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Tag Archives | Italian

Italian Bread Dipping Oil

Italian Bread Dipping Oil is made with extra virgin olive oil, aged balsamic vinegar, rosemary, garlic, crushed red pepper and freshly ground black pepper.

The Sauce: Italian Bread Dipping Oil – Made with extra virgin olive oil, aged balsamic vinegar, rosemary, garlic, crushed red pepper and freshly ground black pepper.

‘Great Sauces Transform Good Food into Gourmet’ 


Garlic bread or toast used to be my ‘go to’ side when serving Italian food: lasagna, spaghetti, carbonara, Zuppa Toscana. At Italian restaurants you can visit with dinner company while tearing crusty bread then dipping it in fruity olive oil and sweet syrupy balsamic vinegar. I’d hadn’t really thought much about it but just went along with the idea that Italian Bread Dipping Oil was something you only revel in at restaurants.
3 Dipping Oils
It’s really simple at home, even for a weeknight supper and easier than garlic bread. All you need is a good bottle of extra virgin olive oil and some aged balsamic vinegar. Add some rosemary, garlic, crushed red pepper and a grind of black pepper. It’s gourmet. Enjoy it with fresh homemade or artisan bread. Let your family tear then dip in this fragrant oil the Italian way. Create a restaurant ambience at your own dinner table. It’s simple and so delizioso.

Start this meal with some Antipasto, serve an Italian entrée like Florentine Lasagna Rolls with crusty bread and Italian Bread Dipping Oil. Finish with a green salad dressed with Garlic Vinaigrette, just like the Italians. Serve some Peach Semifreddo for dessert. I’m coming over.

You may also enjoy Antipasto, Florentine Lasagna Rolls, Amatriciana, Spaghetti alla Carbonara, Italian Spaghetti Ragu, Andrew’s Pizza, Bramwell Spaghetti Sauce, Genovese Pesto, Garlic Vinaigrette, Caprese Salad, Chicken Alfredo Campanelle and Zuppa Toscana.

2012 AniversaRecipe – Spaghetti alla Carbonara
2011 AniversaRecipe – Bacon and Egg Spinach Salad

Recipe: Italian Bread Dipping Oil

Prep Time: 3 Minutes | Cook Time: 0 Minutes | Yield: 1 Dipping Plate | Level: Easy


  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp aged balsamic vinegar
  • 1 twig fresh rosemary, very finely mince a few leaves
  • 1 clove garlic, micro grated
  • 1/4 tsp finely grated parmesan
  • pinch crushed red pepper, finely minced
  • freshly ground black pepper

1 Pour olive oil on a small open plate or dish.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil







2 Drop aged balsamic into the oil.
Balsamic Vinegar 1Balsamic Vinegar 2
Balsamic Vinegar 3Balsamic Vinegar 4













3 Drizzle a little rosemary into the oil.
Olive Oil with Herbs
4 Add a little grated garlic.

5 Dust with a pinch of parmesan.

6 Sprinkle a few fine pieces of crushed red pepper.

7 Give it a grind of black pepper.

Purchase a good quality aged balsamic vinegar. A few dollars for a bottle is not going to be aged long enough. It’s runny, a little bitter and

undesirably thin. You only need a few drizzles so if you can afford it, buy a bottle for $15-20 dollars. When drizzled, it’s thick and syrupy.

I love when the crushed red pepper soaks in the olive oil, it wakes up the bright red color.

Anyone of these ingredients could be served alone or in combination with each other using olive oil as the base such as, garlic and black pepper, rosemary and garlic, parmesan and black pepper, crushed red pepper and balsamic.

Dip any kind of crusty bread that you love, French, Baguettes, Focaccia, etc.

Dish Designer

  • Exchange fresh rosemary for fresh thyme.
  • Add dried parsley, oregano or basil.
  • Add a pinch of salt.

Inspiration – Helen Horton
Cook with Sauces
Italian Bread Dipping Oil
Written by
Photographs and Styling by Helen Horton
Updated: September 1, 2013

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Antipasto is a platter of Italian ingredients served before a meal, an appetizer.

