• Thai Quinoa Salad

Mango-Kale Smoothie

Mango-Kale Smoothie

If you are wary of kale you won’t be after trying my scrumptious mango-kale smoothie! In fact, if you didn’t see that this mango-kale smoothie was green you would never know there was kale in it! It’s made from frozen mango chunks, fresh kale leaves, a pinch of banana and ginger, vanilla-bean Greek yogurt and light apple juice. The silky creaminess comes from using Cabot vanilla-bean Greek yogurt. And the “light” apple juice has the perfect amount of sweetness bringing it all together. The subtle flavors from the scant amounts of banana and ginger will have your guest’s trying to pinpoint exactly what they are. This most delicious concoction will have you licking your lips after the first sip!

My mango-kale smoothie is a real energy booster! I love that it’s super easy and convenient with store bought frozen mango chunks! My kitchen always has mangoes on the counter ripening for these mango-kale smoothie’s or my mango salsa but sometimes the timing isn’t right. That’s why I always have a bag of store bought frozen mango in my freezer. I can always depend on the the quality of the store bought frozen mango being deep orange in color offering a sweet mango flavor. Many times I cut up the ripened fresh mangoes using 1/2 cup fresh and 1 cup frozen in the mango-kale smoothie. Then I add any leftover fresh mango to the frozen mango bag and pop in back into the freezer for next time.

I make many different smoothies some of which you can find in my “Energy Smooties 101” but I think this is one of my fave’s because of the simpicity, delicious flavor and nutritional benefits. I add ginger in my mango-Kale smoothie for an immune system booster offering up anti-inflammatories and antioxidants. Kale is another antioxidant with more nutrients then spinach, if you can believe that one! It has calcium, potassium, vitamin C and B6 all helping to give you awesome looking skin & hair, and healthy bones & heart. Then there’s the mighty mango that’s known to help fight cancer with vitamin’s like A, C, E and B6!

This Mango-Kale Smoothie energy drink should be part of your weekly regimen. It’s a win-win for all us busy bees who just don’t have time for ailments! Enjoy 🙂 Now that I have you on a health craze you have to try my easy fresh salsa 101 that you can make 12 months of the year, or BEST guacamole ever. Don’t forget the Seared Sea Scallops, Salmon BLT Slider’s and how about ending it with some Ricotta Pie!




















Ingredients for Mango-Kale Smoothie makes 8 small glasses:

  • 1 1/2 cups frozen mango chunks (I love Stop & Shop bag of frozen mango)
  • 1 cup PACKED, about 5 lg fresh kale leaves with ribbing removed
  • 1//4 cup sliced, frozen banana (fresh banana’s sliceD, placed into baggies and freeze)
  • 1 1/2 tsp fresh grated ginger
  • 1 cup Cabot vanilla-bean Greek yogurt
  • 1 1/2 cup “light” apple juice, NOTE: the “light” apple juice has less sugar in it then the “unsweetened” apple juice and the perfect amount of sweet
  • 1 ice cube …helps to purée the kale to a fine and smooth consistency


  1. Place the kale leaves into the blender first, followed by Greek yogurt, ice cube, frozen mango chunks and banana, zested fresh ginger and light apple juice
  2. Purée for 1 minute til frothy and smooth
  3. Pour into glasses and serve
  4. NOTE: you can freeze any left over mango-kale smoothie in plastic container for future frozen “Italian ice” like snacks!
  5. Add some vodka or rum to make delicious party cocktails!

Sharing Recipes and the Love of Cooking with Much Laughter by Pem McNerney

Sharing Recipes and the Love of Cooking with Much Laughter

By Pem McNerney, Living Editor

Published October 13, 2016. Last updated 01:24 p.m., October 11, 2016







Michel Vejar, a Madison-based recipe specialist and food blogger, grew up in an Italian family and has been eating and preparing eggplant her whole life.

So when we recently put out a call for recipes including that abundant seasonal staple, she responded with several, including eggplant “meat”balls (with no meat) from her friend Adele Campanelli of Madison; eggplant pickles from her friend Nancy Leonardi in Branford; paleo eggplant lasagna from her friend Christine Nizolek in Guilford; and eggplant rollatini with vodka sauce, one of Vejar’s own recipes.

“I have been featuring many eggplant dishes so people can use up their garden supplies,” she says.

These recipes and more can be found on her blog, The Traveling Epicurean, thetravelingepicurean.com, which she started about two and a half years ago, and on a YouTube cooking show, www.youtube.com/thetravelingepicureanmichelvejar, started about a year and a half ago. Since then she’s produced more than 80 shows, doing all the work herself, including show scheduling, recipe creation, camera work, lighting, make-up, and editing.

“Not only do I love to show people how to cook, but I love to share other cooks’ passionate family recipes that have been in their family for centuries,” she says.

She says she gets great ideas from talking with other home cooks, including Leonardi, who makes the pickled eggplant in a huge stoneware pickling crock. Leonardi also uses two clean white cotton pillow cases and a washing machine—twice—to drain the eggplant, an idea that Vejar says is sheer genius.
“I have another Italian woman, who will be making stuffed hot peppers next week, who did the same thing when she and her husband used to make pickled eggplant,” Vejar says.

Growing Up Italian

Vejar grew up in West Hartford, attended Southern Connecticut State University, and then for a semester studied at the Università degli Studi di Urbino in a pretty little Renaissance hill town in the north-eastern part of central Italy. A few years after graduation, she moved to San Francisco where she took delight in the wide variety of ethnic food offerings. She and her family, including her two children Reilly and Bella, moved to Madison in 2007. While she loves all kinds of food, her Italian heritage continues to inform much of what she does.

