Orzo & Wild Rice Salad

What an eventful week!  The 4th always brings lots of fun, memories, and food!  After the burgers & desserts that accompanied the fireworks I had to make something light, chilled, and refreshing for this HOT summer we’re having in Florida.  This little chilled salad is perfect!

I was inspired, once again, by J. Alexander’s and their orzo & wild rice salad.  That side is one of my husband’s favorites, so I decided to make my own version.  Cherries are in season and so delicious, so I wanted to make those the star of this dish.  This is the type of dish where measurements don’t really matter, as long as you’re happy with the look of the salad and ratio of ingredients.  But for all those OCD folks, I listed the measurements I used.

Chilled Orzo & Wild Rice Salad

Serves 10

2C orzo pasta

1C wild rice

1/2C red winter wheat berries

2 handfuls of fresh cherries

1 ear of corn

½ red bell pepper, diced

½ green bell pepper, diced

1 handful of raw almonds

5-10 basil leaves

1/3C olive oil

2T balsamic vinegar

1-2T lemon juice

1/2t pepper

1/4t salt

1T cherry juice, optional

Cook the orzo, wild rice, and wheat berries according to the package directions on the stovetop.  Meanwhile, roast your corn in the oven at 350 for 20-30 minutes.  Leave the husk on (it holds in juicy moisture) but rinse it off before placing in oven.  Also, this is a good time to stem, pit, and slice the cherries.  I used my handy dandy cherry pitter from Williams-Sonoma.  It shoots through the cherry taking only the pit and occasionally a small circle from the bottom of the cherry.  Otherwise the cherry is perfectly in tact.  I shot the pits directly into a deep garbage can…and still managed to get cherry juice on the side of my white fridge.  Clorox wipes to the rescue!

Since cherries are notorious for staining, and I didn’t want my pasta pink, I sliced them each in half and let them sit on paper towels for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, I roughly chopped the almonds.  If you want to save some time, or really want everything to be symmetrical, you could pre-buy slivered almonds.  But, I like the rough and tumble, all natural, hand-made, rustic feeling of this dish, so I roughly chopped away.

Then, I julienned the basil.

And made the dressing.  I first combined the salt, pepper, half the basil, & vinegar

with the lemon juice.  This would be the time to add a Tablespoon or two of cherry juice if you’d like, but if not, add extra lemon juice.

Blend together well.

Once blended together, slowly, and I mean slowly incorporate the oil a little bit at a time, and set aside.  At this point, the corn should be about ready and whenever the orzo, wild rice, and wheat berries are ready, they should be cooling at first on the stove top, then in the fridge.  Don’t forget to rinse the starch from the orzo.  Though it looks like rice, you’re still dealing with pasta!  Cut the corn off the cob and assemble your ingredients together.  You’re almost ready!

I first started with the orzo, wild rice, and wheat berries to make sure I had a good ratio of each and that it looked pleasing.  (I didn’t end up using all my wild rice.)

Then added the veggies (I used them all!)

then lastly the nuts, fruit, remaining basil, and dressing.  Stir well and chill for at least an hour to let the flavors develop.  Enjoy!

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Sweet & Salty Popcorn

Here’s another fun recipe that could be adapted to any holiday based on the food coloring chosen.  Since 4th of July is rapidly approaching, I attempted red, white, and blue popcorn.  The red & white worked, but the blue was a fail.  I’ll have to experiment with blueberries or something in order to get a good, healthy, natural blue food dye into my repertoire.  Though the blue didn’t work out, it was still delicious!!!

If there is a food that is near and dear to my heart, it’s popcorn.  My childhood is full of memories of my popcorn-freak-father having popcorn weekly and in as many different varieties as you could imagine.  One of my favorite “dates” with him was when we would go to the popcorn store to buy specialty popcorn.  He would always get something cheesy or spicy and I, a cool kid of course, would get the multi-colored popcorn.  Cuz that’s basically what kids do.  This is a fun, healthier version to make at home!

