinkle in flour and whisk to combine,
stirring for about 2 minutes to "cook" the flour.  Slowing pour in 2 c. milk, whisking constantly,
til smooth.  Slowly pour in remaining 2 c. milk (half and half), again whisking constantly til smooth.
Stir in salt and pepper and cheeses, stirring til smooth.
5.  In large bowl, combine pasta and cheese sauce.
6.  In buttered baking dish, add half the sauced pasta.  Top with 1-1/2 c. grated cheese.  Add remaining sauced pasta and top with 1-1/2 c. grated cheese.
7.  Bake for 20-30 minutes til bubbly, melted and golden brown.....and yummy looking!

( can be made prior....BUT....take out one hour prior to baking....sauces tend to "seize" when
chilled.....let it come almost to room temperature before baking!)

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Trish Giordano: Hospital Nightmare!

Trish Giordano: Hospital Nightmare!: It has been quite a while since I have posted......and, as you all know, I usually post about foods, family and friends! However, this pos...

Hospital Nightmare!

It has been quite a while since I have posted......and, as you all know, I usually post about foods,
family and friends!
However, this post will be different.

Recently my brother, who is 62 years of age with Downs Syndrome, went into kidney failure.

I was at Mass on St. Patrick's Day morning when a text was sent by his staff.  I did not receive the text until twenty minutes later.  I went directly to the hospital emergency room where my brother
and the staff were in a private room.

My brother's bladder was no longer working, thus backing up and killing his kidneys.

He was admitted to the hospital and the next morning when my Mother and I went to the hospital,
a doctor explained that the kidneys were dying on Sunday and but had rallied 'round and were now
functioning.....since they had put in a catheter.  He then explained to us that the question now was if
the bladder would be able to work after holding 2,000 ml.

The next day a hospitalist told me that my brother was being sent to the rehab, the catheter would
be removed and all the doctors would follow him.

The third day I spoke with the doctor from the rehab and asked what caused this problem and what
could we do to prevent this from happening again.

He told me he would put in for a Urology consult.

Three days later I asked the charge nurse at the rehab hospital what about the urology consult.  She
explained to me that they had never responded.  She told me she would put another call in to them.
That was a Saturday and that evening at 7:00 p.m. this lovely woman called me at my home to let
me know that she had placed not one, but two calls to the Urologist for a consult.

The following day, Sunday, I was standing at the Nurses' station when this lovely woman said she
had called earlier in the day but would call one more this point the phone rang and there
was a urologist at the other end of the phone line.  She explained to him that they had been attempting to connect with him for a consult since Wednesday, the 20th to which he replied that his was the first
consult received by them and they would be over sometime later in the day.

The following morning the catheter was removed and a "trial" begun.....this was deemed not successful so the catheter was re-inserted and in another week my brother was sent home to his
mother's house.  I had also called the urologists' office and, after providing the proper medical POA,
it took one week for the doctor to return my call - which, of course ! I missed and when I returned his
call, it went to the main line of the hospital (not the phone he called from) and his office had closed
for the day!!! 

I am going through all of this to describe the frustrations felt by the family.

We did not know why this perfectly healthy man landed in the hospital with kidney failure.
Each day there was a different hospitalist.
Once ensconced in the rehab hospital, he appeared to be in LaLa Land......what doctor was treating
The length of time it took for the doctor to return my call (seeking information) was absurdly ridiculous.

The nursing staff was phenomenal!  Such caring, attentive individuals!
(Note to all:  Nurses can only do what doctors tell them to do)

My bottom line is this:  I had always heard that you have to have an advocate when you are in
the hospital or doctoring.  I was there!  I was at the hospital each day!  I was on the phone attempting to contact the doctors!  I talked to the wonderful nurses til I was hoarse!

End result? My brother was sent home with a catheter and the diagnosis of "don't know" what
caused the bladder to cease working and therefore resulting in kidney failure.

So, while I attempted to be the "advocate" I think I failed miserably.  Was there discrimination
because my brother has Downs Syndrome?  Don't know.....hate to think so.

In my day you went to the hospital for a problem, they figured out what the problem was and
prescribed a treatment or course of action to solve the problem and you were sent home.

