Hi! My name is Fran, and just like all other blogs, I definitely feel like I got lots to talk about, and share with the world. Especially, about food and travel. I put myself through culinary school, and I would say for the last 15 years I’ve traveled the globe a fair amount. Of course, I had to have a start somewhere for my love of cooking and traveling. My love for cooking started with my Mom, who I personally feel could give the best chefs out there a run for their money. My love for travel came through my big sister DeeDee (her nickname). Her encouragement to me for travel, just inspired me to go beyond places I never would of considered in my life to go. In this blog, I will share with you all the places I’ve traveled and the foods I’ve eaten there, and the recipes I’ve created.
I just love the simplicity of this dish! If you love one pot meals, than this delicious Italian “poor man’s food is for you. I’ll admit I was watching a cooking show, that explored some regions in Italy. It brought me back to my culinary school days. We had to study where and how foods were used in the different locations of Italy. Like cheeses, wine and certain animals.
Spaghetti carbonara back in the the 1950’s were considered a poor man or working man’s dish. Hell! With the price of eggs nowadays, I’d have to contemplate that. These were simple ingredients that most people had on hand in their homes.
Linguine or Spaghetti 1 box
Bacon 1 pack and a half
*1 large red bell pepper
1 lg eggs
Salt and pepper to taste
This recipe renders 6 to 8 servings
*Feel free to use any veggies you want ie: peas, green bell peppers etc.
How to make
Remember, I said this is actually a one pot dish. Cook the pasta according to the package instructions (please don’t forget to add salt to the water). Once you get a boil, drop in your pasta.
Once the pasta is cooked, set aside in a separate bowl with about a cup or so of the salted pasta water, then cover with aluminum foil.
In the same pot you boiled your pasta, put the cut up bacon and set flame to medium heat. When bacon is 90% done, add veggies (in this case the cut up red bell pepper). Cook for a few minutes until peppers are medium soft, add a little salt and black pepper.
Add cooked pasta to the pot of bacon and bell pepper, let the pasta soak up the bacon grease, then add the fresh parsley (small dice), and a little shredded parmigiana reggiano.
Let cook for a minute, turn off heat, use a fork to whip the eggs in a bowl. Then pour over in the pot to incorporate ingredients stirring gently to coat.
Serve immediately with a glass of red wine, because, to me it makes such a difference with this dish tasting fresh and hot. Sprinkle a little parsley and cheese over the top on the spaghetti carbonara for presentation.
Easy to make and very filling. I do understand why this dish was popular in Piedimonte, Italy many years ago. Ingredients were simple, yet packed a lot of flavor, and filling enough to get villagers through another working day.
Happy New Year! The above dish was made by my nephew Michael. And, this goes to show that tradition never fades. This dish was certainly a dish my Mom made every New Years Eve. It signifies lots of luck for the new year. Most families that I knew growing up, always prepared black eye peas and collards for luck all year long, in the next new year. It just really made me proud that my nephew continues my family’s southern tradition, with his family. And, I know my mom, his grandma would be proud!
I love the beautiful plating of this dish, and I know it taste awesome!
A few years ago, before my retirement. I met a elderly Italian woman at work, who became a weekly customer. I really enjoyed seeing her every week, we’d exchange conversation about food, daily life, politics, and jokes. One day during her visit she casually asked, “what’s for dinner?” I told her, “thinking of making lasagna.” Her eyes widened, she told me she makes her “lasagna in a roasted pan.” Then my eyes widened. She said she added everything but the kitchen table in her lasagna. She said by the time the lasagna was ready to be put in the oven, she needed her son to carry it to the oven, because it was so heavy. I remember her saying, she added sweet Italian sausages to the sauce. For once, I actually never thought of doing that. And, my OCD had me thinking, that I know I make the best tasting lasagna this side of the east coast, besides I’ve been making lasagna since I was 17 years old. But, I told her I would try that. However, timed passed, and I didn’t see her as much. But, that’s how life goes.
