Autism · Cricut · DIY · life · New England · recipe

Welcome to “Miss Rita To The Rescue!”

 

Hello and welcome! 

My name is Ritamarie Cavicchio.  I’m a blogger, a Cricut Product Expert, a homemaker, a corgi lover and a mom (not necessarily in that order).

Everything on my site is FREE for you to use, although not for commercial use.
I do need to support myself, which I do with selling my wares locally and on Etsy (http://www.etsy.com/shop/MissRitaToTheRescue).
I am also an affiliate for the Cricut brand, which basically means I get a small percentage of your sale on Cricut.com…but only if you use this link–> My Cricut Affiliate Link
As a “thank you” for using my link above, you can also use my code MISSRITA1 on your order of $50 or more and you will receive an additional 10% off and free shipping (some exclusions apply)
I’m here to help, so feel free to reach out!
A little more about me:
I blog about my beloved Cricut machines, FOOD, corgis and, of course, my wonderful 13 year old son–affectionately known as MO online–who is on the Autism Spectrum.
I am a Boston native (Shout out to Somerville!), but I was raised here on the North Shore of Boston.  After a few years away, I was drawn back to Peabody and I own a beautiful old home in the Emerson Park section.  MO and I have always lived with corgis.  Maybe you’ve seen us around town with Ted E. Bear?  He’s super cute!
After many years in the corporate world, I decided to stay home and raise MO.  While raising a child with Autism is tough work, I do also find time to take care of my home and do lots of crafty things.
Back in 2012, I was introduced to these amazing machines called a Cricut.  When I couldn’t find help on how to use it, I decided to create my own helping groups on Facebook.  Today I am the founder of four Facebook Groups called “Cricut Newbies & Pros”.  In 2014, I was invited to join the Cricut Product Expert program and I am very proud to help people to maximize their experience with these awesome machines!

 

I craft a LOT! On January 1, 2019, I began a Cricut Access Challenge, which has become a regular feature on my blog and in my groups.  If you’d like to see all of my projects from my challenge, you can find the index at this link:  Cricut Access Challenge Project Index

 

I also love to cook and craft other things, too.  I am enjoying cooking with a Dutch Oven especially, which includes baking bread and frying!  I’m hopelessly old fashioned and I love to cook all those Italian and New England recipes from your childhood.  If you are interested in my recipes, you can find them all here: Recipe Index

“Go forth and Cricut, my friends!”

Best always,

Miss Rita

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Dutch Oven · New England · recipe

Beef & Barley Soup in the Dutch Oven

Beef & Barley Soup–if you don’t count chowder–is quite possibly the quintessential New England soup.

But nowadays finding a good version can be difficult to find, except maybe in a can. And even the best canned soups are still too salty and tinny for regular consumption.

So, I set about making a healthy and easy Beef & Barley that would rival the ease of warming up a canned version and I think I’ve done it. Of course, I used my trusty Dutch Oven, but I also used my Instant Pot to make ready the beef.

I started with a small piece of meat that was intended as a small roast. I got it on sale for less than $4 and it weighed just under two pounds. Because I froze it when I bought it, I first defrosted it and then cooked it with a small amount of beef broth and some salt and pepper in the Instant Pot on the beef setting. Couldn’t be easier, but note that you could use a portion of roast beef leftovers if you have that.

Once the beef was cooked and had rested, I chopped it up in small pieces and tossed it into the Dutch Oven along with some tomato sauce, a box of beef broth and the drippings from the Instant Pot. I added a can of peas and carrots, but you could use fresh or frozen. It’s up to you, of course.

The Barley was cooked separately from a dried bag of the grain. If you’re wondering where you find dried Barley, check the dried beans section of your grocery store. Once cooked, add the Barley to the soup toward the end of the cooking to keep it from getting too soggy.

Small oyster crackers are the only thing you need to complete this wonderful, homey meal, which is perfect for a cold late Autumn supper.

One small points:

This soup is exceptionally economical. I figured the entire recipe cost me under ten dollars for ten servings!

