Tuesday, April 22, 2014

"Ham and Mushroom Carbonara" For Wordless Tuesday.......

Welcome to “Wordless Tuesday!” Where there is just a mouth watering recipe or two which I know you have been waiting for…..

I hope that everyone enjoyed their Easter weekend! If you made a ham this Easter for dinner, I have an easy and delicious way to enjoy your leftovers. Mangia!

                                         "Ham and Mushroom Carbonara"

"Ham and Mushroom Carbonara"
Serves: 4
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes

16oz linguine or spaghetti
1 cup cubed ham
1 cup sliced button mushrooms
1 cup cream
5 oz grated Pecorino Romano Cheese
2 eggs
A large pinch of chives
1 tbsp. butter
Salt and pepper to taste

Melt the butter in a non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms, stir gently until cooked and tender. Remove and keep warm. Combine cream, eggs, and three quarters of the Pecorino Romano, chives, and a generous amount of freshly ground pepper. Place linguine/spaghetti into a saucepan add a pinch of salt bring to the boil then simmer until cooked. In another pan add the egg mixture, mushrooms, and ham. Toss in the pasta, over low heat until sauce thickens. Season to taste. Serve with remaining grated cheese.

***** Optional: You can also add peas, or chopped asparagus, or even broccoli….. 

++++ Wine pairing: A nice glass of Riesling: A semi-sweet wine with peach & citrus or a chilled glass of Moscato: A sweet white wine with fruit-forward flavors of peach, apricot and pear. Great wines for ham and pasta.

Till Next Time………………………………..........


Copyright © 2014 “Family Plus Food Equals Love” All Rights Reserved

Friday, April 18, 2014

Buona Pasqua! "Braciole" & "Bunny Buns" Recipes For Easter Sunday Dinner

Buona Pasqua! Happy Easter! “May your Easter basket be filled with blessings and joy. I wish you, your family, and your friends a day filled with loving memories.”

Here on Long Island and many other places the weather is not cooperating with the time of the year. It is taking Mother Nature much longer to see the flowers starting to bloom, the sun should be getting warmer, and the air should have that hint of freshness that only spring can bring. Easter falls in the spring, which is when the earth renews itself after winter. Easter is a day to dress in your Sunday best, go to church, celebrate life, enjoy traditional foods with your family, and of course eat way too much chocolate. Sometimes we forget that Christians all over the world celebrate Easter as a religious holiday, commemorating the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the son of God. In Italy, the church bells stop ringing on Holy Thursday and Good Friday to remember the death of Jesus on the cross.

Then on Easter Sunday morning, the church bells ring out once again, telling people that Jesus has risen. Italian children wake up on Easter morning and find eggs scattered in their rooms. Eggs, rabbits, and young animals are thought to represent re-birth and fertility in the spring. Easter is considered the most important religious event of the year in Italy, even shadowing over Christmas in its religious and cultural importance.

In my family we always had an Easter egg hunt for the small children. I recall back, taking those plastic colored eggs and filling them with some change plus candy or chocolate eggs. Then we would go outside in my parent’s yard and hide them. My nieces, nephews, and my son would all go out and see who could find the most. It was so funny to watch the really small children find the eggs; they would get so excited when they found one.

Throughout the world the most popular Easter symbol is the lamb. The reference to the lamb in Christianity goes back to the book of Genesis, from the Bible. In past centuries it was considered a lucky omen to meet a lamb, especially at Easter time. In the 7th century the Benedictine monks wrote a prayer for the blessing of lambs.  Little figures of the lamb are made of butter, pastry, cakes, or chocolate have been substituted for the meat, forming Easter table centerpieces. Many Easter Sundays, I can remember my mom cooking lamb for dinner along with our Italian traditional dishes.

Easter celebrations have many customs and legends that have nothing to do with the religious Christian celebration of Christ’s rising. Did you ever think of where and how these traditional celebrations of colored eggs, cute little bunnies, leg of Lamb dinners and Easter Lilies come from? Let’s start with the Easter Bunny, which was a symbol of spring and fertility, due to the rapid reproduction habits of the rabbit. 