Sweet & Salty Popcorn

makes 6 quarts

1C popcorn kernels

1/4C high heat oil, I used Safflower

salt to taste, for salty popcorn

spray oil or butter, for salty popcorn

1T butter per colored, sweet popcorn

1C sugar per colored, sweet popcorn

2-3T water per colored, sweet popcorn

food coloring of choice, I used beet juice for red color (ignore the failed blue food coloring pictured)

Burnt popcorn is one of the most awful culinary tragedies.  It’s shameful, disappointing, and stinks up the house.  So don’t do that.  Make homemade popcorn with the most preparedness possible.

Heat the oil on medium-high heat and toss in 2-3 kernels.  Prepare the rest of the kernels.  (You may want to make this in 2 batches if your pot is small.)

Once the first 2-3 kernels pop, dump in the rest of your kernels.

You’ll want to get a splatter screen quickly, otherwise popcorn and oil will be filling your kitchen rather quickly!

Shake the pot occasionally so the popcorn doesn’t stick to the bottom and burn.  Then divide popcorn into respective number of colors desired. I divided my popcorn 3 ways for 3 colors, but since the blue didn’t work out, I ended up having 2/3 salty white popcorn and 1/3 sweet red popcorn – which actually was a nice ratio.

With the white, salty popcorn spray oil or butter onto it lightly and sprinkle salt to taste.  Toss well (or as I did, attach a lid and shake well.)  Then prepare the colored sweet coating for the remaining popcorn.  On medium-high heat combine butter and sugar

and water and food coloring.  Since my food coloring was natural and very liquidy I used 1.5T beet juice and 2T water.  (You couldn’t even taste beets!)

Bring to a slow boil.

It is ready when it is the consistency of a thick syrup.

Remove from heat for a moment to cool, then dump over reserved plain popcorn.  Mix well to coat and set aside to cool.  (I cooled mine in the fridge so the plastic bowl the popcorn was in wouldn’t melt.  The syrup is super hot!)  Once all colors are mixed, cooled, and dried, combine with salty, plain popcorn and serve!

Old Fashioned Red, White, and Blue Mini Trifles

Independence Day is one of my favorite holidays!  I’m proud to be an American and slightly embarrassed to admit that I cry at nearly any patriotic song.  I love the lyrics & music to patriotic songs, I’m grateful for the men & women who put their lives on the line for our freedom, I really enjoy summer grilling, and having game night and fireworks with friends and family each year is priceless to me.  So, in anticipation for this great day, I’ve got a light, healthy dessert for you.  (Because we all know the meal preceding Independence Day dessert is anything but light!)

I’ve been wanting to make a trifle for a long time – mostly because it looks so pretty in the big clear bowl!  But alas, I still don’t have a trifle bowl, so I thought, why not make individual trifles?!  So you could use this recipe as is into individual dishes as I did or double it and make one big trifle.  Either way, don’t forget to thank a veteran and say a prayer for our men and women on the field.

Traditionally, a trifle is layers of sponge cake with jam and custard or cream.  Though Angel food cake is technically not a sponge cake, it serves the same purpose without the fat, so I approve of this substitution!  I went with my over-achiever nature and made everything from scratch – including the food dye!  However, if you want to buy the cake, jam, and food coloring pre-made, these little sweets can but put together in about 10 minutes!  I love light, fast, and healthy – but making everything from scratch was incredibly satisfying.

