So, what is your favorite cookbook? I need to know.

My all-time favorite resource is The Joy of Cooking. There are days when I’m so tired I have actually forgotten how long to hard boil an egg. Or the time I was 1/2 way through an artichoke and I needed to know exactly how to get the heart out in tact I went right to JOC. What does the internal temperature of a medium-well tenderloin register? Consult JOC. But, beyond an amazing reference book, I have seldom (ok never) tried one of the thousands of recipes in my well loved JOC. Please let me know if I am missing something and which recipe(s) you recommend I try immediately.

My latest cookbook craze is over Every Night Italian and Barefoot in Paris. My longtime reader(s) will recall, I was given both of these gems by Husband for Christmas and most of my cooking since the holidays has been inspired from these sources.

Giuliano Hazan is famed Italian cook Marcella Hazan’s son. I would so love to be invited to the Hazan’s family Christmas dinner. Can you imagine? In Hazan-the-son’s newest release, he offers up simple Italian meals with the promise that they can be prepared in 30 minutes or so. His recipes are not designed to be a hurried affair aimed to beat the clock, but because the simple and well paired ingredients are so perfect the preparation is really minimal. And the results delicious.

I love everything about Ina Garten. I’m a sucker for her cookbooks and her Food Network series. I love her mis en place, her table settings, her flowers, even her husband Jeffrey is cute! With her of course. So, it came as no surprise that I would love Barefoot in Paris. When I read and follow her recipes I feel like I am back in Paris learning to cook for the first time. Her recipes remind me of living in the 7 eme chez Mme de la Pereuse and the amazing feasts we used to prepare. Everytime I open the Contessa’s cookbook I feel like I am transported to un petit bistro a Paris. See how virtual The Schell Cafe is?

I have about 150 cookbooks. I would have thought more, but I counted twice. So, after almost two months of wearing the pages thin on my newest favorites, it’s time to mix it up a bit. Here is my latest cookbook wishlist. Feel free to send me any or all of my objects of desire! And, if you don’t actually feel moved to send me a cookbook, please send me your recommendations and reviews! And, don’t forget to tell me your favorite cookbook. I’ll add it to my list.

SaucyMomma’s Cookbook Wish List

Lost Recipes Marion Cunningham
Fannie Farmer Marion Cunningham

Spice Island

Cooking for Mr. Latte Amanda Hesser

The Man Who Ate Everything Jeffrey Steingarten

The Artful Eater Edward Behr

How to Cook Everything Mark Bittman

LuLu’s Provencal Table Richard Onley

Cooking at Home CIA

Classical Southern Cooking Damon Lee Fowler****

The Silver Spoon

**** This cookbook is out of print. PLEASE check your shelves, your mother’s or grandmother’s. If you have this cookbook I will promise to cook you every meal in it as payment! (Yes, I know I can get it on ebay. But, the last price I saw was over $300. ) Now go call your mother!


The Un-Risotto

Giuliano Hazan’s Risotto Finto has been on my list to try for over a month now. I chose tonight simply because I had everything in the pantry. That I had everything on hand was more luck and a generally well-stocked pantry than any kind of super planning on my part. Hazan’s meals are simple and keep my family happy so I return again and again to his cookbook for inspiration.

Dubbed the un-risotto, the dish calls for a rice such as Arborio or Carnaroli, but the preparation is not the same as in a traditional risotto recipe.

1/4 c finely chopped yellow onion (I used more!)
3 T butter (I used EVOO)
1 1/2 C risotto rice (I used Carnaroli)
2 1/4 C beef broth
1 yellow bell pepper
4 oz ground pork
1 cup peeled, diced tomatoes (I used a can)
1 cup frozen, tiny peas (thawed)

The Risotto

Put the onion and 1 1/2 T of butter and heat over medium heat until a rich golden color. Add the rice and stir until well coated. Add broth, cover and cook at a steady simmer for 15 minutes.

The Sauce

While the rice is cooking, peel the bell pepper and cut into long thin strips. Put the remaining 1 1/2 T butter and pork in a skillet and heat over medium-high heat until the pork is lightly browned. Add the bell pepper and continue to cook until tender.

Dice the tomato and add to sauce. Add peas. Season and cook for 5 minutes and remove from heat.

Add the pork sauce to the rice, stir well, cover again and cook for 5 more minutes.

The Dinner Bowl

Husband said dinner reminded him of the Italian Pork Chops his mother used to make. Little bit ate the most. She luvfed it!

The yellow peppers stole the show. Their tender sweetness accented by an occasional pea complemented the savory almost nutty flavor of the rice.

Unbelievable? Nah. But, the un-risotto was a tasty and easy fix for a cold Monday night. Try it, you’ll like it.

