Post-Holiday Detox: “Not Your Grandmother’s Tuna Fish Pasta”


To welcome the new year, this week we’ll be sharing some of our favorite Post-Holiday Detox recipes with you. Tony’s latest creation, Spaghetti with Tuna, Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Chickpeas, is new to our repertoire and I have a feeling it’s going to become a regular favorite in our house. This is definitely not your grandmother’s tuna fish pasta dish.

This recipe meets our top 4 criteria for a healthy dish:

  1. Nutritional content – With the winning combination of tuna fish, chickpeas, sun-dried tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, garlic and pasta, this dish is loaded with vital minerals, nutrients and vitamins.
  2. Easy to make: Good recipes should consist of easy-to-find ingredients and require minimal preparation.
  3. Visually Appealing: Hey, we eat with our eyes, too, and there’s no reason a healthy dish can’t also be beautiful.
  4. Delicious – With the right recipe, a healthy dish should taste so good that you look forward to having it again.

Since today is National Spaghetti Day (who knew?) Tony shared this recipe during his segment this week on North Dakota Today, and we’ve included the link to the video demonstration for you below. We’ve already received several requests for the recipe and hope you enjoy it as much as we do!


Tony’s Spaghetti with Tuna, Sun-Dried Tomatoes & Chickpeas Recipe

1 pkg. spaghetti
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (this makes very mild – increase as desired)
¼ cup red onion, small-diced
½ cup dry white wine
Juice of one lemon
½ cup sun-dried tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 15-oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 5-oz. cans light tuna in water, drained
¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Grated parmesan cheese

Cook the pasta according to the directions on the package, to al dente. Before draining, reserve 1 cup of the pasta water for later use if needed.

In a large saute pan, heat oil over medium heat until hot, then add garlic, crushed red pepper and red onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion softens, about 2 minutes. Add white wine and lemon juice and continue cooking over medium heat for another 2 minutes, to reduce white wine.

Add sun-dried tomatoes, chickpeas and cooked pasta and cook over medium heat for about one minute, stirring to combine. Add the tuna and parsley and keep tossing for another 1 to 2 minutes, until all ingredients are hot and evenly dispersed among the pasta. Taste and add salt and pepper as desired.

Transfer to serving bowl and garnish with a light sprinkling of grated parmesan cheese.

Tony’s Tips:

  • This sauce is very light and intended merely to coat the ingredients. If the dish appears to be drying out, add the reserved pasta water right before the salt and pepper, starting with a half-cup up to one cup. Continue cooking for one minute just to heat.
  • Excellent also as a chilled salad – just add a tablespoon or two of canola oil, toss and serve.

New Year’s Eve Fare: Blackened Sirloin with Sparkling Prosecco

Prosecco with edible creaturesThis week, we’re focusing on New Year’s Eve with some great ideas to spice up your special event.

When planning a cocktail or dinner party, we like to keep things simple and fun to ensure the food and beverage will be a success.  We try to find recipes that can be prepared in advance, so that we’re not doing too much right before the party. And we love to serve something at the start as a signature beverage – guests love this and it’s a great way to get the conversation flowing.

When we’re hosting an event, whether it’s a cooking class or dinner party, we always acknowledge our guests with a toast at the start of the evening. A toast is special, a way to thank your guests for coming, to say, we’re so glad you’re here with us. The first thing we do when our guests arrive is greet them with a glass of bubbly Prosecco.

1 The Champagne is Flowing!Prosecco is an Italian sparkling white wine from the region of Veneto. Its classic flavor carries notes of citrus, almonds, honey, melon and pear, and you can find a nice variety to choose from in our local liquor stores. Clean and crisp with small bubbles, Prosecco varies from slightly dry to dry, and is always well-received.

Prosecco is a friendly wine – not too big, not too small, it’s just right. Festive, fun and affordable, Prosecco  can be enjoyed during any part of a meal. But, we love to serve it at the beginning.

This makes it the perfect choice to serve with our featured food recipe, Blackened Sirloin with Horseradish Cream Sauce.

We love this dish as an appetizer or hors d’oeuvres because it’s guaranteed to be a success with your guests – nearly everyone loves beef. Plus, it’s a great way to add some heartiness to the traditional cocktail fare.

The secret to this recipe is in how you cook, and slice, the meat. Coating the steak with freshly ground pepper and searing it before roasting help create a blackened effect. Cook the sirloin to a perfect medium rare, and then cut the steak as thin as possible – the thinner, the better. The medium-rare temperature preserves the flavor of the sirloin, and the thin slices help ensure that every bite is tender.