“Growing up in an Italian family is really a wonderful thing. Food and holidays are what brings family and friends together and the Italians really have a grasp on that. I remember helping my mother with holiday food preparations from the time I was around six or seven years old,” she says. “I especially loved helping with her homemade manicotti. I would fill the homemade pasta with ricotta and mozzarella and then roll them up. I did a YouTube cooking show on my mother’s homemade manicotti because they are the most delicious manicotti I have ever had. I wanted everyone to be able to experience this and know how to make them as well.”

She said creating the The Traveling Epicurean is a career move.

“I am a stay-at-home mom who fixes everything in the house that needs fixin’ and gets the pool open in May for the kids. With a graphic design major, I am a sign-maker by trade who loves fine art painting and still has a couple of lettering jobs on the side,” she says.
She has also taught cooking classes, has been featured both in print and on television for her cooking, and has twice made it to the open casting call in New York City for the MasterChef television series on Fox TV.

“I didn’t make it to the final show but it was an amazing experience each time and I learned a lot,” she says.

Self-Taught, Sharing the Love

“I am a self-taught chef who has been cooking her whole life. I have many friends and chefs who I cook with where we constantly share recipes and our love of cooking with much laughter. That’s why creating The Traveling Epicurean Show on YouTube made so much sense for me because I actually get to show people the how-to’s of it all,” she says.

“One of my favorite things about The Traveling Epicurean Show is sharing other cooks’ and chefs’ family recipes that have been with them for generations. I can feel and see the passion in their eyes as I’m shooting footage in their kitchens. It’s an incredible feeling to see this passion, the happiness they feel when sharing their wonderful family recipes.”

She also loves creating the final product, using iMovie, something she learned through YouTube tutorials.
“The creativity I now have with iMovie when I edit is fantastic. I can’t believe I edited the first 50 shows without it. Creating my shows from beginning to end is euphoric for me,” she says. “With all of the positive feedback The Traveling Epicurean has been receiving I’m hoping I am on the right path and will forge ahead on trying to make all of this effort a success. Channel 8-CT Style recently had me do their cooking segment this past June which I thoroughly enjoyed. Working to figure out the best way to promote The Traveling Epicurean is another challenge, but I am taking one step at a time and won’t stop until I get it right.”

To check out Vejar’s other eggplant recipes, visit thetravelingepicurean.com and search for “eggplant.” To check out our earlier eggplant recipes, visit www.zip06.com/living/20160929/cracking-the-code-for-eggplant-parm and www.zip06.com/living/20161006/eggplant-parm-ditching-the-mozz. If you have any recipes that you’d like to share with our readers, write to me at p.mcnerney@shorepublishing.com or Pem McNerney, Shore Publishing, 724 Boston Post Road, Madison, CT 06443.

Eggplant Balls at Adele’s

From thetravelingepicurean.com/eggplant-balls-adeles

Adele and Michel recommend serving this with Adele’s sangria, which includes a bottle of your favorite Pinot Noir combined with three or four peaches, sliced, and as much red wine as you like. It’s best if you can leave it overnight in the fridge.

12 cups cubed up eggplant (about 6 small eggplants)

3 eggs

4 cups bread (1 full loaf of 1 to 2 day-old Italian bread,

wheat bread if you can get it, coarsely ground up in the food processor (Adele says you can even use a “Thanksgiving” bag of bread crumbs!)

1 ½ cup grated Reggiano Parmesan

1 ½ cups coarsely chopped flat leaf parsley

½ tsp salt

¼ tsp pepper


• Simmer tomato-basil sauce ready to add in eggplant balls (visit The Traveling Epicurean for a recipe your use your favorite)

• Cut the ends off 6 small eggplants and peel them with a potato peeler

• Cut the eggplants into ½ inch strips lengthwise and then crosswise ½ inch—cutting into cube-sized pieces—it will measure approx 12 cups

• Bring a large pot of water to a boil with 1 tbsp salt—filling the water only ½-way up the pot

• Add in the 12 cups of cubed-up eggplant to the boiling water all awhile pushing pieces down, they will try to float up, and cover

• Turn heat down to a simmer and cook 5 minutes

• Remove cover and stir eggplant pieces with a spoon to help evenly distribute the cooking

• Cover and cook another 5 minutes, total 10 minutes

• Drain into a colander, then make a well in the center of the eggplant pieces

• Cover eggplant well with a small plate and a large full can on top of that—to weight down eggplant helping drainage

• DO NOT RINSE with cold water

• Leaving draining for 1 ½ to 2 hours

• During this time, at 30 minute intervals, stir the eggplant pieces then replace the plate and the can and continue to drain and cool—approximately 4 times

• When the eggplant is drained, add it to a large mixing bowl

• Add in the rest of the ingredients in the list

• Mix by hand until combined and then shape into 2 inch balls

• Cover cookie tray with foil and spray with Pam

• Place the eggplant balls on the tray

• Drizzle olive oil over the tops of all the eggplant balls and broil for 13 minutes

• Take eggplant balls out and carefully turn over without ripping the bottom of the ball

• Place back under broiler for another 13 minutes until golden

• Turn oven off and leave tray in the oven for another 5 minutes

• Take out and add to tomato-basil sauce and simmer 20-30 minutes

• Or freeze any eggplant balls you don’t need without the sauce for another time in ZipLoc baggies

• Serve eggplant balls in the tomato-basil sauce with your favorite pasta! Mangia…Mangia!

Feta-Basil Pesto

Feta-Basil Pesto

No doubt about it once you try this feta-basil pesto you will be hook! The creamy, French sheep’s milk feta pushes this pesto into a whole new arena! Combined with the fresh, floral basil leaves, Italian Reggiano Parmeggiano, extra-virgin olive oil and garlic are a creation that’s just born to go together! Done in mere minutes in a food processor there’s no excuse not to make this delectable sauce bursting with flavor every chance you get!

Making fresh feta-basil pesto can’t be any easier then the convenience of your food processor! There’s no need whatsoever lugging out the ole mortar and pestle making a huge project out of something that literally take’s 2 minutes to make. No cooking, no baking, no washing, NO FUSS, just load up the food processor and pulse. Voilà, you have a gourmet sauce that turns around any dish you add it to into gourmet.

One of the appetizer’s I like to make with feta-basil pesto are Crostini with Fresh Mozzarella and Roasted tomatoes. Let’s not forget to try the feta-basil pesto on seared Scallops, Swordfish or even Sweet Potato Fries! And then there’s the obvious, top EASY PEASY pasta or Zucchini spaghetti with the feta-basil pesto and you feel like a king. Any way you look at it this feta-basil pesto is a no brainer, a win-win situation! So get on it! lol … xoxo




































  • 1/2 sheep’s milk feta cheese – from local cheese shop if you can! It’s the star of the show!
  • 2 packed cups – fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 packed Reggiano Parmasan – freshly grated if you can
  • 1 extra lg OR 2 medium garlic cloves put thru garlic press
  • 1/4 cup PLUS 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • a few dashes of your fav hot sauce


  1. Place 2 packed cups of basil, 2 tbsp of olive oil, garlic thru garlic press, a sprinkle of s & p in food processor and pulse 6x
  2. Scrape down sides and add in Reggiano Parmesan and sheep’s milk feta and pulse 4x more
  3. Scrape down sides and add in a few dashes of hot sauce
  4. Drizzle in thru top opening of food processor 3 more tbsp of extra-virgin olive oil and pulse 3x more …voila you have feta-basil pesto! It’s as easy as that! 🙂
  5. Add this feta-basil to Crostini with Fresh Mozzarella & Roasted Tomatoes for an appetizer that’s sure to turn heads!
  6. OR EASY PEASY …Add the feta-basil pesto to some sautéed shrimp and pasta! YUM!

Pickled Eggplant at Nancy’s

Pickled Eggplant at Nancy’s

pickperfectThere’s nothing like homemade Pickled Eggplant with thinly sliced strands of eggplant delicately flavored by vinegar, garlic, red hot chili pepper’s, oil-cured black olives and capers all nestled in an olive oil bath. The oil-cured, black olives, add a burst of rich, meaty, sweetness and then there’s a little pucker from the capers. Similar to the oil-cured olives, the eggplant become’s sweet in the beginning of the pickling process when the salt pulls out all the moisture and bitterness.

When Nancy first gave me a jar of her delectable pickled eggplant I knew I would have to get the recipe. Not only is her pickled eggplant to die for but everything she cooks is of the same standard, absolutely delicious! Along with inspiring me in the kitchen, Nancy had the same effect on me on the golf course when I first started playing 8 years ago. She has such tenacity and determination when playing I call her the fiesty golfer! Considering how difficult the game of golf can be, she’s the perfect person to learn the game with.

I had so much fun at Nancy’s house last week making her pickled eggplant. It’s so worth the effort you put into making your own, a most rewarding process when you taste the final product. All of these incredible flavors come together to make an amazing eggplant appetizer like you’ve never had before! You just can’t buy this in the stores!

You may just want to turn your party into an anti-pasto party with other dishes to compliment your pickled eggplant like Guacamole Crostini, Roasted Garlic Bean Dip, Arancini Reubens Balls w/Homemade Thousand Island Dressing, Spanakopita w/Metaxa Mojito’s and, or Homemade Pesto w/Fresh Mozzarella & tomato Crostini! Yum! Hope to recieve an invite to your delectable party lol 🙂










pickslice pickstrips
















































  • 9 large eggplants
  • 10 cups distilled white vinegar – 3/4 of gallon jug
  • 10 cups water
  • 4 cups olive oil
  • approx 1/2 container of Mortons salt… use 1/3 cup per eggplant
  • 2 cups Italian black oil cured olives – seedless
  • 1 long hot red pepper
  • 2 tbsp capers
  • 8 lg garlic cloves coarsely chopped
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano OR 2 tbsp fresh oregano dried in the microwave
  • 1 large pickling crock
  • 2 clean white cotton pillow cases
  • 1 extra large bowl to tranfer wet eggplant in pillow cases back and forth from washing machine
  • a case of canning jars


