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, May 21, 2012

Randy’s Pasta e Fagioli

This is another one of those fabulous Italian recipes that Randy grew up with. Throughout the years he’s tweaked some of the ingredients and spices thereby perfecting this dish with the freshest of ingredients. You will need to start this dish the night before by soaking your beans in 4 times the water overnight. The next day give yourself a few hours to simmer the beans until soft, before you start the rest of the dish.
If you are intimidated by doing your beans from scratch or don’t have the time for soaking and cooking, you could always go and get 4 or 5 cans of Great Northern beans, which is totally fine, but the effort into starting your beans from scratch makes a huge difference in the freshness.

Randy’s Pasta Fagioli
1 Pound Great Northern Beans –soaked in water overnight
1 Pound Penne Pasta, cooked to al dente
¼ Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
½ Teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper
1 Onion, diced
6 stalks Celery -hearts of celery with leaves included is best for optimum flavor
6 Carrots, thinly sliced
1 Teaspoon Dried Oregano
1 Teaspoon Dried Basil
Salt and Pepper
6 Cloves Garlic, finely chopped
¼ Cup Flour
½ Cup White Wine
2 Bunches Swiss Chard, Cleaned, de-stemmed, and roughly chopped
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper
1 Quart Vegetable Broth
Parmesan Cheese for Garnish
Let’s start with the beans. Place them in a large pot and fill with 4 times the amount of water and allow to soak overnight. The beans will grow to about 3-4 times in size. Drain and rinse the beans, place back in the pot and fill up to 3 inches above the bean line with water. –Just water, nothing else and let simmer for about 3-4 hours or until the beans are soft. –You should be able to easily squeeze them between your fingers. Once they are soft enough, add 1-2 tablespoons of salt. Stir and taste and add more salt if necessary. Set aside the beans but do not drain. The broth in the beans is used for the dish.
Now start your pasta water. Add salt and olive oil to the water and bring to a boil. When you’re about 10 minutes away from serving your dish, add your pasta and cook according to package directions to al dente. When combining all the ingredients, the pasta will cook a bit more.
In a large pot, add ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, crushed red pepper, the diced onion, celery, carrots, oregano, basil and White Spice Rub then sauté until the onions are translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 2 more minutes. Stir in the flour and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the white wine and Swiss chard. Drizzle 2 tablespoons olive oil over the chard, then season with salt and pepper and cook until tender, stirring occasionally. Add the vegetable broth and bring to a light boil, thoroughly stirring to incorporate the flour mixture with the broth. It should thicken a bit. Add this mixture to the bean mixture and bring to a light boil for about 5 minutes. Taste to see if salt is necessary. Drain the pasta and add to the bean, vegetable mixture. Let stand for 10 minutes. See if any more broth or water needs to be added if it starts to thicken up too much. It should be a thick soupy consistency.
Garnish with Parmesan cheese.
Can be served with Easy Cheesy Garlic Bread.
-Randy Tronti

Cheese Stuffed Tortellini with Fresh Tomato Basil Marinara

With summer shortly arriving, this is a light dish for a warm summer evening. The sweet onions mellow out the acidity of the tomatoes while the fresh basil adds a light freshness to the palate. The heavy cream is the finishing touch and smoothes out the marinara, creating a harmonious comforting flavor when paired with the tortellini. Enjoy!

