Thankful for a special Italian recipe


My maternal grandmother, “Nini,” and her rumpled granddaughter, who still makes her special Thanksgiving stuffing. (c) copyright Laura Groch 2013

Wishing you all an early Happy Thanksgiving! :<)

Everyone’s Thanksgiving is full of rituals beyond the turkey. As a kid, the family must-haves included a local TV station’s annual showing of “March of the Wooden Soldiers,” the Laurel and Hardy classic, followed by watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade.

Our table offered Italian antipasto — black olives, salami, artichoke hearts — and we drank asti spumante, not red wine or beer.

Gloppy green bean casserole was unheard-of; instead, we had fresh broccoli and a green salad, and my grandmother’s special stuffing ladled out of the bird.

After dinner, the turkey carcass rested majestically on the stove for several hours as we all picked at it, no doubt contributing to the eventual upset stomachs that were also a holiday ritual (we didn’t know as much then about food poisoning as we all do today).

On Thanksgiving Days now, I start the preparations by turning on the parade as background accompaniment. (Sadly, no one broadcasts “March of the Wooden Soldiers” any more.)

We still do the antipasto plate, the asti and the broccoli. But we no longer stuff the turkey; that concession to speed and food safety came years ago, with stuffing now prepared on the side.

And the turkey, which these days is grilled by my husband over mesquite wood on the faithful Weber, is bustled into the fridge right after serving instead of breeding bacteria as in days gone by. (Some rituals you just don’t need to keep.)

But my grandmother’s special stuffing is still one of my favorite things about Thanksgiving.

A skilled midwife from Sicily who immigrated to Brooklyn, she wanted her grandkids to call her Nini (to rhyme with “mini”). She became familiar with American foods through her clients and her children. It took a little trial and error — when her daughter, my mother, wanted peanut butter, for example, Nini bought it, but was mystified when the sandwiches didn’t come out quite right. A more Americanized uncle had to explain that jelly was also needed to make a classic PB&J.

I like to think that must be how this recipe came about: When Nini learned that stuffing was expected in the American turkey, she created it her way, using rice and Italian sausage.

I think it’s delicious. Nini is long gone, but she returns to our table every year when I make this simple recipe for the rest of the family. Here’s how my mom dictated it to me.


Cook 1 cup white rice in 2 cups chicken bouillon or giblet water (water you cooked the turkey giblets in).

Brown 3/4 pound Italian sausage (skinned and broken up) with 1 medium onion, chopped, 1 clove garlic, chopped, and 1 stalk celery, chopped.

Drain off fat.

In casserole dish, combine sausage mixture and rice; mix well. Top with grated Parmesan cheese. Bake in 350-degree oven for about 15 minutes. Serves 4.

Notes: You can make this with brown rice, or turkey sausage; you can add the chopped, cooked giblets to it or not. Adjust the amount of celery or onion to your taste. I like it browned a little on top to make some crispy bits.

(c) copyright Laura Groch 2013


Don’t forget the contest! :<)


Just a reminder: Don’t forget to enter the contest for a free copy of Murrieta author Linda J. Amendt’s new book, “Gluten-Free Breakfast, Brunch & Beyond.” Contest open through Nov. 30, 2013. Leave a comment please on the blogpage (link below) for a chance to win a copy of the book:

Giving, with thanks

With Thanksgiving around the corner, food is (even more than usual) on our minds. For some, the food shopping is a chore; for others, it’s a pleasure.

But for many in our communities, it’s a daily struggle. So while stores are running all those specials on canned and other nonperishable items, I invite you to join me in buying a few extra items to donate to your local food bank or homeless shelter. Those “buy one, get one” deals so many markets are advertising right now make it easy to give — just donate the “get one.” Or use a coupon to buy an extra item. Make some room in your pantry by donating from your stash — the kids can help you choose items. You can fill up a grocery bag in no time. (Some stores are even providing pre-filled grocery bags that you can buy and donate.)

We may not always be aware of those who are hungry in our midst, but they are there. For the past few months, I’ve been volunteering at our local social services agency one morning a week, and I see how bare their pantry shelves are getting. As we prepare to celebrate abundance (and even excess) at Thanksgiving, I hope you’ll agree that sharing with those less fortunate can make our holiday observance even more satisfying — and blessed. The need is great. (And thanks for reading.)


(c) copyright Laura Groch 2013

New category: Thrifty/Nifty. Save some bucks, have some fun.


An “empty” tube of lipstick has an amazing amount of lipstick still in it — nearly a half-inch of the stuff. Use a brush to get it out and enjoy your favorite shade a little longer. (Actually, a lot longer.)

(c) copyright Laura Groch 2013

Thrifty/Nifty is about hints that save money or are just plain cool. Sometimes even both. ;<)

I’m hoping you’ll find these tips as useful as I do. Though they’re not food-related, they could help keep your wallet well-fed:

— Long-lived lipstick. With tubes costing $10 and up, plus never being able to find the same shade once you finish one up, who wouldn’t want to make lipsticks last longer? If you toss your lipstick when it’s “empty” — which means it’s now level with the edge of the tube — you are basically throwing away half the tube each time. Invest in a small brush, work it over the lipstick and then apply to your lips. You will be shocked by how many applications are left in the tube — there’s almost as much left inside as there is in a full lipstick. YMMV, of course, depending on brand. (Check out the photo for an example.) Using a brush to get the rest of the lipstick out is just plain smart. And you can keep using your favorite shade a lot longer.

— Raccoon eyes. For an inexpensive way to remove the dark smudges left by eyeliner, mascara, etc., under your eyes after washing your face, try a little hair conditioner/creme rinse. I keep one of those hotel-size bottles on the sink and dab a bit under my eyes, then wipe clean gently with a cotton pad or facial tissue. Much, much cheaper than special lotions or creams.

— Cuticle pens on the cheap. They’re lovely and fun, but pricey. You can get the same results for a lot less money with your basic tube of lip balm. Just run the edge of it lightly over your cuticles, then massage the stuff in. Presto! A nice pick-me-up for chapped cuticles for a fraction of the cost.

(c) copyright Laura Groch 2013