Egg White Quiche Recipe

Anyone who bakes knows that you can end up with a lot of leftover egg whites. I can understand fully the urge to pitch the whites, but if you can refrain from doing that and instead keep the suckers, there are a wonderfully yummy foods that you can make with them. For instance, an egg white quiche!

The truth is, although I was born in 1985, I might very well be a depression era woman trapped in a modern body--I feel like I have to use every little bit of everything. Let's just say we're lucky I don't bury my money in a jar in the backyard. Anyway, I think you will be impressed with how this lovely little quiche turns out and just how easy it is to use up those whites you've saved!

Jiffy crust--it's like a secret weapon. I always have a box or two on hand for precisely the moment I need it. I have heard friends of mine admit that they only buy the pre made crusts, and that is totally fine. I just like this because it's cheaper than pre made, and easier than homemade. 

But it sort of looks homemade, right? 

1/2 onion, diced I used red onion because it was what I had, but you can use any old onion you've got laying around. 

Take your whites, your onion, a cup of shredded cheese, and 5 or so slices of lunchmeat and mix it in a mixing bowl 

Pour it in your shell, and then pop that puppy in the oven! 

You don't have to be in a city to enjoy brunch! Look how yummy that looks.... 
And can I just say that I feel like the colors of the onion and meat are shown in all their glory against the white of the egg? Hehe. 

Time: 1 1/2 hours, start to finish | Serves 6 | Difficulty Level: Easy 

You will need: 

1 package of Jiffy Crust (or a pre made pie shell) 
8 egg whites
1/2 red onion, diced 
1 cup shredded cheese 
5 or so slices of lunchmeat (I used ham) 


Prepare your package of Jiffy Crust according to directions. Generally, it will tell you to bake it in the oven for 10 minutes on 450 degrees. If for some reason the box doesn't have those direction, do it any way. 

Reduce your oven heat to 375 degrees. 

Combine the egg whites, onion, cheese, and meat in a bowl and beat 'em until combined. 

Pour them into your prepared pie shell. 

Make in the oven for 45- 60 minutes or until firm. Slice and serve. 


BIW Versus Seal & Heidi Klum Break-Up

I don't usually get upset about celebrity break ups. In fact, after so much time dining on the lives of those in the spotlight, I have nearly come to expect it. I sort of laughed (okay, I totally and utterly was rolling) when Kim Kardashian and Kris whats-his-name announced their divorce. That is why I surprised even myself at the devastation I felt when Heidi Klum and Seal announced the disintegration of their marriage.

When first I saw the headline from TMZ, I ignored it and tried desperately to brush it off as merely a rumor. But the next day when my sister in law called me to chat, she verified what I didn't want to believe: Heidi Klum and Seal are dunzo. We spent a full five minutes commiserating over the fact that this break-up just isn't cool. If Seal and Heidi can't make it, then who can?!

Look, I am a fan of marriage. I don't want anyone's marriage to go down in a ball of flames. I want marriages to succeed.... with that said, I am realistic about the fact that some marriages do, in fact, end in divorce. It's a fact, and I am okay with it. But NOT Heidi Klum and Seal! That is where I draw the line. They just can't break up! They are just too perfect for one another... like you know how she was in his video and he bragged that he wrote those love songs for her. It made my heart swell.

Have they tried everything, I wonder? Have they gone to couples' therapy? Is there someone else? Maybe Heidi has been working too hard on Project Runway.... perhaps they are just in rough spot. Divorce?! It just seems so, I don't know, drastic of them! I mean, they have a ton of children together.... surely that is more than enough to bond them together for life, isn't it?!

The couple has said that they have just "grown apart" but that just doesn't really seem like a good reason to me. Can you check that on a divorce paper as a real reason? I think not. My husband and I had a year once where we had "grown apart" but we are "grown ups" who know how to come back together. C'mon Klum---get back in the game!

I was so upset over the break up that I actually made the case to husband of why they should stay together--as if my husband could magically phone Seal and be like, "Look Seal, my wife needs you guys to stay together." My husband, for the record, commented only by saying, "Seal? That guy with the busted face?" That made me more upset because that was all part of the charm... yes, Seal has a busted face, but he's nonetheless handsome and Heidi Klum, arguably one of the most beautiful people in the whole wide world, loved him.... how not shallow is that?!

And what--are we supposed to have to look at the tabloid pictures of their rebound relationships?! After their awesomely cute halloween Disney pictures, I just can't bear it. I am going to hold out hope on this one. I am going to think that they are going to separate, see how awful it is and get back together. I'm going with that. Denial.

But I guess sometimes marriage can be just like fashion, and as Heidi Klum says, "One day you're in and the next day, you're out." 

Quick Fixes: Italian-Style Grilled Cheese

Can I hear I big "YAY!" for carbs, fat, fat, and fat?! I thought so! And that is precisely what I'm cooking up today. This is a great "lazy day" dinner, or a perfect cold day lunch. It's an Italian twist on your classic grilled cheese, and it's so scrumptious, it'll quickly become one of your new favorites!

