How to Make Lemon Ricotta Pie

If you are not familiar with what a ricotta pie is, don’t worry, either had I until a few years ago.

Ricotta PieA ricotta pie is similar to a cheesecake in texture and form.  Don’t get confused with a ricotta cake which is more like a regular cake made with lots more flour.

This Italian recipe is a traditional recipe and very simple to make and the most unique ingredient would be the ricotta cheese and confectioners sugar which you can readily get at any grocery store.

Traditionally, this type of recipe would be used at Easter time, however I sincerely don’t see why it wouldn’t be appropriate at anytime of the year!

Unfortunately I don’t have a video for this particular recipe, however it is nearly identical to a previous recipe I posted simply called, “Ricotta Pie“.   You can check that video out in that post once you know what to do to turn it into a “lemon ricotta pie”.

First, the ingredients:

  • 1 lb (16oz) Ricotta Cheese with Whole Milk (if you use low-fat you will not get the cheesecake consistency).
  • 3 TBLE white sugar
  • 1 TBLE white flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 3 egg Yolks
  • 3 egg Whites
  • Grated zest of 1 whole lemon

Equipment you will need:

  • Handheld mixer or electric mixer
  • Cake pan or spring form pan (preferred)

Next, How to Make it!:

  1. Preheat oven to 375F
  2. Combine the ricotta, sugar, flour, salt, lemon zest and egg yolks (only the yolks), in a large mixing bowl until very smooth without lumps or clumps
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until they form stiff peaks.  If you have an electric mixer, use the whisk that came with it.
  4. Using a spatula, gently fold the egg whites into the ricotta mixture.
  5. Spray the cake pan or spring form pan with cooking spray or butter and dust with some flour.  Once even coated dump any excess into the sink by simply tapping the sides.
  6. Bake for 35 minutes uncovered for 35 minutes
  7. Let cool for 1 hour to allow pie to set and settle (it will deflate)
  8. Before serving, top with confectioners sugar (don’t be shy).  If you have fresh blueberries or other fruit, add these either on top or as a side dish.


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What is Focaccia?

If you love bread, and you love pizza, then odds are you will love focaccia.

First, what is focaccaia (pronounced foh-kaht-tchah)?

Focaccia with rosemary

Focaccia is in my own words, a thick pizza bread seasoned with herbs and/or vegetables.  It’s often described as a flat bread, or Italian flat bread.

However, this flat bread can easily resemble a pizza depending on what toppings you choose.

Well, so be it as it may, when we make it at home, we use pizza dough… thus I prefer to call it a pizza bread without the “pizza”.

It doesn’t use a sauce and isn’t covered with cheese – thus it can’t be called a white pizza either.

Focaccia is meant to be simple and it sounds much more elaborate than it really is.

Let’s first address the dough.  You can use basic pizza dough.

I have a pizza book that has every variation of pizza or pizza-like dough you could want, but when it comes down to it for the average person like me (I think I’m average), we just want a dough that tastes good. We aren’t trying to act like dough snobs here, right?

Let’s Talk about Toppings

Focaccia with multiple toppings.

Focaccia with multiple toppings.

This is where it gets more subjective, meaning everyone has their own preferences.

Basically here are the general rules of thumb:

  • Don’t overload it with toppings
  • Simple is best
  • Use fresh herbs if using herbs such as rosemary
  • Always rub olive oil over the dough before baking
  • Let it rise at least an inch thick

I first had focaccia believe it or not by walking through the bakery section of our generic grocery store.  It looked really good and I bought some.  I liked it and realized it was so simple, why couldn’t I make this?

This particular one I bought had large chopped green peppers, onions, red onion, red pepper and lots of olive oil.

When we make it at home, we pretty much use what we have on hand which usually consists of:

  1. Roasted red pepper (from the jar – I don’t do the whole roasting thing, don’t have time and never learned).
  2. Kalamata olives
  3. Onion slices
  4. Banana peppers
  5. Tomatoes

See… pretty simple and that’s why I love Italian food!

Let’s talk Rosemary

Rosemary is a great herb that also makes for a great landscape bush on your patio or porch.  Focaccia with rosemary is very common and oftentimes what is served in restaurants.

