Blogging suspended

Posted By mattantonino / July, 6, 2011 / 0 comments

I thought I should put up one post to let everyone know – I’m suspending blogging on StartingtoCook.

Simply put, I love blogging here but don’t have time to run all of my businesses, get myself moved to Australia, blog here as well as I’d like and the feedback, commenting and ad return so far don’t justify the time I’m putting into the work.  So I’m closing the blog for now.  I don’t know if or when it will return.  It’s been fun food blogging but I need to focus on food shooting and getting moved, visa approved, and my new wedding & portrait business started in Melbourne.

Thanks for reading!


Tilapia Parmesan

Posted By mattantonino / July, 3, 2011 / 1 comments

Two things typically eluded me before I starting learning to cook.  1) Quick, tasty meals that didn’t get microwaved or come in cardboard and 2) summer meals that didn’t feel heavy or meaty.  I like salads but I can only eat so many salads in one summer.

I don’t remember where I first saw a recipe for tilapia parmesan but at this point I’ve changed it a few times, made it probably 20 times in 15 different ways and have adjusted everything about it so … no link, just recipe and photos today.

Now, I’m all for fresh ingredients.  Get some fresh tilapia and do this.  However, I’m going to show you in photos a 15 minute meal that doesn’t have to be defrosted.  You can have this plate of food in 15 minutes or less. And on those hot summer nights, a light fish, quick rice and veggie can make the perfect meal.


  • Tilapia filets (fresh taste slightly better, frozen are more convenient .. both work)
  • 1 tbsp light mayonnaise per filet
  • 1/2 tsp lemon juice per filet
  • 1/2 tsp minced garlic or
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan per filet
  • couple dashes of pepper


  1. Preheat oven to broil.  Move the oven rack near the broiler.
  2. Lay a sheet of aluminum foil on a cookie tray.  Spread the tilapia filets on the foil with the “top” side up.
  3. Broil the filets for 3 minutes (fresh) or 5 minutes (frozen).
  4. While the filets broil, mix the mayonnaisse, lemon juice, garlic and pepper together in a small mixing bowl.
  5. Remove the cookie tray from the oven and carefully flip the filets.
  6. Broil another 4-6 minutes on the “bottom” side.  While they broil heat your vegetables and some 90 second Uncle Ben’s Ready Rice in the microwave.
  7. Remove the cookie tray from the oven and flip the filets again.  Broil until the fish is white and cooked.
  8. Cover each filet with some of the mayo mixture and top with parmesan.
  9. Broil until the parmesan is browned and melted.
  10. Devour.

frozen tilapia before parmesan

white tilapia before adding the mayo mix and parmesan

tilapia parmesan

plate of tilapia parmesan, garden rice and green beans

plate of tilapia parmesan, garden rice and green beans

9 Great Recipe Sites

Posted By mattantonino / June, 26, 2011 / 0 comments

Inspiration comes from many places for me.  As a new cook I tend to stick to the basics (ingredients, techniques, etc.) and learn as I go.

For recipe tracking I use LivingCookbook because it’s *perfection* in recipe form.  I have about 52,000 recipes in my LivingCookbook from all sorts of places.  You can import (and export) Mealmaster format, a LivingCookbook format, plaintext and more.  I use the RecipeFox plugin for Firefox to grab and save recipes off the major sites.  It comes with a list of 100s of recipe sites.  These are some of my favorites, many of which use RecipeFox.

Usual Suspects

1) Food Network

Great for finding recipes from your favorite FN stars (such as the ever-hot Giada).  A dedicated Healthy Eating section, full episodes of your favorite shows and recipes that easily export to MealMaster, LivingCookbook or plain text format.  A large database of great recipes makes this a no-brainer at #1.

2) AllRecipes

A HUGE database of fantastic recipes along with the best ingredient search tool makes this my go-to site.  Easily export any recipe to MealMaster, LivingCookbook or plain text with RecipeFox.

3) Saveur

A little higher-end fare (read: fancy) makes Saveur a keeper.  While not being as culinarily challenging as Epicurious, many of Saveur’s recipes are accessible, tasty and excellent.  RecipeFox integration makes this my 3rd favorite recipe site.  RecipeFox friendly.

4) Epicurious

You will be more likely to find a Roasted Vegetable and Prosciutto Lasagna with Alfredo Sauce than a traditional chicken alfredo but that’s why I love Epicurious.  This site is advanced and typically not what the home cook makes.  (The first recipe under Christmas is a Prosecco-Raspberry Gelee)  If you have orange-flower water and Prosecco in your pantry, this is the site for you.  (If you have no idea what those are, this site may be overwhelming at first.)  RecipeFox friendly as well.

Under the Radar

5) DrinksMixer

Quite possibly the only mixed drink site you need.  I have never really had much trouble finding anything on here. Recipes for everything from A Berry Breakfast Drink to the Zipper.  Search by ingredient, drink name, etc.  Terminology, a glossary and drinking games.  RecipeFox friendly!

