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/

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Pan Seared Salmon over Swiss Chard with White Wine Beurre Blanc.

We have a new favorite restaurant near us in the little town of New Castle California. It is called La Fornaretta Restaurant. It is an Italian restaurant, authentically Sicilian. If you live in the area, check it out. Last night we met friends there for dinner and I had the salmon special. It was a lovely dish of salmon smothered in freshly cooked tomatoes, calamata olives and capers in a white wine reduction served with spinach. It was divine. 2 of the gang had stuffed pork chops over polenta and spinach while one other had the Tutto Mare, a seafood medley over linguini. All were very impressed.
When we got home from church and shopping today, I couldn’t get that salmon specialty out of my head. I know it’s November 2nd but my garden is still gifting us, so I headed to the garden and gathered up some red and yellow tomatoes, a few small onions, some basil, a couple of red bell peppers and a big bunch of Swiss chard.

I needed to come up with a recipe that would satisfy my craving for La Fornaretta in between visits. This concoction did the trick. We sure loved every bite. Even though there are a lot of ingredients, it was fast and super easy. I hope this becomes one of your favorites too.

Now when I cook, I don’t really measure much of anything. For example when I say to put in 2 teaspoons honey, you don’t have to make a sticky mess measuring it out. Just eyeball it. Go with your gut. Trust that you will do just fine.

Pan Seared Salmon over Swiss Chard with White Wine Beurre Blanc.

Serves 4

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, halved and sliced
2 small red bell peppers, sliced
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 cup tomatoes, chopped
8 cups Swiss chard, cleaned and chopped
1 handful fresh basil leaves
¼ cup calamatta olives, sliced
2 teaspoons capers
1 can cannelloni beans
Salt and pepper to taste

4 pieces of salmon fillets
Granulated garlic
Salt and pepper

½ pound penne pasta
Freshly grated parmesan cheese

1 cup white wine
The juice of one lemon
½ teaspoon tarragon
6 tablespoons butter
A pinch of crushed red pepper
2 teaspoons honey

Start your pasta water to boiling with salt and just a bit of olive oil while you prepare your vegetables to cook. Once you’re ready to cook the vegetables, put your pasta in boiling water and cook for 9-10 minutes until al dente.

Meanwhile, in a large deep pan heat the olive oil and add the onions and bell peppers. Sauté until softened. Add garlic and tomatoes and cook until the tomatoes soften and become juicy. Salt and pepper the layers. Add the Swiss chard and the basil leaves, cover and cook on medium heat until the Swiss chard is very tender. Stir in the calamatta olives and capers.  Add the beans and stir. Turn of the heat and add the cooked pasta to the mixture and cover with a lid to keep warm

Sprinkle salt, pepper and granulated garlic on your salmon fillets. Drizzle a small amount of olive oil in a hot pan and add the salmon fillets. Cook at medium/high to get a sear on the salmon and watch for them to cook about 1/3 of the way through. Flip the salmon over and let it cook about 1/3 of the way through again. Remove the salmon from the pan and cover with foil to keep warm. (The thickness of the fillet will determine cooking time)

Beurre Blanc
In the same pan that the salmon came out of and while still hot, pour in the white wine, the juice of a lemon and the tarragon. Let it reduce to about 1/3 cooking on medium/high heat. Add the butter and crushed red pepper. Stir to incorporate until silky smooth, then add the honey and stir just a bit longer. Remove from heat and add to the pasta/Swiss chard pan and mix everything together.

Scoop the Swiss chard/pasta mixture onto the center of a plate and place the salmon on top. Sprinkle with some freshly grated parmesan cheese.


Friday, August 29, 2014

Surf and Turf Bloody Mary

Have you ever noticed how Bloody Marys are recently resembling a small meal? We have all seen those photos on Facebook or Pinterest that get our taste buds craving the likes of a Bloody Mary with a slider burger and onion rings on one skewer, and a pickle next to the predictable celery stick.—a beautiful work of food art with the benefits of filling up the tummy. I have to say that I have obsessed over these wonderful libations/meals. I have never had one at a bar, but I needed to create on myself.
During this hot summer while we have been slaving away in the backyard covering dirt with concrete, I have been doing a lot of bulk smoking. It’s an easy way to have something on hand to make a quick meal since we have been so busy. Usually by the time the day is finished, we are hot and tired and not a huge appetite. One day I was smoking shrimp. Super easy. –Just toss the shrimp in olive oil, salt, pepper, crushed red pepper and chopped garlic and let it smoke until they turn pink. It’s that fast.

