The Family

The Family
Me and my boys!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Bonjour Roasted Chicken!

I have been cooking from the cookbook "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" by Julia Child's and friends and I've got to tell you, the french know how to cook! They must learn as small children that everything is better if you baste it in butter. Last night I made this very basic Roasted Chicken recipe for the 2nd time and it is amazing! It is the most moist, juicy, flavorful roasted chicken I have ever eaten, so I thought I would share the secret the french have known for years. If you have this cookbook, then you can take a look there, otherwise here is my version of how to roast a chicken the french way.


4-5 lb whole chicken
2 tbs butter
2 tbs olive oil
2 tbs minced shallots or onion
2 cups chicken stock
1 tbs butter
salt & pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425. Wash chicken inside and out and pat dry with paper towel. Melt 2 tbs butter and combine with 2 tbs olive oil. Brush butter mixture inside chicken, and sprinkle with salt. Now you need to truss the chicken. Here's what you need to do, find a large enough sewing needle (like carpet needle) that you can thread kitchen string (or any cotton type string) through it. At the hind end of the chicken pull the 2 sides of the opening to the body cavity together and stitch, next pull tail up and stitch through it. Next pull legs together and run a stitch through them and pull altogether to close the opening of the chicken. I find there is no "Wrong" way to do this, the object is to close the opening so that the chicken will steam inside. The french also tie the wings down, but I do not mess with that and it has not ruined the result. Now that the chicken is trussed, place on a rack in a roasting pan on it's side, and brush with butter mixture. Cook in 425 oven for 15 minutes, lower oven to 350. Set timer in 15 minute intervals and baste 1st with butter mixture, then when that runs out use pan drippings. The chicken will take approximately 1 1/2 hours to cook, so you need to cook 30 minutes laying on one side, 30 minutes on the other side, and the last 15-30 minutes with breast side up. Once chicken is cooked, take 4 tbs of the pan drippings and cook shallots in a frying pan on high to medium high (depending on your stove) until they have begun to soften and are lightly browned. Now add the chicken stock, cook at the same temperature as the shallots until the liquid is reduced by half (approximately 5-10 minutes) stirring (or shaking the pan) occasionally. Remove from heat and place butter in pan and swirl to melt. Check the flavor of the sauce and add salt and pepper if needed. Carve chicken and serve with sauce.


Saturday, March 27, 2010

Good Morning Who Ever You Are

Good Morning Who Ever You Are!

Well, it's Saturday morning, and I have to work today, but then I will come home to the house all to myself. Some people may not understand the beauty in having a few hours in your own house to be alone, but for me it is heaven. I guess I am just one of those folks who requires alone time to keep the balance between "The World is a Wonderful Place" and "Lord Stop the World and Let Me Off". With both of my son's living at home (that is a good thing) my husband and I there is always someone lurking around so tonight is a real treat. I have already made up my mind to have the Pear and Blue Cheese Salad from my previous post for dinner and I will be reviewing my collection of "Chick Flicks" to complete the evening. Ahhhh I feel the calm already, but first things first I have to go to work, then comes "Heaven"!

Hope everyone has a lovely weekend and stay tuned to the next recipe. Did anyone try the Pear and Blue Cheese Salad yet?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Salad with Pizzaz!

Good Morning World,
I was thinking about all the people who eat blah salads in an effort to get some veggies in their bodies, and thought it was time to let you know about an easy salad that is so tasty and versatile. It is a Pear and Blue Cheese Salad. Now before you sceptics turn up your nose on this one, I ask you to give this a try because it is delicious, easy and very versatile. This can be made as a side dish or add some grilled chicken on top and you have a meal. We love it so much we eat this at least once a week at my house.


1 bag of your favorite bagged salad
1/2 cup lightly toasted walnut pieces
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
1 pear sliced into bit sized pieces

2 tbs white vinegar
1 tbs apple cider vinegar
2 tbs honey
2 tbs minced shallots or purple onions
1/2 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Place salad mix, walnuts, blue cheese and pears into a large shallow bowl (it's easier to mix in a shallow bowl). In a small container with a lid combine vinegar, honey, shallots or onion, cover and shake until honey is completely dissolved. Add oil, salt and pepper, cover and shake vigorously. Right before serving pour about 2/3 of the dressing evenly over salad mixture and with 2 large spoons mix thoroughly. Voila, that's all you have to do!

