Monday, October 3, 2016

Carunchio. Ever hear of it? Neither did I.

Carunchio is a very small town on the top of a very large mountain with the most breathtaking views, located in the Province of Chieti in the Abruzzo region of Italy.  In that town I found an Italian cooking and cultural vacation at the Palazzo Tour d'Eau almost by accident while researching cooking and wine tours in Abruzzo.  I reached out to my new friend Massimo Crisco at Abruzzo Cibus, liked what I heard and decided to book the entire Palazzo which consisted of 13 rooms for a week in September.  Now I only needed to find 24 other people who were looking for the same experience.

That was the easy part.  I sent out an email to family, friends and posted on Facebook.  The week was almost fully booked within days.  We ended up with a great group of people for a wonderful trip to my favorite place in the world, Italia.

We all arrived in Roma different times, different days but met up for a food experience on a warm Saturday night.  I set up a welcome dinner at a private venue on the Isola Tiberina which is a small island on the Tiber River.  My Facebook friend Fabio Bongianni owns the successful restaurant and cooking school, That's Amore in Roma near the Trevi Fountain.  I reached out to him and worked with his staff to coordinate our dinner.  Chef Paulo and his staff provided an incredible show to go with a fabulous meal.  Everyone was full, happy and ready to move on to Abruzzo.

Me and Paulo
Our Sunday pickup to Carunchio was uneventful and we enjoyed the long ride to the mountains.  We met the welcoming staff at the Palazzo, found our rooms and had a delicious multi course first meal after sitting outside overlooking the beauty of the mountains in Abruzzo.

Pasta with garlic, oil and pepetrito sauce

Massimo and his staff showed us a week of cooking classes, food tours and visiting local towns.  One day we had lunch on the Adriatic Sea which was actually on the sea in a Trabocco structure that is also used as a restaurant.  It was magical as well as delicious.  My favorite day was spent traveling to Bolognano to take my aunt so she could see where her father, my grandfather, lived as a child.  It was very emotional even though I had been there before, walking up the small street to the green door with not only my aunt, but quite a few guests on the tour as well as our guide, Massimo.  He also took us into the church where he was most likely Baptized and attended Mass every Sunday.

Trabocco Cungarelle
We also had an opportunity to visit Cantina Zaccagnini located in Bolognano.  This is a winery I enjoyed for many years before finding out it was actually located in my grandfathers village.  Coincidence?  I think not.  With Massimo in the lead, we had a tour of this beautiful winery as well as a tasting.  They are a premier winery with wonderful art throughout.  I was fortunate to meet the owner and he actually told me we are related through his mother!  He presented both myself and Massimo with two magnums of their very popular wine.  Of course, I purchased a few extras, because, why not?

While we had many other activities throughout the week, a cheese factory, bell foundry, the one that stands out for me was our last night.  We made pizza.  Not just pizza, but about 20 of them made in many different ways in a beautiful wood burning oven.  Massimo even got out the nutella for Jim so he could have a dessert pizza!  After we created and ate until we were more than full, we were entertained by the staff with both Italiano and American songs.  We laughed, cried and some even danced the night away.  My ending was perfect as my cousin arrived from Pescara with her husband Andrea and their adorable child Daphne.  It made a fabulous vacation, as I said, perfect. 

Pizza toppings

Me and Massimo

Cheese factory in Agnone

My famiglia

My love of this week and all things Abruzzo has made me decide to work with Massimo to bring the world to Abruzzo and Carunchio.  The world should want to head to the mountains in Carunchio at the Palazzo Tour d'Edu.  It's a week to get away, disconnect from day to day living, sit back and enjoy the beauty of Abruzzo and be a foodie for a full week of cooking, eating wonderful meals and drinking montepulciano wines.  Stay tuned for their second location which is a spa and let  me know when you want to live "La Dolce Vita" (the good life) for your next getaway at a great price!



Monday, May 25, 2015

Family and Pasta - What a great combination

There are many variations of the word family in the dictionary.  My definition would be my entire family which goes beyond the traditional family unit.  I might not have the opportunity to be with them often, but my love never waivers.  It is understood that even without being there to give that hug, kiss or wipe a tear, I miss them always and they are always on my mind.