In a nutshell, get your dough ready (I’ll explain that part later), sprinkle with fresh rosemary (always use fresh because the dried will be too hard), let rise for 30 minutes, then using your clean fingers make indents in the dough and drizzle or brush olive oil around the whole dough.

Sprinkle course salt and bake.  Always use course salt b/c regular table salt will be too salty since it spreads out much more per square inch.  With course salt you can use less and just lightly sprinkle it.

Let’s talk Olives

I’ve only met one person in my life that doesn’t like olives.  When she told me I didn’t know what to say, I wanted to ask if she had some horrible childhood experience with olives.  I mean, who doesn’t like olives? Especially Mediterranean olives?!

I digress…

So if you like olives, you can use a mix of olives, or just green olives (pitted and cut in half lengthwise), or my favorite kalamata olives.  When I need to use green olives for recipes like this, I don’t actually by the real raw green Italian olives, these don’t have the right flavor out of the jar.  I use those for baking dishes.

So I buy the Spanish olives in the jar that are used for martini’s – the kind my father would always keep in the fridge and spear with his fancy toothpicks.  Don’t worry about the pimento in the middle, it’s just red cherry peppers!

The best part… the dough…

As I stated, a regular pizza dough will work.  If you don’t know how to make pizza dough, use a simple recipe here or to make it even easier, check your local grocery store to see if they sell frozen pizza dough balls.  It can be hit or miss but I’ve seen them at places like Martins, Walmart, and BJs.

Now you have the dough in a nice ball on your counter. What now?

Let the dough rise until it is approximately twice its size or a little less… just bigger.  If it’s room temperature, it should take about 30 minutes covered with a cloth draped over the bowl. Put up high where it’s warmer or preheat the oven to 200 then turn it off and put the dough in there.  Don’t let the cloth touch anything but the bowl!

Once it is risen, do the part we all secretly love…. punch it down!  Then knead it for a minute or two and place it in a very well greased (using olive oil) baking pan and spread it around making sure it is about one inch thick all around.

Cover it again with the cloth and let it rise again for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400F and right before putting the bread in the oven add the toppings.

NOTE: At this point you have the option to either let it rise again or not.  We’ve done both ways. Sometimes I add the toppings as soon as I add the dough to the pan.

If however, you actually let it rise a final third time, then it may produce a more airy and thick pizza like texture.  Since according to the experts out there, this is more of a bread than pizza, you aren’t doing anything wrong by putting the toppings on right before baking.

How many toppings?

My husband likes more toppings, I like less.  Who is right?  Eh, who knows, we just want a good dinner. Keep in mind however that the more toppings, and especially if they are thick, the longer it takes to bake. I would recommend cutting the temperature back some to around 365F and bake for longer. You don’t want the tops to burn and everything else be undercooked.

Why 365F?  Who cooks at that temp?  I do.  When I can’t decide if 350F is too low but 375F might be too high, I find a middle ground and I end up at 365.  Then I can adjust as I monitor its progress.

Focaccia makes for a great simple dinner along with a nice salad, whether its antipasto or greens.  Add in a nice glass of red wine to sip on and you’re all set.  I do find the more simple the focaccia toppings, the more it will take the place of a flat bread. However the more toppings, the more it seems like a pizza.

Experiment, find out what you like the most and give it a try!  If I can do it… so can anyone!



Note: Since I don’t have any good images of my own of our focaccia adventures, I am using these images from flickr. Creative license link is below. 

Edward Kimber

Emilie Hardman

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Lessons I’ve learned from this year’s vegetable garden

One of these years I’ll hopefully be able to have a vegetable garden where I don’t feel like I’m starting from scratch.   It seems every year I try something new, either by choice or necessity (like moving).  This past year was using the Square Foot Gardening Method.

This year was no different.  My parents came up to visit and my mom and I were able to put together some raised beds that we were convinced would revolutionize my gardening endeavors.   Hmmm..

Mel’s Square Foot Gardening… was it worth it?

Anyone interested in square foot gardening should get this book available at Amazon either in paperback or Kindle:  All New Square Foot Gardening, Second Edition: The Revolutionary Way to Grow More In Less Space. By the way, this makes a great Christmas gift as it gives the person a few months to read before the season hits.

