Tortilla Soup – Good for a Rainy Day

I can’t think of a better rainy day recipe as the 2nd of three storm systems continues to drop so much rain that our pool is almost overflowing! This is one of those “shopping in my pantry” meals – so I don’t have to drive to the store in nasty, wet and windy weather. This is also an easy dish for anyone living on their own. I have even sent a box with the recipe and ingredients (no chicken) to my son at college and his roommates were so happy!

Tortilla Soup

1  15-oz can black beans
1  15-oz can white corn
1  15-oz can southwest style tomatoes
1  15-oz can chicken broth
2 cups cooked chicken breast, shredded
sea salt and pepper to taste
Optional Garnish:
shredded cheese
tortilla strips
sour cream
fresh cilantro

Mix soup ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with your favorite toppings.
You can substitute regular diced tomatoes for the southwest diced tomatoes and then add Mexican seasoning to taste.

Cook, Eat, Laugh…Claudia 







Tomato Sauce with Elk Sausage

Some close friends recently gave me some elk sausage, as they are quick to share their game bounty. I made a crowd-pleasing spaghetti sauce. (Elk meat is leaner and higher in protein than beef or chicken.)

Tomato Sauce with Elk Sausage

1/4       cup extra-virgin olive oil
1          clove garlic, minced
1          onion, peeled and finely chopped, about 1 cup
1          pound Elk sausage
1/2       cup red wine
1/2       teaspoon sea salt
1/8       teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/8       teaspoon ground nutmeg
1          15-ounce can good quality tomato sauce
1          15-ounce can good quality diced tomatoes
4          tablespoons good quality tomato paste

Heat the olive oil, in a large saucepan over low to medium heat.  Add the onion and garlic and sauté for 5 minutes, until translucent.

Add the elk sausage and cook over medium heat, breaking it up with a wooden spoon until cooked.

Add wine and cook until liquid evaporates. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.

Add tomato sauce, water and tomato paste. Stir well. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Taste and adjust for salt and pepper. Toss with your favorite pasta.

Cook, Eat, Laugh…Claudia





Butter Lettuce Salad with Roasted Butternut Squash

Our most recent cooking class at the Draeger’s Gourmet Cooking School featured this delicious salad as a perfect fall starter. It combines familiar ingredients of lettuce, cheese and nuts with a surprise guest – butternut squash.

Butter Lettuce Salad with Roasted Butternut Squash

Servings: 4     Prep time: 5 min   Cook time: 40 min (for squash)



4 cups butter lettuce, torn into pieces

2 cups roasted butternut squash chunks, from 2lb squash

1/2  cup dried cranberries

1/4  cup red onion, sliced very thin

1/2  cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese

1/4  cup pistachios


1/4  cup apple cider vinegar

1/4  cup champagne vinegar

1      teaspoon honey

1/2  teaspoon sea salt

dash  freshly ground pepper

1/2  cup extra virgin olive oil

Prepare Dressing:

Pour vinegars into a small bowl. Stir in honey, salt and pepper. Whisking continuously, slowly add the olive oil until it is thoroughly blended.

Prepare Salad:
Place salad greens in a large bowl. Add squash, cranberries, red onion, cheese and almonds. Toss with one third of the dressing. Taste and adjust for salt and pepper. Add more dressing as needed. Serve immediately.

Cook, Eat, Laugh…Claudia


Girls Club on TV

Thanks again to my Girls Club for supporting me on TV!

I love you all!






Roasted Butternut Squash

Here is the easiest method for preparing roasted butternut squash. It really is worth the effort!

Step 1 – Microwave the whole squash for about 1 minute. This makes it easier to cut.

Step 2 – Slice squash horizontally  into 6 rounds and place on a greased baking sheet.

Step 3 – Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt, freshly ground pepper and a little nutmeg.

Step 4 – Roast at 400*F. for about 20 minutes or until soft.

Step 5 – Remove from oven and let cool. Discard skin and seeds. Cut pulp into chunks.

Cook, Eat, Laugh…Claudia

Homemade Tomato Juice

Easy Homemade Tomato Juice

2 cups Organic Plain Tomato Sauce

1  tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil

2  cups Organic Vegetable Stock

Bring tomato sauce and Olive Oil to a low boil. Remove from heat.

Stir in Vegetable Stock, let cool then chill.


Homemade Tomato & Veggie Juice

1/2     cup diced sweet onion

1/2     cup diced celery

1/2     cup diced carrot

1        tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil

2        cups Organic Vegetable Stock

2        cups Organic Plain Tomato Sauce

Sauté onion, celery and carrot in olive oil over low heat for 5 minutes. Add 1/4 cup Vegetable Stock, cover and simmer for 10 minutes.

