Category Archives: Cooking and Recipes

Posts related to cooking

Purple Stride – 2015

Purple Stride – 2015
Delivering my speech before Purple Stride race begins.

Delivering my speech before Purple Stride race begins.

In June, 2010 I went to cooking school in the foothills of the Appenines just south of Florence, Italy with a good foodie friend, Kelly who is here today. We prepared our meals in a 300 year-old stone barn that had been renovated into a rustic kitchen. I learned to prepare tasty meals with limited organic ingredients. I fell in love with Italy, Italian cuisine and my teacher Chef Laura. So much so that I returned with 4 more of my friends in 2012.

In April 2014, when I lost my inspiration to cook, my appetite and my yearning for a great full-bodied cabernet, I knew something wasn’t right.

Mayo Clinic Docs found a mass in my pancreas and surgery was scheduled two weeks later.

Our sixth grandchild was presented by our only daughter and her husband a week before my surgery. They named him “Jude”. This was the single most important honor that has ever been given me.

I underwent 9 and ½ hour Whipple surgery by my hero Dr. Horcio Asbun. The human I credit with saving my life.

Many of you here today know first hand what that surgery entails. I lived thru the recovery, a serious infection, the chemo and the radio chemotherapy taking my final treatment Christmas Eve.

I stand here today 16 months cancer free.

What I do want to share with you is what my husband, my family and friends learned from our trial.

Tom, whom I now call Joseph, who led our family thru this dessert- and I leaned that God is in control .We agreed to say “Yes” to anyone who offered help. People want to help. They don’t know what to say or what to do or how they can help…but …if you answer “yes’ you will see the love of God thru them. They are His hands helping you and loving you. You are blessed and they will be too by making a meal, changing your bed, rubbing cream on your feet and hands. I felt God’s love in every action and our family did too.

When I was at my weakest point, Joseph, (Tom) asked me what I wanted to do in my life, what I dreamed of. I told him it was to take our family to Italy. He said “DONE”.
In July we flew 13 family members, our children and grandchildren to Milan. We took them on a tour of the Vatican and Rome. We rented a house on Lake Como and threw a wedding for our son and his bride in a small Catholic Church on that beautiful lake.

God winked at me that week. While I was walking 60 meters from the boat ramp to our rental home on a stretch of narrow road, my Chef Laura from cooking school saw me as she was driving from Milan to Billagio at that very moment. She stopped, came to our home, met my family and shared an hour with us.

Quite frankly, I never dreamed I would see Laura again. I believe God made that happen.

Laura Giusti, my Chef and my friend.

Laura Giusti, my Chef and my friend.

This disease is a beast. We all have an expiration date. Those with PC realize that date could be sooner than later. The vulnerability permeates to your family and friends. It shows them that each family member is a treasure, friend is a blessing, each moment of every day is a gift.

If you or your loved one has PC, remember this. God is in control. He loves every one of us. Put your faith in Him and give your worries and your fears up to Him. He will lift that burden from your shoulders and show you His love.

Todays walk will raise awareness of this dreadful cancer and increase research funding so that early detection stops the growth of this disease and doesn’t let it gain status of becoming the #1 cancer killer within the next five years.

NEGU and give your fear and your family up to God. He will bless you beyond your belief.

Thank you for being here today to walk by our side in this battle.

The walk was exhausting for little baby Jude

The walk was exhausting for little baby Jude

Aunt Sherie’s Chocolate Cherry Cake

Aunt Sherie’s Chocolate Cherry Cake
Sherie, Judi and Kathy

Sherie, Judi and Kathy

1 Package Chocolate Fudge Cake Mix
1 Can Cherry Pie Filling
3 Eggs
1 Tsp. Almond Extract

Preheat oven 350 degrees
Prepare two 8″ cake tins. Grease with shortening and dust with cake mix.
Combine all ingredients and pour evenly into prepared tins.
Bake 35 – 40 minutes, testing to be sure a toothpick comes out clean.
Cool completely

Frosting (Amazing)

1 cup Sugar
5 tablespoons Butter softened
1/2 cup Milk
1 pkg (12oz) Chocolate Chips

In small sauce pan bring to a boil the first three ingredients, stirring constantly.
Cook one minute and remove from heat. Stir in chocolate chips until melted and cool.

Frost the cooled cake and enjoy.

Quickie Italian Wedding Soup

Quickie Italian Wedding Soup
Sprinkle with Parmesan Reggiano,plate a little crusty bread for dipping,  and you are in for a comforting meal.