Old Fashioned Red, White, and Blue Mini Trifles

Makes 4 mini trifles or if using small jars or large shot glasses it will serve about 6

½ a White Angel food cakemine turned out to be9 inches round
, 1 inch high

1/2C + 1T cake flour

1/8t salt

3/4C + 1T white sugar

6 egg whites

3/4t cream of tartar

1/2t vanilla extract

2C Red strawberry jam


3 pounds strawberries

3.5C white sugar

1/4C lemon juice

Blue whipped cream

1.5C whipping cream

1/2C sugar, mine was infused with vanilla bean

Few drops of blue food dye
 or ¼C natural food coloring

1 head red cabbage, if making food coloring from scratch

1T cornstarch, if making food coloring from scratch

I made my Angel Food cake by completely following the recipe and directions from Jessie.  Well except the part about not having the correct pan…and cutting the recipe in half….and since I didn’t have the right pan, when I flipped the cake upside down it dumped on the counter about 2 minutes later.  So I mostly followed the instructions.  I figured since I’m cutting the cake to fit into small jars anyway, those details didn’t matter.  Her Angel food cake recipe (with step by step photos) is here.  It turned out pretty good if I do say so.  If I was making this just as a cake I’d probably cut the sugar a bit since it was so sweet it tasted like marshmallows!  But for this recipe, I used the sweetness to my advantage.

I started by making the blue food coloring.  I found a simple recipe online for boiling red cabbage then adding cornstarch to the water.  Though it did not give clear measurements, so it was a guessing game.  This blue did not turn out as bright as expected, and the jam was a darker red then I thought it would be so with that and the off white color of the white Angel food cake, I thought, this looks like an old school recipe my grandmother would make.  (So I tacked “Old Fashioned” on the beginning of the recipe title & viola!)

I boiled 1/3 of the red cabbage head in about 1.5 quarts of water for about 5 minutes – but my camera had a hard time focusing with all the steam!

While it was boiling, I cut the tops off and hulled 3 pounds of strawberries.  It was hard not to eat all of them because they were so ripe, sweet, and delicious!  When the cabbage was done boiling the water was left a pretty purple color.  So I added about 1T of cornstarch…

and it turned into a pretty blue jean color.

Though this didn’t make my cream as blue as the coloring itself, this recipe would be really great for a liquid recipe.

This is a good time to mention that my summer venture is to teach myself how to make jams and can them.  So I thought I’d try my hand at a homemade jam for this recipe.  I was inspired by my favorite jelly at Wholefoods Market: Tiptree Preserves.

Literally, the only ingredients on the label are: strawberries and sugar.  This is what food should be, people!  Not a laundry list of things developed in a laboratory.  In my search across the internet I found that adding lemon juice as a preserving acid is a wise step, so I made a simple jam of strawberries, sugar, and lemon juice.  Once the berries were washed, trimmed, and hulled, I dumped them into a tall pot on medium heat…

and mashed them with a potato masher.  I was surprised at how easily they juiced right up!  The amount of mashing depends on how large you like fruit chunks in your jelly.  I was going for more of a jam consistency so I mushed them pretty good.

Once all the liquid has come up,

add the sugar

and lemon juice.  I used a sieve so I didn’t need to worry about seeds or lemon pieces.

Bring the mixture to a low boil.

And once it gets to this point, grab that wooden spoon and stir straight for about 20-25 minutes.  I know that sounds laborious, but 1) it is worth it!!! And 2) you don’t want to let the mixture burn on the bottom of the pot.  Also, beware.  I’m not sure if “jumping jelly” is a phrase, but it should be.  The molten hot liquid will occasionally jump out of the pot and onto your poor arm.  The end result is this beautifulness.

Last step is making the cream.  I started with my food coloring in the bowl and slowly added the cream while beating with a hand mixer.  (I was not at home where my kitchen aid sat feeling useless.)

While the cream was whipping, I slowly added in the sugar.  My sugar was infused with real vanilla beans – which not only makes the scent glorious, but you’ll also notice the little black flecks in the cream later.  Here’s how to make vanilla scented sugar.  Yumm!

And whip until all the cream is incorporated and fluffy.  Be careful not to over whip – you don’t want to make butter.  As you can see, it’s not terribly blue, however, it had a slight, slight blue hue (the camera can’t even catch it, it’s so slight!)  If you really want it to pop, you could always use blue food coloring or experiment with blueberry juice or skins to keep it natural.

All that is left is to assemble everything!