Oh, for the good old days!

Sunday, March 3, 2019

The Quest for the Perfect Meatball!

I adore meatballs.
NO, I mean I really, really adore meatballs!
I also like to think I make wonderful, great-tasting meatballs!
The other night the B O B and I were talking and somehow the subject of meatballs came up and he was saying some times my meatballs are great and other times,  not so much.
Oh my heart!!!  Give me smelling salts!!!!

When we first married, I was given Bob's Mother's Recipe.   They were hard, dense "hockey pucks".
That was what he was raised on and what he (thought) he liked.

That did not last very long.

I discovered Rocco DiSpirito's mother's meatball recipe many, many years ago and I fell in love with
it.  She put chicken stock, parsley, garlic, and onions in a processor and barely used any breadcrumbs,
Parmesan cheese instead, and I thought they were the tastiest ever!  Typically, I used fresh ground beef.  I then baked them in the oven (super healthy, don't ya know!) about twenty minutes and then cooked them in my homemade sauce for several hours.
Geez Louise!  I received so many compliments!

So, when the B O B made that comment about my wonderful (or not so) meatballs......I began a
major investigation!!
Of course, I turned to the nonnas of the world.

Now, two things I found  very interesting: some were pure ground beef fans while others insisted on the beef/veal/pork meat mixture.
The other interesting factor that cropt up over and over was the breadcrumbs vs. soaked bread in milk

Today I sauteed the onions and garlic and let that cool.  I had 1 lb. each of ground pork, ground veal,
(don't tell anybody!) and ground beef.  For each pound of meat, I added one egg (which seems de rigueur).
I grated fresh parmesan over the meat mixture.  I had purchased artisan rosemary bread, trimmed the crusts and cut the bread into cubes which were then submerged in milk.  I chopped fresh parsley and added it to the mixture and, it was quite lovely!
Half the mixture was formed and cooked in a dutch oven of oil.

The other half was formed and baked in a 350* oven on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
(I nibbled on pieces of the fried meatballs that fell off and the taste was wonderful, in my opinion.
I ate part of the oven-baked meatballs, and they were actually juicier!  (go figure!)
Now, I am going to submerge both meatballs into my homemade sauce and give the B O B the
ultimate  test!

The results will be in a few days from now! 

In the meantime, please share your very special meatball recipes!!!!

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Easy as Pie????

Whoever coined the phrase, "easy as pie?"

Pie is NOT easy!

Pie is difficult!  Pie requires patience, time, money, knowledge!!!!!

I have had so many failures with pie, I could cry! 
(well, I have actually cried!)

My father adored apple pie.  I will never recover from the experience I had when I attempted
to make Martha's Mile High Apple Pie!

I was a Martha follower so whatever she said, I did!

I made this pie for my dear father and when I pulled it out of the oven, it was the most
magnificent pie you had ever seen!

I immediately took it over to my parents' home and my father ceremoniously cut the pie

the crust was way up here.....

and the pie itself was way down there.....

what a disappointment!

I had filled that pie with every apple slice on the east coast! 

There is no way those apples could have shrunk down that much!

That was a most humiliating, demoralizing, well, just plain awful day!!!!

It was also the day I realized that PIE IS NOT EASY!!!!!

I have made pies that have turned out perfectly.  Others have had a "raw" center crust.
Others have had a "shrunken" crust.  I could go on and on......

but, my main conclusion is that  PIE IS NOT EASY!

Hard Boiled Eggs

Do you like eggs?

I adore eggs!  They are such a total food!

I cannot imagine life without an omelet!

And, salads with a hard boiled egg are so......complete!

I used to boil the eggs and the result was most unsatisfactory.

There would be a blue/grey tinge to the yolk and it was most unappetizing.

I started to read up on "hard boiling eggs".

I was so not aware of all the controversy, rules, advice,!

Some articles would say to put one teaspoon of baking soda into the water which would
make the egg easy to peel.

Other articles would say to boil for twenty minutes and then let the eggs chill.

Use old eggs, use new eggs, only boil the eggs for 12 minutes, the "rules" for hard boiling
eggs goes on and on!