This season I was able to see my famiglia on numerous occasions.  We returned to Boston the first week in December for our Christmas visit and it was pure joy.  We spent time with all our grandchildren and had the annual 3Sista's Christmas Cookie Day.  Our son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren visited the day after Christmas to surprise me yet another time.  I wasn't prepared with food but managed to pull it together to feed the crew for a short week of fun in the sun.  They spent New Years Eve with us on the beach and headed back to the cold the next day.

My next fix wasn't until my Momma came to visit for three weeks.  While I missed Auntie being with her and an illness that took a toll on Momma, it was a wonderful time.  I also had the pleasure of my daughter and her boyfriend along with my sister and her entire family for Easter as well!  Yes, it was a busy and fabulous season for me.

So here we are heading towards the end of May.  We just returned from a short Beantown visit for Daniel's first communion and preparing to head back again for Brady's graduation.  Friends have come and gone and many of our local friends are heading north.  Golf has been great and all the parties and dinners have been beyond fun.

And once again, I will try to get back to blogging.  Yes, I miss it.

Here is a quick pasta dish that turned out delicious and was easy to make.  A friend saw the picture on Twitter and requested the recipe, so here it is Therese!

Zucchini Pasta with Chicken Sausage


1 pound pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion - diced
2 cloves garlic - minced
1 pound chicken sausage (approximately 6 links)
2 zucchinis - chopped
Salt and pepper - to taste
1/2 teaspoon hot pepper flakes
1/2 cup (or more) parmesan cheese


Bring a large pot filled with water to a boil.  Add pasta and cook according to package directions.  Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water.  Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan.  Add the onion and cook for five minutes.  Add the garlic for an additional minute.  Remove the casings from the sausage and add to pan breaking it up into smaller pieces.  Once browned, add the zucchini.  I actually use a turning slicer that I found years ago while at a cooking class in NYC.  It works great!

Continue to cook for an additional 3-4 minutes, stir in the salt, pepper and hot pepper flakes.  Add pasta and cheese and combine.  Add the reserved pasta water as needed.

Like I said, easy and delicious!  Now I'm off to make dinner…


And remember, a good life deserves great food


Sunday, March 15, 2015

New Beginnings = Simple Beginnings (and Olivia's Organics)

Almost one year ago, I received a text message from a friend asking for my whereabouts as she had a potential opportunity to discuss.  I met with Aleta and The VP of marketing from State Garden in Chelsea, MA.  They had a new brand, a new focus and a new website.  I was asked to create and photograph recipes using their wonderful, delicious tasting products.  I didn't even need to think about it.  It's what I love to do every day. (unless i'm golfing)

Every month, I create five recipes for two of their product lines.  Olivia's Organics and Simple Beginnings.  It's been a creative process but most of all fun to create recipes using fresh, healthy ingredients.

Today, I wanted to take a few minutes to get myself back to blogging and show you a few photos of my recipes.  If you would like the recipe, please click on the links above and you will be able to find it.

Chicken with Kale and Peppers

Kale and Arugula Pesto

Linguine with Spinach

Rise and Shine Smoothie

Cornish Hens stuffed with Greens and Brown Rice 

Spinach Tortellini Soup

Spinach and Turkey Bacon Quiche

Sautéed Shrimp and Greens over Brown Rice

Check them out and let me know what you think.  And for those of you who made a face at the smoothy, give it a try.  It's delicious!  More coming your way.
I will also work to get back to blogging on my family, food and great meals along the way.  Ciao

Have a great week.  I know I will.  And remember, A good life deserves GREAT food...


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

In New Orleans, it's all about the FOOD!

For quite some time I have longed to go to Nawlins and eat.  It's not that they don't have other great things to do, but for me, it's all about the food.  I believe it was after Judy's first trip when she returned saying it was the best food she ever tasted.  Yes, that was the first time and it's been on my list ever since.  We recently saw the movie Chef which showed New Orleans and part of it's food culture.  It brought me right back to my wanting a trip to the Big Easy. 

The big guy surprised me with this visit for my birthday this past week and people who follow me on Facebook definitely saw it was a foodie vacation.  My goal was to find the best, authentic creole and cajun food I could find, and find I did.  Even though we could have ventured into the tried and true fancy, well known establishments with white tablecloths and great service, I chose to find down home restaurants with some of the best food in the city.  I think I was successful.  At least my tastebuds thought so...

