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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Lemon Cheesecake with a Shortbread Crust and Raspberry Coulis

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I forgot how much I love this cheesecake.  I’ve made it on and off – obviously mostly off recently – for the better part of my baking life.  The first time I made it was for a boss’s birthday many moons ago and then for quite a while it was my go-to party dessert. Somewhere along the way, much like mood rings and shoulder pads in ladies suits, it fell out of favor or I got bored with it … In either case, my loss.  But no more!

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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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Nana’s Puerto Rican Rice

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Just as Juan Ponce de León searched for the fountain of youth and adventurers, to this day, comb the peaks of the Himalayas for their yetis, I have been – until now – on a heretofore futile mission to recreate Nana’s Puerto Rican Rice. Not nearly as sexy as preternatural beauty or as exciting as a vicious bear-man, this elusive dish with bits of pork goodness and the brininess of green olives dancing a culinary waltz with sofrito and just a whisper of tomato’s acidity rightly sent me into a search from which I could not return until its luscious flavor secrets revealed themselves to me. Lordy, this is good stuff that, yes, makes me write bad prose and most likely bad checks if that need ever arose.

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Ham and Cheese Stuffed Meatloaf

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My relationship with meatloaf runs the gamut from love to hate depending on whose meatloaf it is.  First and foremost, anything called mystery meatloaf is out.  Served at a cafeteria?  Ditto. Any meatloaf made by a person who is less than particular about the sorts of ground parts than I am comfortable with (innards? animals not normally consumed in identifiable cuts? skin and feathers?  You hear me McDonald’s?! … oh, sorry, off on a toot.  Though in that vein, thank the gods they aren’t in the meatloaf business. Could you just imagine? I shudder to think).

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Roasted Chicken, Sausage & Pepperoncini

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Growing up in a large extended family, I learned two very important family meal rules pretty quickly.  First, never giggle while saying grace.  The hand of Bunny, backward with onxy ring a’flashing would be down on the back of your head in a New York second.  Second, and probably even more importantly, never ever sit across from Cizzie at the table.

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