Sunday, January 14, 2024

Old Fashioned Bread Pudding

Each year, we celebrate Mother's Day on the Saturday before so that our three sons can spend the actual day with their mothers-in-law. Plus, it gives our daughter a well-deserved day off as well.  This allows us to spend the day with all of our children and grandchildren without having them sit in traffic. 

Brunch is one of our favorite meals on Mother's Day Saturday and bread pudding always seems to make it to our table.  This recipe is easy to make and so delicious. It's like a French Toast casserole.  Try topping it with a little powdered sugar,  maple syrup and whipped cream.

  • 4-5 cups of broken bread pieces or cubes. Some ideas to use are: french bread, buns, rolls, challah, toast or another type of bread.)
  • 2 Tablespoons of butter 
  • 4 Beaten Eggs
  • 2 cups Half & Half
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup raisins (if desired)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and butter the inside of a 8 in. square baking dish.
  2. Break bread in to the buttered baking dish.
  3. Melt the 2 tablespoons of butter, and drizzle over bread pieces.
  4. In a bowl, mix remaining ingredients, beating the eggs first, until mixed well.
  5. Pour this mixture over the bread, press to coat each piece.
  6. Bake for 45 minutes, or until the top of the bread pudding springs back after lightly touching it with a fork.
Note:  Makes about 6 servings. Recipe can be doubled.

Sunday, February 20, 2022

Grandma's Stuffed Cherry Vinegar Peppers

My mom made these festive red and green cherry peppers peppers on Christmas Eve and everyone just loved them. She would prepare both mild and hot cherry peppers. No one ever knew what they were stuffed with. We just knew that they were delicious.

When Mom was no longer able to host Christmas Eve, I asked for her recipe so that I could continue the tradition with my family. These little morsels were filled with ingredients that did not make any, walnuts, anchovies, raisins. My husband, who would never indulge in any of these ingredients, loved these peppers. All I know is that the end result was an amazing taste treat.

So I have continued making Grandma's stuffed vinegar peppers every Christmas Eve for my family but have always kept the ingredients a bit of a secret. 

  • 1 jar of hot cherry vinegar peppers
  • 5 slices of stale bread (crumbled)
  • 1/4 cup of red wine
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 2 walnuts (chopped)
  • 2 pieces of flat anchovies
  • 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 clove of finely chopped garlic
  • golden raisins (to taste)
  • dash of oregano

Mix all ingredients until fully combined.
Remove tops and seeds from peppers.
Stuff each pepper and fry in olive oil, stuffing side down until nicely browned.
Continue to turn peppers until cooked on all sides

Friday, October 2, 2020

Quick and Easy Homemade Chicken Soup

Homemade soup was a regular on the menu when I was growing up, whether it was for lunch or as a first dish at dinner.  Now,  we just reach for a can of soup in the pantry, open and heat it in the microwave....not the same, not the same at all.

The cooler weather is on it's way and there is nothing like comfort food  to make you feel all warm and snuggly.  Try this quick and easy chicken soup recipe.  You won't be disappointed.

  • One whole cooked rotisserie chicken
  • 1/4 lb of egg noodles 
  • 3 large celery stalks, chopped
  • 4 large carrots, chopped
  • 1 large white onion, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp of butter
  • 32 oz container of low sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 of 15 oz can of petite diced tomatoes (optional)
  • Sprinkle of parsley flakes
  • Pinch of garlic powder 
  • Salt  and pepper to taste at end

Skin rotisserie chicken and remove the white meat.
Chop into bitesize pieces
Sautee the celery and onion in the butter until transparent
Add chicken broth, tomatoes  and carrots.
Simmer for 1/2 hour or until carrots are tender.
Add Chicken and continue simmering while noodles cook
Cook noodles in a separate pot. (you can substitute Orzo, Dilanti pasta or even rice, if desired)
Add pasta to chicken soup.
Simmer for 10 more minutes

Add some parmesan cheese if desired and enjoy!!

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Shredded Red Cabbage Salad

My son Joe has become quite the healthy chef during this Stay at Home crisis. (COVID 19) This salad is not only healthy and delicious but also a refreshing side dish during the long hot days of summer.

