World Food Day…..and Pasta!

Yesterday, October 16, 2014, was “World Food Day,”  a day for “action against hunger,” proclaimed by the United Nations.

On World Food Day, I attended a very interesting lecture by Bryan McDonald, Assistant Professor of History at Penn State. His lecture, “Dinner for Seven Billion:  Food Issues for the 21st Century,” was held as part of Schlow Library’s Research Unplugged series.

Mr. McDonald gave the audience a lot of “food” for thought. He talked about the problems of proper nourishment, optimizing food safety and food sustainability for all.

Mr. McDonald ended his talk showing us this poster from WWI created by the US Food Administration.  It is as informative and useful today as it was one hundred years ago!*


*The federal government encouraged the public to use less wheat and meat because what the US produced was being sent to Europe for the troops during WWI.

Tonight I am serving Chicken and Tomato No-Boil Pasta Bake to our family and 3 guests.  It is affordable, easy to make and nutritious.  Ingredients were “bought with thought,” it has been “cooked with care.”  And I am sure we will “use what is left” by eating the leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch.


Chicken and Tomato No-Boil Pasta Bake

(adapted from

serves 8 to 10

1 pound dried rigatoni pasta, uncooked

2 cups chopped cooked chicken breast (omit for vegetarian)

4 large cloves garlic, roughly minced

One 28-ounce can plus 2 cups diced tomatoes

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

1 cup cubed provolone cheese

1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

1 teaspoon salt, or more to taste

Freshly ground black pepper

2 cups milk, NOT skim (a higher fat content helps thicken the sauce)

Cheesy Basil Topping
1/2 cup dried breadcrumbs
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh herbs, such as basil, thyme, and sage
1/4 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil

Heat the oven to 400°F and liberally grease a 3-quart casserole dish with olive oil. (Ideally you would use a heavy Dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid, but you can also use a standard 9×13-inch casserole pan, tightly covered with a double layer of aluminum foil during baking.)

In a large bowl, mix the dried pasta, chopped chicken breast, minced garlic, and diced tomatoes (with their juices). Stir in the salt and a healthy quantity of black pepper. (If the tomatoes you are using have no salt in them, add an additional 1/2 teaspoon salt.) Stir in the shredded cheese and the Parmesan. Spread this mixture in the prepared baking dish and pour the milk over top.


Cover the dish tightly. Bake for 1 hour, or until the pasta is tender. Remove the dish from the oven and turn the oven to broil.

Meanwhile, prepare the herb topping. In a small food processor or chopper, whiz the breadcrumbs, cheese, herbs, salt, and a few grinds of black pepper. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil, blending until the texture resembles wet sand.


Slowly remove the lid (or foil) from the casserole dish. Be careful, as steam will billow out. Spread the herbed breadcrumbs over the bubbling pasta and return the uncovered dish to the oven. Broil for 5 minutes or until the topping is toasted and crispy on top.

Take the casserole out of the oven and let it cool for about 10 minutes before serving.




Baking with Apples

Fall is here and I want to start baking!!  Everything in the summer is so fresh, you just want to eat it that way…as well as not heating up your home by turning on the oven.

But when fall arrives, I want the oven on, baking delicious food that fills the house with smells that bring comfort to everyone.

I picked up a variety of apples the other day at Harners Farm to make a recipe that was recently published in the Food section of the Washington Post (yes, I love the Wednesday food sections of major newspapers). 


Harvest Apple Cake.  This cake is moist and full of apples–it really should be called Baked Apples with a Little Cake.  I added a handful of raspberries to bring a bit of tartness to it because I had raspberries in my fridge.  Delicious combo!

Harvest Apple Cake

(adapted from cookbook author Lisa Yockelson)

1 and 2/3 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

1 and ½ teaspoons cinnamon

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

8 Tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

1 cup sugar

2 eggs and 1 egg yolk

1 and ½ teaspoons vanilla

2 and ½ cups peeled, cored and diced apples, cut into ½ inch chunks (3-4 medium apples)

¾ cup raspberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter or spray Pam inside a 9 inch round baking pan with 2 inch sides (I used a glass dish and it worked).

Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg into a bowl.

In a separate bowl, or with a stand mixer, place the butter and beat on medium speed for 2 minutes. Add the cream cheese and mix with the butter another 1 minute. Mix in the sugar, then add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each one is added. Add the vanilla and mix well; scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.

On low speed, add the flour mixture in two additions. Mixing just until the flour is absorbed. Then stir in the apples and raspberries.

Scrape the batter into the prepared baking pan, smoothing the surface.  Bake for 40-45 minutes or until the cake has risen and set.  It should pull away slightly from the sides of the pan.  The top of the cake will be a golden color and will look somewhat bumpy because of the apple chunks.

Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes and invert onto a plate, then invert again to stand right side up– if desired.  We just sliced pieces out of the pan!!  Sprinkle cinnamon sugar or powdered sugar on top–also if desired. You can also serve the cake with ice cream for an extra treat!


The First Day of Fall

The first day of fall was beautiful here in Happy Valley!  A beaming sun in a deep blue sky, a very chilly morning, but enough afternoon warmth to encourage me to remove my jacket.  I will miss summer, but autumn here in Centre County is a delight.

I thought that the start of fall called for chili.  We love soup/chili/stews as the season turns to colder weather.  A chili I have had at Wegmans was something I wanted to try and today was the day!  Did you know that Wegmans has a list of recipes on their website?  It’s very user friendly and I found just the chili I have eaten in their cafe.

Simple and hearty, this chili was quick to make.  I adapted it a bit to use ingredients in my pantry and account for the comments that said there was too much broth in the original recipe (it is usually very helpful to read the comments to recipes on the internet!).

And since I was feeling so “fall-ie” I decided to bake a loaf of wheat bread using the recipe I posted earlier this year. It’s easy—-really!


Turkey Chili

2 Tablespoons olive oil

1 lb. ground turkey

6 cloves garlic, minced

1 large red pepper, chopped

1 large onion, chopped

1 Tablespoon chili powder

1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon soy sauce

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon ground cumin

20 ounces diced tomatoes with juice (you can also use crushed tomatoes)

2 cups chicken or vegetable broth

1 can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

In a large stockpot heat the olive oil then add the turkey and cook till brown on medium heat (you need the olive oil so that the turkey does not stick—and it adds flavor!), crumbling it as it cooks. Add the onion and cook to soften about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and red pepper and let that cook 2 minutes. Add the chili powder, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, cloves and cumin and stir all the ingredients together. Add the tomatoes and the broth. Bring it to a simmer then add the beans. Turn the heat to low and let the chill simmer, uncovered, about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Makes 4 – 6 servings.

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