I wanted red, white, and blue so I started with the red jam on bottom.

Then the white food cake.  If you want your layers to be perfect, try to make sure the cake touches the glass all the way around so the cream doesn’t run through it.  However, it doesn’t have to look perfect.  The messy cream falling everywhere is part of the appeal!

Add the cream, then repeat give the trifles a total of 6 layers of deliciousness.  They stand alone in deliciousness, but adding fruit garnish on top never hurt anything.  Enjoy!

Peach Pancakes – Protein Style

We love breakfast at our house!  Even breakfast for dinner!  (Though some tired hours this means a bowl of cereal, but anyways…)  We also are working on our fitness so I’ve been trying to figure out how to sneak protein into everything!  I’ve made protein pancakes before – even vegan versions, but I decided to whip these up since eggs and Greek yogurt are notorious for their high protein.  They turned out pretty delicious!!!  And at about 100 calories, 13 carbs, and 12g protein each, you can indulge in several and not feel guilty!

I wanted to research, or as my husband calls it Google, what fruit naturally had high protein it.  Second to only the avocado was the peach!  I love peaches!  The house I grew up in had a peach tree in the backyard.  Many years were spent eating fresh, juicy peaches and canning them for the pantry and for friends.  Other years were spent trying to build squirrel deterrents and peach protectants because the little creatures would take one bite of the barely ripe peaches and hurl them to the ground.  But the squirrels never figured out if one peach wasn’t ripe then the rest weren’t either because there would always be a minimum of 20 peaches on the ground each with a bite missing.  At about 3g of protein per peach, I knew these would be the perfect addition to my protein pancakes.

Peach Protein Pancakes

makes 10 cakes

½C oats

½C milk of your choice, I used almond milk

3 scoops vanilla protein powder

1C Greek yogurt, I like Fage Total 0% fat version

3 egg whites

3 peaches or nectarines

3T maple syrup

½t vanilla

1 pinch sea salt

First I pulsed the oats in a small food processor to make an oat flour. I wanted the nutrition of the oats but not oat texture.  These could also be made low carb if you eliminate the oatmeal and milk, but you make have to play with the portions of egg whites to get the right consistency.

Then I added the oats, protein powder, salt, and yogurt to a mixing bowl.

Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well.  It should be a medium consistency, not too soupy.

Cut the peaches into thin slices.

Once your pan or skillet is preheated, you’re ready to prepare the cakes.

Nestle the peach slices into each cake, pushing them slightly into the batter so some covers the side of each slice.  If the slices are just placed on top, they’ll fall off on the flip side.

When the edges are thinned and cooked, the pancake is ready to flip – about 3 minutes on my 375 degree skillet.  They’ll take about 3 more minutes on the other side, or until it is equally golden on the other side.  Though it is tempting to keep checking them, with every lift, the peaches will loosen, so it is best to leave them a few minutes, then they will be finished.

They’re ready to eat alone, or with butter and syrup if you’re feeling brave!  I actually ate some cold on the way to a 5K yesterday.  The moisture from the fruit was enough that they didn’t even need syrup!

Black Bean Hummus

Hummus is a staple in our household.  (If you didn’t already figure that out from my Garlic Hummus recipe.)  We eat it with pita chips & vegetables, and also use it as a spread on sandwiches or tortilla wraps.  Hummus is so versatile you can make it fit with whatever flavor food you’re preparing.  I make black bean hummus a lot because I always have black beans in the pantry and we eat Spanish food so much, that this is perfect!  I love this recipe because it can be made in less than 10 minutes.  Plus, with all the Puerto Ricans we know who are a little shy of chick peas, this is a great gateway hummus.

