Christmas Eve Dinner (for an army)

This year I tried to cook foods that caterers make so that I could make most of it ahead of time and heat it up right before everyone came over. Everything came out great, but I definitely could have made less! We had 8 for dinner and I made enough for 16!

Menu (what we cooked):

  • Fried Cauliflower (Mom-Mom Tribiano’s recipe)
  • Stuffed Mushrooms (Elaine’s recipe, from Dom DeLuise)
  • Meatballs (Elaine’s Recipe) & Sausage in red sauce
  • Stuffed Shells
  • Chicken Marsala

The cauliflower cannot be made ahead, but everything else was. We bought fresh stuffed shells from Pastosa. Delicious!

I made the meatballs the night before, and prepared and stuffed the mushrooms, but didn’t cook them, just covered them in cling wrap and tin foil. I also Made the chicken marsala the day before, but kept the chicken and sauce separate until I heated them together on Christmas Eve.

The best part? The leftovers on the days after Christmas!!!


Clockwise from bottom: Chicken marsala, stuffed mushrooms, Mom’s torta, fried cauliflower


Clockwise from bottom: Stuffed shells, fried cauliflower, stuffed mushrooms, torta, meatballs

Mom-Mom Trib’s Fried Cauliflower

1 cup of flour
2-3 tablespoons of grated cheese (Chris adds more cheese but doesn’t remember how much, maybe 1/4 cup)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk (should be like the consistency of pancake batter…not too thin or too thick…so it coats the cauliflower)


Break apart a medium head of cauliflower.  Try to cut all pieces about the same size so they cook evenly.  Add it to boiling water.  Let water return to a boil and boil for about 2 to 3 minutes.  Test cauliflower with a toothpick to see if it is tender but not too soft.  DO NOT BOIL TOO MUCH OR THE CAULIFLOWER WILL BREAK APART WHEN FRYING.  When done, immerse cauliflower immediately in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process.  You can do this step a day ahead.  After drying on a paper towel or towel, refrigerate cauliflower until ready to fry.
Put 1/2 inch of olive oil and a garlic clove in a large frying pan.  Heat oil until a drop of batter sizzles.  Fry cauliflower until golden brown on all sides, keeping the oil at a sizzle so cauliflower doesn’t get too oily or soggy. We fried it in an electric skillet that cooks a large amount at a time. For Christmas we doubled this, using 2 heads of cauliflower.

Elaine’s and Dom DeLuise’s  Stuffed Mushrooms

These mushrooms are moist and delicious, the secret is adding soy sauce and water to the bottom of the pan as it bakes, and keeping it covered in foil for a long time, much longer than the recipe calls for, only removing the foil once the mushrooms are soft, then allowing them to brown uncovered for a few minutes. I doubled the recipe.

  • 1 lb mushroom, medium-sized
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 -3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 cup seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 teaspoons parsley
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 4 tablespoons water

Preheat oven to 350°F.
Remove stems from mushrooms, and set caps aside.
Chop mushroom stems.
Heat olive oil in a skillet, and brown onions and garlic.
Add mushroom stems, and brown over low heat.
In a bowl, combine onion mixture with egg, bread crumbs, cheese and parsley, and mix well.
Stuff mushroom caps with mixture.
Place mushrooms on a baking dish.
Add soy sauce and water to the bottom of the dish.
Cover with foil and bake for 10 minutes 30 minutes until mushrooms are soft .
Remove foil and continue baking until golden brown, about 10 minutes more.


In progress (2 lbs of mushrooms)


Ready to cook, but I covered them and put in the fridge overnight for easy prep. Then toss in the oven.

Elaine’s Meatballs

  • 1-1/2 lb ground beef (85% lean)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 C grated cheese
  • 1/4 C bread crumbs
  • 1 teas. dried parsley flakes
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed or chopped with onion
  • 1 teas. salt
  • 1/2 teas. oregano
  • 1/2 teas. dried sweet basil
  • 1/8 teas. pepper
  • 3 tablespoons cooking oil (if you are frying them. If you want to bake them, no oil is
  • necessary.)

Combine all ingredients except oil. Shape into approx. 18 meatballs. Either brown them in oil
in skillet or bake them in a 350 degree oven until brown. Turn them over when brown on first
side and then brown on the other. I baked them through and then put them in the sauce overnight, then heated the sauce with meatballs and baked sweet sausage links on the stove for an hour before eating.

