Authors in the Kitchen: Florence Fois

I am so pleased to introduce Florence Fois, fellow member of the Women's Fiction chapter of the RWA, and faithful visitor to this site. Today Florence shares her culinary wisdom.

Cooking Tips from fOIS In The City ...

I was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, spent three years as a young married woman near the Jersey Shore, went back to Brooklyn, then Manhattan and at last, settled in South Florida. I use the moniker of fOIS In The City because at heart, that is who I am and will always remain.

It's fun to read Rosemary's blog posts about New Jersey, the Shore areas, with the mix of sun, surf and great food, and I am pleased to visit her kitchen.

It is a pleasure to be included in her Author in the Kitchen series, although I have yet to publish. Alas, I am aspiring and hopefully submitting.  However, Rosemary asked me when I would share a recipe and join in the fun in her blog kitchen … so here I am !

What I learned from my mother, aunts and 57 varieties of Italian women from Southern Italy was how to cook and bake. However, in the last few years I have found a great way to combine all I learned about cooking with a new "twist."

The recipes come from two generations of great Italian women in my family. The "twist" is all mine.

I have a file both real and mental of hundreds of recipes. Instead of sharing one of those, I would like to share some tips on my twist.

~~I still make my pasta sauce (or gravy) from scratch. Follow a family recipe; find one in a cookbook or print off the internet. Use a good brand of crushed, peeled or pureed Italian tomatoes. Sauté in olive oil, garlic and parsley if you have them. You can use variations like sweet peppers, onions or Portobello mushrooms. If you don't have fresh parsley, basil or garlic in the house when the urge to cook strikes, then add one jar of tomato basil or other types of commercial pasta sauce by a major company like Bertolli for a cheat and for extra flavor. Saves time chopping, saves money. When the sauce is cooked, add fresh, grated Italian romano or parmesan cheese for zest.

~~Get the pasta sauces on a BOGO and store different types, along with cans of Italian tomatoes in your food pantry. These sauces are great for cooking dozens of different dishes and have a long shelf life. Fresh (from the deli) Italian cheese can last for up to six months in your refrigerator. Don't waste your money on the bottled one in the dried spice section. These are high in additives, preservatives and calories, and low in flavor.

~~A good tip for vegetable or bean soups. When the vegetables are completely cooked, take two cups of veggies and two cups of broth and blend until smooth. Add this back into the pot and cook for an additional 15 minutes. Makes all soups thick and creamy!

~~Also, when you make minestrone soup or traditional vegetable soup (not good with bean soups), add two tbsp. of prepared, bottled or deli fresh Pesto and grated Italian cheese at the end. The flavor is divine.

~~Can't eat too much fat? Drain non-fat small curd cottage cheese for thirty-six hours. Line a strainer with a coffee filter and leave at least four inches from the bottom of a pot. Once drained, put the cottage cheese in a food processor with one-quarter of a cup of grated Italian cheese and blend until creamy.

~~Add this cheese mixture to "al dente" cooked pasta. This works for baked ziti or penne, but it's also great with left over spaghetti. Add at least one cup of your personal favorite pasta sauce, mix and top with sauce and grated cheese. I dare anyone to tell the difference.

~~Cook broccoli "al-dente" and add cheese mixture (no sauce), top with grated cheese and bake for ten minutes. Great for a side dish with baked chicken. For added flavor, sauté one cup of chopped Portobello mushrooms and add to the cheese mixture for both pasta and veggie dishes.

~~When you sauté the trinity (sweet peppers, celery and onion) for dishes, use chicken broth instead of oil to start. If you have high blood pressure or need less salt in your diet, use room temperature water instead of broth. Or if you prefer, begin with only one tsp. of good olive oil and add broth or water, heat and sauté. This cuts calories in half and does not take away from the flavor of what you add later.

~~Since I am compulsive and have an incurable sweet tooth, I create tons of low fat, sugar-free recipes. Then there is often the need for the rush of an all sugar, calories-be-gone treat. But alas, I have taken up way too much of your time. Maybe I'll return with some great tips for a low-calorie, high protein regime. Or maybe Rosemary will invite me back so you can try my delightful dark double chocolate fudge, cherry brownie cake with butter cream filling. . .

Buon appetito!!

fOIS In The City