Monthly Archives: October 2015

Chef Shay’s Pasta Casserole – A Football Favorite


One of the foods that my family loves is Spaghetti. I almost feel that my husband could eat it every day. However, I find that, as a chef, it could get boring really quick. I guess you could go back to Lady and the Tramp and romanticized the passionate coming of the lips between lovers, but with a family of five plus there not much call for that at the dinner table.

Spaghetti does have a way of being able to feed the masses relatively cheaply and elegantly, if you are creative. The dish that I prepared the other night was a break away from the traditional spaghetti. It began with leftover sauce.   On Sunday last we had the family over to watch a football game (Dallas lost another one). I prepared a Spaghetti Squash dish with sauce. My brother-in-law is a vegetarian so I prepared one sauce meatless and one with meat. The focus of the dish was the sauce. Needless to say I made more sauce than was needed (recipes are below). Into the refrigerator they went. So, fast forward a couple of days and I needed a quick and delicious meal. Easy enough! Out came the sauces! I looked through a variety of pastas that I keep in my pantry (in a future blog I will discuss the well-stocked Pantry) and got started.

Never truly liking to make the same dish twice, I decided to make a casserole using Mafalda Pasta (they look like tiny lasagna noodles). Since part of the meal is the result of leftover sauces the cost of this dinner was very cheap and fed five people with more lovely leftovers for the next day lunches.


  • Leftover meat and meatless sauces – recipes are following. (Now you can also take a bottle/can of spaghetti sauce, brown some meat, saute some vegetables to make a quick sauce; remember this dinner started out wanting to use leftovers)
  • 16 oz. package of Mafalda PastaMafalda Pasta
  • 6-8 oz. of fresh Mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 Bag – Blend of Italian Cheeses (or more if you like)
  • Dash of Salt (boiling water for pasta)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

I took the two sauces and mixed them together (my grazer brother-in-law was not present for this meal) into one beautiful sauce. For the pasta, bring water to boil, add salt. Now comes the tricky part. Since you will be baking this dish you want to prepare the pasta a bit undercooked, rather than the usual firm to the bite (Al-dente) otherwise the pasta will be too mushy – remember it will continue to cook while it is baking. Take all of the ingredients; sauce, pasta, mozzarella and mix it all together into one gorgeous concoction. Put mixture in to a 9”X12” casserole dish, spread evenly and put a layer of the Blend of Italian Cheeses on top (I don’t like to bury dishes in cheese). Put into the oven for 20-25 minutes. Remove when the cheeses is fully melted and slightly brown (it really neat to have a slight crispness on top). Let rest for about 5 – 10 minutes, then serve.

Vegetarian Spaghetti Sauce

  • 1 can (14-16 oz.) of diced tomatoes
  • 1 jar of your favorite spaghetti sauce
  • 1 cup Mirepoix (I cheated – I used Trader Joe’s pre-diced Mirepoix)
  • 2 tbsp. Olive oil
  • 2-4 Garlic cloves (pending on your tastes) – chopped
  • 1 tsp. Dry Italian Herb Blend (Oregano, Basil, Parsley)
  • ½ cup of red dry wine
  • ¼ tsp of baking soda (to cut the acid, if necessary)
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar

Mirepoix – a mix of carrots celery and onion in small dices. I added chopped garlic cloves because I like garlic.

Place olive oil in sauté pan over medium heat and add vegetables. As you are sautéing the vegetables for about 5 minutes, add in the Italian herbs to release the essential oils of the herbs. After another minute or so add the red wine. Let simmer for about 5 minutes. Put in the diced tomatoes and the jar of spaghetti sauce, and simmer for another 10 – 15 minutes. Taste and determine if you need to add the baking soda and / or sugar. Salt and pepper to taste. Simmer an additional 30 minutes to allow the flavors to combine.

Meat Sauce

My meat sauces are always different. For this one I used all the same ingredients as above along with:

  • 3 Italian sausages

All prepared the same way as the vegetarian sauce above except adding the crumbled sausage along during the sautéing of the vegetables.


The Maflada Pasta – Mafaldine, also known as Reginette (Italian for “little queens”) is a ribbon-shaped pasta. It is flat and wide with wavy edges on both sides. Mafalda paste was named in honor of Princess Mafalda of Savoy (2 November 1902 – 27 August 1944) was the second daughter of King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy and his wife Elena of Montenegro.


Unfortunately her story is a tragic one. Being of Italian royalty she was very much involved in humanitarian efforts during WWI and became beloved by her people. Her husband, Prince Phillip became an intermediary between the Italians and the Nazi Party. During WWII Hitler believed Princess Mafalda worked against the German war effort. She was arrested by the Gestapo and was confined to the Buchenwald concentration camp. During an allied air raid she suffered severe burns to her arms. She was not properly treated and during an operation to attempt to arrest an infection she bled profusely, never regained consciousness and died. In 1997, the Italian government honored Princess Mafalda with her image on a postal stamp.