I’ve made lasagna since, but not the way that Italian Grandma made, until now. First of all, I didn’t own a roasting pan, thank you Amazon! Order one for the holidays for the turkey on thanksgiving. I remember wanting to make something different for Christmas. So I thought of the lasagna. I think I would of made her proud!
Chop meat (1 lg pack)
Sweet Italian sausages (2packs)
Bell peppers (all colors) at least 3 different
Tomato sauce (2 1/2 jars of any tomato sauce you like)
Lasagna pasta (1 and a half boxes)
Ricotta (lg container)
Mozzarella (2 packs)
1/2 cup of sugar to break bitterness of tomato sauce
How to make
Brown sausage and chop meat in separate pans, with a little canola oil. Once cooked, cut or slice sausages about an inch. Add everything together in a pot. Add sauce, peppers, onions, and all dry ingredients.
As it braises, keep tasting a long the way, to make sure flavors are on point.
Cook pasta according to box instructions. Please don’t forget to add some salt to boiling water!
Once sauce is done, and pasta is cooled. Start layering.
* Check for demo in lower paragraphs.
Bake for 45 minutes.
I will definitely make this lasagna again. My family loved it! It gave me some joy, passing on a tradition.
I’m use to baking during the holidays! But, instead of my usual pumpkin, sweet potato, or tart pies. I decided to go with some cookies. Plus, I felt like giving something personal as gifts this year to family, friends, and neighbors, shows love. God knows this world needs a lot of love right now, more than ever. The pandemic really changed this world in a negative way. So much sadness, death, the world is a much different place, than we knew before.
Ok! I’m gonna admit that this is my first time making butter cookies. However, the recipe that follows was tweeked a couple times, and will make a delicious cookie.
3 sticks of butter
3 to 3 1/2 cups of AP flour and some for kneading
1 3/4 cup powdered sugar
4 egg yolks
2 tablespoon vanilla extract
Semi sweet chocolate chips
Strawberry preserves (jelly)
How to make the dough
I like to use my kitchen aid with the flat paddle. However, you can use a hand mixer. The butter should be a room temperature. mix butter and powdered sugar, then the flour (add a cup at a time). Then go ahead and add your vanilla and the egg yolks.
Refrigerate 2 hours or overnight is best.
If the dough is too creamy, add a little bit more flour, because the consistency of the dough should be able to form a ball.
After cutting out the dough, place on a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Bake at 325 degrees for a total of 22 minutes, turning them over midway during baking.
*Let cool, and get your creative juices flowing. Some of my cookie toppings I got from Amazon, especially the gourmet pistachio cream and pistachios already out the shell. And of course your local supermarket.
I enjoyed making these cookies, but it gave me real pleasure when my family and friends enjoyed eating them, and said they tasted good.
I got these jewelry boxes from Amazon. These cute little boxes can hold up to 4 to 5 cookies.
Cheesecake! Yes, I made a strawberry cheesecake! This was not my first time at the rodeo, making cheesecake, however, I bought a 9 inch springform pan, because with my OCD I felt it needed to be perfect!
Auntie Fran’s Strawberry Cheesecake
Three packs of Philadelphia cream cheese
1 1/2 cup of sour cream
2 cups of sugar
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
1 box of gram crackers
1/2 cup of melted butter
Strawberry compote ingredients
Fresh box of strawberries (leave out about ten to place over the pie)
1/4 cup corn starch
1 cup of sugar
2 cups water
How to make
I love my kitchen aid! Mix cream cheese, sour cream, sugar and vanilla extract in bowl. You can use a hand mixer or kitchen aid. Add the eggs last, after mixture is completely combined and smooth.
For crust, I used my nutra blend to break down the crackers. Added the melted butter, and fluffed it out.
First, evenly pat down the gram cracker crust to your 9 inch springform pan (I put aluminum foil in the pan, for easy transfer to a plate, after bake.
Second, add your beautiful mixture of cream cheese to the pan. Bake for an hour and 10 minutes. Let cool down a bit before putting in fridge.
Cut up your fruit/strawberries in any decoration, shape or size you like and get creative.
