Category: kitchen

Home at Nana Rosa’s

I am half Italian. (If we’ve just met, I used to go by the last name of Capriotti, which made this fact even more obvious than my temper or my toddlers talking with their hands). growing up, we did not go out to Italian restaurants. Dad made gravy (yes, gravy) and taught my Irish ma how to do so as well. They made lasagna and sausage & peppers and on one occasion, Ma & I even made gnocchis.

We did not eat Italian out.

My Gramma Capriotti – who is still eating with the best of us at age 93 – was an amazing cook. Every Easter and Thanksgiving dinner started with homemade pasta noodles and gravy before the traditional roast whatever/potatoes/dressing/etc. I was a kid with fabulous metabolism in those days. I’m not sure how those soup-to-nuts meals didn’t send all the adults to the hospital. I can still practically taste Gramma’s fresh spaghetti and perfect, smooth, tomato-y gravy, topped with fresh Parmesan and served alongside handmade meatballs and green salad with oil and vinegar… and the pizzelles and cheesecake that would come not long after.

We did not eat Italian out.

I happened to marry a non-Italian (he’s wonderful nonetheless) who is also an Atkins life eater – lotsa meat and salad, very few carbs (which is why his pants are falling off and mine resemble a sausage casing, and not in a good way). This has not deterred me from cooking Italian, but it’s inspired me to be creative. We don’t have pasta without some sort of meat involved (even if it’s a ‘bowl of ground beef’ for my honey while the rest of us enjoy carbonara). We recently had this meat-heavy lasagna from Pioneer Woman that was decidedly not my Dad’s (though his is also, deservedly, famous). And I make dishes with pancetta and prosciutto, which inevitably are still loved way more by me than by Rod. ‘Tis ok. We can work around our different tastes at home.

But we do not eat Italian out.

Except at Nana Rosa’s.

If not for Twitter and a certain banjo-playing Oak Ridge Boy, we might not have encountered this wonderful place. But fortunately, Mr. Ban-Joey gets as excited about his food as I do, and so last month when we returned to Hendersonville, TN, a place we already love, for the first time in almost two years, I really only had one request: We. Must. Eat. At Nana Rosa.

Our first encounter there was for lunch, where we met some new friends who live in town but had not yet discovered the culinary wonder of Nana Rosa and ran into Joe, who is rewarded for the publicity he gives the restaurant with the occasional special-order cake. We also had the Sweetest Waitress Ever, who swung our children upside down, and met Skippy, the owner, who bestows gifts on all the children who dine there.

I was won over even before the peach tea and corn-marscapone ravioli in alfredo sauce.

Our second encounter was just a few weeks ago, when we took a ready Paige for her inaugural trip. That girl, like her stepmom, knows how to induce a foodgasm. Here in lies the photos from our wonderful evening, during which owner Skippy returned with a gift for Randa (who, to my shame, ordered Plain Spaghetti, though she did chow on the chicken soup, too), Skippy’s wife Billie – who’s behind the tweets and the amazing cakes, greeted me with an introductory hug, and our server pretended not to notice Miranda using the rose from our table (which I mistook for artificial) wiping the frost from the windows or the embarrassing noises we made as we cleaned our plates. (think Monica getting a massage on Friends. Pretty much sounded like that).

The tables are set with romantic simplicity, the 3D and 2D ones.

The decor and its sentiments make me smile.

Miranda Rose…found it all to her liking

I especially enjoy the peach tea. It’s wonderful for washing down a loaf of warm, crusty bread and several plates of seasoned olive oil…

This is my meal. I love the alfredo sauce, but get marinara on the side. Then I lick both plates. Just kidding, but seriously.

Miranda l-o-oved the chicken soup and the “little spaghettis.”

I love that I feel like I am eating in a slightly-glamour-fied version of Gramma Cap’s house.

Paige’s clean plate brings glee. Mine  brings sadness, that it would be gluttony for me to eat still more!

Rod and Randa celebrated the dessert-trifecta (red velvet cake, lemon cello, and something that can only be described as strawberry heaven with white chocolate ganache, above).