Gosh, where to start?  There are some pros and cons.   The bottom line question is, “Would I recommend this technique to anyone else?  The answer is “Yes, BUT…”.  The book I referenced above was a huge help and taught me a lot.  It really steps you through everything.



My 4×4 boxes. Bought at a store which cost more but made it a little easier to build.

SFG (square foot gardening) takes a lot to set up.  First, you need to build the boxes.  Then you have to go get the right quantities of each ingredient (peat moss, vermiculite, compost (5 different sources) to make the right mixture.  Peat moss was easy, vermiculite was expensive, but was found at Home Depot.  The compost was difficult to find.

I didn’t source the compost from 5 places as recommended because I only wanted organic sources and that’s hard to find.  Without an organic farm or nursery near by I had to rely on Home Depot which had far more organics than Lowes.  I even found some at the local Meijer store.

So many bags of compost, and this was only for 4 boxes.   And to top it off, my compost must not have been very potent because everything grew spindly and weak.  Finally half way through the summer I started adding organic fertilizer to feed to my plants and that did help tremendously.  However, since the Mel’s mix was so porous and we had soooo much rain this season I had to keep reapplying it almost every other week or so.

I recommend joining some gardening forums and reading as much as your brain can handle without getting overwhelmed. Here are two sources I used to post on to ask questions and got great advice from fellow gardeners. This website is actually through which is a cool site.  Good useful information.


So the main con was that it was a huge learning curve through experimentation and that takes time, even years to figure out what works and what doesn’t.  The other con was the whole mixing the mix together.  The book makes it looks so easy but it isn’t.   The mix was heavy!  And to roll it back and forth and back and forth on a tarp as described took a lot of strength and at minimum two people. It was very awkward.


The pros were that once done it looked pretty.   I agree with the premise that being able to use 4×4 boxes definitely made it easier to access all parts of the garden simply by reaching and I never had to step in the dirt, but could walk around the boxes instead.

The other pro was that I didn’t have to do any tilling with my yard like I thought.  I had had a landscaper come out to give me a quote to do the work of digging up our clay yard so I could use it as a garden and it was reasonable in price, but I just hate to dish out money when I can do the job myself.


Only one zucchini grew which I used for seed saving.

In the end, the garden fared well, not great and certainly nothing to brag about.  We got our tomatoes and some lettuce and the eggplants only grew half their size.  I kept my tomato seeds and will grow them from seed next February, and this means these will be second generation organic tomato seeds which is awesome.  These are the most flavorful sweet tomatoes anyone has ever had.

Future plans – my future plans are to break down the boxes, and use rows and in the spring till the mix into our clay soil.  I will only grow tomatoes, Italian zucchini, basil and lettuce and hopefully squash.  If I can master those, I’ll be very happy.   This weekend, assuming my sprained wrist is back to normal, will spread create the rows and plant organic annual rye grass in them for the winter which will then give the nitrogen back in the soil when it dies next spring and I till it in using my Earthwise TC70001 11-Inch 8-1/2 Amp Electric Tiller/Cultivator.  I’ll be sure to write more about that as I can’t brag about it enough and I’ll shortly tell you why.

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Sauteed Kale with Garlic Recipe

Sauteed kale with garlic is a super easy Italian recipe that requires very few ingredients.  sauteed kale

It’s one of those recipes that leaves you feeling so incredibly healthy that the double chocolate gelato hiding in your freezer suddenly seems 100% justified.


I’m not a fan of kale chips or most recipes that use kale per se.  In fact, can’t we invent a different name to call this leafy green to rid it of all the negative connotations it carries?

However this recipe is one that I fortunately learned from my mom, and it’s one of the easiest Italian recipes I make.  I’ve included a video below.

It makes a great side for a chicken or even pasta recipe, or you can make a huge batch and eat it as a standalone dish until your (or my) heart’s content.

There are different varieties of kale but the most common ones you will find in the store are curly and lacinato kale.   My favorite is the curly kale because I like the texture.  For a bit more color try grabbing some of the red kale that looks like the curly kale but has a beautiful reddish/purple color throughout it.


