Deconstructed Italian “Cannoli” Dip

Cannoli Dip

pending new photo – but to give you an idea

Seems one of the big adaptions bast east has been to redesign the Cannoli party but instead of filling individual pastry shells – its revised as a dip with the broken  tubes or  broken even waffle cones. The plus side means not soggy shells! Now I’m a huge fan of Cannoli’s and realized that many variations exist and differences regionally both here in the US and in Italy. This version comes from my Sister back in CT. The adaption I made to it – was I felt it needed a brightness to bring out the ricotta,  so I added the zest.  The Cool Whip thins it enough to “dip” into while lightening its taste some. As with most of my recipes – adapt them to your taste.

  • 2 Cups Ricotta
  • 1/2 cup powered Sugar
  • 6 oz of Cream Cheese, softened
  • 1/2 tsp Vanilla
  • Zest of 1/2 a Lemon and 1/2 a Lime (or variation to taste)
Mix all the ingredients above,  till smooth,  then fold in:
  • 8 oz of Cool Whip
  • 1/2 cup mini Chocolate Chips (or more to taste)
Note – this dip style needs a good 6 hours or overnight to set up – so plan to make the night before and refrigerate in a airtight container or use on of my favorite products; Lock & Lock brand containers found on QVC

Cannoli Dip

To serve, place in a chilled bowl, surround traditional cannoli shells, waffle cones, etc. Pick any flavors you like, break apart in dip style pieces. One hint was to use  graham cracker sticks or even GF style grahams/chips. Top the dip with a few extra chips and some shaved chocolate.

Urban Hunter’s Turkey Cacciatore

A fast, no fuss version of Turkey Cacciatore 


This is an adapted recipe great for parties but skips sone if the tradtional  pre-browning steps usually done for this “Hunters Style” dish. If you have the time and desire – it will add an extra hearty, roasted flavor to the cooking. In either case – it uses the slow cook, braising method that makes it perfect for a party  – so this also adapts for slow cooker fans.

Hint: If I know I want to make this – I will sometime pre-brown the turkey on the outdoor grill grill the day before while making other meats to save a step and reduce clean up (but omit the flour step below).



You can use boned or boneless, or a combination. I find I like to have some of both for home cooking but for a party, I find that boneless is easier but a mix of white and dark meat is crucial to get the rich flavor.


Note: You can always ask the local butcher to debone and skin a turkey for you. They provide you with the meat, skin and bones to use for stock. When I do this – I often toss in a few of the bones to cook with it then discard them before serving.

I tend to use 1lb of turkey to an equal amount of peppers & onions. (so 1lb t, 1 pepper, 1 onion) this version is based on that scale and serves 6-9 depending on how you serve it.

  • olive oil
  • 2 medium yellow onions (or 1 large),finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, chopped (I honestly can’t tell the difference between these and green ones – other than they are more expensive.)
  • 2 -28-ounce cans diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1-2 cups tomato sauce. (The amount will depend on how much liquid you want it to cook in and if you plan to serve it on top of pasta, rice or noodles)
  • 2 cups white wine (optional – I have used cranberry or pomegranate juice for a nice affect as well) or chicken or turkey stock – essentially create a flavor broth to braise in…)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped oregano leaves
  • 2 tablespoons capers, drained & rinsed
  • fresh basil leaves chopped, to garnish
  • all-purpose flour (for pre-cook  method or to thicken the sauce at the end. Corn starch works for this too)


  1. Using shears or a sharp knife, trim off any excess skin from the turkey. If you plan to sear the meat, you can leave some on to add to the flavor.  Cut into serving sized pieces.
  2. Now if you want to do the longer, pre-cook  method:
    1. Season each piece of turkey with salt and pepper, then dredge with flour in a large shallow bowl and set aside.
    2. Heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat, then brown the turkey pieces in batches until crisp and golden-brown on the outside. Set aside.
  3. For the other method
    1. Season the cut up meat pieces with salt and pepper
    2. Add 1/2 of a can from one of the drained diced tomatoes, 3 springs or rosemary and the garlic and let sit an hour or overnight. If making to eat sooner – go to step four and omit this part
  4. Preheat the oven to 325F.
  5. For both versions, heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat, then sauté the onions, garlic and peppers for 10-12 minutes, stirring frequently, until completely softened. Season with salt and pepper.
  6. Add the tomatoes (or rest of them). The white wine (or substitute with cranberry or pomegranate juice or stock), the oregano ,  the capers, and the tomato sauce, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook until the volume is reduced by half. Stir and taste for more seasoning.
  7. This is the time to add any other herbs that inspire you. Rosemary, oregano, sage, bay etc. Note: I tend not to use parsley in this since I don’t want it to taste like a turkey version of sausage & peppers.
  8. To finish the cooking, place in the preheated oven.
  9. Some recipes recommend a covered cooking approach (foil or dutch oven) other suggest uncovered. I tend to do 90 minutes covered, then uncover it for the last 30 min. Only covering it again if it needs more time.
    • For dutch oven folks – add the turkey pieces to the sauce, making sure everything is coated, then cover pot with a lid, transfer to the oven and cook turkey meat is falling off the bone.  (Slow-cookers & crock pot users should adjust for time)
    • For larger parties, you can use a ½ or full foil pan. Add the turkey & vegetables pieces to the pan, (I like to use my hands to mix them ) then pour over the sauce mixture, making sure everything is coated, then cover with foil, transfer to the oven and cook  until turkey meat is falling off the bone.
  10. FYI – This wont be a heavey gravey style sauce unless you want to adjust to make it that way. Rather it’s a lighter, richer liquid somewhere between a sauce and broth.
  11. Serve garnished with basil on a platter alongside pasta, potatoes or rice. This can also stay warm from a chafing pan or transferred to a warm crock pot for standing meals.