Kielbasa and Sauerkraut – Very Colorful!


This is one of my families’ favorite meals. My husband, who has a rather warped sense of humor calls Kielbasa, “Donkey D**k,” (TMI).  The dish is inexpensive to make, and with my “Chef  Shay’s Gourmet Hints” it takes a rather mundane dinner up a level or two worthy of not just your family but company as well. What makes this special is that it is very colorful.



  • 1 14-16 oz. KielbasaPlacement (2)
  • 1 Red Bell Pepper
  • 1 Orange Bell Pepper
  • 1 Yellow Bell Pepper
  • 1 Large Onion
  • ½ Red Onion
  • 2 tbsp. Olive Oil
  • 2 tbsp. Butter
  • 1 to 2 tbsp. of Spice  Cider, Apple Cider or juice


  • 1 jar (2 cups) Sauerkraut (Not Canned – A No! No!).   Hold back a couple of tbsp. of the juice
  • 1 Apple
  • 2 tbsp. Olive Oil
  • 2 tbsp. Salt
  • 2 tbsp. Butter
  • ¼ cup of Spiced Cider
  • 1/4 tsp. Caraway Seeds (optional)

Take the Kielbasa and cut it into medallions, on an angle called “bias.” Slice the three bell peppers into long, thin slices – Julienne style. Take the red onion and ½ of the white onion and cut into long, thin slices – again Julienne style.

Place 1 tbsp. olive oil and butter into a heated pan; once melted put in the medallions of Kielbasa and sauté for 5-7 minutes or until slightly golden. Remove from pan and add another tablespoon of olive oil and butter; sauté the onions and bell peppers. A gourmet hint: Add in a tablespoon of the spiced cider. When the bell peppers and onions are tender add the Kielbasa back in and sauté for another 3 minutes.

Take the Sauerkraut and drain in a strainer. Gourmet Hint:  If you like your Sauerkraut and Onion mellow lightly rinse with cold water. Core the apple and slice thinly.  Take 2 tbsp. of butter and melt over a medium heat.  Add the apple and Sautee with the remaining onion (another gourmet hint: add caraway seeds). When the apple and onion golden pour in ¼ cup of spice cider.  Simmer for 1-2 minutes to reduce the apple cider and concentrate the flavors.  Add in the sauerkraut and simmer for about 5-7 minutes.

Serve with the Sausage and Peppers

Serves 4-5.


The thing that makes this meal so appealing is the variety of colorful, sweet bell peppers that are being used.

bell peppers

The bell pepper is a fruit and in culinary context it is considered to be a vegetable.

Oh! To be so misunderstood and to be grouped in with those hotheaded cousins, the Chili Peppers.  Where is the justice!

Bell peppers come in a variety of colors, green, red, orange, yellow, and sometimes brown, black and even purple. Despite the variety they are all the same plant, known scientifically as Capsicum annuum. They are member of the nightshade family which includes potatoes, tomatoes and eggplant. Paprika can be prepared from the red bell peppers. Bell peppers are not “hot.” The primary substance that controls “hotness” in peppers is called capsaicin and is found in very small amounts in the bell peppers.

Their nutritional value is exceptional. They are a major source of carotenoids, vitamin C, and health-supportive sulfur compounds. They have an enzyme called cysteine S-conjugate beta-lysais that may be involved in some the anti-cancer benefits.

Bell peppers has been cultivated for more than 9000 years with the earliest cultivation having taken place in South and Central America. It was transported to Europe in the 1500-1600’s and was given the Spanish name pimiento.

Let’s ring-it-in for the Bell Pepper!

The Sunday Brunch – A Calliope

One of the things that I learned from my husband was the tradition of the Sunday dinner. Chris was raised the Texas Hill Country in a little ranching community called Camp Wood. Every Sunday his family would gather around the dinner table and eat the pot roast, mashed potatoes, green beans; or something of that nature. The gathering was large and the bill of fare was even larger. He carried that tradition with him when we got married. Now days, on Sundays, we “traditionally” try to get together with our friends to have a “big” meal. We prepare a variety of foods, drink and talk to wile away the afternoon to a small degree of indulgence. We some time ask ourselves, “Ahh, what are the poor people doing today,” then, laughingly, we remember that we probably are the poor people!  In spite of that I have to admit that amongst us we can create quite a gourmet feast on the “cheap.” Let me introduce Nathalie to you. She is one of my best friends and she is also a chef. She got her training at Cordon Bleu in Pasadena. Ohh! … and she is French. French and a Chef what better combination! She is the creator of this beautiful feast.