  • Fresh Kale (any variety)
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Fresh Garlic Chopped
  • 1/4 Cup Water
  • Salt & Pepper (optional)


  1. Rinse and clean the fresh kale
  2. Roughly chop the kale into large bite size pieces
  3. Heat a large frying pan with the olive oil over medium heat
  4. When moderately hot, add the garlic and saute until it is fragrant (do not burn!)
  5. Add the kale and the water
  6. Cover and turn to simmer for 20 minutes or until the kale cooks down and is a vibrant dark green
  7. Serve warm


A few cooking tips from my kitchen to yours..

  • I don’t like to cook my kale until it is mush.  I like it so there is still some chew or crunch to it.  I recommend that before turning off the stove and serving, take a bite and see if it is the level of tenderness you like.
  • Never let the garlic burn – meaning it turns a dark tan/brown.  This makes the garlic taste bitter and will not enhance the kale at all.  Just start over and you’ll be grateful you did.
  • Kale is high in Vitamin K which thickens the blood. Some people are on medication that is designed to thin your blood for health reasons, so if you are to stay away from food that thickens your blood, then this recipe is not unfortunately for you.
  • If you like some kick to your food, try adding red pepper flakes – it goes great with the recipe.  Add it during the cooking process so the heat blends well.
  • If you are wondering why to add the water, well that is simple. The water helps create the steam that cooks the kale.  If you add a bit too much water it might dilute the olive oil and thus weakening the flavor.  If this happens, don’t worry, just drain some water and drizzle olive oil on top and toss/mix.
  • I do not add salt or pepper to this dish, but if you must go ahead. If you want some saltiness, try adding some grated Italian cheese (Romano, Parmesan, etc)

Insight into Kale

Did you know that kale actually tastes better when it is grown in cooler weather?  It’s true, it is less bitter and more robust in flavor.  I wish I could say I’ve tasted the difference from my own garden but my first round of kale just didn’t think too much of me I guess and decided to hold back.

See, earlier this summer I tried growing some kale in my garden with high hopes of bounty pouring over the edges of my raised beds.  I’m Italian crying out loud… I should have an amazing garden right? No such luck… or should I say no nutrients?

Instead I got 2 inch leaves that just seemed to go nowhere.  Well I suppose my lessons in the garden are for another post…


How to clean Kale

Cleaning kale isn’t necessarily easy especially the curly kale.  You have to make sure you really truly pay attention b/c little worms or critters can hide in those thick green leaves.

Therefore the way we do it at our home is to fill a large bowl with water (understand we always use distilled water to avoid the chemicals like chlorine and fluoride they put in the water supply).  Add a few drops of Lugol which is used to remove bad residues and kills the insects – completely organic.

If you don’t have Lugol, then you can also add table salt and make sure it dissolves.  Then soak the leaves for about 5 or 10 minutes and rinse it really well.  Pat dry when done.

What to do with those thick stalks?

Well you won’t die if you eat them if that is what you are concerned about.  What I do is chop them up into really small bits and either add them in or just add them to my compost pile.  I also cut out the thick stalk all the way up the leaf – not just the bottom part.   I cut the leafy part into the bite size pieces and then I chop the stalks into tiny pieces like I said.  I can take them or “leaf” them.


Thanks as always for reading… enjoy your kale!



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Tasty Italian Zucchini Bruschetta Recipe

Here is a fun twist to our standard bruschetta recipe by using zucchini instead of bread slices.  Creative, right?   zucchini bruchetta As you can see in the picture, we swap out the hearty Italian bread with delicious flavorful fresh zucchini slices.

This recipe is perfect for a nice change of pace, those who are trying to cut back when possible on carbs (yours truly), vegans, vegetarians and anyone else willing to give it a try!

Bruschetta is typically a mixture of fresh chopped/diced tomatoes tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper placed on top of some toasted Italian bread with a healthy drizzle of olive oil.  See picture here:Bruschetta/crustini


Different restaurants prepare bruschetta differently, some do it spot on while others I couldn’t believe they even called it bruschetta.  I once ate a place that put so many overpowering herbs like oregano into the tomato mixture and put so much the bread I told my husband, “This isn’t bruschetta, this is a heap of seasoned tomatoes on soggy wet breadt!”