I also like to keep on hand (since we host out of town family members for days) pre-cooked bacon. Kirkland has the best.
So let me get to my point. Hot, sweaty, tired and just a little bit hungry made me think of making a Surf and Turf Style Bloody Mary. Shrimps already done.
I have some bacon that I can dip in some pure maple syrup and cook it off just a bit longer in the oven until the maple is thick and caramelized on the bacon.

We have plenty of olives, pickles, artichoke hearts and celery. And I surely have all the necessary ingredients for a Bloody Mary. Let’s do this!
Everyone has their own way of making their perfect Bloody Mary so I will just make suggestions and you can adjust to your liking. I use V-8. It just feels healthier. HA!
For 2 people I use one 12 oz can of V-8 and 4 shots of vodka, a splash of Worcestershire Sauce, about 3 shakes of Tabasco Sauce , the juice of half a lemon, a sprinkle of celery salt, a little pepper, and if you like…. some horseradish. –I never get to do the horseradish because hubby doesn’t like it. Mix up these ingredients and poor over ice in 2 glasses. Add a shake of Creole seasoning over the top of the glasses then add your skewers, bacon folded like an accordion pleat through one skewer and the Smoked Shrimp, with the baby pickles, olives and artichoke hearts on the other skewer. Garnish with a leafy celery stalk and there you have it. Surf and Turf Bloody Mary.


Crock-Pot Tomato Vodka Marinara


Our family is blessed with an abundance of tomatoes in the garden. I feel like I need to pick every one of them and not let any go to waste and I also feel that I am becoming a slave to the garden. I like to make everything from scratch and I love the process of canning tomatoes, but not every day! I have blogged about my homemade Vodka Marinara Sauce and everyone really enjoys it. Well, honestly I cannot go through that process every day, because I want to enjoy my summer days and play a little too. The last time I gathered up a bunch of tomatoes it was dusk and I thought to myself, “Why not combine the ingredients in the crock pot and let it cook down overnight”. “I could tip the lid and let the moisture escape and then blend the ingredients in the morning.” I did just that and it came out great. I did this for 3 nights in a row, refrigerating the marinara then after the 3rd cooking, I started the canning process the next morning. It made 9 quart size jars. Tonight I am going to start the process again, only I think I will do 4 batches before canning, as my canner holds 7 jars at a time. Now keep in mind that I have a Vitamix so I don’t need to peel and de-seed each tomato. The Vitamix pulverizes the seeds and peel to a beautiful silky texture. –Reason number 8,432 of why you should own a Vitamix. J
Here’s how I did it:
Crock-Pot Tomato Vodka Marinara.
Pick enough tomatoes to fill the crock pot.
I have learned with time that I can get more tomatoes in the
crock-pot by chopping them up in the food processor prior
to putting them in the crock-pot.

Add in 2 diced white or yellow onions,
3/4 cups Vodka
1/4  Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 Teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper –depending on how spicy you like it
2 teaspoons Salt
 1/2 teaspoons Pepper
1-1/2 Teaspoons Dried Oregano
1 1/2 Teaspoons Dried Basil
3 teaspoons Chopped Garlic
1 Teaspoon Fennel seed
1 Teaspoon Granulated Garlic
1 Teaspoon Granulated Onion
Some Fresh Basil for the Blending

Clean and chop the tomatoes. Combine all the ingredients into the crock pot and cook overnight with the lid tipped, for steam to escape, on high for 12 hours or until almost all of the liquid is cooked down. (If your tomatoes are super juicy, they require even more cooking time with the lid tipped to cook down). My last batch took more like 15 hours.

This is what is looks like after hours of being cooked down. My camera exposure was not set properly so it looks a little pink here, as opposed to the vibrant red and yellow it really was.
Blend the ingredients, adding about 10 Basil leaves and possibly some sugar to balance out the acidity. (taste the sauce first to see if it even needs sugar) I almost always add sugar.