Get a load of this spread; it is a “Calliope of Vittles” that will not disappoint any gourmet-ist. This menu was relatively inexpensive and simple to prepare. We fed nine people with food left over.

Sunday Brunch Spread
Sunday Brunch Spread

The Menu

  • Scramble Eggs ala Natalie
  • Hash Browns
  • Biscuits and Gravy
  • Pancakes
  • Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Sweet Rolls
  • Ham Steaks
  • Maple Bacon
  • Jimmy Dean Breakfast Sausage
  • Mimosa

A number of the items were store bought:

  • Ham Steaks
  • Maple Bacon
  • Biscuits
  • Jimmy Dean’s Link Sausages
  • Trader Joes’ Pumpkin Sweet Rolls
  • Pancakes (follow instructions on box)
The Sunday Brunch
The Sunday Brunch

We followed the manufactures instruction in preparing these items. The rest of the items we prepared ourselves and the recipes follow. Remember that these recipes fed nine people with food to spare. Be sure and moderate your preparations to the number of people who you are serving. If you have questions on portions send a comment and we will respond.

The Ham Steaks, Bacon, Sausage, Sweet Rolls were prepared first and placed in the oven under low heat to keep warm.

Then the preparation of the following took place.

Scramble Eggs ala Nathalie


  • 16 Eggs
  • ½ cup of grated / sliced Swiss Cheese
  • 2 tbsp. Tarragon
  • 2 tbsp. Chives
  • 1 cup of milk
  • Salt and Pepper (to taste)

Whip up eggs in a big bowl, then combine all the other ingredients and keep whipping until all mixed together. Take a large Teflon pan (to keep from sticking or use a non-stick spray) and pour the mixture in. Cook over a low heat. A pan that is too hot will burn the eggs. Remember you are using milk and milk will scorch if it gets too hot. The Secret to cooking fluffy eggs; low heat first of all but don’t stir the egg mixture. Push it and fold it onto itself. This will allow the eggs to fluff up like clouds. It will not only look for elegant but will taste better as well. Enjoy!!

Biscuits and Gravy

The biscuits were store bought and prepared according to instructions on the container. The gravy was made from scratch. We always recommend making your gravy from scratch. It is easy and the ingredients are simple. Store bought gravies is always too salty or over seasoned.


  • ½ package Jimmy Dean Sage Sausage –chopped up.
  • ½ Onion – chopped
  • 2 tbsp. Flour
  • 3 cups of Whole Milk (trust me – enjoy the Whole Milk. If you are going to eat gravy, 2% or non-fat milk is not going to save you a lot of calories – indulge!)
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Bacon Drippings -saved from the cooking of the maple bacon. This is as important as mustard on a hotdog.

Combine all the flour, bacon drippings, milk and flour into a mixture. Cook the sausage and sauté the onion in the sausage drippings. Add in the onion and sausage to the mixture and cook slowly over a low heat (remember what milk will do!) Here comes the “chefy” part. You want a nice thick gravy. No one likes runny gravy. So get it to the thickness that suits you by adding milk or flour to the consistency you want. Heat until hot.

Hash Browns


  • 2 packages of Trader Joe’s hash Browns (any brand will do). Not the patties.
  • 2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
  • ½ Medium Gold Onion
  • 1 Green Bell Peppers

Place the packages of hash brown in a medium hot cast iron skillet (a future blog will discuss the advantages of preparing foods in cast iron) with 1 tbsp. of olive oil. Add the onion and bell peppers and cook together. Sort of flatten the hash browns, onion and bell peppers together in the pan after several minutes or until the bottom of the hash browns are golden brown. This should all come together and one hash brown “Pattie” (never does actually). Now comes the tricky part; either cut the hash brown “Pattie’ in half or have a giant spatula and flip the hash browns over. The “browned” hash browns should be on top. Just heat in the pan a couple of more minutes to get the bottom layer warm and firmed up. Transfer into a casserole dish and place in the oven to keep warm while the rest of the meal is being prepared, also it will be easier to serve from the casserole dish.


Champagne and Orange juice in any ratio proportion that you want.

Indulge! You can sleep the afternoon away!

Flavors of Autumn – A Colorful Delight

Autumn is here! Well, if you are here in Southern California and it being 90 degrees outside, in the shade, it does not feel much like autumn but according to the ancient Celtics and the alignment at Stonehenge we have reached the Autumn Equinox. Outside Southern, “All Things Brown,” California we understand that autumn is very colorful. The four dishes in this blog are light, very tasty and quite colorful. Taking a look below you will see that the ingredients are few and very quick to prepare. With school underway, soccer and baseball games in full swing we find ourselves pressed for time and that means stopping on the way home to get fast food for dinner. Well, if you did stop and get those burgers … get on home and mix up a quick soup or salad that rounds out the meal. Each one of the following recipes uses prepared items (from Trader Joe’s, by the way) as a base and with my never- ending meddling I have enhanced the items into an elegant, gourmet dish that only took minutes to prepare. Enjoy and if you alter any of the recipes let me know what you did – I might wanted to steal it.