Prosciutto ham is available at your local deli. Ask for it thin sliced--it's one Italian meat that is a staple in our home because it's versatile and absolutely delicious! 

Leftover sauce makes for an amazing dipping sauce for this grilled cheese recipe. You'll need about a half a cup. Heat it in the microwave for about a minute at the end of cooking, and you've got a dipping sauce fit for a king. I made my own sauce and canned it in season, but you can use any leftovers ya got! 

After buttering your pan over medium heat, place two pieces of bread with two pieces of cheese on each one

When they are getting a little melty, put two slices of prosciutto ham on each slice of bread 

The cheese is basically the glue of the sandwich ... a really tasty, yummy gooey glue. 

Two more pieces go on, followed by the other pieces of bread. 

(you can also re-butter your pan here if you need to, I know I did!) 

Turn them to make sure they are cooking evenly and melting evenly! 

Cut the sandwiches and serve with marinara sauce! 

Two sandwiches for two very hungry people! 

Time: 15 minutes tops | Serves 2 | Level: Too easy.... 

You Will Need:

4 slices of sandwich bread
1 tablespoon butter, divided
8 slices cheddar cheese (Cooper Sharp is the only cheddar for me!)
4 slices prosciutto ham
1/2 cup leftover marinara sauce


In a skillet, melt half the butter over medium heat. Add two slices of bread to the pan, and top them with two slices of cheese each. Let them cook a bit, until the cheese is starting to get "melty."

Add two slices of prosciutto ham to each piece of bread. Let them cook into the cheese, about 2-3 minutes.

Add two more slices of cheese to eat piece of bread and top with the remaining bread. (This is a good time to re-butter your pan with the other half of the butter, too, if you need to.) Flip the sandwich.

Meanwhile, while your sammies are cooking, put your marinara sauce in the microwave and heat for about a minute, or until hot. Pour them into individual bowls for dipping.

Flip your sandwiches as needed to make sure both sides are evenly melted, and once they are, put 'em on a plate! Slice and serve with the marinara sauce.


Embarrassed By A Condiment

It's embarrassing to even admit my embarrassment, but there I was, standing in the grocery, feeling self conscious. I was kicking around the grocery on my "big" shop, which I do once a month to get all the staples. The big shop includes at least two grocery stores, and lots of menu planning and list making.

I had already been to the first store, so I was getting the shorter list: all-natural fish sticks, Clamato, brie cheese, arugula, bloody mary mix, ketchup. And there is was: the ketchup at the end of the aisle because it was on sale for 99 cents--what a deal! As my mind started to say "right arm, reach for ketchup on sale," out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a familiar face: a lady who attends my exercise class and who I also recognized as related to a woman who own a local organic market.

I smiled at her, and then, as I placed her, I suddenly froze. I just couldn't pick up the ketchup in front of the lady whose sister owns the local organic market, could I? Turns out, I couldn't. I acted like I was breezing by that sugar-packed ketchup and I went into the next aisle, pretending to look at vinegars until she went away, at which time I swiped the sale ketchup and put it in my cart.

But all once, I could feel how utterly silly the entire thing was... why was I embarrassed by ketchup?! IT's my business what I eat, and if I want a little ketchup on my freaking fish sticks, who am I to be judged by anyone? Of course, this was silly to think I was being judged in the first place... the only person who was truly judging me was, well, me. This was nevermore apparent than when I again spotted this woman breezing by me with a bag of Doritos in her cart. (yes, I was spying on her cart.)

So why the embarrassment, self shaming and subsequent cart spying?

Maybe it was because I used to work at said organic market... maybe it's because I actually know how much sugar is in a tablespoon of ketchup (two to three teaspoons, OMG never repeat that!) Perhaps it's because I have a lot of pride that I oughtn't have. But I was compelled to hide my ketchup buying from a fellow customer who, incidentally, was herself buying unhealthy food.

So there it is. I bought ketchup and I was ashamed. I wish I didn't eat ketchup, but I do. And for those of you who are thinking that I should try the organic stuff, I did. It just doesn't have the sugar to tomato ratio that satisfies. It's final, underneath my Bossy Italian clothes, I am a ketchup eating American, and you can be sure that the next time I buy ketchup, I shan't be hiding it! 

Sex on the First Date?

When it comes to the world of dating, women have been liberated from their traditional roles. It’s no longer taboo for a woman to ask a man out or take the “aggressor” role. We just aren’t attached to gender ideals like we used to be, and that is a-okay with me. But, when it comes to the first date, is socially acceptable to sleep together?

There will likely be a lot of people who say an emphatic “no” to this rule. Promiscuity is looked down upon, and many associate the act of sleeping with someone on the first date as a gateway drug to promiscuity. [Obviously], they reason, a man will think you’re slutty if you sleep with them on a first date. As for the man’s side? Well, it’s less taboo for them, I suppose.