Our first stop was to Cafe Du Monde on Decatur Street.  Of course it was.  We sat outside drinking coffee with chicory, eating their famous beignets and listening to traditional jazz music played out on the street.  I know it's silly, but it brought tears to my eyes I was so happy.  

To get a feel for this wonderful city of food, I scheduled a food tour with Tastebud of New Orleans on our first full day.  The mistake I made was heading to Cafe Du Monde before the tour!  We ventured into five establishments and tasted and learned about the traditional food of the city.  The best part was our guide and his expertise on the history of food culture in New Orleans.  I was surprised to learn Italians played a part in its food culture as they have the traditional muffuletta with its olive salad.  The food went on and on and actually included another beignet and coffee on Bourbon Street!  We walked the city streets and I asked plenty of questions along the way.  I think New Orleans is the only city to have a three hour talk show every day on the radio just to talk food!  They do take their food serious in Nawlins.  I highly recommend a Tastebud tour if you make the trip.  Our guide Dave Thomas was an expert on all things New Orleans and he definitely knows his food.

With my exhausting online searching and feedback from everyone we met, I chose the places we would try and would go back to every one of them in a heart beat.  First night was Mother's Restaurant which the big guy was surprised I found as you stood in a line to order your food and sat at small tables with paper napkins.  But yes, it was all about the food.  Oh, I also had one of their famous bloody Mary's.

I also wanted to try one of Chef John Besh's restaurants and had multiple people tell us Luke was their favorite place to eat and they just so happened to have a great happy hour with all drinks half price and oysters .50 each/ $1.00 for fried.  Hello?  In we went, but at the end it was our most expensive meal of the trip, well worth it.  

Our breakfast places were so wonderful all on their own, I need to write a separate blog entry.  Btw, I also attended a cooking class that I loved so get ready, a fall cooking class on all things New Orleans is in the works!

Have a great day everyone.  I am headed out into the sunshine to exercise (as I need it after all that food)

Laissez les bons temps rouler

Monday, June 16, 2014

Healthy Stuffed Peppers

Feeling like I needed a great tasting, healthy meal, I decided on stuffed peppers one night last week.  We were preparing to renovate our kitchen so I want to cook as much as I could and empty out the freezer, fridge and pantry.  What makes me smile is when the big guy likes it and asks for more like he did that night!


4 red peppers
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion - chopped
2 cloves garlic - minced
1 lb. ground turkey breast
Salt and pepper 
1 cup cooked brown rice
A few shakes of hot sauce
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella


Wash, cut the tops off the peppers and clean out the inside.  If they don't sit flat, slice off a little on the bottom so they will stand.  Place in microwave for 5 minutes.  I kept the tops of the pepper and chopped small.  In a large sauté pan, add the olive oil and cook onion and chopped pepper for approximately 5 minutes.  Add the garlic for another minute.  Add salt and pepper to taste and the ground turkey.  Sauté until browned.  

I also had leftover Brussels sprouts, chopped them small and added them to the mixture, add the cooked rice and stir.  I like to add a few shakes of hot sauce to enhance the flavor.  That was a good move!  The final step

I also had leftover Brussels sprouts, chopped them small and added them to the mixture, add the cooked rice and stir.  I like to add a few shakes of hot sauce to enhance to the flavor.  That was a good move!  The final step was the shredded mozzarella. 

Stuff peppers and place in a 350 degree oven for approximately 30-45 minutes depending on your oven.  

It's quiet in Naples these days, but the sun is still shining and we are enjoying life.  I hope you are smiling and enjoying yours as well.

A good life deserves great food...

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Still Finding Great Restaurants in Naples!

 Recently, I was told I stopped blogging.  I began to protest but quickly realized my last blog post was at the end of January!  Oops.  A fun, busy life and a little work sometimes gets in the way.  You did notice that the word "fun" was definitely before the word "work".

We went with friends to a new restaurant for us, Alexander's on 41 in Naples.  Not easy to find as it sits back from the road but we were told many times that it was wonderful and now we know it's true.  Our friend actually told me not to tell anyone as it was busy enough.  Well I am here to say it doesn't make a difference since it is quite obvious they are as busy as they can be without me telling the world.