However, in this recipe we keep it simple… very simple    You can even see how easy it is by watching the quick video I prepared for you.  Take a listen and watch while we swap the bread out with some zucchini slices… along with some other necessary and practical adjustments.

Zucchini Bruschetta

Share this recipe if you think someone you know might like it!

Recipe Ingredients

  • Fresh Zucchini
  • Tomato slices (campari are good size if you have them)
  • Bread Crumbs
  • Fresh Basil
  • Olive Oil


  1. Preheat oven to 350F
  2. Slice your zucchini into approximately 1/4 inch thick rounds and place in a baking dish
  3. Slice your tomatoes as well and cut to appropriate size to fit on top of zucchini rounds
  4. Place tomato slices on zucchini rounds
  5. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs
  6. Drizzle olive oil over each piece so it is decently coated
  7. Bake for approximately 15 minutes until the breadcrumbs become crisp
  8. Remove from oven, top with fresh basil and serve.

A few tips I’d like to add regarding this recipe:

  • Do not overcook the zucchini.  You want it to hold its shape and not be a slice of mush
  • Use extra virgin olive oil as this has more flavor than regular pure olive oil
  • Always try to use organic vegetables when available
  • If you have a garden, this just may be a recipe where all ingredients are right in your backyard!

Let me know what you think, and feel free to share with anyone who might be interested.  Don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter on my homepage which I do my best to send out at least once a month!

Grazie e Ciao!



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How to Make Quick Homemade Organic Breadcrumbs

When I started making my own breadcrumbs, it wasn’t because I wanted to. It really came about because I couldn’t find any organic brands in the store (however you can order them online through Amazon or Vitacost).  I still use store bought when I need to for larger dishes and I have the time to plan and go shopping.

homemade breadcrumbsHowever, the below recipe has been used on many occasions when I’ve got all the ingredients out on the table and realize there are no breadcrumbs in the pantry.

When I don’t have any stale bread reserved for the task (I’m not a good planner when it comes to cooking), I grab about 4 slices, throw them in the toaster oven, wait, let them cool, then blend them up.  Still takes a little bit of time, but fast than running to the store.. and I get my organic breadcrumbs.

Taking the time to make your own homemade organic breadcrumbs is not hard or difficult, or even time consuming at all.  There are basically two ways and I’ll highlight the fastest one in this article (watch my video below).

The first method is to take bread and let it go stale over time.  You can do this by leaving it out in the open on a pan like a cookie sheet or something of the like.

Cover it with cloth to keep dust off and let it remain until it gets hard through and through.   Put it through a blender and there you have it.   The problem is this can take at least a few days depending on the type of bread.

My method of making quick breadcrumbs

  1. Use the bread of your choice. I use whatever I have on hand, sometimes its a baguette or sometimes its just sliced whole wheat bread.
  2. Bake in the oven or toaster oven until it is obviously dried out (not burnt).  I’d recommend about 350F if baking in an oven for about 10-15 minutes – you might have to flip it half way through. *see tip below*
  3. When finished, let cool so no moisture is in the bread
  4. Break into smaller pieces (if you can tear them and there is no crunch, they aren’t toasted enough) and add to a blender or processor like the Cuisinart one I talk about here.  I’ve used our NutriBullet as well as our VitaMix blender.
  5. When done, use for your recipe or store in air tight container


Quick Recipe Video:

Recipe Tips:

Here are some of my tips I think anyone would find helpful:

  1. If you have a toaster oven, I find that the toasting setting will dry it out enough, unlike a regular pop up toaster.   I toast on a low setting a few times so to not make the bread burn.
  2. Make sure you let the bread cool down before blending otherwise the moisture will cause the crumbs to clump
  3. Use organic bread and then you’ll end up with organic breadcrumbs
  4. Add in any salt and pepper to suit your tastes – even your own Italian herbs (dried of course)

Happy cooking!


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An Easy Recipe for Fried Zucchini Rounds

It wasn’t until my mid-thirties that I started frying vegetables, (zucchini is one of my favorites as it doesn’t fall apart).  Frying vegetables is so easy it’s almost unreal.  Plus, it’s a great way to show kids (and picky spouses) that vegetables don’t have to be bland and boring!

So, here’s another one of my videos to show you how easy and simple it is to prepare and serve.

