Paladini Potpie

Adventures within The Crust!


Perfect Soft-boiled Eggs

Which came first – the turkey or the egg? In this case it was the turkey.

It was the morning after Thanksgiving and we were dribbling into John’s parents’ kitchen in search of our traditional breakfast fare – leftover turkey dressing, or maybe a slice of Grandma Ginny’s soon-to-be-world-famous apple pie.

But I had something different in mind: An egg.  Last summer when we were on vacation at Lake Tahoe, my father-in-law demonstrated “the perfect soft-boiled egg”. He had a new method he had learned from some expert chef with years of experience in test kitchens. I watched him do it, but there were a few gaps in my memory and I needed a refresher course.

This time I decided to take notes and pictures, and now I will never forget Grandpa Frank’s perfect soft boiled egg method. (With due credit to that unnamed chef who worked all those long hours with uncounted eggs in the test kitchens.)

You can do any number of eggs at the same time. That’s what’s nice.DSCN8338

Put about a half inch of water in the bottom of a pot and bring it to a boil.

DSCN8341While the water is coming to a boil, run a little warm water over the eggs so they’re not super cold. (If they’re too cold there’s a risk that they will crack when they come in contact with the boiling water.)

DSCN8347When the water is boiling, put the eggs in. The water will not cover the eggs. Put the lid on the pot and let the eggs boil (or steam) for exactly 6 minutes.

That’s it!

Run the eggs under cold water for about 30 seconds, which will stop the cooking process, but will keep the eggs hot.DSCN8348

DSCN8351Grandpa Frank advised that we should put the toast down in the toaster when the eggs were at 4 minutes. That way the toast and eggs would both be ready at the same time.

DSCN8354Voila! Every one of the eggs was soft-boiled to perfection!

So which came first? The turkey, of course. But I am thankful for this foolproof way to make a perfect soft-boiled egg!



March Forth to Carrot Cake

If it’s true that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach then this carrot cake might be the main reason John and I have been married for 32 years.  I made it for his birthday on March Fourth, a few weeks after we met. And I’ve made it for his birthday every year since!

It’s pretty easy and very delicious! – and it freezes well even with the icing. (If there is any left!)


Preheat oven to 325°

Grease and flour two 8” round pans, and cut a circle of wax paper to fit on the bottom of each pan.

Cake ingredients:

¾ cup canola oil

1 cup sugar

3 eggs

1 ½ cups flour

1 ½ tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 tbsp cinnamon

½ tsp salt

2 cups shredded carrots

1 cup chopped walnuts or almonds

½ cup raisins  (optional)


 Beat eggs, oil and sugar

Mix in flour and other dry ingredients

Fold in carrots, nuts and raisins

 Divide batter into the two pans and bake at 325° for about 30 minutes.

(Cakes are done when an inserted toothpick comes out clean.)


Cool cakes until they are room temperature. (Peel off the waxed paper while they are still warm.)

Frost with Cream Cheese Frosting.  (This is the best part!)

Frosting ingredients:

1 stick butter at room temperature

8 ounces cream cheese at room temperature

1 pound (or a little less, depending on your taste) confectioners’ sugar

1 tsp vanilla

Blend all ingredients until smooth.

Frost thickly between the layers and all over the top and sides of the cake.

This is the hardest part for me – it’s difficult to not just sit down and eat this right out of the bowl!

Happy Birthday John!

March forth!



Grandee’s Granola


I’ve been making this granola for more than 25 years. John and the kids love it, and I’m pretty sure our grandkids will love it too, so I’m going to officially call it Grandee’s Granola.

My little cousin is excited about making granola with her grandparents!


It’s so fast and easy…and healthy!DSCN1142


8 cups of Old Fashioned Oatmeal. (not the quick kind)

3 very ripe bananas

6 ounces of canned pineapple juice concentrate

1/3 cup sugar

Raisins, almonds and banana chips are optional

*The pictures on this post show me making a double batch.


Pour the oatmeal into a flat roasting pan or cake pan about 2” deep

You can also add at this time if you want them to be toasted.


Blend the pineapple juice, sugar, and bananas.


Mix well.

My little cousin is doing a great job of stirring the mixture.

My little cousin is doing a great job of stirring the mixture.

 Bake at 250° for 2-3 hours.

About every half hour take it out of the oven and stir with a metal spatula, breaking up the bigger clumps.




