They call ’em cowboy candy and they’re loaded with sweet heat and a bit of crunch–along with that element of surprise: how hot will this one be? Seems the heat level can vary even within different bites of the same pepper. I ate a particularly spicy ring last summer, experienced an all-over “I’m melting” sensation, then fainted and literally hit the wall. For a while, I was afraid to eat more of them, but I soon got over it and ate the rest because a) they’re damn tasty and b) Yankee thrift prevents me from throwing away perfectly great food. 🙂

What to do with them? Whether you eat ’em like candy, perch them atop a spicy margarita or add them as a garnish for tacos, they’re a welcome guest at a variety of sweet or savory parties. And, as a bonus, the by-product is a fiery syrup you can use to make kicked-up margaritas. I even made my own spicy sugar for dipping the glasses–there goes that Yankee thrift action again. Let’s heat things up, amici!

And a spicy syrup by-product to boot!

6 jalapeños, cut into thick rings
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground chile (I used 1/4 tsp. chipotle and 1/4 tsp. ancho)
additional 1/2 cup sugar for dipping
Preheat oven to 200 degrees F.
Dissolve water, spices and half cup of sugar in a small saucepan. Stir over medium high heat till it boils. Add jalapeños and reduce heat to medium low. Simmer for 3-4 minutes. Using a toothpick, dip each jalapeno ring into granulated sugar. Coat the rings generously. Place on foil-lined cookie sheet.
Bake sugared rings at 200 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes. Let them cool and air-dry for several hours. You can even leave them uncovered for a day or two.

But wait! Save that syrup and stick it in the fridge–it contributes to a mean margarita.

You’ll see you have a bit of leftover sugar from dipping the rings–to that, add 1/4 teaspoon of the syrup. To make it pretty, add about 7 drops of food coloring. Stir thoroughly to combine. Now you can dip each margarita glass (dip first in a shallow dish of tequila or run a wedge of lime around the top) in the spicy sugar to make a colorful presentation.

Be sure to have some tortillas or bread or crackers on hand just in case you need to rescue yourself from the ring of fire. 🙂 Cheers!

Summertime and squash is everywhere! Let’s make the best of what’s bountiful with this simple side. It’s super-easy and a little cheesy with a nice, buttery crunch on top.


To cook the squash
4 heaping cups squash (I used 3 yellow squash and 2 zucchini), sliced
1 medium sweet onion, halved, then sliced thin
1.5 tablespoons butter

To add once the vegetables are cooked
1 cup shredded cheddar
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper

For the topping
1 tablespoon melted butter
scant 2/3 cup panko
some extra shredded cheddar to sprinkle over the top

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9-inch square pan.

Melt butter in a saute pan. Add onions and squash.

squash saute
Cook till tender and the onions start to get a bit of color.

Remove from heat, then add cheese, mayo, egg, salt and pepper. Pour into buttered baking dish.

Combine one tablespoon of melted butter with panko. Sprinkle evenly over top, then sprinkle a bit of additional shredded cheddar over that.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 30-35 minutes. Serve and enjoy!

And in the wise words of Farmer Brown, ♫ For variety and vitamins and feeling rooty-toot, eat a veg-a-bread-a-milk-a-cheese-a-bean-a-meat-a-fruit–eat a variety every day! ♫ Live life in balance and be happy! 😀 My man!


Let’s try something new and Italian this week–something to add to an Italian combo grinder, sandwich or antipasto. I made a batch today and am eagerly awaiting a killer sandwich later this week! It’s very easy to make, just a matter of waiting between steps.


1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 eggplant (1 to 1.25-lb.)
1 jalapeno in slices
2 cloves garlic, sliced thin
Fresh parsley (you can also use fresh mint, fresh oregano or dried oregano)

To boil:
2 cups water
1 cup white vinegar
Peel eggplant. Slice into thin strips, then cut again so they’re like thin french fries.

Set eggplant strips in a colander, sprinkle with Kosher salt. Toss with your hands to distribute the salt evenly.

Set colander inside a large bowl, then place another bowl on top of the eggplant with a heavy can inside (I used a can of crushed tomatoes) to weigh it down. Set aside for four hours at room temperature. Give the eggplant strips a gentle squeeze by the handful before you boil them.Before we get too far ahead, sterilize (run through the dishwasher) two 8 oz. glass jars or containers.In a saucepan, bring water and vinegar to a boil. Add eggplant and continue to boil, stirring occasionally till eggplant is tender–2 to 3 minutes only.

Drain in colander promptly, then set colander inside a bowl. Once again, place another bowl on top of the eggplant with a heavy can inside to weigh it down. Continue to drain, covered for about 2-3 hours on the counter. Gently squeeze eggplant by the handful to remove excess liquid.
Coat the bottom of each jar/container with olive oil, then layer in eggplant, hot pepper rings, garlic and parsley. Repeat till the jar is almost full, leaving enough room to top with additional olive oil. Look at all the pretty colors! It could only possibly be prettier if you grabbed a red hot pepper instead of a green one. Sadly, all the red hots at the store were looking pathetic yesterday. But you might be able to create your own Italian flag of marinated produce–2 cups’ worth!

How many days before I dig in? Tick-tock, tick-tock! 😀 Not too many, I don’t think…but I’ll try to give it a couple of days for the flavors to meld together. So, till Tuesday, amici (if not before!)!


Smack dab in the middle of the Land of Steady Habits (in Meriden, CT) is a stellar meat market by the name of Noack’s. Besides other smoked meats and German specialty sausages, Noack’s makes the very best wursts.

