Easter Dinner at the McNickle home..

We had a great day yesterday! Hubby Tim and I went to church (Unity of Marin) services at 11:15, then to breakfast at a nearby place, then home for a day of cooking and hanging out.  Our son Taylor joined us this afternoon and was here for dinner. We feasted on Pork Roast with Vegetablespork and vegetables

Stuffed Artichoke #1Accompanied by Stuffed Artichokes.

These two recipes are in the cookbook.  The stuffed artichokes are a family


[more…] classic that my mom made when we were growing up whenever artichokes were in season

We finished off with Ricotta Cake with Lemon Glaze.  This recipe came from an on-line Ricotta Cake with Lemon Glazeresource.  I was looking for a light and easy recipe to make, and this definitely fit the bill.  Not too sweet, and pretty easy to make.  I didn’t have a bunt pan so I used my “monkey bread pan” – don’t laugh – it worked! 🙂

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Italian Easter Sausage Bread

Italian Sausage BreadEvery family has their traditions.  Some are religious in nature.  Some are activities shared by the family at certain times of the year.  Others are food related.  In my family we have traditions in each category, but most tend to be centered around the table.  One special dish made on Easter is Italian Sausage Bread. This recipe haled from my great-grandmother Rosario from Sicily [more…]

My Aunt Sally tells me she used to make it with Grandma Rosario when she was a girl.  It is a fairly simple recipe, though a bit time-consuming.  Hearty enough to eat as a meal in itself!  Easter Sausage Bread




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Flavorful Tips for Pesto Sauce and Butternut Squash Soup…

Yesterday my friend Jeanine and I took a cooking class in SausalitoJeanine and Vicki at ITK (ITK) on gluten-free cooking. She has been eating gluten-free for about a year, and my husband Tim and I have recently discovered that a gluten-free diet really helps cut down on the achy joints!  We figured there is always more to learn – and there was! [more…]

One of the recipes we made was quinoa salad with pesto and roasted broccoli. In the past I’ve note liked quinoa that much, but I have to say I really enjoyed this dish.  It was pretty simple, and the one trick that she gave us was to add lemon juice to the pesto sauce – it gave it a great rich flavor.  For a cup of pesto we added the juice of a half of lemon just at then end of blending.  We then tossed the cooked quinoa (1 cup cooked in 2 cups water for 20 minutes) with the pesto; roasted two heads of broccoli flowerets for about 20 minutes (tossed with a Tbsp. of olive oil, salt and pepper), then mixed it all together.  Quite yummy, and easy.

The other trick she shared was to add 1/2 – 3/4 of a 16 oz. can coconut milk to a roasted butternut squash soup at the end during the pureeing  (there is a recipe for Roasted Butternut Squash Soup in Mangia! I Love You) .  We agreed that it made the soup more flavorful and took away the “sharpness” of flavors in the soup, leaving a very mellow and warm taste..  She also added a bit of fresh ginger when cooking the soup that also enhanced the flavors.

In both cases she pointed out that a bit of acid (the lemon and the ginger) will bring out more flavors in food.  I did not know this – I love learning!  Hope this was helpful to you too!

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Your Feedback Please?

A BIG thank you if you purchased a copy of Mangia!… I Love You.” I’m delighted to report that over 200 books sold in the first 45 days of going live on Amazon – and that doesn’t include the one’s I purchased!Mangia! . . . I Love You

Many people have already shared stories about new discoveries in these recipes [more…]

– like a friend who had never used mint in his Lasagna, but tried it after reading the book. He reports that the family loved how such a small addition made the dish that much more flavorful. Or the friend who tried my Italian Chocolate cookies, raved about how they loved the complexity of flavors, and then immediately went home and made a batch

Others have shared about how the stories written by aunts, uncles, and/or grandparents truly touched their hearts. It makes me happy when I hear these stories – THIS is what mom and I wanted the book to be about – connecting and showing affection through food, and sharing great family traditions!