This recipe can be made up to two days in advance

We serve our Blackened Sirloin with homemade Horseradish Cream Sauce, which can also be prepared ahead of time.  This simple, yet amazingly delicious, condiment is always a crowd-pleaser and Tony often jokes that I serve beef only as an excuse to enjoy the horseradish cream sauce.

To serve, place the sliced sirloin on a platter and garnish with thinly sliced red onions and capers. Serve the horseradish sauce on the side.

We first shared this recipe with our readers in December 2012, many of whom now count this recipe among their top party favorites. It is a perfect way to ring in the new year, and we hope it becomes a favorite for you, too.

Click on the link below for the recipe.

Blackened Sirloin with Horseradish Cream Sauce

Serves: 12 for hors d’oeuvres

2 10 oz. top sirloin steaks
1 cup fresh coarse ground black pepper (½ cup per steak)
Kosher salt
2 tbsp. olive oil, (1 tbsp. per steak)

For serving: 1 red onion and capers

Lightly sprinkle meat with salt and then coat completely with pepper. Spread the pepper onto a plate or baking dish and press the steak into the pepper on all sides until coated.

Heat a sauté pan over high heat until hot, then add olive oil. Let the oil become hot then place the steak in the pan. If your pan allows, you may cook more than one steak at a time. Sear the steak for two minutes on all four sides (two minutes per side), then remove meat from pan, transfer to a baking sheet, and bake in the oven at 350°F.

For medium rare (the ideal temperature for this recipe), keep in the oven for 3-4 minutes.  Immediately refrigerate until cool enough to wrap each steak in plastic, and return to the refrigerator for at least 3 hours, or overnight if possible. This recipe can be prepared up to 2 days in advance.

Within two hours prior to serving, carve the meat as thinly as possible and place onto serving platter. Cover the platter with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve. Garnish with thinly sliced red onions (cut into rings) and capers, and serve with horseradish cream sauce on the side.

Horseradish Cream Sauce

Serves:  10 – 12

1 pint sour cream
2 heaping tablespoons prepared horseradish
2 -3 teaspoons lemon juice, freshly squeezed
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients together, and add more horseradish, lemon, salt and pepper as desired. Transfer to a serving dish and enjoy with beef tenderloin, prime rib, or a great steak.

Tony’s Tip:  Prepare at least 2 hours before serving for best flavor. This sauce is a great accompaniment to beef, and can be made several days in advance. Will keep in refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Christmas Favorites: Homemade Marshmallows

Homemade Marshmallow collage 2

Tony and I were the coordinators for our son Giovanni’s 5th grade class Christmas party this week, and one of the biggest hits on our treats menu – with the kids and parent helpers alike – was the sweet little homemade marshmallows we served with steaming cup of hot cocoa.

Several of the kids – both boys and girls – even asked us for the recipe, so we’re featuring it today as our Christmas Favorite.

Every time I make marshmallows, I’m surprised and delighted by how easy the process is, and most of the ingredients are pantry staples. To make them, you will need a stand mixer, candy thermometer, three packets of unflavored gelatin, granulated sugar, powdered sugar (also called confectioners’ or icing sugar), corn syrup, water, salt and vanilla. That’s it. And some patience, too, because this recipe requires the marshmallows to sit for at least 12 hours or overnight before they’re ready to eat.

The result is a sweet treat filled with charm and whimsy, and they make a perfect holiday or hostess gift when presented in a clear bag tied with colorful ribbon. Homemade marshmallows have a wonderfully airy texture and delicate flavor, and taste so much better than a store-bought version.

You can play around with the shape to create different sizes and styles – I love to use a small heart-shaped cutter or cut them into strips to tie them in little knots.You can also add food coloring (I prefer the gel variety) and/or flavored extracts like peppermint and almond, and my favorite presentation is light pink with vanilla extract. They store well in an airtight container for at least two weeks and look darling no matter their size, shape and color.

So bring a little charm to your holiday fare with this sweet recipe and happy cooking!


Homemade Marshmallows

1 cup cold water, divided
3 ¼-oz. packets unflavored gelatin
2 cups granulated white sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
¼ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (or other flavoring)
Food coloring as desired
3 to 4 cups powdered sugar, sifted, for coating pan and dusting marshmallows

Grease a 9 x 13-inch glass baking dish with unsalted butter and line the bottom with a piece of parchment paper. Generously sift powdered sugar over the paper to coat, about 2 to 3 tablespoons. In the bowl of your electric mixer, add ½ cup cold water and then add the three packets of gelatin. Allow to sit until gelatin softens, about 15 to 20 minutes.

