Thursday, September 29, 2011

Veggie Lasagna

Veggie lasagna is a dish I started making with when I was a vegetarian. Yes, I was a vegetarian for nine years but still wanted to eat the same Italian food that I have always loved. I made just a few adjustments to fit my lifestyle at the time, and it turned out to be a recipe that all lasagna lovers adore—meat eaters and non meat eaters alike. Hope you enjoy it, too! —Jill

You'll need:
1 eggplant
2 zucchini
4 beefsteak tomatoes
1 container of white button mushrooms
2 cups ricotta cheese
1 cup mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup gouda cheese
1/2 cup gruyere cheese
Your favorite or homemade marinara/or tomato basil sauce
(This dish is typically vegetarian, but if you have a meatsauce or gravy already made, you can go ahead and use that.)

Slice eggplant, zucchini and tomatoes longways. Place on a baking sheet and coat with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast at 400 degrees for 20-25 min. Slice mushrooms and saute with olive oil and pepper.
Mix ricotta cheese in a bowl with salt, pepper and one egg. Mix together.

To assemble:
Put some sauce on the bottom of a baking dish. Ready to layer? Bottom layer is eggplant. Top with some ricotta cheese. Then add a handful of mozzarella cheese and some more marinara. The second layer is zucchini. Repeat the same layers with mushrooms and top w gruyere and gouda. The last layer is the tomatoes, put on the top for presentation.

Bake at 450 degrees for 20-30 minutes until lasagna is golden brown. Top with torn basil and serve with a side salad. A hit!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Meatloaf again?

For many people “my age” the word "Meatloaf" congers up memories of the midnight showing of the cult favorite "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" at the Cedar Lane Movie Theater in Teaneck, NJ, where 20 or so of my closest friends and I would go after a night of (clearing my throat) “reading.” It also brings back memories of my mother’s kitchen where we would sit at the dinner table and, when our mother wasn't looking, we would trade our food. Diana took my veggies and I took her potatoes and meat. (And I blame her for my weight issues, but that’s a story for another time!) And whatever neither of us liked we fed it to the dog under the table. Our brother Jimmy ate everything But Meatloaf night was an all-around favorite and I have passed that on to my family. Some really like the meatloaf, and others really like the potatoes and veggies.  Cooking them in the same pan saves time and marries all the flavors. So whether you have all the time in the world or are crazed like a “Bat Out of Hell” (c’mon people, it’s a Meatloaf reference), you’ll want to make this meal for a hearty week night dish. —Lisa

What you’ll need:
1 ½ lbs ground beef
½ onion, chopped
1 tbsp parsley
Salt/pepper to taste
1 slice of white bread, crust removed and soaked in milk
1 egg
2 tbsp spicy brown mustard
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsps ketchup
½ cup bread crumbs (Italian style, of course)
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese

2 cans petite diced tomatoes
2 cans whole white potatoes
1 can peas

Mix  together first 11 ingredients.  Spray the bottom of a large baking pan and form the meat mixture into a loaf in the pan. Open the two cans of tomatoes and pour over the loaf.  Open and drain the potatoes and peas. Arrange them around the loaf. Cover with tin foil.

Now take just a jump to the left...and then a step to the riiiiight. And put your hands on your hips...Oh, sorry, I started doing the Time Warp. OK, back to the recipe...

Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.  Remove foil and sprinkle some shredded Monterey Jack cheese over the top of the loaf and bake for another 15 minutes.  Let the meatloaf cool a little and slice and serve. Meat, potatoes and veggies all in one patootie, bless my soul! (Sorry, had to get just one more in there.) Happy birthday, Meatloaf!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Avocado Salad

I call this a salad, but it goes great with a bag of chips as well.  It has become a huge hit with our family and friends. In fact, I'm usually not allowed to attend any family function without bringing this. And I usually have to bring two bowls full—one for the guests, and one for the host to keep in her fridge for her own personal consumption. Lisa’s son Jimmy will often steal the bowl, take it to a secret location and eat it before anyone can get to it. It’s that tasty and addictive! It’s perfect to take to football parties this fall, as a side dish, or to make and snack on throughout the week.— Jennifer

 What you'll need:
2 cans of white and yellow sweet corn
4 ripe avocados (hint: ripe avocados are not squishy or hard, they are somewhere in the middle)
Cilantro, one small package
2 lemons
Extra virgin olive oil
1 package cherry tomatoes
1 red onion
2 cloves garlic
Garlic powder
1 large cucumber
1 small package feta cheese crumbles (I like Athenos best.)

Chop the onion. I like mine chunky, but you can choose how finely you want to chop it.
Cut the avocado into chunks.
Finely chop the garlic.
Chop the cucumber into chunks.
Cut the tomatoes in half.
Cut the stems off the cilantro and run a knife through the leaves.

In a large bowl, add the corn, cucumber, onion, garlic, tomatoes, feta cheese, avocado and cilantro.  Squeeze the juice of both lemons over the salad.  Go twice around the bowl with the EVOO, add salt and garlic powder to taste. Mix it up and serve with your favorite chips (mine are Lime Tostitos) and you have yourself a paaarrrtttyyy!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


My husband works late some nights. So when I know we can’t sit down together and eat, I try to make meals that will warm up easily for whenever either he or my son get home. Jambalaya is one of those dishes. Oh, you can go to the box mix and just add meat, or you can try this very easy recipe and take all the glory. I like to shred the chicken because I prefer having a little chicken in each bite rather than chunks of chicken. You can add as much hot sauce as you want. I always start off with a little and then put a little more….and a little more…..and a little more….until my sinuses are completely cleared! How brave are you? —Lisa

You’ll need:
1 lb medium shrimp, peeled and deveined but not cooked
2 chicken breasts, boiled and shredded
8 hot sausages, parboiled, then sliced and browned
½ onion, chopped
½ package frozen mixed peppers
2 cloves garlic, chopped
4 plum tomatoes chopped (I get from my Topsy-Turvy. It really does work!)
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp Frank’s Red Hot sauce (I put that “*&^%” on everything!)
1 cup rice, cooked ½ way
3 cups chicken broth
Your favorite Creole seasoning
Tissues, the number depends on how much hot sauce you use!

In a bowl, put the shrimp, shredded chicken, and Creole seasoning mix.  Toss together and let sit.

Sauté the onion and peppers in a deep pot. Add the garlic and tomatoes. Add the Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce. Add the partially cooked rice and the chicken broth. Add the shrimp/chicken mixture and reduce to medium heat. Add the browned sausage and let cook until shrimp are pink and cooked through, and most of the liquid is gone.

Serve with more hot sauce...if you dare! (Here's where the tissues come in handy.)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Steak Pizzaiola

This is another classic recipe from our Grandma Rose—one my father and uncles grew up on. It's a great meal if you are trying to use up the steak in your freezer or if you found a cut on sale at the grocery store. You can use a sirloin, T-bone or whatever you like best. It makes a great Sunday dish and is amazing as leftovers. My husband eats the leftovers the next day as a cold steak sandwich.  — Jill

Steak Pizzaiola
You'll need:
1 steak (I prefer T-bone). One steak is good for two people.
1 onion, sliced
2 cans (1 large; 1 medium) of Del Monte tomato sauce
1 large potato, chopped into bite-sized chunks
Seasoning (oregano, salt, and pepper)

You'll want to sear the steak first (I use T-bone) in a little olive oil in a pan. Get the outside golden brown by cooking few minutes on each side on medium to medium-high heat. 
After the steak is browned, saute the onion and then add the tomato sauce. (If you like extra sauce—and I do—you can use two large cans.)  
Add the potato and seasoning. Add a tiny bit of water and cover the pan loosely to allow steam out the side.
Cook on low/medium heat until steak is tender.
Serve with crusty bread. (Isn't it funny that everything I make is served with crusty bread?)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Sunday Football Chili

It's football season, which means it's chili season in my house. Living among three sports fanatics isn't easy most of year, but football season is especially, um, shall we say, "interesting." Baseball season, it's the Yankees all the way. When it comes to hoops, we're pretty much a Knicks family. But football season, we have two Jets fans (my husband and son Alex) going against a passionate (and extremely loud) Steelers fan (my son Luke), who tries to persuade me to even out the playing field by insisting I wear black and yellow and replace my kitchen towels with terrible towels. What puts me in a win-win situation is making a huge pot of chili that sits on the stove all day for them to enjoy from the first game to the last. And there's usually just enough left over for Monday night's game. As for me, I just grab a bowl with a bag of tortilla chips and hide.—Diana

To score with this recipe you'll need:
2-3 lbs ground meat (beef or turkey)
1 large onion, sliced in strips
1 cup diced red or green pepper
1 can kidney beans
1 large can diced tomatoes
Chili powder
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp pepper

Sprinkle the salt on the bottom of a large pot and brown the meat. Add the onions and peppers to the meat and sautee for a few minutes. I usually add some chili powder at this point to give the meat additional flavor. Add the kidney beans (with the juice) and tomatoes. Clean the tomato can out with a little water and add to the pot. Add more chili powder and pepper. (As a variation, you can make a 3 bean chili by adding, along with the kidney beans,  one can of black beans and one can of cannellini beans.)

Simmer for 60 to 90 minutes. Serve with hot peppers or, if you like your chili extra hot, put the hot peppers in the chili while its cooking. Top with your favorite shredded cheese and a dollop (I love that word) of sour cream. Touchdown!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Parmesan Cheese Chicken

Several days after Hurricane Irene, Lisa's son Jimmy and his friend Tyrone make one final trip for takeout. Then the family demanded: "We want a home-cooked meal."
The basement of my home was hit hard by the floods resulting from Hurricane Irene.  For what seemed like weeks, we were eating takeout: pizza, Chinese, more pizza, etc. My husband and son were dying for a home-cooked meal. When I was finally able to keep my eyes open for more than 30 minutes, I looked in my refrigerator to see what I had left and then sat down and sifted through my recipes, which consists of scraps of scribbled-on paper, backs of envelopes, and note cards (from when I was really organized). I wanted to desperately cook...something...anything, but I had to make do with what I had in the fridge. Then I came across this recipe. I’m not sure where I got it or when for that matter, but I remember that it is pretty good and pretty easy. It’s  a little like chicken cutlets but much easier, and I’m thinking a little healthier since its not fried.  Enjoy! —Lisa

You'll need:
1 package boneless skinless chicken breast, fat trimmed (about 4 pieces)
¾ cup mayonnaise
½ cup fresh grated parmesan cheese
Bread crumbs, Italian seasoned

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Coat a baking pan with cooking spray.

Combine the mayonnaise and parmesan cheese in a bowl.  Cover each piece of chicken with the mixture, then coat with the breadcrumbs. Place on the baking pan. Sprinkle a little more cheese on each piece of chicken. Bake until chicken is cooked through, about 30 minutes.

Note:  You can split the chicken breasts, cutting them thin like you would for cutlets. This will cut your cooking time in half.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Stuffed Peppers

I can remember waking up on Sunday mornings and smelling the stuffed peppers as early as 9 a.m., which meant that they were probably cooking since 7.  Today the smell alone takes me right back to my bedroom in Wood-Ridge, getting ready for church and making my way downstairs only to steal a piece of bread to dunk into the gravy.  I know I wasn’t supposed to eat before church, but I knew God would understand. I don’t think he would pass that pot up either if given the chance.  Returning back home from church, I could not wait to have dinner. Dinner at 1 o’clock may sound strange to non-Italian Americans, but yes, on Sundays we ate dinner, not lunch, in the early afternoon. And, it was fabulous! — Jen

You'll need:
1 lb of ground turkey or beef
1 packet of boil-in-a-bag rice, brown or white, cooked
1 tsp. garlic powder
2 tbsps extra virgin olive oil
4 large peppers, I prefer orange or yellow because they are so so sweet, but you can also use green or red
Your homemade Italian gravy or favorite red sauce

Cut off the tops of the peppers, discard
Gut and clean the inside of the pepper
Mix meat, cooked rice, oil and garlic powder
Stuff peppers with mixture
Place stuffed peppers into a large pot (you can use a slow cooker if you like)
Fill the pot with gravy/sauce to slightly above the mid point of the pepper
Cook on a low simmer for six hours (or in the slow cooker for desired time until the peppers are tender)
Spoon sauce over the peppers throughout cooking to add flavor

Serve in a bowl with a chunck of crusty Italian bread!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Prosciutto Wrapped Asparagus

Most of you know by now that of the four Cousins in the Kitchen, I probably spend the least amount of time in the kitchen. Well, at least my own kitchen. I love being in other people's kitchens and have them cook for me. I also love eating out, and when I order something I really like, I don't mind asking for the recipe so I can try it at home (or give it one of the the other Cousins to try. Hee-hee.) My husband and I recently went with friends to The Bronx (OK, 'Da Bronx) to walk around their version of Little Italy—Arthur Avenue. We ate at the famous Mario's Restaurant, and the antipasto was big, beautiful and included prosciutto wrapped asparagus that was absolutely delicious. So we asked, "How's this made?" They were kind enough to share this quick and easy recipe that makes a great appetizer or side dish. I did go home and make it (yes, in my own kitchen), and to prove it I recorded it so I can share it with you. (The kitchen is the room with the stove, right? Just kidding!) —Diana

All you need is:
Whipped cream cheese
Fresh Mozzarella
Grated or shredded parmagiana