Archive for June, 2011

Recipe: Lazy Eggplant Lasagna

|June 25, 2011|read comments (6)
Author: Mama's Kitchen

We've all heard about Lazy Pierogie – so why not try Lazy Eggplant Lasagna?

This didn't take long to make at all – it's so hot and humid that I took a jar of my homemade meat sauce out of the freezer the day before to thaw so that I could use it and not need to have a pot of sauce simmering on the stove! 

 This is a smaller eggplant than I would normally use because I made a smaller lasagna than normal. – – 


First, I combined my whole-milk ricotta with my chopped spinach.  You can wilt fresh spinach – but I chose to use frozen, cook and drain well and chop.  I used barely half the box – saved the remainder for another meal.  Allow to cool before adding to the cheese.  Seasoned with Kosher salt, fresh ground black pepper, fresh minced parsley (dried is fine to use) and mixed well.  Cover and refrigerate.



Wash and peel your eggplant.  Normally I would slice my eggplant – but this time I diced it instead.  I wasn't using lasagna noodles so why go for the slices?


Dip in beaten egg and dredge in seasoned bread crumbs – dry bread crumbs, Kosher salt, fresh ground black pepper, garlic, onion powder, fresh minced parsley (dried is fine to use).


Well – you know the routine – heat your skillet, add your olive oil, heat your oil, and THEN add your breaded eggplant.  Fry until tender/light golden.

Meanwhile, I placed my pot of water on the stove to boil to cook my macaroni.  While waiting, I transferred the cooked eggplant to a dish to cool for just a bit, sliced my brick of mozzarella (which could easily have been grated – I sliced by choice) and I spooned about a half a quart of my sauce into a bowl.

Once again – you know the routine – pot of water comes to a rolling boil, add your salt and wait for the water to return to a full rolling boil, add your macaroni and cook al dente.  Drain well and do not rinse.

I used a few handfuls of medium shells, rotini, and cut ziti – a great way to use up macaroni!  And since they all cook at the same time – it was easy.  Once thoroughly drained, I stirred the cooked macaroni into my bowl of sauce and coated well.


I placed a couple spoons of sauce into my baking dish and topped with half my macaroni; spread my ricotta/spinach mixture over the top.


Then top this with cooked and partially cooled eggplant.  At this point you can sprinkle with grated mozzarella if you want.  I didn't do it this time.  Top with remaining macaroni, added a bit more sauce to the top of that and spread sliced mozzarella around the top.


Even though it was so hot and humid – I still preheated my oven to 350* F. and placed the lasagna in for 20 minutes – because this is not a big casserole dish.  A larger dish would take longer.


Enjoyed with a nice salad of greens and some onion bread.

If you didn't read my post about Chinese Meatballs then you missed my onion bread recipe – it's right up there with garlic bread – if not better:

Combine softened butter, fresh minced parsley (dried is fine), a bit of Kosher salt, fresh cracked black pepper, a sprinkle of onion powder, and fresh grated onion.  Slather on thick-sliced Italian or French bread.  Placed on a baking tray (can be done in the broiler or toaster oven as well) and in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes while the lasagna was heating through.


and so simple – did not take long at all to make!

I hope you try this one!




Recipe: best dang grilled cheese sammie –

|June 25, 2011|read comments (5)
Author: Mama's Kitchen

Okay – you may say it's "just" a grilled cheese sammie – but htis is one of my favorites! 

There is so much you can do to make your grilled cheese sandwiches extra special.  Try adding a cooked breakfast sausage patty, or add onions, or tomatoes, or peppers, or ham, or chicken, or turkey, or bacon – the list is just endless.

I used a nice hearty bread – these cheap white breads that disintegrate before they hit your mouth just don't cut it with me.  I used Schwebel's Italian sliced.

A light coating of butter and then I placed my cheese slices on each slice.  Since this bread comes in wider and larger slices than other white breads, I needed to use 1 1/2 slices on each slice of bread.