We brought our friend Flat Stanley along (for my little cousin’s 2nd grade project). He found a friend of his own in Miranda’s gift from Skippy. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all bathe in a bowl of pasta?

When I return to Nana Rosa tomorrow, I’ll be doing something like that!

Black bean soup and other yumminess

This is a Weight Watchers recipe that I made for the second time today. I absolutely love it. The blend of tastes is irresistible AND…it is only 3 points per serving. I was just about licking my bowl at lunch time. I might eat it for dinner tonight, too, perhaps with a corn tortilla/pepperjack cheese quesadilla (4 points) on the side. Bonus: my kids love it too, though be warned: the red pepper flakes will add more heat than you expect.

Black Bean Soup
1 spray(s) cooking spray
1 medium onion(s), finely chopped
4 medium garlic clove(s), minced
45 oz canned black beans, undrained, divided (three 15 oz cans)
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes, or to taste (can also substitute fresh chopped red bell pepper, to taste)
1 tsp ground cumin
14 1/2 oz fat-free chicken broth, or vegetable broth
10 oz canned tomatoes with green chilies, such as Rotel Tomatoes
11 oz canned yellow corn, drained (I used the 14.5 oz size)
**Kelly’s additions: handful of cilantro, one whole lime


* Coat bottom of a large stockpot with cooking spray. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until onions are soft but not brown, about 5 minutes.

* Place one can of beans in blender; add sautéed onion mixture, red pepper flakes and cumin. If using cilantro, add that at this time as well. Cover and blend on high until smooth, about 30 seconds. Pour mixture back into stockpot.

* Place second can of beans and broth in blender and puree until smooth; add to stockpot.

* Stir third can of beans (do not puree first), tomatoes and green chilies, and corn into stockpot. Cut lime in half, squeeze juice into pot, then allow it to cook in the soup as well. Bring to a boil, lower heat to medium and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes. Yields about 1 1/2 cups of soup per serving.

– Garnish: cilantro, lime, light sour cream


One of the things I love about *really* following Weight Watchers (which I also did pre-wedding and in between the babies) is how creative it causes me to be and how well-planned/organized my shopping/cooking/eating is. The first two times, we were eating out a lot more and that made it difficult. The difficulty now is controlling portion sizes in the recipes I love to cook. Last night, I tried a new one (incidentally, featured on page 40 of this months . It was basically whole wehat spaghetti with crushed peppercorns, olive oil, prisciutto, and romano cheese. It was DIVINE! But the portion I ate added to *16* points… a little much, even for dinner. Luckily, I had some wiggle room. BTW, this was my yummy 4 point breakfast sandwich this morning:

1/2 flat roll (1 point)
1 scrambled egg (2 points)
1/2 slice of prisciutto (warmed in the egg skillet) (1 point)

– this would be good with a slice of tomato if they were not so dismal this time of year.

I am now looking for a dinner recipe for later this week…2 Weight watchers members and their meat-loving husbands.  Send me your ideas, please!

Lasagna & Weight Watchers

Lasagna is a big deal for an Italian daughter, especially when it is her dad’s specialty.

But when I ran across this recipe via another blog this week, I had to try it. It’s so different from how I’ve watched it being made and made a few times myself. We spend exhaustive hours on the gravy (yes, gravy!) for the lasagna. We do it up big on the cheese.

The hot sausage in this recipe is what drew me. I love hot sausage.

With just starting Weight Watchers this week, it didn’t seem like a great idea, but at least a good one. It’s winter, I was having my cousin over for dinner, and, you know, it’s LASAGNA!

I made a few substitutions in the recipe: Inadvertently, I bought a 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes instead of whole, but I think I liked this better anyway. (it’s all about the gravy!).

I also used part-skim ricotta cheese instead of cottage cheese. I am Italian. We do not put cottage cheese in our lasagna. It’s like dipping Wonder Bread into your olive oil.

Also, I did drain all the fat. I had to do it.

And finally, I did not simmer everything together for 45 minutes, because the printed recipe skipped that part. Whoops!