The Basics of Frying Vegetables

The ideal method for frying is to dip each piece in white flour, then in a milk and egg wash, then into the breadcrumbs to coat.  However, I have fried using simply flour, egg and breadcrumbs, or flour, milk and breadcrumbs, or some other variant with the ingredients with just as satisfying results.

Having said that, there are some reasons why I prefer and therefore recommend using all the initial ingredients I mentioned.

Recipe Tips

Fried Zucchini Rounds

First, by dipping the zucchini in the flour first, the egg mixture is able to uniformly adhere to the entire surface area.  For kicks, try to dip a zucchini round into the egg without dipping it in the flour first.  You will see the egg just doesn’t hold onto the vegetable like it should.

This presents a problem when you try to coat the rounds with the breadcrumbs b/c now the breadcrumbs don’t have something wet and sticky to hold onto.

Secondly, why an egg and milk mix?   Frankly, I think you can omit the egg without a problem, but the egg does provide a little more flavor and helps create a bit more puffed up texture.  My photos don’t show it all that much unfortunately, but it’s true.  As I said, if you don’t like eggs, or don’t want to use it for whatever reason don’t sweat it.

In regards to ratio, I added enough milk to cause the egg not to be too stretchy – I’m not making a fried egg here.   I made sure to beat it thoroughly with a fork and that’s all that was needed.

Thirdly, the type of breadcrumbs – although I have gotten in the habit of making my own breadcrumbs, I would recommend plain Panko breadcrumbs. Plain Panko usually don’t have the hydrogenated oils. Just compare the ingredients from a seasoned can with a non-seasoned one and you’ll know what I’m talking about.

Whole wheat breadcrumbs or white bread?  I used in the video whole wheat breadcrumbs and they tasted great.   If I were baking these instead of frying, I’d prefer to not use the whole wheat but that’s just preference.

Fourth, why no salt and pepper?   Well, the breadcrumbs may already have that added in, and you just don’t need it.  But if you really want to, then add a pinch in with the breadcrumbs and mix well.

Okay, the important part….


I’ve already given you the ingredients but here you go:  flour, egg and milk, breadcrumbs, oil for frying.

  1. Wash and slice the zucchini into 1/4 inch rounds – no larger
  2. Pour some flour in a bowl or plate
  3. Beat 1 egg and some milk in a bowl (adjust for quantity)
  4. Pour some breadcrumbs in a bowl or plate
  5. Take each round and dip in the above order making sure to coat generously and set aside
  6. When done heat about an inch of olive oil in a medium saucepan over med-high heat
  7. When the oil is really hot use some tongs to place some rounds in the pan making sure not overcrowd them.  You’ll need to do this in batches.  In my video I do about 4 at a time – depends on size of pan.
  8. Let it fry for about 15 to 30 seconds then turn over and repeat.  When the coating is a nice golden brown, they are ready.  If they aren’t turning color fast, then the oil probably isn’t hot enough – you want to hear it sizzle!
  9. Transfer to a plate with a paper towel (the paper towel will help absorb the excess oil)

Serve and enjoy!

Use this dish as a stand alone snack, appetizer or a side dish to some pasta or chicken dish.  If you have any left over, don’t toss them out. You can reheat in a toaster oven!

Until next time, grazie and Happy 4th of July!



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Try some wedding soup for Easter

Well truth be told I was going to do a great recipe for Italian carrot cake for Easter, but it turned out awful (still not sure exactly what happened), so I had to ditch that idea.  :(

Instead I thought about my previous recipes and last year I did the Easter Bread recipe so this year I will bring back into the spotlight our Italian wedding soup.   I had created a video for this a few years ago and it is quite an easy recipe!  Much easier than you would think.

Since I’ve got a larger number of followers now, I thought, resending this recipe wouldn’t hurt and would be appreciated by my new subscribers!

It takes a total of 90 minutes, but most of it is unattended.  It is a very simple recipe with just a few ingredients most of us have:


  • beef
  • egg
  • garlic
  • breadcrumbs
  • Romano (or Parmesan) cheese
  • parsley
  • salt and pepper
  • broth
  • orzo (small oval pasta noodles)

The idea of wedding soup (so they say) isn’t so much that it is for weddings – although it can be today, but the idea of the ingredients blending together in the soup like a marriage, so not really a “wedding” soup but a “marriage” soup.

