Welcome to my BlogSpot. I have created this blog in hopes of inspiring everyone to cook. I have found my inspiration from living in both Southern and Northern California. My influences in flavors have come from family recipes and meals with emphasis on healthy foods, marrying into an Italian family and the ethnic flavors throughout California. There are so many wonderful memories connected to our family dishes as well as new memories in the dishes that have been recently created. My husband, Randy who is recently retired, has been my biggest supporter and inspiration in our kitchen. He is my taster, my sous chef, and has created some really great dishes himself, which will be added to this blog. It is my hope that you too will be inspired to cook and create your own dishes for your loved ones and enjoy the craft of cooking.

One thing I ask of you is if you print out, email and pass out my recipes, please include my name and link.

Be sure to check out my Sweaty Equities blog about the ups and downs of crafty projects and our DIY remodels.
You can find it at http://sweatyequities.blogspot.com/

Monday, April 30, 2012

Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup with Matzo Balls

Now for all you new cooks, don’t panic when you read how to make this soup. It’s really very easy but in order for it to be authentically homemade you’re going to need a couple of days. You could easily go out and buy a chicken already roasted, but you do need rendered chicken fat for the matzo balls, so if you do go out and get a roasted chicken, don’t forget to ask the butcher for some chicken fat. He may have it already rendered, or sell you some skins for you to render on your own.

Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup with Matzo Balls
The day before starting your soup you need to roast your chicken. Thoroughly clean your chicken in a sanitized sink with warm water. Remove all the gizzards and neck out of the cavity.  Pat dry with a paper towel and place on a roasting pan. With some kitchen scissors, snip off a generous amount the loose skin around the openings of the chicken and put into a small sauce pan. Cook the skin/fat on low for at least 1 hour to render out the chicken fat. –You will need 1/3 cup of this fat for your matzo balls.
Season the chicken first by rubbing it with Olive Oil, then salt and pepper, then Susie’s White Spice Rub, all over the chicken. Place the chicken breast side down and roast for 1-1/2 – 2 hours, depending on the size. The meat thermometer should read 180 in the thickest part of the thigh. Remove and let cool. Once cooled down start removing all the meat, but save the bones. You’ll need them for the broth.
The Broth
All the Bones of One Large Chicken
1 Onion, quartered
6 Stalks Celery, rough chopped
6 Carrots, roughly chopped
4 Cloves Garlic, Smashed
2 Teaspoons Dried Basil
1 Teaspoon Dried Celery Seeds
½ Teaspoon Dried Fennel Seeds
1-1/2 Tablespoons Salt
½ Teaspoon Pepper
½ Teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper
4 Quarts Water
In a large stock pot, combine all the ingredients and bring to a boil. Cover the pot with a lid and reduce to a simmer and cook for 6 hours. (You could choose to make this overnight in a Crockpot as well).  With tongs, remove the bones and large chunks and discard. Place a wire mesh strainer over a large bowl or pot and strain the remaining broth through the strainer so that all that is left is clear broth.
Making the Matzo Balls –This needs to be prepared the day before as well so the matzo sets up.
1/3 Cup Melted Rendered Chicken Fat
1 Bunch Green Onions, white parts finely chopped
4 Eggs
2 Tablespoons Seltzer Water, for light fluffy matzo balls
1-1/2 Teaspoons Sugar
1-1/2 Teaspoons Kosher Salt
¼ Teaspoon Freshly Ground Pepper
1 Cup Matzo Meal –Not Matzo Ball Mix, you’re doing this from scratch
In a small saucepan heat the rendered chicken fat and add the finely chopped green onions. Set aside to cool.
In a separate bowl combine the eggs, seltzer, sugar, salt and pepper. Add the matzo meal and stir slightly. Add the chicken fat mixture and combine well. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
The next day form your balls, using an ice cream scooper to scoop out the meal and form into equal size balls. Carefully place the matzo balls in a large pot of salted boiling water, one at a time with a slotted spoon. The matzo balls will fall to the bottom for about 30 seconds and then pop to the top. Reduce to a simmer and continue to cook for 1 hour. Remove the balls and place in a container that has a lid for storage, in case you have any balls left-over. Once your soup is ready you can place 1 or 2 balls in a bowl and ladle the soup over the balls.
The Rest of the Soup
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
½ Teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper
½ Onion, finely chopped
½ Red Bell Pepper, finely diced
6 stalks Celery, sliced thinly
8 Carrots, sliced thinly
4 cloves Garlic, finely chopped
4 quarts Chicken Broth
The Chicken Meat
1 Bag Frozen Peas, thawed
1 Pound Egg Noodles
In a very large stock pot combine the olive oil, crushed red pepper, onions and bell pepper and sauté until tender. Add the Celery, Carrots Garlic and Spice Rub and cook for 3 more minutes. Add the broth, meat, and peas and bring to a boil. As soon as you see a boil, add the egg noodles. Bring back to a boil then reduce to light boil and cook for about 8 more minutes or until the noodles are done. You’re finally done. Now you can enjoy your hard work.
Place one or two matzo balls into a serving bowl and ladle the soup over it. Enjoy!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Panko Crusted Boneless, Skinless, Chicken Breast Buffalo Wings