  1. Peel and slice all 9 eggplants into 1/8″ thick pieces
  2. Stack slices and cut into 1/8″ strips
  3. Place cut up strips into large pickling crock
  4. After the addition of each cut up eggpant sprinkle in about 1/3 cup salt and mix strips around with salt by hand
  5. Go thru all 9 eggplant making sure to spinkle 1/3 cup salt after addition
  6. Place a small dish on top of all the sliced eggplant so that the dish fits into the crock
  7. Place the gallon jug of vinegar onto dish and let sit 2-3 hours
  8. Remove vinegar bottle weight and plate from crock – at this point there will be a lot of dark brown juice extracted from the eggplant
  9. Transfer eggplant to a clean pillow case a handful at a time leaving behind the brown juice
  10. Divide all the eggplant into 2 pillow cases and tie off the ends into knots so as the eggplant doesn’t come out when you “spin” it in the washer
  11. Rinse out the pickling crock
  12. Take the two pillow cases full of eggplant to the washer and put on “spin” cycle only – NO WATER
  13. After spin stops, remove eggplant from pillow cases & place back into crock (save pillow cases in a large bowl ready to use one more time before cleaning)
  14. Add in chopped garlic cloves and sliced hot pepper
  15. Bring 10 cups vinegar/10 cups water to a rapid boil
  16. Pour vinegar/water mix over eggplant strands in crock
  17. Stir breifly to mix and cover
  18. Let ferment until cooled approx. for 3 hours giving the eggplant a stir at 1 1/2 hour mark
  19. When the eggplant is cooled remove from crock back into pillow caeses
  20. Divide up the eggplant and place back into the same two pillow cases you used on first spin
  21. At this point run all the jars thru dishwasher – time it so they are hot ready to jar the pickled eggplant after 2nd spin (give it about 1/2 hour-depending on timing of your own dishwasher)
  22. Put all the tops to the canning jars in a pan of water, bring to a boil to sterilze as well
  23. Place the eggplant strands back in the washer on “spin” cylce only again – NO WATER
  24. Rinse crock
  25. Microwave fresh oregano in a microwave for 1 minute, crumble the oregano leaves off the stem and set aside
  26. Add spun pickled eggplant back into the clean crock, add in 4 cups olive oil, 2 cups oil-cured black olives, 2 tbsps of caper and 2 tbsp of fresh microwaved oregano
  27. Take hot jars out of the dishwasher and begin to fill with eggplant
  28. Top off the pickled eggplant in the jars with a drizzle of olive oil keeping 1/2″ from the top
  29. Wipe the top of the jars clean with a clean paper towel and seal with the hot tops you boiled on the stove – Be Careful Not To Burn yourself here
  30. Approx 5 hours after putting the tops on the jars, gently push down on the middle circle to hear a small pop and complete the “seal” – NOTE: they may pop down completing that last seal all on their own
  31. The pickled eggplant is done and will keep for months at room temp
  32. I keep an opened jar in the fridge and bring to room temperature when ever I serve it…YUM!



Paleo Eggplant Lasagna at Christine’s

paleochrisnmePaleo Eggplant Lasagna at Christine’s

The crusty almond flour coating on the eggplant helps to soak up the meaty bolognese goodness getting ooey, gooey and decadent. Like making you feel warm all over on a winter’s day. That’s how my friend, Christine, describe’s her Paleo Eggpalnt Lasagna that we made at her house last week! She hit it right on the money.

It was Christine’s cross-fit community that introcuced her to this fresh Paleo way of living. Even though It did take a year before fully committing she has been following it for a couple of years and really loves it. Paleo refers to foods eaten during the Paleolithic times so basically if the cave man didn’t eat it, neither can you. There are different levels of Paleo, but true Paleo doesn’t allow any dairy or legumes. Not sure if being a true Paleo is exactly for me since I live for cheese and cetainly wouldn’t give up beans. Although, there are certain aspects of Paleo I think are wonderful like the fresh way of eating, nothing manufactured or processed! Like Christine say’s, everything in moderation.

This Paleo Eggplant Lasagna is definitly a guilt free dish that shouldn’t taste this darn good! You don’t even miss the cheese here because every bite is luscious! I highly recommend that you to get on the ball and check out this fresh Paleo way of eating. You won’t regret it one bit and may find yourself with a big ole smile on your face!

While you are on a freshness roll you may want to try my Guacamole, Pulled Beef and Mango Salsa, Salmon B.L.T Sliders, Seared Sea Scallops or Sweet Potato Fries with Green Goddess Sauce!




































  • 2 large eggplants
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 recipe tomato-basil sauce (30 minute sauce) adding in an extra 28 oz can of puréed whole peeled tomatoes to the recipe OR Slow Cooked Old Style Italian-Tomato Sauce 101
  • 1 lb. ground pork
  • 1 lb. gound veal
  • 1 lb. ground lamb
  • 1 pkg. almond flour
  • s & p
  • coconut oil spray
  • grapeseed oil for sautéing the meats

Directions – Pre-heat Oven to 350º

  1. Make tomato- basil sauce and leave simmering on low, ready for the meats to be sautéed and added
  2. Sauté the pork, veal and lamb separately and drain the oil from each of the meats after each sautéing, this will take about 5 minutes each
  3. As each meat is finished draining stir it into your tomato sauce
  4. Peel and slice 2 lg eggplants approx. 1/8″-1/4″ thick
  5. Whisk 5 eggs in a medium bowl
  6. Add 3-4 cups almond flour in another bowl for dredging the eggplant
  7. Cover cookie tray with foil and spray with coconut oil
  8. Dip each eggplant slice into the egg, then dredge into the almond flour flipping a couple of times to get a good coating on there
  9. Then begin to lay the coated eggplant slices on the cookie trays
  10. No need to spray the tops of the slices
  11. Pop them into the oven for 20 minutes, just until tender
  12. Note: the tops of the eggplant slices will not turn golden when baked
  13. Begin to layer the pre-baked eggplant slices in a 13″ x 9″, 12″ x 8″ approx. baking dish
  14. Spray bottom of baking dish with coconut oil
  15. Begin with a sauce layer, then eggplant slices, meat sauce, eggplant, meat sauce and so on until you reach the rim of the baking dish ending with a meat sauce layer completeing the Paleo Eggplant Lasagna
  16. Change foil layers on cookie tray to clean foil
  17. Place the Paleo Eggplant Lasagna onto the foiled tray and bake for approx. 35 minutes still on 350º until bubbly all over
  18. As with a traditional lasagna you want to let it sit for 10-15 minutes before slicing after you take it out of the oven…Mangia, mangia!!