I finally came up with my own method for perfect hard boiled eggs:

1.  I purchase two dozen eggs.  One dozen is to be used for any cooking that I am doing just
now.  The other dozen is to "wait" til I am doing hard boiled eggs.  (that makes them "old")

2.  I then place the "old"  eggs in a pot with cold water to cover.  I place the lid on and turn heat
to a medium, watching very carefully.

3.  At the very moment the water is boiling, I  turn the gas off and let the eggs sit, covered,
in the pot.  I turn the timer to 11 minutes. 

4.  When the timer goes off, I drain the hot water from the eggs and "flush" them with cold
water and, once cool, let them set for a few minutes in the cold water.

5.  The eggs peel perfectly and the yolk is bright yellow with no tinges of blue/purple/grey.

Give this a try the next time you need to hard boil eggs!

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Chicken Pie vs. Chicken Pot Pie

Anyone residing in Central Pennsylvania is quite familiar with the Pennsylvania Dutch and the influence they have had on our local cuisine.

All you need do is say "chicken pot pie" and our eyes will glaze over as we envision a bowl of rich chicken stock, thick wonderful noodles, chicken and carrots.  A culinary delight that is the ultimate comfort food!

However, if you travel one state over or one state up, Chicken Pot Pie will be a pie, with a single or double crust.
The crust can be a savory pie crust or puff pastry, the latter being  my particular favorite.

Both of these chicken dishes have a special place in my menu repertoire.

Today I made the pie version and thought you might like to make this as well.

This is a wonderful dish to utilize leftover chicken (dark or white or combination), rotisserie chicken (what did we do before this great store-bought invention?) or prepare fresh chicken.

This recipe will feed six (6).  I poach chicken breasts for this dish.  I place the breasts in a pot and cover with cold water. Cover with a lid and bring to a boil.  Boil one minute and then turn the heat off.  Let the chicken sit for about twenty to thirty minutes.

I don't usually put celery in my chicken pies.  Also, I love carrots so I go heavy on them.  I use my own chicken stock if I have it; otherwise I use College Inn Bold Chicken Stock.  (I never ever use broth as I think it too weak)

I also do not use heavy cream in my sauce.  I prefer the lovely taste of the chicken stock and do
not want to dilute it one bit.

Chicken Pie with Puff Pastry

2 large chicken breasts, poached and shredded
4 T. butter
fresh carrots, peeled and cut in large dice (I used 6, but then I really like them!)
1 onion, small dice
2 large potatoes, peeled and cut in large dice
salt and pepper
frozen green peas,  sprinkle in at the end (I just put in enough for the color)
1/3 c. Wondra flour
3-4 cups chicken stock, may need a bit more if it gets too thick
puff pastry sheets
egg yolk

1.  In a dutch oven melt the butter.  Add the potatoes, carrots, and onions and saute til potatoes
begin to soften.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper - the amount is determined by your own personal

2.  Sprinkle the vegetables with the Wondra and stir to evenly incorporate.  Slowly add the chicken
stock, about 3 cups, stirring til smooth.  Turn heat up to bring to a boil and then lower the heat,
stirring so sauce and vegetables do not stick on bottom of pan.  The sauce should be slightly thick.
(If too thick, the pie will be dry after baking).  Put all of the chicken in the pan and stir to evenly distribute the chicken with the vegetables.

3.  Butter individual dishes  (or one large casserole).  Ladle the chicken mixture into the dishes.

4.  On a floured board, lightly roll the puff pastry sheet.  Brush the edges of the dishes with egg
yolk.  Cut the pastry to fit the dishes with an overhang and press down so the egg will cause the
pastry to adhere.  Then brush the surface of the pastry with the egg yolk.  With a knife, put a few
slits in the pastry for escaping steam.  You can also get creative now with the remaining pastry
and cut out leaves or other decorations.  Brush these with egg yolk as well.

5.  Place the dishes on a parchment lined baking sheet as they can bubble up and make a mess.
Bake in a 425 oven for 25-30 minutes, or til a lovely golden brown.

I hope you have occasion to try this and enjoy it as much as we do!