As for me, I happen to be on the opposite side. It’s perfectly acceptable to sleep with a guy on the first date--or even before. For those of you who didn’t the Halloween Love Story, I will let you in on a not-so-secret secret of mine: I slept with my husband BEFORE the first date. Yes, it’s true... and I can also tell you this: I am by no means promiscuous.

I always aspired to be, though. Crazy right?

What I mean is that I had always planned for my life to be a romantic one with lots of exotic men who passed through until: BOOM! One magic man would come along and there would be no turning back. About this, I turned out to be very wrong. My number is smaller than 10 and bigger than 5. Nothing to sneer at, but nothing outrageous. It’s pretty tame.

Though I may be no lioness when it comes to multiple men, I was, even at my young age, sure of what I wanted first and foremost in a dating partner: sexual compatibility. This was a lesson that I had learned where sexual liberation began for me: high school. I dated men based on looks, smarts, wanting to break the rules... and then right near the end of high school I dated one guy just for the sex.

Dating for the sex changed things for me because I knew that I didn’t want to ever waste time on bad sex again. Life if just too short. So, when I encountered my future husband (unbeknownst to me) I was ready to get down to brass tax. So sleep with him I did. After a great experience, I was happy to date him, and when I got to know him, of course, I fell hard and fast in love with him.

Maybe I was lucky enough to meet Mr. Right... maybe I am just more into sex than others. I am not advocating that all women go out there and sleep with men before dating them, or that sex alone will hold a relationship together. Certainly you must act i accordance with your own standards. What I am suggesting, though, is that if you are the type of woman who doesn’t want to waste time on a date if there is no “there” there, then you shouldn't feel badly about it.

People want different things in life, and sleeping with someone on the first date isn’t the worst thing in the world. The worst thing in the world is not knowing what you want. If you are comfortable with yourself and your decisions, then you should go for it. Our society has to be able to liberate itself from these ridiculous notions about sex; it’s a natural thing. Of course, always done with a measure of protection... eh-hem.

As for the man who gets the goods on the first date, well, the pressure is on, isn’t it? You better put on the performance of your life if you want to get to that second date because chances are that the lady who’s throwing down on the first night is good at it, too! Sure, you can choose to see a woman like that as “easy,” but if you do, I wonder what that really says about you in the long run...everyone should be secure in their decisions and therefore, unashamed!

Italian Cabbage Rolls

Cabbage rolls are a great "wintry" food. It seems to me that every culture has it's own version of the cabbage roll, and when I saw that Rachel Ray put out here out her own recipe for cabbage rolls on her show, I thought, well I should put out mine too! So here it is. It's the [bossy] Italian version.

I did a lot of research before putting this out, and there are a ton of ways to make cabbage rolls. Some people cook the cabbage ahead of time as well as cooking the meat ahead of time. Supposedly this is supposed to save you time, but I disagree with the notion. So, I don't cook my cabbage or meat ahead of time, and the whole lovely thing is baked in the oven to perfection.

This recipe is a bit time consuming because in addition to the cabbage rolls, I make my own homemade sauce. Because of the time element, it's the perfect weekend meal... Sunday comfort food--and a crowd pleaser!

Get your sauce going by slicing up one carrot, and one small onion. Sauté them in two tablespoons of olive oil. 

Add tomato paste, garlic, water, oregano, basil, cayenne, pepper, and salt 

And let it simmer away! (Covered) 

Also, if you are looking to save some time, you can use a couple of cans of store bought sauce, or you can make the sauce a day ahead of time. 

Take one head of cabbage and remove the leaves, taking out the middle part (which is hard and stuff) and be sure to wash them. Then set them aside until you need them 

You have already cooked some rice, and you have a nice 1/2 pound of ground meat, raw, which you have combined with breadcrumbs, salt, pepper,  and this parsley. 

Start filling your cabbage, one at a time, and rolling them as you go. 

Place them in your casserole dish. 

Rolling along.... 

Once you've used up all your cabbage and meat, begin pouring the sauce over your rolls.... mmmmmm 

Doesn't it look yummy?! 

Throw it in a 350 degree oven, covered, for 2 hours. 

By the time it comes out of the oven, it's an amazingly tender, yummy casserole dish full of goodness! 

Time: 3 hours | Serves 4 main courses | Difficulty Level: Medium 

You Will Need:

For the sauce: 
1 carrot, sliced 
1 small onion, diced
1 tablespoon olive oil 
2 small cans of tomato paste
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups water
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
palmful of salt (more to taste, if you like) 
4 dashes cayenne pepper 
black pepper to taste 

For the rolls:
1/2 cup aborrio rice 
2 cups water 
1 tablespoon olive oil 
1 head of cabbage 
1/2 pound ground meat (I used venison, but you can use any ground meat, or a combination of meats) 
1/3 cup Italian breadcrumbs
salt and pepper 
Parmesan cheese (for sprinkling) 


Preheat your oven to 350 degrees 

For the sauce: 

In a sauce or stock pan heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium high heat. Add the onions and carrot to the pot and allow them to cook until translucent, about 10 or so minutes. 