‘Great Sauces Transform Good Food into Gourmet’ 

No drab here

Lean in, bump elbows and reach over for some tasty tidbits of savory and sweet food bites. Enjoy lively repartee, humorous banter and side bar conversations while partaking Antipasto. It’s a party starter filled with smiles, chuckles and nibbles.

A striking appetizer plate can grace your summer patio table. No cooking or baking, the briny olives, savory salami, garden tomatoes, basil pesto, baby bocconcini, snappy pepperoncini create a splashy platter with complimentary and contrasting tastes packed in every bite.
Grape Tomatoes and Olives
Not unlike French hor d’ouevres, Spanish tapas or Middle Eastern meze, you can create a plate with your favorite Italian tastes and preferences. This laundry list of options is not meant to be exhaustive cialis generic online but filled with plenty of choices to satisfy any palette.

You might also enjoy Genovese Pesto, Garlic Vinaigrette, Bramwell Spaghetti Sauce, Fetamole, Jalapeño Bean Dip, Hummus, Baba Ghannouj, Bleu Cheese Ball, Nigiri Fruit Sushi, Maytag Bleu Terrine, Italian Feta Dip.

2012 AniversaRecipe – S’mores Cupcakes
2011 AniversaRecipe – Spinach Strawberry Salad with Candied Nuts and Tahitian French Toast

Recipe: Antipasto


  • Genoa salami
  • hard salamiGenoa Salami
  • sopressetta
  • smoked peppered turkey breast
  • pepperoni
  • prosciutto
  • capocollo
  • pancetta
  • pastrami
  • mortadella
  • ham


Pouring Olive Oil Fresh and Dried Fruit

  • honeydew
  • cantaloupe
  • watermelon
  • melon (wrapped in prosciutto)
  • red or green grapes
  • figs
  • strawberries
  • dried apricots, dates, raisins, currants, sultanas, cranberries and figs

Marinated Bocconcini Cheeses

Toasted Baguette

  • water crackers
  • crisp bread sticks (wrapped in prosciutto)
  • Italian bread
  • sliced baguette
  • crusty French bread
  • focaccia
  • pita bread triangles or pita chips
  • bagel crackers


  • black olives
  • Nicoise olives
  • Kalamatas
  • Manzanillas
  • garlic stuffed green olives
  • olive tapenade
  • pepperoncini peppers
  • baby sweet or dill pickles
  • capers
  • pickled beets

Feta Bruschetta with Baguette

  • marinated cannellini beans
  • Feta Bruschetta
  • hard boiled egg wedges
  • deviled eggs
  • tapenade
  • humus
  • fig jam
  • roasted nuts such as pistachios, walnuts, pecans or almonds

Special Equipment – large platter

1 Choose one or two ingredients from each list. Arrange them with light and bright colors set next to darker hues. Include a variety of tastes, texture and flavors. Place directly on the plate or line with lettuce.

2 The photo shows an Antipasto platter with Genoa salami, marinated baby bocconcini (olive oil, crushed red pepper flakes and chopped parsley), Spanish green olives, Moroccan dry-cured black olives, pepperoncini peppers, and fresh tomato wedges dressed with basil pesto. It’s colorful, has a variety of textures, most are mild, one with heat. You could also serve bread or crackers. This plate served 6 people. For a larger group add some grapes, figs or dried fruit.

3 Choose one or two meats depending on the amount of people you want to serve.

4 Thinly sliced meat can be rolled or folded and shaved meat can be piled for easy serving.

5 Purchase hand sliced meats in the quantities needed at the deli counter of the supermarket.

6 Purchase jars of roasted and marinated vegetables, drain and arrange on the platter.

7 To roast fresh vegetables, preheat oven to 450 degrees. Cut vegetables in even slices or chunks and toss in olive oil. Place in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with foil or parchment. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper, then bake until tender, 25-40 minutes depending on the size of pieces. Serve warm or room temperature.

Tapas8 Roasted vegetables could be served solo or in combination with each other. Choose contrasting colors, textures and flavors. Roast them on the same pan tossed together or segregated depending on how you want to arrange them on the platter. Consider seasonal asparagus, bell peppers, onions, eggplant, beets, zucchini, carrots, garlic and tomatoes.