I would love to hear what YOU think of the book as well. Would you be willing to take a few minutes and go on to Amazon and write a review? Or, simply leave me your feedback here on the blog.  Tell me what you like, or maybe what you’d like to see be different?

Thank you – for taking the time and for sharing your thoughts!

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Smells filled with memories…

Bay Bridge 2-20-13

Bay Bridge Photo Taken from the Ferry Building in SF

After finishing my client meeting in San Francisco this evening, I decided to hang in the city for a while until traffic let up. I strolled down to the Ferry Building which is about three blocks away. The Ferry Building is a long narrow building spanning about a city block that hosts an eclectic array of restaurants and fun shops. As I walked into the far entrance, the warm air and smell of freshly baked bread enveloped me. I was instantly transported back to the Italian bakery in Buffalo, NY.  [more…]

On Sunday mornings, my brother Paul and I were allowed to walk down Busty Ave. to the bakery near my grandmother’s house. We loved to fetch the freshly baked bread for dinner. Our mom always gave us a little extra change to buy a dinner roll to share on our way home. The smell and taste of those Italian rolls were to this day, unparalleled. They were crunchy on the outside and warm and soft on the inside. 

Paul being a few years older would make sure to watch out for traffic and cars as we walked in our church clothes down the busy street.  When we were about 50 steps from the bakery the smells of bread baking would fill our nostrils, and our tummies would grumble with the anticipation of that warm taste we knew we would devour with nothing but pure joy.    

Any time I smell bread baking, those memories rush back and fill me with the same joy. As I walked into the Ferry Building tonight, I smiled.  For a moment I longed to share this moment with my brother Paul. 

Smells are powerful triggers for rekindling memories. Do you have any food smells that transport you back to times gone by?

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I Blew It!

Osso BucoHave you ever had the experience of spending a ton of time on a meal only to have it not turn out well? Last night we had friends over for dinner. I spent the WHOLE day cooking and preparing. I began my day by writing out the menu and making my grocery list. I then went shopping for the perfect veal shanks, and freshest vegetables. I worked out the schedule of timing when I needed to have the meat in the oven, the potatoes boiling and the salad made. I set the most beautiful table using my fine china, mom’s silver and crystal goblets for the wine we’d purchased the night before. It was going to be the perfect meal! [more…]

Everything was going along as planned. Everyone loved the clam’s casino and the asparagus salad. When I served the Osso Buco over mashed potatoes it looked and smelled wonderful. As I took my first bite of meat, my heart sank. It was tough! How could this be – I’d been cooking it for the past three and a half hours, and let it sit for 1/2 hour before serving so the juices could settle. Then why was the meat so touch? Our guests were new to my home and to my cooking, and at that point I didn’t know if it was just the piece of meat I was eating, or if everyone’s was tough. I decided to not say anything, and go on with our meal. They in turn were polite enough to not say anything either.  As I went about preparing desert I tried to shake my disappointment, but it nagged at me. I’d spent so much time to make this meal perfect, and it really bugged me that it wasn’t.

After our guests left, I asked Tim how his veal was – he kindly said “not as tender as usual, but the flavors were great.” Okay – something went wrong – veal shank should be very tender when cooked this long – was it the meat I’d purchased or my cooking? We needed to clean up the mass of dishes in the kitchen, so I didn’t want to spend the time at that moment to dig deeper, however, this morning it was my first thought upon waking. I immediately looked up the recipe for oven cooking Osso Buco (my recipe in the book calls for cooking stove top) and there it was – the cooking temperature was supposed to be 325 degrees, and my oven temperature was 275! Ugh! How could I have done something so stupid?

I’d like to think that for someone who cooks as much as I do, I shouldn’t make these kinds of mistakes. But I did, and now I need to forgive myself and go on. I have to admit it wasn’t easy. I almost went out and bought all the ingredients again today just so I could prove to myself I can still make a good Osso Buco, but thankfully I came to my senses and didn’t.