I really hope you enjoy this recipe. Be creative with this, sometimes I add dried cranberries to this to change it up a bit, but literally you can add what ever you like to this and I guarantee it will be fabulous!

To coin a phrase from one of my favorite people (Julia Child's) "Bon Appetit!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Is anyone listening?

It's Friday morning and I was just wondering if anyone out there is listening? I love the idea of blogs in that you can express yourself, and if you are lucky, there maybe someone out there that is listening. Can you hear me? Well, whoever you are I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

No need for "Pace" again.

Good morning who ever you are!
After living in Texas for 18 years, I acquired a taste for Mexican food. It's a little hard not to since the Dallas/Ft. Worth area (and all of Texas for that matter) is steeped in Mexican traditions. One of the mainstays of the Mexican cuisine is chips and salsa. Today I am going to help you liberate yourself from "Pace" or any of the other name brands, and show you how easy and delicious it is to make it yourself. I have named my version of salsa "Salsa Celestial" after my friend Ruth Gomez who first introduced me to fresh salsa. In fact she called hers "Salsa Celestial" and I loved it so much I thought it would be good to name mine that also.

Salsa Celestial
This recipe makes "hot" salsa so you may adjust the amount of jalapeno according to your tastes.
You will need a food processor for this recipe.

4 large ripe tomato
1 clove garlic peeled
1/2 medium yellow onion
1 jalapeno cut in half and seeded (wear gloves to protect your hands from burning)
Juice of 1/2 lemon (or less depending on your taste)
1 bunch fresh cilantro tops only
Salt to taste

Put all ingredients in food processor and pulse until it is chunky and well chopped and mixed. Taste to be sure there is enough salt. Store in refrigerator for 1 week.

That's it! Isn't that easy?
I hope you enjoy this recipe and let's talk again soon!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Cooked Gravy

I was thinking, after the "How To's" of making "Cooked Gravy" I would move away from my Italian heritage cooking and on to other areas. Cooked gravy is what most people buy Ragu for, but my hope is you will stop buying the jarred stuff and try making your own version of this recipe. Gravy is one of those things that changes each time you make it. Some batches are better than others and they are all dependant on what type of meat you add into them. There are very distinct flavors from meatballs, sausage, chicken, braciole and pork. When I was growing up Mom used to make it different all the time, but mainly used meatballs and sausage at the same time. Just thinking about that brings back so many memories of our home in Plantation Florida, loads of people crowded around the dining room table, lots of talking, laughing and eating! Ahhh I hope that this will help you create similar memories for you and your family.

Cooked Gravy

8-10 servings

2-3 Tbs virgin olive oil (enough to cover the bottom of the pot)
4-5 cloves of garlic minced
1/2 small onion chopped very small
3/4 cup dry red wine
4 large cans tomato sauce
1 small can tomato paste
2 Tbs Italian seasoning
1 Tbs Oregano
Dash of white pepper (if you like a little it a little spicy hot)
Salt & pepper to taste

First of all you need a very large heavy pot, at least an 8 quart. If you don't have a pot that large or you don't want to make a family sized pot of gravy, you can cut this recipe in half. Add all the tomato paste though. Start by adding enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the pot very well. Heat oil on medium high heat, when the oil starts to bubble a little add the onion and cook and stir until it start to become translucent (approx. 5 minutes), then add the garlic, cooking and stirring until garlic begins to brown. While to onion and garlic are still sizzling in the pan add the wine (be careful it will steam up). Simmer rapidly until the wine is almost completely evaporated, approximately 5 minutes. Lower heat to medium and add all the other ingredients, stirring well to combine the paste into the sauce. Cover pot and bring it to a medium simmer, stirring every 15 minutes or so. Now it's time to decide what type of meat to add, which is the key to the flavor. Previously, I told you how to make meatballs, so you could add them now cooking covered for about an hour stirring regularly, then cooked another 30-60 minutes uncovered depending on how thick you want the gravy. With the lid off the liquid will evaporate and not only thicken, but the flavor will intensify, so the longer you cook it, the better it tastes. The biggest thing to watch for is not to burn the bottom, if you do, forget it, throw it away and start over because no amount of seasonings will make that taste go away! Some other things you can add are Italian sausage, chicken thighs or drumsticks, braciole, or pork chop. All of these meats add a certain flavor to the gravy. Here's what to do:

Italian Sausage
I usually boil sausage while I am browning onion and garlic for gravy, so that it is ready to add when the gravy is ready to begin simmering.
If you plan to add other meats besides the sausage use 1 lb. otherwise use 2 lbs. Do not cut the sausage up, put in whole, cut it right before serving.
Put sausage in a pot, cover with water and bring to a boil. Boil slowly for about 10 minutes. Using tongs take out of water and add to the gravy. Once in the pot of gravy peirce the skin in several places to release the fat into the gravy. I know that sounds gross, but the flavor is in the fat. Sorry! LOL

Chicken thighs or drumsticks
Simply toss them in when you begin to simmer gravy. Most people leave the skin on when they are cooking the chicken, but if you are looking to reduce some of the fat then cook without skin.

Braciole pronounced Bra zhole
For those of you who don't know what this is, it's thinly sliced round steak, pounded, filled with cheese, fresh basil and garlic, rolled and tied, browned and cooked in the gravy for hours. It is absolutely fabulous! It is a Christmas Eve tradition in our family. You need to go to a butcher to get the round steak cut "braciole" style. Rife's Meat Market in St. Cloud Florida knows how to do it, which totally surprised me. So here's what to do:

4-6 steaks
1 package fresh basil
1 package shredded mozzarella cheese
1 package grated Parmesan cheese
4-5 cloves minced garlic
regular string

Cover meat with plastic wrap and pound with meat mallet (flat side) or rolling pin until it is thin and even. The whole purpose of pounding the meat is to begin to break down the muscle, so you don't need to pound it until it's mushy, just a little! Place enough of garlic, basil and cheese to cover the meat medium thickness. Start at small end of the meat and gently roll trying not to push or squeeze the toppings out. Tie with the string at both ends and in the middle. In a frying pan heat enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan at medium high heat. Brown on all sides and then add to the gravy. The longer you cook this the more tender it is, at least 2 hours. When ready to serve, put on platter, cut string and remove, and slice so that it looks like a pinwheel.

Pork Chop
Just throw in as much as you want and cook at least 2 hours.

That's it for today, I pray that you will learn something new, enjoy the cooking, and make a new memory!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Secret to Fabulous Meatballs

For years I have experimented with making meatballs never getting them quite right. Then one day I was talking to my cousin Signorella and she reminded me about using water soaked white bread. That was it, it is the secret to making Fabulous meatballs! Here's how I make them, keep in mind that you may want to adjust things a little to suit your own personal tastes. Enjoy!

Fabulous Meatballs

Makes approximately 20 golf ball sized meatballs

4 slices of white bread water soaked and squeezed out
1 egg
1/3 cup canned tomato sauce
1/4 Italian flavored bread crumbs
1/4 Parmesan cheese
1 Tbs Italian seasoning
1 tsp parsley
Dash of Worcestershire Sauce
salt & pepper to taste
2 Lbs ground chuck

Combine all ingredients except ground chuck in a bowl until well mixed (should be soupy). Then add ground chuck mixing until it is well blended (I squeeze and press it with my hands). Take golf ball sized amounts and roll them in the palm of your hands until a ball is formed and they feel firm. I drop them into my "Cooked Gravy" at this point, but they can also be fried or baked and used for other recipes such as Swedish Meatballs etc.
My "Cooked Gravy" recipe will be coming soon. Happy Cooking!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Leftover Meatballs

Good Morning World!
Yesterdays post was on how to make "Fresh Gravy", I realized at some point in my day yesterday that I forgot to mention that you are to chop the fresh oregano and basil, then loosely measure it in the cup. I kept having a vision of someone actually attempting this recipe and having a totally confused look when they had big clumps of oregano and basil on there forks. Sorry for missing that detail! It's actually a bit difficult to try to write a recipe down for something you don't use a recipe for because you have made it so many times it comes as second nature to do it. It's like brushing your teeth or folding laundry, you just do it.

