Monthly Archives: September 2014

Game Day… Pulled Pork in the Slow Cooker…Yum!

Football season is upon us, and those who know me, will tell you that I know nothing about the game itself. I can however, recommend a whole slew of appetizers and fixens to satisfy your game day crowd.

The slow cooker is a fabulous invention. If you haven’t yet brought yours out of the attic, or up from the basement, you will want to do so; immediately! This pork shoulder recipe cooks for six hours on high, in your slow cooker, while you enjoy your Sunday. It doesn’t get any better than that!

Come game time, this pulled pork will be ready for you to serve up with your favorite Cole Slaw, Spicy pickles, Tortilla chips and rolls. Melt in your mouth delicious…


Click through the gallery for some quick tips…the complete recipe is below.

Ask the butcher for:
One 5-6 pound Pork Shoulder
One 28 oz bottle of your favorite thick barbecue sauce ( I prefer Sweet Baby Ray’s)
One Red Onion sliced paper-thin
Fresh ground salt and black pepper

Just a couple of tips:
-I used a Crock Pot brand programable slow cooker, six quart capacity.
-My favorite pickles come from Dave’s Pickle farm, which the butcher brings down from the Catskill Mountains. I served the Hot Garlic Dill ( sliced long ways) as well as the Gourmet Spicy Chips. The combination of the spicy pickles with the sweet pork is fantastic!
-For an appetizer, serve this pulled pork with Tortilla Chips. You could even use slider rolls to feed a larger group.
-This recipe will feed six to eight as a main course. Serve with large rolls.

Plan for seven and a half hours of total prep/cook/serve time.
Slice the red onion paper-thin and scatter in the bottom of the slow cooker.
Remove the Pork shoulder from the wrapping and season well with fresh ground salt and black pepper. On one side of the roast you will find a blanket of fat. The butcher can leave this thick or remove as much as you prefer. (I like to leave some of the fat so that it melts into the Pork as it cooks. Then prior to shredding I remove any remaining fat with a sharp knife.)
After seasoning the pork well, remove any butcher twine and place the Pork Shoulder, fat side up on top of the onions. Pour the entire twenty-eight ounce bottle of barbecue sauce directly over the Pork. Close the lid, and set timer for six hours on high.
Enjoy your afternoon:)
At the six-hour mark, remove the pork to a large bowl. Slice off any remaining fat with a sharp knife. Shred Pork with two large forks, then gently return to the slow cooker for another half hour. When time is up, turn to keep warm setting until you are ready to serve!
Ridiculously simple!
Enjoy the game:)

Hearty Lentil Soup with Veggies

It feels like a comfort food kind of day and nothing says comfort better than a hearty pot of homemade lentil soup.

When my boys were younger, a friend and I used to spend time walking with our babies around the neighborhood . She came from a big Italian family and one day after our walk, invited me in for lunch. Her house smelled delicious and homey because of the large pot of lentil soup that was simmering on the stove. That was the first bowl of lentil soup that I ever tasted. Delicious and comforting, this soup became a go to addition to my cooking repertoire.

Over the years I have added and subtracted to her recipe, but below seems to be the perfect combination to suit my Irish Italian roots.

Lentil Soup Ingredients:
Eight slices of good quality bacon, cut into 3/4 inch pieces
Cup and a half of coarsely chopped carrots
One red onion, coarsely diced
Eight baby red potatoes, halved ( the really small ones)
One stalk of celery, thinly sliced
Four cloves of garlic, minced
Two tablespoons of tomato paste
Cup and a half of dried lentils, rinsed
One 32 oz box of chicken stock
Two or Three cups of water
One and a half teaspoons of salt
Half teaspoon of black pepper
Three tablespoons of red wine vinegar
Grated Locatelli

Just a couple of quick tips…
I used Oscar’s Hickory Smoked Bacon, but the butcher carries five other types of bacon, so pick your favorite!
Be sure to simmer your soup in a large heavy pot. I used the Le Creuset Dutch Oven, it really does make a difference.

First things first… favorite tunes are a must. Music calms me down and makes me enjoy the cooking process even more.
Mise en place is the french phrase for, putting in place, or having all of your ingredients measured, chopped and ready to go. This really will make you more effective in the kitchen…and is oh, so fancy!

Lets get started:
Brown the bacon in a large heavy pot over medium heat until it is crispy. This will take about eight to ten minutes. Add your chopped carrots, red onion, baby potatoes and sliced celery. Let this cook together for about five minutes until it begins to soften.

Stir in the minced garlic, let cook for a minute or two. Now add your tomato paste; stir, then add lentils, chicken stock and two cups of water. Give the soup another good stir, then cover and set your flame to medium/low. Placing the lid on a little bit of an angle when using the dutch oven helps to let some steam escape. Otherwise your soup may boil when it should simmer!