This custom originated in Germany and brought to America particularly to Pennsylvania. The German children would eagerly await the arrival of the Oschter Haws, a rabbit who delighted children on Easter morning by laying colored eggs in nests. The German’s baked cakes for Easter in the shape of bunnies they spread the tradition of chocolate bunnies and eggs across the country. The practice of making nests for the rabbits to lay its eggs in became decorated baskets and colorful eggs which were swapped for candy, treats and small other gifts. The white Easter Lily has come to symbolize the spiritual values of Easter; purity, life, and renewal. The flower’s trumpet shape is a reminder of the heralding of Jesus, returning to Jerusalem. 

Christians consider eggs to be “the seed of life” and so they are symbolic of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Easter eggs are colored and decorated to represent the sunlight of spring. Different cultures have developed their own ways of decorating Easter eggs. The most celebrated workshops are Faberge. They created exquisite jeweled Easter eggs for the Russian Imperial Court, and they are still the most sought after eggs in the world.

I have two recipes for you this week. One is my mom’s “Braciole” recipe. My mom would add this delicious rolled up beef to her sauce or “gravy” for our family dinners. My whole family loved this little rolled tasty stuffed meat. The flavor of all the spices and the sweetness of the raisins give it a taste of heaven. Remember, Italian‘s do not need a holiday to have a feast, or have family over. Braciole is an Italian Sicilian dish that has many variations to its ingredients.


Serves: 4-6

1 - (1 1/2 lbs) of top round beef (thin slices of meat for rolling)
1/2 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
2 tablespoons of minced fresh garlic
Salt and Pepper to taste
3/4 cup of Pecorino Romano grated cheese
1/2 cup of dark raisins
Vegetable oil for browning
Butchers twine to tie and secure the rolls
Tomato sauce recipe (my mom’s)

Optional: you can add Pignoli nuts, ham, prosciutto, spinach, bread crumbs, hard boiled egg, etc.

Lay the top round on your work surface. Cut into 4-6 pieces and pound to make the pieces thinner, if they are thick. Sprinkle on top of each piece of meat evenly, grated cheese, parsley, garlic, salt & pepper to taste, and raisins. Starting at 1 short end, roll up the steak, like a jelly roll to enclose the filling completely. Using the butchers twine, tie the meat rolls to secure, and then do the same on the long side. The tighter they are the better as you do not want the ingredients to come out while cooking. Heat some oil in a heavy large flat pot, (like a Dutch oven) over medium heat. Add the Braciole and brown on all sides, about 8-10 minutes. After browned, add to your tomato sauce recipe and cook for about another hour or longer on a low simmer. After cooked, take out of pot and cut off the twine. Serve with your favorite sauce and pasta. 


My other recipe this week is called “Bunny Buns” by Rhodes Bake and Serve Rolls. This is an easy recipe and the children can help make these little delicious warm rolls for your Easter table.

"Bunny Buns"

12 Rhodes Dinner Rolls, thawed but still cold

Cut a small piece off of one roll for a tail. Roll remaining piece into a 12-inch rope with pointed ends. Twist top of rope together. Place on a large sprayed baking sheet and pull pointed ends apart for ears. Roll small cut off piece into a ball for the tail. Make an indentation with your finger at the spot for the tail. Moisten the tail with water and place in the indentation. Repeat the above steps with remaining rolls. Cover with sprayed plastic wrap and allow to rise 30-45 minutes. Remove wrap and bake at 350° F 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Enjoy with butter for your Easter Dinner. Serves: 6

Till Next Time…………………..

Copyright © 2014 “Family Plus Food Equals Love” All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

"Bunny Cake" And "Peeps On The Beach" An Adult Drink For "Wordless Tuesday"

Welcome to “Wordless Tuesday!” Where there is just a mouth watering recipe or two which I know you have been waiting for….. 