The granola will be done when it is completely dry to the touch.

DSCN1191Allow to cool.

Beware of sneaky fingers (as pictured above) that will tend to snitch “tastes” as the granola cools.


When the granola is cool, you can add raisins and banana chips.

You can also add the almonds at this point if you prefer them raw.

Zya granola 3

Stored in an airtight container, this granola will be good for months.


Chestnuts Roasting…

imagination“Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…”  I’ve always pictured a couple – seen from the back – sitting on the floor gazing into the fire.  They have their chestnuts sort of setting on the hearth, near the flames, maybe just inside the fireplace…and they wait for the nuts to pop open from the heat.  And then the guy reaches over and pulls one of them out. They laugh merrily as he waves his hand around.  “They’re a little hot,’ he warns, holding the fragrant chestnut meat invitingly toward her…

This was not the scene that played out in our house last night.

undauntedI was so excited to finally see chestnuts for sale. I had looked all over for them last summer, when I was making several Italian meals that called for chestnuts. “They are a seasonal item,” the produce man told me.

So finally, ‘tis the season!  I saw them for $4.75 a pound and promptly bought two pounds. I wanted to have plenty to last all year for those Italian recipes, and John and I had become obsessed with the idea of bringing Mel Torme and Bob Wells’ song to life right in our own home!

So how do you roast a chestnut? I looked at several sites on the internet and found all kinds of – often conflicting – instructions.  Most people roast them in the oven or on the barbecue grill.

Combining bits of information from here and there, we came up with our plan.

photo2To begin with, the nuts need to really be above the coals to roast. Not on the hearth near the flames. In fact the flames should be pretty much gone while the coals need to be very hot. So while we were waiting for our nice roaring fire to die down, we came up with the idea of using an 18” pizza screen, and sort of setting it across the metal basket that holds the burning logs in the fireplace.

photo8You are supposed to cut an “X” in the top of each chestnut. Which is not easy. The shells are hard and the slippery. I even discovered that there are special knives for cutting that “X”

My X’s were more like little slit holes.

photo 11It takes 20-30 minutes for the nuts to roast. Or 15-20 – depending on which instructions you follow.  And probably on how big the chestnuts are, and how hot the coals are.

And you are supposed to move them around so they won’t burn. Sure.

I have to say they smelled wonderful about 10 minutes into the process!  The shells were burned on the bottom, but they hadn’t popped open so we turned them over and let them go a little longer.

roasted nutFinally we figured they had to be done.  Once again, the scenario didn’t match the one in my mind. The guy had to carefully pull the pizza pan from above the coals, being careful not to dump the nuts into the fire. Balancing it in his oven-mittened hand he carried it to the roasted nuts burnedkitchen and plunked it down on the counter.  You have to open them while they are still hot or it will be hard to get the shells off. So the man and woman worked together, both of them waving their hands around…   “Hot, hot, hot!”

Most of the nuts were too hard to bite into. John said he is certain that song was really written by a dentist.

But one or two were perfect!

roasterSo here I am, still with about two pounds of chestnuts. ($4.75 a pound)  Undaunted, I will try again, but the next time it will be in the oven in this cute little chestnut roaster I found at a yard sale.

“And so I’m offering this simple phrase to kids from 1 to 92. Although it’s been said many times, many ways Merry Christmas to you!”

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Ciabatta is the Italian word for a comfortable old shoe or slipper.  Sound appetizing? It’s also the word for this comfortable, easy Italian bread.   It’s a very light loaf which is crusty on the outside, and chewy on the inside. It’s  very porous, with all those nooks and crannies we always heard about from the English muffin folk.

Ciabatta – to be honest, sometimes the brown misshapen loaves do look like old slippers. It comes by its name honestly. There are a lot of steps, but this is really one of the easiest breads I have ever made, and undeniably one of the most delicious.



3 cups flour

1 teaspoon yeast

2 teaspoon salt

1 cup water

You will also need:

Parchment paper

A Dutch oven or heavy covered casserole dish.


Mix all the ingredients together in a big mixing bowl.

You may need to add a few more tablespoons of water. You should have thick, but stirrable batter.


Cover with plastic wrap and let it stand overnight (12-18 hours)


The batter will have doubled in size.


Place your covered Dutch oven in the oven at 450° for 30 minutes.  Set a timer.

floured pp

Place a piece of parchment paper on your counter and lightly sprinkle it with flour.


