Zitella's Favorite Recipes

Let’s Talk Turkey

Whose idea was it to make turkey the traditional Thanksgiving dish?  Do you think the pilgrims actually served turkey stuffed with cornbread and celery at their feast?  After all, Plymouth is right on the ocean, so they probably ate fish.  Maybe we’re all supposed to be dining on the Thanksgiving Lobster.  I’m just saying…

Okay, so I’m not crazy about turkey.  One or two slices of the bird, and I’m good.  The next day, you open the refrigerator and remember just why they call it foul.

For me, turkey day is all about the sides.  I can’t wait for the mashed potatoes, the green beans with the onions, cranberry sauce made from scratch, and kernel corn slow baked in a ramekin.


One of my favorite sides is an easy sweet potato casserole with a hint of vanilla that can be made ahead and reheated in the microwave.  I’m happy to share the recipe with you.


Whether you like apple, pumpkin, chocolate, or my personal favorite – lemon meringue – I’ll bet the expression, “life is uncertain, eat dessert first” was coined with pie in mind.  In fact, instead of nicknaming Thanksgiving “turkey day,” I’d opt for “pie day.”  And the next morning while all the shoppers are jockeying for a parking space at the mall so they can get in on the Black Friday sales, I gonna sleep in and eat leftover pie for breakfast.

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Girl Talk, Pop Culture

Mad for Plaid

My disdain for plaid began in childhood.  While most of my neighborhood friends went to public school wearing whatever they wanted, I attended parochial school dressed in a hideous Catholic School Uniform.  These frocks all look the same: a plaid jumper with a pleated skirt, a white blouse with a peter pan collar, and a nerdy crisscross tie.  The only possible variation is in color.  Mine was hunter green.

As if all that wasn’t bad enough, I was forced to wear profoundly ugly black oxford shoes.  I’m not talking hip Doc Martens, or timeless penny loafers.  Try old-lady orthopedic clodhoppers.

I remained trapped in that get-up for six long years.  It was more than a crime against fashion – it bordered on child abuse.  To this day, I do not own a single hunter green garment, my contempt for plaid is legendary, and pleats of any sort literally give me a case of hives.  Really, I’m not kidding about the hives.

During the nineties, plaid flannel shirts were a staple of the grunge look but I ignored them along with the Seattle Sound.  Now plaid’s back again. This time, the inspiration’s come from the Scottish kilts worn in the runaway television hit Outlander, based on the Diana Gabaldon books.  And while watching the show has become my guilty pleasure, I’ve continued avoiding plaid like the plague.

plaid-wrapUntil a few weeks ago, when an unexpected parcel arrived from my mother.  She’s a skilled seamstress, and I’m always the lucky recipient of her handiwork.  I quickly opened the package and to my surprise, it was a plaid wrap.

What was she thinking?  She knows I hate plaid. 

Ooh, me likey… 

This wrap has become my go-to outerwear piece for the fall.  It’s easy and comfy, and it looks great with everything in my wardrobe.  Disdain finally removed.  Now I’m mad for plaid.

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Life Lessons, Writers and Writing

A Room of One’s Own

The four of us met several years ago in a “Writing a Non-Fiction Book” class.  We shared a great respect for each other’s work and the tenacity to keep at the writing.  So when the class ended, it was a no-brainer that we should form a writing group.  We began meeting bi-monthly at a funky café in Harvard Square.

Our group is the literary equivalent of having a “gym buddy.”  When you don’t feel like going to the gym, you force yourself because she’s counting on you.  And so, the writing group keeps us all on track.

We are diverse women; the writing is our common thread.  We lead very different lives, with demanding work schedules, multiple family responsibilities, and community commitments.  Add to that the everyday tasks of cooking and laundry, and how much time is left for writing?  For me it always comes down to this: sleep or write.  Which would explain my consumption of caffeine and the circles under my eyes.


In the spirit of Virginia Woolfe’s essay “A Room of One’s Own,” we recently planned an intensive weekend of writing.  We drove to Vermont, holed up in a carriage house that overlooked the Green Mountains, and we wrote.  No household chores, no television, no distractions.  Each of us structured our time a bit differently, but the bottom line was writing and receiving feedback in real time.  Alright, I’ll admit it – there was a small side trip to the Eileen Fisher outlet store located a few miles away.  But I promise, it was a very productive weekend.

Living communally reminded me of my college days.  These amazing, supportive women have made a crucial impact on my life.  We left Vermont with a deep sense of accomplishment.  Next time – and there will be a next time – we’ll go to the ocean.

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