I do have a fun and easy recipe that you can do with your children for a really cute Easter "Bunny Cake." My niece Lauren made this Bunny Cake for my parents one Easter when she was young. She used 2 snowballs (coconut cupcakes for the bunny cheeks) that are optional. I am sure most of my readers have seen this cake and may have made it before, but for those of you that are not familiar with this recipe I will be happy to share it with you.

 "Bunny Cake"

1 pkg cake mix (any flavor)
2 cans ready to spread vanilla frosting
3/4 cup of marshmallow fluff (which you combine with vanilla frosting)
2 cups Baker's angel flake coconut
2 snowballs (coconut cupcakes: white for the bunny cheeks) Optional
Food coloring
Candy to decorate (jelly beans (for eyes) M&M’s etc.)

Prepare and bake cake in two 8 or 9-inch round cake pans as directed on package. Pour batter evenly into pans. Cool completely. Prepare fluffy frosting with food coloring. Cut one of the cake rounds as shown in first diagram to form ears and body. Frost sides of each cake piece. Assemble pieces as shown in lower diagram on cookie sheet, large tray or 18x15 inch cardboard covered with aluminum foil. Frost top of cake. Sprinkle about 2-2/3 cups coconut evenly over top and sides of cake, gently pressing coconut onto sides.

To Tint Coconut:
In small bowl, toss 3/4 cup coconut with 2 to 3 drops red food coloring until evenly colored. Repeat with 1-1/4 cups coconut and 2 to 3 drops green food coloring. Sprinkle pink coconut over ears and bow tie; outline with chocolate chips. Use snowball cupcakes for cheeks. Decorate bunny face using jelly beans for eyes (and maybe even a pink nose!). Sprinkle green coconut evenly around cake for grass. Surround the bunny with foil wrapped chocolate Easter eggs. Let your imagination go wild.


I also have a fun ADULT drink to celebrate Easter which is called, “Peeps On The Beach.” We all know what marshmallow “Peeps” are. They are more popular than ever. A web site called peepdrinks.com has many different adult drinks that use Peeps as a garnish for their cocktails. Try this one as we are getting into the spirit of the warmer weather.

“Peeps On The Beach”

1 oz vodka
1 oz peach schnapps
2 oz orange juice
2 oz of cranberry juice
1 marshmallow peep

Fill a highball glass with ice (or chardonnay glass). Add vodka and peach schnapps, and then fill glass with equal parts of orange juice and cranberry juice. Garnish with a peep. Not only delicious but colorful as well. Enjoy!

******I wish each one of my readers a very “Blessed” and “Happy Easter.” Try this recipe, it is easy and fun. It gets your kids involved. They really love to help and it gives them self esteem that they have created a wonderful dessert. I hope that new traditions will be born with your family and friends. 

Lauren's Bunny "Molly"
Till next time…….

Copyright © 2014 "Family Plus Food Equals Love" All Rights Reserved

Friday, April 11, 2014

Happy Palm Sunday & "Cuzzupa" Traditional Italian Easter Cakes

Spring has finally arrived, even though the weather is still cool. But that is not going to stop the coloring of eggs, bunny rabbits, Easter bonnets, parades, and egg hunts as Easter is right around the corner. It’s also time to start thinking about baking Easter cakes and sweet desserts for your Easter dinner. Christians in over 80 nations will be celebrating Palm Sunday this weekend, and Easter Sunday next weekend. “Happy Easter” is translated in Italian as “Bouna La Pasqua,” and “Happy Palm Sunday” is “Felice Domenica delle Palme.” 

On Palm Sunday or Passion Sunday as it is often called, Christians celebrate the entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem, the week before his death and resurrection. The Bible reveals that when Jesus entered the city of Jerusalem, the crowds greeted him by waving palm branches and covering his path with palms. In Italy, this Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday, Mass will be celebrated by Pope Francis I. 

Chris coloring eggs
On Palm Sunday when I was growing up, we would go to church, and receive the Palms. When we returned home, I can recall creating palm crosses and beautiful braided wreaths. My mom and grandmother’s would show me how to design these beautiful handmade Palm creations. We would take these crosses and braided items, and place them around religious photos, statutes of Mary the mother of Jesus, or other holy objects.