This is not one of those recipes to make often because it is loaded with fat.

Our son-in-law, Travis was having his 23rd Birthday and his favorite foods are appetizers, especially Buffalo wings made with chicken breasts. Randy and I made these for him and I think they turned out better than the ones from the restaurant he likes.

Panko Crusted Boneless, Skinless, Chicken Breast Buffalo Wings
6 Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts
1 Package Panko Bread Crumbs
½ Cup Susie’s Red Spice Rub
1 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
1 Teaspoon Salt
2 Cups Flour + 2 teaspoons Salt and 1 teaspoon Pepper
4 Eggs + 3 Tablespoons water and whisk together very well
3 Cups Canola Oil
Marinade the chicken breasts overnight in your favorite marinade. This is what makes the breasts tender and juicy. I used a Carne Asada marinade.
With a sharp knife, carefully slice the breasts at an angel to get thin, even strips.
Add the panko crumbs, spice rub, cayenne and salt in a food processor and blend until the panko crumbs are smaller and everything is blended and pour in a pie pan.
Set up your breading station first with flour in a pie pan, then the bowl of whisked eggs, then the panko crumbs in another pie pan.
Heat the oil to medium/slightly high in a large pan and start breading your chicken, first by dipping in the flour mixture then shaking off the excess, then the egg mixture, then the panko mixture. Carefully place in the preheated oil. It should sizzle and bubble somewhat. Be careful not to cook it too fast or the chicken will not thoroughly cook through, nor too slow or the chicken with be soggy with the oil. Brown the chicken on each side and place on a rack lined with paper towels to drain off excess oil. If you have a meat thermometer, the middle of the chicken should read about 150 degrees to be fully cooked.
Serve with Ranch Dressing and Franks Red Hot Wing Sauce.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Creamy Artichoke Soup

When Randy and I moved to Northern California we discovered many wonderful places to explore. One of our favorite places to go to is Napa Valley and one of our favorite wineries is Peju Winery. They aren’t the biggest winery in Napa and they don’t sell their wines in your local store so it is a real treat to open up a bottle and enjoy pairing it with some of our favorite recipes.

One of our favorite pairings with Peju Provence Wine is Randy’s recipe for Creamy Artichoke Soup. I love to come home from a long day of skiing and have a bowl of this soup, garlic bread and wine to warm my bones after a cold day of fun.

  • 5 Tablespoons Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
  • ½ Teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper
  • 3 Leeks, white part only, washed well and chopped
  • 6 Stalks Celery
  • 3 Baby Bok Choy (stock and leaf), washed well and chopped
  • 4 Cloves Garlic, minced
  • 6 medium-sized Yukon gold Potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons of Susie’s White Spice Rub -click for recipe
  • 2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 (8-ounce) packages frozen artichoke hearts, thawed
  • 1 Quart Vegetable Stock
  • ½ Cup freshly grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 8 Ounces Mascarpone Cheese
  • 1 Cup Half and Half.
Garnish with Crème Fraiche and chopped chives.
Heat olive oil in a heavy, large pot over medium heat.  Add the leeks, celery bok choy, and the garlic and sauté for 5 minutes.  Add the potatoes, salt, pepper and spice rub and cook for 5 minutes more, stirring often. Add the artichokes, and vegetable stock, and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 25 minutes. Taste to see if more salt is needed during the cooking time. When vegetables are very tender add the parmesan cheese, mascarpone cheese and half and half and stir well.
Using a handheld stick blender, or in a blender in batches*, puree the soup until creamy. Use caution if you use a regular blender to puree the soup. Fill the blender only half way, leaving the lid vented, as heat expands and you could get burned. Stick blenders aren’t very pricy so if you love this recipe you may want to invest in one since they are so easy to use. Cuisinart is our favorite brand for stick blenders.
Spoon into a bowl and garnish each bowl with a little dollop of crème fraiche and chopped Chives and serve with Easy Cheesy Garlic Bread.
What is Crème Fraiche you ask? It’s a French Cream. –highly addictive.