To make the strawberry compote, add water, strawberries, sugar and cornstarch in a pot. Boil for 10 to 15 minutes, let cool, then blend.
Check out my holiday pies below. They’ll bring a smile to anyone’s face!
Let me introduce you to my Mom’s southern sweet potato pie, and this delectable fruit tart pie I learned how to make in Culinary school, however, since the holidays that just past, (because I’ve made so many of them), I’ve perfected my fruit tart pies to my own liking. Culinary school just gave me the tools, it’s up to me create on that foundation.
Just let me give you a bit of my Mom’s family history, my Mom grew up in a small town in North Carolina, (Greensboro). My Mom learned everything from her Mom, and I from her. I feel blessed, My Mom and Grandma although inadvertently not knowing, was bringing down tradition. I say that, because in the 1920’s and 30’ there was no time to bombarded with happily passing down traditions, survival was more of a fitting attitude back I those days. Unfortunately, going to work as a cook and housekeeper at a young age for my Ma was a reality. Fast forward to when I was a kid in the kitchen with my Ma, was always fun time for me. Whatever my Ma did during the struggle, or the depression era, her teaching me her crafts in the kitchen overcame what sad feelings, (if she had any) long gone. When my Ma and me cooked, baked, braised, and seasoned, was the best times in my life. My Ma was an eager beaver to show me how to cook. I cherish the memories and the recipes.
Momma Louise Sweet Potato Pie:
5 pounds of sweet potatoes
2 1/2 cups of sugar
1 cup of evaporated milk
2 table spoons vanilla extract
2 table spoons nutmeg
2 table spoons cinnamon
1 stick (half a cup) of butter with or without the salt
This recipe yields 2 pies
How to make:
Boil sweet potatoes until they are soft enough to put a fork through them
When sweet potatoes are done, let them cool. They should be easy to peel at this time
Use a hand mixer, and mix until you have a medium soft consistency, (get out all the lumps, and you may have to add a little more milk to get that medium soft consistency). Add all your ingredients, maintaining your soft consistency (note) you may have to add more sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg to taste
Fill your pie crust, (I use already made prepared pie crust). Some may consider this cheating, I don’t, because it’s made from real dough, sugar, eggs etc. smooth the top with a spoon or flat frosting spatula. Oven at 350 degrees. Bake for 45 minutes.
Auntie Fran’s delectable sweet tart
Ingredients for the Pastry cream
2 1/2 cups of whole milk
4 egg yolks
1/3 cup of sugar
3 slices of butter
1 table spoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt
This recipe yields two 9 inch pie or six 3 inch mini’s
How to make:
Bring milk to a boil.
While milk is boiling, whisk together all the eggs, sugar, and cornstarch in a separate bowl.
When the milk starts to boil, remove from heat, pour in half milk into your egg mixture, whisk together, then combine with the rest of the milk that’s in the pot, and add vanilla extract and butter slices.
The mixture should thicken up quickly. Let cool and transfer your pastry cream into a bowl.
To prevent your pastry from forming a film at the sides of the bowl, layer plastic wrap literally on top of the pastry cream, and immediately put in fridge to firm up. Pastry cream can be used in about an hour.
Ingredients for Crust
2 1/2 cups AP flour
2 egg yolk & 1 whole egg
1/2 cup or 1 stick of butter (soft)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
Note: if you have a Kitchen aid, this can make all the difference. However, you’ll have to put in the work to mix it all by hand. However, it can be done.
Mix butter and sugar in kitchen aid mixer. If mixing by hand, add flour to bowl first, than add butter and sugar.
Once butter and sugar are combined throughly, add vanilla.
Combine flour and salt and mix with a fork throughly.
Combine all ingredients (may have to add a little more flour) to get a cookie Dough consistency.
On a flat surface, sprinkle some flour and knead your dough, not too much. Wrap your dough in plastic wrap, and put in fridge. Can be used in an hour. Dough will keep in fridge for couple days.
Roll out on a flat surface with a little flour, and start layering and fitting dough in your tart pans. (I prefer to use the removal bottom tart pans).
