2006-08-18 / Community

What's Cooking At PHC?

Hospital Clerk's Recipe Celebrates Her Mom

Marie Bisztyga, a 20-year veteran employee of Peninsula Hospital Center, might not consider herself a great cook, or a cook at all, for that matter. But she recently learned that not only was one of her recipes chosen for a brand new cookbook of healthy recipes published by her 1199 Union, she was also to be the main ingredient of a feature story in her hometown newspaper.

"When my friends read about this they are all going to laugh," Bisztyga quipped. "They know I don't like cooking all that much." Even her own family thought the idea of her recipe being included in a professional cookbook somewhat laughable. Her daughter asked, "Ma, is this some kind of joke?" So they hung the letter from 1199 announcing her good fortune on the family refrigerator and, together, they enjoyed the good humor of it all.

A longtime resident of Breezy Point, Bisztyga much prefers walking on the beach and going out with her friends rather than being chained to a kitchen stove. Yet there was something that kept tugging at her and finally made her send that recipe in for consideration of inclusion into the 1199 cookbook, "What's Cooking: Healthy Recipes by 1199 SEIU Members and Retirees." Truth be told, she entered the cookbook contest and decided to place into contention a very special recipe as a tribute to her mom, "Mamie" Casazza.

The fond memories of coming home from school to her Park Slope, Brooklyn home, hanging around her family kitchen and helping her mother cook is what really compelled her to write up this very special chicken recipe, "Mamie's Chicken & Rice." It was one of Mamie's specialties and has remained a family favorite for many years.

Having the recipe published turned out to be "not so laughable" after all. It seems like it's just Mamie's way of continuing to pass down a family tradition that has been carried on for generations. It is also an excellent way to spread the word outside the family about this tasty, yet healthy dish...prepared and remembered with a mother's love.



4 - boneless, skinless chicken breasts (cut up into cubes)

2 - 16 oz. cans of tomato sauce

small amount of water

salt, pepper, parsley, Italian seasoning and garlic powder (to taste)

Parmigiana or Romano grating cheese

medium onion, chopped finely

Olive oil

1 cup of frozen green peas

1/2 package of fresh mushrooms, chopped


In a sauce pan gently saut onions in olive oil until soft. Add the tomato sauce with the small amount of water it requires to rinse out the cans. Add salt, pepper, parsley, Italian seasoning and garlic powder to taste to make your own homemade sauce. Add two tablespoons of the grating cheese. Simmer on stovetop for 1/2 hour. Add 1 cup of frozen green peas and 1/2 package of chopped fresh mushrooms. Continue simmering until vegetables are hot.

Pour the Chicken & Pea mixture over rice (or pasta, if preferred). Sprinkle on additional grated cheese, according to taste. Serve with salad and Italian Bread.

(Generously feeds 4)

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