CUCINA CARA MIA.......Random thoughts from "my dear kitchen" about food, travel, Italy, San Diego and life!

Monday, November 15, 2010


Yes, I know its been a while since I have posted, more focused on the Farmers Market and coming up with new food ideas for Cucina Cara Mia - but back to the reason for this post.

My friend Janie, who has a wonderful blog, Panini Girl, has decided to pursue her dream....teaching cooking classes and touring in Italy. Her first tour in Lucca, Tuscany, starts next May and it sounds like an amazing trip. Read on from Janie's blog about this wonderful, fun and unforgettable opportunity:

"We will be staying in a beautiful, large apartment in a recently restored 15th century building located in the heart of the historical center of Lucca. It’s just a short walk to the ancient walls surrounding the centro storico. Our week will focus on food and wine of Lucca and the surrounding area. No trip to Tuscany is complete without visit to Florence, so we will spend a day there exploring, tasting and shopping!

What’s Included:
3 days with cooking classes (with participation)
Day trip to Florence with a tour of the Mercato Centrale (historic food market), lunch and time for shopping
Day trip to the countryside of Lucca to visit a winery, with tasting, visit to a frantoio to sample the famous olive oil of the region, lunch in a trattoria outside of town
Another day trip out of Lucca (still being planned)
All transportation for day trips out of town
Seven nights’ accommodations
All breakfasts
5 lunches and 6 dinners
Wine with meals
Water, coffee, wine and snacks stocked in the apartment
More details to come about other activities in Lucca
What’s Not Included
Airfare, transfers from airport to and from Lucca, travel insurance, phone calls, laundry services, alcoholic beverages other than host ordered."

Contact her at for more info or reservations.

She has always encouraged me in taking the risk to start the business of Cucina Cara Mia, and I want all of my readers (maybe there might be 2 or 3 left-LOL!) to imagine themselves in Italy with Janie!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


Posted by Picasa

Drinking a crisp Pinot Grigio and contemplating what to have for lunch...this photo takes me back three years to that wonderful day in Amalfi...and I would love to visit the Amalfi Coast soon.....very soon!

Friday, July 2, 2010

When life hands you lemons....make limoncello cheesecake!

A friend came over yesterday and said I miss your blog, and I said, I have nothing to write about anymore, which really isn't true. I started this blog to explore my creativity, to connect with like souls, to share some delicious recipes I have tried, and to add some humor on occasion............

I have lost a lot of readers, and I have stopped consistently reading other blogs, not because I don't enjoy them..I do very much.

I guess the starting of the business is like starting the blog over two years ago, I have become consumed with it, trying out new recipes for the farmers market, meeting new people every Sunday, from 10AM to 2PM, figuring out what will sell and what won't. I have learned that from week to week you never know what customers will end up buying. I started with the limoncello cheesecakes, and I realize that is the draw, when I say would you like to sample some limoncello cheesecake, they stop, think for a second and say OF COURSE!! I have added goat cheese, tomato and onion tarts, mini orange ricotta cheesecakes, pesto some weeks, focaccia with tomato bruscetta some other weeks, pasta salad, cous cous salad, and nutella brownies.

I run into my neighbors, friends, friends of friends and have "regular" customers now
and it is Fun! I get to know other vendors, the woman who sells organic honey, the man with the amazing Indian food, the gal who trades nutella crepes for my nutella brownies. My husband comes with me to set up my canopy and then he comes back at the end of the day...and whatever is left over, we enjoy on Sunday nights!

