Saturday, March 31, 2018

Wishing you a Happy Easter!!

The Promise of Easter.... 

May joy fill your day
Hope light your path
And the many
blessings of Easter
warm your heart....

Wishing you a Happy Easter!!

Thank you for visiting!

Friday, March 23, 2018

Anna Sultana’s Creamy Baked Ziti / Full Blue Moon for Easter

The weather has been a bit strange, what with the snow storms to the east of us and the tornadoes to the south of us.
I’m praying everyone stays safe and well while Mother Nature makes up her mind.
The thing is, crazy weather notwithstanding, we’ll be celebrating Easter next weekend, and that means making a holiday feast.

By now you know Ma’s favourite holiday trick: ALWAYS serve a nice hefty, filling pasta dish as a first course. That way there’ll be a large amount of the main course's roast left over for a meal or two during the following week.

Ma had her priorities: Nobody should away from the table feeling hungry, but the wallet should get a much deserved break.
Ma didn't work at Lily Tulip because she thought it was a fun thing to do.

And, if you're serving something with bones, don’t forget to make a pot of soup.
The crazy weather isn’t through with us just yet.

Happy Easter!

Looking for other pasta recipes to start your holiday dinner? Here are a few old favourites:

Anna Sultana's Timpana - Pasta Casserole, Maltese Style

Anna Sultana's Imqarrun il-forn - Baked Macaroni, Maltese Style

Anna Sultana’s Rigatoni Pizzaiola (Rigatoni, Pizzamaker's Style)

Anna Sultana's Timbale - Pasta Casserole, Maltese Style

Anna Sultana's Timballo with Pastry - Pasta Casserole, Maltese Style

And let's not forget Carmela's recipes...

Carmela Soprano's Ziti al Forno / Baked Ziti with Tiny Meatballs

Carmela Soprano's Pasta all' Amatriciana (Bucatini Amatrice - Style)


This recipe also works with penne, mostaccioli or rigatoni.

The sauce amount is up to you. 
Some prefer a dryer baked dish, while others like something verging on a soup.

If you don’t have, or don’t like, sour cream or cream cheese you can leave them out and use 1 to 2 Cups of heavy cream or ricotta.

This casserole can be prepared ahead of time. 
Refrigerate up to 8 hours. When ready to serve, bake, uncovered, in 375º F oven for 30 to 35 minutes, or until it is heated through.

If you want to make a non meat-free meal of this dish you can add 1 pound cooked ground chicken, turkey or beef (or a beef / pork mixture), or sausage meat - or a mixture of any of the above - to the sauce before combining it with the pasta.
Have leftover cooked meatballs? They can be placed on top of the pasta before baking.
Serve with a salad and crusty Italian or sourdough bread for a full meal.

Want veggies in the casserole? 
Mushrooms, chopped spinach, onions or zucchini, or eggplant slices could be added.

The leftover Marinara Sauce can be refrigerated, covered, for another meal.

                        Creamy Baked Ziti 

8 servings

Marinara Sauce 

in a heavy-bottomed pot combine
2  28 ounce cans crushed tomatoes
1  6 ounce can tomato paste
6 bay leaves
6 whole garlic cloves, peeled 
1 Tablespoon dried oregano
1/4 Cup extra virgin olive oil
pinch of salt (to taste)
1 Cup cold water

Over medium heat bring the sauce to a boil. 
Reduce heat, and simmer for at least 2 hours.
Stir occasionally, and add water, as necessary.
Remove bay leaves and garlic before serving.


Grease a 9 x 13 inch baking pan

In a large pot bring to boil
4 quarts water
4 Cups ziti
Cook, stirring frequently, until the pasta is al dente.
Drain. Set aside the pasta and use the same large pot to continue.

Place in large pot
4 to 5 Cups Marinara Sauce
4 ounces cream cheese, cubed 
Cook on medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring frequently until the cream cheese has melted and the mixture is blended. 
Return pasta to the pot and mix well. 

Heat oven to 375º F

Place half of the pasta mixture in the prepared pan.
Spread over the top of the pasta layer
1/2 to 3/4 Cup sour cream
Sprinkle over the sour cream
1 Cup shredded mozzarella cheese 
spread the remaining pasta mixture over the cheese.
Top with
1 Cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/3 Cup grated Parmesan cheese 
Bake 20 minutes or until heated through. 

About the sky, thanks to the folks at The Farmers' Almanac…

March 28 - The planets Venus and Uranus are in close conjunction, the second-closest of all of 2018 (the conjunction of Mars with Neptune on December 7, 2018, will be closer). Venus passes only 4 minutes of arc (0.066-degree) south of Uranus - that’s equal in apparent dimensions to almost twenty-three Venus disk diameters. Least separation between the two planets will take place at 8:47 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time. For western time zones the Sun will still be up, but the two planets will still be nearly as close when darkness arrives.  The only drawback is that you’ll have to wait until the background twilight sky has sufficiently darkened for you to sight Uranus. Wait until about an hour after sundown, but be aware that by that time the planet duo will be very low – only about 6 degrees above the western horizon.

March 31 - A full Blue Moon at 8:37 a.m. A “Blue Moon” occurs when there are two full Moons within a calendar month. 
The term is also has another definition - it’s also used when there are four moons in a season; the third of these is referred to as a “Blue Moon.”  

