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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Uncle Frank’s Italian Sausage

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Uncle Frank and his pilfered sausage making machine. It’s a whiz but he’s not sure where it came from or when it got there. It’s a mystery. If it’s yours, give him a call.

Another fabulous family cook pops out of the woodwork of our wacky family tree!  Uncle Frank is the husband of my mother’s younger sister, Dot.  He is a retired DC fireman, father of 10, currently a custom home builder, and (most important for our purposes here) a very good cook.  Lucky us!  Breakfasts at the Principe house would put an IHOP buffet – should an IHOP buffet serve Rapa brand scrapple – to shame… and that’s just on your standard Wednesday.  Breakfast not your thing?  Pfft! If you need a soup, Uncle Frank’s your man.  Other than one unfortunate incident where he went all not-in-a-good-way-free-form on a pot of pasta fazool (yes, I do have the memory of an elephant … a bizarre elephant but an elephant nonetheless), that man can toss things into a pot and come up with the most delicious combinations.

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Cheesy Monkey Bread with George’s Bloody Mary Mix

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George’s® Bloody Mary Mix is, hands down, the most fabulicious Bloody Mary you will every taste from a mix (and, I’d venture to say, beats quite a few bartender versions as well). While I’m quite content to slurp it down as a Bloody Mary with a right proper dose of vodka, George’s® actually works well in recipes like my ham and cheese stuffed meatloaf, soups, and stews so why not a warm, gooey cheesy monkey bread.

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French Fries (Pommes Frites)

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There are very few foods that are so universally loved and so easy to make.  So why, oh why, do we buy the flash-steamed-oil-sprayed french fries in the freezer department.  They are just not good.  Not good at all.  Why not just grab some potatoes, oil and salt and have at it.   That is all you need.  For about the price of one bag of Gon-Ho (does anyone get that? I worked on it for a bit), you can buy a bag of potatoes and a bottle of oil to fry enough for a small army. Continue Reading