Ingredients:

  • Small cut of roast beef, prepared either in an oven or Instant Pot, about 1 1/2 pounds
  • Box of beef broth
  • Small can of tomato sauce
  • Can of diced carrots and peas
  • About two cups of water
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Barley, 1 cup, dried and cooked separately with 2 1/2 cups water and salt to taste

Directions:

  1. Cook beef in Instant Pot with a small amount of beef broth and allow to rest OR use precooked cut of roast beef
  2. Slice and then dice the cooked beef and place in Dutch Oven with any pan drippings from the cooking of the beef
  3. Add tomato sauce, beef broth and water to the Dutch Oven and bring contents to boil on the stovetop
  4. Reduce heat to allow the soup to slowly boil off some of the added water and thicken, about 1 hour
  5. Meanwhile in a separate pan, bring the dried Barley to boil with 2 1/2 cups water and salt to taste; cook for 45 minutes
  6. After cooking off some of the liquid, add the can of peas and carrots and the Barley
  7. Allow soup to simmer for an hour or more so that all the flavors meld together
  8. Serve with small oyster crackers

life · New England

Peabody Pop Up Market: Kids Day

Kale Yeah Market Bag
Kale Yeah Market Bag

The Peabody Pop Up Market “Kids Day” was yesterday, July 10, 2018 at the Leather City Commons off of Lowell Street in Peabody.

It could have been the heat or something, but there were about half the vendors there. But–no harm!–more shoppers for the rest of us! Haha! It sort of worked out for me, because I got to set up at one of the park’s entrances, which allowed for more attention. I abutted two great new vendors.

It was hot, but there was a lot of shade and I got my NEW tent up with a little help from my neighbors. I was also able to give my “old” tent to a local artist named Lauren, whom I met through a GreenPeabody friend. She was so excited to have a tent and the old one wasn’t any worse for wear, so that was a real “win win”! My tent weights–which are compact, horseshoe style square weights–have been ordered, but didn’t come in time, but the tent stayed put.

One of my abutters was Reni (pronounced Ree-Knee) Wilson from Tumbled By Time.  Reni has been collecting sea glass only from the beaches of Marblehead (birthplace of the American Navy and famous pirates, too!) for the last 28 years. Recently she decided to figure out how to make her found treasures into unique jewelry pieces. She doesn’t use clasps, but slip knots to make the necklaces and bracelets and she uses black fishing twine, so you know you can never wear her pieces out!

I got a little sea glass lesson from her, too, and told her all about my glass collecting friend from Canada. I chuckled when she told me the beaches in Canada aren’t good for sea glass! What beaches were she talking about, Deb Reid? Reni is able to tell exactly what type of bottle the glass originated from on most of her pieces and she was a font of knowledge about all thinks sea glass. She was originally from Ohio, but got lured here to our Atlantic Ocean beaches in her early years. They really DO lure you, don’t they?

To my right was a curious man named Adam who was wearing a fruit-adorned shrubbery on his head and handing out samples of “shrubs”. I was curious so I just had to ask what a shrub was…it’s flavored vinegars that have healthy/probiotic and culinary uses. Go figure!! Very keen hipster dude, who helped me out in the end when a certain someone whom I avoid IRL sauntered by.

I got back in touch with my friend, Michael Lucas from back in my days as CSM and VP of a local catalog company.  Michael is retired from most of his other jobs, but he is still doing his Justice of the Peace gig, but also is selling the most unbelievably tasty flavored olive oils and vinegars–real authentic Greek oils! His son-in-law and he have a store at the North Shore Shopping Center (we old “locals” still call it that!) called The Branch Olive Oil Company.  After trying his Fig Flavored Balsamic Vinegar yesterday, I can tell you he can keep his JP skills and just hand me over a bottle of that Fig Flavored Balsamic Vinegar for my salads!!

P.S. I guess there is life after working at a certain local catalog company! Go figure!

I also ran into several GreenPeabody members, including Sheila D’Ambrosio back from Maine, Pam Paine and, of course, Janette, who also runs the Tillie’s Community Herb Project over on Tillie’s Farm on Lynn Street.

Pam was headed to the Salem “No Place For Hate” Meeting…sure do wish we had one of those committees in Peabody, but she said she was turned down when she proposed it to the mayor. It may be something to revisit, Peabody?  What do you think?