Carefully scrape the batter onto the parchment paper.

Sprinkle the top of batter with flour, and cover it lightly with the plastic wrap.

In half an hour when the timer dings and the Dutch oven is hot, take it out of  the oven and carefully remove the lid.

Lift the plastic wrap from the bread batter.

Pick up the parchment paper by the four corners, so the batter is carried in it like a little pouch.

ready to bake

Place it in the hot Dutch oven.

Place the HOT lid back on the Dutch oven and straighten out the edges of the parchment paper so there are no big creases inside.


Return the Dutch oven to the oven, still at 450° and bake for 30 minutes. (Set the timer).


Take the lid off and bake uncovered for 15 more minutes.


Lift the loaf out of the Dutch oven by the corners of the parchment paper, and let it cool on a rack or serve it hot.

Either way it will be one of the stars of your wonderful Italian meal!

Italian meal with ciabatta

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Habañero Peach Sauce

Farmer FrankWe were on a mission to find the juiciest, tastiest peaches the farmers had to offer. And it was quite a job. As we walked through the farmers’ market there must have been a dozen people standing in front of their stalls offering samples. Almost all of the peaches were great, but we decided on Frank. Not only because his peaches were big and perfectly ripe and delicious – but because he had the widest smile and friendliest attitude! I told him about my project and he ran from variety to variety, telling me the finer points of each.  “Oh look at the deep red color! Did you ever see anything so pretty?”  He pointed with the tip of his pocket knife as he cut open yet another peach for me to try.

habañero peppersAs I mentioned to Frank, we’re having a banner year with our habañeros, so I needed peaches with a particularly strong peachy flavor to balance the zip of the peppers. The goal of the day was to create a delicious habañero-peach sauce for grilling chicken and fish.  And we did it!

It’s so easy to make, and just wait till you taste it!

diced fruit

Habañero Peach Sauce

5 pint sized canning jars with new lids and rings.

3-5 big juicy peaches (enough to make 5 cups of finely chopped fruit)

4-5 habañero peppers, finely diced

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup lemon juice

One yellow onion

6 cups sugar

1 pouch of Certo liquid pectin

The first thing to do is fill the jars with hot water so they will not crack later when you pour in the boiling hot sauce.

The next thing to do it cut the top off the Certo package and stand it upright in a coffee cup so it will be handy, and ready to pour when the time comes.

place in saucepanNow put the diced fruit, peppers and onion into the saucepan.

(You don’t need fancy kitchen equipment – I have an indestructible old pressure cooker that I use for a saucepan since it no longer holds pressure. It must be 50 years old, but it’s perfect for things like this. I think I got it at a yard sale for a dollar about 10 years ago.)

Add the salt, lemon juice and sugar to the peach mixture.

mix well

Mix well and begin to cook it.

rolling boil

Stir the mixture until it comes to a full rolling boil that can’t be stirred down.

Now add the Certo, as you continue to stir. The boil will diminish a little.

Let it return to a full rolling boil.

Boil for one minute, then turn off the heat.

Ladle into hot jars and close with canning lids and rings.

That’s it!

Habañero Peach Sauce

Allow the jars to cool on the counter and listen for the “ping” that tells you each one is sealing.

That very evening we had mouth-watering habañero peach chicken. We just brushed the sauce on the chicken before we put it on the grill and a couple of times while it was grilling.

Habañero chicken with grilled zucchini and mushrooms

I filled a little sample sized jar of sauce and took it down to Farmer Frank, and he was thrilled.


Ginny’s Piccalilli

green tomatoesThe last time I visited my in-laws, John’s mom reminded me about Piccalilli. Dad and I had been out walking around in his garden, both of us bragging how many green tomatoes we already had, and who would produce the first red one. He’s still bitter about the fact that my wisteria is laden with abundant flowers, and his much older vines have yet to bring forth a single bloom.  But I digress…

Little GinnyAs we were talking about green tomatoes Ginny suddenly said, “Do you remember that relish you made for me? It was so delicious! It was like what my mother made back in Massachusetts…”  My mother-in-law’s face was ecstatic!

I had to laugh. It’s been more than 25 years since I made that piccalilli, and to think that the memory of it is right up there with my mother-in-law’s cherished childhood memories.