Voila! you have yummy sauce.

Now if you like a chunkier marinara, you can peel and de-seed the tomatoes and cook down the marinara the same way and just use an emersion blender mildly on the marinara to your liking of how chunky you like it.
And there you have it. Wonderful marinara to enjoy with so many things. At this point you can choose to can it, freeze it, or enjoy with the evenings dinner.


Saturday, August 2, 2014

Golden Beet Salad with Thai Green Curry Dressing

Have you ever been inspired by a type of food used in an unconventional way? I have. A few months back my friend Theresa posted Zucchini Spaghetti. How did she get the Zucchini into those long noodles. She told me she got one of those spiralizers. I looked it up and saw all kinds of brands and knew I had to have one. Last week I bought a Spirooli. We had company in from out of town and Ed, the brother-in-law, was supposed to be on a strict vegan diet. I decided to make zucchini spaghetti, with my homemade marinara and it was a big hit.
Fast forward to today. I was at the grocery store in the produce section and the golden beets looked wonderful. “I am going to make a salad with it.” The wheels got to spinning and this is what I came up with.

Golden Beet Salad with Thai Green Curry Dressing
3 Large Golden Beets
2/3 cup Pecans
½ cup Dried Cherries
For the dressing (Combine the below ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth)
½ cup Rice Wine Vinegar
¼ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 tablespoon Sesame Oil
1-1/2 Teaspoons Grated Ginger
2 tablespoons Honey
2 tablespoons Whole Grain Mustard
1 tablespoon Thai Green Curry Paste
3 teaspoons White spice Rub (click for recipe)
½ teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper
2 Cloves Garlic
1 Medium Shallot
Clean and peel the outer layer of the beets. Spiralize the beets into a pile on a cutting board. 

With a large knife, cut an X across the pile. This will help in not having such long pieces for the salad. Combine the beets, pecans and dried cherries and toss with the dressing. Let it chill for 2 hours before serving.


Saturday, June 7, 2014

Hawaiian Style Glazed Chicken Breasts

With a side of Heirloom Swiss Chard with Tomatoes and Shredded Carrots
and Brown Rice with infused Ginger and Teriyaki Sauce

You can’t go wrong with this recipe. Your chicken breast will always be juicy and tender.

6-8 Chicken Breasts

For the Marinade:
1 cup beer
½ cup teriyaki sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon grated ginger
2 teaspoons chopped garlic
¼ cup concentrated orange juice
½  cup crushed pineapple

Combine the ingredients and pour over the chicken in a ziplock bag. Squeeze out the excess air and marinade overnight. Barbeque the marinated chichen breasts on medium/high heat for about 6-7 minutes on each side. The chicken is done when the internal temperature reaches 140 degrees. Remove and cover with foil for about 15 minutes, then serve.
We serve this dish with a side of brown rice infused with a little teriyaki and ginger and Heirloom Swiss Chard with tomatoes and shredded Carrots.
I usually make 8 breasts. It is great on salads and in tacos, so it is nice to have extra on hand.


Heirloom Swiss Chard with Tomatoes and Shredded Carrots

Paired with Hawaiian Style Marinated Chicken Breasts and Brown Rice infused with Ginger
and a Little Teriyaki Sauce 

We like to eat clean. –Fresh, mostly organic foods. We also love those old recipes handed down from the family. One of my favorite things to eat is Randy’s Pasta E Fagioli  I grew Swiss Chard so that we could have those fresh, tender baby leaves, not easily found in the grocery stores for Randy’s Pasta E Fagioli.
Yesterday I noticed that the Swiss Chard needed to be harvested. (Cutting the leaves off the plant. It will renew itself throughout the growing season.)  While tending to the garden and knowing that I have chicken marinating I thought of how I wanted to do this Swiss Chard side dish. I gathered up the Swiss Chard and green onions and came up with a plan. I would have gathered up tomatoes too but they are still green.—Just a few more weeks. Recipe below: 