Add Parmigiana-Reggiana9 Dress or drizzle pesto, Italian vinaigrette or balsamic vinegar over tomatoes wedges or raw cut vegetables.

Fresh and Dried Fruit
10 Place melon wrapped drug city pharmacy online with prosciutto.

11 Arrange fresh or dried fruit among vegetables and cheeses.

12 Use baby bocconcini (bite-size mozzarella) or slices or cubes of cheese on the platter.

13 Serve specialty cheese that should be savored in small tastes with added flavors of herbs and spices.

14 Choose a bread or cracker that pairs well with the type of cheese selected. Soft cheese is especially good spread on crackers. Hard cheese works well with small slices of bread or baguettes.

15 If you choose a bruschetta or tapenade, serve a toasted bread or cracker for spreading.

16 Sweet, sour, briny and salty, these little nuggets add lots of taste and spark to the platter. Select one or two types from the olive bar at the supermarket. Purchase bottled pickles, capers and beets.

17 To marinate cannellini beans, whisk 2 Tbsp white vinegar, 2 Tbsp sugar and 1/4 tsp dried thyme in the bottom of a medium bowl until sugar is dissolved. Drizzle 2 Tbsp olive oil while whisking. Drain and rinse 1 15-oz can cannellini beans, then stir into the dressing. Let marinate for 30 minutes to overnight.

Hummus18 To make Feta Bruschetta, click here.

19 To make Hummus, click here.

This starter could easily be vegetarian or vegan. Select items which appeal to the eating preferences of your guests.

Enjoy a varied antipasto starter plate before dinner but don’t let it overwhelm the main course.

Antipasto means ‘before the meal’.

Antipasto is a traditional appetizer for an Italian dinner.

This is perfect for a summer starter since it is a no cook, no bake appetizer.

Place antipasto in a container and pack it to the park for a picnic.

Inspiration – Helen Horton
Cook with Sauces
Written by
Photographs by Helen Horton
Updated: August 13, 2013

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‘Betta’ Feta Cheese Dips Series

‘Great Sauces Transform Good Food into Gourmet’ 

Feta Cheese Tasting Event

I had grundle of fun with this series. I hosted my first Tasting Event and invited friends to sample the dips. I served 5 options, 4 dips plus a Bruschetta made with tomatoes and feta. Each guest received a card to record their feedback, which one they liked the best/least, and comments. It was fun because everyone had a good time getting together. The favorite by consensus is Creamy Italian Feta Dip. Lowest marks went to Tzatziki Feta Dip. I took it back into development and made some changes, different spices but kept the base feta cheese, Greek yogurt and finely diced cucumbers. Wondering if my taste testers like the makeover better?
Dips at the Feta Cheese Dips Tasting Party
Serve these dips with everything from regular or multi-grain Pita Chips or wedges, to Kettle Potato Chips or rustic multi-grain Tortilla Chips. If you’re a feta cheese lover, stay tuned for this series coming your way. Which one will be your favorite?

Feta Cheese Dips HtipitiSunday, April 21, 2013
Roasted Red Pepper Htipiti





Creamy Italian Feta DipMonday, April 22, 2013
Creamy Italian Feta Dip





FetamoleTuesday, April 23, 2013





Tzatziki Feta DipFriday, April 24, 2013
Tzatiki Feta Dip





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Bramwell Spaghetti Sauce

Thick, chunky ragu-style spaghetti sauce loaded with sliced mushrooms.

The Sauce: Spaghetti Ragu – Rich, chunky meat and tomato sauce with sliced mushrooms, onions, herbs and a splash of apple juice and cider vinegar.

‘Great Sauces Transform Good Food into Gourmet’ 

Wooing Italian style

Good food brings people together. Lincoln is a food aficionado. He loves to eat good food and tailors his rigorous exercise program to encompass the dishes he loves. So it’s no surprise that when I asked Lincoln and Christi how they met, the story included New Mexico and this fabulous Italian pasta sauce.

While dating Christi, Lincoln made this thick and chunky spaghetti sauce loaded with sliced mushrooms on more than one occasion and basically wowed her. That turned into wooing and now they share their love of good food on their life journey together. A terrific cook in her own right, Christi cooks ‘made from scratch’ dishes for him

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on a regular basis. I can vouch because I’ve dined at their table and exchanged recipe cards with them, the kind that have a splash of tomato sauce Bramwell Spaghetti Sauceon one corner and a thumb print of olive oil on the other.