I can find it at Costco or Whole Foods.
  • 1 teaspoon chili garlic sauce mixed in the soup adds a bit of a spicy kick.

Easy Cheesy Garlic Bread

Easy Cheesy Garlic Bread

1 Loaf French Bread, cut in half lengthwise
½ Stick Butter, softened
6 Cloves Garlic, finely chopped
½ Cup Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese
2 Teaspoons Parsley, freshly chopped
Combine the butter, garlic, parmesan cheese and chopped parsley and spread onto the loaf halves. Bake for 10 minutes, 400 degrees, and then turn the oven to broil for about 2 minutes to get a golden crust. Set your timer, keep checking it, and don’t walk away or it will burn and you will be very sad.

Italian Sausage and Peppers

Different versions of this recipe have been around since I married into the Tronti Family and since my dad married an Italian woman (Lisa) in my twenties. I never had the pleasure of tasting Randy’s Grandma’s recipes since she passed before we met but I hear such lovely things about her and the way she cooked and how good her food was, while Randy’s Grandfather would tend to his gardens and make his own wine. What a wonderful childhood that must have been for my husband.
(Randy’s Father’s Family)
I wasn’t really passionate about Sausage and Peppers until I had Lisa’s Sausage and Peppers. We had them on French bread with cheese and it was love at first bite. Randy bit into his and looked at me and said, “This is what my grandma’s sausage and peppers tasted like”, with a nostalgic look on his face. Lisa gave me some verbal directions on how she made them and I have cooked them ever since. Through the years, however, I have made a few slight changes and have come up with my own version. It’s pretty easy to do, but in order to be successful you’ve got to plan ahead and start early.

Italian Sausage and Peppers
6 Pounds Italian Sausage
¼ Cup Olive Oil
½ Teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper
4 Large Onions, sliced
6 Red Bell Peppers, sliced
2 Teaspoons Dried Basil
1 Teaspoon Dried Oregano
Salt and Pepper to taste
8 Cloves Garlic, minced
3 Cans Chopped Tomatoes, or 9 Vine Ripe Tomatoes, chopped
1 Bottle of Beer
1 Pound Provolone Cheese, thinly sliced
French rolls, warmed in the oven
Place all the sausage in a large pot of water. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer for 30 minutes. This will help with crisping the skins of the sausage and preventing flair-ups on your grill, plus it will help to render out a lot of the fat as the sausages contain a lot of fat which will make for a greasy sauce. Barbeque the sausages on medium heat until they are golden brown with crispy skins.
Meanwhile, in another large pot, heat the olive oil then add the crushed red pepper, sliced onions, bell peppers, basil, oregano, salt and pepper. Sauté until the onions are soft and caramelized. Add the minced garlic and sauté for 2 more minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes and simmer away until the sausage is ready to come off the grill. Add the sausages and the beer and continue to simmer for at least 90 minutes, gently stirring occasionally, until the sausage is tender and juicy.

Serve on French rolls with provolone cheese slices, and melt the cheese under the broiler.

Spicy Multi-Bean Soup

Spicy Multi-Bean Soup

·        4 Cups of assorted beans, peas and Lentils
·        1 Tablespoon Salt
·        ½ Teaspoon Pepper
·        3 Tablespoons Susie’s Spice Rub
·        2 Tablespoons Cilantro
·        3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
·        ½ Teaspoon Crushed Red Peppers
·        One Bunch of Celery, leaves and all, cleaned and sliced
·        2 Medium Red Onions, finely chopped
·        6 Cloves Garlic, finely chopped
·        3 Jalapeno Peppers, finely chopped (Optional)
·        1 Quart of Organic Vegetable Broth

Start by soaking the beans the day before: Slowly and carefully pour the assorted beans, peas and lentils in a strainer, keeping your eye out for anything that nature added to the bag that doesn’t belong.  Rinse the beans in the strainer and transfer to a large pot.  Fill the pot with water that is equal to 4 times the amount of bean mixture.  Cover and let soak overnight. 