Chicken Marsala (from Cooking with Sugar blog)

This marsala is delicious! I added cornstarch to thicken it, and it did better after reheating. I used 4 lbs of chicken which made two large trays, about 32 pieces. I also quadrupled the sauce recipe. It was a lot of work, took hours to pound the cutlets and cook them (I only had one pan in which to cook them so I repeated the process many times), but it was so good I will definitely make this again. The fresh parsley really freshens it up before serving. We had enough food for everyone to take home lots of leftovers. You can eliminate the prosciutto, just season to bring up the salt levels as necessary, but Marsala wine is salty, so you may not need it.


  • 4 skinless, boneless, chicken breasts (about 1 1/2 pounds fillet and pounded thin)
  • 1-8 0z. container of fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • ½ cup of flour, for dredging
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 4 slices of prosciutto, chopped
  • 1 cup Marsala wine
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 3 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • Salt and pepper


On a cutting board, fillet each chicken breast and trim off any fat. Place two pieces of chicken at a time between two pieces of parchment paper as seen in photo below. Pound with a flat mallet, until the cutlets are about 1/4-inch thick.  Set aside and repeat until all the chicken is pounded thin. Put some flour in a shallow dish. Season each side of the chicken cutlets with salt and pepper. Dredge each cutlet lightly on each side with flour.

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is nice and hot, brown a few cutlets at a time for 3-5 minutes on each side until golden. Once the chicken is brown, place the pieces in a single layer on a cookie sheet with a rim, or a glass casserole dish. Continue until all the chicken is browned.

Lower the heat to medium and add the prosciutto to the drippings in the pan, sauté for a minute or two until browned. Add the mushrooms, season with a little salt and pepper and sauté until they are nicely browned on each side.  Turn up the heat and pour the Marsala in the pan and boil down for a minute so the alcohol cooks off. Then add the chicken stock and the butter.  Allow it to cook for a minute or two. Pour the sauce over the chicken, cover with foil and place in a 350-degree oven for about 20 minutes. Remove chicken and sprinkle with fresh parsley before serving.

CAT’S TIPS TO PREPARE AHEAD: Sauté and brown the chicken breasts (but don’t cook completely), place them in a baking dish or disposable lasagna pan and cover it with foil. Then cook the sauce separately and set aside in a separate bowl. Refrigerate everything and take it out 40 minutes before company arrives. Then preheat your oven to 350 F, pour sauce over the chicken and cook for 20-30 minutes before serving.

chickenfloured chickencookedbeforesauce marsalacooking saucecookingdown


Chicken Saltimbocca

I just started a 60-day free trial of America’s Test Kitchen Online Cooking School. So far, so good! I took the quizzes and read the brief course content, watched the demo videos, and then watched the step-by-step video to make the recipe. It’s excellent!

Chicken Saltimbocca was part of the Sautee Techniques class. Watching Bridget Lancaster teach it step-by-step online was perfect. Watching it once the night before and then watching it on my ipad while I cooked, pausing when necessary, made cooking so easy!

This recipe was delicious. I only used 4 thin chicken cutlets instead of 8 but used the full recipe for sauce. It was delicious. I’ll definitely make it again and Chris loved it and wants to learn to make it too! Frank liked it too (he came over early and joined us for dinner), so it even passed the cooking for company test.

I didn’t think to take a photo, and it’s a shame because it looked beautiful! Here’s the ATK image, mine was a little different, but not much. I just had more sauce. The only other changes I made was that I used dried parsley because the store was out of fresh. Also, I forgot to add the lemon juice… it was sitting on the counter all ready to go but I skipped the step in the video and didn’t remember. I used white wine (chardonnay that was open in the fridge) and because of that it really didn’t need lemon. I can see that if I had used vermouth (as called for), it would have needed the lemon.

Can’t wait for the next class!