      • 1/2 medium red cabbage, core discarded and sliced thinly
      • Small bunch flat leaf parsley, stems discarded and chopped
      • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
      • Juice of 1/2 lemon
      • Salt and pepper
      • 1 Tbs Red Wine Vinegar
      • 1 tsp sugar
      1. Put the cabbage in a colander, add 1 tbsp salt and massage well. Leave on a plate until the cabbage has softened a little, at least 30 minutes, longer if you can.
      2. Rinse and drain the cabbage. Mix with the parsley, olive oil and lemon juice, reserving some of the parsley to scatter on top. Season. Serve with a sprinkling of parsley.
      Note: Add more or less vinegar and sugar to taste. Some may like a little more or less.

    Rice Ball Casserole

    My niece Christine inherited the cooking and baking genes of the Mancuso/LaSasso families. This girl is rocking and rolling in the kitchen.  She has donated many delicious recipes to her old aunt and this one is exceptional.  If you love Sicilian Rice Balls but don't dare attempt to make them...try her recipe for Rice Ball Casserole. You will not be disappointed.

    • 3 cups long grain rice uncooked
    • 6 cups of water
    • 3 eggs
    • 3 Tbsp butter
    • 1/2 cup Pecorino Romano cheese
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 1/8 tsp black pepper
    • 1 Tbsp olive oil
    • 1 pound 90% lean ground beef
    • 1 garlic clove- diced
    • 1 medium onion- chopped
    • 1 cup frozen peas
    • 28-ounces (3 +1/2 cups) Mom's Quick Marinara Sauce - divided
    • 2 Tbsp grated cheese
    •  olive oil cooking spray
    • 1/4 cup plain bread crumbs
    • 1+ 1/2 cup shredded part-skim/whole milk mozzarella
    • Extra heated marinara sauce needed for serving

    1. First, cook the rice with 6 cups of water, add 1 teaspoon of salt, and follow directions on the package. Transfer rice to a large mixing bowl, add the butter, mix, and set aside to cool.
    2. In the meantime, using a medium skillet, sauté onion and garlic in olive oil for 2 minutes. Add the ground beef and cook meat until browned and well cooked. Using a wooden spoon, break the chopped meat while cooking. Season with salt and pepper. Add peas and 8 ounces (1 cup) of tomato sauce. Cover with a lid and simmer on low heat for 5 minutes. Turn off heat.
    3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
    4. In a large mixing bowl, combine rice with eggs, pecorino cheese, 8-ounces (1 cup) of marinara sauce, and mix well. Rice will be sticky.
    5. Spray a 13 x 9 casserole dish, including all four sides, with cooking spray. Add breadcrumbs to the baking dish, roll the dish until bottom and all sides are coated with breadcrumbs.
    6. Take half of the rice mixture and cover the bottom of the dish and pressing down to form a layer.
    7. Add the entire meat and peas mixture to cover the rice. Spread an additional ladle (or about 1/2 cup, or more if needed) of marinara sauce over the meat and peas mixture. Then scatter with a layer of shredded mozzarella on top.
    8. Add the remaining rice and press with the back of a spoon until the layer is even.
    9. Top with remaining marinara sauce. Sprinkle with some grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and top with a layer of shredded mozzarella.
    10. Cover with foil and Bake @ 400 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake for another 5 minutes until the mozzarella is melted. Remove and cut into 12 squares. Serve with extra sauce heated.
    11. Serves 8 to 12
    Note: You may want to cut this recipe in half for smaller gatherings.

    Saturday, June 27, 2020

    Fried Stuffed Zucchini Flowers


    It's that time of the year again. Zucchini flowers are blooming. Since we all have that extra time to stop and smell the roses (COVID 19), why not pick a few zucchini flowers while you're out there and turn them into a wonderful treat. I found these recipes online with a variety of stuffings and wanted to share them

    For the Batter:
    • 2 eggs
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 8-9 tablespoons flour
    • 1/4 cup milk 
    For the Stuffing:
    • 8-10 zucchini flowers
    • 1 small fresh mozzarella cut into small cubes
    • 3-4 slices prosciutto cut into small strips
    In a medium-sized bowl using a whisk beat eggs well, whisk in salt, then flour 1 tablespoon at a time ( first 5 tablespoons) then add milk, whisk until smooth, and then add last 3-4 tablespoons, and continue whisking until smooth, should be thick enough to coat the zucchini.**
    To Clean the zucchini, trim the top of the flower, then cut down the middle and remove the middle stem (stamen) leave approximately 1/2 inch (1 centimeter) of stem. Rinse and towel dry.
    Stuff the flower with approximately 3 cubes of mozzarella and 3 strips of prosciutto (if you like anchovies then you can substitute them for the prosciutto). Dip in batter, coat well, fry till golden in hot oil, drain on paper towels then serve. Enjoy!