A note on the carrots: they cut the acidity in the tomato sauce, which is why I prefer them over conventional tricks like using sugar. Trust me, once you go carrot, you'll need go sugar again. 

Next, add the tomato paste, garlic, water, oregano, basil, salt and peppers to the pot. Stir and bring to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, reduce heat and cover. Simmer for about 45 minutes, or until you are ready to use it. If you are making the sauce ahead of time, let it simmer for 45 minutes, then remove it from the heat, allow it to cool to room temperature and then refrigerate. 

For the rolls: 

Meanwhile, start your rice. I used aborrio rice because that was what I had on hand, and I just loved what it added to the dish. 

Add 2 cups water and 1 tablespoon of olive oil to a medium saucepan. Bring it to a boil, and add your rice to the pot. Reduce heat and cover the rice. let it cook about 20 minutes or until fluffy and cooked through. Remove from heat and allow to cool. 

While the rice is cooking, you can prepare and wash your cabbage. Peel away the leaves of cabbage and as you do, wash them. Remove the center portion of the leaves, which is tough and discard. 

Once your rice is cool, combine the rice with the 1/2 pound of ground meat, breadcrumbs, parsley, and a few dashes of salt and pepper. 

Take your meat and rice mixture and begin spooning it into the individual leaves (see picture), rolling them up one at a time and placing them seam-side down so that they will stay together. Top your rolls with the sauce you made. Cover with foil and cook in the 350 degree oven for 2 hours. 

Serve with a salad! 


BIW Versus The Bachelor

So, since I haven’t had ABC since I moved into this farmhouse 8 years ago, I didn’t know what I was missing until recently when we got ABC. The Bachelor, as it turns out, is quite a dramatic show. Boy was I in for a treat.

I have always watched the perverted uncle off-shoots of the Bachelor... you know, Rock of Love with Brett Michaels, or the Flavor of Love with Flavor Flav. Somehow these shows seemed completely normal to me because they fell so far out of the realm of actual reality that they could only be my reality television guilty pleasure. And pleasurable it was.

But the Bachelor--the real Bachelor---leaves me feeling, well, a little bit creeped out. It’s all a bit strange, if you ask me; these "normal" women expecting to meet this "normal" guy and fall in love and get married. At least on the other shows we all knew that Brett Michaels or Flavor Flav had other, real life relationships and that no one was really getting married. These women actually believe that this could be their ticket to love.

And why is it no one mentions how creepy it is that Ben, the Bachelor, is making out with all these women? It’s like a spit swap-a-thon 24/7. Is this supposed to be acceptable, like, especially in hindsight (which is technically now because this was filmed months before) when the “winner” has to watch as Ben tells ALL the ladies that they are so awesome and they have this chemistry together?

Another thing: these damn dates. How are any men supposed to live up to this stuff? Perhaps this is the reason that women have such unrealistic expectations, and thus, epic disappointments in their real-life dating situations. I mean, snow in San Francisco streets? Fireworks while you kiss after dinner? And there is so much more to come that the dates will only become more nauseating as we go.

But I guess there is something about completing over a man with 20 other beautiful woman that makes a woman’s panties wet, though I can’t tell you what it is. Acting like a slut in that situation is completely forgivable, as is Ben’s sticking his tongue down every girl’s throat. What will happen, though, when he starts having sex with these multiple women and they all catch a case of crabs?

Who will win the Bachelor this season? My prediction is no one... in the game of love, these people who go on television in search of something genuine, if you ask me, are all losers. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still watching it. I’m hooked on that sly little Ben character. Nothing is better than a seemingly nice guy who got his heart broken exacting calculated revenge upon a group of bimbos (and a few genuinely nice women) under the guise of compassion.

Quick Fixes: Pasta with Breadcrumbs

Want some carbs with your carbs? I always do! I love Giada di Laurentiis, and I once saw her put breadcrumbs on pasta.... I had to try it and when I did, it was like a foodgasm. If you are a lover of pasta to the degree that I am, I know that you will find this dish simple and satisfying.

One of the best things about this dish is that is takes about 10 minutes, and there are lots of places where you can substitute out many of the ingredients. This makes this dish one that is good in a pinch!

Add some pasta to a pan (can be any type of pasta you prefer, on this particular day, I had fettucine!) 

Then, to the very same pot, add your frozen veggie. I used peas, a veggie my husband isn't wholly fond of (which is what made it perfect for me dining on my pasta lunch alone!) 

You are going to top your pasta with breadcrumbs and oil. I used 1/4 cup breadcrumbs and black truffle oil. However, you can use 1/8 cup breadcrumbs if you like and any kind of oil like chili infused oil, olive oil, or walnut oil. 

Drain your pasta and vegetable, and put it on a plate 

Top first with the breadcrumbs and then with the oil 

Is it just me or is this the peeeeerfect lunch? 

Time: 10 minutes | Serves 1 | Level: Easy 

You will need: 

1 handful of your favorite pasta 
2 handfuls of frozen veggies (whatever you have and like) 
1/8-1/4 cup Italian Breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons oil, such as olive oil, walnut oil, or black truffle oil 
Dash of salt and pepper, to taste 


Bring a small pot of water to a boil over high heat. 