I must be getting old!

inspiration cookbook

It had been so long since I made piccalilli that I don’t even know what recipe I used, but I remembered most of the basic ingredients. Since it’s an old fashioned sort of food, I decide to look in my 1942 Woman’s Home Companion Cookbook.  I have at least 50 cookbooks crowding two shelves, but I hardly ever follow a recipe to the T.  This was no exception.  But it’s pretty close.

*The process is very easy but it takes at least 8 hours or overnight to prepare.

About 7 medium-sized green tomatoes

2 red bell pepper

1 green bell pepper

2 yellow onions

1/2 cup salt

1 quart cider vinegar

2 cups sugar

1 tablespoon celery seed

2 tablespoons mustard seed

1 teaspoon tumeric

1 teaspoon horseradish

½ teaspoon whole cloves

Canning jars (5 or 6 pint sized jars or 2 quart sized jars)

Canning lids and rings

chop vegetables

Cut the tomatoes in half and then slice them into nice chunky bite-sized slices.

Slice peppers and onion to about the same size

stir in salt

Place in a large bowl and mix in the salt.

Cover, and let stand overnight.

vegetable water accumulates

In the morning (or after about 8 hours) drain off the salt water that will have formed.

Do not rinse.


While vegetables are draining, wash your jars and fill them with hot water. (In the past I have had canning jars break when I put something hot into a cold jar – quite a mess!)


Place the canning lids into a pot of water and bring it to a boil, then turn it off. The hot water softens the rubber so you get a better seal on the jars.


Mix the cider vinegar, sugar and spices in a large pot, and bring the mixture to a boil.

add to brine

Add the drained vegetables, and bring it back just to a boil. Turn off heat.

seal jars

Fill the clean hot jars, put on the lids and tighten the rings.

waiting for the ping

Allow the jars to stand upside down on the counter for an hour or so, then turn them upright.

I love hearing the “ping” as each jar seals!

And I can hardly wait to see mom’s face next week when I bring her a few jars of “Ginny’s Piccalilli”

Ginny's Piccalilli

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What’s a Stromboli?

What is Stromboli?

  1. The villain from Pinocchio.
  2. An Island off the coast of Sicily.
  3. A movie starring Ingrid Bergman.
  4. An Italian stuffed sandwich.
  5. All of the above.

And the answer, please…..drumroll….

All of the above!

Lighthouse of the  MediterraneanThe island of Stromboli has a population of about 600 people, and an active volcano which has erupted many times. In fact it has been nicknamed “the lighthouse of the Mediterranean” because the frequent eruptions cause the peak of the volcano to glow 3,000 feet above sea level.

In 1950 Roberto Rossellini directed, Strombolia movie about Karen, a young Lithuanian woman who married an Italian fisherman and went to live with him in the shadow of the volcano on Stromboli.

And after seeing the movie, the owner of Romano’s Italian Restaurant, in Essington PA, (near Philadelphia) came up with a unique new idea for an Italian sandwich, and named it after the movie.

Over the last 60 years since the Stromboli first appeared at Romano’s, it has become a classic Italian-American favorite. Since the Romano family vows that they will never share their original recipe, the sandwich has taken on all kinds of shapes and flavors.  Here’s the Paladini version of Stromboli with chicken and pesto.

1 chicken breast, cut in small cubes

1 small onion, diced

1 bell pepper, diced

6-8 mushrooms, sliced

1/2 cup sliced black olives

2 tbsp olive oil

4 ounces Paladini Pesto (see recipe)

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

1 batch of Paladini Pizza dough (see recipe)

Prepare bread dough, and cut it into 8 sections. Set it aside to rest.

Saute the chicken till it’s lightly browned. Add onion, bell pepper and mushrooms. Saute until they are just tender.

Add olives.

Add the pesto and mix well.

Allow the filling to cool to a little warmer than room temperature.


Roll out first section of dough on a floured surface.

roll dough

It should be about 8″ in diameter.

the stromboli stuffer

Place 1/8 of the filling in the center of dough, and top with 1/8 of the mozzarella cheese.

layer ingrdients

Fold, edges over, tucking in and pressing to seal.

fold (2)

Do the same with the remaining 7  sections of dough, then place them on two parchment paper lined baking sheets.


Let them rest for 30 minutes, so the dough will begin to rise. Meanwhile preheat oven to 400°

Bake for about 20 minutes, or until browned.