Simmer your soup for forty five minutes, lentils should be tender with a bit of bite; not mushy. If it looks a little thick, add another cup of water. Stir in salt, pepper and red wine vinegar.

Serve with grated locatelli cheese. A bowl of hearty lentil soup makes a great lunch. For dinner I usually serve it with a salad or crispy grilled cheese….Comfort at it’s finest:)

(Click on the gallery below for step by step instructions)

There is a difference between Pekin and Peking duck!

My quest to learn how to cook every item in the butcher’s case continues. This year I am determined to cook at least one new dish every week. I am inspired by listening to family traditions of others, and love to see how beautiful dinners can bring friends and families together.

The brisk mornings these past few days have reminded me that its time to move from the grill back to the oven. A favorite dish to order when I see it on the menu, is roast duck. I love the way it melts in your mouth, and really consider it a treat, especially when it is served with a sweet glaze! So this week I conquered my fear of roasting a whole Pekin duck….and wow was it simple!

Let me start by saying that I had no idea there was a difference between Pekin and Peking duck! Yep, you learn something new every day…In my research about preparing duck the first thing I realized is that Pekin is a certain breed of duck, while Peking is a famous duck dish from Beijing that has been prepared since the imperial era.

So here we go, with Pekin duck. I asked the butcher to order one up. He brought home a beautiful little D’artagnan fresh, farm raised all natural duckling. The reason he works with this company is that they pride themselves in sourcing Pekin duck from two well-established family farms; each is dedicated to continuing humane farming traditions while incorporating the most modern techniques. Pure vegetarian diet, no antibiotics, no hormones.

For the glaze I used a jar of Stonewall Kitchen Cherry Berry Jam. Simple….yet fancy!

You will need:
One D’artagnan Pekin duckling
One jar of cherry jam or preserves ( I used Cherry Berry from Stonewall Kitchen)
1/4 cup of lemon lime seltzer or ginger ale
Five carrots (peeled)
Five heads of garlic
One bunch of fresh thyme
One lemon (quartered)
3 tablespoons of rice vinegar
Course salt and fresh ground pepper
One 32 oz box of chicken stock (Kitchen Basics is my favorite )
Kitchen string to truss the duck
A meat thermometer…..(I never cook without it)
One really good roasting pan with handles

Pre heat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit

Start by cutting the tops off of five heads of garlic and placing them cut side up in your roaster pan. On top of them lay 3/4 of the bunch of thyme. This will act as a “rack” to keep your duck off the bottom of the pan.

In a small bowl, mix 3/4 of the jar of Cherry Jam with 1/4 cup of seltzer or ginger ale. Set aside.

Next you will remove the duck from its package and remove the innards that are placed in the cavity of the duck; I placed the entire duck inside a large bowl before opening the plastic since there are some accumulated juices. Rinse the entire duck inside and out under cool running water. Pat dry with a paper towel. Place the duck, breast side up, on your cutting board. There will be a longer piece of skin at the neck. Cut this piece off with a sharp knife or kitchen shears. Salt and pepper the inside cavity and stuff it with 2 quarters of lemon and 2 whole carrots. Truss the legs together by winding a nice size length of kitchen string around each leg and tying them together.

Place the duck, breast side up, on top of the garlic. Pour the rice vinegar over the skin evenly and season generously with fresh ground pepper and course salt. Pour half the chicken stock into the bottom of the pan along with the remaining carrots and lemons. Roast your duck for one hour, turning the pan at the halfway point and adding additional stock.

After one hour of roasting, remove the pan from the oven and baste with Cherry jam mixture. Return duck to the oven for another fifteen minutes. Baste again and roast for fifteen minutes more, which should bring you to the one and a half hour mark. At this time, remove the duck from the oven and use your meat thermometer to check the temperature. Place the meat thermometer between the leg and the breast to get an internal temperature of 160 degrees. My oven runs hot, and the duck reached temperature by one and a half hours. Since every oven is different, it could take a little longer than that which is why your best friend is that meat thermometer. It works every time!

Once your duck has reached temperature of 160 degrees, remove pan from the oven and place on cooling rack. Use the remaining 1/4 jar of jam to baste the entire duck and cover loosely with foil. Let sit for 20 minutes before carving.

Lucky enough I had the butcher on hand to carve the duck for me. Start by removing each leg by cutting between the leg and the breast and pulling the leg down and outward. Next remove the breast meat and lastly the wing. Serve along side roasted red potatoes and sweet carrots.

I was pleasantly surprised by how simple it was to roast a whole duck; Similar to roasting a chicken although it will be pink it the middle….and that’s ok! My house was filled with a delicious fall scent as the butcher and I enjoyed this yummy meal. I would say that it could feed three people, but if you have big eaters you’d better roast two…


Recipe for Grandma’s Sunday Sauce

Today is a great day to simmer a delicious pot of Grandma’s Sunday Sauce. If you missed the video that shows the sauce making event at Grandma’s…you can watch it here
FYI…plan to spend a beautiful afternoon making this sauce. Pour yourself a glass of wine, put on your favorite tunes and be prepared for family members to taste test along the way….