I picked up some weisswursts and thought I should honor their heritage by making warm German potato salad to go with. Then it hit me: I don’t think you LIKE German potato salad. So, how about those not quite mashed potatoes you make, but with BACON?! That’s it! Achtung, baby, let’s make crash potatoes with the delicious addition of PIG!


2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, cut in chunks
3 cups chicken stock
1 cup whole milk
2 cloves garlic, pressed
4 sprigs thyme
1 bay leaf
5 slices bacon (if you are local, please visit Middletown’s Meadow Meat–their slab bacon is OUTSTANDING!)
½ large sweet onion, finely chopped
handful fresh parsley, chopped
¼ cup sour cream
1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
¼ tsp. salt

To a large stockpot, add potatoes, chicken stock, milk, garlic, thyme and bay leaf. Bring to boil over medium high heat, then reduce to medium or just below. Cook potatoes for 10 minutes or till you can fork through them. Reserve the cooking liquid from the badadas (yes, potatoes, I know–it runs in the family). You’re going to add some of that liquid back when we put everything together. Remove bay leaf and thyme stems.

While your potatoes are boiling, cook and drain the bacon, but SAVE THOSE DRIPPINGS in the pan! Remove only maybe a teaspoon or so. Chop the bacon, set aside. Chop the parsley and set it aside, too.

Cook the onion in the bacon drippings over medium heat. Once the onion is nice and golden and soft, it should be about time to add them to the potatoes.

It’s showtime! To the cooked potatoes, add the onion, bacon, 1/4 cup reserved stock/milk from cooking the potatoes, sour cream, salt, parsley and coarse ground mustard. Stir. No need to mash. They naturally “crash” into deliciousness without manual intervention. And are a fine accompaniment to the best wursts I know!

I told my Uncle Ralph I was making badadas this weekend. “Badadas! Uncle John used to call them that. But I’m pretty sure they’re potatoes.” Be that as it may, badadas is fun to say.

So, with a proud nod to my own somewhat humorous heritage, here is Uncle John with Poppy way, way back in the day. Yup, that very handsome devil on the right is my grandfather: the original Alfred Anthony. Happy birthday a little early, Poppy! As always, I wish you were here. Love, Hopey

NO VAMPIRES. That’s right. There were no vampires anywhere near my neighborhood when I roasted grape tomatoes not once, but twice, last week. Even when it’s hot outside, you can pull this off with just 20 minutes in the oven.

How delicious roasted tomatoes taste over your favorite ravioli! A trip to Franklin Avenue netted me some nice meat ravs from Di Fiore and freshly-filled cannoli from Mozzicato DePasquale. But let’s get going on dinner first–it’s quick ‘n easy and oh-so good!

adapted from Food & Wine

2 pints grape tomatoes
3 large (or 6 small) garlic cloves
olive oil to coat the bottom of your baking dish
1 teaspoon kosher salt
freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
fresh basil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Drizzle olive oil to coat 9 x 13″ glass baking dish. Roll the tomatoes around in the olive oil to coat. Sprinkle with kosher salt, pepper and crushed red pepper. Gently smash the garlic cloves with the side of your knife and add to baking dish. Make sure all the tomatoes are in an even layer.

Let ’em roast for 10 minutes, turn ’em over, then 10 more minutes of roasting and you’re done with the oven!

I used a potato masher to give the tomatoes a squeeze. Be careful–they’re hot little devils and have a tendency to squirt where you don’t want them to go: walls and windows and clothes, oh my! Got fresh basil? I snipped some lemon basil with scissors.

Spoon over your ravioli, or pasta, or you can just eat them plain, so I’m told. I’d definitely find some good bread if I had no ravs, that’s for sure. Buon appetito from Hartford’s Little Italy and Katty’s Kitchen!

We’re having a blizzard–a perfect time to crank up the oven and enjoy the goodness of roasted Brussels sprouts with garlic.

Usually, I just buy Brussels sprouts in the little cup container you find in the produce section. Today I found the entire green jingle bell variety, stalk and all. Can’t get much fresher than that unless you grow them yourself.

File this under “so easy, it shouldn’t be a recipe.” So good, though–you must try this if you haven’t before.


About 12 oz. Brussels sprouts
Extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Peel away any brown/yellow outer leaves, cut off stems. Halve each sprout, coat with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Smash garlic cloves with the side of your knife. Remember I said this was so easy it shouldn’t be a recipe?

Place sprouts and garlic in a pan. Cook for 35-40 minutes, giving them a shake or a turn with your tongs every so often. They’ll get a little crispy on the outer leaves and rather golden like this!

Enjoy! And stay toasty during the storm!

Do you want to know a secret? A crazy family secret we truly believe makes carrots taste better? It’s…the crinkle cutter. Originally, my mom was the only one in the family who had one. Then, one year for Christmas, it seemed everyone in the family should be armed with this special tool, so multiples appeared beneath the tree. It was quite possibly the same year all of us kids received mechanical banks, but I digress…

Carrying on this proud yet silly tradition, I find it difficult to prep carrots without crinkle cutting. Our little family joke is that more flavor gets in all the extra surface area created by the crinkles. HA HA HA!

Holiday carrots–a recipe from my old neighbor–are always a hit, holidays or not. So simple, so delicious and rather festive looking, too. I notice people going for seconds on this dish ALL THE TIME.

1 pound of carrots, peeled–and crinkle-cut (Dammit, weren’t you paying attention? That’s the secret to the whole recipe!)
10 dried apricots, diced
1/3 cup golden raisins
a few pats of butter
2 teaspoons light brown sugar
a couple dashes of cinnamon

Combine carrots, apricots and raisins; steam till carrots are tender. Toss with butter, brown sugar and cinnamon. Serve and wait for compliments. 🙂