Chicken Saltimbocca (my version)

  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • ground black pepper
  • 4 thin boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed
  • 2 tsp minced fresh sage leaves (plus 4 large leaves for garnish, optional)
  • 4 thin slices prosciutto
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1¼ cups chardonnay (orig calls for vermouth, which is herby)
  • 2 tsp fresh lemon juice (I didn’t add this, don’t need if using chardonnay)
  • 4 Tbsp unsalted butter, cold
  • 1 Tbsp minced fresh parsley (I used 1 tsp dried; fresh is better)
  • kosher salt


  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 200 degrees.
  2. Combine flour and pepper in shallow dish.
  3. Pat cutlets dry and dredge chicken in flour mixture, shaking off excess.
  4. Sprinkle cutlets with minced sage and place 1 prosciutto slice on top of each cutlet, pressing to make it stick.
  5. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until beginning to shimmer.
  6. Add whole sage leaves (if using) and cook until leaves begin to change color and are fragrant, 15 to 20 seconds.
  7. Using tongs or slotted spoon, remove sage to paper towel.
  8. Place cutlets in pan, prosciutto-side down; cook until light golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes.
  9. Flip cutlets.; cook on other side until light golden brown, about 2 minutes more.
  10. Transfer to wire rack set on rimmed baking sheet and keep warm in oven.
  11. Pour off excess fat from skillet, stir in 1 1/4 cups wine, scraping up browned bits.
  12. Simmer until reduced to about 1/3 cup, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in lemon juice (if using chardonnay, don’t need lemon).
  13. Turn heat to low. Whisk in cold butter, 1 tablespoon at a time. Take skillet off heat and stir in parsley and season with salt and pepper.
  14. Remove chicken from oven and place on platter. Spoon sauce over cutlets. Garnish each cutlet with 1 fried sage leaf. Serve immediately.

Fall comfort foods… Chicken Pot Pie and Apple Crisp

I was in the mood to celebrate Fall, especially the fact that October is almost here (my favorite month).  🙂

Today I made chicken pot pie and apple crisp…. mmm fall goodness. Both recipes follow. I forgot to take a photo from the oven. I only got a photo of the aftermath… half way through my pot pie, and that’s just not pretty.

I used a pot pie recipe from the latest issue of Everyday Food but doubled it and made some modifications. My stoneware soup bowls are 16 oz, double the size of the ramekins suggested, so they’re huge. It made 5 large bowls worth (only 4 had chicken and I added extra veg to the meat-free one). Would make about 9-10 ramekins. Here is my version:

Chicken and Veggie Pot Pie

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 small yellow onions, minced
  • 2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
  • 4 carrots, diced medium
  • 10 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups chicken or veggie stock + 1 cup water
  • 2/3 pound green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces (next time I think I’ll use peas)
  • 3 to 4 cups diced cooked chicken (I used 2 small rotisserie chickens and picked them, but one chicken was overcooked so I didn’t use much of it)
  • dried thyme (I used about 1/2 tsp)
  • Salt and pepper (needs quite a bit of seasoning if you use stock instead of broth)
  • 2 sheets thawed puff pastry
  • 1 beaten egg
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium-high. Add onion, celery, carrots, and thyme and cook until onion is translucent, about 4 minutes. Add flour and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Gradually add stock and water, stirring constantly, then bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes. Stir in green beans and chicken (omit chicken and substitute another veggie for vegetarian option- I used broccoli this time, next time I’ll use green beans) and season with salt and pepper.
  2. Divide filling among ramekins or oven-safe soup crocks. Roll out the puff pastry and cut rounds to fit bowls or ramekins. Don’t leave the puff pastry out too long to defrost or it gets so soft that it cannot be unfolded! I wound up having to use a rolling pin to roll the sheets out from the folded state.  Cut a small X in center of each to vent, then place on top of filling. Brush with beaten egg. Bake at 375 degrees until filling is bubbling and crust is golden, about 40 minutes.

Apple Crisp

This is a hybrid recipe, Mom’s recipe with doubled crisp topping and a few of Chris’ and my special touches… it fills a 9×13 inch pyrex.

8 large or 12 medium apples, peeled, cored and cut into quarters or sixths depending on size – not too thin! (always make it a blend; this time I used some granny smith, gala, and braeburn)

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon (plus more to sprinkle on apples and on top of completed crisp)
  • vanilla extract (see directions for details)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Peel, core, and cut apples into quarters (for medium) or sixths (for large apples). Sprinkle apples with a little lemon juice while cutting them to keep them from turning brown. Put into buttered pyrex baking pan. Sprinkle apples with a little vanilla extract and some cinnamon.
  2. In bowl, combine softened butter, flour, salt, sugar and 1 tsp cinnamon. Mix with hands until forms large clumps.
    Break up into crumbs over apples in pan. Sprinkle topping with a little more cinnamon just before baking.
  3. Bake for 60-75 minutes, until you can see juice bubbling along sides and top is golden. Serve warm. Serve it to Chris with vanilla ice cream.   🙂  Sooooo delicious.