Alexander's Fine American and European Cuisine offers lovely indoor and outdoor dining, a wine bar  and a delicious menu.  We happened to visit the last week prior to their summer vacation so our menu choice was down to a single page.  Definitely not a problem as our choices were fabulous!  By the way, this vacation is for the summer.  They close until September 25th and are so popular, they already had 50 reservations scheduled for that night.  Make that 54.

Friendly and warm was our greeting but the best part was the food (beside the company).  

Seafood Risotto
Crab Encrusted Grouper
Creme Brûlée
Last, but not least was dessert.  Perfect ending to a perfect night with good friends.  Take the time to get with family and friends this weekend.  We are lucky to have both in Naples this weekend.  Family in town and friends who make you smile.  

See you in September Alexander's!

Fino a quel momento,


Sunday, January 26, 2014

Eva's 85th Birthday Celebration and Her Polenta Recipe

Our Famiglia Tree of Life

How can that be?  My mother, Eva has always been eternally young.  Growing up, she was almost like our 4th sister.  Of course she loved hearing that and we were all equally horrified with some of her choices over the years.  She did some crazy things while raising three daughters, but she also did many more good things.  She taught us to be strong when faced with adversity.  She taught us to be kind and the importance of girlfriends in your life and she taught us an incredible work ethic.  How true is that statement? At 85, she continues to work and while slower than before, she still loves to be busy.

Most important, she loves her famiglia and girlfriends.  Which is why after just leaving Boston a couple of weeks ago, I got back on a plane to be there for her birthday celebration.  Just as she would have liked it, we opened up my sisters Susan's restaurant, Angelina's on a Sunday afternoon and invited her friends into the family restaurant named after her own mother.  Susan was the perfect hostess working her magic to ensure everything went well.  Cookie, the party girl, made sure the party was just that - a party.  She was in charge of the appetizers and instead of a couple of platters, she, of course, has a two table tiered setup full of nice pickies (as Eva would say).  She also created the theme and the cake actually had a naked Ken doll (is that even right?) jumping out of the top along side Eva's photographs of when she was young.  On another table Cookie had a tree of life created and stamp pads and we all placed our thumb prints on her tree and left a note in a special memory book.

Eva's Favorite Phrase
For food, we all jumped in.  I wanted it to be Eva's favorite foods.  Susan made the polenta with beans, chicken Marsala and pizza.  Auntie Helen made her famous eggplant and I, coming in just the night before, made the orchiette, sausage and broccoli rabe.  Of course there was bread and a couple of different salads, wine on the table and an open bar.  Nicki also brought two different type of party drinks.  Who would have thought those ladies could drink that much on a Sunday afternoon!  I also made favors of her favorite biscotti for her guests to take home.  

Eva arrived with Auntie and while I thought she knew something was up, she did not.  It was obvious since she was not dressed, no make-up and NO JEWELRY!  Eva does not usually go anywhere without at least her big earrings and an even bigger ring.  Yes, folks, we pulled it off.

Her friends new and old travelled to be there and joined in with the family.  Oh, I forgot to mention that it was a ladies luncheon so that we could have an extra surprise.  You see, my mother while she has always loved her family and friends, has also loved men.  Even at 85 years young, she is still looking for men to dance with and enjoy and by the way, she is married.  So, with Cookie being Cookie, she decided to hire a male dancer and while some of us were crazy with the idea, Eva loved it.  Of course she did.  Also so it seems, did her 80 year old girlfriends!  I believe one of them booked him for her next birthday.

Here is her favorite food of all time.


Polenta with Kidney Beans.


6 Cups water
1 Teaspoon salt
2 Cups polenta
3 Tablespoons butter
1/2 Cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1 15 oz. can red kidney beans
2 cups red sauce (gravy to some)


In a large deep pan, bring the water and salt to a boil.  Gradually stir in the polenta with a whisk.  Lower heat and stir with a wooden spoon frequently to prevent sticking.  This should take about 30 minutes.  Add butter and cheese.  In addition, drain and rinse kidney beans well and add to the polenta.

Spread polenta in a lightly greased sheet pan, top with sauce and additional cheese.  Tradition is to serve on a board, but these days, plates will do.  Mangia!

Eva, thank you for being you.  I love you more.