  • I tend to not check the cooking process until after the first hour, stir if needed then recover.
  • Truth be told – I often omit steps 5 & 6 and  just put it all in raw when time is short and people like it just as well- this works well if I am using left over roasted vegetables so they add a extra depth.
  • If you find the sauce is too thin after cooking- you can use the “liquid and flour (cornstarch) method” used to make gravy or to thicken chills and after whisking flour into a small portion of the hot liquid, pouring it and siring it back into the pan. Stirring well does a nice job.
  • For dutch oven folks – add the turkey pieces to the sauce, making sure everything is coated, then cover pot with a lid, transfer to the oven and cook for two hours or until turkey meat is falling off the bone.  (Slow-cookers & crock pot users should adjust for time)
  • For larger parties, you can use a ½ or full foil pan. Add the turkey & vegetables pieces to the pan, (I like to use my hands to mix them ) then pour over the sauce mixture, making sure everything is coated, then cover with foil, transfer to the oven and cook for two hours or until turkey meat is falling off the bone.

Tomato, Bean & Cilantro Salad

This recipe came to me, by way of a pal of Pauls – I loved the fresh taste, the slight bite of the onion and the sharpness of the cilantro. The peppers can be swapped out for your preferences and to adjust for heat. Much of the amounts is eyeballed and approximate.SAMSUNG CSC


  • 3 cans of white beans, drained and rinsed*.
    • Note – pick your brand well – you want beans that stay firm. Bush’s works great, SW will also work.
  • 3 medium tomatoes
  • 1 medium red onion, minced
  • 2 Serano chili’s (pablano will also work) seeded and minced
  • 1 small batch of washed, chopped cilantro
  • 3 limes juiced
  • 1 tablespoon of Olive Oil
  • Salt to taste

*This dish originally used dried black-eye peas. They can be substituted and keep a great texture.

According to the person who shared it with us, while hand mincing with a sharp knife is the best – a food processor will also work.


  1. Mince the red onion and cilantro. Place in a large bowl
  2. Chop and seed the tomatoes. Add to the bowl.  (I cut the tomato to be about the same size as the beans.)
  3. Mince the peppers and seed (unless you want a lot of heat – then keep the seeds in) then add to the bowl
  4. Open and rinse the beans in cold water and strain. Add to the bowl.
  5. Stir the ingredients.
  6. Add 3 tablespoons of olive oil, the juice of the limes, then lightly salt and pepper  to taste.

This dish needs to sit for at least an hour or even better overnight. Seal in a airtight container.

Before serving, stir, then taste for salt & pepper , then garnish with lime and serve.

Bacon Wrapped Sweet Potato Bites

Bacon Wrapped Sweet Potato BitesSAMSUNG CSC

These were the “New Recipe” and how could it go wrong – bacon, butter, sweet potatoes, brown sugar, salt … oh and did I mention bacon? I found this recipe in Taste of Home magazine and the only adaption I did was the use of a
maple enhanced salt by the devilishly creative folks at Sinful Salts. They offer some “worth sinning over” salts direct online or currently offered for sale at the Castro’s Under One Roof  Store.


  • ¼  cup butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (I used the  maple flavored salt)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or red repper flakes if you like the sweet, hot and salty)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 large sweet potatoes (about 1-3/4 pounds), peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar (dark or light-  I found I prefer dark)
  • 1 pound of bacon strips, halved
  • Maple syrup, warmed

Note: the seasonings on this can be adjusted to your taste or menu. Red pepper flakes, chopped rosemary, nutmeg, seasoned salts, etc.