Not that many produce/farmers, which I think was the reason why the original farmers market outside of City Hall didn’t do well. Lisa from Bella & Harvey–the event coordinator–has done an outstanding job of getting and keeping interesting vendors and activities. For clarification, this is Peabody’s version of the traditional farmers market, which I think is great, because it allows people like me with natural and/or handmade products to have a booth. Anyone have any ideas? Are you a vendor and want to show your wares? I can point you in the direction of the woman with all the knowledge!

Because it was Kids Day at the market, I gave away some coloring sheets that I did using my Cricut, of course! Full sized pages were also for sale and in about a dozen FREE designs from Cricut’s Design Space.

Coloring Page
Sample coloring page drawn and cut using my Cricut Maker

And because I use the creamiest, thickest white card stock, it elevates your coloring experience all the more.

This was the first market that I had some soaps for sale and I did sell a few bars. Lip Balms were the other purchases. I had a load of really fun market bags, but I think I have to display them better. Oh! And it didn’t help that the DJ was giving away free market bags around the corner.

Of course, I’d like to have sold more, but the benefits still far outweigh the difficulties! ❤

The NEXT Peabody Pop Up Market will be on Tuesday, July 24th from 3-7pm. I *think* the them is Crafty stuff…so I won’t need to make anything “special” for that….cuz everything I have is crafty! BOL!

Here are the vendor details from this post.  If you visit any of them, be sure to tell them you heard about them from my blog!  Thanks, loves!

 

The Branch Olive Oil Co.

  • North Shore Shopping Center, 210 Andover St., Peabody, MA
  • (978) 531-1920
  • The Branch Olive Oil Co.
  • New store coming to Pickering Wharf, Salem, MA in 2018
  • Also on Facebook at /thebrancholiveoil

 

Tumbled By Time:

  • Studio located at 28 South Street, Marblehead, MA
  • (617) 510-1846
  • Tumbled By Time
  • Also on Facebook at /TumbledbyTime,  Instagram and Twitter

 

Peabody Main Streets:

  • Pictures are posted on Facebook.com/peabodymainstreets
  • E-mail newsletter at: Live Peabody
  • (978) 538-5704

 

La Diva Bella/Miss Rita to the Rescue! (that’s me):

  • Miss Rita to the Rescue! The Blog
  • On Facebook at /MissRitatotheRescue and /LaDivaBella
  • Also on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Quora under my name: Ritamarie Cavicchio

Art with Lauren:

  • Sit and paint events, bachelor/ette parties and private art lessons
  • on Facebook at /ArtWithLaurenNoyes

 

Peabody Pop Up Market:

  • On Facebook at /Peabodyfarmermkt

 

 

 

New England · recipe

Calzone and my Julia Child Moment

Ricotta Calzone
No sauce, no meat…just cheese, baby!

Last week I shared my pizza dough recipe with the idea that I was going to follow up immediately with some great calzone recipes.  Little did I know I would experience a supreme Julia Child Moment as well.

Things don’t always go as planned, do they?  Alas!  Here is my failed Spinach Ricotta Calzone, which practically flew out of my hands and plopped on the open oven door:

Far from perfect Spinach Cheese Calzone
Far from perfect Spinach Cheese Calzone

 

Here it is!  In all its hideousness.

You might be wondering why I would post such a dramatic failure on my blog.

I felt compelled to let you know that sometimes you just fail.  Sometimes–no matter how hard you try or how badly you want it–you fail.

The Internet has become–in large part–a place of perpetual perfection, hasn’t it?  Nothing to see but Instagram-worthy pictures of perfect lives filled with sunshine, butterflies and flowers!  On the Internet, no one fails.  No one makes a mistake.  Everything is perfect. Always.

So instead of introducing you to the history of calzone or maybe even the backstory of my Ricotta Calzone recipe, I wanted to show you my glorious failure!  My Julia Child Moment!

Let me start by explaining what a Julia Child Moment is first.

You might recall, from my recent post on French Onion Soup (Julia Child’s French Onion Soup Gratinee I am a huge Julia Child fan.  I cut my cooking teeth on her Boston-based PBS program “The French Chef” and I own all of her cookbooks.