Fresh Garden Tomato Sauce

Fresh Garden Tomato Sauce

When the aroma from your fresh garden tomato sauce smells exactly like a tomato plucked right out of your garden on a sultry summer day you know you have the right recipe! With all the beautiful weather we have had this summer everyone has an abundance of produce coming out of their garden’s. What a better way to dive right in and try your hand at making your very own tomato sauce. And when you taste how delicious the puréed tomatoes are as a raw sauce you may just stop right there. After that first taste of the raw tomato sauce there might not be any left over to go to the next simmering step!

I was very excited when some friend’s of mine, Becky and Mike, offered up a large bag of their fresh garden plum tomatoes. I knew I wanted to make fresh garden tomato sauce with them right off the bat. This is a bit nastalgic for me because it reminds me of when my mother used to make fresh garden tomato sauce for us when I was young.

It’s really an easy process of peeling, seeding and then puréeing the tomatoes with some sautéed onions and garlic. The more tomatoes you have the longer it well take but it’s so worth it. The fact that you can freeze the sauce for a later date makes it all worth while! What I love about making this fresh garden tomato sauce, other then the fact that it smells utterly amazing, is it’s just as delicious eating it raw as cooked. In fact, when I make this I can’t decide which I like better so I continue on to make both cause it’s so darn simple to do that once you are in the process.

Once you see how easy to make your own sauce it may become a new family staple for you. You just might get inspired to make it a family affair having everyone join in to make homemade gnocchi or zucchini pasta too. Don’t forget the gourmet Caesar salad and then of course there’s an amazing ricotta pie or go for the death by chocolate meringue pie!



































  • 91 fresh garden tomatoes OR as many as you have
  • 1 tbsp sea salt, LESS if you have a smaller amount of plum tomatoes
  • 1/4 tsp finely ground pepper
  • 5 lg fresh basil leaves
  • 1 lg dried bay leaf
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1/3 cup red wine – for the simmered sauce
  • 1 tsp finely ground Italian seasoning
  • 1 small Vadalia onion finely chopped
  • 4 extra lg OR 6 medium size garlic cloves
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup white wine to de-glaze the sautéed onions and garlic


  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil adding in 1 tbsp of salt
  2. Core the stem side of all your tomatoes
  3. Get a large bowl of ice water ready to put the tomatoes in after you blanch them
  4. Add plum tomatoes to boiling water, 25-30 at a time and blanch for 30-45 seconds, it’s totally fine if it goes past 45 seconds cause it’s going to take you a minute or two to scoop the tomatoes out
  5. Remove the tomatoes from the boiling water and submerse into the ice water
  6. Repeat until you have gone thru all your tomatoes
  7. Begin to remove the loosened skins from the tomatoes then placing into another bowl as you go
  8. Cut or tear tomatoes in half with your hands and remove most of the seeds putting pulp in one bowl and tomato flesh in another
  9. Spoon off any excess water that rises to the top of the bowl with all the tomato flesh
  10. Sauté chopped onion and garlic cloves til tranlucent
  11. De-glaze onions and garlic with 1/4 cup white wine
  12. Let the alcohol burn off and reduce slightly
  13. Begin to purée tomatoes and sauteed onions in the food processor in batches
  14. Add the puréed tomatoes/onions back into the large pan that you blanched the tomatoes in as you go along
  15. When done puréeing add salt and pepper to taste and voilà there is your raw sauce
  16. FOR RAW SAUCE: top pasta with raw sauce and sprinkle some fresh julienned basil, Parmesan and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
  17. FOR COOKED SAUCE: Put the pot of puréed tomatoes/onion back on the stove and add in the 5 extra lg fresh basil leaves, bay leaf, sugar, Italian spices, red wine and simmer for 1-2 hours…mangia mangia!!

Death by Chocolate Meringue Pie!

Death by Chocolate Meringue Pie

“Death by Chocolate Meringue Pie” is the perfect title for this recent cooking show taped at my foodie friend’s, David and Eileen’s house. When you taste this most chocolatey mousse-like filling topped with fluffy peaks of meringue you will think you have died and gone to heaven! This wonderful chocolate meringue pie recipe came from David’s mother, Alice, and has always been a family favorite for the holidays! With four boys in his family growing up, David said his mother was always welcome to the idea of having more cooks in the kitchen. You could only imagine that with four boys you’re going to need more then just one pie. David and his brothers happily learned at an early age how to pitch in and get this task done.

David uses the “chocolate fudge” flavor of Jello brand, the cook and serve, not the instant. Come to find out, this “chocolate fudge” flavor can be a difficult category to find. But using Jello brand’s “chocolate” flavor is the next best thing, so don’t fret. Make sure to keep an eye out for the “chocolate fudge” flavor next time you are at the store and shoot me an email if you strike “fudge”!