To the boiling water add your pasta and frozen veggie and cook according to the time specified on the package (keeping in mind, of course, that fettucine will take longer than thin spaghetti). As for your frozen veggie, that should be just fine at just about any time. 

Remove the past and veg when they are done, drain and place on a plate. 

Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the pasta and then drizzle with the oil. 

Eat it and be amazed how awesomely awesome this recipe is! 

Being A Good Spouse

The other day I was working when it suddenly struck me, “my husband is a good husband,” I thought to myself. All at once, I felt this sense of urgency to tell him so... I wasn’t sure I had ever come out and just said it to him, plainly. It was also funny that in that moment, I was defining what a good husband was to me. Apparently this is not something that I had actively thought about previously....

Being a good husband is different than being a good person, or a good friend, or even a good lover (though, I will argue that is a part of it.) Being a good husband is multifaceted, but really, being a husband at all denotes a level of responsibility. The roles between men and women are constantly being redefined in our modern society, so perhaps my definition of a good husband is a mix of classical and modern ideas. Whatever I think on the subject, there are likely a million variations on a theme.

In my thinking, though, I started in on the notion of being a good spouse. What makes someone a good spouse, and how do we really define it? I have often been handed down the compliment that I am good wife, and I love to hear that....but what are people really referencing when they say it? Surely, being a good wife is much more than cooking a lot. Hehe.

For me, I think that there are cornerstones in a good relationship: support, compassion, drive, and love. For me, these things really help make up my definition of a good spouse. Not just one of you can have them and call it a relationship--you both gotta bring it to the table. So let’s take ‘em one by one.


I once dated a man who said that I didn’t have to always agree with him, but I need to support him (and vice versa). He was right. He was not the man I married, but this lesson, simple as it may be, has carried me through many times, and many types of relationships. This is ne’er more true than in marriage. There are times when you disagree, but as the song goes you gotta “stand by your man.” And so too should he stand behind you.

There has never been something I wanted or dreamed of that my husband has denied me. He supports my decisions and helps me achieve my dreams. We try to do this for another. Sometimes we do better than others, but overall, support has got to be there, otherwise someone might be feeling like they aren’t very important.


Yes, I’m busting out my Dalai Llama on this one. It’s so important to have compassion for your partner. The Dalai Llama says that “Ordinary compassion, or love, is limited by desire or attachment.” It’s true. Sometimes we even lack compassion for people because we know them so well.... and that just can’t happen in a marriage. You have to have a table for your grief...even small stumbles can seem like huge ordeals if your partner doesn’t have compassion.

This one can be hard, and it takes practice at times, but the payoff if huge.


This may not make everyone’s list, but it certainly makes mine. Drive is important to me on so many levels.... a driven person knows what they want, and I find that sexy. My husband is driven to succeed and makes family a priority in his pyramid of success. I love that. I always know that I am in good hands....

As for my drive? Are you kidding me? I perhaps have a little bit too much drive! Haha. So I keep the two of us busy. But I should perhaps take a moment to discuss how my drive differs from my husband and how that makes our relationship work. I am really driven to have career success, and he is really driven to have a family. Each sort of keeps the other in check.... so I guess you could say we are “working toward having a family” or something like that. No rush.


I excluded trust from my cornerstones because without trust there is no love, and love is the most important thing. If you love each other you automatically trust each other. Love may not be “all you need” but it is the most important ingredient in the mix. Everything, but EVERYTHING builds from love. It’s the foundation of everything you have in a relationship.

One thing I have got above all? Love, baby! I’m full of it.

So how do you measure up? Have you got a spouse who is mostly there on these things, sometimes there, all the way there? Are your cornerstones or definition of a good spouse different than mine? Discuss in the comments below!

Stuff I Use: Individual Casserole Dishes

 Purchased last summer at a local restaurant supply store, these individual casserole dishes by Sysco are an item that I cannot live without. Generally you see these suckers in restaurants, which is what drew me to them, initially. I like industrial cookware and appliances because they are generally more durable, and these are no exception. When first I looked into their shiny, white faces, I knew we were a match made in heaven.

Why might you need these, you ask? You are thinking, but I don't have an obsession with industrial cookware. You don't have one because you have never met these casserole dishes. Individual servings are where it's at, and the possibilities are really endless. I use these for a multitude of baked items.

Things I have made in my individual ramekins:

Chicken pot pie with puff pastry (pictured)
Chicken pot pie! 
Shepard's pie
Au gratin potatoes
Lobster thermidor

Things I will be making in them, but haven't yet:

Mac n' cheese (special recipe coming on that one, by the way!)
Cornish game hens

This is just a short list, but as you can see, there are lots of uses for them. There are two distinct perks to using these, as well. It makes your portion sizes uniform, and you know exactly how much you have. They make dinner parties a complete breeze, like at Christmas when we made the lobster thermidor. Another thing is that nothing sticks to these--something that you may realize is very important to me. Rinse and do a little sponging off before placing in dishwasher? I will. Scrubbing all frantically? I will not. So these suit my lifestyle!

