Monday, November 22, 2010

Captain Morgan's Sweet Potatoes

Did YOU invite The Captain to your Thanksgiving soiree? I DID! Check it out....


4 - 6 sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 cups Captain Morgan's Private Stock Rum
1 - 2 sticks melted butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt

Mix the rum, butter, and seasoning. Toss cubed potatoes in the mixture to coat. Roast in the oven at 325 degrees for 1 - 1/2 hours. Then, MANGIA!!!!

These sweet potatoes are sweet, with a touch of savory - and you can spice them up by adding cayenne pepper. There are so many variations to this recipe, and it's one of those dishes that you really have to play around with. Taste the mixture as you go along to be sure that you've got the right seasoning. It's all about the taste that YOU like. Adjust it to what your preference is - you cannot ruin this dish!!!!

Unless, of course, you let that extra Captain Morgan go to waste! Pour yourself a glass of one of these AWESOME C.M. Private Stock drink ideas to pass the cooking time! But for now -

See you after Thanksgiving
with a photo (and recipe) recap! CIAO!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

EASY Chocolate Swirl Cookie Snack

You love chocolate. You have no patience for baking. You have little time to spend precisely measuring 25 ingredients........

If that sounds like you, then
1.) you are remarkably similar to me, and...
2.) you are going to LOVE this easy snack recipe

With only FOUR ingredients and NO OVEN TIME you have a presentable snack that tastes good too. I, personally, am going to have this on hand while we cook our Thanksgiving dinner.

You see, in our house, Thanksgiving is typically a three day process of cooking that involves tasting everything as you go. With all those wonderful savory flavors, every once in a while you want something sweet to nibble on. This snack is the perfect fix for any one's sweet tooth.


1 pkg graham crackers
1/2 lg. milk chocolate bar
1/4 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup white chocolate chips

Cover a cookie sheet with aluminum foil. Line the surface with graham crackers (in flat rows), breaking pieces as needed to cover the entire thing. Heat the peanut butter and chocolate bar in the microwave in 30 second intervals until melted. Spread with a spatula on top of the graham cracker base. Heat the white chocolate chips in a separate bowl(in 30 second intervals) until melted. Drop spoonfuls of the melted white chocolate randomly onto the chocolate covered graham crackers. Use a butter knife to swirl the white chocolate into the chocolate. (you can make figure eights, or simply swirl it around randomly, whatever you're comfortable with)

Then, place in the freezer for about an hour. Remove, cut, and serve when ready. Be sure to leave the leftovers in the freezer so that the chocolate does not get soft. Pull them out whenever you get that chocolate craving, and its better than any artificially flavored candy bar!

By the way, kids LOVE this recipe because its SO easy and quick. You don't lose their attention span, and they build up anticipation waiting for the frozen result.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Italian Popp-a-corn!

Lately, I have been on a serious popcorn kick. I thought it only appropriate to repost a recipe I blogged about a couple years ago for garlic parmesan popcorn. It doesn't get any better than this for an Italian movie snack. ENJOY!

I am always looking for ways to 'Italianize' the common snack. (yes, I make up my own words, get used to it.) That's how this recipe for "garlic parmigiano popp-a-corn" was born. It's so easy, and it sure beats that greasy, stale stuff you get at the theatre. I attribute the popularity of this snack to my love for garlic. I have inevitably passed it on to my chilren, who love to peel it, smell it, and eat it. And so began our family movie nights - with an Italian twist:


  • Pop a bag of popcorn in the micro (you can find some really good organic varieties these days!)

  • While it's popping, heat 3-4 tablespoons of butter in a small pot until melted. (adjust amount according to number of bags)

  • Stir in a little bit of fresh, finely chopped parsley

  • Mix in some salt and pepper, to taste*

  • Add in two cloves of minced garlic (about 2 tsp). Be careful not to brown it, just slightly heat it.

  • Empty popcorn into a large bowl and toss it evenly in the butter mixture, then toss in a few heaping spoonfuls of grated parmesan cheese.

  • Mangia, e guarda il film!