I scrambled (softly) a couple eggs, seasoned with salt, pepper, and a sprinkle onion powder.  I transferred the hot eggs to the bread, and closed it up, buttering the outsides and frying until golden.

Soft eggs, cheese slowly oozing out – absolutely one of my favorites.  And definitely a filler-upper!  Add a glass of orange juice and you're good until dinnertime!

Recipe: and speaking of meatballs – Chinese Meatballs

|June 24, 2011|read comments (0)
Author: Mama's Kitchen


I come from a meatball loving family.  Like I have said before – many think that meatballs are just balls of ground beef in spaghetti sauce and served with spaghetti.  This is so far from the truth!

Meatballs can be made in many different sizes – from the tiny ones you find in Italian Wedding Soup to the baseball-or bigger-sized ones I make for a nice dish of homemade macaroni (that is pasta to many of you – to the Italians – it's MACARONI!)

And I do enjoy some Chinese dishes as well.  The unfortunate thing with eating Chinese food – if I don't make it myself – I can't eat it.

Take me to a Chinese restaurant and before I am half through with my meal I will begin to "grow" large red welts all over my entire face and body.  They itch terribly and they hurt like hell.  I walk in normal and walk out looking like a monster.  Not good for business either.

So I DIM – do-it-myself.

Being in the mood for rice and veggies, I decided to make some of my "Chinese" meatballs to go with it.  I started making these over 50 years ago – and everyone likes them.

I began with a bit over a pound of ground chuck.  To this I added Kosher salt, black pepper, garlic, parsley, ground ginger, and several splashes of low-sodium soy sauce.  I added about 1 1/2 cups shredded cabbage and about 1/2 cup shredded onion as well.  Mixed well and formed into meatballs – I happened to get 9 good-sized ones. 

I fried them in my garlic-flavored olive oil until done.

Just before they were done I made my rice – the choice at that time was simple Minute Rice which I used beef bouillon to cook it in instead of plain water, still added the bit of butter and a bit of salt – but not too much salt because I gave it a splash or two of the soy sauce.  This is also a great way to use up leftover rice and veggies!

In a separate pan, I cooked my frozen veggie mix of snap peas, broccoli, etc. and I added frozen green peas and since I had leftover steamed carrots from the day before – I added those as well.

Combined my cooked veggies and hot rice; served with my "Chinese" meatballs.

I also added a nice thick slice of onion bread – which I absolutely love.  Why not?

Slice a thick slice of Italian or French bread and slather on your onion butter –

Softened butter (no substitutes)

sprinkle of minced garlic – not much

pinch of Kosher salt

fresh ground black pepper

fresh grated onion

fresh minced parsley

Place in preheated 350* F. oven (or until broiler or in toaster oven) until done.  Can't beat it!


Give it a try and let me know how you like them!

Recipe: Meatballs

|June 13, 2011|read comments (0)
Author: Mama's Kitchen


Not to brag – but I do make a good meatball and I love to make huge batches at a time so that I can freeze them. It makes it very easy to just add some frozen meatballs to a pan of sauce and let them heat that way. Great for pasta dishes, meatballs hoagies, meatballs in gravy or even meatballs in soup – any recipe that calls for meatballs.

Hey – who said that Italian Wedding Soup had to be made with microscopic meatballs anyway?

A meatball in my house can be from golf ball size (not very often – it's too small – unless it's for a finger food dish) to baseball size.

You buy 10 to 20 pounds of ground round and you mix in batches and fry until done. Cool completely in the refrigerator – the bigger they are, the longer it takes. HOURS later or even the next day – spread them on a baking sheet and place in the freezer to freeze them individually. Makes it easier to remove as many as you want. Once pretty much frozen – do the "bag-n-tag" – you know – label and date – using freezer bags or containers (forget the containers for me – I'd need a ton of them – freezer bags are easier) and you're all set.

Make-ahead meatballs are lifesavers for any meal!


