mom's recipes Archives - 2 Dads with Baggage
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Mama Bailey’s Lemony Chicken Piccata Recipe

Mama Bailey’s Lemony Chicken Piccata Recipe

I make my mom’s favorite family recipes all the time, a legacy of her Italian upbringing and my half-breed desire to keep that connection alive. One of my kids’ favorites from Nana’s Cookbook is her Lemony Chicken Piccata Recipe.

Fresh ingredients for chicken piccata

Fresh ingredients for my Lemony Chicken Piccata recipe were sourced mostly from our local farmers market.


Traditionally, chicken piccata is known for its capers and white wine sauce. Sometimes a little lemon juice is added for flavor, but our mom was a BIG lemon fan. Her version includes the juice of two large lemons, and boy is it delicious!

Mama Bailey’s Lemony Chicken Piccata Recipe is actually pretty easy to make even though there are several steps. Although mom made hers with chicken breasts, I prefer boneless and skinless chicken thighs for more flavor. I’ve gotten this recipe down to a quick and easy method, which I am happy to share with you here.

lemony chicken piccata flavor ingredients

Fresh squeezed lemon juice, capers and chopped Italian parsley are key ingredients in my Lemony Chicken Piccata recipe.


Mama Bailey’s Lemony Chicken Piccata Recipe

(serves a small herd)

  • 2 lbs boneless/skinless chicken thighs, flattened
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tbs fresh Italian parsley, chopped
  • 1 tbs fresh basil, chopped
  • 2 cups white wine
  • 2 large lemons, juiced
  • ½ cup capers
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 ½ cups Italian bread crumbs
  • salt and pepper
  • 1-2 lbs pasta of your choice (depending on how many people you are feeding!)
  • Grated parmesan cheese

Prepare the chicken


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a frying pan, pour ½ cup olive oil and set on low heat.

Flatten the chicken thighs between two pieces of wax paper, using a kitchen mallet. (If you don’t have a mallet, you can use the flat bottom of a small pot.) Pound the chicken flat to about an inch or so thick.

breading chicken for piccata recipe

The three part breading process is critical to the chickens flavor and crispiness.


In three separate bowls, put the flour, scrambled eggs with salt and pepper, and bread crumbs. Dip each piece of chicken into the flour to coat, then the egg mixture, then finally coat with bread crumbs. Raise the heat on the frying pan to medium, and cook each piece of chicken until browned on each side. Add olive oil as needed to keep the pan bottom well coated for frying. When browned, place the chicken into a 9×13 baking dish. Set aside.

chicken thighs frying

Breaded chicken thighs are fried crispy in olive oil before adding the other ingredients.

Create the sauce


In the same frying pan, add another ½ cup olive oil. Cook the onion and garlic until tender, about 3 minutes. Add the wine, lemon juice, parsley and capers. Salt and pepper to taste. Cook for another 2-3 minutes to combine flavors.

making chicken piccata

Now that the sauce has been cooked, pour it over the cooked chicken and pop into the oven.


Pour the sauce over the chicken breasts, making sure to spread evenly. Sprinkle with basil and pop into the oven to bake for 15-20 minutes. When you remove the pan, the juices should be bubbling.

While the chicken is in the oven, cook the pasta, drain and put back into the pot. Coat with about ¼ cup of olive oil to prevent the noodles from sticking.

chicken piccata in baking dish

Straight from the oven, this Lemony Chicken Piccata is tangy and crunchy.

Plate It Up


First put a healthy scoop of pasta on the plate, then top with pieces of chicken and ladle juices over both. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese if desired, and serve with a side vegetable like broccoli rabe or asparagus.

chicken piccata ready to serve

And voila! The finished and plated chicken piccata looks quite delicious.


I hope you enjoy Mama Bailey’s Lemony Chicken Piccata Recipe as much as our family does!

Family of cooks @2Dadswithbaggage

For such a little woman, Mom was a dynamo – particular in the kitchen. Miss you Mom!

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Pasta With Zucchini Blossoms Recipe

Pasta With Zucchini Blossoms Recipe

Years ago we traveled to Italy with my parents, Triton’s mother, and my brother Chris on a tour from Venice all the way down to Sicily. While in Rome, we stopped into a little trattoria near the Vatican for lunch. I ordered the most amazing pasta dish made from zucchini blossoms and a touch of saffron. When I asked my mom to recreate it back home,  she made up this Pasta with Zucchini Blossoms recipe. And for you vegetarians in the crowd, this one is meatless!

cooking with zucchini flowers

Fresh from the farmers market, zucchini flowers are slightly sweet and so delicious.

Zucchini blossoms have become more popular recently, popping up in restaurants across the country. We particularly love the Stuffed Fried Squash Blossoms at Cucina Urbana in San Diego, made with lemon ricotta stuffing. But seldom have I seen these blossoms featured in a pasta dish other than in Rome (and my mama’s kitchen).

While shopping at the farmers market recently, I found an organic produce stand selling zucchini blossoms. The woman working the booth said she has not seen them sold elsewhere, and she had convinced her family members to sell the blossoms while in season. I readily bought up two baskets full, eager to make my mom’s version of this pasta favorite.

sliced zucchini rounds with flowers

I used a mandolin to slice the zucchini, but any old knife will do.