*Note: cayenne pepper or hot pepper flakes really spice this up! Or try adding lemon juice for a tangy twist!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Family Recipes - Braciole & Chicken Cacciatore

Whether they're passed along from your parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles or cousins, family recipes are what help keep tradition alive and well. Just a simple smell of a Sunday Gravy or a taste of an antipasto is enough to bring you back to your childhood in an instant. And what better way to help keep these fantastic traditions alive than to share them with our readers!

That's why Cucina Domenico and myself have agreed to share some of our favorite family recipes in our new feature segment called.....

*drum roll, please*

Family Recipes!
We will be featuring this special segment now and again, as we look forward to not only sharing the recipes with you, but also reliving some of our favorite memories as we once again get to enjoy the heavenly tastes of our favorite meals! We hope you enjoy as well!

From The Cucina:
Marie's Chicken Cacciatore

This family recipe has an interesting background, as it was actually first passed up in the family, then back down again. My Aunt Marie (Marie, or Re-Re to those who are her age in the family) was the first person to make it, and she served it once to my grandparents. My Grandmother (also Marie, and Aunt Marie to her nieces and nephews), loved it so much, that she asked to have the recipe, which my Aunt passed up to her. Fast forward a few years to when my Grandmother submitted this recipe to our local newspaper as Recipe of the Week, which was featured as a family favorite dish simply called Marie's Chicken Cacciatore (everyone in our family named Marie gets to share in the glory!). And whether or not you have a Mom or a Grandmom named Marie, an Aunt Marie or a Cousin Re-Re, you will be sure to enjoy this fantastic traditional Italian dish!

Marie's Chicken Cacciatore

4-6 chicken thighs (skin removed)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 tspn rosemary
1 8-oz can tomato sauce
1 green bell pepper, cut into small pieces
1 cup water
2 tblspn vegetable oil
pinch sugar
salt & pepper to taste

In a large frying pan, brown chicken and garlic in oil until chicken is golden brown. Add vinegar and 1/2 cup water. Simmer until liquid evaporates, then drain excess fat. Add rosemary, tomato sauce, remaining water, sugar, salt and pepper. Add peppers, stir together, cover slightly, let cook for 30 minutes.

Serve over a bed of rice or over mini pasta shells.

*Note - you can either serve the chicken thighs whole or shred the meat and discard the bone.

From the Mamma:
Dad's Braciole

Braciole is one of those classic Italian comfort foods. Slow cooked meat in a hearty gravy with a taste that no beef stew, stroganoff, or wellington could even compare with. It's one of those dishes you make in the downstairs kitchen and you nurture for a good few hours until it reaches perfection. The smell alone makes my dad's braciole recipe one of my greatest family memories. My father got his passion for cooking from the big Italian famiglia, and his technique from the Culinary Institute of America. Needless to say, his recipe is top of the line!

Dad's Braciole

2 - 3 lb. cut of top round or flank steak, pounded relatively thin
2 cups Italian seasoned bread crumbs
2-4 slices good quality ham or prosciutto cotto
2-4 slices domestic provolone
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup chopped parsley
salt to taste
pepper to taste
1 lg onion, minced
12 cloves garlic, minced
2 28 oz. cans San Marzano crushed tomatoes
1 1/2 cups red wine
1 28 oz can of water

Mix the seasoned bread crumbs with parsley, grated cheese, 3 cloves of minced garlic. Combine with extra virgin olive oil until moistened (like the consistency of wet beach sand).

Lay out the pounded meat and top with bread crumb mixture, sliced provolone, and sliced ham. Roll against the direction of the grain of the meat (so that when you slice the cooked braciole, it is cut against the grain. Roll up the meat. Secure with butcher's twine. Season the outside of meat with salt and pepper. Sear on each side in a few tbsp of olive oil. Remove from pan, set aside.

Add a few more tbsp of olive oil to the pan. (enough to coat the veggies). Saute the onions for a couple minutes, add the garlic. saute until all are soft and lightly golden. Add in the red wine, de-glaze the pan. Cook off the alcohol (about 5 minutes). Add the tomatoes and water. Return the meat to the pan.

Simmer on medium heat for about 2 1/2 hours, depending on the size of your meat. Stir frequently. When cooked, slice the meat and serve the extra sauce over pasta. MANGIA!