Chris’ Chicken Soup

Chris made chicken soup last week. It’s a shame that it was all gone by time I caught his cold today.
Delicious soup, though! Really easy to make aside from picking the hot chicken. It freezes well too.
Chris likes to add ditalini to his soup, I don’t like to add any pasta/noodles to mine. We both like to sprinkle a little grated pecorino on top before we eat it.  🙂

1 whole chicken (about 4 lbs)
16 cups water
6 carrots, sliced into 1/4″ slices
4 stalks celery, chopped
3 yellow onions, diced
2 tbsp tomato paste (optional, Chris just adds it for a little color/flavor)
rind of pecorino romano
black pepper

Boil chicken in water with 1 tbsp salt  in a large pot for 30 minutes, then add remaining ingredients. Simmer for another 60 minutes. Remove chicken, let the chicken cool a little, and pick meat off chicken. Put meat back into soup.
Allow to cool and skim off fat. Makes about 4.5 quarts.

Slow Cooker White Chicken Chili (Soup?)

Second experiment was a recipe that came with the slow cooker… White Chicken Chili. It turned out more like white chicken chili SOUP, but it made a great soup! The salsa verde made it a bit hot (too hot for Chris), but Nanny and I liked it. I’m still waiting to hear if Dan liked it.

Soaking the beans overnight is a bit of a pain as that brings the total prep/cooking time to 16 hours, but it’s really not hard. The weird thing is sauteeing onions and garlic at 6am.  🙂 

The pain is that this recipe has to cook on HIGH for 3 hours and then set to simmer for 4 hours more. Luckily I can stop home during lunch to switch it, but it may be tough for people who can’t get home from work at lunch time.


½ pound white beans
cooking spray
1 tablespoon good quality olive oil
1½ cups chopped onions
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
4 cups chicken stock, nonfat, low-sodium
1 pound chicken breast meat, cut into 1-inch cubes
½ cup prepared salsa verde (from a jar)
1½ teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon oregano
¾ teaspoon coriander [I didn’t have this but I used dried cilantro instead]
½–¾ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
1½ jalapeño peppers, cored, seeded and minced (optional)
1 cup cut white or yellow corn (thawed if frozen)
8 lime wedges


Pick over beans and discard any stones or bits of dirt. Soak beans overnight (8 hours) in water to cover by 3 inches (4 cups of water for 1/2 lb of beans).  Drain and rinse.
Lightly coat the interior of the ceramic pot of the Slow Cooker with cooking spray. Heat oil in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat. Add onions and garlic. Cook until onions are soft, about 5 minutes; transfer to pot. Place stock, beans and chicken in slow cooker. Add salsa, cumin, oregano, coriander, salt, pepper and jalapeños. Cover and press the on/off button to turn the unit on. Set time to 3 hours and press High, once slow cooker switches to Warm, set timer for 4 hours and press Simmer. Slow cooker will automatically switch to Warm when cooking time has elapsed.
One half hour before serving, turn heat to High; stir in corn. 
Serve with wedge of lime [It tastes great if you squeeze a little fresh lime juice into it!]

Makes 8 cups

Chicken, Mushroom & Bacon Pie

Winter’s coming and I’m hungry.
So on Thursday I tried to make a chicken pot pie without cream so that I wouldn’t be so sick.
This is Nigella Lawson’s chicken mushroom and bacon pie. So maybe I should have noticed the bacon in the recipe.
It was easy to make and delicious, and no dairy, but the bacon made it totally fattening and way too bad for us. The puff pastry didn’t help either, but boy was this delicious.

I forgot to take a photo but it really did look just like this. The puff pastry really puffs up a lot, it almost hit the top of the oven. 🙂
Yummy, but maybe with no bacon and just a little olive oil next time (and it really could use some veggie in addition to the mushrooms to brighten it up a bit.