Of Easter Pie & Spring Picnics…it’s a TRADITION!


To know Nancy is to know how much I love Easter Pie and the traditions ‘Of Easter Pie & Spring Picnics’. It’s a tradition! Each year my family and I ‘gather and cook’ Easter Pie and the vegetarian version, Ricotta Quiche. Thanks to Love & Garlic’s  commissary and our PRODUCTION COOKING methods, the ‘fruits of our labor’ yield 36 Easter Pies and 20 Ricotta Quiche (oh yes, Generation 3, are vegetarians). It’s a tradition! Each year we give the gift of food’ …adorable, precious, scrumptious handcrafted pies to our family and friends .  It’s a tradition! Each year we ‘gather’ friends and family at a historic ranch in Gustine for our annual ‘Rite of Spring’ Easter Picnic. This tradition and the foods we eat come from the cooking of the Great San Joaquin, Spring lamb, Portuguese beans, rosemary garlic chicken, Greek salad, Asparagus, polenta, and on and on. Peter brings the big bbq rig, the guys bbq and the day begins. Guests from all areas and walks of life enter into the Spanish inspired hacienda and gardens of our hosts. Everyone brings delectable foods, we visit, drink Sangria and fine wines, ’tis the Rite of our Spring Picnic. JOIN OUR EASTER TRADITIONS…

Gather 12 of your friends for our Production Cooking class. You receive 24 Easter Pies & 12 Ricotta Quiche  $60 per person

Give the Gift of Food, 2 lb half pies, $19.50 and 4 lb round pies, $29.50.

Gather family and friends for a ‘Easter Spring Picnic’. We will offer a true picnic and send you with baskets of foods and supplies for 12 and up or we will recreate, ‘basque’ style, a bbq on the open grill… lamb and chicken  along with the foods of the Great San Joaquin…24 minimum. The price, around $20.00- $35 per person. Prices will vary depending on menu and services. Read more…


Meat-a-ball! Quest for the Best

Ever since we saw the movie Eat, Pray, Love, Rick has lusted for spaghetti and meatballs. Since, we have been on a quest to find the best in Fresno. Hate to admit it, but after the movie no Italian restaurant was open. We did find one, Appleby’s, open until midnight. Rick found a semblance of pasta and meatballs but sadly, fettuccine with a combination of Alf redo and red sauce. Italian grandmothers’ were rollin’ over in their graves. Actually, the pasta dish was adequate; not that bad, not authentic Italian, but what is at Appleby’s? Since, we have tasted spaghetti and meatballs at Vini, Vidi, Vinci, a special I hear from the locals that I sat next to at the bar. Meatballs made from Angus beef, not bad. Spaghetti, cooked al dente and a red sauce rich with flavor. The next version, Piazza del Pane, soared with taste, flavor and preparation. Perfectly cooked, perfectly balanced red sauce and meatballs. Really good. 

On to the next: Another restaurant we frequent due to the hours of operation (open until 10PM) is Yukon Jack’s, located at the Herndon/99 exit. The food is good and the price is right. Spaghetti and meatballs? On the edge, I tasted a bit of Chef Boy-ar-dee in the sauce. A bit too fresh or quickly made in the kitchen; without melding the flavors that a great sauté or the time to improve the sauce would accomplish. The meatballs, not bad. The pasta was not al dente, but not terribly overcooked, all in all actually decent.

So far, we tried spaghetti meatballs at places we frequent. Now that we are on the quest, we will also check in on DiCicco’s, Ovidio’s and a recent local favorite in Clovis, Andiamo, the real thing. 

Anyone know of great spaghetti and ‘meat-a-balls’ in town? Please comment. I would love to hear of your favorites. You could save me the tasting calories tryin’ to find the best in town! 

Love and Garlic, Nancy V Mindful that every supper could be our last. Mangia bene.


Truly, the Last Supper

To even speak of one’s last supper is pretty quirky. But when it comes to food, every supper for me is a last supper experience. It sounds a bit morbid, but when my Dad passed this year, my sister and Mercedes, care giver for my parents spoke of Dad’s last meal and how much he and everyone had enjoyed it. The day he died, my sister’s had to go to Los Banos to make funeral arrangements.

I stayed with Mom. We sat by the pool in the warm sun. Mom, very much in shock, innocently showed her great humor. She said, “I can’t imagine your Dad passing. After all, he is younger than me. I always thought I would go first.” He was 90, she 95.

Eventually, lunchtime came and like usual, Mercedes served leftovers, usually last eve’s meal. I knew I would be eating my Dad’s Last Supper. I savored every bite, every morsel, vividly knowing that I was eating his last supper. Somehow, I felt close to him. The very best was Mercedes spinach soup. Here is her recipe.


Burgers and Fries in Heaven

Whether I possess my extreme spirituality because of my nature or by the example of my parents, I do. How I came to be a believer in Heaven and the Lord may have come to me through my love for food. I remember my Mom saying that if I was a really good girl, practiced good acts and prayed every night, I would go to Heaven. “But what is Heaven?” I asked. Again, she said, “If you pray every night, believe in the Lord, you will be rewarded with burgers and fries in Heaven”. That’s it! I said, “I’m in!” There was no doubt in my mind that I would do anything to attain a Last Supper such as burgers and fries in Heaven.

Love and Garlic, Nancy Vajretti


Last Supper Smells

The other day, in the midst of getting ready for a catering job, I had a Last Supper ‘Smells’ experience. I agreed to supply the rosemary for my bride’s napkin rings for her wedding reception. Rick, my husband went to ‘our walk’ rosemary patch and clipped 160 branches, washed and placed them in a plastic container and set them in the hallway of our house. When it was time to leave for work, Rick did as he usually does, loaded our computers, my briefcase and in this case, the box of rosemary. I, as usual, gathered my cell phone, glasses, watch and water. As I passed thru the hallway, I caught a whiff of the rosemary. At once, the smell reminded me of my Mom’s roasted chicken with rosemary, Chicken Lombardo. Mom’s chicken, the smell, the taste, the memory of her cooking this dish is for me, a Last Supper experience. If I were to pass and had eaten my Mom’s roasted chicken as my last, it would truly have been the best Last Supper.

Here’s the recipe:

Chicken Lombardo

Referred to as the snooty relatives, Lombardo is the family name of our Northern Italian relatives. Nevertheless, Mom said that this recipe stems from them.

The ingredients and method:

Start with chicken halves, breast and leg quarters connected. Cut off any fat nodules, skin or gristle. Rub with salt or baking soda, rinse and pat dry. Squeeze fresh lemon on the chicken halves. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place the chicken halves skin side up in a Pyrex dish or roasting pan. Sprinkle with olive oil, salt, fresh garlic and Italian seasonings*. Squeeze fresh lemon juice over the chicken. Turn over and repeat the process. Place in the preheated oven and roast for 25 minutes. Remove, turn skin side up. Roast for another 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and check. The skin should be golden, the juices are clear and the legs move easily. To serve, cut thru the joint legs and quarters and place  on a platter. Cut the breasts lengthwise, one with the wing joint included, about a third of the breast. The other piece will be about 2/3rd’s of the breast length. Garnish with fresh rosemay.

Occasionally, Mom would alter ingredients. I am certain her original recipe called for Italian seasonings from a jar! Later, these mixed herbs were replaced with fresh rosemary. If I do choose to use the mixed Italian herbs, I cut them fresh from my herb garden and dry.


Love and Garlic, Nancy Vajretti celebrating The Cooking Secrets of the Lazy V!



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