Palm Sunday is the beginning of Holy Week and it is the holiest of all the weeks in the Roman Catholic faith. We would go to church on Holy Wednesday, Holy Thursday, and most of all we went on Good Friday. That was the last day of eating a meatless meal. On this day, Jesus died on the cross at 3:00 pm. Sometimes I would go with my family to the Easter Vigil. This took place on the Saturday night before Easter Sunday. I remember that it was a beautiful, impressive, but solemn mass.

Also want to wish all of my Jewish friends out there a “Happy Passover” as well. Passover begins at sundown on Monday evening, April 14th. Passover is a beautiful and meaningful holiday. It allows the Jewish community to relive its past, celebrate the present, hope for its future by lovely rituals, and by being together with family and friends which is bound by tradition.

During Holy week, between going to church, we would do all of our Easter baking. I have a wonderful recipe for a very traditional Italian Easter cake called Cuzzupa or Cruzzupe. This is a time-honored recipe from my great-grandmother Sofia and comes from Calabria, Italy. It is made with Anise seeds (licorice flavor) and made into a braided wreath or nest with a hard boiled colored eggs placed into the dough. Then colored sprinkles are added to top off the cakes. The consistency is a cake type of dough not a bread.

Basket from Academia Barilla

This recipe won first place in a contest for Easter Cakes on “Cooking With Nonna.” Rossella Rago, who is the owner of “CWN” chose my recipe last year, and what I won was a huge, beautiful basket filled with all delicious items from Academia Barilla. Thank you Rossella for the honor of posting my families favorite Easter Cakes.  

I remember a time when I was about 9 or 10 years old…………….
We had a large kitchen and we would prepare for baking day with a large wooden board that we used to roll out our dough, and create our special cakes and cookies, for holidays throughout the year. This antique pastry board was passed down through the years, which I have inherited to create my own delectable sweet treats. As I roll out my dough, I think back to a simpler time. The smells in the kitchen would always give me that warm and toasty feeling. It was a feeling of love, family, and food. Food was and still is a big part of my family.


6 cups of flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
Pinch of salt
Anise Seeds (between 1/3 and 1/2 oz of crushed and cleaned anise)
4 heaping tablespoons of Crisco (room temperature)
1 cup of sugar
6 eggs (save 1 egg white to brush on cakes before baking)
3/4 cup of milk
Confetti candy sprinkles

Color hard boiled eggs (amount is up to you) a few days ahead of time. Preheat oven to 350°F- -375°F depending on your oven. Grease flat cookie sheets or pans. Crush Anise seeds and put into a dish (before, use a cotton handkerchief to gather anise and twist hanky under it. Then rub hard on the ball of Anise. After rubbing it rolled up in between both hands (make fists.) Open carefully and sort out Anise from brown husks and sometimes small stones.)

Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Then mix in Anise. Mix in Crisco with sugar and after make a well shape. (Remember, this is the traditional Old Italian way, but you can also use a bowl to mix all ingredients.) Put in eggs (save/1 egg white) and milk. 

Gradually take flour from the sides of the well and mix with eggs and milk. Don’t break the wall as all liquid will run out. When all mixed you knead dough till all mixed good and a smooth texture. Might have to put a little flour on board or counter, so it will not stick. Not too much flour or the cakes will be too dry. Then cut a chunk and leave the rest on the side of a board or counter.

Roll out dough in a long and thin strip. Make the strip the thickness of a wooden spoon handle, not any thinner as the dough will break. If you twist 2 strips together to make a braid make each a little thinner than your finger. They will swell as they bake. Put your colored eggs in the braid, nest or dolls, whatever you decide to create. Be careful as you put them on a baking sheet so they don’t break or crack. Roll small pieces of dough and then flatten out with the palm of your hand to cover around the side of the egg on dolls or nests. This helps keep the eggs more secure. If you make dolls, put a slit on feet and hands.

