Vodka Sauce with Chicken, Italian Salami and Artichokes

Vodka Sauce with Chicken, Italian Salami and Artichokes

One of my friends, Shirley, who knows me well, posted this picture on her facebook page and said it reminded her of one special person, and wondered if that person might recognize herself. I saw it and immediately claimed it.

If you saw our first post on this blog, you know that I’m famous for burning food. I am a good cook, but I just get distracted easily. So the smoke alarm, for many years, was often our dinner bell. One day my eldest son Zach walked into the kitchen as it was billowing with smoke pouring out of the oven. “Mmm mmmm mmm,” he said, “Smells like mom’s home cooking!”

When my second born, Zeke, was about five-years old, I made him a perfectly browned piece of toast. He took it, walked to the trash can and started automatically scraping it with a knife. “Zeke, Honey,” I said, “You don’t have to scrape it today. I didn’t burn it this time!” He looked at me, his eyes wide, and said, “Oh, I thought we always have to whittle our toast.”

Once when my youngest son Gabe was about twelve, he was home from school, feeling sick. I decided to make him some breakfast and put a pan of bacon on the burner to cook. Then I promptly forgot about it and went to take a nice long bubble bath. If it were not for Gabe’s quick action with baking soda and a pan lid, my kitchen could have easily gone up in flames.

Having heard these stories, and seen enough of my absent-mindedness up close, my husband Greg now hovers near when I cook, constantly asking if I remembered to turn off the stove and oven, ready to spring into action at the slightest smell of smoke. My children would agree that I needed, “Someone to Watch Over Me.” Especially in the kitchen. With Greg on the job, they all rest easier.

Today’s recipe is one that I created last week, and I am pleased to report that no kitchen cabinets were burned and no innocent food was scorched in the creation of this dish.

This easy vodka pasta sauce turned out creamy and delicious with lots of flavor layers going on, from the thin salty pieces of Italian salami to the nice bite of the tomatoes and artichokes, to the smoothness of the melted cheese. I learned to make a simple pasta sauce from a New York-Italian friend of mine: it was just lots of fresh grated garlic, a few chopped fresh tomatoes, and about ½ cup of creamy cheese, like a brie or soft Buffalo mozzarella or even cream or goat cheese (or a combination).  You simply melt it all together over low heat, and pour over pasta. This sauce springs from that basic idea, but I’ve fancied it up a bit.

Vodka Sauce with Chicken, Italian Salami and Artichokes

Serves 4


¼ c. thin Italian style salami diced (any hard salami can be substituted)

1/2 c chopped artichoke hearts (mine were canned in water)

¼ c chopped sun-dried tomatoes

1/2 c. soft white cheese (brie, fresh mozzerela, cream cheese or goat cheese — or a combination)

3 cloves garlic, minced

¼ – 1/2  c. vodka (according to your taste)

1 c. crushed tomatoes or 1 c. fresh tomatoes whirled in blender until as chunky as you’d like in your sauce

1 t. dried oregano or Italian seasoning

1 cup chopped or shredded cooked or roasted chicken

Fresh basil and grated Parmesan cheese  for garnish

Pasta of your choice, cooked al dente  (save some of the pasta water to add to the sauce) to serve four people


While the pasta is cooking (according to package directions), chop the salami and render out the fat in a skillet until it has crisped a little.

Add the rest of the ingredients (except for the chicken,  basil and Parmesan) and stir over medium heat until the cheese melts.

Sauce ingredients tossed in pan ready to be stirred and heated

Add pasta water until it is the sauce is at desired thickness. Finally, add chicken and stir until heated through. Serve over pasta, and garnish with Parmesan cheese and ribbons of fresh basil.

Vegetarian Option: Substitute roasted chick peas for meat and add 1 t. smoked paprika

Vegan Option: Sub roasted chick peas for meat, add 1 t. smoked paprika and sub vegan cream cheese like Tofutti for cheeses

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Spinach, Feta & Sun-dried Tomato Breakfast Wrap

(Becky, the Mama)

It’s FUN Friday and I thought we’d celebrate with a story-in-pictures today.

When my grandson Georgie met Greg’s sister’s granddaughter Jena last week at our family beach vacation in Oregon, it was like at first sight. They hit it off like peas and carrots, or, to go with today’s recipe theme: like spinach and sun-dried tomatoes.

Jena and George reading the story of Brave, from Nonny’s Nook

It was fun for me, a grandmother of five little boys under age six, to be around a little girl.  Her Aunt Stephanie told me that Jena came up to her and said, excitedly, “I get to go to the beach with Grandma Gail!”  Then she paused, worried and added, “But I don’t know what to wear!”  This is something I’ve never heard my grandsons say.

She told me her favorite part of the beach is getting to wash all the shells. “I love washing things!” she said.  Again, not something that any of my grandsons has ever said to me.

We went for a walk to the beach one night and I captured this picture of the two of them, in little boy blue and little girl pink, cresting the hill just before going down to the beach. George never goes anywhere without a stick and made sure that Jenna had one, too.

“Don’t grow up too quickly, lest you forget how much you love the beach.”– Michelle Held 

Once we got to the beach, the kids wrote their names in the sand,  and then they decided to draw their own hopscotch games.

This is a little 5 year old boy’s drawing of hopscotch:

This is a little 6 year old girl’s drawing of it.

On the way home Jena walked by my side,  nicely and daintily,  as she observed George in front of us: skipping, hopping, running,  and fighting invisible enemies with his stick sword, Ninja-like.  Impressed with his boundless energy, Jena called out,  “George, are you hopped up on vegetables or Mountain Dew?”