Cheese Stuffed Tortellini with Fresh Tomato Basil Marinara
1 -24 Ounce package Fresh Cheese Tortellini, cooked
¼ Cup Olive Oil
½ Teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper
1 Onion, diced
½ Teaspoon Oregano
Salt and Pepper to taste
4 Cloves Garlic, finely chopped
½ Cup Black Olives, chopped
1 Pound Vine Ripe Tomatoes, chopped
¾ Cups Vodka
½ Cup Heavy Cream
¼ Cup Chopped Basil
Parmesan Cheese for Garnish
In a large pot, heat the water for the pasta to a light boil.
In a separate large pan, sauté the onions in olive oil, crushed red pepper, oregano, salt and pepper. When the onions are translucent, add the garlic and sauté for 2 minutes. Add the olives and tomatoes and cook until the tomatoes are tender. Taste to see if more salt is necessary. Turn off the heat and add the vodka. Carefully turn the heat back on to medium and reduce the vodka by at least half. (Vodka is flammable to be careful not to splatter.) At this point while the vodka is reducing add the tortellini to the lightly boiling water and bring back up to a light boil and cook for about 5 minutes or according to instructions on package. You may need to lightly stir the tortellini occasionally because they float and they need to be immersed in the water to cook. Once the vodka is reduced, add the heavy cream and simmer for 2 more minutes. Taste to see if more salt is needed. Pour the marinara over the Tortellini and add the chopped basil and toss lightly.
Garnish with Parmesan Cheese.
Pairs beautifully with Peju Provence or Mumm Brut Rose.
-Susie Tronti

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Homemade Whole Wheat Pasta Linguine

Do you have one of those fancy Kitchen Aid Mixers? If so then you can make homemade pasta very easily, but first you’ll need the pasta attachments, which you can find at your kitchen specialty stores or order online. I ordered the 3-Pack. One is the pasta sheet roller, which is necessary for all pasta making, the second one is for spaghetti of various thicknesses, and the third is for linguine. I believe this is known as the starter set. I got mine online through Home Depot for a better price and the shipping to my home was free.

All the pastas are easy to make once you get the hang of it but I’m going to give you directions for whole wheat pasta because it is the most temperamental to make and once you conquer it, you’ll be a pro at making pasta, --not to mention its healthier and tastes a lot better than the packaged whole wheat pasta you buy in the stores that takes forever to cook.
This pasta goes very well with my recipe for Italian Sausage and Peppers. The hardiness of the whole wheat dough stands up well to the tender sausages, onions and peppers.

Homemade Whole Wheat Pasta Linguine
4 Large Eggs
2-1/2 to 3 Cups Whole Wheat Flour
1 Teaspoon Salt
2 Tablespoons Water
White Flour, to sprinkle on cutting board
First of all, get a large pot of water with some salt and a little olive oil to boiling then turn down to medium low until 2 minutes before you’re ready to put in your pasta. That way you’ll be ready to cook the pasta right away. About 2 minutes before adding the pasta turn it back up to a boil.
Place the eggs and water in a bowl and then add the 2 cups flour to start. Using your dough hook in your hand, incorporate the ingredients together by hand to get it started. Now take the hook and attach it to the mixer and turn the speed to 6 until you see everything coming together, then turn to speed 4. The dough should form a ball and the sides of the bowl should be free of dough. The dough will get loose again so at this point you want to add ½ cup flour, a little at a time, until a good, firm dough ball sets up. You might need more than a ½ cup more depending on the humidity in the air and the type of flour you’re using. This is why you need to add slowly. Once the dough stays in a ball, set the timer for 4 minutes of kneading. Place the dough in a covered container and set aside for 30 minutes.

Divide the dough into manageable sized pieces to run through your sheet roller. Set your roller to 1. Using white flour, generously coat your dough ball for the first time and run through the roller.

Fold it into thirds, lightly sprinkle with flour and run it through 3-4 more times on number 1, folding the dough each time and making sure that you have a light coating of flour each time. Now set your roller to 2 then 3 then 4 then 5, each making sure that you’re lightly coating with flour. You don’t need to fold the dough during these times and only run through once each. Your pasta should start to feel flexible and smooth as you pass your dough through. You want to get to a desired number suitable for the kind of pasta you intend to make. You will see the appropriate sizes of thickness for different types of noodles on page 6 of your pasta attachment directions. I am going to take it to number 6 for linguine. Once your dough is to the desired thickness, store the sheets of pasta on a clean cloth, lightly sprinkling with flour so the sheets don’t stick and cover with another clean cloth.
Now it’s time to proceed to the next step. Put your linguini attachment on the mixer. This would be a good time to turn the water to boiling so it’s ready for your pasta. Take the cutting board and place in under the attachment to catch the linguine. Run each sheet of pasta through the linguine cutter.