Pinocchio Pie

Husband has been away. He’ll be home for a late super tonight, so the hot pepperoni pie will be ready for his arrival. I think I’ve published the recipe before but here it is:

3/4 c pepperoni, diced
3/4 c muenster cheese, cubed
3/4 c flour
2 eggs
1 c milk

Place ingredients in bowl in the order given. Stir with a slotted spoon until all lumps are out (except cheese and pepperoni). Pour in buttered pie plate and bake at 400 for 30-35 minutes. The last couple of times I made this recipe the children complained that the pepperoni was too spicy. So, I asked my deli man what would make for a savory substitute. He gave me an Italian salami with a hint of fennel, but not so much heat. He told me to remember its name as Pinocchio. So, as I’m apt to do I’ve renamed the dish Pinocchio Pie. Hopefully the children will enjoy it’s name and new and improved milder flavor. And, if anyone lies to me and pretends they like it if they don’t…their nose will grow!

One Hot Tamale!

The best part about this amazing tamale is that I didn’t make it! Actually, that’s not true. I would love to know how to make tamales. But, after a long week, it was very nice to simply steam the tamales, toss a salad and slip into something a bit more comfortable — my glass of red wine, of course. The beauty of this tamale, however, is actually how it landed on my plate in the first place.

After a long haitus without a housekeeper, Maria and I finally found each other. She is eager to help and I am desperate for it. I have many faults and poor housekeeping graces the top of the list.

Muchos Gracias, Maria!


I got tagged for this meme by amamgets over at life its ownself. I’m not really sure what a meme is, except that you are supposed to answer the questions. For those of you who read this, you are supposed to answer the same questions in your own blog. So, here goes….

1.Grab the book nearest to you, turn to page 18, and find line 4: “When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces.” Genesis 15:17

2. Stretch your left arm out as far as you can and see what you touch: The Spring Boden catalog or my pink ipod.

3.What is the last thing you watched on TV? Grey’s Anatomy

4.Without looking, guess what time it is: 4:10 p.m.

5.Now look at the clock. What is the actual time? 4:32 p.m.

6.With the exception of the computer, what can you hear? Little girls giggling (two seconds ago it was fighting) and a make-believe Darth Vader running through the house.

7.When did you last step outside? What were you doing? Ten minutes ago. I was saying good-bye to the tile guys, hello to a friend picking up her daughter and good-bye to Mia. It’s cold outside.

8.Before you started this survey, what did you look at? My email.

9.What are you wearing? My workout clothes from this morning. Black shorts, long white t-shirt and REI fuzzy vest.

10.Did you dream last night? I don’t think so.

11. When did you last laugh? Earlier this afternoon with DD and her friend at Russell’s Bakery. They were enjoying valentine cupcakes and talking to each other, giggling and telling jokes. I actually belly laughed at one of their jokes.

12. What is on the walls of the room you are in? Hmmm. Lots of bookshelves. All bookshelves except for the window. Books, photographs, objets d’art, stuff that needs to find a home…

13. Seen anything weird lately? Can’t think of anything off the top of my head. How boring is that?

14. What do you think of this quiz? Kinda fun. The verdict is still out for me on meme’s. What is MEME an acronym for anyway?

15. What is the last film you saw? At the theatre? This is embarrassing…either the airport flick with Tom Hanks or the one where he is stranded on the island and talks to a soccer ball. Those are the last two movies I’ve seen in a theatre. Oh, I take that back. I saw Madagascar with the kids.

16. If you became a multi-millionaire overnight, what would you buy? We’d probably give most of it to the church, then to the University of Texas, and then we’d make sure our children’s educations were funded. After that I don’t know…maybe weekly massages for life?!?!?!

17. Tell me something about you that I don’t know. I lived in Siberia, sang “Crazy” with a Rastafarian saxophone player in the metro in Paris for money, and took Japanese for a year in college.

18. If you could change one thing about the world, regardless of guilt or politics, what would you do? I wish every child had a home. And, I would adopt as many as I could physically, emotionally and financially take in.

19. Do you like to dance? Not really. If I could look like Ginger and Fred I might think more of it. But, I only look natural hollerin’ “Bullshit!” at the Cotton-Eyed Joe.

20.George Bush: Regardless of what you think of him as President, he actually looks pretty cute in running shorts.

21. Imagine your first child is a girl, what do you call her? Exactly what I named her. If we had a third little girl, I’d want to name her Vivian after my grandmother.

22. Imagine your first child is a boy, what do you call him? Exactly what I named him. If we ever have another, we’d like to name him Boyd for Husband’s family.

23. Would you ever consider living abroad? BTDT. Absolutely! I would love for our family to go somewhere for a year. What an experience of a lifetime…nothing books or lectures can teach you.

24. What do you want God to say to you when you reach the pearly gates? “Well Done My Good and Faithful Servant. Welcome Home.”

25. 4 people who must also do this meme in THEIR journal: anyone who reads this far, consider yourself tagged!