Me (Nonny to the kids), having a blast with my beach buckaroos. We’re all hopped up on something better than Mountain Dew: veggies, the beach, and fun with family!

As it turned out, George was “hopped up on” vegetables that particular night, as he loves them, especially salads.  But I am sure he was also “hopped up” on being at the beach with his beloved family and a darlin’ fun little girl on a perfect summer’s eve.

Speaking of veggies, one of my favorite new tasty and healthy breakfast treats is Starbuck’s low fat, high nutrition vegetarian feta and spinach wrap with sundried tomatoes. It’s made with an egg white omelet (did you know there are only 25 calories in ¼ cup of egg white?), feta, spinach and sun-dried tomatoes, wrapped in a whole wheat tortilla and “sealed” in a Panini maker.

I made my own version today, and it tasted exactly like the Starbuck’s version.  I not only enjoy them for breakfast but they make great high energy snacks, that will hop you up almost as well as Mountain Dew, and make you much healthier! (And only 150 calories!)

Spinach, Feta & Sun-dried Tomato Breakfast Wrap

fresh spinach, whole wheat tortillas, chopped sundried tomatoes, organic egg whites (these are in a carton) and feta or goat cheese

Makes One


Whole wheat tortilla

1/4 to 1/2 cup egg whites, depending on how thick you like your omelet

1 T. crumbled feta or goat cheese

3 or 4 spinach leaves

4 t. chopped sun-dried tomatoes (I prefer them packed in oil.  I had a sun-dried tomato tamponade on hand so I used that)

About a teaspoon of olive oil to coat pan

Salt and Pepper to taste


Lightly moisten the flour tortilla (I just wet my hand and pass it over both side of tortilla) and then cook in small skillet (lightly coated with just a smear of olive oil) on both sides until pliable and warm.  Set aside and keep warm under a plate or paper towel.

In the same small skillet, add the egg whites and sprinkle with a little salt and pepper.  Place feta cheese down the middle of it.

When the egg is set, roll it up and put in the tortilla.  Warm the spinach leaves in the pan for just a few seconds and then place them alongside egg white.  Add the sun-dried tomatoes.

Roll up and then carefully place seam down in the skillet.  Hold it down for a few minutes with a spatula until it is crispy and sealed.  Turn it over and let the over side get brown.   Serve immediately.

Variations: Vegans can use scrambled tofu and skip the cheese or use a vegan cheese. Try other veggies such as artichokes, sautéed onions or potatoes. Use whole eggs.

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Vegan Zucchini Risotto

Vegan Zucchini Risotto with Sun-dried tomatoes and fresh basil

Jackson has recently started whimpering every time I eat until I give him a bite. It all started with this vegan zucchini risotto. I offered him one little nibble and he probably ate a fourth of my bowl. It was pretty exciting that my little boy had such a sophisticated palate and was asking for solids already. (You score bonus points with the earth mamas for baby led weaning, ya know.) Since then, he has scarfed down roasted pepper quinoa, blackened tofu, pasta with creamy artichoke basil sauce, edamame, split pea soup, among other delicious and nutritious meals I’ve shared with him. I’ve been so proud of my little baby’s love of my favorite plant-based foods…

….until today.

We were outside enjoying the beautiful Spring day, me sittin’ & sippin’ my ice water, Jackson “vrooming” his truck around the patio, when he stopped in his tracks and turned to chase a rollie pollie crawling by. He’s so adorably curious, I thought to myself, just before he picked up the rollie pollie and stuck it in his mouth. I jumped out of my lounge chair and cringed as I saw that little black bug all rolled up tight on his tongue. I reached my finger into Jackson’s mouth, but his jaws clamped.

Crunch. Crunch. Gulp.

My sophisticated little veggie baby had just crushed a live bug in between his six little teeth as if it were one of his baby cheerios. And he immediately reached for another one cruising by.

We spent the rest of the day inside.

If that story doesn’t make you crave the delicious vegan risotto that led my child on his culinary adventure all the way to a diet of raw bugs in the back yard, I don’t know what will.

Honestly, this is so delicious. It is tedious (not one of those meals I can make while Jackson hangs off the back of my legs), but it makes a lot and reheats well, so it’s worth the trouble for a special occasion. I know traditional risotto has cheese in it, but I think this tasted amazing without it. I even lowered the amount of nutritional yeast the second time I made it because I really liked the flavors and the creaminess before I added it.

Vegan Zucchini Risotto

Serves ~ 6

1 T. olive oil
1 T. Earth Balance or other margarine
1/4 white onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 c. arborio rice
1/2 t. salt
freshly ground pepper
1 c. white wine, warm
6 c. veggie broth, warm (you can use some water if you don’t have enough broth)
2 small zucchini, grated
1 T. nutritional yeast (non-vegans could use a little Parmesan instead)
2 T. Earth Balance or other margarine
1/2 c. sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
2 T. basil, chopped (optional but does add a lot of flavor)

Heat a large saucepan over med-hi heat with oil and margarine. Saute the onion and garlic until soft but not brown. Add rice and cook, stirring constantly until the rice is translucent. Season with salt and pepper, then add about 1/2 cup of broth. Stir constantly until the liquid is reduced. Add the wine and repeat. Then continue adding about 1/2 – 1 cup of liquid at a time, stirring, and letting the liquid reduce each time. When you only have a cup or so of broth left, add the zucchini. Continue adding the remaining liquid and stir until it is absorbed and the rice is cooked through. You may not need all of the broth, or you may need a little extra broth, water, or wine. Remove from heat and stir in nutritional yeast, margarine, sun dried tomatoes, and basil. Adjust salt and pepper to taste. Let sit for a couple of minutes before serving.

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