Sprinkle with Parmesan Reggiano,plate a little crusty bread for dipping, and you are in for a comforting meal.

In our family this soup is the equivalent of Chicken Noodle Soup to others. It is rich and filled with vegetables, beans, a broth that would make you cry for more and then, the best…tiny meatballs.


1 – 10 oz. pkg. frozen chopped spinach
1 tsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 medium onion chopped (3/4 cup)
4 carrots peeled and chopped (3/4 cup)
2 celery stalks (3/4 cup)
1 tsp. bottled minced garlic
1 tsp. Italian seasoning blend
2 cups Water
2 cans (14 oz cans each) fat free Chicken Broth
1 pkg. frozen Italian style meatballs (MINI)
1 egg
1 can Canellini beans ) White Italian kidney beans.
3 tbsp. already shredded parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper

Remove spinach from package. Microwave on high for 5 mins. to thaw. Meanwhile, heat the oil on med. in a 4 1/2 qt. Dutch Oven or Soup Pot. Peel and chop onion add to pot – Dice carrots, dice celery, add both to pot. Add garlic and seasoning. Stir 1 min. more than tender.
Add water and broth to pot. Raise heat to high and bring to a boil.
Drain spinach well, squeezing out excess water. Add to pot. Add meatballs reduce hear to medium cook till meatballs heated thru, about 5 mins.
Meanwhile in a 2 cup or larger bowl combine parm. cheese, salt, pepper and egg. Whisk vigorously until eggs and cheese are thoroughly mixed.
Reduce heat once meatballs heated and slowly drizzle egg mixture over. Cook for 2 more minutes and serve!
Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
Serves 20.

Judi’s Basic Risotto

Judi’s Basic Risotto

1 Cup of Arborio White Rice
1 tbsp. Olive Oil
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
1 large onion, chopped
4-5 cups hot chicken broth

Heat the olive oil in a heavy,2 quart pot. Saute’ onion in the oil until it is translucent. Turn burner to medium heat. Add the rice and stir till it is completely coated with the olive oil. Add the wine and stir constantly until the wine is absorbed. Add 1 cup of the heated stock and continue to stir until absorbed. Continue cooking for about 20 minutes, adding the remaining stock one cup at a time. This rice creates its own creamy sauce. Add additional liquid if more sauce is desired. Remove from heat, stir in the cheese and serve immediately.

If you like to change it up occasionally add fresh herbs or chopped mushrooms or vegetables during the last five minutes of cooking.


Tower of the Truffles – Torre del Tartufo

Tower of the Truffles – Torre del Tartufo

Torre del Tartufo - Arezzo, Italy

As we walked the grounds just minutes after we arrived my friend Lisa quietly admitted she was thinking on the plane…”it is such a long trip, what if I really don’t like this place? Judi, this is truly the most beautiful and peaceful place I have ever seen. I am coming back for my 60th.” Within five minutes she was already planning to return.

That is the feeling that I felt my first trip with Kelly in 2010 to Tuscookany’s Casa Ombuto which is located just a thirty minute drive from Torre. Both locations are wonderful with spectacular views and restored villas that make you feel as if you are living a true Tuscan lifestyle.

Tuscookany staffs each villa with about six people. The manager, Barbara is the perfect hostess and sees to your every need. She dines with you several times and makes herself available to arrange a trip or answer travel questions. There are two housekeepers whom you seldom see. They tidy your room daily and do your laundry if requested. There is a groundskeeper you might see pruning the bushes or stoking the wood fired hot tub. Of course there is your Chef and their assistant. That is it. And, after dinner, everyone leaves the villa. The only sound you might hear is that of a wild boar.

This trip we took the Seven Day Italian Course. While this sounds like an intense amount of cooking we actually were only in the kitchen about four hours a day for four days. The rest of the time we spent relaxing by the pool, having massages or site seeing in the towns nearby.

Barbara greeted me with hugs and tears. She was pleased to see me return and made certain I was well taken care of. She placed me in what is known as the “honeymoon suite”. It is a very large room with a fireplace and an iron canopied king bed. All of the bathrooms are marbled floor to ceiling with large wooden beams that remind you of the rustic barn like feeling of a true Tuscan building.
The floors are stone and several large windows that are kept open allow the mountain breezes to waif through your room day and night. No air conditioning is needed in the warmest of temperatures.
This is truly a slice of heaven on earth.

Poolside at Torre. The honeymoon suite has the four windows with white curtains.

A holiday dinner table staple…..Lasagna

A holiday dinner table staple…..Lasagna

Basil, three cheeses, meat sauce and plenty of yummy noodles!