They aren't just for spaghetti and tomato-based sauce either – great for hoagie- type sammies with gravies and various different sauces and cheese sauces.  It's time to step out of the box and create!

Recipe: Just a couple simple pasta dishes……

|June 13, 2011|read comments (0)
Author: Mama's Kitchen

Today I would like to share a very simple and delicious pasta dish that is one of our favorites! It’s done in no time and on those busy days – it’s a lifesaver.

Penne with Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Simply cook your pasta al dente (you know the routine – bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil, add salt and wait for it to return to a rolling boil, add pasta and cook).

Add to pot, olive oil and fresh minced garlic, saute – do not brown the garlic (burned garlic is very bitter – toss and start over) add cooked pasta back to pan, pour in the oil from a jar of sun-dried tomatoes in oil (all depending on your taste and how much you are making); stir in a small jar of (drained) marinated artichoke hearts; heat through, season to taste with Kosher salt and fresh ground or cracked black pepper, and serve.

This goes well with a nice salad and of course – crusty Italian bread.

This is very similar to my macaroni and oil – cook pasta as directed above – drain. In same pot, drizzle olive oil and add fresh minced garlic, saute – do not burn. Add pasta bake to pan, season to taste with Kosher salt, fresh ground or cracked black pepper, fresh minced parsley; serve hot.

Once again – this goes great with a salad and crusty Italian bread.

Either one of these dishes can be made with any type of pasta – the choice is yours.

These are just two of the dishes we enjoy on Fridays, or on meatless days during Lent, etc.

If you are a meat eater on those days – no problem. Enjoy as a side with your favorite entrée. And no one said that you can’t add fish or seafood to this!

Just a few notes:
The oil from the sun-dried tomatoes gives this a fabulous flavor. A
mix of equal amounts of olive oil and the oil from the tomato jar is a good ratio to start with – you can adjust from there. Diced or jullienned sun-dried tomatoes go farther than the whole ones do. Add as many drained, marinated artichokes as you want.

Recipe: Italian Traditions – from 11/1/09

|June 13, 2011|read comments (0)
Author: Mama's Kitchen

All Soul’s Day

November 2nd is ALL SOUL’S DAY – also know as the “Day of the Dead” – it is the day following All Saint’s Day.

All Soul’s Day is a Roman Catholic Holiday – a day of remembrance for those that have passed on. There are church services and festivals in honor those that have died.

In Italy, they begin selling special cookies starting before November. Ossa dei morti – known as bones of the dead – are cookies that are flavored with cloves (Sicilian), and from other areas they may use almonds, some using hazelnuts. These sweets are to meant to bring cheer, compensating for the sadness of All Saint’s Day and All Soul’s Day.

Different regions in Italy have different recipes:

And may I remind you – these are what Italian babies teethe on!

These are made with cornmeal:

Bring 2 quarts water to a rolling boil; sift in (about) 1 pound cornmeal, stirring constantly, until you have the consistency of soft mashed potatoes. Stop adding cornmeal at that point. Keep stirring. When done, let it rest a couple hours.

When ready to make the cookies: Whip it, adding salt and pepper (a good dose of pepper); work in wheat flour (a good handful) to give it a good consistency; remove dough from pot.

Form into breadsticks – wider in the middle and tapered at the ends. Place on lightly floured baking sheets. Bake in preheated 360* F. oven until hard and cracked – you’ll see fine cracks.

In some regions, bones of the dead are made from risen bread dough, that has butter and oil added to it, as well as sugar and anise seed. These can also be sweetened with honey. When using bread dough, shape into sticks shaped like fingers. These get baked twice. The first time for 10 to 15 minutes (depending on size), cooled and baked again.

You can also find these cookies made with sweet wine, spices, dried fruits, chocolate and pignoli.

Peel and grind ½ lb. almonds until they are half the size of a grain of rice, adding ½ cup sugar as grinding. Add 1 cup flour; work in 2 tablespoons butter and one large egg. Flavor with some lemon zest, or orange zest, or vanilla along with enough sweet liqueur to make a soft dough. Break dough into pieces the size of a fava bean, brush with egg yolk and place on floured baking sheet. Bake at 375* F. until done. Because of their size they bake quickly.