In a medium saucepan, cook the remaining ½ cup of water with the granulated sugar, corn syrup and salt over medium heat, stirring constantly until sugar dissolves and mixture comes to a boil. Cover the pan and boil for about two minutes, then uncover and attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pan.

Adjust the heat to high and bring the mixture to a boil, without stirring, until it reaches 240 degrees, or the “soft ball” stage, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat.

Using the whisk attachment, turn your mixer to its lowest setting and slowly add the hot liquid to the softened gelatin. To avoid hot splatters, gradually increase to high once the syrup has been added. Whip the mixture until very thick and stiff, about ten minutes, then add the vanilla and any food coloring and beat until combined, about a minute. When ready, the mixture will have tripled in volume and the sides of the bowl should be lukewarm.

Use a spatula to scrape the marshmallow cream into the prepared pan and spread into the corners the best you can. At this stage the marshmallow mixture will be quite sticky, so dip the spatula into water if needed. I found it easiest if I just dipped my hands in water and used them to smooth the mixture into the pan.

Dust the marshmallow with another heavy coating of sifted powdered sugar and leave uncovered to set at room temperature for at least 12 hours, or overnight. To remove from pan, run a knife around the edge and then use a spatula to gently lift an edge of the marshmallow.

Use your hands to turn the marshmallow out onto a baking sheet dusted with powdered sugar, paper side up. Remove the parchment paper and dust the top with more powdered sugar. Use a sharp knife, scissors, pizza wheel or cookie cutter to cut the marshmallow into desired shape.

Fill another baking dish or pan with 1 cup of sifted powdered sugar and toss each cut marshallow in to coat, then use a small sieve to shake off any excess sugar. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to two weeks.

Christmas Favorites: Norwegian Krumkake

The holidays are a wonderful time to reconnect with our ancestral heritage, and for Gio and me that means making some of our favorite Norwegian specialties. In addition to the Norwegian meatballs and gravlax that we serve at our Christmas Eve feast, we love to make Norwegian krumkake to feature on our sweets table.

My mother made krumkake every Christmas with a traditional stove-top iron, but I just couldn’t get the feel for it so I broke down and purchased an electric iron a couple years ago. I’m so glad I did, because we love it. It’s safe to use with kids (under supervision), and nearly every krumkake cookie comes out perfectly made. I’ve included the details for our electric iron below, in case you’re interested in finding one of your own. Enjoy!

Sarah’s Norwegian Krumkake

3 large eggs
¾ cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cardamom and/or vanilla
½ cup melted butter (one stick, unsalted)
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sifted flour
¼ cup heavy cream (optional to adjust level of thickness)

Directions: Beat eggs until thick (about 2 to 3 minutes with an electric mixer). Add sugar gradually. Add flour and melted butter alternately, ending with flour. Add cardamom and vanilla and mix to combine.

Put one teaspoon of batter on hot krumkake iron; when edges are slightly browned, remove with table knife and shape over a wooden cone or spoon handle. If the batter gets too thick, a little cream may be added to thin it.


  • Cardamom is a common ingredient in Scandinavian baking, but this distinctive spice is quite expensive and unfortunately has no substitute. We have made this recipe with and without it (but always with vanilla), and found both versions delicious.
  • For added flavor, add a ½ teaspoon of almond extract.
  • Krumkake can be served plain, but is also good filled with fresh berries and whipped cream, or dipped in chocolate. Gio loves to spread a little Nutella inside before eating.
  • Adjust the amount of batter used to control the size of the krumkake cones. When served by itself, we prefer larger cookies, but if setting out on a platter among other goodies, we recommend making small cookies.
  • The electric iron we use is called the Krumkake Express 839, made by Chef’s Choice.

Christmas Favorites: Panettone Bread Pudding

Today’s Christmas Favorite features a traditional Italian fruitcake called Panettone, which originated in the city of Milan. Not to be confused with our American version of fruitcake, Panettone is a light, moist, flavorful cake more like a bread, with candied orange peel, lemon zest and raisins.

Panettone is wonderful served in slices after a meal, or even for breakfast. On this occasion, however, Tony uses it to spice up a traditional comfort dessert, with his recipe for Panettone Bread Pudding.

