Mediterranean Pasta Sauce

  • olive oil
  • 3 skin-on chicken thighs, trimmed of excess fat
  • 1 large can San Marzono whole tomatoes
  • 1/2 can tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine (I use Pinot Grigio)
  • 4-5 green olives sliced
  • 2 tablespoons olive juice
  • 1 teaspoon capers with juice
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • large bunch of fresh basil (6-8 leaves whole)
  • 2 small sprigs fresh oregano
  • 1/4 cup of shaved parmesan or favorite Italian blend of shredded cheese

Drizzle enough olive oil to coat the bottom of a heavy pot or dutch oven. On medium to high heat — brown chicken thighs on both sides. Reduce heat to medium. Add can of tomatoes and white wine. break tomatoes apart with the back of a large spoon until there are just small pieces left. Add olives, capers, and herbs. Lower heat and let simmer for hour and a half.  Remove chicken from pot then remove meat from bones and shred. Add back into the sauce with tomato paste and cheese, simmer another 15 minutes.

Serve over your favorite pasta. I usually add a little of the pasta water to the sauce as well. 🙂



Mama J’s Gumbo

  • 4 chicken thighs – skin on, trimmed of excess fat
  • 2 links of andouille sausage sliced
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 small green pepper chopped
  • 1 small red or orange pepper chopped
  • 1 zucchini chopped
  • 1 cup cut frozen okra
  • 1 large can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons hot sauce
  • 1 bottle of beer!
  • Salt and pepper

In the bottom of a heavy pot, drizzle enough olive oil to coat – then add chicken thighs, skin side down and brown for 7-10 minutes – flip and brown for 5 more. Then add literally everything else. Stir well, place on medium heat until everything comes to a bubble. Then turn to low-medium, cover and let cook for at least two hours until the chicken is done through. Pull the chicken from the pot, remove meat from bones and shred. Discard bones and skins.

I serve steamed or sauteed shrimp on the side or add just as serving, but many like to cook it in the pot for extra seafood kick. Enjoy.

Navy Bean Soup

One of Dad’s Favorites! And a hearty meal for your whole family!  navy beans

  • 1 (16 ounce) package dried navy beans
  • water
  • 1/2 lb ground Italian sausage
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 4-5 baby red potatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 pound chopped ham
  • 1 ham hock
  • 3 cubes beef bouillon
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

In large dutch oven or pot —  add sausage and brown – breaking into small bits as you do.  Next, add onions, celery and potatoes and toss for about 5 minutes..  Then add beans, 6 cups of water, bouillon, wine, ham, hock, salt & pepper.  Cover then bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for two hours, stirring occasionally.   Add 1-2 cups additional water to desired consistency.   Simmer an additional two hours or until beans are tender.

Want to make it faster?  Use canned 3 cans of navy beans (drain first) or soak your dry beans overnight (drain the water).

Want to make it even heartier?  Here are some great additions:

  • 1/4 cup chopped carrot
  • 1 can garbanzo beans (drained)
  • 1/2 or 1 cup chopped greens (kale or collards)

Serve with Texas toast or slices of a crusty on the outside, incredible on the inside bread!

Mama J’s Meatloaf

Asked my Dad during my recent visit to Virginia – “All right Dad – what would you like me to make for you while I’m here?”  meatloaf 2“MEATLOAF” he replied!  That’s where it all started.  I made one – ONE – much to my brother’s dismay.  “Why only one?  What about leftovers?  What about sandwiches?”  Silly me.  One meatloaf?  If your family likes this favorite…here’s my recipe.  I hope you enjoy.  Oh – and you can thank Gale Carlos for nagging me until I put it online! 😉

  • If your market carries it – get 1 large package of the ground beef, turkey and pork combo.  Publix here sells a trio…if not –
  • 1 package each of ground beef, pork and turkey (should have about 1.5-2 lbs of meat altogether!)
  • 1 sleeve saltine crackers – crushed
  • 1/2 bottle of Heinz chili sauce
  • 1 small can of tomato sauce
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup of Italian breadcrumbs
  • 1 package Lipton Onion Soup Mix

Mix everything together well in a large bowl, if it seems too ‘wet’ add a little more breadcrumb to the mix.  Spray a loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray and fold mixture into pan smoothing out the top.  Spread a thin layer of chili sauce over the top.  Bake at 350 for an hour and fifteen minutes or until done in the center.

If your family is like mine – make two or they’ll bug you until they have sandwich fixings!  If you’re like my brother – have a bottle of ketchup ready.  Everyone else likes it the way it is or with mashed potatoes and gravy! (That’s Katie’s favorite way!)



Mama J’s Mama’s Recipe! 😉  Hats off to my mom Rosemary Ruth!  These are a family favorite.  Comfort food.  A little outside the norm.  I’ve even seen siblings eat them for breakfast.  We’re a little odd –but loveable!

Heat oven to 350 degrees oven ..cook 2-3 hours or until fork tender (and they’re ALWAYS better the second day!)

  • 2 cups cooked Rice
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • ½ pound ground sausage
  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning  (we like Bell’s but that’s not available everywhere I’ve found)
  • 3/4 to 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 large can of sauerkraut juice and all
  • 1 small can of sauerkraut
  • 1 large can of crushed tomatoes
  • 2 individual cans spicy V8
  • Large head of cabbage
  • Salt to taste

A little prep then a little patience.  (Waiting long enough for ingredients to cool before stuffing is truly not my family’s strong suit – but it all turns out just fine!) First, you will need to “steam” the leaves.  Mom uses the microwave for 20-25 seconds — just enough to soften the leaves not really “cook” them – then remove the spine from each leave you want to use.  You can stack several in the microwave at a time.