When Carmella made hers:

Cup* flour, half cup sugar, some pine nuts, blanched, peeled and finely chopped almonds**, lemon zest from half a lemon, cinnamon, and a shot glass of grappa. Pull off small pieces, roll and shape with floured hands, place on greased and floured baking sheets, brush with beaten egg, and bake at 350* F. until done.

**be careful not to grind to the point that the oils come out of the almonds

*Carmella didn’t own measuring cups – she used a cup from the dish set. Just like we all did in the family. No measuring cups, no measuring spoons. Our measuring cups were our tea cups, our measuring spoons are our teaspoons and dessertspoons from our silverware. I still use my hands to measure – it’s easier and it hasn’t failed me yet. I was raised to bake and cook by look and feel.

Like I said – every region has their own recipes for these – there are no set rules – it’s the thought that counts.

Recipe: Another Thursday meal – from 10/29/09

|June 13, 2011|read comments (0)
Author: Mama's Kitchen

It’s Thursday alright! A favorite day for me.

I went to the “barns” yesterday in the city – no they are not real barns like you would find on a farm – but they’ve been called barns my whole life. They are wholesale supply houses – all in a row – or should I say in rows. And as the years go by – some look worse than ever! A couple have remodeled – the rest I think they are just waiting for them to fall down. You can buy anything there – and there is also an outdoor market that they run all year ‘round. There are sausage vendors, beer distributors, those that sell only fruits and veggies indoors, dairy, meats – anything at all.

But that is where you can buy in bulk, buy all the fresh meats, veggies, fruits, dairy products, etc. for restaurants, stores, hotels, and other businesses. My whole family has shopped there since the barns were built. After all – many have had restaurants. I love being able to shop before dawn and get back home. Then I don’t need to put up with all the city traffic in the morning. At that time everything is stocked and fresh – they close between 1 and 4 in the afternoon, depending on the vendor, so it’s definitely a early-bird shopping experience.

It’s got that “comfy” feel to it – although it is so old. Many memories of filling grocery flats with food for an army and bringing it home to cook for the army.

Although it’s no longer an army, most of the elders have passed – and my generation is soon going to be the elders of the family. To think that soon I’ll be the family “Don” —–

You can also buy restaurant dishes, silverware, pots and pans, and all the goodies for trimming restaurants. Ninety-five percent of my dishes are restaurant dishes. They last forever – that’s how it is in my family. Several of my great aunts took on jobs working at the local china business – they made many of those dishes that I have.

Not only do I buy food items, “wares”, pots, pans, etc. but I usually buy all my waxed paper, foils, etc. in bulk, It’s much cheaper to have large rolls of foil in two different widths around for several years than to have to buy it weekly or monthly. Better quality too. And if I need any other paper products – I can get them there.

Yesterday was a day to pick up some odds-n-ends – a bag of yeast for making bread (for $3 I can make a ton of bread, pizza, calzones, cinnamon rolls, etc.), a gallon jar of pepperoncini is a must in my house and I only paid $4.85 for it; a jar of pepperoni in the store is close to $4 and there is nothing in it. I purchased a whole provolone cheese – for salads, sammies, grating on pizzas, etc., some is in the freezer. I bought the institutional size of the herbs and spices that I needed – they cost from $6 to $9 each – once again – brand name – and those little jars by the same company on the supermarket shelf will choke you. I grabbed a whole liverwurst for quickie sammies to pick on – we are liverwurst people here and as long as it is in the refrigerator I hear it calling my name and I run to it. (I’m bad!)