The next day, place the beans back into the strainer and rinse thoroughly and place back into the rinsed out large pot.  Fill with water 2 inches above the bean line.  Simmer for about 3 hours on low heat until the largest bean is soft.  (It will taste like a soft bean that really needs to be seasoned)  At this point you need to add the salt, pepper, spice rub, cilantro and crushed red peppers to the bean mixture and continue to simmer.

In a frying pan add the olive oil and bring to medium heat. Sauté the celery, onions, garlic and jalapeno peppers until tender.  Add to the bean mixture. 

At this point the bean mixture is thick so you need to determine how soupy you want your beans to be by adding the vegetable broth.  Bring the soup back to a boil and reduce to a simmer 5 more minutes and serve.
Serves 12
*Refrigerate the remaining broth because if you have any leftover soup it may thicken and you may want to thin it out again.
-Susie Tronti

Party Platter Buffalo Wings

These wings are a huge hit when we attend parties. We usually bring home an empty platter. It is super easy to make if you give yourself enough cooking time.

Party Platter Buffalo Wings

  • 1 Very large package of chicken wings and drumettes (thawed) from one of those big box stores
  • Recipe for Susie’s Red Spice Rub, plus ½ tablespoon more of Cayenne Pepper
  • 1 Bottle of Barbeque Sauce
  • 2 tablespoons of Chinese chili/garlic hot sauce
  • Ranch dressing
Liberally sprinkle all wings with the my Spice rub. -See below  You’ll need lots of pans to bake the chicken in.  Bake at 300 degrees for 1 to 1-1/2 hours.  Turn down the oven to 250 and continue to bake until the skin is crispy and the fat has melted off.  Gently toss the wings with 1 bottle of the barbeque sauce mixed together with the Chinese chili/garlic sauce.  Serve with Ranch dressing in the center of the platter 
These ribs are excellent when cooked in the smoker instead of the oven.
Susie’s Red Spice Rub
¼ Tablespoon Cayenne Pepper
1 Tablespoon Cumin
2 tablespoons Paprika
1 Tablespoon Oregano
1 Tablespoon Sugar
1 Tablespoon Granulated Garlic
1 Tablespoon Granulated Onions
1 Tablespoon Coriander
1 Tablespoon Salt
½ Tablespoon Pepper

-Susie Tronti

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Roasted Mexican Tortilla Soup


Roasted Mexican Tortilla Soup
1 Roasted Whole Chicken, shredded
16 Vine Ripened Tomatoes
4 Jalapeño peppers
1 Red Bell Pepper
1 Large Red Onion, cut in half
3 –Tablespoons Olive Oil
½ Teaspoon Crushed Red pepper
5 –Stalks Celery, sliced
1-1/2 Teaspoons Cumin
1 Teaspoon Mexican Oregano
Salt and Pepper to taste
5 –Large Carrots, sliced
6 –Cloves Garlic, finely chopped
1 Quart Chicken Stock
1 –Large Zucchini, sliced
1 –Bunch Cilantro, finely chopped
Cheddar Cheese, shredded
Tortilla Chips, crushed
Sour Cream

Season and roast your whole chicken, 350 degrees for about 1-1/2 - 2 hours, depending on the size of the chicken, or until it reaches 180 degrees in the thickest part of the thigh. I use my Red Spice Rub (click to navigate to the spice rub recipe) to season the chicken.
Place the tomatoes, bell peppers, jalapeño peppers, and red onion, and on a grill. Slightly blacken the skins of the bell pepper and jalapeño peppers by roasting them over the hottest part of the grill.  Put grill marks on the onion halves, and grill the tomatoes until soft.  Remove the vegetables and place the bell peppers and jalapeño peppers in a sealed container for 15 minutes to sweat the skins off.  Let the vegetables cool a bit before handling. Peel the skins and remove the seeds off the peppers. Dice the onions, bell peppers, jalapeño peppers, and tomatoes. .  To save time, I use a food processor and pulse until chopped.

