Marie's Kitchen--My favorite foods are made with love

Lois Saraceni, a real estate agent with Long and Foster, lights up a room. We met at a Bethany-Fenwick Chamber of Commerce event, when I heard her Pennsylvania accent and the word “gravy.” Naturally, I joined the conversation.

Coastal Point • SUBMITTED: Lois Saraceni in her Long & Foster office. Saraceni provided this week’s recipe’s.Coastal Point • SUBMITTED:
Lois Saraceni in her Long & Foster office. Saraceni provided this week’s recipe’s.

You see, I’m originally from Pennsylvania and I know that when an Italian says “gravy,” that means a family recipe for “spaghetti sauce.” In less than two minutes, Lois agreed to share her recipe.

She and husband Buddy, longtime beach weekenders, moved here full-time in the spring of 2005. Lois, a Senior Real Estate Specialist (SRES), is one of only 12,000 in the country in a field of 1.5 million Realtors.

Because she believes in giving back to the community, Lois and four members of the Chamber of Commerce — Jeff Baxter, David Nilsson, Debbie Townsend and Susan Mitchell — have joined forces to found a new corporation titled “Serving Seniors for Life.”

Current plans include educational seminars for seniors and their families to raise awareness on topics such as mortgage planning, estate settlement, personal and home safety, and mail service fraud. On April 25, Lois plans to staff a booth at the AARP Senior Expo in Wilmington, Del.

For more information, contact Lois at Long and Foster at (302) 537-8033, ext. 205, or online at

Lois made it very clear that she doesn’t like to come home from work and cook. So she triples her “gravy” and chili recipes and freezes them for weeknight cuisine. “I love to cook for a crowd,” she said. “I love to make big!” She enjoys entertaining, especially on Christmas Eve/Day. Lois also shared her chili and cheesecake recipes with us.

Lois’s Pot of Gravy

Ingredients for triple batch:

p 3 28-ounce cans tomato sauce

p 3 28-ounce cans tomato purée

p 3 28-ounce cans crushed, peeled tomatoes

p 3 6-ounce cans tomato paste

p Water

p 9 tablespoons dried oregano leaves

p 9 tablespoons dried parsley flakes

p 2 tablespoons garlic powder

p 1 tablespoon salt

p 1 tablespoon pepper

p 6-9 fresh basil leaves

p Sweet and/or hot Italian sausage links (as many as you need)

p Meatballs (as many as you need)

Method for Lois’s Pot of Gravy:

Open all cans and pour contents into large stock pot. Swish about 1/4 can or less of water in each can to glean the remaining tomato product and add this to the stock pot; stir well. If the gravy is too thick, add a little more water, but not too much because the gravy will cook down a bit.

Mix well the oregano, parsley, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Sprinkle one-third of this mixture on top of the gravy; stir well. Repeat this process two more times, using all the spices.

Stir in the fresh basil leaves. Place a lid on the pot and bring to a simmer.

Brown the sausage links and add them to the pot. (If you’ll be serving this gravy to children, do not use hot sausage.) Fry or bake your meatballs and add them to the pot. Bring the gravy back to a simmer. Prop the lid just a little so that the gravy will “cook down” a bit. Keep the heat low enough that the gravy remains at a simmer.

Continue to cook for at least four hours, stirring at least every 30 minutes. (Lois has cooked hers up to eight hours. Depending on her schedule, she sometimes cooks it for four hours and then refrigerates it. Then she’ll cook it for another four hours the next day, when she plans to serve it.)

Note: Lois’s children and their friends have used this as their “starter recipe” and made the gravy their own by adding or changing ingredients; e.g., adding fresh garlic rather than powder, wine, hot pepper flakes, freshly grated Parmesan or Locatelli (aged Pecorino Romano) cheese. Lois encourages you to experiment!

When Lois cooked chili for her office staff, “They went nuts over it!” she said.

Lois’s Chili


p 2 28-ounce cans tomato sauce

p 2 15-ounce cans dark red kidney beans

p 1 4.5-ounce can chopped green chile peppers

p 2 medium onions, peeled and chopped

p 2 green bell peppers, chopped

p 1 tablespoon chopped garlic

p 1 tablespoon oregano leaves

p 1 tablespoon chili powder

p 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

p 1 pound lean ground beef

p 1 pound uncooked bacon, chopped

p 1 pound ground hot sausage

Method for Lois’s Chili:

Mix the first nine ingredients (through the red pepper flakes) in a large covered stock pot.

