Marie's Kitchen: La Vita Bella staff offers Italian tastes and more

Happy Father’s Day! The recipes in today’s column would make any man happy. So, gals, tie on an apron and hop to it! Let’s show our appreciation for those we love and honor and call “Dad.”

In 2007, I highlighted Lois Saraceni and several of her Italian recipes, including her own “gravy” — the Italian way of saying “pasta sauce.” Lois was then and is now a very active member of our local Bethany-Fenwick Area Chamber of Commerce.

Special to the Coastal Point • Marie Cook: Roxie Cheseldine, Barbara Keyser, and Lois Saraceni from La Vita Bella Day Spa shared some of their favorite recipes with Marie Cook.Special to the Coastal Point • Marie Cook: Roxie Cheseldine, Barbara Keyser, and Lois Saraceni from La Vita Bella Day Spa shared some of their favorite recipes with Marie Cook.Lois is not a slacker. She’s had several careers and, when one doesn’t measure up, she moves on to another.

“When my healthcare-consulting position was eliminated,” she said, “I was faced with no job and no prospects. After trying several occupations without success, I decided I needed to use my education and experience to create a career.”

After managing a spa, involved in all aspects of the business, she decided to open her own day spa, initiating a job for herself, as well as for others in our community.

La Vita Bella Day Spa is located at 96 Atlantic Avenue, Suite 101, in Ocean View. To schedule an appointment, call (302) 616-1014. Summer hours are Monday and Tuesday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Wednesday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Thursday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Early morning, evening and Sunday appointments are available by request, with advance notice, based on staff availability.

Services currently offered include massage, facials, body treatments, nail treatments, waxing, lash and brow tinting, Reiki and ear candling. Coming soon are sugaring, eyelash extensions, Thai on the Table, migraine massage and face-toning massage.

Lois’s niece, Lidiya, has spent many summers with Lois and her husband, Buddy.

“Over the last two years,” Lois said, “she asked me to teach her how to cook. Lidiya will be working with us this summer as our general go-to helper. This is one of the recipes we put together on the fly, and she now makes it for her parents.”

Pasta Lidiya


• Olive oil
• 1/2 Vidalia onion, chopped
• 4 cloves garlic, chopped
• 2 cups fresh green beans, broken in half
• 1 can (16 ounces) tomato puree
• 1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes, drained
• 1 tablespoon oregano
• 1 tablespoon dried parsley
• 1 tablespoon salt, or to taste
• 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
• 1/2 cup red wine
• 1/2 roasted chicken, skin removed and cut into small pieces
• 1 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
• Parmesan cheese for garnish
• 1 pound pasta

Method for Pasta Lidiya:

Start the large pot of water for the pasta.

In a really large pan, add 3 to 4 turns of oil and heat until ready. Add onion and cook until translucent. Add garlic and cook until it begins to lightly brown. Add the green beans and cook for about 10 to 15 minutes. Add puree, tomatoes, oregano, parsley, salt and pepper, and wine; continue to cook down for about 20 minutes. Add more liquid if needed.

Add chicken and chopped basil when you’re ready to drop the pasta into the boiling water. Cook pasta as directed; drain. Add pasta to the pan of tomatoes and chicken; toss and serve. Top with freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Yield: 4-6 servings.

You all may think that producing this column is easy — that all the recipes flow to me with perfectly clear directions, with ingredients listed in the order in which they are used in the recipe, and in language that someone who has been cooking for as long as I have can interpret. Not!

Lois’s recipe for Grandmom’s Biscuits had me confused; but since I learned long ago that Lois often speaks in Italian lingo, I knew that her definition of “biscuit” had to be different than mine. It turns out that these biscuits are actually biscotti (cookies). And one of the ingredients listed was Anna seeds. “Do you mean anise seeds?” I asked her. She did, but again, the cooks and bakers in her family refer to them as Anna seeds.

“My grandmom made these all year-round,” said Lois, “not just for Christmas. I used to help her make them and eat them! I love them best with raisins. These are soft biscuits, not the hard ones you are used to buying.”

Grandmom’s Biscuits

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

• 4 cups all-purpose flour
• 4 eggs
• 4 teaspoons baking powder
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1 tablespoons anise seeds
• 1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil
• 1 cup granulated sugar
• Raisins to taste

Method for Grandmom’s Biscuits:

Best to use a floured pasta board.

Put the flour on the board and make a well. In a bowl, mix the eggs, baking powder, vanilla, anise seeds, oil, sugar and raisins. Begin adding this mixture to the flour well; knead. Cut into 2 “loaves” and bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes.

Let cool until you can handle before slicing into “biscuits.”

You can also try mixing the ingredients in a stand mixer before transferring to a board to shape into loaves. Store in a covered container.

Barbara Keyser is also a very active member of the Chamber. She helps at the spa’s front desk when Lois needs time away, or if a large group is scheduled. According to Barbara, she cannot attend a family gathering without bringing her easy go-to dish. Honestly, this is the first time I’ve ever seen a macaroni salad recipe with ground-up Spam as one of the ingredients.

Barbara’s Macaroni Salad

• 1 pound elbow macaroni cooked according to package directions; drain
• 1 can Spam, ground in the bowl of a food processor
• 1 medium onion, ground in the bowl of a food processor
• 1 large green pepper, ground in the bowl of a food processor
• Mayonnaise to taste

Method for Barbara’s Macaroni Salad:

Put all ingredients into a large serving bowl; mix well. Add mayonnaise to taste. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Roxie Cheseldine is both a massage and nail tech at the spa. Her Famous Crab Dip was a big hit at a staff party held at Lois’s house. Roxie suggests that you double the recipe, because it disappears fast. “This is one of my favorites,” she said. “I make it for every occasion.”