Now beat saved egg white and with a pastry brush, brush egg white on all parts of your cakes. (Careful not to get egg white on cookie sheet as it will burn and also try to keep egg white off of colored eggs as they will be spotty after they bake)  After the egg whites are on brushed on the cakes, dip a finger in egg white mixture and then dot with candy confetti sprinkles on the dolls, crosses or what ever you made. 

Then bake in oven for about 20-25 minutes, depending on your oven. They should be lightly browned. Let them sit about 10 minutes to cool off before taking them off the cookie sheet/pans, they may crack or break so be careful removing them from the pans. You can store in an airtight cookie tin for about a week, if they don’t get eaten before that. Enjoy! Ciao!

Till Next Time……………………………….........................

Copyright © 2014 “Family Plus Food Equals Love” All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

“Italian Stuffed Mushrooms” & “Mama’s Meatballs” For "Wordless Tuesday"

Welcome to “Wordless Tuesday!” Where there are no more words, just a mouth watering recipe or two which I know you have been waiting for…..

“Italian Stuffed Mushrooms”

48 oz large white button mushrooms
2 cups of plain dried bread crumbs
1/3 cup of Pecorino Romano grated cheese
3 teaspoons of minced garlic fresh or jar
2 tablespoons of fresh chopped Italian parsley
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/3 cup of olive or vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 350° F. Clean mushrooms and take the stem off. Do not soak in water. Mix the bread crumbs with the parsley, garlic, Pecorino Romano, salt and peeper in a small bowl. Now add some oil (about 2 tablespoons) and mix with hands. If you need more oil put in small amount each time until you are mixing the right consistency. When it feels like a sandy consistency then you are ready to stuff the mushroom caps and place on a large cookie/pan sheet. Now, drizzle a small amount of the remaining oil over the top of each mushroom. (This is so they do not dry out, but do not soak) Bake until mushrooms are browned and tender about 25-30 minutes.


“Mama’s Meatballs”

Yields: 30 meatballs-(10 meatballs per pound)

6 eggs
3 lbs of beef chuck chopped meat
1 1/2 teaspoons of minced garlic
2 cups of bread crumbs (if too stiff add a sprinkle of water)
3/4 cup Pecorino Romano cheese, grated
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of freshly ground pepper
3 fistfuls of fresh parsley-chopped
Vegetable oil or Canola oil

Place oil about 1/4 to 1/2 inches in frying pan. Heat oil before placing the meatballs in pan. Put the beef chuck in a med-sized bowl and add all ingredients except the oil. Gently combine the meat using your hands until evenly mixed. The mixture should be slightly wet and workable, not too sticky. Using your hands, gently shape meat into balls. Don’t worry if they are not perfectly round, but try to make them all uniform for even cooking. Don’t roll them over and over, be gentle.

Add the meatballs to the pan and fry them until they are brown on one side then turn. Keep turning with tongs until they are completely and evenly browned. Transfer the cooked meatballs to a paper towel to drain. Now it is time to place your meatballs into your sauce to cook for a while and then serve with pasta of your choice.

Tip: In place of bread crumbs, take chunks of stale Italian bread and soak in a bowl with milk. As it softens remove crust and squeeze milk out of bread chunks. Separate into small pieces and add to chopped meat mixture.


Hi, friends and followers, as you know, I am a super fan and close personal friend of Micheal Castaldo. Micheal is an Award-winning songwriter/producer, recording artist, Composer, Italian Cultural Ambassador, and Entrepreneur. I have the pleasure of posting an official Press Release that was sent out to announce that Micheal Castaldo won First Place as TOP ARTIST on Artistsignal.com for the month of March. Congratulations to you Micheal! Thank you everyone. Dottie :)

April 4, 2014

Micheal Castaldo announces First Place Win as TOP ARTIST on Artistsignal.com

NEW YORK, N.Y. — Michéal CASTALDO, the award winning, independent classical crossover artist won Top Artist for March 2014 on the pop-culture music website, ArtistSignal.com, just after midnight on April 1, 2014. The monthly winner is awarded a prize of $10,000 USD to be used to further their music careers. After a month of hard work by Michéal Castaldo’s fans, family and friends, their efforts paid off.