Other than that, I made it just the same…it was fabulous, very meaty, saucy enough, and I just calculated the nutrition. It’s very high in sodium, but I don’t care about sodium at this point. I have to tackle fat and calories first. Also, it is 12 points a serving. This is acceptable to me for dinner (though it was difficult not to go for that extra half-piece, and I am rethinking making this our Sunday lunch tomorrow). This was super easy to make, and using sliced mozzarella instead of shredded was brilliant.

I served with tossed salad & balsamic, green olives, and low-calorie Italian garlic toast. ‘Twas a happy meal!

Both Miranda and Kaity loved it, though Miranda ate around the meat and Kaity kept calling it “pizza.”

Oh, and I only ate one of those from-the-devil mini frozen chocolate eclairs for dessert…ONE! That was 2.5 points. Miranda had 4, that I know of.

I am going to lose some weight before we go on the cruise *2 weeks* from tomorrow and I gain it all back. There will be no points counting on the cruise.

Lots and lots and LOTS of cool stuff on the site where I got this recipe:

You don’t have to pronounce food to enjoy: Pasta All’Amatriciana

This is traditional recipe that I’ve adapted slightly for ease and taste. Put that blue box of mac n cheese back in the pantry; your kids will like this!


* 1 pound pasta such as spaghetti, angel hair, or linguine
– (I always use angel hair; it’s just my favorite)
* 1/3 pound pancetta or bacon, chopped
– I have used both. Pancetta is better, but they’re both great.
* 1 medium onion, diced
* 1/3 cup dry white wine (such as chardonnay)
* 2 (14.5 ounce) cans stewed tomatoes (Italian style if available)
* 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
* pepper to taste
* 1/4 cup romano cheese (freshly grated is available)

1. Start the water for your pasta. Cook according to box directions.
2. Meanwhile, brown pancetta or bacon in a large skillet over medium heat, 5-7 minutes. Drain on paper towels, reserve pan drippings.
3. In the same skillet add the onion and crushed red pepper. Cook until soft, about 3-5 minutes.
4. Add white wine. Cook 2 minutes. Add stewed tomatoes  and black pepper. Cook 15 minutes.
5. Return pancetta to pan, toss in drained pasta.
6. Add cheese, toss pasta once more. Serve & enjoy!
Serves 6

MexiCAN Pizza (it’s easy!)

MexiCAN Pizza Recipe

First of all, the pizza crust recipe I use is from the same book I use most base recipes (& many specifics) from, Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook – the red plaid one that I got when I was 13ish. (Don’t freak – you can also use a pizza crust mix, a premade crust, or for thin individual pizzas, tortilla or tostada shells).

Pizza Crust


* 2-3/4 to 3-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
* 1 pkg. active dry yeast (approx. 1 tablespoon)
* 1/2 tsp. salt
* 1 cup warm water (120 degrees F to 130 degrees F)
* 2 Tbsp. cooking oil or olive oil


1. In a large mixing bowl combine 1-1/4 cups of the flour, the yeast, and salt; add warm water and oil. Beat with an electric mixer on low speed for 30 seconds, scraping bowl constantly. Beat on high speed for 3 minutes. Using a wooden spoon, stir in as much of the remaining flour as you can.

2. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead in enough remaining flour to make a moderately stiff dough that is smooth and elastic (6 to 8 minutes total) . Divide dough in half. Cover; let rest for 10 minutes. Makes 2 medium crust pizzas.

– For my Mexican pizza, I used a ‘bar’ pan – which is 15.5×10, but you can obviously adjust this to suit your needs.

Modification: Rather than kneading in all the flour, I used more corn meal. I’m not sure how much of a difference it made.. I was thinking ‘corn tortilla.’

1. Roll dough out to fit pan. Thin is preferable.

2. Spread canned refried beans over dough.

3. Spread taco sauce over beans.

4. Cover with shredded cheese, taco seasoning, onions, and green chilies.
*If desired, this is where you can add the pre-cooked/browned meat of your choice: beef, pork, chorizo, chicken.. I think chorizo – as de-greased as possible – would be a nice choice.
*Anything goes on these toppings. This is what I had in the house. Tomatoes, olives, cilantro would be great additions as well.

5. Bake at 400 for 18-20 minutes. Watch your fam salivate ;)  Tip: I thought this was a little dry, so have some sour cream or extra taco sauce on the side…