Aloha! Tito’s Vodka

This week’s menu selection was all over the proverbial recipe map at The Schell Café. We roamed from Hawaii to Rome with a stop at El Arroyo in between.

Tuesday night I made Spicy Eggplant with Chicken from the Honolulu Junior League Cookbook Another Taste of Aloha. This was a welcomed diversion from the Provence and Tuscan inspired meals I’ve fallen into the delicious habit of preparing. The Asian flavors of ginger, soy sauce and rice wine vinegar danced across our palates making us think we were eating lettuce cups at P.F. Chang’s. I served the dish with Forbidden Rice. I remember reading about this beautiful rice in one of my foodie mags. The rice appears black, but cooks a deep eggplant purple. The nutty, flavorful rice was tasty as well as pretty on the plate. (I would have documented this gorgeous pairing, but my previous plea for a new camera has gone unanswered).

Spicy Eggplant with Chicken

1 tsp fresh gingerroot, minced
3 T soy sauce
1 T rice wine vinegar
3 cloves garlic
1 T sugar
2 – 3 fresh red chili peppers, minced with seeds
1 tsp cornstarch
¾ lb eggplant, sliced diagonally ½ inch-thick
¾ lb ground chicken or turkey (I used turkey)
2 T evoo
Chopped fresh cilantro for garnish

Mix the ginger, soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, sugar, chili peppers, and cornstarch. Set aside.

Sauté the eggplant in the oil in a large skillet until the slices are slightly browned. Set aside. Sauté the turkey in the same pan until browned. Return the eggplant to the skillet and add the sauce. Cook until thoroughly heated. Garnish with cilantro. Serves 4.

Hump Day at El Arroyo. ‘Nuf said.

I am taking complete liberty to rename tonight’s dinner. To give credit where credit is due, the Philadelphia Jr. League calls this recipe Zesty Linguine in Rosy Tomato Sauce. For me it’s called Saturday Night Linguine in Tito’s Vodka Sauce. Any recipe that calls for ½ cup of vodka would be better on a Saturday night. It took all the will power I could muster not to sip a chilled glass of Tito’s while I made this sauce. But, the weekend is still 24 hours away. Or maybe I’m coming down with something?

The sauce filled the house with an intoxicating smell of garlic, onions, plum tomatoes and, well, vodka. Smelltheroses came to pick up her son at just the right time and got a spoonful of the sauce. My apologies to her though as she tasted it before the final touch of seasoning and 3 tablespoons of Parmesan Reggiano blessed the sauce. The cheese cut the spice of the crushed red pepper perfectly.

The girls fell asleep before we sat down for dinner, but DS actually liked the linguine. Alert the media. I think he enjoyed twirling the noodles on his spoon and slurping them with great gusto more than he appreciated the taste, but regardless of the reason, he ate. And Husband requested that I make the sauce again soon. I think I will. Saturday night. And I may get a little sauced off the sauce and enjoy my usual vodka on the rocks with three olives.

Saturday Night Linguine with Tito’s Vodka Sauce

2 T evoo
3 T butter
1 small onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 (28-oz) can Italian plum tomatoes
1 T chopped fresh basil
1/8 tsp dried red pepper flakes
½ c vodka *
½ c cream
3 T grated Parmesan Reggiano
12 ounces fresh linguine (I used whole wheat)
Freshly ground black pepper
Chopped parsley for garnish

Combine the olive oil and butter and sauté the onion over low heat for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté another minute or two. Add the tomatoes, basil, red pepper and vodka. Simmer about 15 minutes until the sauce is reduced. Add the cream and simmer until thickened. Add the Parmesan Reggiano and blend well. Cook pasta according to package. Drain and add cooked pasta to sauce. Toss well and garnish with black pepper and parsley. Serves 4.

* For testing purposes only, I used Tito’s Handmade Vodka. On Saturday I plan to test the recipe with Grey Goose. I’ll let you know the results.

Pre Valentine Heartbreaker

Absentmindedly, I drew a heart on my son’s snack sack for school last Friday. I must have been thinking about Valentine’s Day and how much I love him. It just happened. Below his name, I made a big heart with a silly cupid’s arrow straight through the middle.

A few minutes later, he saw the sack and gave me a look of sheer horror.

“No, no, no, no, no, Mom,” he pleaded. “I can’t have a heart on my sack.”

I immediately saw the error of my ways and tried to remedy the situation.

“I’m sorry sweetheart (poor choice of timing for the endearing name), I just thought with Valentine’s Day coming up….” The roll of his eyes silenced my justification.

“Its way too embarrassing, Mom. Get me another sack.”

Ouch. My little boy is a few weeks shy of six. And, it’s not cool for Momma to draw little pictures on his lunch sack anymore. What’s next?!??!

I’ll share with you my attempt to save the sack and send him to school with an appropriately cool snack.

Yes. That is a snowman with an arrow piercing his head.

“Thanks, Mom. Cool.”

My heart feels like that snowman’s head.