“Panettone is the King of Christmas Cakes in Italian culture,” according to Tony. “In Etobicoke, the Toronto neighborhood where I grew up, the grocery stores and bakeries would be stacked with huge displays of Panettone. Big, bright boxes in every color, tied with fancy ribbons, all ready to give to your friends and loved ones. To me, Panettone signifies, hey, Christmas is here now.”

Soaking the Panettone in the wet ingredients before baking ensures that every piece of bread is moist. To further ensure the outcome, place your baking dish in a water bath to prevent the bread pudding from burning, curdling or drying out during baking.

For this occasion, we served the bread pudding with fresh berries and a dollop of our Honey Vanilla Ice Cream. But you can also enjoy it with our homemade Caramel Sauce.

Tony’s Panettone Bread Pudding

7 large eggs

1½  cups heavy cream
1½  cups milk
1 tbsp. honey
½ cup sugar
1½ tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
¾ lbs. Panettone, cut into cubes

Early Preparation: Pre-heat oven to 300° F

Combine the eggs, cream, milk, honey, sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla in a large bowl and whisk until fully incorporated. Add the Panettone cubes and mix together. Cover with a damp towel and let the mixture soak for 30 minutes.

Pour the mixture into a 9×13 baking dish. Place the baking dish into a larger pan (like a roasting pan), and fill with hot water until it reaches half-way up the sides of the baking dish. This water bath will help to prevent burning, drying out or curdling of the mixture.

Bake at 300° F for one hour. When ready, the top should have a nice, golden crust. Place a toothpick into the center of the dish to test for doneness. Remove from oven and allow to cool for fifteen minutes before serving, if serving warm.

To Serve: Cut into squares, sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve with ice cream and fresh berries. Or drizzle some of Homemade Caramel Sauce over the top for some added comfort.

To Store: Wrap tightly with plastic or place in an airtight container for up to 5-7 days. Reheat in the microwave to warm it up before serving.

Christmas Favorites: Sicilian Christmas Salad

Today’s featured holiday recipe is our Sicilian Christmas Salad, featuring oranges, fresh fennel, mint, red onions, green olives and extra-virgin olive oil. If blood oranges and/or the lighter pink cara cara oranges are also available, we’ll layer them in, too.

This is a salad that can be enjoyed throughout the citrus season, but is especially festive at the holidays, when the variety of oranges is usually at its peak. We have served this salad on our Christmas Eve buffet for the past ten years, and it is always a hit. Enjoy!

Sicilian Christmas Salad Recipe

Serves: 4 to 6

4 large oranges, peels removed and sliced into rounds
If available, use half Blood oranges, half Navel – Cara Cara oranges may also be used
1 bulb of fennel, cut julienne style
1 medium red onion, cut into thin slices
1 cup green Italian or Greek olives, pitted if available
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil for drizzling (use best quality you can find)
2-3 small bunches fresh mint, cut Chiffonade style
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cut the top and bottom off of each orange, then stand the orange up on a cutting board. Use a serrated or very sharp knife to remove the peel by gently cutting down the length of the orange, making sure to follow the curve of the orange. Leave no white pulp on the fruit.

Once the peel and pulp have been removed, lay the orange lengthwise on the cutting board, and cut into round slices, about ¼-inch thick.

To prepare the fennel, cut the stalk off and use only the bulb. Cut off the base of the bulb and peel the outer layers. Cut the fennel bulb lengthwise into ¼ inch strips.

On a serving plate or individual plates, begin by layering the orange rounds, alternating between the red and orange slices, then evenly distribute the fennel, red onion, and mint. Randomly place the green olives around the salad for added color. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle extra virgin olive oil over the entire salad. Serve and enjoy!

Tony’s Tip: You can prepare the orange rounds a day in advance and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Christmas Favorites: Baked Brie in Puff Pastry with Cranberries & Candied Nuts

This dish has become one of my favorite holiday party foods. This combination of hot brie cheese, puff pastry, cranberry sauce and candied walnuts is dangerously addictive, and is sure to be a hit on your party buffet.

And why not? Who doesn’t love some puff pastry filled with oozing, cheesy, fruity, nutty goodness?  This appetizer is super easy to make, even with our jazzed up additions of homemade cranberry sauce and candied nuts, both of which can be made in advance so that all you have to do is assemble and bake it when needed. 

Let’s be honest – aren’t we all looking for that one dish that impresses everyone, with minimal effort on our part? We featured this recipe in our weekly newspaper column last year, and it was a hit around the party circuit that season. Even our Forum photographer couldn’t resist chiming in when he tried it. “Who knew cheese could taste this good?” he exclaimed. Indeed. Happy cooking!