I always admired the way Julia was able to simply explain the finer points of French haute cuisine without making you feel like you were simple.  Julia knew good food was for everyone and she shared that message wherever she went, even if things didn’t go as planned.

One of the most amazing things about Julia was her ability to “roll with the punches” and make a failure into a triumph.

How could I forget when she first tried to flip an oversized potato pancake…only to chock her failure up to not having the “courage of conviction”?

Or when she tried to teach Dave Letterman to make a gourmet hamburger on Late Night, but ended up getting him to eat raw ground beef and calling it Steak Tartare?

Nothing phased Julia Child and no failure was ever a true failure with her.  Julia believed failing was a learning opportunity and a way to adjust your perspective.

In watching The French Chef all those years, I developed many life skills.  But the most important lesson I learned was that no one is perfect.

No one is perfect, BUT we must always do the best we can with what we have.  Despite our imperfection, we should always “press on” in an effort to always be trying to improve our skills.

And that’s not just a cooking lesson to learn.

And that, my faithful reader, is a Julia Child Moment!

Courage and onward to our calzone!

 



Calzone

To make the calzone, you will need one batch of my pizza dough, which you can find here: Making Your Own Pizza Dough

Each batch of dough will make two medium sized calzones.  Keep your dough covered while you prepare the filling.

Ingredients for Ricotta Cheese Calzone:

  • 1 batch Pizza Dough
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup or so shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup or so shredded romano or parmesan or a mixture of both
  • garlic salt and black pepper
  • cornmeal for sprinkling
  • olive oil or egg wash for brushing the outside of the crust

Ingredients for Spinach & Ricotta Calzone:

  • 1 package frozen chopped spinach defrosted and dried in a towel to remove liquid
  • 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup total shredded mozzarella and parmesan cheeses
  • salt and pepper
  • cornmeal for sprinkling
  • olive oil or egg wash for brushing the outside of the crust

 


Directions for Making Calzone:

  1. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.  If you are using a pizza stone, put it in before preheating the oven.
  2. Separate the dough into two equal balls.  Cover the one you aren’t working with.
  3. Flatten your dough ball on a lightly floured surface being careful to form a flat circle shape
  4. Roll the dough out from all directions to maintain the circular shape until it is about the size of a medium pizza.  Try not to roll the dough so thin that it could create holes in the dough. If you accidentally make a hole, carefully pinch the dough back together, making sure it is closed up.  Holes are bad.
  5. Since the dough is pretty elastic and will be heavy when filled, it may help you to transfer the dough to a pizza peel lined with a piece of cornmeal-sprinkled parchment paper.
  6. Spoon the filling on the right half of the dough circle and spread it out.  Keep a good inch of dough around the edge, but spread the filling out within the entire right half of the circle.
  7. Carefully lift up the empty half of the dough and drape it gently over the filled side, lining up the edges of the dough to make the classic half-moon shape of a calzone.
  8. Using water if necessary, pinch and crimp the edges where the dough overlaps.  Be certain that you’ve properly closed your seam…remember holes are bad.
  9. Lightly brush the calzone with oil or egg wash (I used olive oil).
  10. Bake for about 20 minutes or until golden brown.  Remove with the pizza peel and allow to cool for at least 10 minutes before slicing, because contents will be extremely hot, extremely gooey and exceptionally delicious!

 

I do hope you try making your own calzone at home!  If this is your first time making a rolled dough remember your Julia Moment and press on!  Courage!

Dutch Oven · New England · recipe

Cioppino: San Francisco’s Fish Stew

 

Cioppino: Italian Fish Stew
Cioppino: Italian Fish Stew

Even though I haven’t visited The City by the Bay in years, I have never lost affection for all that San Francisco has to offer.  I don’t just want to visit again…I yearn to be there…and, yes, it’s that wonderful a place!

But here I am all the way over on the East Coast and every once in a while I just need something that is quintessentially San Franciscan.  What’s a girl to do?

I solved my dilemma–once again–by getting out my Dutch Oven and setting to work on an absolutely soul satisfying fish stew–that is known as Cioppino.