This is a very subtle dish. The blossoms give this pasta a fresh garden flavor, and the saffron and thyme add something almost sweet in taste – almost. Combined with the cream sauce and cheese, the end result is surprisingly simple and light.

Pasta with Zucchini Blossoms Recipe

Since zucchini blossoms are seasonal and only available in late Spring and early Summer, be on the lookout for these gems. These are typically the flowers stemming from the plant that do not have a squash attached. Combined with fresh pasta (we get ours from Assenti’s Pasta in San Diego), this dish is out of this world!

Pasta With Zucchini Blossoms

Years ago we traveled to Italy with my parents, Triton’s mother, and my brother Chris on a tour from Venice all the way down to Sicily. While in Rome, we stopped into a little trattoria near the Vatican for lunch. I ordered the most amazing pasta dish made from zucchini blossoms and a touch of saffron. When I asked my mom to recreate it back home, she made up this Pasta with Zucchini Blossoms recipe. And for you vegetarians in the crowd, this one is meatless!

Course Main Course
Keyword Zucchini
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Servings 4 people


  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 large onion sliced into thin strips
  • 3 small zucchinis cut into rounds
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup vegetable stock
  • 1 small lemon grated zest
  • several saffron threads crushed
  • fresh thyme chopped
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 12 - 15 zucchini blossoms trimmed and halved lengthwise (I bought 2 baskets and came home with 16)
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 1 lb fresh pasta we prefer linguini for this recipe
  • 1 1/2 cups grated romano cheese
  • 2 tbsp chopped parsley


  1. Boil large pot of salted water for pasta, but don’t cook it until the last minute because it will only need 1-2 minutes. Fresh pasta cooks f-a-s-t!

  2. Combine 1/4 of the olive oil with onion, zucchini, salt and pepper, and cook until tender – about 3-4 minutes tops. Stir in the vegetable stock, lemon zest, saffron and thyme and heat until just bubbling. Adjust heat to low and add cream and zucchini blossoms, mixing gently as blossoms wilt.

  3. Cook pasta al dente and drain, immediately returning pasta to the pot and adding butter, 1 cup of cheese and the other 1/4 cup of olive oil. Stir and spoon into bowls. Ladle zucchini blossom mixture over pasta and sprinkle with remaining cheese. Add a pinch of parsley on the top and serve with crusty bread and a nice glass of Italian rosato (rosé).

Just like in Rome! Or at least in my mama’s kitchen.


happy senior couple on gondola in Venice

Mom was proud of her Italian heritage, and we were able to visit Italy as a family for a grand tour.

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Italian Stuffed Zucchini Recipe

Italian Stuffed Zucchini Recipe

My mom was a resourceful cook, creating delicious meals with limited resources. She grew up in a poor family of Sicilian immigrants, and learned to cook from my nana by adapting recipes from the Old Country to more modern American ingredients. Mom taught me many of her secrets, and I’m happy to share with you one of our family favorites – Italian Stuffed Zucchini Recipe.

preparing globe zucchini for stuffing

Any type of zucchini can be used, and we like globe zucchinis because they look so cool.


Summer is the perfect time to make this dish, since zucchini is in abundance at farmers markets and backyard vegetable gardens. Although you can make this recipe with any type of zucchini, I found the globe zucchini variety at our local Little Italy Mercato. They are fun to hollow out and use as natural cups to hold all the cheesy goodness.

Italian Stuffed Zucchini Recipe

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Start with four good size zucchini. Whether you have globe zucchini or the regular type, hollow them out like you would a pumpkin at Halloween. Set aside the insides – we will use them in the recipe.

stuffed globe zucchini

Hollowing out globe zucchinis, we stuff them with a mixture of sausage, mushrooms, cheese and other goodness.


Mom would plop the hollowed zucchini in a pot of boiling water for 2-3 minutes to soften them. I have skipped this step once or twice when making this dish. It really depends on whether you want to enjoy the finished product with a knife and fork, or more softened like a casserole.

Gather the following ingredients:

  • 4 zucchini (globe or regular)
  • 1 lb. Italian sausage (best freshly made from the butcher)
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely diced
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 2 medium (or 1 large) portobello mushroom, cubed
  • 1 cup bread crumbs (mom made her own but who has time for that?!?)
  • 1 cup grated mozzarella cheese (I used a mix of Italian cheeses readymade from Trader Joe’s)
  • 1/2 cup romano cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbs chopped parsley
  • 2 tbs chopped basil
  • salt and pepper to taste


portobello mushroom ingredients

Any mushrooms can be used in this recipe, and we prefer portobellos for their flavor and flair.


Take the sausage out of its casing, crumble and fry in a pan with oil, onions and garlic. Add mushroom and insides of zucchini, cooking until just tender. Combine the sausage mixture in a bowl with bread crumbs, egg parsley, basil, salt and pepper. Stuff the zucchini until heaping, and place in a greased baking dish.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 125-30 minutes or until tender.

caprese salad with heirloom tomatoes

As a nice side dish, we love to serve sliced heirloom tomatoes topped with buffalo mozzarella and chopped fresh basil.