For the home chef who takes cooking seriously (or not seriously but likes having stuff) these are one item you just have to have. They can be pricey, but if you shop around, you can really find some great bargains. As I mentioned, I got mine at a restaurant supply store locally, but you could look at places like Kitchen & Co. or even Macy's and find them in all sorts of pretty colors. One thing to know is that you don't want to skimp on these and get ones that won't wash easily because that is one the clear benefits of having them in the first place! 

Ham Hock & White Bean Soup

I am a soup fanatic, in case you haven't noticed. There is something about that warming feeling that you get from soup--and the smell as it cooks just warms my soul! It's one of my favorite foods to eat and it's one of my favorite foods to make.

I once heard that you can tell a lot about a cook by the way their soups taste, and if that is true, well, I hope I measure up! I always get lots of compliments on my soups anyway. Recently, I had a little dinner party, and I served this soup. Everyone loved it so much there was no soup left in the pot by the end of the meal--an accomplishment considering how often I make too much (especially when it comes to soups!)

If you have every gotten a ham hock and wondered what the heck to do with it, this is a great recipe that will satisfy a crowd!

Get your ham hock ready by doing nothing at all! Don't remove that skin--it's packed with a ton of flavor for your soup... same goes for the fat. 

In a large soup pot (I used my enameled cast iron one) place your ham hock, 10 cups of water, basil, oregano, and minced garlic. Bring it to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and let her simmer for about an hour. 
You are basically making your stock and soup all in the same pot. 

Meanwhile, I like to prep my veggies..... 

The usual suspects join in this soup: carrots, celery, and of course onion (not pictured) 

I bought three cans of beans, but you only need two 15.5 ounce cans. However, stacking cans and taking a picture is always a good time! 

After the hour of simmering and such, you can add your onion, celery, and carrots. 
This is also when you will want to add 4 dashes of cayenne pepper, a palmful of salt, and pepper 

And don't forget yer beans! Drained and rinsed, of course. 

Bring it all to a boil, and then cover and let it simmer at least another hour. 

When the ham hock is really tender, you will want to remove it from the soup pot, and remove the meat from the bones. Discard the bones (ham hocks are a one shot deal) and shred the meat into pieces for eatin' 

You might already know, I like my soups to go for a good long while, so I generally start them about noon or 1pm for a 7pm dinner so those flavors can really settle 

Here she blows--the finished product! 
Remember that before you serve, you'll want to taste and adjust your seasonings, if need be--sometimes you'll need a bit more salt or pepper. 

Time: 2 hours, more if ya got it  |  Serves 6  |  Level: Easy 

You Will Need:

1 ham hock 
10 cups water 
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2-3 cloves garlic, minced (depending on your love for garlic, of course) 
palmful of salt, more to taste 
pepper to taste 
2 carrots, sliced
3 celery stalks, sliced
1 large onion, diced
2 15.5 oz. cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
4 dashes cayenne pepper


In a heavy soup pot add your ham hock, water, basil, oregano, and garlic. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and keep at a simmer for one hour.

While the soup is simmering, cut your veggies up and then set aside until the hour's up

When the hour is up, add your veggies to the pot along with your salt, pepper, cayenne, and beans. Bring it back to a boil and then reduce heat again, cover and simmer another hour.

After the second hour, check to be sure that the broth is flavorful. If you find it lacking, add a touch more salt and pepper and perhaps even a little more cayenne, if you like. Remove your ham hock from the pot. and remove the meat from the bones. Discard the bones and shred the meat into bite sized pieces. (I like to use two forks to accomplish this task) Return the meat to the pot.

At this point, I like to let my soup simmer until it's ready to serve. You can also make this soup an entire day ahead of time. If you make your soup a day ahead, remove it from the heat and bring it to room temperature before refrigerating it.

Serve with homemade rolls! 

BIW Versus SPCA Commercials

I just can't take it anymore.... I have seen one too many of those SPCA commercials, and now, I am taking a stand against them. I know that you may be shocked to hear me speak about a company that is as awesome as the SPCA, and don't get me wrong, I think what they are doing is great. I love the SPCA and I LOVE animals so very much, which only adds to my inner turmoil on this issue. But inner turmoil be damned, I never want to see one of those commercials again.

They are just TOO depressing. Whomever came up with the first Sarah McLachan SPCA commercial thought that they struck gold, but all it really did was take that song, "Angel," (a song I used to love) and make me totally not ever want to hear it again. Now, every time I hear that commercial, I hate Sarah McLachan, one of my favorite artists, just a little more each time. 

And did you see the Christmas ones?! Silent night, holy heartstrings! I just can't see another cold, crusty animal crying in a cage to a beloved Christmas song. The SPCA is ruining all kinds of good music. For instance, my friend Jimbo was over during New Year's Eve, and when he heard a Willie Nelson song on the television he got all excited, "Willie Nelson is on TV!" he exclaimed as he ran into the living room. About two seconds later he re-emerged from the living room, looking totally dejected as he hung his head and said, "It was that sad kitty commercial instead." Aw...