RECIPE: Baked Brie in Puff Pastry Appetizer 

1 wedge or round of brie cheese
1 package Pepperidge Farms puff pastry (may only need 1 sheet depending on size of brie)
1 to 2 cups cranberry sauce (see our recipe for homemade version)
1 to 2 cups candied pecans
1 egg
1 tablespoon water

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

On a lightly floured surface, use a rolling pin to smooth out the seams in the sheet of puff pastry. Transfer the puff pastry to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Place the piece of brie cheese (the white rind stays on) on top of the puff pastry. Line the top of the cheese with a generous layer of cranberry sauce followed by a tight layer of candied pecans

Bundle the puff pastry up and around the cheese, trim any excess and press along the seams to seal. Beat the egg and water together in a small bowl. Brush the top with the egg wash, especially around the seams. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes until golden brown. Let rest for at least 5 minutes before serving. Cut into finger food-sized wedges and serve.

Sarah’s Tips:

  • This dish bakes better if the ingredients are cold when assembling them.
  • Use the excess pastry to create decorative trimmings for the top, or place seam-side down on the baking sheet for a smooth appearance.
  • Brie can be frozen for up to 6 months. While this process will alter its texture slightly, the cheese will still work well in baked dishes.
  • Homemade cranberry sauce is easy to make and far superior to a canned variety, but raspberry or any flavor jam/preserves will also work well.

RECIPE: Sarah’s Homemade Cranberry Sauce

Christmas Favorites: Tony’s Norwegian Meatballs

Norwegian Meatballs with friends (640x480)When you’re married to one Sicilian, and mother to another, it’s easy to become infected by their passion for all things Italian. In fact, I often refer to myself as an I.B.M. – Italian by Marriage. But my grandfather, Don Mathison, was 100% Norwegian and proud of it, and every now and then we find a way to honor my heritage, too.

Today’s featured Christmas Favorite is Tony’s Norwegian Meatballs – that’s right, Tony’s. He created this recipe last year when he was asked to be a food presenter at Norsk Hostfest, the country’s largest Scandinavian festival, held each fall in Minot, ND.

Initially, he wasn’t sure if he was the right fit for this event, but I assured him that if I could create my own lasagna recipe, he could roll out some Norwegian meatballs just as well as any old hukalars or tulabook (invented words my 100% Norwegian Grandpa Don used when referring to a good old Norwegian).

Long lines for Norwegian Meatballs (640x480)

And I was right. Tony spent hours researching Norwegian meatballs and came up with his own original recipe. And with the help of our part-Norwegian son, Giovanni, his meatballs were a hit at the festival. One woman even told us that they were better than her Norwegian grandmother’s. Wow.

Tony’s Norwegian Meatballs are easy to make, utterly delicious, and authentically Norwegian. I know that my proud Norwegian Grandpa Don would definitely approve. Vær så god!

Norwegian Meatballs on plate (640x480)

Tony’s Norwegian Meatballs

Ingredients – Meatball Mix:
1 lb. ground beef, 85% lean

1 egg
½ cup whole milk
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
1 cup panko (Japanese-style) breadcrumbs (or plain breadcrumbs)
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground allspice
½ teaspoon ground ginger
1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 cup canola oil

Preheat oven to  400 degrees.

In a large bowl, mix the breadcrumbs and milk together until combined. Add the ground beef, egg, onions and spices and use your hands to mix them together. Season with salt and pepper and mix again until ingredients are incorporated.

Shape the meatballs to desired size (we recommend making balls 1-inch in diameter, which makes about 30 meatballs). Heat the oil in a saute pan over medium heat and cook the meatballs until browned on all sides.

Place the meatballs on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil and bake in a 400-degree oven for about 10 minutes to finish cooking.

Ingredients – Meatball Sauce:
2 cups beef broth

¼ cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons roux
1 pinch kosher salt
1 pinch black pepper

Place beef broth in a sauce pot and cook over medium-high heat. Once the broth starts to boil add the roux and whisk until broth thickens to a sauce consistency. Finish by adding cream and season with salt and pepper. Add the meatballs to the sauce and cook for another 5 minutes. Serve and enjoy!

Tony’s Tips:

  • Mix the meatball mixture by hand for at least five minutes to enhance the texture and bind the ingredients together.
  • For a gluten-free version, use a slurry of 2 tablespoons corn starch and 2 tablespoons water instead of the roux to thicken the gravy. Omit the breadcrumbs in the meatball mixture and mix the meat for a few more minutes.