Monday, March 12, 2018

Anna Sultana’s Easy Shepherd’s Pie / Mercury and Venus Pair Up

Goodness, we’re almost halfway through March!
We had a bit of snow last week, but, with the warmer weather, it’s been melting nicely.
Hope March is being kind to you, too.

Well, the last post was about Saint David's Day and had a Welsh Pancakes recipe.
It’s always handy to have another pancake recipe on hand.
Now it’s time to get ready for St. Patrick’s Day.

Shepherd’s Pie is also known as Cottage Pie.
it’s a nice basic recipe that has familiar ingredients.
The kiddies never get spooked by ground beef or mashed potatoes.
And it’s a great way to use up leftover bits in the fridge.
After all, we have to start making room to defrost the Easter turkey.

Looking for a few more Irish dishes to round out your family’s dinner? Try
Anna Sultana’s Shepherd’s Pie (Yes, there are other recipes.)

Don’t forget to top off your meal with a glass of Irish Coffee!

May you always have 
Walls for the winds, 
A roof for the rain, 
Tea beside the fire, 
Laughter to cheer you, 
Those you love near you,
And all your heart might desire! 


Have a bit less than a pound of ground beef? Kidney beans, or any other beans, can be added to up the protein.
If you’re serving vegetarians, the beans can totally replace the meat.

Like your Shepherd’s Pie filling spicy? Add, to taste, any of the following:
cumin, basil, oregano, garlic powder, onion soup powder, chili powder or chili sauce. 
A mixture of thyme and crushed rosemary leaves (about 1/2 teaspoon of each) also adds a nice touch.

Don’t have any gravy on hand? 
Use BBQ sauce or a can of tomato or mushroom soup diluted with 1 can of water.

If you have leftover or canned mixed vegetables or mushrooms or corn or peas (or a combination), you can use that instead of the frozen. Creamed corn adds a bit more moisture, which is handy if you don’t have much gravy.

Have a bit of mozzarella or herb and garlic cream cheese in the fridge? You can use that instead of the plain cream cheese. Or you can leave the cheese out entirely.

You MUST allow the filling to cool down before adding the mashed potatoes. If you don’t the potatoes will sink into the filling. If you are in a rush let the filling cool in the refrigerator while you make the potato topping.

To get really creamy mashed potatoes, use a potato ricer or sieve. Be sure the mashed potatoes are hot when you spread them. Cold mashed potatoes is harder to spread. You want a textured surface on the potato topping, so rough it up a bit. It’s like adding the meringue to a lemon meringue pie - the points become nicely browned bits and make it look more appetizing.

If your mashed potatoes seem a bit dry or not quite enough, you can add sour cream.
Want to get fancy? Top the potatoes with pieces of bacon and fried onions.

You can prepare the pie in a casserole in advance, then refrigerate or freeze.
Cooking for one or two? The pie can be made into individual or for-two pies, using smaller pans. You can freeze the extra servings. Remember to defrost at room temperature before baking as directed in the recipe.

For a crisp golden topping, flash under the broiler for a few minutes before serving.
The kiddies might like a dollop of ketchup on their servings.

                        Easy Shepherd’s Pie

Finely chop 
1 or 2 garlic cloves
1 medium onion

Place in a large skillet
1 1/2 Tablespoons olive oil
Heat oil over medium high heat. 
Add the chopped garlic and onion.
Cook for 1 minute.
1 pound extra lean ground beef
Cook, stirring, until browned.
Stir in
2 cups beef gravy  
4 Cups frozen mixed vegetables (carrots, corn, green beans, peas)
Pour the filling into a 6 cup casserole. 
Set aside, preferably in the refrigerator.

Peel and cut into 1" cubes
2 pounds potatoes
Cook in boiling water for 15 minutes or until soft. Turn off the stove.
Drain, then return the potatoes to the pot and place it on the burner you had used. 
Shake the pot briefly and allow the potatoes to steam dry for about a minute.
If there is excess liquid in the potatoes it will make the topping watery.

If you have a potato ricer or sieve, use it and return the riced potatoes to the pot before adding
2 Tablespoons butter
Mash until melted.
1/2 - 3/4 Cup milk
salt to taste
a dash of nutmeg (optional)
Mash until smooth.

Preheat oven to 375º F

Spread the potatoes onto the filling, and rough up the surface.
Sprinkle with 
1/2 Cup shredded old cheddar cheese  (optional)
Bake for 20 minutes or until golden on top and bubbling on the edges. 
Stick a knife into the middle to ensure it is piping hot.
Let stand for 5 minutes before serving. 

About the sky, thanks to the folks at The Farmers' Almanac…

March 15 - Look to the western horizon after sunset to see Mercury and Venus paired up. Search for them low above the western horizon about a half hour after sunset. While both should be evident to the naked-eye, binoculars will certainly enhance their visibility against the bright twilight.

March 17 - New Moon at 9:12 a.m. In this phase, the Moon is not illuminated by direct sunlight and is completely invisible to the naked eye.

March 18 - About 45 minutes after sunset, look low toward the western horizon to sight an extremely narrow (2-percent) crescent Moon.  About 4-degrees to its upper right shines Venus, and a similar distance to Venus’ upper right will be Mercury, still shining at a respectably bright +0.4.

March 24 - First quarter Moon at 11:35 a.m. In this phase, the Moon looks like a half-Moon in the sky. One-half of the Moon is illuminated by direct sunlight while the illuminated part is increasing, on its way to full.

March 26 - The Moon is at perigee,at 1:26 p.m., which means that it is at the closest point to Earth in its cycle.