What takes this Jello cook and serve chocolate fudge pudding to a completely different universe, into a rich, chocolate mousse-like texture is the addtion of egg yolks, sugar, butter and pure vanilla extract. You will find yourself eating each bite of chocolate meringue pie very slowly just to savour every luscious bite. Part of this decadence comes from the rich, flaky crust made with a special lard David gets from Firefly Farmers in Stonington, CT. You can purchase their products at the Stonington, Waterford and Bozrah Farmers Markets. It definitely makes a difference in your pie crust to use both butter and lard like in my Perfect Pie Crust in 5 Minutes but using this lard that David use’s really puts the crust over the top!

Last but not least is the meringue that tops this incredible chocolatey filling and brings the whole pie together. Whipping the egg whites to soft peaks is important to achieve the elegant curly cues you can create when dipping a spatula gently into the surface of the meringue. Then off to the oven briefly until those beautiful peaks turn golden.

This wonderful chocolate meringue pie recipe could have easily remained a family secret but David and his mother were gracious enough to share it with us. The only option I see here is for you to get busy and make this luscious dessert for your next holiday! Don’t forget to share the YouTube link to the show 🙂 ENJOY xxoo

You should check out David and Eileen’s Lobster Mac & Cheese show if you are looking for an amazing entré, Pulled Beef Taco’s or Salmon B.L.T. Sliders at Marco’s would make for very tasty dishes also. Try my Guacamole or Homemade Salsa 101 to start everything off!




























Ingredients for David’s Pie Crust – 1 Crust for lg Deep Dish Pie Plate (measurements below are 3/4 of full recipe):

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup lard frozen, grated
  • 1/4 cup butter refigerated, grated
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • approx. 2-3 tbsp ice cold water


  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/3 cup lard or crisco
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3-4 tbsp ice cold water

Directions for Pie Crust – Pre-Heat Oven to 400º :

  1. Measure lard or crisco and put into freezer
  2. Grate lard or crisco and butter and place in separate bowls back in the frig til you are ready
  3. Add flour, salt, lard or crisco, and butter to food processor or mixer and begin to mix with paddle attachment slowly
  4. Then slowly add in 1 tbsp at a time while mixing, you may need to add another tbsp of water to have dough come together
  5. When dough comes together in 1-2 minutes turn dough onto wax paper forming into a disc shape and place into the freezer for 15 minutes
  6. Begin to roll out dough between wax paper until its large enough to fit pie plate
  7. Gently peel over top layer of wax paper flipping over into pie dish
  8. Gently push edges in all around and remove the other piece of wax paper
  9. Scallop the edges of pie crust
  10. Prick inside walls and bottom of crust with a fork
  11. Place into a 400º oven and bake 10 minutes until slightly golden around the edges
  12. Let pie crust cool and begin to make the chocolate filling















Ingredients for Chocolate Filling:

  • 2 boxes COOK and SERVE Jello brand “chocoate fudge” or “chocolate” pudding – NOT INSTANT
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 3 1/2 cups WHOLE milk
  • 1/2 heaping cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp pure extract vanilla
  • 1 pre-baked pie crust cooled

Directions for Chocolate Filling:

  1. Separate 4 egg yolks from whites and place into separate bowls (yolks for filling and whites for meringue)
  2. Add 2 boxes of chocolate fudge pudding mix to medium size sauce pan
  3. Add in chocolate chips, 4 egg yolks, sugar, 3 1/2 cups of milk over medium heat
  4. Continue to whisk while bringing ingredients to a boil, it will thicken quickly
  5. When it thickens take off of heat
  6. Whisk in 3 tbsp of butter and 1 tsp vanilla
  7. Pour into the cooled pre-baked pie crust and cool completely

Ingredients for Meringue:

  • 4 egg whites
  • 8 tbsp sugar – 2 tbsp per egg white
  • 1/8 tsp cream of tartar

Directions for Meringue – Pre-Heat Oven to 375º :

  1. Whisk egg whites until soft peak begin to form then start to add sugar 1 tbsp at a time
  2. Keep whisking unitl you get soft – stiff peaks – in between peaks – NOT STIFF
  3. Pour onto cooled chocolate pie filling
  4. Begin to smooth meringue over to touch edges of the pie crust making sure meringue seals all along the edge of the pie crust
  5. Once the meringue completely covers the chocolate filling begin to dip spatula in and out of meringue creating curly cue peaks
  6. Place chocolate meringue pie into 375º oven until peaks are golden
  7. Take out and let meringue cool, slice and mangia mangia!

Eggplant Balls at Adele’s

Eggplant Balls at Adele’s

These luscious eggplant balls look just like meatball’s but are a “no meat” kind of meatball made with eggplant, fresh garlic, parsley, eggs, Reggiano Parmesan and bread crumbs. They are formed into balls and broiled with a drizzle of olive oil until golden! They are vevelty on the inside with a little golden caramelization on the outside. They are so delicous all on their own and when you simmer them in a tomato-basil sauce they get even better, if that is at all possible! 

A few weeks ago, I got a message from a friend of mine that I needed to meet this family of amazing Italian cooks who were so much fun to be around and how it would make for a great show! Boy, was she right! Adele and her daughter Sonia are just lovely people. Adele is not only passionate about her recipe’s and cooking but about life in general. Sharing her memories from Italy made me feel like I was there with her. Adele’s vivaciousness is an inspiration to how life ought to be lived.