*TIP* - whenever you are slow cooking a gravy like this, or even a soup, throw in the rind from the block of cheese you are using. (In this case, parmigiana!!) It gives the sauce an incredible flavor. Always save those rinds in the freezer, you never know when you'll need 'em!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Meatloaf Italiano

Sailing on a yacht in the Bahamas, playing a round of tennis, taking a long nap, even doing laundry.....I can think of a million better things to do with my time rather than roll a batch of meatballs large enough to feed a family of 6.

So tonight I adapted my polpette recipe into a loaf. It's much easier on the hands (and the clock). My easy Italian meatloaf is another one of my family's favorites.

What sets this meatloaf apart from your typical recipe is the fact that we cook the garlic and onions before mixing it in the meat. Any cook knows that the flavor of raw garlic or onions vs. cooked garlic or onions is a world of difference. Another key factor is the marinara sauce instead of the typical ketchup. It's the difference between a glorified med-e-gone sloppy joe, and a hearty Italian loaf of, well, meatballs.

Give this recipe a try, modifying it to your liking. Maybe you have a polpette (meatball) recipe that you love. Adjust the ingredients accordingly, and mangia! I serve mine with a side of garlic mashed potatoes.


1 1/2 lbs ground beef
2 tbsp e.v.o.o.
1/2 lg. onion, minced
6-8 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes.
1 cup breadcrumbs
3 eggs, beaten
1/4 grated Parmesan cheese
2 tsp. balsamic vinegar
2 tsp Italian seasoning (I often use 2 tbsp chopped fresh basil, if I have it on hand)
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 cup marinara sauce

Saute the onions in the olive oil for 2 - 3 minutes, add the garlic. Saute for another two minutes. Add the crushed pepper flakes*, continue cooking until the garlic and onions are lightly browned and soft. Set aside to cool.

Mix the beaten eggs, meat, cheese, bread crumbs, vinegar, and seasonings lightly. Fold in the cooled onion mixture. Form into a loaf on a cookie sheet (I prefer this method to a loaf pan) and top with marinara sauce. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees. Serve with garlic mashed potatoes and you've got yourself a tasty dinner (and probably some really bad breath)! BUON APPETITO!

*Adding the crushed red pepper flakes makes the meat mixture spicy. You may omit this step. I add it to the oil, rather than the meat, because the flavor seems to infuse the oil better, which brings out the heat (which I love!) Adjust it however you like.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Election Day Lasagne Roll-Ups

Today is Election Day! (For us Italian Catholics, it is more importantly All Souls Day!) So when you're done praying for your departed love ones, say an extra one for the election....

But with all the praying and news watching going on today - I needed a quick and easy dinner that I could assemble ahead of time and throw in the oven tonight, as I watch the election recap. Lasagne is the perfect recipe! Although, lasagne can get kinda boring, so I switch it up a bit, and make individual rolled up servings. These are just as easy to make as regular lasagne. Its kinda similar to manicotti, but not as much cheesiness. These roll ups are cute and they taste good.

So as you sit in front of the tv watching election day news, you can rest easy knowing that dinner is in the oven waiting.

Lasagne Roll Ups

12 pcs. uncooked lasagne
1 1/2 32 oz. containers of whole milk ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated pecorino romano cheese
2 cups shredded mozarella cheese, divided
salt & pepper to taste
bolognese sauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Boil the lasagne noodles until barely bendable (do not cook all the way through, or you will end up with soft, soggy lasagne). Drain, and spread out evenly on a piece of foil sprayed with pam. In a bowl, mix the ricotta, romano, and half of the mozarella with salt and pepper. Spread the cheese mixture evenly over each lasagne noodle, then roll them up like a little pinwheel.

Line the bottom of a large casserole dish with marinara sauce. Place the lasagne rolls neatly in rows in the dish. Top with bolognese sauce* and the remaining mozarella cheese. Sprinkle some romano cheese on top. I also like to add dollops of ricotta on the top. Bake uncovered until lightly brown and bubbly for around 45 minutes.

*When I'm in a hurry and I have leftovers, I crumble up leftover meatballs that are in sauce and use that in place of bolognese. You will not be disappointed, and it saves you some work!*
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