Is there someone in your life you want to draw closer? This spaghetti sauce could be just the ticket. At a minimum, it’s a meaty, savory dish that’ll bring together family and friends.

You might also enjoy Italian Spaghetti Ragu, Spaghetti alla Carbonara, Florentine Lasagna Rolls, Amatriciana, Gnocchi with White Beans and Spinach and Herb Garlic Bread.

2012 AniversaRecipe – Apple Julep
2011 AniversaRecipe – Corn Muffins

Recipe: Bramwell Spaghetti Sauce

Prep Time: 10 Minutes | Cook Time: 80+ Minutes | Yield: 6-7 Cups | Level: Easy

sliced mushrooms

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, micro grated
  • 8 oz fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 28-oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup apple juice
  • 1/2 tsp cider vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp sugaradd tomatoes
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp crushed dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 6 oz can tomato paste
  • 2 Tbsp dried parsley flakes

Special Equipment – large pot

1 Brown the ground beef in a large pot. Drain fat.

2 Add oil, onion, garlic, mushrooms and sauté until onions are translucent and mushrooms softened.

3 Add tomatoes, stirring to loosen the brown bits on the pan. Add apple juice, vinegar, sugar, salt, basil, oregano and combine. Bring to a boil then reduce and simmer for 1 hour stirring occasionally. The ingredients meld together for a very tasty pasta sauce.
after 1 hour
If time permits, simmer for 2 hours. The ingredients break down and begin to concentrate.
after two hours
If possible, simmer for 3 hours. The sauce becomes a luxurious, rich sauce you would find in a restaurant in Italy.simmered 3 hours

4 Fifteen minutes before serving, add the tomato paste and parsley. Adjust for salt. Serve over spaghetti or other pasta of choice.

Grate fresh parmigiana-reggiano over the sauce.

Double or triple this sauce. It only takes a couple extra minutes to dice extra onions and slice more mushrooms. Maximize the output of the simmering time yielding enough for a crowd or freezing for later.

Penne, shells, twists or other tube pasta pair well with chunky pasta sauces such as this one.

Serve this pasta dish with a fresh green salad and Italian dressing and Herb Garlic Bread.

Dish Designer

  • Exchange fresh garlic for 1/8 tsp garlic powder.
  • Use button or crimini mushrooms.

Inspiration – Saucy Cuisine Kitchen
Cook with Sauces
Written by
Photographs by Helen Horton
Updated: March 23, 2013

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Mediterranean Quinoa Salad

Quinoa with colorful vegetables and creamy cannellini beans plus salty feta cheese and kalamata olives mixed with a homemade vinaigrette.

The Sauce: Garlic Vinaigrette – Simple 4-ingredient dressing with minced garlic, dijon mustard, rice vinegar and olive oil. The flavors soak into hot cooked grains adding life to the blank canvas. Mixes in 3 minutes.

‘Great Sauces Transform Good Food into Gourmet’ 

Go-to dish

Here’s the secret to this quinoa salad my family, friends and guests are raving about. Pour the vinaigrette over the cooked quinoa while it’s hot so it soaks up the flavors of the garlic, dijon, vinegar and olive oil dressing. After that, you can succeed with a variety of ingredient add-ins to your liking. It’s a simple and delicious Mediterranean Quinoa Saladway to use a boutique grain. Whether you’re a seasoned quinoa fan or a newbie, you’ll love this salad. It’s festive and colorful, delicious and healthy, easy and fast. It’s a go-to recipe in my arsenal.

You might also enjoy Quinoa Under Stained Glass, Risotto and Sushi on the Fly.

1 of 2 part series ”Quinoa Soup and Salad”. Part 2 Cajun Quinoa Chicken Soup. For more on quinoa click here and here.