The ultimate fantasy would be for one of the local Italian restaurants to start selling my limoncello or nutella I am putting it out into the universe....and we will see what happens...wish me luck!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

IN OUR OWN BACKYARD! (well sort of)

Every day brings an opportunity to learn something new-yesterday my husband and I visited a vineyard in Ramona... Chinook Vineyards and then lunch at Salerno Winery, also in Ramona. First, We were educated by Elaine and Norm on how they planted two thousand vines of Petite Syrah and Zinfandel grapes only 4 years ago, and all the hard work that goes into was truly eye opening! I really had no idea how much work it takes to make sure your precious plants thrive and produce, despite the gophers, rabbits, wind and fires that may come your way....Much success to them. We had a delightful lunch at Salerno Winery owned by Herman and Rose Salerno...he is originally from Calabria, Italy and she from New were given and then we were treated to a lunch of sausage of peppers, pasta, mixed greens with balsamic dressing AND then Delicious homemade pizzas made by Herman himself in their outdoor brick oven...and of course a few glasses of their award winning wine. There was an Italian singer serenading us, and then Herman burst out in song...he used to be an opera singer! Who needs to go to Italy when only 40 minutes from my home I get to enjoy lovely Italian food, music and drink amazing Petite Syrah...

OK, I need to go to Italy, but this was a great substitute!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Sedona IS a sacred place....

And a beautiful place to spend a few days of our Easter vacation....there is a serenity and spirituality in the air-amazing red rock views everywhere you look...great Italian food...had to mention that...a rugged and very bumpy tour up in the hills in a Hummer, some good wine and cheese, and then a trip to the Grand Canyon, where the temperature dropped to 38 degrees-my capris and jean jacket did not cut it...more photos to follow.

You know those throw away cameras don't take a bad picture!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


Obviously, being Italian, I have enjoyed cooking and eating pasta dishes my whole life, but there is something so comforting about stirring a pot of risotto for 25 minutes, then adding lots of fresh vegetables in season to brighten it up. I found this recipe in the May issue of Cooking Light..

2 cups shelled fava beans
1/2 cup fresh green peas
4 cups chicken stock
2 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 cup chopped shallots
1/2 cup chopped carrot
1 cup uncooked aborio or carnaroli rice
1/8 t. saffron threads, crushed (I didn't have any)
1 cup grated Parmigiano-Rggiano cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 t. salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1. Cook beans in boiling water, 2 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water, drain. Remove tough outer skins from beans, discard. Cook peas in boiling water 2 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water. Drain well.
2. Bring chicken stock to a summer in a small saucepan(do not boil). Keep warm over low heat.
3. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add shallots and carrot to pan. Cook for 4 minutes or until tender., stirring occasionally. Addd rice and saffron, cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in wine, cook 30 seconds or until liquid is absorbed, stirring constantly. Add 1 cup stock, cook 4 minutes or until liquid is nearly absorbed, stirring constantly. Add remaining stock, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring until each portion of stock is absorbed before adding next (about 25 minutes).
4. Stir in fava beans, peas and asparagus with last addition of stock. Remove from heat. Stir in cheese, parsley, salt and pepper.

Believe it or not, I used to be afraid to make risotto! The photo is not from my camera, still working on that little problem!!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


I just finished reading "A Homemade Life", by Molly Wizenberg, the creator of the amazing food blog - Orangette! What a delightful book, and so easy to read...You have all probably read it, especially you food bloggers, so you know what I contains her cherished recipes, stories about her father and her extended family, her love of food, Paris and how she met the love of her life - through her blog!! There are so many interesting recipes to try and the first one I will definitely make is called "The Winning Hearts and Mind" cake, which ended up being her wedding cake...whenever I get that darn camera fixed you might actually see a photo! Oh, the cake is chocolate, so it has to be good.

In other news, my blog is two years old, hard to believe - I just wish that I made more time to post. I am sure you all have times in your lives when other "stuff" is occupying your thoughts, and this for me is one of those times...enough said!

Thursday, April 1, 2010


Spring break is almost here - we are off for an adventure in Arizona...heading to Tuscon to spend Easter with my brother, then Sedona to enjoy the red rocks and then a quick peak over the Grand Canyon..since my camera is broken I won't be getting any great pics to share...hope everyone has a very Happy Easter!

