Baked Rigatoni with Sausage, Butternut Squash and Rapini

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I came into the butternut squash fan camp way late in life.  I am embarrassed to say – given my mantra to my kids, “at least try it before you say you don’t like it!” – that it wasn’t until last Fall that I discovered my extreme love of this roasted beauty.  I had assumed (and you know what they say about assuming …) butternut squash would taste like sweet potatoes, one of my culinary arch-nemeses. By St. Boogar and all the saints at the backside door of purgatory!! I was wrong and am in the throes of making up for lost time.

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Grilled Korean Chicken

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It’s that time of year again when any meal sounds so much more appealing coming off of the grill.  Mingling with the scent of a fresh-mown lawn and newly turned mulch, nothing goes better with a post-yard work beer than something off the grill.  I say this almost selfishly gleefully since I am generally not she who mans the grill.   That being said, I do sometimes like to play with fire – a family trait so I hear – and this chicken recipe is my go-to favorite.

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Old Nonnie’s Minestrone

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I’ve finally bitten the bullet and asked my mother to cook with me for the blog. It’s not that she’s not a good cook. To the contrary, she’s an excellent cook. It’s just that it’s my mother and I wasn’t sure I wanted to boss her around in my kitchen and tell her how to cook and where to stand and how to measure … I jest to amuse myself. Those reasons were exactly what got me moving.

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Italian Potato Salad

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I’m pretty sure it’s the hot and muggy weather that’s gotten to my cook gene, but I’ve been in a slump when it comes to meals.  I mean, really, for the love of Pete, do you people have to eat every day, multiple times each day?!  In my kitchen, we don’t have the dog days of summer; we’ve got the crab days.  So, it was quite an unexpected gift – a Christmas in July, if you will – when I got on a food bender.  I had been thinking a lot lately about how time flies – we’re already getting things together for the boys to go back to school – which sent me on the nostalgia engine to when I was a girl getting ready to go back to school.  I will spare you the brain train that got me from that all the way to remembering things I loved most about summer dinners with the family … Dad would be grilling kebabs or pork chops or burgers and yelling at us to stop doing whatever we happened to be doing in the pool. Mr. Long would be next door swaying in his hammock smoking one of his stinky cigars, occasionally yelling a hello or random commentary on George’s grill skills over the fence.  Bill would be across the street mowing his grass for the umpteen time staring daggers at us if we even thought about riding our bicycle near his property. And Mom would be inside whipping up the rest of dinner, probably grateful for the quiet.

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Pat’s Baked Beans

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Beans.  The Rodney Dangerfield of of the food world.  They get no respect.  Though poems have been written about them, they are the sort of poesy that brings unwanted parental attention upon recitation.: Beans, beans, the musical fruit …. Beans, beans, good for your heart … You can sing them both, can’t you?  Beans need the PR that prunes got a few years back … dried plums, anyone?  Though beans are highlighted in practically every cuisine worth mention, for most of us, they are relegated to side dish just meant to round out a meal.  And here I am … relegating them to side dish.  Irony.  Well, no, I am not relegating anything.  Pat is.  How to get in good with your mother-in-law?  Throw her under the bus.  These are Pat’s beans.  Pat Smith is my mother-in-law and she introduced me, nay, opened my eyes to the deliciousness that is these baked beans.  Though the pic above has the beans as a side, these beans are my main.  Fresh and hot?  to die for.  Cold out of the fridge for breakfast?  move over coffee.  Yes, these beans are that good.

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The Most Amazing Brownies

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Doing a Google search for “brownie recipe” brings up a whopping 3.96 million hits. Even narrowing the parameters to include only “the very best brownie recipe” drops it to a mind-boggling 1.44 million hits.  Methinks someone is lying there… Let me save you the trouble.  Just make these.  Ah, this may take convincing, I see.  I understand completely.  I am a chocolate snob.  A chocoholic.  A chocomaniac.  A connoisseur (when in doubt say it in French!  Adds a certain weight, a certain panache … see what I did there).  These brownies are not quite cake-like but not fudgey.  They are densely chocolatey but not heavy.  They have a silky texture that defies their ease of preparation.  Need more?  They catch men!   Being as I’m married, I practice the old catch-and-release … oh, I digress.

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Chicken Enchilada Casserole

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Casseroles have a bad rap.  And rightly so if the spokesmodel for the category is that tan viscous, flaccid-noodled, hot tuna dish with potato chip topping.  Oh, the inhumanity.  I know people love the stuff.  I, however, am of the other camp.  Just entering Lent, I have had my share of flashbacks to Fridays when chances were at least a few of them would feature tuna casserole in Mom’s go-to red Pyrex bowl with gold embellishments.  Lipstick that pig all you want, the stuff was horrid.  No offense to Bunny, generally an awesome cook (discounting the liver and onions fiasco of my youth and her wayward foray into lima beans; bletch).  The upside was that I would always consider eating the casserole as my Lenten penance for the day, freeing up whatever chocolate was around for guilt-free consumption.

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