2012 AniversaRecipe – Chicken with Tomatoes and Peppers
2011 AniversaRecipe – Quick Quiche with Ham and Veggies

Recipe: Mediterranean Quinoa Salad

Prep Time: 10 Min | Inactive Time: 10 Min | Cook Time: 25 Minutes | Yield: 6-8 Servings | Level: Easy

Quinoa Salad
bell peppers, feta, beans and olives

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup large diced color bell peppers; mix of red, green, yellow or orange
  • 1 15-oz can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 3 oz crumbled feta cheese
  • 10 Kalamata olives, rough chopped
  • salt

Garlic Vinaigrette
garlic, dijon, olive oil, vinegar

  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp dijon mustard
  • 2 Tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup oil olive
  • dash of freshly ground pepper

Special Equipment – rice cooker

1 If the quinoa is not pre-washed, place in a mesh strainer and rinse with cold water. Place the quinoa and 2 cups water in a rice cooker and set to cook, about 20 minutes. Once it turns off, allow to steam for 10 minutes without removing the lid.

2 Meanwhile prepare the peppers, beans, cheese and olives and set aside.

3 For the vinaigrette, mince or microplane the garlic in a small bowl. Add the mustard, vinegar and whisk. Slowly add the oil, drop by drop at first, then in a slow stream whisking continuously. Add a dash of pepper.

add the vinaigrette to the hot quinoa4 Once the quinoa has finished steaming and while still piping hot, scoop it into a bowl, pour 3 tablespoons of the vinaigrette over and mix well. The hot quinoa will soak in the vinaigrette.

5 Once the quinoa comes to room temperature, about 10 minutes, add the peppers, beans, cheese and olives. Adjust for salt and pepper as needed.

6 Serve at room temperature or chilled.

Substitute a saucepan for the rice cooker. Place the quinoa and water in the pan. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer and cook until water is absorbed, about 20-25 minutes. Allow to steam for 10 minutes without removing the lid.

Buy the exact amount of olives on the olive bar to control waist.

The vinaigrette must be added to the quinoa while hot to properly season it.

Feta cheese and Kalamata olives are both salty ingredients. Added salt may not be needed. Taste and add salt as needed.

Quinoa is a boutique grain that’s actually a seed and relative to leafy greens like spinach and chard. Gluten-free, it’s very high in protein containing all eight amino acids plus a source of dietary fiber, B Vitamins and iron. It has a fluffy, slightly crunchy texture and nutty flavor with circular threads around each grain.

Serve this as a side salad with roast chicken or pork chops.

Excellent option for a summer canyon picnic or ‘symphony in the park’ supper.

Make a double or triple batch of vinaigrette and enjoy it drizzled over salad greens or fresh cut vegetables.

Dish Designer

Inspiration – Saucy Cuisine Kitchen
Cook with Sauces
Written by
Photographs by Helen Horton
Updated: February 21, 2013

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Quinoa Soup and Salad Series

Circular threads

Grains are all the fashion. Healthy, nutty, chewy; they’re popular everywhere, not just with granola folks. One of my favorites is quinoa (pronounced keen’-wah), a boutique grain that’s actually a seed and relative to leafy greens like spinach and chard. Gluten-free, it’s very high in protein containing all eight amino acids plus a source of dietary fiber, B Vitamins and iron. It has a fluffy, slightly crunchy texture and nutty flavor with circular threads around each grain. What I love is it’s versatility. It’s a canvas where you let your imagination and creativity run wild. Try different seasonings, ingredient combinations and international flavors.

quinoa with Brussels sprout leavesI’m sharing two quinoa dishes. First, a Mediterranean salad graced with Kalamata olives, feta cheese, bell peppers and cannellini beans. Then, a rich Cajun chicken soup with carrots, Brussels sprout leaves and quinoa rather than traditional noodles or rice.

Find quinoa at the supermarket near the rice and other grains. Affordable prices on larger quantities are available at warehouse sellers like Costco and Sam’s Club.

You might also like Quinoa Under Stained Glass.

Mediterranean Quinoa SaladThursday, February 21, 2013 – Mediterranean Quinoa Salad





Cajun Quinoa Chicken SoupFriday, February 22, 2013 – Cajun Quinoa Chicken Soup





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Florentine Lasagna Rolls

Rolled lasagna with cheeses and spinach.