I call this my Latin Hummus!  For the first six months of marriage, my husband didn’t know what to cook in the kitchen because I didn’t have Adobo – a Latin staple.  I learned to change it, and learned why all the Puerto Rican and Dominican cooks that I know love it!  So for all you Latin food lovers and hummus lovers alike, here you have it:

Black Bean Hummus

makes about 1 cup

1 C cooked black beans (if using canned, drain and rinse well)

1/8 C tahini

3T water

1T lemon juice, or about half a lemon

2 cloves garlic

1/4t salt

1/4t Adobo

1 small handful of either parsley or cilantro

Put all ingredients in a food processor.  I started with the beans, parsley, and garlic.

Then added the lemon juice, water, seasonings, and tahini.

Process until smooth and at a consistency you like.  To get it more thin you can add more water, lemon juice, or a small amount of olive oil.

Viola! Delicious, healthy snack.  I like to refrigerate mine before serving.  Enjoy!

Passion Tea Lemonade

Summer is approaching.  And as hot and humid as Florida days have been lately, summer has arrived.  Lemonade is a trademark drink, and Starbucks has made it’s own twist on an Arnold Palmer by combining lemonade and Passion tea – an herbal tea by Tazo.  Passion tea is officially described as “a magical blend of hibiscus, lemongrass, rose hips, mango & passion fruit flavors.”  It is so fruity and delicious, it pairs nicely with lemonade.  You can order it at Starbucks, or make your own for fewer bucks.

This is a great drink to make when company calls unexpectedly, for a brunch, or just an afternoon treat.

Passion Tea Lemonade

makes 2 quarts

2-3 bags of Tazo Passion tea

10 lemons

Simple syrup (or sugar) to taste

First of all, I highly recommend keeping simple syrup on hand if you are a flavored coffee drinker.  This particular batch I made included the insides of scraped vanilla beans for a vanilla simple syrup.  Simple syrup – or “Classic” syrup as Starbucks calls it – is simply sugar water, but the scientific way in which the sugar breaks down makes the same amount of sugar sweeter when in simple syrup form.  I use a 1 to 1 ratio of sugar and water, bring to a boil on the stove, then drop to low heat and stir until dissolved.  The syrup should be a consistency of just thicker than water.

To start the passion tea lemonade, I brought 1.5 quarts of water to a boil, turned down the temperature, then added 3 tea bags and let sit for 3 minutes.

Meanwhile, I started juicing the lemons.  Hubby & I recently become acquainted with Mr. Jack LaLanne.  Love him!

Though I used a juicer, you could hand squeeze or use a citrus juicer to extract the juice of the lemons.  My 10 lemons yielded about 1.5 cups of fresh lemon juice.  Notice the white foam on top of the 1 cup portion – that’s where a ton of nutrition is!  (I am a nerd & learn things from food documentaries.)

Once the tea and lemon juice are ready, it is as simple as letting the tea cool slightly, and mixing it with the lemon juice and simple syrup.  I ended up using 1/2 cup of simple syrup for my liking.

Garnish with some ice (I had frozen cubes of lemon juice on hand) and freshly cut lemon, and you’re set to serve!

If you are not serving it right away, do not put lemon garnish in the tea mixture as the lemons will stain red.  Simply add fresh lemons when ready to serve.

Guacamole

Chips are a staple in our house.  The first time I crumbled them up and sprinkled them over my husband’s breakfast omelet, he nearly fainted in joy.  To accompany chips, you need something good.  Guacamole fits the bill.

I did not like avocados or guacamole for the longest time.  Perhaps I just had bad experiences with both.  The first time I tried guacamole and loved it was in Manhattan at Mama Mexico.  They made it fresh right in front of you, and you got to pick the ingredients that went in.  I had an aha moment: Guacamole is only great fresh!  The canned, tubbed, bagged stuff you can buy at the store does not hold a candle to homemade guac.  This converted me to be an avocado lover as well.  I’m grateful that food buds evolve as adults!