Combine crushed tomatoes and v8.  Then in bottom of roaster or baking dish add a thin layer of tomato sauce mixture and any of the broken leaves. Add a thin layer of sauerkraut.

Next, brown the beef, sausage and onion in a skillet (then let cool!!!)  (We used to just used ground beef  – but we have found we like the taste of the sausage in it – so your call!) Season with salt, pepper,  Worcestershire, poultry seasoning to taste.  Add cooked rice and mix thoroughly.  Then, with a slotted spoon, put the above mixture on the bottom of the cabbage leaf near the base of the “spine”  roll towards the top folding in sides to keep all stuffing in.

Add stuffed cabbage leaves, fitting as tightly together as you can on top in baking dish or roaster.  Then add a layer of tomato sauce, then thin layer of sauerkraut, and then repeat. Cover tightly with roaster lid or tin foil and bake for 2-3 hours until fork tender.  If you’re like my sister Michelle – you won’t last an hour before you want to “just check” it!

The sauerkraut is a little outside the norm – but mom learned it from a little old Swedish lady when we were stationed in Cleveland, Ohio way back in the day.  She said it adds tang to the rolls. And she’s right!   My stepdad liked all things spicy  – so the spicy V8 was a nod to his tastes!

You’d be surprised that even kids like this.  Just be sure to call it galumpkis and not cabbage if you want them to try it!  It sounds way more fun – don’t you think?

Thanks Mom for being an amazing cook and teaching me so much along the way!  Enjoy!  I’m making them now so I’ll post a picture when they’re done! 

Parmesan Garlic Chicken

I was staring at yet another package of chicken a while back (it was on sale at Publix – package of leg quarters – for $3 – yeah – I’ll take that!)  thinking – what can I do DIFFERENT?  Little of this and a  little of that later and anew kid favorite in my house was born.  Hope you like it!

  • 1 package chicken leg quarters (sometimes I just use a package of thighs and a package of legs – but you can use whatever you like!)
  • 1 stick of butter melted
  • 1 tablespoon Crystal hot sauce
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1 tablespoon garlic
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
  • salt & pepper to taste

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine all ingredients other than chicken in small pot and place on low.  Whisk thoroughly until hot, the remove from  heat.  Place chicken pieces on a large baking sheet.  Drizzle half of the liquid over chicken, salt and pepper to taste.  Place chicken in oven for 45 minutes.  Baste with other half of liquid, continue cooking for another 30-40 minutes or until chicken is cooked through and very tender.

The Zesty Lime Chili Corn makes a great side for this dish!


Julie’s Soup!

Back when I was maybe 10 or 11 I was tinkering in the kitchen and wanted to make soup for dinner.  It became a staple and for some reason, instead of chicken soup Julie's Soupor some version of that title — it was dubbed “Julie’s soup” and stuck!

Got a call from my sister the other day who said, “I am heading to the store – looked at the blog first for Julie’s soup and it’s not there!  What’s up with that?”  Thanks for calling me out on my slackerdom there sis!  Love you!  Here it is!  (I’ll have to make it now so I can get a real picture here!)  🙂

1/2-1 lb chicken tenders – cubed
1 medium onion – chopped
4 stalks celery – chopped
1 zucchini – cubed
2 small potatoes cubed
1 cup cabbage, shredded
1 cup frozen crinkle cut carrots (or 1 cup fresh cut up)
1 cup frozen cut green beans
1 cup frozen kernal corn
1 cup frozen baby peas
4 packets Goya chicken bouilliion (I like Goya but you can use other brands)
1 cup white wine — any dry variety
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes  (if you like your soup spicier – use a can of Rotel tomatoes with green chilis)
1 can great northern beans (cannelloni)
1 small can garbonzo beans (chick peas)
1/2 cup low-fat grated parmesan cheese
8 cups of water
salt & pepper to taste
In a large stock pot – put 2 tablespoons butter, minced garlic and chicken pieces, salt and pepper to taste – saute until chicken is browned on all sides (about 8-10 min) and remove.  Add 1 more tablespoon butter (or teaspoon olive oil) and add onions, celery, potato, cabbage & zuchinni and saute for about 6 minutes, stirring regularly.  Add water, frozen veggies, (except peas), tomatoes, beans, bouillion, wine & lemon juice and put heat on medium-low to simmer for about an hour and a half.  When potatoes are tender, add peas, and cheese and let simmer additional 5-10 minutes.
Here are some additional things you can add if you want:
  • 1 Andouille sausage chopped (adds spice)
  • cooked egg noodles or datalini noodles – or whatever noodles you like!  I add them in to the indivdual bowls not the pot because they absorb all the broth and my kids LOVE the broth – so putting them in at the end gives you the noodles without taking away from the soup!
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped spinach – sounds gross – but it’s really good and gives you lots of iron!
  • 1 small can of green chilis if you want to make it more like a tortilla soup – then you can top each bowl with cracked tortilla chips and shredded jack cheese
I hope you like it —  I serve it with crusty bread (which I watch the kids eat – lol) or biscuits or all by itself – in fact that’s what we’re having tonight! 🙂