Easy but fancy lasagna rolls

I assembled this whole recipe and then realized I left the box of spinach in the microwave…urg. I was defrosting it in the microwave and forgot it was hidden away. I actually assembled the dish sans spinach on a Saturday afternoon and ran off to some other activities planning to come home and bake it for supper. About an hour later I was at a meeting doing something completely different and remembered the spinach was still in the microwave. When I arrived home I set the the oven to preheat. I squeezed out the water and tucked little bundles of spinach into the lasagna rolls dripping some of it all around the pan. No worries, after it baked, no one would have known except we all got a laugh about the story over a really good Italian supper. Do you have a recipe recovery story to share?

Recipe: Florentine Lasagna Rolls

Prep Time: 10 Minutes | Inactive Time: 10 Minutes | Cook Time: 50 Minutes | Yield: 6 Servings | Level: Easy


  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 12 lasagna noodles

Béchamel Sauce

  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 4 tsp flour
  • 1 ¼ cups milk
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
  • pinch fresh ground nutmeg


  • 1 16-oz ricotta cheese
  • 1 10-oz pkg frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezedFlorentine-Lasagna-Rolls
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 thick slices crispy bacon, diced
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper


  • 1 1/2 cups marinara sauceFlorentine-Lasagna-Rolls
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

1 Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

2 Add olive oil and 1 Tbsp salt to a large pot of boiling water then slide in the lasagna noodles. Cook until just tender but still firm. Drain.

3 In the meantime, melt the butter in a heavy saucepan on medium-low heat and then whisk in the flour. Slowly whisk in the milk and then increase the heat to medium-high.

4 Continue stirring until it begins to boil and thicken and has a smooth finish. Add the 1/2 tsp salt, pepper and nutmeg.  Pour into a 9 x 13 baking dish and spread evenly.

5 In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, spinach, 1 cup parmesan cheese, bacon, egg, salt and pepper.

Florentine-Lasagna-RollsLasagna Assembly
6 On a work surface, lay out a lasagna noodle and place 3 Tbsp of the cheese mixture on one end and roll up. Place in the 9 x 13 dish seam side down and repeat until all 12 are lined up on top of the béchamel. If you have some extra cheese mixture dab it in the cracks between the rolls.

7 Spoon the marinara over the lasagna rolls. Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese and then 1/4 cup parmesan.

8 Cover with foil and bake at 450 degrees for 20 minutes, then uncover and bake 15 minutes more until the top becomes golden and bubbly. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Keep small packages of thick sliced bacon in the freezer, 2 slices per pack so I can have bacon at my fingertips. For a vegetarian dish, omit the bacon.

Make this dish lasagna style. Pour the béchamel on the bottom, then layer lasagna noodles with cheese mixture and top with marinara. Sprinkle with mozzarella and parmesan.

Dish Designer

  • Exchange ricotta for cottage cheese.
  • Use a homemade or bottled marinara sauce.
  • Exchange mozzarella for Monterrey Jack cheese.
  • Omit bacon for vegetarian dish.

Inspiration – Giada De Laurentiis
Cook with Sauces
Written by
Photographs by Helen Horton
Updated: May 18, 2012

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Italian Spaghetti Ragu

Slow simmered thick Italian spaghetti ragu sauce.

No more meatballs makes ragu

I can remember a couple of times when I was young, mom made a pot of spaghetti sauce with meatballs.  I helped roll the meatballs and mom fried them off.  After the marinara sauce was simmering, she dropped them into the pot to infuse the sauce and seasonings into the meatballs.  We children, there are seven of us, had some lively discussions around the dinner table about how many meatballs we each got.  I don’t know if it was the ‘warm conversations’, the extra time or the extra dishes it took.  Maybe a combination of all three converted mom to cooking ragu on a regular basis.

Ragu alla Bolognese style sauce is slow simmered and contains ground meat, vegetables, herbs and tomatoes.  Back in the day I didn’t know it was called ragu or Bolognese but I prefer it.  I enjoy the meat infused with the marinara in every bite.  Double the recipe and squirrel away some ragu in zip pouches for easy dinner days.  It’s a great Saturday or Sunday dish to simmering away while busy with other activities.  Makes the whole house smell Italian.