Serve with a dash of parmesan cheese and a sprinkle of fresh basil.


rototilling the vegetable garden 1971

Mom was willing to tackle anything when I was growing up, including this rototiller sesh getting our vegetable patch ready for planting zucchini and more.

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Sicilian Pasta with Fava Beans Recipe

Sicilian Pasta with Fava Beans Recipe

This delicious Sicilian Pasta with Fava Beans recipe was passed down through generations of our family from my great grandmother, who lived her entire life in Castelvetrano, Sicily. My nana made it for me when I was little, and it was by far my favorite pasta dish for my entire childhood.

I would sit in her love-filled kitchen, perched on a booster seat on top of one of her yellow naugahyde chairs. She would bring me a delicious bowl of soupy Pasta cu Favi (in the Sicilian dialect) and I would tuck in for a feast. When I make it now, I feel her love and it takes me right back to that kitchen in Sacramento long ago.

fava beans at Little Italy Mercato

Three baskets full of fava beans was just the right amount to bring home from the farmers market.

Fava Beans

Fresh fava beans are in season only for a few weeks in early summer, and now’s the time to find them at your local farmer’s market. We’re fortunate to live near San Diego’s Little Italy neighborhood, where the Little Italy Mercato takes over several blocks every Saturday morning. Strolling through the Mercato is always a treat for the senses, and I typically come home with some delicious ingredients. This time it was fava beans!

fava beans being shelled in the kitchen

Preparing the fava beans for cooking is a bit of a chore, but entirely worth it.

Fava beans take a little bit of preparation before they can be cooked. After removing the beans from their shells, they have to then be peeled. Once the outer casing is removed, the tender green meat inside is sweet, delicious and slightly nutty in flavor. Believe me, it’s worth the work.

shelled fava beans

Once shelled, the fava must still be peeled to reveal the sweet inner bean.

Sicilian Pasta with Fava Beans Recipe

This recipe is really quite easy – I hope you like this dish as much as I always have.

Sicilian Pasta with Fava Beans Recipe

Sicilian Pasta with Fava Beans was one of my childhood favorites.

  • 1 1/2 cups shelled and peeled fava beans
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 1 lb fresh pasta (my nana always used orecchiette or shell pasta)
  • 2 tbs chopped parsley
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • lots of grated romano cheese (lots)

Set a pot of water to boil for cooking the pasta noodles.

In a pan over medium heat, combine 1/4 cup of the olive oil with the diced onion and cook until tender. Add garlic, salt, pepper and chicken stock, heating until just beginning to bubble.

Cook pasta al dente. Drain and put back into the pot, adding the other 1/4 cup of olive. Stir and set aside.

Add fava beans to bubbling pan, cooking for 2-3 minutes until just tender. Do not overcook or you will get mush!

Combine fava bean mixture with pasta, stirring well. Ladle into bowls, sprinkle generously with cheese and add a bit of parsley for garnish. Serve and enjoy!



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Recipe for Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp

Recipe for Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp

Of all my mom’s favorite recipes, one I recall fondly from my childhood has always been her simple recipe for Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp. Maybe it’s this time of year, when Spring has delivers fresh strawberries ripened on the vine in our California sun. Rhubarb also comes into season now and starts appearing at the local farmer’s markets and grocery stores.

Spring is rhubarb season

I’ve always loved rhubarb, ever since I was a little boy and we grew it in our garden.

We were lucky to grow up in a household where my mom was always cooking up something. She would taste a dish, run home and then test-kitchen the hell out of it until her own version was perfected. Her twists on many favorites have now been passed on to lucky me!

I’m happy to share with you her recipe for Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp. I’ve updated it to use only organic fruits and natural ingredients.

Spring strawberry and rhubarb season

Chopping the strawberries and rhubarb into small pieces helps the flavors blend together in the baking process.

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp

  • 2 cups fresh ripe strawberries, cut into quarters
  • 2 cups rhubarb (about 4 stalks) diced
  • 1 tablespoon organic flour
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons organic cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup raw sugar

Toss above ingredients in a bowl, coating the fruit completely. Spoon into 4 one-cup ramekins and set aside.

making strawberry rhubarb crisp

Mixing the strawberry and rhubarb pieces together with other ingredients.

In another bowl, place the following:

  • 1 1/2 cups organic flour
  • 1/2 cup raw sugar
  • 6 oz cold butter, cut into small cubes
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
mixing crumbly dough by hand

Mixing the dough by hand was my mom’s special touch, which creates a mixture perfect for crumbling.

Mix ingredients together using your hands, gently mashing the butter and the rest together until it becomes crumbly, not too doughy. Be careful not to over mix. Pour mixture into ramekins on top of fruit, filling to the rim.

baking strawberry and rhubarb crisp

Individual ramekins help serve up just the right amount of Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp.

Bake at 375 for 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 325 and bake for another 15 minutes, until juice from fruit is bubbling through the crust.

Remove from over and allow to cool for at least 20 minutes. Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp recipe

Boy, does that bring back memories. Thanks Mom – we miss you!