There were left overs though, so I put them on the stove and cooked it for a few hours on low – and guess what?  The meat is fall off the bone tender.  A small redemption was had!


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Best Vegetable Cookbook ever!

Cooks Illustrated Perfect VegetablesI don’t know about you, but for many years I got stuck in a rut when it came to cooking vegetables. I’d always prepare them the same way again and again.  A while back I came across the book by Cooks Illustrated called “Perfect Vegetables.” – it is now my “go to” book for recipe variations for vegetables.

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It’s not all in the cooking!

Mom & Marsh Mid 80'sMy step dad Marshall never cooked, but he still showed affection through food.  In the 25 years that he and my mom were together, I don’t recall ever seeing him prepare a meal.  Of course, there was an occasional bowl of cereal or plate of cut up fruit, but no turning on the stove or oven and actually cooking something.  They both worked, so my mom wasn’t a “stay at home mom” that would have the meal on the table when her husband arrived home (as was the case with many of her generation.) [more…]

Marshall’s way of showing affection through food was by taking you out to a nice restaurant.  He loved sharing his favorite local “haunts” in Marin Del Rey (near LA).  Eating out on a regular basis was new to me – I was more of a home cooked meal girl from Buffalo, NY.   Along with eating out came a whole new array of foods I was not used to eating or cooking – seafood in particular.  We didn’t eat a lot of fresh fish growing up as mom was afraid of having the house smell “fishy” (this changed in her later years.)

Over the years I came to appreciate and enjoy these food explorations with Marshall, and to this day credit him with eating my first piece of fresh Halibut, and enjoying Chinese food that didn’t come from a smorgasbord!

I truly believe that food is the universal language of love – and there are so many ways to express it.  Do you know of anyone in your life who shows affection through food who doesn’t cook?

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Feeding the Mourning…

The other day our friend Bill passed away.  Tuesday morning my husband Tim walked into the bathroom.  I stopped brushing my teeth.  It had happened, his dear friend, the man he told stories with, swapped jokes with, was gone.  He expression said it all  – he had just lost his very dear friend. He didn’t want to talk much, and I sensed his despair as the reality of never being able to visit with his friend again to swap stories and tell jokes sank in. [more…]

As I watched my husband in the hours that followed I could tell he was distracted, and unable to focus.  He eventually became too restless and did what he does best – go sit with Bill’s family – to be there for them and provide comfort.  I, on the other hand, went about figuring out what food I could bring to feed Bill’s family.  I immediately knew I needed to cook – something that would be comforting, nourishing, and easy for them to heat up, and supply leftovers for lunch the next day.

I laughed at myself a bit as I went about preparing the lasagna – heating the water for the noodles, defrosting sauce, frying the meat; “Why is it that I always think to feeding people when they are in mourning?” When I hear of someone passing, this is always my first thought “What can I bring them the family to eat?”  Maybe it is being Italian, and the whole thing of showing affection through food.  Whatever it is, I’m pretty sure food is something that people appreciate.

My brothers and I all love to cook, but when my mom passed away a few years ago, we did not have the energy, focus or desire to prepare even a simple meal.  In those first days especially we were overcome with grief and sadness and too distracted by the business of preparing for her funeral, and phoning   family and friends to consider cooking.  When friends arrived bearing casseroles and sandwiches,    I was hugely relieved.  We were so grateful to be fed and even more grateful for the nourishment and care.  This experience left me certain that feeding those in mourning is one of the finest gifts you can give.

The next time you hear of someone who has had a loved one pass – bring them food.  Even if it is bought from the deli, or takeout from a restaurant – the act of feeding and nourishing them will be the most comforting gift you can give!

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Mangia! . . . I Love You hits retail!

I’m delighted to share that my dear friend Bambi is carrying our book in her store – Bling.  Thank you Bambi!

They carry great accessories and fun gifts for the wonderful women in your life (including yourself!)

Here’s to Cooking, Eating, Laughing and Loving!

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