Recipe: Italian Spaghetti Ragu

Prep Time: 15 Minutes | Cook Time: 75 Minutes | Yield: 12 Cups | Level: Easy


  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 1/2 to 2 lbs lean ground beef
  • 1 med carrot, finely grated
  • 1/2 lb fresh chopped mushrooms, optional
  • 2 Tbsp dried sweet basil
  • 2 15 oz cans of diced tomatoes
  • 1 6 oz can tomato paste
  • 2 8 oz cans tomato sauce
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • spaghetti, cooked
  • Parmesan cheese, grated
  • parsley, chopped

1 In a large pot on medium heat, sauté onion in olive oil until transparent.  Add garlic and cook for 1 minute.

2 Crumble meat into the pot and brown.  Drain fat.

3 Add carrot and mushrooms and cook for 3 minutes.  Add basil and cook for 2 minutes.

4 Stir in diced, paste and sauce tomatoes, plus salt, bay, and oregano.  Simmer uncovered stirring occasionally for at least 1 hour or several hours as time permits.

5 Adjust salt.  Serve over pasta and garnish with cheese and parsley.

Carrot – Finely grated, the carrot adds natural sweetness, nutrition and is undetectable by picky eaters. Triple score.

Dish Designer

  • Exchange fresh mushrooms for 1 4-oz can of mushrooms but add with the tomatoes.
  • Make a double batch and stow away zipper packets of ragu for busy day meals.
  • Exchange spaghetti for tube type pasta such as rigatoni or penne.

Inspiration – Norma Horton, via an Italian friend
Cook with Sauces
Written by
Photographs by Helen Horton
Updated: May 16, 2012

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Italian White Bean and Ham Soup

Hearty Italian Soup with beans and ham in a savory broth.

Aroma of Italy

The aroma of an Italian restaurant permeates the whole house while this supper soup simmers away. It is fresh and savory the first day but enjoy it the second day when the flavors meld into an even richer blend. January is National Soup month and what better time is there to have a hearty, one dish meal.

Recipe: Italian White Bean and Ham Soup

Prep Time: 20 Minutes, plus soaking the beans overnight | Cook Time: 2 1/2 Hours | Yield: 13 Cups | Level: Easy


  • 1 16 oz pkg dried white beans, Navy or Great northern
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 2 cups diced onion
  • 4 cloves minced garlic
  • 8 cups chicken broth, fat-free and low sodium
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 T chopped fresh parsley, or 2 t dried
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • 2 smoked ham hocks
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 14 oz can diced tomatoes
  • salt and pepper

1 Sort and rinse beans then cover with water and let soak overnight.

2 Heat the oil in large pot over a medium fire. Add onion and cook until tender but not browned, about 8-10 minutes. Then add the garlic and cook 1 minute while keeping the veggies in motion.

3 Next, except the salt and pepper, add all other ingredients. Bring to a boil and then cover, reduce heat and simmer for 2 to 2 1/2 hours until beans are tender stirring occasionally. discard bay leaves and thyme twigs.

4 With a spider or slotted spoon lift out the ham hocks and cool long enough to handle without burning fingers. Pull meat from bones and dice or shred anything that doesn’t already fall apart.

5 Place 1 1/2 cups of beans in a blender, and whirl until smooth or put the beans in a bowl and have a go at it with an immersion blender. Then swirl the creamy puree back into pot along with ham to thicken soup. Salt and pepper to taste.

Quicker Beans – If you forgot to put the beans on to soak the night before you can speed this soup 3 different ways. 1) Cook the beans for 2 minutes then remove from the heat and let stand for 1 hour. 2) Use lentils adding them dry after the onions and garlic are cooked with the other ingredients. They don’t need to be soaked and cook rather fast. 3) use three 15 oz cans of rinsed beans and substitute diced for ham hocks. Cook for only 20-30 minutes to marry flavors.

Dish Designer

  • Exchange ham hocks for a ham bone left over from your holiday ham dinner.
  • Exchange navy or great northern for cannellini beans.
  • Using a very large pot, double the recipe and ladle the extra soup in quart freezer zipper pouches or containers and squirrel away in the deep freeze for busy days.

Inspiration – Cooking Light and Joann Weir
Cook with Sauces
Written: by
Photographs: by Helen Horton
Updated: April 3, 2012

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