When our family has something to celebrate and a dinner is planned you can bet the table will include a pan of my homemade lasagna. The meat sauce is hearty and flavorful and the cheeses are rich and add enough salty flavor you don’t even need to add salt. This dish can grace a family table or can please hungry tailgaters on a brisk fall day.


For the meat sauce….
4 Tbsp. olive oil
1 lb of lean ground beef
1 lb of Italian Sausage removed from the casing
1 lb of ground veal
1 onion diced
1 large can of crushed tomatoes
1 can of diced tomatoes
1 can of tomato paste
3 Tbsp. minced garlic
1/2 cup grated pecorino/romano cheese
1 Tbsp.Dry Oregano
1 Tbsp.Dry Basil
1 cup of good red wine

For the cheese filling…
1 large container of Ricotta Cheese
4 cups of shredded Mozzarella Cheese
1 cup of grated Pecorino/Romano Cheese
1 egg, slightly beaten
Fresh ground pepper

1 lb box of Lasagna Noodles
Fresh Basil

In a large dutch oven heat olive oil and add diced onion. Saute until just turning a little gold in color and add the minced garlic. Cook the garlic long enough to allow the flavor to be released.Then add the ground meats. Break up the meat as it browns into crumbles. Once the meat has browned, drain any excess fat and add the tomatoes, spices, wine and grated cheese. Allow the sauce to simmer on low until it bubbles continuing to stir occasionally. Turn to simmer for about half and hour until the sauce is thick and yummy!

While the sauce is simmering prepare the cheese filling AND place a large pan of salted and oiled water on the stove and turn it on high till it comes to a boil for the noodles. For the filling, place the ricotta cheese in a large bowl along with the beaten egg, salt and pepper. Set aside. Prepare the noodles dropping them in the boiling water. Cook for time suggested on the box. Do not overcook! Once the noodles are done, drain and lay them individually on a dry towel.

You are ready to build your dish!
In the bottom of a pyrex rectangular pan place about a cup of meat sauce. Place a layer of noodles, overlapping each one until you have six noodles covering the bottom of the pan. Next take one third of the cheese filling from the bowl and spread it on the noodles. Take one third of the shredded mozzarella cheese and spread it over the ricotta mixture. Now lay basil leaves randomly on top of the mozzarella. Repeat with the sauce, the filling, the mozzarella and the basil until you have three layers. End with a sprinkle of grated pecorino/romano cheese and fresh ground pepper.

At this point you can refrigerate for later use. When you cover the dish, be sure to place a sheet of wax paper on top before the tin foil. Seal and place in refrigerator or freezer.

When you are ready to bake, allow the dish to reach room temperature, remove foil and wax paper. Place in preheated 350 oven and bake for approximately 45 minutes. The top should be golden but not burned.

Once done, remove from oven, allow to rest for 15 minutes or more. This will allow you to slice easily.
Garnish with a sprig of basil. Serve with additional meat sauce and grated cheese.


Flatbread pizza… a snap

Flatbread pizza… a snap

Crumbled Speck, goat cheese, red onion, rocket rosemary flatbread.

1 lb. pizza dough (homemade or purchased from your local bakery)
1 red onion, sliced into rings and sauteed in olive oil until tender
4 slices of speck (Italian Smoked Prosciutto) fried in butter, drained and crumbled
4 ounces of goat cheese crumbled
2 rosemary sprigs
a drizzle of olive oil
sea salt
fresh ground pepper


Rockett (Arugula)

Spread the dough on a pizza stone or jelly roll pan with layer of parchment paper beneath. Brush with olive oil. Crumble the Speck and goat cheese around the dough. Add the sauteed onion rings. Sprinkle rosemary, sea salt and ground pepper.

Place in a 400 preheated oven for approximately 25 minutes or until the sides are golden. Garnish with fresh rockett. Slice and enjoy!

Any toppings can be changed depending on what you have in the refrigerator!

Crunchy Banana Bread…nothing like it hot from the oven

Crunchy Banana Bread…nothing like it hot from the oven

Nothing says comfort food like the smell and taste of crunchy banana bread or muffins. Whenever I see I have three ripe bananas in the fruit bowl I take a few minutes to prepare a loaf of banana bread.


Dry ingredients
1/2 cup sugar
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Wet ingredients
1 cup mashed ripe banana
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 large egg, beaten
1/2 cup of fresh milk

Optional ingredients
1/2 cup Chopped walnuts OR
1/2 cup Chopped pecans

Preheat the oven to 400 and prepare muffin cups or 350 and grease an 8 1/2 by 4 1/2 inch loaf pan and set aside.