When I make meatloaf and stuffed cabbage rolls, I sometimes like to put tomato soup in the meat/filling and also use as a sauce on top. Our supermarket is selling condensed cream of tomato soup (the 10 ounce cans) for up to $1.59 or more a can. Sometimes I need two for the meatloaf or cabbage rolls. For $3.40 each, I purchased the institutional sized cans of the same soup – I’ll have soup leftover to enjoy with grilled cheese, or just to drink after raking leaves (or shoveling) as a tummy warmer. I even bought cream of chicken and cream of potato – great for making casseroles – or should I say – my “fishes and loaves” – and these institutional cans cost no more than or even less than 2 regular size cans.

Another thing I purchase there is tuna fish. A can of tuna that is over 4 pounds costs only $7.65. I don’t have the time, patience, and I don’t want to put my money into the cans on the supermarket shelves that are filled with water or oil and there is no tuna in it – just a few flakes. If making several sandwiches and using some in macaroni salad I would need to open 10 cans or more at more than a dollar a can – buy institutional – it’s cheaper and at least it has chunks of tuna in it – not just a few flakes.

I’m also able to buy eggs on steroids there. Trust me – the eggs they sell don’t even fit in the cartons they are so big! A dozen is cheaper than a dozen in the supermarkets by at least 60 cents.

And I bought pepperoni. They way we go through that here, I need to buy it in bulk. Got a LARGE jar of maraschino cherries for baking as well.

Grabbed a few more goodies, and the nice gentlemen there packed my trunk and car (too bad they couldn’t come home with me and help put it all away – that is the down-side of grocery shopping) and I was on my way.

After making dozens of trips to unload the car (dang boxes were too heavy to lift – had to empty by hand!) I was ready to start to get ready for today.

Using a gallon of whole milk and some lemon juice (this time), I made my homemade ricotta cheese.

Today, it’s Thursday, I’m Italian – it’s pasta for dinner. I made my homemade meat sauce, made my lasagna noodles, assembled my lasagna – and we had a great dinner.

I made a salad of green beans, diced provolone, and pepperoni, tossed with a basic vinaigrette made from olive oil, red wine vinegar, Kosher salt, cracked black pepper, basil.

We still break bread on occasion in my house – it’s just a tradition – crusty Italian to complete the meal.

Recipe: Garlic – Fresh or Jarred?

|June 12, 2011|read comments (0)
Author: Mama's Kitchen

Garlic – Fresh or Jarred?

Of course – I am back to talking about GARLIC. I received this email which I would like to share:

Date: Sun, 16 May 2010 04:58:02 -0500

Hi Mama!

Thanks for including me in your email list. Yesterday before I went to work, I was on your Old Fashioned Home Cooking blog. I tell you what, I wish I discovered your site a long time ago because if I did, I won't be doing some of the stuff I'm doing right now. For example, I used to use freshly crushed garlic every time I saute something, then I saw some videos of bloggers who uses the already minced garlic that they can get from grocery store. I started using that because I thought it was a good idea and it would save me some time. But after reading your articles about making everything homemade, I kind of realize that you were right, we don't know what's in that bottle of minced garlic. So yes Mama, I am learning from you already. And I am not back in school yet. This time, I want to learn as much as I can for free before I go back to school. And thanks to you. Please don't be surprised if I mention some of your tips in my blog. And thank you so much for the encouragement. I really appreciate it.



When it comes to using garlic – I think I am the biggest user of it in the world! There is nothing like fresh garlic or making your own homemade garlic salt and dried minced garlic! (recipes on this blog)

You all know that I am against purchasing jarred garlic in oil. It’s way too expensive, and it’s a total waste. I don’t care if it saves you time – eating out at McDonald’s, Burger King, etc. will also save you time. But is it really healthy for you?


Let me repeat myself – just in case you didn’t quite get it –


No – not what you purchase at the market – what you can make at home. For big batch cooking, or if I know I am using it two days in a row (which is just about all the time!) – I make my own. Make it the night before and store in a small covered glass jar in the refrigerator. It comes in handy for rubs, barbecuing, roasts, skillet frying – just about anything. Even use when making garlic bread.

I’m fussy about the quality of the ingredients I use. Unfortunately, I can’t say that about food manufacturing facilities. I don’t care who they are – I don’t trust any of them.