Thursday, March 25, 2010


I am three weeks into my farmers market experience - so far very positive responses, many of my friends have stopped by and graciously purchased the limoncello cheesecakes and/or the nutella brownies-THANKS!! Last week I added a pasta salad with asparagus, spinach, artichoke hearts, cherry tomatoes and sliced almonds in a lemon vinigarette, and this week I am going to try a mixed baby greens salad with pears, walnuts, red onions and gorgonzola cheese..

Variety is the spice of life so this Sunday I am offering samples of an orange cheesecake with a chcocolate biscotti crust..

The Leucadia farmers market is literally a 1/2 mile from my house, and it takes place on the elementary school grounds that both of my daughters attended. There is such a variety of vendors offering crepes, African food, vegetarian food, organic honey, specialty teas, abundant organic produce, jewelry, worm castings and balinese clothing just to name a few.... Who knew back then when I was waiting in the car pool line that I would be selling cheesecakes right next to the playground that they enjoyed during recess!

Its a learning experience and there is much to learn, but its all good and I can't wait to see what is around the corner...

Monday, March 1, 2010


If you visit Janie's blog, Panini Girl, you will find out after much procastinating and hemming and moaning, I decided to start selling some Italian treats at our local Farmers Market...It has been in the works for a while, and as Janie says, there are lots of steps one must take before they can hang a sign that says "Cucina Cara Mia" .....Artful Italian Food.
It was a fun, exciting day, I sold a number of individual limoncello cheesecakes, and the Nutella brownies were a hit too. Granted, I gave out lots more in samples, but according to my husband, those can be written off as an advertising expense! I ran into a few neighbors and had some wonderful friends (like Janie) stop by and give me support. The sun was shining, I was doing what I love, and felt proud that i finally JUST DID IT!

As long as we are persistent
We will continue to grow
We cannot choose the day or time
when we will fully bloom
It happens in its own time

Dennis Waitley

Friday, February 26, 2010


It's been in the works for a while and it is going to start this weekend, and it involves "cookin"/bakin"....

The photo is a hint, stay tuned..anyone care to guess what it is?

Thursday, February 18, 2010


This is not your average boring turkey's moist, flavorful,full of veggies, less fat and less guilt!

1-1/3 pound ground turkey meat
6 crimini mushrooms (stems removed and finely chopped)
1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic
1 T. Worcestershire sauce
3 T. tomato paste
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Handful flat-leafed parsley, chopped
4 large portobello mushrooms, stems removed
Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
Salt and Pepper
Red pepper flakes
2 cups arugula leaves (optional)
1/2 pound mozzarella (sliced thin)
Sliced red onions and tomatoes

Combine meat with salt, pepper, chopped criminis, bell pepper, onion, garlic, tomato paste, Worcestershire, crushed red pepper flakes. cheese and parsley. Form meat into 4 large patties and drizzle with olive oil. Grill 5 to 6 minutes on each side in hot skillet.

Heat oven to 450 degrees -
Place portobello caps on baking sheet, gill side up and drizzle with olive oil Roast caps for 12 minutes. Remove from oven and season with salt and pepper.

Top each cap with 1/2 cup arugula and burger. Cap burgers with sliced mozzarella, and melt in still warm oven. Finish with sliced onions and tomatoes.

No need for Catsup and mustard on these babies...

Courtesy of Rachael Ray!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


As much as I love Italian food, I am really trying to eat healthier in 2010...Can't you tell by the pizzas, pot pies and cakes I have been making lately? Never mind the 1/4 pan of Nutella Brownies I ate on Sunday!

After seeing the movie "FOOD INC" which really enlightens us on how food is REALLY produced in this country, my thoughts have turned to eating chicken that gets to run around a farm, instead of being locked in the dark with thousands of other chickens with nowhere to go, and eating whole grains with more vegetables and LESS cheese!

Quinoa (Keen-Wah) is a gluten free seed that is derived from the goosefoot plant. It originates in the high Andes of South America, and has been a staple of the people for thousands of years. It is considered a complete protein and is easy to cook.