Oven at 350 degrees. Bake your dough for 20 minutes.
Let cool and add your pastry cream. The fruit you use is totally up to you. I like using as many bright colors as I can. However, you can never go wrong with strawberries.
Ok! This is another dish I made first in culinary school. I would of thought that lobster would of been a dish I’d make years before I went to culinary school. Or, at least right after school, it’s been 4 years since graduating. God knows I’ve been eating lobster since my 20’s. However, it came time to conquer making this dish (live lobster and all on my own).
None the less, I did more than the average of just buying it frozen. I bought them alive had to kill it (in the humane way of how I was taught in school). Cleaned, deveined, shelled, and soaked. However, all jokes aside, I really felt bad killing the lobsters. Didn’t want them to suffer any more than they had too. Plus, I remember the chef/instructor making it clear that killing the animals for consumption, it’s important to remember their giving their lives for your nourishment. So let’s make the killing quick and painless. Or saying something to that affect. And, I agree!
* I posted a video of “how to humanely kill a lobster” on my YouTube channel @francieblakes
This recipe minus the lobster “deconstruction” is easy and not time consuming at all. (Of course frozen is available at food bazaar for $7.99 a pound a week and a half ago)! Live lobster will take some time. However, the fresh taste can’t be beat! This lobster tasted so sweet and succulent, taking the time clean and cut up is well worth it to get it live.
4 Lobster tails
Salt & Pepper
How to make the sauce
Butterfly or cut back of tails from open end of the tail, stopping at the wing part of the tail. Pull the meat from the tail sides gently. Also, push your finger under the meaty part of the tail to loosen the meat up at the bottom. Pull meat up and cover it over the tail.
For the sauce to brush over the lobster tails, cut up about 4 cloves of garlic into small dices. Also, cut up 1/2 a bushel of the parsley also into small dice. Pour one cup of olive oil into a measuring cup. Add 1/2 tsp of salt and pepper each, and half the garlic and half the parsley. Mix completely.
Brush sauce over lobsters and bake for 20 minutes.
For butter and garlic dipping sauce, microwave for one minute, half a stick of butter and the rest of the diced garlic. Cut up some lemons and your in business.
Sprinkle the rest of the parsley flakes over your completed dish.
Like I said before this recipe can be easy, but if you really want to impress your family and friends with this elegant dish, it’s worth it to do it fresh. You’ll never forget how good it tasted.
It’s been a while since I made lamb shanks. As a matter of fact, I was in culinary school 2017. It was also the first time I tasted this delectable meat. I made myself a promise, that I would make this delicious dish again, on the outside world. Not for nothing, but in school I considered that a controlled environment/kitchen, with a head chef.
I love this dish so much. And, I will probably never forget that day in school, because I was assigned by the head chef to make the dish. I believe it was about 2 months in school, and I was still having some difficulties with prepping ingredients from recipes on our iPads. Yes! As confident as I may have seemed, I was still nervous as hell. I definitely didn’t want to screw it up.
Culinary school is very competitive, and this experience was no different from any ordinary student wanting to get it right the first time. I know that you’re probably thinking “how hard can following a recipe be.” Well, like I said before, school was very competitive, and no one wants to look like an idiot. And, the head chef always had eyes on you. However, with a little help from Chef, (because I listened! Lol) I got through the process, and the pressure from other students looking on, and at each other. With the end result turning out great, I realized cooking this recipe wasn’t hard at all. I was so concerned with how it would taste, and how I would look if it turned out bad. My mouth watered after tasting them for the first time, and I believe that was the first time my confidence reached the level I’d been hoping for.
So how did my shanks turn out? Absolutely delicious! I know that I’m always talking about easy preps for cooking. However, I think this dish will be well worth it, if you want to impress family friends, coworkers and partners.
I actually had fun with this dish. Prepping the ingredients gave me joy! I like organizing, and this is a step by step dish. I’ve changed some of the original recipe, because of certain flavors I like.