(*You can also make these stromboli to freeze for later.  Bake them at a lower temperature – about 350°  – and do not let them brown. Allow them to cool completely, and then wrap them well.  The frozen stromboli can be placed in 400° oven and baked till well browned.)


And you thought Stromboli was just the villain from Pinocchio!


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Spicy Fried Chicken

drain on paper towelsThis year David asked for the same birthday dinner he asks for every year – burritos, pizza, potpie and fried chicken.  Yes, as usual he wanted them all, but he finally settled on fried chicken.

There used to be a commercial on TV where they fried chicken in some specific shortening or oil. Then at the end of the commercial they poured the used fat back into a measuring cup and claimed that “…it all came back except one tablespoon!”

Only one tablespoon had been used to fry up that whole platter of fried chicken. Right.

Well, there’s no way anyone can claim this is a low-fat meal, but a couple of times a year I’m thrilled to have a good excuse to cook something that is blatantly unhealthy,  but better than “finger lickin’ good!”

Here’s how I do it.

12 nice plump chicken thighs with the bones and skin.

corn oil


2 cup flour

½ tsp paprika

1 tsp salt

1 tsp garlic powder

½ tsp black pepper

1 tsp onion powder

1 tsp cayenne (more or less)

You will also need a black cast iron frying pan and a large bowl.

Be sure to wear an apron because it does splatter.

brine the chicken in ice water

Dissolve 1/2 cup salt in a little warm water in a big bowl.

Add ice cubes and cold water.

Place the chicken in the bowl and let it soak for 6 – 24 hours.

dry ingredients

Mix the dry ingredients

coat chicken

Remove chicken thighs from the ice water and pat so they are fairly dry. Coat with the flour mixture.

stack on plate

Pile the breaded thighs on a plate and begin to heat oil in a cast iron skillet.

heat oil

Let the oil heat until it’s hot enough to sizzle when you sprinkle flour into it.

Dredge each thigh in the flour mixture once again, and put it into the skillet.

side 1

Leave room between them so they are not touching.

I use two frying pans for 12 thighs so they’ll all be done at the same time.

side 2

Fry on high for about 4 minutes and then turn pieces over and fry the other side on high for about 4 minutes.

cook covered

Lower the heat, cover the pan, and cook for about 18-20 minutes.

Return heat back to high and remove the lid.

After 3 or 4 minutes turn the pieces so the other side will get crisp with the high heat.

Chicken will be crispy on the outside and moist and tender inside!

drain on paper towels

Remove and drain on paper towels.

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Gelato al Caffé

Eat, eat!“Mangia, mangia!” It’s stenciled above the door of our dining room. “Eat, eat!” Can’t you see the Italian momma standing there invitingly waving her hands over a huge bowl of spaghetti?

Well, this week it was the Italian poppa’s turn to be in the kitchen.

following directions

In my last post I told you we’re taking a virtual food tour of Italy – trying out the recipes in two of my most beautiful Italian cookbooks. So this week John made gelato. Italian Intermezzo says, “One of Italy’s great culinary creations, gelato is an all time favorite dessert. This not-too-sweet version is a perfect finale for any dinner party.”Mangia, mangia!

Gelato al Caffé

from Italian Intermezzo

John followed the recipe exactly, and it is wonderful!

3 cups whipping cream

½ cup Italian-roast coffee beans. (We used Vivace decaf.)

1/3 cup brewed espresso

4 egg yolks

1/3 cup sugar


Pour 2 cups of cream, the espresso and coffee beans into the top of a double boiler.

Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes, until it tastes strongly of coffee

Whisk the egg yolks in a large bowl.

mixture to egg yolks

Gradually stir the hot cream mixture into the egg yolks.

return to double boiler

Return to double boiler, with barely simmering water.  Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens.

add sugar

Remove from heat and stir in the sugar.

cooling the custard

Set the bowl in a larger bowl with ice cubes and stir until it is cooled.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.  (We refrigerated it overnight)

pour through sieve

Pour mixture through a sieve, and add the remaining cup of whipping cream.

add cream

We poured the cream through the sieve, and stirred the beans to wash the thick custard from them.

Mix well.


Freeze mixture in your ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s directions.  We used the ice cream attachment of our Kitchen Aid mixer for the first time and it worked perfectly!


This recipe for Gelato al Caffé was created by chef Catherine Whims of Genoa restaurant, in Portland.

Squisito! Mangia, mangia!