Seeing those really tall jars of garlic in oil in the stores just turns my stomach. I don’t give a hoot as to an expiration date on a product either. I don’t care if you just bought it and you are dumb enough to believe that just because it has an expiration date 2 years from now that you are going to be able to use that long! ONCE OPENED – THE EXPIRATION DATE MEANS NOTHING! I don’t care what the product is.

Now back to those poisonous tall jars of garlic in oil – if you are going to use the entire jar within 2 to 3 days – then buy it if you must. If not – it’s just a waste of money because it is not good after that.

It’s so easy to make your own – just mince your fresh garlic (using only good garlic and not half-rotted garlic that you are trying to save!) and add olive oil; mix well; place in small glass jar with a tight-fitting cover and use within 2 days – be sure to store in refrigerator. Pushing it to 3 is something I don’t agree with. Slather it on any foods you want – I am a garlic lover and I can’t get enough of it. But I sure as $%@# I won’t purchase it in a jar. Not when I can make my own in a minute or two. And I know what I am cooking with and feeding to others.

It’s so simple to make – why buy it? And making it yourself, you will know if it is fresh. For “marathon cooking” in my house – I make up a jar to save time. I use it in my sauces, for roasts, for all meats being, fried, roasted, baked, etc., when making garlic breads and rolls, macaroni in oil, dressings, anything I want.

Try it – I think you will agree with me!

And a note to Karen – I enjoy your blog and your recipes! Keep up the good work!

Recipe: How to make your own onion powder and minced dry onion

|June 12, 2011|read comments (0)
Author: Mama's Kitchen

What a money saver this is!  Especially if you grow your own onions!  If not – watch those weekly sale papers –


Preheat your oven to 150* F. if you are not using a dehydrator.

Peel your onions and remove that dry papery skin that is on them.  Slice thin and place in your dehydrator or on baking trays in single layer.   When they are dry they will be brittle.

When dry, remove to clean, dry paper towels to cool completely.

Grind or minced to your desired consistency using your coffee grinder, food processor, mortar and pestle – your choice.

Store in airtight in glass containers in cool dry place.

And don't ask me if I would freeze this – no – I do not want the moisture in it.

Recipe: Make your own garlic powder and minced garlic

|June 12, 2011|read comments (0)
Author: Mama's Kitchen

Why not?


It's easier than pie and you will know just how fresh it is – instead of relying on your grocer who may not be rotating his stock or selling old product.

If it's stale – the flavor is just not there.  And you already know how I feel about spices and herbs – regardless of what anyone says – once opened they will not last.


Start by preheating your oven to 150* F. if you are not using a dehydrator.

Peel your garlic cloves and slice thin.  Believe it or not, if carefully handled, using a single-edged razor blade works great for this!

Just spread your slices on your tray and heat/dry until done.  (If you can easily crumble it in your hand – it's done.)

Remove to clean, dry paper towels to cool completely before grinding.  I use my coffee grinder (I have one that is designated for spices only), but you can use a mortar and pestle, food processor, or roll with your rolling pin to desired consistency.

Store in an airtight glass jar in your pantry.

I don't make enough for a year – but I am a garlic user and I do make it frequently.


 And if you are going to tell me you freeze it – that is something I won't do – I do not want the moisture in it.


And now a word on minced garlic – 

Did you know that minced garlic has chemicals in it to preserve it and that it may have been bleached to keep its color?

Do it yourself – just coarsely mince and dry as above except for minced garlic your oven temperature should be 130* F!  Check it every so often and if it begins to brown, lower your oven 10 degrees.  Stir every 3 hours. And leave the oven door cracked a bit for air circulation – you are drying – not baking.

Depending on the humidity and high altitude, drying times can be up to 12 hours or two days.  High altitude dries quicker!

Remember to use good heads of garlic – nice and firm – not dried out or mushy or shriveled.

Need to reconsitute it for a dish?  Just soak in water.