Homemade Guacamole

Makes 4 cups

4-5 ripe avocados

2-3 tomatoes

½ C scallions I’ve also used Spanish onion & red onion before

3-5 cloves of garlic

1 jalapeno

1 lime

Salt to taste

Because avocados brown quickly after air exposure, I saved those for the end and diced all my ingredients.  A note on the tomatoes: remove the seeds and liquid parts- they will water down and discolor the guacamole.  Thankfully, guacamole doesn’t require precise measurements, so if you like yours more spicy or garlicky or whatever, you can adjust as necessary.

Roll the lime under your palm before cutting it open to release the juices.

Then cut your avocados open.  Ripe avocados should be soft to the touch, but not mushy.  It’s ok if the skin is black, so long as there isn’t mold growing out of the peel.  I cut them in half first,

then slice squares without puncturing the peel behind it.

Then scooped the flesh into the bowl.  This can be done with a spoon or fingers.  To get the pit out, you can scoop it out with your fingers as well, or smack a knife into it and wiggle it out of the avocado flesh.

Toss avocado into a bowl.  You can mash with a large spoon or potato masher, but I usually use a fork so I can get the guacamole to the exact consistency I like.  If you’re in a hurry, or don’t mind really smooth guacamole, you could always toss the ingredients into a food processor.

Add the remaining ingredients and mash until it is a consistency you like.  I usually keep a pit or two in the guacamole mix – it keeps the guacamole from browning!  (I learned this at a party, thanks Kim!)

Refrigerate (either with the pit in and/or in an air tight container with parchment paper pressed down onto the guacamole to remove all air) for 30 minutes and serve!  This guacamole is great for dipping, topping quesadillas, or stuffing in burritos!  You can always store extra guacamole the same way you refrigerated it, though in our house there are rarely leftovers.

Baked Falafel

Oh, falafel. I could sing its praises for a long time. It is tasty, vegetarian and often times vegan, portable, and really easy to make! I fell in love with falafel when I lived in Israel, since it is the primary fast food in the Middle East – move over, McDonald’s. Falafel is traditionally deep fried and accompanied by hummus and tahina sauce. In Israel, it is served in a pita pocket, making it an easily transportable, quick lunch.

If you plan on frying the falafel (which is easily done on the stovetop with olive oil) it is better to use dry chickpeas and soak them for 2 hours, up to overnight. Canned chickpeas are too soft and tend to fall apart during the frying process. Since this recipe is baking the falafel, either canned or soaked chickpeas may be used.

I have tried several different falafel recipes, but I found one from a fellow foodie who spent some time in Israel, and I thought her recipe was so close to authentic! I made a few changes, and came up with this healthy version of the tasty falafel.

Baked Falafel

adapted from theshiksa.com

makes 12 falafel discs, serves 3-4

1C chickpeas, rinsed

1 small onion

1/2C spinach leaves

1/2C parsley leaves

3 garlic cloves

1T flour (I used spelt to keep these gluten free)

1t salt

1t cumin

1/2t ground coriander

1 pinch of cayenne

1 pinch of ground cardamom

Freshly ground pepper to taste

1/2t baking powder (to help them rise with the lack of gluten)

For falafel sandwiches:

Pitas

Hummus

Tahina Sauce

Chopped tomato

Spinach or lettuce

Chopped cucumber

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Assemble all falafel ingredients in a food processor.  Parsley:

Spinach & spices:

Baking Soda:

Roughly chopped onion:

Flour:

And Chickpeas:

Pulse until a course meal is formed. I personally don’t like my falafel to be the texture of baby food.

I used a cookie dough scooper -which to you might be a melon baller- to form the falafels on a baking sheet.

Bake for 15 minutes, then flip and bake 15 minutes on the other side. Due to the baking nature, the falafels will only be crispy on the sides that touch the pan. Though you could probably bake them and maintain a round shape, I chose to smash them and make them discs for ease.

Serve them hot with either hummus or tahina or both, or in a pita as a sandwich.  I slathered my pita with hummus (see my recipe link above), stuffed it with falafel, spinach, tomato, and tahina sauce (recipe also above.)  Or they’re delicious on their own, served with a traditional Israeli Salad.  Yum!!