  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Clean and peel, then cut potatoes into 1 inch cubes.
  3. In a large bowl or large sized resealable baggie, add in seasoning mixture (Salt, pepper, cinnamon), add butter and mix.
  4. Add potatoes and toss to coat.
  5. Place brown sugar in a shallow bowl, break apart so that it is easy to dip into. Since I used a flavored salt I also added it here as well (using less in the mix part above)
  6. Wrap one piece bacon around each sweet potato cube; secure with a toothpick.SAMSUNG CSC
  7.  Dip each side in brown sugar. (Optional: you can also do a quick dip into a mixture of warmed maple before hitting the sugar dip for extra impact – you might want to put these on a rack to drip before placing on parchment)
  8.  Place on a parchment paper-lined 15x10x1-in. baking pan. FYI – Parchment or silicone baking sheet is crucial – these get sticky and can burn
  9. Bake 40-45 minutes or until bacon is crisp and sweet potato is tender.


Serve with maple syrup. Yield:about 2-1/2 dozenAdapted from Kelly Williams recipe shared in Taste of Home Magazine

A Hymn To Cheese

One of my pals attending our Openhouse, wrote and sent this to me today. Knowing my love of cheeses– he scored. Thanks Luke.

What a friend we have in Cheeses,
To our macaroni share!
What a privilege to marry
Cheese and pasta with great care!

Oh, what peace we often forfeit,
Oh, what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not marry
Cheese and pasta with great care!

Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged—
Take a bit of cheese and dare.

Can we find a friend so faithful,
Who will all our fondue share?
Cheeses know our every weakness;
Take a bit of cheese and dare

Are we weak and heavy-laden,
Cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Cheeses, still our refuge—
Take a bit of cheese and dare.

Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?
Take a bit of cheese and dare!
In the cheese sauce comfort shields thee,
Thou wilt find a solace there.

Blessed Cheeses, Thou hast promised
Thou wilt all our burdens bear;
May we ever cheeses bringing
Free our souls from every care.

Soon in glory bright, unclouded,
There will be no need for fare—
Rapture, praise, and endless worship
Will be our cheese portion there.

Artichoke & Spinach Bites


This adaption of an Artichoke  snack takes all the parts of that fav dip and turns it into a solid form. A great starter or stand-in base for a Sunday brunch or midweek “clean out the refrigerator” meal.  Tonights versions had roasted red peppers added into one. The use of the marinade from the artichoke then cooked off really set this apart from other recipes. This version is adapted from one found that was similar to one I have cooked since I was a kid.  

I have adapted this to add the spinach and other flavors items. When adapting this – keep in mind the balan

ce between wet and dry as that will affect the final outcome..

This years version came out tasty – but was a little loose – I would adjust it to either more egg to give it more body or serve it in a

rustic cutting board pre-cut instead of pile it “cookie plate” style.

  • 2 jars (6 ounce size) marinated artichoke hearts
  • 1/2 – 1 box frozen spinach thawed and squeezed (not squeeze again!!! Imean you want super dry)
  • 1-2 pinches of Nutmeg to taste
  • 1 small -medium yellow onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, mincedSAMSUNG CSC
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup fine dry bread crumbs
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
  • 1/8 teaspoon hot red pepper sauce
  • 2 cups coarsely shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 2 tablespoons minced parsley or cilantro

Note: You can also add pre-cooked chicken, sausage, raw vegetables like squash and zucchini to this dish or use with left over roasted vegetables, marinated peppers. For every cup of “stuff” I add, plan to add 1 additional egg to the batter and additional bread crumbs.


Artichoke Bites

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease 8-by-8-by-2-inch baking pan; set aside.

Drain marinade from half the artichokes (one jar) into small skillet; discard marinade from second jar. Coarsely chop artichoke hearts and set aside.

Heat marinade in skillet. Add onion and garlic to skillet, set over moderate heat, and stir-fry until glassy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Cool 5 minutes. Transfer to large bowl.

Add eggs, bread crumbs, salt, pepper, oregano, hot pepper sauce, cheese, chopped artichokes and parsley, (the squeezed spinach if used and other items) and mix well.

Pour into foil pan (or glass brownie pan – the original recipe suggest a cast iron skillet would I think would be perfect as well) prepped with cooking spray and bake uncovered about 30 minutes, until set like custard. Should be slightly browned at the edges.

Cool slightly in the pan, cut into squares, and serve warm or at room temperature.

By adding the full box of spinach and doubling the eggs and bread crumbs you can make a larger version of this. If you put it all into the ½ size deep foil pans – it will raise – making it good for a meal – but not as workable for a party unless you serve it as “spoon bread” type dish. Ultimately it’s a preference thing.

This is a favorite type of recipe – as it isn’t a set one –  explore it.

Note:  I will share the version I grew up with, which is similar to this one and uses sausage and  zucchini  and like this one, is meant to be eaten as a “brownie”  or if doubled as a brunch or egg entrée.

Original Recipe Source: Sunset All-Time Favorite Recipes, Adapted FVStrona 2013 

2013 Openhouse Menu

Sweets!This year’s menu includes – as I post each one I will reset the link here as well.