I found this recipe on Martha Stewart's Whole Living website, and decided this was a healthy alternative to baked ziti!

Sorry, my copy and paste is not working, and I am too tired to type the recipe!

Has anyone ever tried a quinoa recipe before?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


Back in college my husband won two pizza eating championships at San Diego State. To say the least, he knows pizza and of course, whenever I make one, he is right there gobbling it up. We have talked about building an outdoor fireplace/pizza oven in our backyard....Don't have the money for it, but always watching HGTV for inspiration.
Last night I used a new dough recipe and added the following toppings:
1/2 cup tomato sauce
6 oz. crimini mushrooms, sliced
small jar artichoke hearts, chopped
1 small orange bell pepper, chopped
3-4 T. pesto
4 slices of mozzarella
2-3 oz. goat cheese
bunch of baby asparagus, steamed first
grated parmesan cheese

I don't know if it was the rainbow of veggies, the combination of the cheese, but he said that is the best pizza you have ever was good, but if we ate like that every night we are going to be the next contestants on The Biggest Loser!

Friday, January 22, 2010


I was just reviewing my entire blog looking for inspiration, looking for something....and I thought about all of the things, places, and experiences that speak to me...

If you are interested, here are a few...

*** Ceramic bowls, in any shape, size or color

*** Glossy design magazines

*** Gleaming wood floors

**** Ocean photos

**** Soft, old quilts

*** A field of lavender

*** Italy, and all that it encompasses

*** An antique store, explored for the first time

*** Traveling

*** Olive oil soap (italian of course)

*** A favorite book that someone has passed on to you

*** Anthropologie-I tingle when I walk in!

*** Nutella, limoncello, gelato...

Making a great recipe for the first time ....pictured above is last night's Chicken Pot Pie, courtesy of Janie at Panini was outstanding!

So there are just a few of my favorite things! What are YOURS??

Sunday, January 17, 2010


We are blessed in San Diego with abundant citrus fruit - even during the winter. My daughter Courtney's friend has a small grove of fruit trees on her property and brought a large bag of oranges, grapefruits and lemons over last week....great, but how many Greyhound's can you possibly drink before you don't want to see another grapefruit! Just kiddin...

Ina Garten has a recipe for a lemon yogurt cake, which she claims is much lighter than her usual is a version with oranges.

1-1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. kosher salt
1 cup plain whole milk yogurt (I used fat free)
1-1/3 c. sugar, divided
3 extra large eggs
2 t. grated lemon zest (I used orange)
1/2 t. vanilla extract
1/2 c. vegetable oil
1/3 cup fresh squeezed orange juice

For the glaze:

1 cup confectioner's sugar
2 T. freshly squeezed orange juice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, grease an standard loaf pan. Line bottom with parchment paper. Grease and flour the pan.

Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt into one bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the yogurt, 1 cup sugar, the eggs, orange zest and vanilla. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. With a rubber spatula, fold the vegetable oil into the batter, making sure it's all incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and bake for about 50 minutes, or until a cake tester placed in center comes out clean.

Meanwhile, cook the 1/3 cup orange juice and remaining 1/2 cup sugar in a small pan until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear. Set aside.

When the cake is done, allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Carefully place on a baking rack over a sheet pan. While the cake is still warm, pour the mixture over the cake and allow to soak in. Cool.

We are heading to my sister's house in LA today..... I will be stopping at a local grocery store for a 1/2 gallon of vanilla ice cream to serve with it....did I say this was a healthy dessert???

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


I love going to movies on rainy days...although there haven't been too many in San Diego lately. The movie "Nine" is wonderful and it sucks you right into the fantasy of the Italian movie director Guido, played most convincingly by Daniel Day Lewis...with over the top musical stage numbers, beautiful actresses, exquisite costumes and lovely scenery from Italy - it took me away from my problems, if only for a few hours....really enjoyed Penelope Cruz as his mistress, and Marion Cotillard as his wife.
And who else but the legend, Sophia Loren should play Guido's Mama!