Add tomato sauce and bring to a low boil. Remove from heat. Let cool. Blend until smooth. Add remaining Vegetable Stock. Taste and adjust for salt. Chill.

Risotto with Fresh Tomatoes

I created this recipe to demonstrate at the Los Banos Tomato Festival, Saturday and Sunday, October 6 & 7. I will be a guest chef on the Main Stage twice on Sunday at 12:15 and 2:15.

The Los Banos Tomato Festival features a variety of events, contests and entertainment that will appeal to people of all ages. From truck-pulls to celebrity chef demonstrations to kiddie events – there is something for everyone in the family.

Risotto with Fresh Tomatoes

Make a batch of risotto…need a good recipe..look on page 129 of our Cookbook: Cooking Dinner.

While the risotto is cooking and in between stirring….in a separate pan, saute over low heat 1/8th of a red onion, sliced very fine and one garlic clove in 2 tablespoons olive oil. After 10 minutes, stir in 2 chopped and seeded fresh tomatoes – use heirloom or homegrown whenever possible! Sprinkle generously with sea salt, add a few sprigs of fresh herbs – thyme, sage, oregano and rosemary and saute for 5 more minutes. When risotto is done, stir in sauteed tomatoes and serve with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Los Banos Tomato Festival – More Info Here

Cook, Eat, Laugh…Claudia

Too Many Zucchini???

Summer gardens tend to overflow this time of year with an assortment of zucchini. If you don’t have a garden or a neighbor with one…pick up a few different varieties at your local farmer’s market. These came from The Fruit Bowl on Waterloo Rd. For easy cooking ideas, check out our cookbook: Cooking Dinner – Simple Italian Family Recipes Everyone Can Make. How about a quick Frittata on pg. 54; or Sauteed Zucchini on pg. 195; or grilled in a Tri-tip Panino on pg. 58 or Baked with other vegetables like eggplant, bell peppers and tomatoes on pg. 184.
For more recipes and tips, sign up for our Italian cooking class at Draeger’s Menlo Park or Draeger’s Blackhawk.

Cook, Eat, Laugh…Claudia






Guinness World Record Pizza!

Riding my bike to the beach on the very busy Lungomare (seaside promenade) of my town of Marina di Massa  I was surprised to see the road partially closed.  Because of Summer time the area was already very busy and with one side of the road closed it was going to be insane moving around. I kept riding and I was so happy to discover  that the road was closed because my fellow villagers were trying to beat a new record. They were trying to make a Pizza worth a Guinness World Record!

In typical Italian style only local ingredients were used to make this incredible pizza! 2 tons of flour and 30 kilos (66 pounds) of basil is what it took to beat the old record held by Poland and become part of history.

On the spot the dough was mixed, rolled out and baked to make a pizza 1200 meters (3937 feet) long and 90 cm (35.5 inches) wide, the longest ever cooked up to date.

The work started on Saturday at 11:30 pm and the world record was achieved before the set time of 7 pm on Sunday. Things were rolling so well that by 4 pm the 1200 meters (almost 4000 feet)  pizza was all done!

Congratulation to Marina di Massa!

Cook with your heart. Ciao Rima!






Heirloom Ruby Red Rice Salad

Red rice is grown in Europe, Southeast Asia, and the American South. When red rice is cooked, the natural color in its hull dyes the rest of the dish red to pink.
Red rice has 75% more fiber, 13% more protein and 25% less fat than brown rice. You can find it in most grocery and specialty food stores or online. Sometimes it is sold in a medley with other types of rice and grains, which is nice because the variety makes for an appetizing presentation when cooked. Rice is versatile to prepare and a great gluten-free grain. Cook some rice then mix it into a salad and pair with chicken or fish for dinner.

Ruby Red Rice Salad

1/2       cup olive oil, divided
1/2       red onion, peeled and chopped
1          celery rib, chopped fine
2          cloves garlic, minced
1/4       cup pistachios, chopped
1/4      cup chopped dried fruit medley (apricots, dates, cranberries, peaches…)
2          cups cooked red rice, cooled
1/4       teaspoon grated zest of orange
2          tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Sea salt and pepper to taste

Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a medium sauté pan. Add onion, celery and garlic. Cook over low to medium heat for 5 minutes, add pistachios and continue cooking for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Place cooked rice into a large salad bowl. Add cooked onions and dried fruit. Add orange zest, vinegar, remaining olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Optional, mix in a little fresh tarragon.

Cook, Eat, Laugh…Claudia