Now, I thought I was the eggplant queen, loving everything about eggplant and all that there is to create with eggplant, from eggplant parmesan, rollatini, to stuffed eggplants (haven’t had a chance to put the stuffed eggplant show together yet…but it’s on the list!) until I met Adele and had a bite of her unbelieveable eggplant balls! Wow, what can I say. The day she invited me over to taste these incredible morsels I knew I had to let the secret out and share this recipe with all of you so you too could experience this creation!

It looks like you now have an amazing reicpe to take care of all those eggplants you have in your garden. If you don’t have a garden, don’t fret there’s an abundance of eggplants at your local market, year round really. Can’t wait for you to make these eggplant balls of Adele’s and add this recipe to your “go to” Italian dishes to impress dinner guests! You might want to add a couple of apps to this like my baked asparagus wrapped in proscuitto, or crab cakes and don’t forget to throw in some incredible desserts like baklava, chocolate pecan pie or drunk blondies with a caramel bourbon sauce!…YUM!



































  • 12 cups cubed up eggplant – 6 small eggplants
  • 3 eggs
  • 4 cups – 1 full loaf of 1-2 day old Italian bread, wheat bread if you can get it, coarsely ground up in the food processor (Adele’s says you can even use a “Thanksgiving” bag of bread crumbs!)
  • 1 1/2 cup grated Reggiano Parmesan
  • 1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper


  1. Simmer tomato-basil sauce ready to add in eggplant balls
  2. Cut the ends off 6 small eggplants and peel them with a potato peeler
  3. Cut the eggplants into 1/2″ stips lengthwise and then crosswise 1/2″ inch – cutting into cubed size piecces – it will measure approx 12 cups
  4. Bring a large pot of water to a boil with 1 tbsp salt – filling the water only 1/2 way up the pot
  5. Add in the 12 cups of cubed up eggplant to the boiling water all awhile pushing pieces down, they will try to float up and cover
  6. Turn heat down to a simmer and cook 5 minutes
  7. Remove cover and stir eggplant pieces with a spoon to help evenly distribute the cooking
  8. Cover and cook another 5 minutes, total 10 minutes
  9. Drain into a colander, then make a well in the center of the eggplant pieces
  10. Cover eggplant well with a small plate and a large full can on top of that – to weight down eggplant helping drainage
  11. DO NOT RINSE with cold water
  12. Leaving draining for 1 1/2 – 2 hours
  13. During this time, at 30 minute intervals, stir the eggplant pieces then replace the plate and the can and continue to drain and cool – approx 4x
  14. When the eggplant is drained add it to a large mixing bowl
  15. Add in the rest of the ingredients in the list
  16. Mix by hand until combined and then shape into 2″ balls
  17. Cover cookie tray with foil and spray with Pam
  18. Place the eggplant balls on the tray
  19. Drizzle olive oil over the tops of all the eggplant balls and broil for 13 minutes
  20. Take eggplant balls out and carefully turn over without ripping the bottom of the ball
  21. Place back under broiler for another 13 minutes until golden
  22. Turn oven off and leave tray in the oven for another 5 minutes
  23. Take out and add to tomato-basil sauce and simmer 20-30 minutes
  24. OR freeze any eggplant balls you don’t need without the sauce for another time in ZIpLoc baggies
  25. Serve eggplant balls in the tomato-basil sauce with your favorite pasta!  Mangia…Mangia! 🙂

Adele’s Sangria:

  • 1 bottle favorite Pinot Noir
  • 3-4 peaches sliced

Add sliced peaches to a pitcher with as much red wine as you like, even better when you can let ferment over night in the frig!

Gnocchi at Louie’s

Gnocchi at Louie’s

IMG_7868The anticipation of these light and fluffy, melt in your mouth gnocchi is what keeps you focused while you are working away forming these little potato pillows. The recipe for these delicious gnocchi we made at my friend’s Louie and Rachel’s house last weekend is probably the easiest one out there. Having our other friend’s Marco and Sheryl (from the show’s “Salmon B.L.T. Slider’s at Marco’s” and “Lobster Mac & Cheese at David’s“) working together with us forming and shaping the gnocchi made it a breeze. in fact, it felt as though we were only working on the gnocchi for mere minutes before popping them into the salted water. Louie served his gnocchi with a gravy or sauce made from tomatoes, red wine, herbs, garlic, homemade meatballs and sausages where the aroma’s alone made you salivate when first arriving at their front door!

If you have never made homemade gnocchi before you must try this simple recipe. Louie has been making his family’s gnocchi for over 20 years so this is a solid recipe thru and thru. You begin making the gnocchi with only 2 large potatoes and believe it or not this is enough potato to make about 200 gnocchi pillows.The other ingredients in the recipe are ricotta, egg, flour and Parmesan which balance out the dough nicely keeping it super light.