I know what you are thinking, "the commercials are supposed to be sad, right?" Sure, I get it, they are trying to make you feel bad, pick up the phone, and make a donation. But I just can't be guilted into that sort of thing... I'm Italian, so I'm immune to guilting from years of experience in this very department. And I am not alone. I know a lot of people who actually change the channel when those commercials come on. It's like they hear that first cord of "Angel" and they are running for the remote. Seriously. I think that the commercials should come with a warning, like television shows do. Something along the lines of


 I feel so sad after seeing one that instead of picking up the phone and making a donation, I am so much more likely to pick up my car keys, go to the grocery, buy a tub of ice cream and eat it while I cry to a Sarah McLachan song. So while I applaud their efforts with animals, I think they should have to choose--either sad animals or sad music--one or the other! But for the love of god, not both! 

Chicken In Duck's Clothing

Those of you who might have made a duck likely already know how full of juicy fat a duck is. When I make duck, I collect over 1/2 cup of ducky duck fat and it's fabulous. I love cooking with real fat. Many are familiar with saving bacon fat and cooking with it in place of butter, and it's a great way to use all the parts. People are a little less familiar as to what to do with other types of fat, though, such as the duck fat.

One amazingly tasty way to use the duck fat is to slather a whole chicken in the duck fat and roast it. Yes, you heard me right. It's one of the bestest ways to enjoy chicken if you ask me!

Get your chicken ready by rinsing it with water, and patting it dry with paper towels. Then place it on a rack in your roasting pan, and surround it with some pretty veggies. (I like onions and carrots) 

Salt and pepper your chicken, and then begin slathering it with generous amount of duck fat! 

A note on trussing: 
I have sort of given up on it... I know, I know. 
BUT I still tie the legs together for good measure. 

As for the roasting? I generally follow a loose version of Julia Child's roast chicken recipe; That is, turning the chicken from side to side and front and back every 10 minutes until it's done to perfection, about 1 hour to an hour and a half: 



Of course, the eldest male in the home carves the bird--that's tradition! 

Stuff I Use: Enameled Cast Iron

My enameled cast iron pot with some lovely oxtail braising! 
I have a love of cast iron. I love it for frying, for baking, and braising. But there is another lover in the room when it comes to cast iron, and that is the enameled cast iron pot. I have only one, and it was a belated wedding gift.

In a funny twist of fate, I almost gave this pot away thinking, "how many cast iron dutch ovens do I need?" Apparently, I needed just one more, one that was enameled. There are a lot of benefits to the enameled cast iron pot (and/or pan) and it makes a great addition to the chef's collection, if you ask me. 

Unlike the cast iron pots and pans, which get seasoned with oil, the enameled version of the cast iron can be washed with soap and water, making this a great choice for anyone who doesn't like the idea of not washing with water. Like the cast iron, nothing sticks to the enameled version, making it that much more awesome. 

I also prefer the enameled cast iron pots for making soups, braising meats, and sauces. I feel like they just come out a little better with the enameled version of the pot, though I am not entirely sure why. They just do. Esthetically, they are also very pleasing to the eye. They come in a variety of colors and they really add a pop to your kitchen collection, especially when placed amongst the rustic cast iron pots and pans. 

Just like cast iron, these puppies can go from stove top to oven, which is a function I am simply crazy about. I cannot tell you often I use this function--especially when it comes to braising meats (I am CRAZY about braising meats these days.)

All in all, if you have cast iron, at some point you are going to want the enameled version, and just like me you will fall in love. As for the brand, I have a Martha Stewart one, which is fine, but I likely would purchase another brand over this brand in the future. Lodge makes enameled cast iron as well, and I am a huge fan of theirs. Whichever brand you choose, I am confident you will be happy with this very welcomed addition to your cast iron collection. This would also be a great "gateway" cast iron pot! 

Embracing Your Heritage [Or trying to escape it]

I always knew that I was Italian.... Italians, as it turns out, have a tendency to scream from every rooftop about their culture and it’s many, many benefits. Being Italian is like a badge of honor, and my family gave me that distinct feeling. But then there was something sort of out of place that I began to notice.

When I would proudly tell people that I was Italian, they would ask me one question, “What’s your last name?” Everyone was curious about my Italian last name--why hadn’t they caught it when I introduced myself? They didn’t hear it because I didn’t have one. My last name was a disappointing “Nichols.”

When I was a child, we would ride by businesses bearing that same name, Nichols, and I would exclaim, “Mom! Are we related to those people?” She would always give me the same reply, “No sweetie.” I was persistent, “How do you know?” I would ask through squinty eyes. “I just do,” she would say.

For a while, this worked... but as I got older, and people began to ask me about my last name, I pressed my mom harder for answers. As it turned out, my name had been changed when I was a child, by my biological father who wanted to conceal our Italian heritage.