Combine in a pan and season it

Towards the end, add the shredded carrots

Then the chopped basil followed by the honey

2 tablespoons olive oil
Swiss chard, the more the better as they shrink when cooked
1 bunch of green onions
6 tomatoes, medium to small
Salt and pepper to taste
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
½ cup shredded carrots
¼ cup chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon honey –I like the raw, local grown honey
Trim, wash and chop the Swiss Chard and green onions, quarter the tomatoes and add to a medium/hot pan with olive oil, along with the crushed red pepper, stirring frequently. Add the salt and pepper to taste. When you notice the Swiss chard wilting add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute, then add the shredded carrots and sauté for 1 minute, then the basil for about 30 seconds. At the end drizzle the honey in a pinwheel motion to cover most of the vegetables. Turn off the heat and give it a quick stir to combine all the ingredients.
That’s it. You’re done.
Now this was an experiment for me so I wasn’t sure how good it was going to be. Well let me tell you. I have planted more Swiss chard seeds to ensure that we can make this dish even more. It was that delicious.


Saturday, February 1, 2014

The Ultimate Snickerdoodle

This recipe has been in our family for years. It is a family favorite and once you make these you won’t be getting your Snickerdoodles anywhere else. Recently I have been baking with organic coconut oil in place of butter or shortening. I didn't think these cookies could get any better but coconut oil made did make it better.

The Ultimate Snickerdoodle

Preheat Oven to 375 degrees F.
1-1/2 cups shortening (or Organic Coconut Oil)
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
3-3/4 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt

¼1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon.
Combine the sugar and cinnamon into a shallow bowl for rolling the dough into.

If you choose to use coconut oil, it is best to melt it. Combine the shortening (or coconut oil) and sugar and cream together. Beat in the eggs and cream together, then add the vanilla and mix well. Slowly add the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Blend well. Using a melon ball scooper, scoop out even size scoops and form into balls, then roll into the cinnamon and sugar mixture. Place them on a greased baking sheet about 3 inches apart and bake for about 11 minutes.

Granddaughter McKenna gives her seal of approval.

Susie Tronti

Easy Lasagna (No Pre-Cooking the noodles)

The trick to cooking your noodles in the pan is to water down your marinara sauce. The noodles absorb the sauce as they cook and the sauce will thicken. This recipe makes calls for a very large roasting pan and will easily serve at least 12 people. Make sure your pan is about 5 inches high for all the layers. You can make ahead of time when you’re going to have a large gathering, then pop in the oven.

Easy Lasagna (No Pre-Cooking the noodles)

Preheat Oven to 300 degrees
¼ cup olive oil
1 bell pepper, finely chopped
1 large onion, finely chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
3 lbs of ground beef, turkey or chicken
1 lb ground Italian sausage
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
3 cups Ricotta
2-3 cups shredded mozzarella
1 lb lasagna noodles, uncooked
In a large pan, sauté the bell pepper and onion until soft. -Salt and Pepper. Add the garlic, ground meat and sausage, then the crushed red pepper, basil, oregano and salt and pepper and cook until the meat is thoroughly cooked. (I choose to drain off the fat in a colander at this point) Return the meat mixture back to the pan.
Now add your marinara (spaghetti sauce) to the meat mixture, but leave 2 cups out for the last layer over the noodles. Thin the sauce with about ¾-1 cup water and simmer for about 30 minutes. To keep it simple there are a lot of great tasting sauces at the grocery store. I grow tomatoes so I always have jars on hand of the homemade stuff.
Now it’s time to layer the lasagna. Start with putting a little of the thinned out sauce at the bottom, then layer with your uncooked lasagna noodles next. Leave some space in-between because the noodles will expand as they cook. Next comes half the meat and sauce mixture. Spread evenly over the noodles. Now add your Ricotta in dollops onto the meat mixture, then half the mozzarella evenly. Now it’s time for your second layer of noodles, then rest of meat sauce, ricotta and mozzarella. Add the third layer of noodles. Add the remaining 2 cups of marinara, thinned with some water, to the top of the noodles. Cover with foil and seal it tightly. The steam from the sauce will cook the noodles.
Cook for 2 hours in a 300 degree oven. I actually cooked it for 90 minutes then turn it to "keep warm" Until we were ready to sit down for dinner.


Susie Tronti