Here’s a picture that I took in Israel of a postcard.  The recipe is pretty close!

Israeli Tahina

Here’s a basic recipe composed of what I could remember from my Israeli cookbook that got lost in one of my house moves.  This thin, white sauce is a tart/tangy condiment that is designed to be paired with falafel.  Though many people use it to accompany hummus and other dishes, I love to pair this with falafel.  Bonus, it is vegan and gluten free, which in my book means you can have as much of it as you want!

Most recipes you’ll find entitle this “Tahini Sauce” to differentiate it from “tahini paste” (ground sesame seeds,) but I distinctly remember it being referred to in Israel as “Tahina” (pronounced tuh-(c)hee-na with a little back of the throat action on the hee part.)

Tahina Sauce

makes 1 Cup

1/2C Tahini paste

2/3C Water

Juice of 1 lemon

2-3 Garlic cloves

Handful of parsley

Salt to taste

1/2t Dill, optional

Combine all ingredients in a food processor or blender and process until smooth.

At this point, taste and adjust as necessary. Mine needed more salt to bring out the flavor, and more water to reach the desired consistency. Tahina sauce should be thicker than water, but thinner than tahini paste.

Enjoy with some yummy falafel!

Johnny Marzetti

Sometimes you just need some comfort food. It was my birthday a few weeks ago and I was thinking a lot about my family. Growing up, this recipe was a favorite of mine, served up by my Polish grandmother. She is one of my heroes. She survived both the Great Depression & World War II as a slave in Germany, her love story with my Grampa is Oscar worthy, she taught herself English by reading magazines, and raised four great children, the oldest of whom was my dad. Whenever I visited she would always pull me up in her lap, tell me how beautiful I was, and give me a dollar or two (which was a lot to her) so I could have my own spending money. So, yes this meal is pretty basic, but when you’ve got all that history in some food, it makes it that much more special.

This is Johnny Marzetti. It began during World War II at a restaurant in Columbus, Ohio, where my grandparents lived after the war. I suppose it was an easy, relatively affordable way to feed people so I easily see how my grandmother picked up on it with six mouths to feed. From what I’ve read online, Johnny Marzetti is traditionally baked and made with red sauce, but I made this one on the stove top like Grandma did. She made both red & white sauce versions, but this time I decided to tackle the white sauce. Though Grandma never used recipes or had anything written down, my uncle told me what he could remember, and I added a few adaptations of my own to make this rendition a bit healthier.  I’ll let you know when I conquer the red sauce.

Johnny Marzetti
Serves 6-8

12oz elbow macaroni
12oz ground soy crumbles or ground beef
1 yellow onion
1 can of cream of mushroom soup
2C milk
1C grated Parmesan, plus more for garnish
Salt & pepper to taste
1T olive oil, if using soy crumbles
Parsley for garnish, optional

So my grandmother’s way was to use Kraft macaroni & she included the cheesy powder in her recipe. Not that you can knock anyone’s grandmother’s cooking (was that even English?!) but I really try to cook with whole foods that are as natural as possible, so cheese powder was out for me. But, I glanced over the Kraft box and besides crazy stuff, it was mostly milk based, so I figured, why not actually add milk to the recipe?

So I set the macaroni to boil

while I chopped the onion.

Since I didn’t have to cook any meat, I mostly browned the onion and heated the soy crumbles. Since soy doesn’t have the grease that meat does, I added the olive oil to help keep everything from sticking to the pan. If you use ground beef, cook it with the onions. Once browned, drain the grease off before adding the other ingredients.

Cook the macaroni only for about 5 minutes, drain and rinse the starch off

then add it to the meat mixture.

Add the cream of mushroom soup and stir well.


Stir in the milk, salt, and pepper, and simmer for 10 minutes.

After simmering, add the Parmesan cheese and stir until it’s melted in.

Serve immediately, garnishing with Parmesan and parsley.

Comfort food at its finest. If you add a sunset, it makes it that much more perfect.