Sauce Ingredients:
Two 28 oz cans of Whole Peeled Tomatoes
Three 28 oz cans of Crushed Tomatoes
2 yellow onions diced
2 red onions diced
8 cloves of garlic chopped fine
Handful of fresh basil chopped
Six to eight dried bay leaves
4 teaspoons of dried oregano
4 tablespoons of granulated sugar
2 teaspoons of granulated garlic
Four to six tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Couple splashes of Cabernet Wine
Eight links of sweet sausage
Eight short ribs of beef

Meatball Ingredients:
3 pounds of ground beef/pork/veal mixture
1 1/2 rolls ( or several pieces of Italian bread) Soaked in water and squeezed
5 eggs
1/2 cup of grated locatelli cheese
small handful of fresh basil chopped
pinch of salt and pepper
vegetable oil for frying

Grandma uses two large sauce pots and one large frying pan to make this sauce. The entire process can take between four and five hours.

For the sauce:
Distribute the chopped onions, garlic and sweet sausage links evenly between two large heavy sauce pots. Add about two to three tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil per pot and sauté over medium heat until everything looks golden brown ( about 8-10 minutes).

While the above ingredients are sautéing, empty the cans of whole tomatoes into a large bowl and squish between your fingers to break them into pieces. Distribute them between the two pots and stir gently.

As your sauce continues to cook over a med/low heat, sprinkle the beef short ribs with a little salt and pepper and brown them in a large heavy frying pan with a small amount of Olive Oil. This process can take between ten to twelve minutes.

When the short ribs of beef are browned nicely on both sides, transfer them to the sauce. Now you will also add the three cans of crushed tomatoes, dividing them evenly amongst both pots of sauce. Giving the sauce a gentle stir you can also add whole bay leaves, 2 tablespoons of sugar and several splashes of Cabernet. Cover the pot with a lid that is set on an angle to let steam escape and prevent your sauce from boiling. Keep your heat low/med….let the sauce simmer as you prepare the meatballs!

For the meatballs:
In a large bowl, mix the beef/pork/veal with soaked and squeezed bread, eggs, locatelli cheese, chopped fresh basil, one teaspoon of granulated garlic and a pinch of salt and pepper. After the ingredients are mixed thoroughly, shape them into nice size meatballs. This should make about twenty five medium sized meatballs. Heat vegetable oil in the large frying pan. Add meatballs to brown in two separate batches so as not to crowd the pan. Meatballs should brown nicely on both sides for a total of twelve minutes. Add the meatballs to your sauce pots and simmer altogether for about two hours stirring gently every so often.

At the two hour mark, remove the meatballs and sausage from the sauce and set aside. The beef short ribs will continue to simmer in the sauce for another two hours.

After your sauce has simmered for a total of four hours, the beef short ribs should have fallen off the bone. Remove these bones from the sauce and give the pot a stir. You will be left with the most delicious Sunday Sauce. Serve it over your favorite pasta along side your delicious sausage and meatballs! Enjoy with your wonderful family!

A huge thank you to Grandma for sharing her delicious recipe with us. I had so much fun cooking with her and I think the secret to her delicious sauce besides the love she adds…is taking your time….and enjoying the experience. Cheers to making many pots of this delicious Sauce and spending many beautiful Sundays with our families!

Grandma’s Sunday Sauce


Recipes and favorite dishes handed down from generation to generation hold special places in our hearts. Scents and sounds of certain dishes being prepared can transport us back in time instantaneously.

Just the other day, I was flipping through my great-grandmothers hand written recipe book. Each page is like a precious photograph dating back to a beautiful and simpler era. I especially enjoyed the paragraph below, which includes instructions on how to test your ovens temperature. At that time coal was used to keep the flame hot, and there were no fancy temperature gauges.



In my husband’s family, Grandma Jean is the go-to household for a fantastic home cooked meal. For as long as can be remembered Grandma has been the hostess for every special holiday. A signature dish is her Sunday Sauce with Meatballs.

Born into an Italian family in 1927, Jean truly enjoys to cook for her family. I really think the love she puts into her sauce is the reason it’s so hard to replicate. Jean has been making this sauce for seventy years, since the age of seventeen. Recently I spent the afternoon with her to learn the secret of her delicious Sunday Sauce.






I am so happy that I was able to spend this time with Grandma. Not only did I learn how to make a delicious sauce, but I was transported through the traditions of her family over the past Eighty Seven years.  Priceless!

I will share the recipe for Grandmas Sauce in my next post….well,  to the best of my ability, as she cooks without measurements and fancy gadgets……..

(You can find the complete recipe for Grandmas Sunday Sauce in the thoughts section below.)

%d bloggers like this: