The Dish with Dinner Bella

Happy Girl, Ray of Sunshine, Extroverted Entrepreneur who shares great stories and great recipes. Mangia!

Going South of the Border March 22, 2011

So, I was reading this article on Top Ten Food Trends for 2011 and number 10 was “Eating for Sex and Other Things”.  Really? We are a nation of people looking for energy, vitality and increased sex drive all in one little dose.  I mean think of the pomegranate, acia berry and now the maqui berry.  These magic foods are metabolism-boosting, appetite-suppressing, cleansing and detoxifying!  Not to mention claims about increasing your sex drive.  And, did you know, that nutmeg is the new female aphrodisiac?

I got to thinking, what other foods are there that are libido enhancing plus other health benefits?  Well, here is a short and sweet list for your viewing pleasure:

  • Avocado The avocado tree was called a “testicle tree” by the Aztecs because its fruit hangs in pairs, resembling the male …well, you know . Its aphrodisiac value is based on this resemblance. ( Hey- I didn’t make this stuff up- researched it on Discovery Health!)  I hope my mother, Big Bad Bev, is not reading this…
  • Bananas Bananas are stuffed with potassium and B vitamins, which are required for sex-hormone production.  Plus the shape of the banana…you might never look at a banana the same way again…
  • Basil (sweet basil)  Basil promotes proper  circulation ( I need this because I am always cold).  For many centuries, people have said that basil boosts fertility and stimulates the sex drive and just makes you feel good!  Don’t you feel good when you smell basil?  And the experts say that the scent of basil will drive men wild.  Honey, bring me the Wegman’s Hydroplant, please!
  • Chili peppers You know when you eat a chili pepper it makes you sweat and increases your heart rate?  Well, these responses are similar to those experienced when having sex. The peppers are also good pain relievers.  Who knew?
  • Fish Fish has lots of nutrients and vitamins and it contains sensory triggers that make it an aphrodisiac. Many types of fish contain these libido-enhancing nutrients, with certain types having more than others.  The color of fish, the smell and the taste can all be linked to sex and sexual areas (duh!), triggering hormones and turning on sexual appetite.
  • Chocolate Chocolate contains phenylethylamine and serotonin, which are both “feel good” chemicals.  Chocolate may also have substances that have the same effect on the brain as marijuana!  The substance is a neurotransmitter called anandamide.   Not sure if it increases your libido, but if you are “feeling good”; you might give anything a try!

Since I can’t eat chocolate right now because of my diet, I came up with a recipe for flounder to trigger your hormones and increase your sex drive.  “South of the Border” Flounder is chock full of fishy vitamins and nutrients and the black beans give you lots of iron and protein.  Relatively easy and short on time, “South of the Border” Flounder will have you eating and doing whatever you are into in a jiffy!  Mangia!


South of the Border Flounder


  • 1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 20 Grape tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 2 limes, sliced thin
  • 4 flounder filets (or any mild white fish like Tilapia or Swai)
  • Cumin
  • Adobo (Goya Brand)
  • Dried cilantro
  • 4 sheets of  parchment paper to wrap fish in


  • Preheat oven to 350.
  • Lay four sheets of parchment paper on a smooth surface.
  • Spoon 4 oz of bean into the center of each paper.
  • Lightly sprinkle one side of fish with adobo and the other side with cumin.  Place on top of beans.
  • Sprinkle ¼ tsp of cilantro on top of each piece of fish.
  • Lay three lime slices on top of fish.
  • Divide tomatoes evenly among the fish.
  • Take the edges of the parchment paper and fold them over so they meet in the middle.
  • Grab each end of the packet and fold it over tightly. Pinch the folded edges down and roll them toward the center just until they are secure enough to stay closed on their own.
  • Transfer packets onto a baking sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes.

“Between the optimist and the pessimist, the difference is droll. The optimist sees the doughnut; the pessimist the hole!”   -Oscar Wilde


The Original Dinner Bella March 20, 2011

You may be wondering where I went, and I am here to tell you that Dinner Bella is still around!  Well, while by business may be in a coma, I am still alive….  Here’s the quick and dirty:

I had an interesting spring and summer (2010) busy with catering jobs (weddings, bat mitzvahs, cocktail parties) and then business almost completely dried up with just a few jobs trickling in.  Then by some stroke of luck, I was commissioned by this Scottish family to cook breakfast and dinner for 6 weeks starting in July!  Holy Cow!  Turns out it was too good to be true; I was involved in an international money laundering scam.  After talking with the internal revenue service, FBI and CIA, I was feeling a little bruised and defeated.  I was questioning whether Dinner Bella should stay in business, all the while still continuing to do personal chef jobs…

One of my last personal chefs gigs was cooking an anniversary dinner and they chose Smore Brownies for dessert.  Chatting away with my client, while the the smore brownies were broiling, they set on fire!! I have never set anything on fire in my whole life- especially while preparing a meal for a client!!!  Luckily we were able to laugh it off and recover- but again I felt defeated…is this a sign that I should throw in the towel??  

Finally, I took a good look at my license plate: DNRBELLA.    DNRBELLA??????  Do not resuscitate Bella????  Can someone please tell me what I was thinking when I got these plates???   For Pete’s sake!!

Anyway, I decided to close up shop and go back to recruiting after a short stint at Martial Arts America (love and miss you guys!)  As I always say, “When life hands you lemons, make limoncello!”  That’s just what I’ve done, put the business on hold until I am ready to resume. I am still cooking though and I will always be The Original Dinner Bella!  The business is just…in a coma…

Lately, I have been brimming with ideas and I wanted to tell you about them.  I have been experimenting with Low Glycemic index recipes that are very satisfying and are in fact helping me to lose weight (9-14 lbs, depending on when I weigh myself).  Capt Willy, my new partner in crime, has lost 12 lbs!  Basically, my new way of eating doesn’t let me fall into a food coma…overeating then starving which then results in more overeating.

So in light of my new way of eating and my new fabulous life, I present you with Phoenix Stuffed Portobellos.  No, we are not eating Phoenix- but my new life like the fabled Phoenix, is rising anew to live again.   Mangia!

Phoenix Stuffed Portobello


  • 2/3  cup  chopped plum tomato
  • 1 lb of 99% fat free ground turkey, browned
  • 1/4  cup  (1 ounce) shredded reduced fat Italian four cheese blend (like Sargento’s)
  • 1  teaspoon  olive oil, divided
  • 1/4  teaspoon  coarsely ground black pepper
  • 4  (5-inch) Portobello mushroom caps
  • 2  tablespoons  fresh lemon juice
  • 2  teaspoons liquid aminos (found in the organic section) or  low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2  teaspoons  minced fresh parsley
  • Cooking spray


Prepare grill ( I use the George Forman).  Brown the turkey using just a little cooking spray.

Combine the tomato, cheese, 1/2 teaspoon oil, pepper and parsley in a small bowl.

Remove brown gills from the undersides of mushroom caps using a spoon, and discard gills. Remove stems; discard. Combine 1/2 teaspoon oil, juice, and liquid amino in a small bowl; brush over both sides of mushroom caps. Place the mushroom caps, stem sides down, on grill rack coated with cooking spray, and grill for 5 minutes on each side or until soft.

Spoon  tomato mixture into each mushroom cap. Cover and grill 3 minutes or until cheese is melted..

Notes: I had leftover tomato mixture and used it to stuff peppers with- Yum city!

Nina, The Original Dinner Bella

“Between the optimist and the pessimist, the difference is droll. The optimist sees the doughnut; the pessimist the hole!”   -Oscar Wilde


Bella Gone Blarmy June 15, 2010

Filed under: Desserts — dinnerbella @ 11:55 pm
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I think I’ve been watching too much BBC tv lately.  I’ve noticed that British slang is starting to creep into my thought process.  Words and expressions like:

Bloke:  This bloke asked me out on a date and then forgot to show.

Daft: Don’t be daft- of course I want fries with my cheeseburger!

Wanker: Did you see that?  That wanker just cut me off!

Sacked: I was just sacked! Hmmmm….let me open up my own business…..

For F*** sake:  You sent him another text message?  Why would you do that, for f*** sake???

Thank goodness, I just think these things and don’t actually say them.  Most people would think I’m nuts.  Except for the last expression, which I say quite frequently…that I blame on Maureen and her bad Irish influence…  but most people think it’s funny…it usually is…

But I am reminded of this quote:

“Watch your thoughts, for they become words.
Watch your words, for they become actions.
Watch your actions, for they become habits.
Watch your habits, for they become character.
Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”

And I truly believe this.  What ever we are thinking inside seeps out to our exterior persona…negative or positive.  And once it is out it effects our decisions which ultimately results in how people see us.  I think back to a Stephen Covey lesson I learned long ago:  What will people say about you at your 80th birthday party?  I’d like people to say that I was kind, giving and loving and funny.  An influencer…  An inspiration.    I don’t want people to remember me having road rage and calling people wankers!  For F*** sake!

As I was looking for a really cool British recipe to share, I came across this Bonfire Toffee.  This toffee is served up on numerous occasions in the UK, but noteably St. John’s Eve (June 23rd) in Ireland.  Apparently they have a bonfire…and with GDP season coming up, I thought I might make up a batch of this for my friends.  And it calls for Treacle, which I love ( I dated this Scottish guy and his mom used it all the time)!   So, while you are thinking of what not to say to embarrass yourself, make some Bonfire Toffee and impress your hens and blokes!



Bonfire Toffee


1lb dark brown sugar

¼ pint water

¼ level tsp cream of tartar

½cup black treacle/molasses

½cup golden syrup/corn syrup


Butter a 9×9 square dish.

In a heavy based 4-pint sauce pan dissolve the sugar and water over a low heat. Add all the remaining ingredients and bring to the boil. Using a candy thermometer boil to 270°/140°C (soft crack). If you do not have a candy thermometer – when you drop a bit of the syrup into cold water, it will solidify into threads that, when removed from the water, are flexible, not brittle. The toffee strands will bend slightly before breaking.

Once this stage is reached (about 10 minutes maximum) pour the toffee into the prepared tin and leave to cool.

Once the toffee is cold remove it from the tin and break with a toffee hammer or solid sharp object, and the toffee will crack into pieces.

Store in an airtight tin if you can resist it long enough!

M. Nina Piccini is the owner of Dinner Bella, Personal Chef Service and Catering.


Tuscan Tales Part I June 7, 2010

Filed under: Soups — dinnerbella @ 8:10 am
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So, I’ve been dreaming of a hiking tour of Italy for the past 7 years.  I mean, what better way to see the country than to walk it.  The one I want to do is about $5k and you stay in wonderful chalets and eat at a smörgåsbord of fabulous food.  Needless to say, this is not a “typical” tour”.   Of course, my protective parents were always nagging, “Don’t go alone!”

In 2005, I decided to bite the bullet and go,  no matter what the cost.  My neighbor, Laura, decided she wanted to go with me.  (My parents were ecstatic!)  Now this came as a surprise to me because Laura can’t even hike around the block. I remind her that this is 5-7 hours a day of walking and hiking…she still wanted to come.  Laura starts asking about the van support.  “There is van support, right? ”  Yes, but the point is to walk …all of a sudden, Laura starts checking out other tours.  Less expensive tours…under 35 year old tours…you can see where this might be going.   Somehow, I was conned into ditching my beloved hiking trip and going on some under 35 tour.  (Again, my parents were selfishly thrilled because I would not be traipsing around the Italian countryside alone…)

It was a disaster from the beginning.  Our room wasn’t ready when we got there, and when we finally did meet  with our group (of course they were all between 18-26 years old- Laura and I were the oldest on the tour), our dinner was turkey roll, gravy and cubed potatoes, sauce and rigs and tiramisu!  Really?  Did I just fly all this way to have turkey roll?  They probably thought that “kids” wouldn’t notice and would appreciate the experience.  Oh for cripes sake!  I remember some of these kids commenting on how good the food was…. I could have died.  Then the tour made us purchase meals from selected restaurants telling us that many of places would not be open…Thankfully, Laura and I only purchased three meals with the tour.  They had turkey roll three nights in a row!

Just want to say that I knew this tour was a bust when all of the 20 somethings were getting trashed on juice boxes of wine….Seriously, the tour promised us all the wine we could drink….little did we know it was out of juice boxes…I am not even kidding you when I tell you that I lost 5 lbs! In Italy!

Short story long, the Tuscan countryside is beautiful and I need to get back there.  Our tour’s home base was Siena which was gorgeous and I cried when I got to Orvieto. There are two hikes I want to do in Italy- Another Tuscan tour and Italy’s lake district (Como, Lugano and Orta). Definitely need to train as it is between 3-6 hours a day of moderate trails.  This time I am not telling anyone I am going; I will just call when I get there.  This way no on can con me out of my beloved hike….

Lesson Learned?  Go with your gut instinct….enough said….

Laura and I did have a couple of good meals and one of them was Ribolitta, a hearty Tuscan soup.   Basically, this is a bread thickened, vegetable soup.  Ribolitta means reboiled- It’s awesome and great for cold, rainy weekends when you need something comforting…even if it is the middle of summer.   Bite the bullet and try this recipe!  You’ll be glad you did.





1 cup cannellini beans, uncooked

1 large red onion, sliced

2 carrots, diced

1 celery stalk, diced

4 potatoes, diced

10 zucchini, diced

1 1/2 cups swiss chard, shredded

1 leek

1 bunch escarole shredded

salt and pepper

2-3 tablespoons tomato paste

2 days old stale Tuscan white bread

Soak the beans overnight and then cook over low heat. It will take approximately 1 to 1 1/2 hours for them to cook.

In a pan, gently fry the onion. Add the other vegetables, escarole and beans which are added at a later point. When the vegetables have sweated out their juice, cover with hot water. Cover and simmer for an hour over medium heat.

Add the cooked beans (some of them whole and some puréed), salt and pepper. Leave to simmer for another 20 minutes, stirring frequently because the beans tend to stick to the bottom of the pan. Add the tomato paste.

Slice the stale bread and, in an earthenware casserole, alternate layers of bread with the soup until the bread is soaked. Let rest for one day.

To serve, remove the desired quantity from the casserole and reheat it, or “re-boil” it, as the name in Italian suggests.

M. Nina Piccini is the owner of Dinner Bella,Personal Chef Service and Catering in Rochester, NY.


Spotlight on Entrepreneurs: Viola Personal Concierge Service June 4, 2010

Last month I started a new series of posts highlighting Rochester, NY’s entrepreneurs.  It was a huge success!  So, I would like to continue my new monthly blog post and aim the spotlight on Maureen Dorman, owner of Voilà! Personal Concierge Service.

I first met Maureen at the Rochester Women’s Expo in November of 2009.  She actively sought Dinner Bella out as someone she wanted to meet and voila!, we became instant friends.  After attending several workshops together, Maureen and I decided to become “business buddies”; we hold each other accountable for goals and keep each other in check.   Well, at least that’s how it started… now she is my hiking, drinking and networking buddy (I never order beer without asking her first…she is a beer connoisseur!)  Maureen is always making me laugh with her quick wit and candor…And in September of 2010, we are volunteering at a “Life is Good” event in Boston.  Maureen is the only person I know that believes in the Life is Good philosophy as much as I do…and she has more paraphernalia than me, by far!  Maureen’s spirit is inspiring and I am so glad our two paths crossed.

With her Life is Good mantra, Maureen picked herself up after getting laid off and built Voilà!, a lifestyle management business for working couples, busy professionals, frequent travelers, seniors, new mothers, or anyone just looking for more free time. She takes care of all the tasks that you don’t have time for…How cool is that? Maureen believes that she is not defined by what she does, but rather who she is.”   A great philosophy to live by….What else does Miss Dorman have to say?

If you were a fruit, what would you be? Grape, because I love hanging around with a bunch of friends

Favorite food? Pizza- thin crust with pretty much any type of cheese and veggie toppings.

Which super power would you like to have and why? The ability to fly because I’m always running late and flying is faster than driving!

What do you eat for breakfast? Hazelnut coffee w/ cream and a PBJ Lara bar ( I am pretty sure she grinds it fresh every morning!)

Favorite song? Crazy by Gnarls Barkly

If Hollywood made a movie about your life, whom would you like to see play the lead role as you? Debra Messing- Great hair and she’s almost as funny as me.

What is your favorite book till date? Interview with a Vampire- I loved vampires before vampires were cool! (I knew there was a reason we were friends….)

Tell us about one of your worst habit or quality? I talk too much, especially when I’m nervous.

It would surprise people to know that you: If you know me than nothing would surprise you.

Besides running Voila, what are your other passions: Health and Wellness

What would you do if you have a time machine? I would be a lady in waiting in Queen Elizabeth’s court.

If you took some time off from your portfolio career you would: Visit my oldest son in Chicago (and hopefully run into Oprah While I’m there!)

Maureen, your moxy, professionalism and attitude are truly an inspiration to me and I think you are one cool entrepreneur!  Check out the Voila website at  She will help you not only get back some time, but give you peace of mind from your hectic lifestyle!



M. Nina Piccini is the owner of Dinner Bella, Personal Chef Service and Catering in Rochester, NY.


TLC and Me June 2, 2010

Ok, so my back yard is a work in progress.  When I first moved in, it was all overgrown and in severe need of some TLC.  For the past 6 years, I have been working to get it cleaned up, but the weeds have a mind of their own.  Three summers ago, my brother Kevin and parents took a stab at clearing it.  Poison Oak ensued.  Sometimes, I look forward to that first frost, just so I don’t have to look at them.  When I had a corporate job, I was able to control them.  Now that I work for myself, I’m afraid I can’t contain them.  Once I make my first million, I am hiring a gardener….

I love to entertain and have parties for my friends.  6 years ago, embarrassed of my back yard, I moved the party to the driveway.  Then I thought, “wow, this is really ghetto.”  (you know those houses where everyone hangs out in front with old ratty couches and armchairs? This is the vision I got.  I mean, what’s the deal with hanging out in the front of the house? I’ll tell you what the deal is- its fun!)  And so, the driveway parties began…and they were a hit!  They are affectionately called GDPs now and all my friends look forward to them.  We sample new creations, eat chips out of the bag, drink copious amounts of wine and have a camp fire.  I even have a plastic half mannequin (used to sell clothes on eBay) named Mona and sometimes she makes an appearance. It’s cheesy fun all in my driveway. Truly a site to behold.

The driveway parties usually start in April and yet we have not had one  in 2010!  Like my weeds, my new “portfolio career” has taken on a mind of its own.  I am always doing some sort of work, if it’s not for me, then for someone else.   And what I realized this weekend, is that I rarely take time for me…sharpen the saw, if you will.  I find strength and peace from having driveway parties or hiking and kayaking.   The things we do to sharpen the saw have a positive impact on other areas of our lives and if we don’t take time to do the things we like to do, then other parts of our lives suffer.

Dag Hammarskjold, past Secretary-General of the United Nations, said, “He who wants to keep his garden tidy doesn’t reserve a plot for weeds.”  In other words, we reap what we sow…no more, no less.  So, be proactive and take some time to participate in activities that renew your spirit.  Your work and weeds will be there tomorrow!  I know that mine will be!  :)

If you haven’t sprayed your weeds yet, specifically your dandelions, try this yummy dandelion salad.  It has lots of vitamins and minerals and the leaves are a great source of calcium.  Who knew?  Plus my salad has pancetta and gorgonzola giving you some of that TLC that you deserve.



Dandelion Green Salad with Pancetta

* 4 thin slices of pancetta
* 6 cups chopped dandelion greens
* 1 cup chopped basil
* ¼ c  crumbled gorgonzola

Heat oven to 350.  Bake the pancetta until crisp- about 10 minutes (make sure to start checking after 5). Remove to a paper towel to drain and cool.   Crumble the pancetta and mix in a medium bowl with the greens and basil. Set aside while you make the dressing.


* 1/2 fresh lemon, juiced
* 1/4 cup olive oil
* 1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
* pinch of sea salt

Mix all dressing ingredients in a small bowl and then pour over the salad. Top salad with gorgonzola and serve!

M. Nina Piccini is the owner of Dinner Bella, Personal Chef Service and Catering in Rochester, NY.


Long Putt Goes A Long Way May 26, 2010

So, KL (my lovely but crabby friend) and I just joined another golf league.  We swore last year that we would not do the league thing again…alas, here we are.  It was about March when the notices for last year’s league started a coming out…16 weeks?  Just can’t do it.  I can’t devote the time.  Plus, I don’t play well or at least I didn’t last year.  I mean, 15 strokes per hole??? Between KL’s crankiness (nothing beer won’t fix to be sure) and my poor playing, I am surprised they even invited us back!

Anyway, KL and I started searching for a new league.  I heard about a “networking” league where you mingle for a half hour before, play and then mingle some more.   Then there was this wine league where you tasted a new wine before every game…guaranteed to improve your shot!  We finally settled in on the beginner (aka Hacker) league at Champion Hills.  6 week league…whoo hoo!  The best of both worlds…

At orientation last night, they tell us because it is a brand new course, 7th hole is currently under construction and there is no liquor license.  I can feel KL squirming in her seat.  “Ok, but what about the beer carts that drive around the course?” KL asks the pro.  Pro says they don’t have beer carts and don’t bother bringing your own because you could get fined.  I think KL wanted to throw the complimentary pitchers of coke and sprite at the pro.  So much for our new league…

But then we got on the course and I played unexpectedly well!  I had some really good shots, especially this one putt- probably about 9 or 10 yards!  Holy crap…without any beer or BBQ Fritos?  Who needs Eagle Vale and their fancy carts?  I am going to make my name here at Champion Hills with no 7th hole and Bud Light Lime!!!  It was a very Zen moment…

You know, it’s weird; I am so glad I did not take my own advice and swear off golf.  And that putt…oh that putt…that putt will keep me coming back for a long time…of this I am sure.    And don’t you worry about KL.   The beer cart girls will start in two weeks and all will be good….I mean there will be some putts I don’t make and I will need some Bud Light Lime to lessen the sting!

OK- no beer in this recipe but chocolate and marshmallows.  Eat enough of these and you will forget about all your bad shots.  May I present you with Golf Balls!





1 pkg. caramels
1/4 c. butter
1 can evaporated milk
1 pkg. marshmallows

1 box of chocolate krispie cereal


Melt caramels, butter and milk over medium heat. Dip marshmallows into melted caramel mixture until coated, roll in chocolate krispie cereal until covered then chill. Yummy if frozen too!

M. Nina Piccini is the owner of Dinner Bella, Rochester, NY.



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