Salt and pepper
Mushrooms or celery
Red wine for cooking
How to make
Cut up vegetables
In a pot, add olive oil and brown the shanks. about 4 minutes on each side.
Remove shanks and set aside. Add a little more olive oil, to same pot, then add all the vegetables (but not the garlic), and sauté for 4 to 5 minutes. Salt and pepper.
Add 2 cups of red wine
1/2 a liter of chicken stock
Press down and roughly chop the garlic, then add it to the pot. Salt and pepper.
Bring to a boil, then lower and set fire/burner to medium heat. Add the shanks and burry under the liquid.
Add 1 cup of water, then Boil for 2 hours.
Strain the leftover liquid from the pot for a nice sauce.
Don’t forget to have a glass of wine while cooking. That’s just me. 😇
One of the Asian foods I was taught in culinary school was sushi/sashimi. Sashimi is a delicious Japanese delicacy, that I already knew all too well. I love it! These past two weeks I’ve be craving this dish. So I ordered it twice from my local Sushi restaurant, and it hit me! Why am I not making this quick and easy to put together dish myself.” “Hey! I got a culinary degree!” “I know this stuff. Let’s put these bad-boy skills to work.”
With today’s supermarket prices salmon is still expensive, however, I still ended up saving by preparing it on my own.
I got lazy, and decided to buy the wasabi and pickled ginger from Amazon. I actually attempted to make the pickled ginger from scratch! But, because of the convenience of Amazon, I decided to not torture myself. Plus, I know I will make this dish again, having those ingredients in my pantry is a savings.
Raw salmon (frozen for 10 days in freezer)*
*I can not stress enough about putting the salmon in the freezer for 10 days before eating. Raw fish has parasites, and freezing the fish for ten days will kill them. Thaw out in fridge before cleaning, then slicing.
How to Prepare
After the fish has thawed, clean and pick the bones out with kitchen tweezers. Some supermarket salmon bones will have already been removed. Fish market salmon will have to be requested.
Also, cut fish against the grain.
I loved making this dish, especially, because it was easy, simple, and fast! It took longer to plate it, than to prepare it. Im not sure how healthy raw fish can be eating it often. However, I savored eating this dish!
Now that I’m home more, and figuring out my next move in my new chapter in life. I found myself gravitating to watching YouTube a lot more. Now, a few years back, I’ve always watched YouTube to listen to my music. Then, I would watch YouTube for certain cooking videos, which I would compare with the enhancement of my own recipes! Now! I’m obsessed with these influencers! Who knew there was a market for unknowns to openly share every, single “waking” moment thing that they do in a day of there lives!
Okay! So like my apartment is in shambles now with packages all over. I’m literally ordering from Amazon every other day, for that one item now that I gotta have, because I’m a fan of particular influencers. And, now I’ve shocked myself. I’ve always felt myself to be unique, definitely not a follower. I’ve always tutted my own horn. I’m to old for millennial bullshit! Yet, my Amazon prime keeps going “cha ching!”
Maybe, there are a couple good things that I can account for that’s on the positive, instead of thinking Im spending wastefully. Definitely, gotten some DIY projects out the way, that has literally been in the works of getting it done years ago. However, I’ve been feeling a sense of euphoria. “Like, wow it’s complete!” The influencers have actually been an encouragement.
Gotta have my matcha in the morning now. Actually, I’ve been drinking matcha tea for years! It’s the millennials that are catching up! However, I found that I’ve forgotten how much I use love matcha at one time, but these last couple years with the pandemic, and me putting in more hours at work to plan for my early retirement. I’ll admit the influencers have put me in a state of loving me again. Doing things that I had long forgot about. Because life had become hectic, and when life does become a bit busy, we just push on, and neglect ourselves.
So anyhoo, yes! I’ve been spoiling myself. Really? Who needs glass straws, high tech ice trays, overpriced skincare and haircare products, glassware, vases, silk pajamas and plants, and all the little gadgets that assist me with my everyday, deserved needs……Well, me. Oh! And, let’s not forget the matcha! 😎