One of the beauties of making a big pot of "Cooked Gravy" is that it always has some sort of meat in it, there's always leftovers and it reheats very well. Last night I got home late from work, Mike was at church and the boys were both out living life. I was hungry, didn't feel like cooking anything and to my delight there was leftover "Cooked Gravy" and in it were these beautiful, moist, and delicious meatballs. I put two of them in a bowl with lots of gravy on them, two minutes in the microwave and bingo! Sprinkle a little fresh Parmesan and tuck a napkin in the front of my shirt to catch the drips and dinner is served! I think tomorrows blog should be the secret to making meatballs!
Have a wonderful day who ever you are!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

No more Ragu!

Good Morning World!
I've been thinking about what the first recipe should be, considering that I am of Italian decent it only makes sense that spaghetti sauce should be it. Here's a little background on spaghetti sauce, first of all Italian Americans call it "Gravy", second there are two basic kinds of gravy, "Cooked" and "Fresh". The quickest make it during the week kind of gravy is "Fresh". It was a tradition in my house growing up to have a big pot of Cooked Gravy every Sunday. I can remember waking up to the smell of garlic, meatballs and sausage cooking...Ahhh by 5pm the gravy had simmered to perfection and we would all gather around the table for dinner. I still smile when I think of those times! As my story intimates, "Fresh" gravy is not simmered long and "Cooked" is, it's that simple. Today I will tell you how to make a "Fresh" gravy.

"Fresh" Gravy

Makes 4 servings
Cooking time approximately 30 minutes

1 lb of pasta (I prefer linguine or fettuccine)
3 Tbs Virgin Olive Oil
3-4 cloves garlic thinly sliced
1/2 small onion diced
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 large can (29 oz) diced tomato
1 small can (14.5) tomato sauce
1 cup each loose packed fresh basil & oregano (1 Tbs of each dried can be used but it is not as good)
Salt & Pepper to taste
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese (lots)

It's important when you are cooking to do things in the correct order so that everything is done at the same time. For this dish you need to start by putting the pot of water on to cook the pasta. The key to cooking pasta is lots of water and lots of salt. I like to use Kosher salt in all of my cooking but whatever you have is fine. The other key is not over cooking the pasta. It is done when it is firm but soft, that is called "Al dente". After bringing the water to a boil, add the pasta stirring imediatatley, adding a few drops of olive oil do not cover the pot. Once the water starts to boil again lower heat to medium high until it is boiling gently. Stirring pasta every few minutes is key.

Fill a large pot 3/4 full of hot water add approximately 1 Tbs salt, cover and put on the stove on high heat.
Using a large frying pan on medium high heat add olive oil, once oil begins to slightly sizzle add the diced onion. Cook until onion begins to become translucent (approximately 5 minutes) then add garlic. Cook and stir until both begin to brown lightly. Now add the wine to the sizzling onion and garlic cooking and stirring until most of the liquid evaporates. Lower heat to medium and add diced tomato, tomato sauce, basil and oregano. Simmer stirring occasionally, add salt and pepper to taste.
When pasta is al dente, drain well and add to the gravy in frying pan tossing well. Serve with Parmesan cheese and a salad. Viola you have a great dinner!
Here are a few extras you can add to the gravy during the end of cooking for added flavor. You can add one, two or all these items depending on your tastes.

Chopped Pitted Calamata Olives
Sauteed Coarsely Chopped Green or Red Bell Peppers
Sliced Cooked Italian Sausage

I hope if anyone is actually reading this that you enjoy, for is a way to express myself, sharing a little of what I have learned along my journey!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

I'm tired of Hamburger Helper!

Hello, my name is Arlita and I love to cook, and eat!
I have recently lost several people in my life to cancer, and it has occured to me the reason for this could be the food that we eat. On one of my normal trips to the grocery store recently, I began observing what people were putting in their shopping carts. What I discovered was amazing to me, most everyone in the store had items like "Hamburger Helper" or "Ragu" spaghetti sauce in there cart. With that discovery I decided I would create this blog to share how to make dishes to replace the processed junk they currently buy. We are all so busy in our day to day activities, but there is no reason to eat foods that not only are filled with ingredients from a laboratory, but have little flavor aside from the salt. Now do not misunderstand me, I am not health food fanatic, I am a women who loves to cook and eat delicious food, and believe that everyone can cook something delicious if they would give it a try.
Tomorrow I will begin posting recipe's that I make all the time, that don't take long to prepare, and people love to eat.
See you tomorrow!