Roxie’s Famous Crab Dip

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

• 1 package (8 ounces) Philadelphia Cream Cheese, softened
• 1 cup Hellman’s mayonnaise
• 2 tablespoons Old Bay Seasoning, or more if needed (I always go by taste.)
• 1 teaspoon ground mustard
• 1 teaspoon garlic powder
• 2 tablespoons horseradish
• 1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese, divided (1/2 cup to mix in the dip and the other half for topping)
• 1 pound lump crabmeat

Method for Roxie’s Famous Crab Dip:

In a medium-size bowl, mix cream cheese, mayonnaise, Old Bay, ground mustard, garlic powder and horseradish until well blended. (If you prefer, you can use a mixer on low speed.)

Gently mix in by hand 1/2 cup Cheddar cheese and then add the crab meat. Place the mixture into an 8-by-8-inch glass baking dish. Sprinkle top with the remaining 1/2 cup Cheddar cheese and sprinkle with a bit of Old Bay seasoning. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, or until hot and bubbly. The top should be slightly browned. Serve warm with warm baguette slices or crackers.

According to Lois, the recipe for Chocolate Chip Breakfast Cake was in a cookbook put together by her son’s elementary school, probably in 1982.

“I have made this recipe for every occasion, always with recipe requests. When I make it, I always use extra chocolate chips.”

Lois cautions you not to get frustrated when you have trouble getting the second layer of batter into the pan. “It won’t be easy, nor will it be perfect. However, it will still taste yummy!”

Chocolate Chip Breakfast Cake

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

• 1/4 cup butter, softened
• 1cup granulated sugar
• 2 eggs
• 1 cup sour cream
• 2 cups all-purpose flour
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
• 1/2 cup granulated sugar
• 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 1 bag (6.9 ounces) semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided

Method for Chocolate Chip Breakfast Cake:

Cream butter, 1 cup sugar and eggs. Add sour cream, flour, baking soda, vanilla and baking powder.

In a separate bowl, mix 1/2 cup sugar, and cinnamon.

Put 1/2 of the batter into an 11-by-9-inch baking dish. Sprinkle with half of the cinnamon mixture. Sprinkle with half of the chocolate chips. Top as best you can with the remaining batter, then the rest of the cinnamon mixture and the remaining chocolate chips. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Allow to cool before cutting into squares.

Lois’s recipe for Italian Pulled Pork was a gift from her husband’s niece, Barbara. As with most recipes, Lois has modified it as needed, based on the size of the pork loin.

“This is a great dish for a large party,” she said. “It is also easy to make and freeze in batches for a quick weeknight meal. Great on Kaiser rolls with horseradish and Provolone cheese!”

Italian Pulled Pork

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

• 1 boneless pork loin, about 3 to 5 pounds. (I have used loins as large as 10 pounds, cut in half, and put two in the pan.)
• 1 cup water (I use enough water so that there is an inch at the bottom of the roaster pan.)
• 1/2 cup red wine (If more liquid is needed, I add more red wine.)
• 1 tablespoon garlic powder
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
• 4 to 6 sprigs fresh rosemary (or 2 tablespoon dried)

Method for Italian Pulled Pork:

Place the pork into a roaster pan and add 1 cup water. Pour wine over the pork. Sprinkle with garlic powder, salt and pepper. If using fresh rosemary, place the sprigs on top of pork; if using dried, sprinkle it onto roast.

Cover the pan and bake at 350 degrees for 4 hours; do not remove the lid during this time.

Remove from oven, reserve the juice, and pull the pork apart with two forks. Put the meat into a bowl or casserole. When cool enough to handle, pour juices over the meat and mix well. Serve.

Lois can’t remember where or when she clipped her recipe for Super Easy Farfalle, but she loves making this dish in the summer with tomatoes from her garden. “My grandkids eat this and actually love it,” she said.

Although the title of this recipe refers to the Italian pasta shape farfalle, in stores you will find it as bow-tie pasta. But I want to share the lovely Italian derivation with you: In Italian, farfalla, ending in “a,” means butterfly. When you add an “e” to the end of the word — farfalle — it becomes the Italian feminine plural ending, making the meaning of the word “butterflies.” It sounds much prettier, don’t you think, to start calling this Butterfly Pasta instead of bow-tie pasta?

Super Easy Farfalle

• 1-1/2 pounds farfalle pasta
• 3 cups chicken stock
• 1/4 cup rind of Parmesan cheese, cut into large pieces (which isn’t easy, but do the best you can)
• 2 or more Roma tomatoes, chopped (I use whatever is in my garden!)
• 2 cloves garlic, minced
• 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, cut chiffonnade-style (shredded or finely chopped; thin strips)
• 1 ounce olive oil
• 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
• Salt and black pepper to taste
• 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Method for Super Easy Farfalle:

In a large pot, boil water and cook pasta as directed for al dente (still a bit firm).

Heat chicken stock and add Parmesan rind. Simmer until the stock cooks down to about 2 cups; strain out the rind, reserving the stock.

To the stock, add tomatoes, garlic, basil, oil and vinegar. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for a few minutes before adding drained pasta. Add the pasta and toss well; season with salt and pepper. I plate the pasta for each guest and top each with shredded Parmesan cheese. Yield: 6-8 servings.

(Editor’s note: If you have recipes to share, or recipes you want, contact Marie Cook, Coastal Point, P.O. Box 1324, Ocean View, Delaware 19970; or by email at Please include your phone number. Recipes in this column are not tested by the Coastal Point.)