Separately brown the beef, bacon, and sausage; add to the tomato mixture and stir well.

Bring to a simmer and simmer for at least two hours. When doubling or tripling this recipe, increase the cooking time. Yield: 4-6 servings.

Lois found the following recipe for cheesecake in a newspaper back in the 1970’s; she still has the yellowed clipping.

Lois’s Cheesecake

Preheat oven to 275-degrees F.

Ingredients for cheesecake crust:

p 1/4 pound softened butter

p 6 tablespoons sugar

p 2 whole eggs

p 1 teaspoon baking powder

p 2 cups all-purpose flour

Method for cheesecake crust:

Cream the butter and sugar. Add the eggs, baking powder, and flour; mix well. Pat the dough into a 9-by-13-by-2-inch glass baking dish. You will need to break the dough into pieces and press into place, but make sure that the dough covers all sides and bottom of the dish as evenly as possible.

Ingredients for cream filling:

p 1 pound Philadelphia Cream Cheese (2 8-ounce packages) at room temperature

p 1-1/2 cups sugar

p 6 beaten eggs

p 1/2 pint sour cream (small container)

p 1-1/2 cups milk blended with 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour

p 1 teaspoon vanilla

Method for cream filling:

Cream the cream cheese and sugar. By hand, blend in the eggs, sour cream, milk, and vanilla. You will have a few lumps, but that’s OK.

Do the following near your oven, because the liquid filling may spill: Pour the filling into the crust. Sprinkle with cinnamon to taste. Carefully place in the oven and bake for one hour and 10 minutes. The cheesecake will be firm with some “jiggle,” but it will not be “wet.” Refrigerate for several hours or overnight before serving. Yield: 12-16 servings.

If you don’t have a meatball recipe of your own to use in Lois’s Pot of Gravy, try one of my favorite recipes for baked meatballs from Betty Crocker’s New Cookbook.

Baked Meatballs

Preheat oven to 400-degrees F.


p 1 pound lean ground beef

p 1/2 cup dry bread crumbs

p 1/4 cup milk

p 1/2 teaspoon salt

p 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

p 1/4 teaspoon pepper

p 1 small onion, chopped (1/4 cup)

p 1 large egg

Method for Baked Meatballs:

Mix all ingredients; shape into twenty 1-1/2-inch meatballs. Place in ungreased rectangular 13-by-9-by-2-inch pan, or on a rack in broiler pan.

Bake uncovered 20 to 25 minutes or until no longer pink in center and juice is clear.

When I received the following recipe for Lazy Cake from Sally Swayze of Bethany Beach, it was a blast from my past. This recipe was handed down to Sally by her mother, Sallie Bidez.

I first tasted this chocolate treat at a Girl Scout camp meeting. I was cold, the ground inside my tent was cold, and cleaning the outhouse was not my idea of having a good time. That’s when our leader uncovered her layered Lazy Cake. I can’t say it increased my love of cleaning the outhouse, but it made it a whole lot easier to endure.

Lazy Cake


p 7 ounces semi-sweet chocolate bits

p 3 large egg yolks

p 3 large egg whites, beaten until stiff

p 1/3 cup sugar

p A pinch of salt

p 1 teaspoon vanilla

p 3 tablespoons brewed coffee (instant is fine)

p 9 whole graham crackers

p Whipped cream

Method for Lazy Cake:

Melt the semi-sweet chocolate bits over water in a double boiler.

Meanwhile, beat the 3 egg yolks until thickened. Gradually add the sugar, salt, vanilla, and brewed coffee; mix well. Add this mixture to the melted chocolate bits and cook for 15 minutes, stirring constantly. Fold in the stiffly beaten egg whites. Cool slightly.

In an 11-by-7-inch casserole, lay 3 whole graham crackers side by side. Place a layer of 1/2 of the chocolate mixture on the crackers. Top with another 3 graham crackers; layer with the other 1/2 of the chocolate. Top with the last 3 graham crackers. Cover and chill. When ready to serve, top generously with whipped cream. Cut in squares to serve.

Helpful Hint: Don’t throw out leftover wine; freeze into ice cubes for future use in sauces and casseroles.

(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 Coastal Point.)