6) VisualRecipes

Step-by-step photographic how-to of each recipe.  This site is a MUST for new cooks.

7) Cooking Light

This is my favorite healthy-only site. With a healthy cooking 101 section and my favorite – recipe makeovers, and one of my favorite magazines, this was a must-include on my favorite recipe sites.

Personal Faves

8) Recipe Goldmine

Another *huge* recipe site with all sorts of great and simple foods. This is my go-to site when I just need something I can make tonight.

9) Jamie Oliver’s site

I’ll admit it – I’m a sucker for Jamie’s cooking. I am the only American I know who watches Oliver’s Twist. I don’t understand his temps or half the ingredients he says until I see them.  I don’t care.  I would watch Jamie cook all day (and sometimes do!)  My mini shell pea pasta and smoky bacon sauce is a Jamie food.  They are homecooked goodness and rich, high quality skill.  Does he cook 89-star food?  Not usually.  Is he amazing in a kitchen?  Absolutely.

Effortless chicken and rice dinner

Posted By mattantonino / June, 14, 2011 / 1 comments

My dad drives truck over the road and so is out of town almost everyday.  My mother raised five of us kids nearly alone and in the process learned to cook efficiently.  Sometimes cooking for a family on a busy evening isn’t about speed so much as your quality of life and the time you get to spend with loved ones.

This meal takes 45 minutes or so but the effort is so minimal that it’s not a “real” 45 minutes.  Trust me. (Or read ahead…it’s there, I swear.)  It’s a very simple meal I’ve had in my back pocket for awhile now.  Think about the incredible number of chicken and rice variations on this dish, too.

How many boxes does this tick?  Healthy? Check. Easy? Check. Quick? Check. Light cleanup? Check. You knew you read this blog for a reason.

bowl of chicken and rice with mixed vegetables

bowl of chicken and rice with mixed vegetables

Effortless Chicken & Rice


  • 2 chicken breasts, boneless & skinless
  • 1 cup white or basmati rice
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 can of mixed vegetables
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • Italian dressing


  1. Cube the chicken breast into bite sized bits and marinate in italian dressing.
  2. Place all ingredients except chicken in a microwaveable bowl.  Mix well.
  3. Cover and cook 20 minutes in the microwave.
  4. Add chicken to bowl. Stir thoroughly.
  5. Microwave 5-7 more minutes until rice is completely done and chicken has warmed back up but not dried out.

I swear that’s all there is to it.  When you pull it out just give it a stir, season it with a bit of salt & pepper and you’re done.  Home cooked taste with very little effort and almost no dishes to clean. (Hint: in the 20 minutes this thing cooks you can help a kid with  homework, send another to get a bath and pour yourself a drink. Just sayin’.)

Leave me a comment on how you modified this! (Think: different veggies, other broth, meats, more seasoning, garlic & herbs…)

Easy Beef Stroganoff recipe

Posted By mattantonino / March, 1, 2011 / 0 comments

This is my first post using the new Google Recipe Search plugin so if it comes out looking a little different, sorry about that.  I’ve been promising this easy beef stroganoff recipe for awhile so I figured now was the best time to add it!

It has been so long since I made this beef stroganoff that I’ve MOVED in the meantime and have no idea where the original ideas came from.

easy homemade beef stroganoff

Easy Beef Stroganoff recipe

Summary: A simple, warm stroganoff recipe anyone can make.


  • 1 lb beef tips cut small
  • 2 tsp soy
  • 12 oz mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 tsp dry mustard
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 2 tsp tomato paste
  • 2 tbs flour
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 1/2 cup beef broth
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • salt & pepper to taste


  1. Marinate beef tips in soy for 15 minutes to 1 hour.
  2. Microwave mushrooms for 4 minutes. Drain liquid into a bowl and set the mushrooms aside.
  3. Combine mushroom water, mustard, sugar and pepper. Set that mix aside.
  4. Remove beef tips from bag and pat dry. Season with pepper, heat oil over medium heat and cook steak until browned. Transfer to a plate.
  5. Add mushrooms and onion to a hot skillet. Season with salt and cook until browned. Add tomato paste and flour. Stir for 1 minute.
  6. Stir in wine, beef broth, mustard paste and simmer. Reduce to thicken, about 5-7 minutes.
  7. Stir in meat and all juices.
  8. Remove pan from heat and stir in sour cream.
  9. Serve over egg noodles.

Meal type: dinner

Culinary tradition: German

Name: Easy Beef Stroganoff recipe

Updated on 3/1/11



Mini shell pasta with creamy smoked bacon sauce

Posted By mattantonino / November, 8, 2010 / 1 comments

I can’t believe I’ve written this many posts on StartingToCook without mentioning even ONE Jamie Oliver recipe.  I absolutely love his cooking and recipes.  I wanted to try a recipe with mini shells, like the ones they use in soup and I ended up finding this creamy bacon sauce pasta.