Place the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl and form a well in the center.

Combine the wet ingredients in a smaller bowl and add to the dry ingredients by folding in until they are moist. (Don’t use a mixer for this batter.)

Stir in the nuts if you choose to.

Spoon the batter into the muffin cups or the greased loaf pan.

The muffins should bake at 400 for 18 to 20 minutes.
The loaf should bake at 350 for 1 hour or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.

Pour a cold glass of milk and make someone smile! Just another way of saying “I love you”.

Judi Z’s Meatballs

Judi Z’s Meatballs

Aunt Anna and more Zitiello's

When a pan of meatballs comes out of my oven you can bet they will all not make it into the sauce pot. In
fact, I always count on maybe five or six not making it! I suppose you could freeze the leftovers, but truthfully…I have never had leftovers!


2 lbs of good ground beef
1 lb of ground veal
1 egg
1 cup of Italian bread crumbs
2 tbsp. minced onion
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tbsp. oregano
Salt and Pepper
1 cup Grated Parmesan Cheese

Preheat the oven to 350.
In a large bowl mix the meat, egg, bread crumbs and spices except for the grated parmesan cheese.
Form large meatballs a bit larger than the size of a golf ball.
Place each meatball in a pyrex rectangular pan and sprinkle with half of the parmesan cheese.
Place in pre-heated oven and bake until firm and dark brown about 30 minutes. Remove from oven, sprinkle remaining cheese on top and allow to rest before placing in the sauce pot.

Meatball sandwiches are great with some roasted peppers and onions on top and a spoon of sauce.


Judi Z’s Spaghetti Sauce

Judi Z’s Spaghetti Sauce

It seemed I was rushing to leave the office earlier these days eager to get home. Life had taken it’s greatest upturn for me. We were falling in love. It was a winter day and the air was crisp. I pulled into the driveway and gathered my briefcase, purse and cell phone and headed toward the garage door, happy to be home once again as I rushed inside to escape the cold with no sweater or coat.

Even in the garage I could detect the familiar fragrance. Garlic! As I entered the kitchen my eyes locked on to a large pot on the front burner. Drops of thick red tomato sauce were leaping from the pot, speckling the surrounding stovetop while instantly spreading on the surface. I turned the temperature control to low.

There was music playing. Some sexy jazz station was softly whispering from the receiver in the family room.

As I turned I saw a sock on the floor. Then another. Beyond the socks were a pair of jeans, then a tee shirt. I followed the trail of clothes to the hallway. I opened the bathroom door to find Tom reclined in a tub filled with bubbles, surrounded by candles emitting a soft glow.

“Welcome home” he said.

Spaghetti sauce is really the basis for our relationship. A few weeks later, while visiting Uncle Frank and Aunt Sue across the street I overheard a phone conversation Frank was having with his brother Lugi, Tom’s father, in Cleveland. “Yah, it must be getting serious. He is teaching her to make the sauce.”

There has been a pot of sauce made on our stove just about every week of our 27 year marriage. And, people who truly know good sauce have told me….”It ain’t bad.” (That is Italian for “delicious!”)

Here is the secret to making a really great sauce:


Minced garlic – 5 cloves
Olive Oil – 5 tbsp.
6 Italian Sausage sweet and hot combined
2 large cans of crushed tomatoes (Find a brand you like and stick to it!)
1 large can of diced tomatoes (Same as above)
1 can of Contadina Tomato Paste
1 cup of grated parmesan Reggiano
1 cup of good red wine (If you wouldn’t drink it don’t use it.)
Sugar 1 tbsp.
Salt and Pepper

In a large dutch oven heat the oil and brown the sausage. When browned, cut into 1″ pieces and return to pot. add garlic and allow to soften, but NOT burn. Add the cans of tomatoes and the oregano, basil,sugar and salt, pepper. Next add the wine and the grated cheese.

Allow the mixture to come to a boil then reduce the heat to simmer and with the lid off allow to simmer for at least one hour.


The sauce will be best the second day. It can be kept in the refrigerator for one week. It can be frozen for up to a month.

Add meatballs to the sauce for an even greater taste.

If you like, you can add a center cut pork chop or a chicken breast with skin and rib bones attached, while the sauce is simmering for taste. Just brown the meat as you did the sausage and leave it in the pot until the first serving.

Oh and, some Italian families call this “gravy”.

Grandpa Tommy Zitiello 1939 (In the hat)