In a large stock pot, combine the olive oil, crushed red pepper, onions, jalapeño peppers, bell pepper, celery, carrots and garlic, and cook for 3 minutes over medium heat. Add the spice rub, cumin, oregano, salt and pepper.  Cook for 1 more minute.  Add the chopped tomatoes, and chicken stock, then season to taste with salt and pepper.  Add the shredded chicken. Bring to a boil, and then reduce to simmer for 20 minutes.  Add the zucchini and cilantro and simmer for 10 more minutes or until the zucchini is tender crisp.
Garnish with cheddar cheese, tortilla chips, sour cream and avocado.
Serves 8
* You may choose to buy your whole chicken already roasted at the grocery store to save time.

By Susie Tronti

Creamy Tomato Soup

One of my favorite things about summertime is the abundant tomatoes growing in the garden all season. You can do so many things with tomatoes and this tomato soup is one of our pleasures while sitting on the porch and enjoying a beautiful sunset over the coastal mountains.

Creamy Tomato Soup
¼ cup Olive Oil
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
4 carrots, finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
4 stalks celery, finely chopped
½ Bell pepper, finely chopped
2 Teaspoons dried basil
Salt and Pepper to taste
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 cups Vodka

6 lbs of fresh tomatoes from the garden, -or a 6 lb, 6 oz can of diced tomatoes.
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 Tablespoon Sugar (if it tastes acidic)
1 cup heavy cream
8 oz Mascarpone Cheese

Place your tomatoes in a baking pan and roast in the oven or barbeque 400 degrees for 10 minutes. Set aside to cool. In a large pot, sauté the carrots until half way cooked, then add the onions, celery, bell pepper and basil. Cook all the ingredients through until soft then season with salt and pepper.  Add the garlic last and sauté for 1 more minute.  Turn off heat and pour in the vodka. Carefully turn the heat back on to medium and cook until reduced by half and all the alcohol burns off. (Vodka is flammable so take care not to splash once the heat gets turned back on.)
Place the tomatoes in the food processor (a few at a time) and pulse until chopped. Add the chopped tomatoes into the large pot, and simmer uncovered for 45 minutes or until the soup has reached the right consistency. Check to see if more salt and pepper are needed at this point. If the soup has an acidic taste, (due to being canned) add sugar. Turn the heat to a simmer and blend the soup with a blending stick. Add 1 cup heavy cream and 8 oz Mascarpone cheese and blend again.  You may garnish with Creme Fraiche and basil. -Serves at least 8 people
*If you don’t have a blending stick then you can put your soup in a blender. Fill halfway and blend in batches. If you fill it all the way you may have an accident because heat expands when blending.

BBQ Chicken Pizza

This is a great recipe when you have left over chicken from the night before. I usually cook my chicken in bulk on the barbeque and freeze the extra.
A foolproof way to always have moist and tender chicken breasts is to marinade the breasts in 1 part beer and 1 part teriyaki sauce for 24 hours, then barbeque.

BBQ Chicken Pizza
This recipe will make one large thick crust pizza or if you prefer, 2 thin crust pizzas.


3 cups unbleached flour
1 ½ teaspoon salt
Combine these dry ingredients
1-Cup warm water
2 ½ teaspoons dried yeast
1-T sugar
Combine the water yeast and sugar in a glass bowl until frothy.
1 egg
1-T olive oil
Mix liquid ingredients and combine with dry ingredients and knead until soft ball forms.  I use my mixer with a dough hook.  Knead on the mixer until all the ingredients combine and form a ball. Knead for 2 more minutes. Coat the bowl that the dough will rise in with olive oil. Cover and let rise in warm dry place for 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Meanwhile get your toppings ready

First pizza layer

8 cloves garlic finely chopped
1 Large Jalapeno pepper finally chopped (minus membrane and seeds)
¼ Cup olive oil
Combine these ingredients and microwave on high 1 ½ minutes

Second pizza layer

3 Barbequed chicken breasts, thinly sliced
½ Cup BBQ Sauce
1 Cup pineapple, diced
1 Can Olives-sliced
Handful of Basil, sliced
Combine these ingredients

Last layer

¾ Cup provolone cheese, shredded
½--Cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

After dough rises and doubles in size, punch it down and form dough in the shape of your pizza pan.  Baste with first layer all the way to the edges of dough.  Add second layer, then third layer.  Bake at 375 for about 20-30 minutes or if you’re feeling really brave…place on hot pizza stone in your BBQ at 375 degrees for about 20-30 minutes.

*This pizza is excellent when baked in the smoker as well. -Another great reason to own a smoker.