Well, the romantic side of me can appreciate all the background and setting of the stage so to speak, but let’s get down to the point…. great simple Italian recipe that if I can make and enjoy… you can too!

Here’s a quick video you can watch:

Some people don’t use the pasta in the soup.  I personally like it to bulk it up a bit more, but the preference is yours. Also, if you like to make your meatballs with pork or veal you can do that too.  Basically the first 7 ingredients are what I use to make meatballs, so feel free to make your own adjustments.


  1. 1. Bring chicken broth to a boil in a large pot
  2. 2. Create your meatballs using the first 7 ingredients above – make them small about 1/2 inch in size
  3. 3. Lower them into the broth and cook over a light boil for about an hour
  4. 4. Cook the pasta separately, drain and set aside with a little bit of pasta water to prevent sticking
  5. 5. When meatballs are fully cooked through, serve in pasta bowls with the orzo
  6. 5. Top with extra Romano or Parmesan cheese

Don’t forget, presentation can really top the cake too – use some nice Italian pasta soup bowls and have a nice glass of wine (or whatever your preference) along with some classic Italian bread and fresh salad.


Enjoy and Happy Resurrection Sunday!

Buona Pasqua!


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It’s Spring… and I’m thinking about my herbs

Solomon in the Bible talked about ants… yes ants.  I can understand why.   Ants are great motivators when it comes to working hard and preparing, but in the case of this blog… gardening.   Ants are always working and gathering up their food to store in their ant holes so when the cold weather comes they are well stocked.

This behavior is what we should be modeling in our own lives cause we never know what is around the corner. However we do know 4 things – Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter.   So we work our gardens in the Spring and Summer (and some Fall) and we aren’t so lost when winter and early spring come around.

Gardening is great for kids

I remember as a little girl my mom sectioning off a part of our large garden just for me.  I remember the sticks of wood that defined my area of about 4×5 along the left edge of the garden.  If you have kids, this is a great way to provide a way to show encouragement and help them see the benefits of hard work and the rewards that follow.

I can only dream of having a large garden like the one in my memories… maybe someday, but for now I’ll have to be content with my space saving techniques for my fairly small back yard.

Despite the smaller size than what we had growing up, my enthusiasm is as big as it can get.  In all honestly I’ve been thinking of this garden since I emptied my container gardening tools at the beginning of last Fall.  This year, I’m doing a REAL garden.

This year I will attempt square foot gardening.   I’m going to follow the square foot gardening book and I’ve got pages and pages of notes I’ve taken from online sources about what to plant with other plants and herbs and what not to do, etc. etc.  It’s quite overwhelming to be frank.

So where does one start?   Naturally I decide to take the hard road and try to grow from seed.  I bought my organic seed packs at Walmart and I’ve got my bag of seed starting potting soil.

How do you know what to grow?

The best rule is… look at what you eat already.   Since I tend to enjoy Italian food the most I chose to go with the staples when it comes to herbs… basil, oregano and parsley.

Three Italian Herbs


frozen basil ice cubesBasil is great with pasta sauces, pizza (margarita pizza please!!!)  and rice dishes.  I know there are a zillion other uses, but these are my basic uses.

These are great to freeze in ice cubes as shown in the picture below.


Oregano is great for pizza sauce as this truly is the secret ingredient.   All you have to do is take your basic sauce and add oregano and your kitchen now smells like a pizzeria.   Oregano also is great with meats and poultry (lemon and oregano dressing for grilled chicken is amazing!).

Oregano is also super easy to grow, and it’s really forgiving.   I figured I can’t go wrong with this one since I see it grow in the cracks in my in-laws cement patio.   My brother in law gave me some last year to transplant and so I shoved it into a pot and sure enough it survived without much attention.  When it started looking like it was dying i added water and it perked right up.   But his oregano was called “Spicy Oregano” and indeed it did have a nice little kick.  I recommend it to try if you like oregano.