After running about 4 sheets through the cutter, place that linguine in the boiling water and cook for 2 minutes. Have a small hand strainer or pasta scoop on hand and scoop out the linguine or an internal strainer to remove the pasta, keeping the boiling water going. Continue with the rest of your sheets and cook in batches.

-Susie Tronti

Friday, May 4, 2012

Sweet and Spicy Pickled Jalapeños

A few years ago, while at Rubio’s, a Mexican Restaurant, I discovered that I love their pickled jalapenos. I’ve always loved their fresh Mexican food but it took me awhile to actually try the jalapenos. It’s really all I can think about now when I order my food. I usually down about 3 of them with my meal, minus the membranes and seeds. I’ve had pickled jalapenos before but there was something special about these. They tasted not only spicy, but sweet with an aroma that I had a hard time pinning down at first. I tried to find the brand that they used in stores and even looked up the brand on the web, but to no avail.
I felt pretty sure that the floral spice that I was picking up was Allspice, so I started to mess around with different combinations of pickling and after a few tries I think I nailed it. Rubio’s jalapenos came with carrots and onions in it as well but my thoughts were that if I added carrots and onions it would just take up space where another jalapeno pepper could fit in the jar.
Give this recipe a try and you’ll see why I was so passionate about these pickled jalapeno peppers.

Sweet and Spicy Pickled Jalapeños

2 Sterilized 1-quart Canning Jars
4 Pounds Fresh Jalapeno Peppers, thoroughly cleaned
2 1/2 Cups Water
½ Cup Sugar
¼ Cup Coarse Kosher Salt
1 Teaspoon Dill Weed
1 Teaspoon Black Peppercorns
½ Teaspoon Celery Seeds
2 Bay Leaves
2 Tablespoons Whole Coriander Seeds
8 Cloves Garlic, peeled and sliced
2 Tablespoons Whole Allspice
1 Tablespoon Mustard Seeds
2 1/2 Cups Distilled White Vinegar

Sterilize the canning jars and lids.
Thoroughly clean the jalapenos and with a sharp paring knife make 3 slits in each pepper.
Bring all the ingredients except the jalapenos and vinegar to a soft boil until the sugar and salt dissolve completely. Add the vinegar and bring back to a soft boil. Add the jalapeno peppers in batches so that they submerge in the brine being careful not to over-crowd them. Cover with a lid and reduce the heat to a medium/low. Cook for approximately 10 minutes or until the jalapenos turn from a bright green to a more olive green and are tender.

With a slotted spoon scoop out about half the spices, bay leaves and garlic and put in the bottom of the clean jars. Stuff the cooked peppers into the jars, trying not to leave too much space between the jalapenos. –A wooden spoon can be used to push them closer together and fill in the gaps. –You’d be surprised at how many jalapenos you can fit into each jar. Pour the brine over the peppers to about ½ inch from the top. Add more spices to the top of the peppers. Wipe the tops clean and tightly place the lids on the jars.

At this point you can leave the jars out until they reach room temperature and then refrigerate them. They will be ready to eat in 2 days.

If you plan to store them in the cupboard then you need to proceed to these next steps to ensure that you get a proper seal. You must use the proper canning jars to store at room temperature. I don’t do this process because mine don’t last long enough to store for long term.

Process the filled jars by submerging in a hot water bath by boiling for 20 minutes. Remove jars from pot. Let cool down to room temperature. Jars should make a popping sound as their lids seal. If a lid doesn't properly seal, do not store the jar outside of the refrigerator.

I got this 2-quart size jar at Ross in the kitchen section for 5 dollars. I picked up four of them and they are great for pickling.