Once I made this recipe, I was even more of a fan of Jamie Oliver.  This is a very “home cooking” meal.  Make it on a cold night, sit back with a bowl and enjoy! (And it has bacon – call it good!)

mini shell pasta with bacon and pea cream sauce

mini shell pasta with bacon and pea cream sauce

bacon and mini shell pasta shapes with creamy pea sauce

macro close up bacon and mini shell pasta with creamy pea sauce

pea in a mini pasta shell super closeup macro

Vegetarian Zucchini Grinders

Posted By mattantonino / November, 7, 2010 / 0 comments

A few weeks ago I was working on my 101 in 1001 list and eating all vegetarian for a whole week.  21 meals without meat of any kind.  One thing I had to do was figure out how to eat a tasty lunch.  I’m not a huge fan of traditional vegetarian substitutes (as I mentioned in my Chik’n Pot Pie post) but one day I made zucchini grinders.  They are very simple – chop the zucchini, fry it up, add the sauce, top with mozza and broil it to toast/melt.

These don’t look as pretty as I’d like (soft, wet bread) but tasted great!  I will definitely make these again.

My suggestion for eating vegetarian?  How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman.

zucchini grinder ingredients

many cubes of chopped fresh zucchini on a white cutting board

closeup of zucchini grinder sandwiches with melted mozzarella

zucchini grinder sandwiches with melted mozzarella

Harvest on the Harbor 2010, Portland Maine food event

Posted By mattantonino / November, 6, 2010 / 0 comments

Before my trip to Florida I was fortunate to meet the design director of Portland Magazine who suggested I check out the Harvest on the Harbor and try to get in as press (for StC.)  I took his advice and contacted them.  Luckily I was able to get a press pass for the Seafood Splash on Thursday.  This event is a mix of seafood main courses, dessert (gelato yum!) and appetizers.  Even a soup or two.

The Seafood Splash was a phenomenal tasting event.  Some of what we got to taste included: seafood jambalaya by Cabot Creamery (amazing! One of my favorites!), two different lobster soups, an amazing lobster sandwich from the Brass Compass Cafe, sushi, taquitos with grilled Atlantic Salmon (by *far* my favorite!), kelp, and even gelato from Gelato Fiasco.  Steamed muscles, wine, live music … ahhhh!!  Definitely one of my favorite days in all of 2010!

It’s hard to even decide what to post for photos!  I think they came out great and I’m definitely going to post way too many.  Sorry about that!  Thanks to the organizers, Angie Helton for helping me get into the event, Bob from Portland Magazine for giving me the idea to go and all the chefs who prepared these great foods!  I hope to see you all again soon!

Harvest on the Harbor 2010, Portland Maine

lobster sandwiches by Brass Compass Cafe

Seafood Splash in Portland Maine 2010

sushi and seafood from Benkay sushi bar

sushi and seafood from Benkay sushi bar

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Charred Tomato Chicken Tacos

Posted By mattantonino / October, 28, 2010 / 1 comments

Because I’m a slacker I’m going to post a few shoots that are done that I didn’t modify the recipe at all.  That way rather than writing a recipe in these posts I can just link you to it and show you the photos I got from it.  I’ll do my best to come back and edit these posts to include more info later but for now, let’s get to some posts!  I’m WAY behind!

The recipe for these charred tomato chicken tacos.

These chicken tacos came out really well.  They have very little spice so they’re easy to feed kids who are against spicy foods but they’re very healthy and loaded with big taste.  I love these!

Chik’n Pot Pie – vegetarian pot pie

Posted By mattantonino / October, 7, 2010 / 1 comments

So it is “test vegetarian” week here at StC.  I decided to try a whole week of eating vegetarian (not vegan!)  Last night’s creation was a chik’n pot pie.  The original recipe is courtesy of The Chubby Vegetarian but I made several adjustments, including a bit of recipe rewrite so it makes more sense (sorry Chubs!)

My family is not vegetarian.  They are meatatarians, in fact.  When I told them I was going veg for a week they all rolled their eyes and wished my luck.  They know it’s not permanent – I  have a BIG JUICY BURGER waiting for me on Monday.  I can already taste it.

So last night when I made the pot pie I didn’t know if they’d try it.  You already know where this is going.  We all loved LOVED it – and raved about it.  My mom bragged about it.  It was a hit!  If you never mentioned it was vegetarian, nobody would know!

The photos for this are a bit weak.  Sorry about that – I wanted to test the recipe first (since it was hard to follow) and I wanted to see what it looked like.  The photos on Chubby Vegetarian’s site didn’t look anything like I had at any point in the process so I can only assume that’s a setup.  The photos are a few quick ones to get the job done.  I’ll upload more to this post when I reshoot the pot pie.  HUGE raves for this – highly recommended this fall/winter.

Photos, then recipe on “Read more” as always!

vegetarian chikn pot pie recipe

vegetarian chikn pot pie recipe

vegetarian chikn pot pie recipe

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