Gee, this is a great herb too and it is great for freshening your breath!   Parsley is also great to add to juices cause it helps remove metals from your system (not a doctor but just do some research on it’s properties).  One of my favorite recipes is my Italian breaded chicken breasts which uses chopped parsley as part of the breading.  Use plain breadcrumbs since you are adding your own seasonings.

There are two types of parsley that are most common – Curly and Italian.  Curly is what you get when you go to restaurants while Italian is a flat darker green and slightly more bitter tasting parsley.   Both are good but I recommend growing both b/c they have different uses.  I love just snacking on curly parsley, and it goes great in various salads.

So those are my three must haves.    I am going to try and grow Cilantro and Thai basil which are my two non-Italian favs.  Add them to freshly cooked rice along with some steamed vegetables and you’ve got a great little dish.

And always remember, don’t be shy like I am too often.   Plant more than you need because not everything is guaranteed to grow anyway.  If you have an over abundance that really is great because then  you have enough to freeze or dry for use during the winter and spring months.   I did this last year – both freezing my herbs and drying them.

My preference?   Except for the basil, I prefer dried herbs.  I use my Food Dehydrator and knock them out on a weekend and it works great.  I recommend getting one if you take your herb growing seriously.

I’ll try to post pictures as as I continue on my lovely journey.  I’m not great at gardening but I’m a glutton for punishment each year as I try new techniques and love every minute of it!

Till next time…  ciao!


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Learn how to Make Roasted Garlic recipe

Italians love their garlic!  Well, actually so do the Greeks, the Spanish, the Thai and well… lots of cultures!

Garlic is such a versatile herb which can be used in a variety of ways in a variety of recipes.  It can be chopped, pureed, diced, sliced, smashed and… roasted.

This post will focus on roasted garlic – what is it exactly and how do you make it?

I was inspired to talk about this recipe the other week when I was at work speaking with a friend about what she was going to make for dinner. She mentioned garlic and I mentioned how I love roasted garlic.

To my surprise she asked, “What is that?”   It didn’t even dawn on me that others don’t know what this is… I tend to always assume everyone knows more than I do!  So I said, “You just gave me a great idea for a blog post!”

I never started roasting garlic until about 5 or 6 years ago when I started my quest for simple Italian cooking.  It is super easy, healthy, and a great accompaniment to many dishes.

What is Roasted Garlic?

Roasted garlic is whole garlic cloves or bulbs that are roasted in an oven at a fairly high temperature.   The below images are the difference between a garlic “clove” vs. a “bulb”.  A bulb is what you see in the stores – a group of cloves bound together by the outer white papery skin.

Did you know you can take 1 single clove, bury it in the ground with the pointy end up, and it will grow into a bulb?  I have done this one year and it worked out except I forgot where I buried the cloves and I couldn’t easily differentiate between the tall weeds and the garlic stems.

How to Roast Garlic

Although others I’m sure have their preferences, I like mine as simplistic and mess free as possible. Here’s how:

  1. Take a whole bulb and slice off the top to expose most of the raw garlic heads
  2. If you can, try to create a little space between some of cloves by moving them around – but not to where it falls apart
  3. Place on top of a piece of parchment paper large enough to wrap it up
  4. Drizzle olive oil on the bulb trying to get the oil to drip into the cloves which you’ve wiggled apart
  5. Now wrap it up with the parchment and twist the top so it stays shut
  6. In an oven proof dish, bake for 45 minutes at 375F
  7. When finished, open the bulbs when slightly cooled and using a knife and fork (or hands), remove the garlic from it’s outer skin (don’t eat the skin)
  8. Eat and enjoy!


  • Garlic is potent and it will be noticeable.  If you have family that don’t like cooking smells (even if good ones), keep a window open or make sure to air it out when done.
  • I always wish I made more garlic.  It’s easy to think, “I won’t eat a whole bulb!”  but amazingly, when garlic is cooked like this, it is not filling and you end up wanting more.
  • Italian recipes that this side dish goes well with are meat recipes and pasta dishes
  • Accompany with a salad, and include a bunch of parsley on the side b/c parsley is a great at removing any garlic smells that might linger
  • If you do not have parchment paper, you can use foil
  • By using a wrapper, like parchment paper – it traps the steam and the cloves do not dry out.

Let me know how you roast your garlic!

Thanks for reading,




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