    Alternate Stuffings:

    Goat Cheese Stuffing: 
    • 1/3 cup (2 ounces) goat cheese, at room temperature
    • 2 tablespoons (1 ounce) cream cheese, at room temperature
    • 2 teaspoons heavy cream
    • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil leaves
    • 1 green onion, finely chopped
    • Salt & Pepper to taste

    Ricotta Stuffing :

    • 1 cup ricotta
    • 1 tablespoon freshly chopped mint
    • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
    • Kosher salt
    • Freshly ground black pepper

    Monday, March 26, 2018

    Mom's Easter Grain Pie

    The celebration of Easter Sunday is approaching. It's a time for rejoicing and celebrating the Resurrection of Christ.

    In the Mancuso/Esposito household, Holy Saturday was celebrated in a special way.  My son, Marty, refers to it as Easter Pie Saturday.

    My Mom would start preparing the baked goods on Holy Thursday and bake right into Saturday morning.... Braided sweet Easter Bread with brightly colored hard boiled eggs, Black Pepper Taralli, Orange Glazed Cookies, Pizzagaina (Rustica),  Easter Pasta Pie and of course homemade Grain Pie.

    Grain Pie was the most complicated recipe of all. There were actual "steps" that needed to be taken to complete this masterpiece.  Over the years, I have tried my best to keep this tradition alive.  Lucky for me, my future daughter-in-law, Brittany, has mastered this art and who I gladly hand the torch over to.

    Grain Pie

    Step 1
    • 1/2 lb uncooked or 1 lb whole wheat cooked grain 
    • 1/2 tsp salt 
    • 1/2 tsp orange zest 
    • 1/4 cup chopped citron 
    • 1 tbs sugar 
    • 1/2 cup evaporated milk 
    Soak uncooked grain overnight in water in the refrigerator.
    Drain water and cook similar to rice doubling the amount of water to the amount of grain.
    Add salt, bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer over low flame for 1 hour stirring occasionally to prevent sticking
    After one hour, add evaporate milk, sugar, citron and orange zest. Bring to a simmer and cook for additional 1/2 hour.

    Step 2
    • 1 1/2 lb of ricotta 
    • 1 1/2 cups sugar 
    • 6 egg yolks 
    • 1/2 tsp cinnamon 
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract 
    • 1 tsp almond extract 
    • 1/4 cup chopped citron 
    • 1 package instant vanilla pudding 
    • Juice of 1/2 fresh orange 
    • Juice of 1/2 fresh grapefruit 
    Beat with mixer until well blended

    Step 3
    • 6 egg whites 
    • 1 tbs sugar 
    • 1/4 tsp lemon juice 
    Beat until stiff

    Step 4

    In a large bowl, mix Step 1 and Step 2 together then fold in Step 3

    Step 5 - Dough
    • 2 1/2 cups of flour 
    • 1/2 cup sugar 
    • 1/4 tsp salt 
    • 1 heaping tsp baking powder 
    • 3 eggs 
    • 1/4 cup milk 
    • 1 stick softened margarine 
    • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract 
    • 1/2 tsp almond extract 
    Mix dry ingredients in mixer, add milk, margarine, extract and eggs one a time.
    Knead dough and form 4 dough balls. Add more flour as needed.
    Make ahead and refrigerate for easier rolling.

    Roll dough and press into two 10" deep dish greased pie pans. Fill pie pans with Ricotta mixture.
    Roll remaining dough and cut into lattice pieces making a criss-cross design over filling and around each pan.
    Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 1 hour or until golden brown.

    Britt, my mom would have been so proud. You are only lucky man, Mike.