Savory Butternut Squash Soup


  • 2 Boxes of Trader Joe’s Butternut Squash Soup
  • 1 package of Trader Joe’s Butternut Squash Cubes

    Savory Butternut Squash Soup
    Savory Butternut Squash Soup
  • ¼ cup Trader Joe’s Spiced Cider

Combine the following ingredients in a bowl and whisk together:

  • 1 tbsp. Olive Oil
  • 1 tbsp. Butter
  • ½ – 1 tsp. Salt
  • ¼ tsp. Pumpkin Pie Spice or Cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. Maple Syrup for roasting
  • 2 tbsp. reserve to add to soup

Add butternut squash cubes , olive oil, salt, spice, syrup Butter and toss. Place on cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes or until golden and soft. Turning over cubes half way through the time. Remove from oven and cool (by the way – any leftover roasted squash will work well!). Place squash in blender, add squash soup to cover. Puree and place in sauce pan with remaining soup. Add additional syrup, more if you like and Cider. Heat to a simmer. Ladle into bowls. Top with a tablespoon of sour cream, Greek Yogurt or Mascarpone. Top with pumpkin spiced pumpkin seeds.

Hint: If you feel adventurous – Try adding a couple of tablespoons of Chutney when you puree the squash in the blender.


                                                                            Happy Harvest Salad

Happy Harvest Salad
Happy Harvest Salad


  • 1 Bag Harvest Salad (it’s a complete salad – Awesome!)
  • ½ cup Pomegranate Seeds
  • 1 Fuju Persimmon either sliced thinly or Julienne
  • ½ Bag of Red Spinach

Basic Salad: In a large bowl, toss together Harvest Salad (all the ingredients), Pomegranate Seeds, Julienne Persimmon and Red Spinach. Serve.

Hint: Feeling Fancy? Toss together Harvest Salad Greens (not the mini packets of Croutons and nuts) and Red Spinach and Salad Dressing. Arrange on individual plates with slices of persimmon. Top with Pomegranate seeds, croutons and nuts.   Now, here is the Kicker – Top with thin slices of either honey goat cheese or Trader Joe’s seasonal apple goat cheese.

Broccoli and Kale Slaw

Broccoli and Kale Slaw
Broccoli and Kale Slaw


  • 1 Bag Trader Joe’s Broccoli and Kale Slaw
  • ¼ cup Blue Cheese Crumble (if you like more – it’s okay!)
  • 1 Apple in thin Julienne or dice (Granny Smith or any slightly tart apple)

Toss together and that’s about it! Great with Red Meats or any sandwich with BBQ sauce

… and for a little fun.

Fall Fantasy Meatballs


  • 2 Bottles Trader Joe’s Carolina BBQ Sauce
  • 1 Jar of Pumpkin Butter
  • 1 Bag Trader Joe’s Meatballs… We’re using party Meatballs but it’s your choice

Mix together in sauce pan. Heat until hot. Place in Crock Pot – set on low or warm – It’s a PARTY!

All of these recipes, except for the Fall Fantasy Meatballs were created within 30 minutes as a presentation to the Simi Valley New In Town Club.

Flavors of Autumn Display
Flavors of Autumn Display
Simi Valley New In Town Club
Simi Valley New In Town Club


It seems like everything gets started with the Greeks and the Romans.  They began eating mixed greens with dressing.  The word “Salad” comes from the French Salade , which comes from the Latin, salata (salty), from sal (salt).  Salt is associated with salad because vegetables were seasoned with brine or salty oil and vinegar dressing.  English began using “salad” during the 14 century. Salads began to be come popular in the United States in the mid 19th century around the time of the Civil War and it was not until the mid 20th century that salads began to appear the China,  and Japan.

There are five types of salads:

  • Green Salad – composed of leafy vegetables like lettuce, spinach or arugula
  • Vegetable salad – use of vegetables other than greens, i.e., cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes onions carrots, etc.
  • Bound Salad – can be composed or tossed and put in a bowl and mixed with a thick dressing i.e. tuna salad, pastas salad, egg salad.
  • Main Course Salads- the proverbial dinner salads served as a main entrée (Cobb salad, Caesar salad, Greek salad)
  • Dessert Salads rarely composed of leafy greens and often sweet ( jello salad, ambrosia)