For the record, you pronounce Cioppino “Chip (soft p) Pee No” and it is a well known San Francisco treat.  The great thing about Cioppino is it influenced by whatever the fresh catch is.  For example, in San Francisco, which is on the Pacific, you’d probably always expect a nice amount of Dungeness in your bowl of Cioppino.  But–over here on the East Coast where crab is not as prevalent–we could use shrimp or even Maine lobster tails! That’s the true beauty of Cioppino!  It’s left up to you–dear cook–to find the best ingredients for your stew, so do keep that in mind when you are purchasing your fish for this dish.

There is one other important point I’d like to make about Cioppino or any other soup or stew, for that matter.  Most good soup makers know that almost all homemade soups, chowders, and stews benefit from a little aging.  With a day or two of resting, you allow all of the flavors to meld together, which gives the completed soup amazing depth.  With that in mind, I have broken the recipe up into two sections.  If you have the time, make the broth a day or two ahead.  When you are ready to make the full stew, reheat the broth and add the solid ingredients.

Don’t have time to wait? That’s okay, too.  Even if prepared all on the same day, this recipe is still a winner!

Let’s get to it, shall we?


Ingredients for the Broth:

  • olive oil, about 2 tablespoons
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 2 bottles (8 ounces each) clam juice (located near the tuna fish and other canned fish)
  • 28 ounce can small diced or crushed tomatoes (I prefer the diced)
  • 8 cups of water
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Salt and pepper, to your preference


How to prepare the broth:

  1. Begin by heating your Dutch Oven over medium high heat for a minute.  Add the olive oil and warm a minute more.
  2. Add the onion and cook until softened.  Once onion is softened, add the garlic, oregano, basil and pepper flakes and allow to simmer over low heat for a few minutes, until fragrant.
  3. Add the wine and bring to a boil, cooking until the wine is reduced by half.
  4. Add the tomatoes.  Stir well and cook for 20 minutes over medium heat.
  5. When thickened, add the clam juice, bay leaves and the water.  Season to taste.
  6. Bring broth to a boil then return to simmer and cook, covered, for 15 minutes or so, stirring occasionally.  Remove the bay leaves.

For best results, make your broth a day or two ahead of preparing the entire dish and allow it to chill.  You can, of course, use the broth immediately if you must.


 

Completed Cioppino ready for the bowl
Completed Cioppino ready for the bowl

Ingredients for Completed Stew:

  • Broth, prepared ahead of time and allowed to age for up to two days
  • 1 medium shallot, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 pounds of shellfish such as mussels, clams or cherrystones, de-bearded, rinsed and drained (I used fresh PEI mussels and some good looking cherrystones)
  • 1 pound of large shrimp, peeled (except for the tail) and deveined OR 1 pound fresh crab–or some combination of both to equal about a pound
  • 1 pound firm white ocean fish, cut into generous pieces (I used cod)
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/2 stick of unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Fresh sourdough bread


Completing the stew:

  1. Have your broth ready.  If you have let it rest, heat it to a low simmer…gently.
  2. In a large (7 quart) Dutch Oven or pot, heat your olive oil and then add the shallot.  Cook over medium heat for about 3 minutes or until shallot is softened.  Add the sliced garlic and cook for another minute or so–until fragrant–but do not let the garlic burn.  Hint: Use your big pot…you will need it at the end, trust me!
  3. To the pan add your mussels, clams or cherrystones and the wine.  Cover and cook until the shells open, which will take 4-5 minutes.
  4. Check your shellfish to make sure they have all opened.  Discard any that do not.
  5. Add the prepared broth to the shellfish and bring to a simmer.
  6. When at a simmer, add the fish chunks and shrimp.  Cover and cook gently for about 5 minutes.
  7. Stir in the butter cubes and check your seasonings, adjusting as necessary.
  8. Serve “family style” with fresh or toasted sourdough bread, which is used for dipping


Special note:

Although this dish can be a little expensive to make and requires some patience, it is totally worth it!

In fact…if I were a mermaid, I’d insist on it every night!

Cioppino: Italian Fish Stew
Cioppino: Italian Fish Stew