So remember to have a few friends over when making these delightful gnocchi to help with the task and before you know it you too will have a plate of homemade gnocchi right in front of you! A wonderful sauce to have with these gnocchi is my bolognese made with veal, pork, bacon, red wine, heavy cream and rosemary..YUM! Or you could go with a traditional red sauce with beef or turkey meatballs. Don’t forget some appetizers to go with these melt in your mouth gnocchi at Louie’s like my famous Caesar Salad or Crab Cakes! Mangia…Mangia! 🙂





























  • 2 ex-tra lg russet potatoes – 1.5 lbs. total
  • 1 cup whole milk ricotta
  • 1 lg egg
  • 1/3 cup grated Reggiano Parmesan cheese
  • 1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt


  1. Bring medium pan to a boil, adding 1 tsp salt
  2. Add in the 2 whole russet potatoes – NOT PEELED
  3. Boil the potatoes til tender, can pierce with a fork – APPROX 40 MINUTES
  4. Remove potatoes with tongs to a cutting board and begin to peel off the skin with a fork gently scraping the outer layer
  5. Cut the hot potato into half and load the potato ricer – MUST RICE THE POTATOES WHILE HOT for light and fluffy gnocchi!
  6. Push the potato thru the ricer onto a cutting board and spread out the potato now to cool
  7. Add 1 egg to a large mixing bowl and whisk
  8. Add in the riced potato and mix with a fork just to combine
  9. Add in the ricotta, Parmesan, salt and pepper and mix with the fork to combine
  10. Add in 1 1/4 of the flour and mix with a fork at first and as it comes together begin to mix with you hands, if it’s too sticky add a pinch more flour
  11. Turn dough out onto work surface with a small amount of flour
  12. Begin to cut off a little at a time from the lg ball of gnocchi dough and roll out each piece into a long 1/2″ x 18″ (approx) rope
  13. Cut rope into 1/2″ pieces and then roll each piece off a fork to form indents
  14. These indents help to hold the sauce
  15. Lay a dish towel over a cookie tray and sprinkle a little flour on top
  16. As you form these little potato pillows lat them onto the dish towel
  17. Bring a large pan of salted water to boil
  18. Swirl the boiling water with a lg spoon to create a circular whirlpool …help to keep gnocchi from sinking to the bottom completely
  19. Begin to add gnocchi to the boiling, swirling water
  20. They will sink a little at first and then when they start to float when they are cooked – 3 MINUTES
  21. Immediately begin to remove floating, swirling gnocchi with a slotted spoon to a large serving bowl with your gravy or sauce
  22. Continue to do this until you go through all the potato dough
  23. Cook what you want at this point
  24. TO FLASH FREEZE:  Line up the extra gnocchi onto cutting boards that fit into your freezer and begin to flash freeze them until solid, sprinkle a little flour directly onto each board – Do not use a dish towel at this point
  25. Then pop the frozen gnocchi off of the cutting boards and place frozen gnocchi into lg Ziploc baggies and back into freeze until future use

TIP:  When using flash frozen gnocchi in the future go directly from the freezer to the boiling water, give a couple of stirs so as not to clump at the bottom. NEVER thaw first or leave on counter too longer especially marble or granite because they will thaw quickly.






Best Guacamole Ever!

Best Guacamole Ever!

This best guacamole ever recipe will definitely change the way you look at that mixture they call guacamole at the market. I find most of the brands out there both watery and mysterious. Why chance quality. The simple fact is, when my best guacamole recipe is so simple to make why settle for second rate! Even the amounts of finely chopped sweet onion, tomato, jalapeño and cilantro in this recipe are minimal so there’s not a whole lot of prep going on either. These amounts are just enough to add hints of lovely flavors and not take away from the sweet creamy California avocado’s.

Avocado’s are on sale just about every other week at the market so take advantage of this and load up. You can never buy too many and they don’t all have to be perfectly ripened right at that moment. They will ripen on your counter in a matter of days.

If I am not serving this best guacamole ever right away I put one of the avocado pits back into the middle of the guacamole, cover it with saran wrap and put it into the refrigerator until I’m ready. The saran wrap should go directly onto the surface of the guacamole so as not to let the dip oxidize and turn brown. If part of it does oxidize just skim that part off with a spoon and there will be a fresh green surface underneath. And, when making guacamole it’s best when it’s eaten the same day, or definitely by the next.

If you are a big fan of avocado’s you really need to try chocolate avocado mousse! My pulled beef taco’s would be incredible with the best guacamole ever. Serve up a variety of appetizer’s for your get together and add in Sweet potato fries  and salmon gravlax, both incredibly delicious and fun eats! A chocolate pecan pie just might put the party right over the top! Enjoy! 🙂







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  • 3 small/med size ripened California avocado’s
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped Sweet or Vidalia onion (Georgia onion)
  • 1/4 finely chopped sweet tomatoes any color (cherry tomatoes, heirloom tomatoes…your fav)
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro (fill 1/4 cup first with whole leaves then chop that)
  • 1/2 of a lg jalapeno, finely chopped with seeds removed, approx. 2 tbsp
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar “seasoned” – (rice wine vinegar and olive oil are my secret ingredients that give the guac that little someting extra!)
  • 1 tsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 Tsp salt
  • 1/4 Tsp Pepper
  • 2 dashes of your favorite hot sauce …I use Siracha (which is sold right next to the Tabasco)


  1. Slice and remove avocado flesh from the skins as shown in the photo above and place in a large bowl, save one of the avocado pits to add to dip at the end
  2. Slice off any black or dark spots on the avocado’s and discard
  3. Finely chop sweet onion, tomatoes, jalapeno and cilantro and add to bowl with avacado’s
  4. Add in s&p and olive oil and rice wine vinegar
  5. Begin to slice halved avocado’s with a knife to help break them up
  6. Then begin to mash with a fork and stir around all of the ingredients
  7. Lastly add Siracha (hot sauce) and 1 tsp of lemon juice
  8. Mix gently to combine and add pit to the middle of the guacamole
  9. The pit helps to preserve guacamole until it get’s all eaten up 🙂
  10. Serve with chips, turkey or beef burgers, salsa …be creative!