Suddenly the game had changed. Was I supposed to be proud that I was Italian, or was I supposed to be ashamed of being Italian? Were we trying to hide it or not? As it turned out, this would be an ongoing struggle for me as I came into my teen years and even into adulthood.

I began to see the Italian heritage as something different than I initially thought it was... I would hear as my mother would identify certain negative behaviors (like yelling and guilting) in herself and others as being innately “Italian,” and I didn’t like that portion of it. But then again, there was the food... which was so intoxicating, and I did like that. I became aware of the stereotypes and the  negative connotations that came along with it...

It made me feel confused, at times, as to whether or not I wanted to identify with the heritage that was such a double edged sword.

So what, you ask, was responsible for my turn around on the heritage issue? What made me want to embrace my bossy, Italian heritage and even turn it into a blog wherein I professed myself to be such??? Two people, Buddy Valastro, and my husband.

You probably know Buddy Valastro from TLC’s Cake Boss, but it wasn’t until I started watching his other cooking show Kitchen Boss that I began to feel differently about my heritage... and that was, like, last year. I know that my grandmother would be aghast to learn this (but luckily she hasn’t learned to use the internet yet.)

Like many adults who have written about being saved by food, I am among them. Italian cooking saved me.... or at least it salvaged my somewhat shattered image about Italians in general. Not that generalizations are a rule or thumb or anything, but I think the rule goes something like: I am allowed to make fun of my heritage, but you aren’t unless you share it.

One day I was watching Kitchen Boss, trying to catch up on some staple recipes, when my Scotch-Irish husband walked into the living room and started watching the show with me. He started saying things like, “that looks so good,” and “this guy is so cool.” And I started to think to myself, “yea, he is cool isn’t he??” And then it hit me:

There was nothing wrong with Italian people in general--just the Italian people that I personally know!!! [Sorry guys]

This revelation allowed me to embrace my heritage more fully and become proud of who I was again. I also have to say, that my husband practically lapping up my new recipes really helped, too. I found that food was a great way to connect with the portions of my culture that I really loved, and sort of shove away the ones I didn’t. Italian cooking brought me back to who I was, at my core, which is not just an Italian American woman, but a woman who is rich in culture and family and has a deep love for food.

So here’s to you, Italian-American community at large! I’m sure we all know a bunch of Italians a la Jersey Shore who embarrass the hell out of us... but when we really think about it, there are all kinds of people out there who are pretty stupid.

So be proud, stand tall, and make your brethren proud too!

Peanut Butter & Chocolate Biscotti

I have been making a lot of biscotti lately, and working toward my own biscotti recipe. I am really excited to share this one. Just a word on the butter and biscotti thing. My biscotti is made without butter. I tried it both ways and decided I like it better this way... the ones I made with butter were too cakey for my taste. I also feel like these are healthier, but don't let the no butter fool you--these taste amazing!

I think they are best consumed with your morning coffee or afternoon cup of cocoa. In any case, they aren't likely to last long because people will eat 'em up! Manga!

Whisk together your all purpose flour, cornmeal, baking power, and a dash of salt 

Set it aside for a hot minute 

In a separate bowl add your sugar and eggs 

Then you beat it.... beat it.... put in your bowl and beat it! 

Add your vanilla to your beaten eggy mixture 

And your peanut butter and beat it again while singing Michael Jackson's Beat It (again) 

Add your flour mixture to your eggy mixture and combine them with an awesome red spatula 

Place them in two piles on your baking sheet, which you have covered in parchment paper 

Shape into the familiar biscotti log 

Biscotti logs, side by side. 

Pop these bad boys in a 325 degree oven for 35-40 minutes 

using a serrated knife, cut the biscotti 

lay them cut side down on the cookie sheet and then put them back in the oven to bake another 25 minutes or until golden. 

I think I may have mentioned this in a previous post, but biscotti means "twice baked" 

When they are done, dip them in melted chocolate! 

Don't they look purdy? People will be super impressed with your awesome skills, trust me. 

Them out on a pretty tray and them stick them in the fridge until the chocolate hardens up. 

You are the master of good biscotti.... good job! 

You Will Need:

2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
dash of salt
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chocolate chips


Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.

In a bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In a separate bowl add your sugar and eggs. Beat them with an electric mixer until creamy and yellow, about 2 minutes. Add in the vanilla and peanut butter and beat until combined.

Add the flour mixture to the eggy mixture and combine with a spatula.

Lay the mixture out in two separate "piles" on a cookie sheet prepared with parchment paper. Shape each pile into a loaf-like shape (see picture).

Bake in oven for 35-40 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven and, using a serrated knife, cut them into the "biscotti" shape to your desired thickness. (I like mine a little thicker.) Place them cut side down on the cookie sheet and pop them back in the oven for another 25 minutes or until golden brown.

Once out of the oven, let them cool a while.

Melt your chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl for 1 and 1/2 minutes (using 30 second intervals).

Dip the biscotti into the chocolate and lay them out on a parchment lined platter. Place them in the refrigerator until the chocolate has hardened.