The site, ArtistSignal.com, was created by several tech savvy entrepreneurs and launched to allow artists a location to promote their music. Unlike crowd funding, the site allows emerging artists to post their music and create a fan following, based on Facebook contacts, who then vote hourly for the artist of their choice. The Fan wins rewards and is constantly engaged in the artists’ progress. Over the course of 3 months, indie artist Michéal Castaldo, researched the social media music network, uploaded his music, posted updates, invited fans to sign up, started to use the site to vote, met other wonderful artists and developed mutually beneficial alliances.
During Michéal’s 3 months of interaction with the site, he was able to rally fans to move him to the number 1 position in March. It was not an easy month, wrought with much trial and error, but due to the diligence of his amazing team, fans, careful calculation and research by previous winners Joe Gande (Oct. 2013) and Rebecca Newman (Feb. 2014), the Castaldo fan base was able to vote Micheal through to a win as TOP ARTIST.

“We accumulated a total of 92,488 votes for the month of March with just over 1338 voters, which is an unbelievable achievement unto itself, and we WON with honesty and integrity. “This is an ‘all time’ record of votes in 1 month since AS started in 2012.” Michéal continues to say…“I may be $10,000 richer but the amount of love and friendship that has been gained is immeasurable.” We would like to take this opportunity to thank all the Fans and Supporters of Michéal Castaldo for their valiant efforts over the past 3 months. This win could not have happened without them. Michéal plans to pay it forward and help/mentor other worthy indie artists who want to go for the win on ArtistSignal. The monetary reward totaling $10,000 USD, will be used for the promotion and marketing of Michéal’s new CD, to be released in the fall of 2014.

For questions or comments, contact Charlotte Jayne directly at jayne@optonline.net  631 256 6515. www.michealCASTALDO.com

Till Next Time………………………………..................

Copyright © 2014 “Family Plus Food Equals Love”  All Rights Reserved

Friday, April 4, 2014

“Mama’s Marinara Tomato Sauce” In Honor Of My Brother Christopher's Birthday

Christopher J. Sauchelli
When you were born, an angel smiled, As you became a child, an angel sat on your shoulder. When you became an adult, an angel held your hand. As your family grew, an angel walked down the road with you. And, when you died, another angel got their wings. --Unknown

This poem is in loving memory of my brother Christopher, who would have been 52 years old on Sunday. He passed away on Aug 1, 1999 from a brain aneurysm at 37 years old. He really was a true angel and I know that he is watching over our family from heaven.

There are so many happy memories of Chris; I guess I should start at the beginning. I was eight years old when he was born April 6, 1962. I remember vaguely when my parents brought him home. Chris was a very happy baby and had a head full of brown curly hair. He was 10 1/4 lbs when he was born so he was a roly-poly baby. He used to smile all the time. 

Chris at Halloween 1963-1964 ?
I have a fond memory of Chris and me at Halloween. I would help him get dressed up in a costume, with makeup, and would take him out Trick or Treating. When we were a little older I remember taking him up and down the streets in our neighborhood. Then we would go back to our house and dump out the candy, and go back out again, up one block, and down the next. At that time you would be able to go from door to door, with no worries. By the time we would finally go home, we both would be exhausted, but it was fun and I would not have given it up for the world.

Christmas time was another loving memory of excitement in the Sauchelli house. I remember going into my brother‘s room early in the morning to wake him up and see what Santa had brought us. We would try to be quiet as my parents were still sleeping at 6:00 am and we would go straight for the tree. We were so amazed at all of the toys, and gifts that were under the tree, that we thought we were still dreaming. Chris was very neat and organized. He would unwrap one package at a time and neatly put the wrappings in a garbage bag for trash. As he grew up this trait followed him. His room, his job, and even when he got married, and moved into his own house, his neatness continued. His clothes were immaculate and he always dressed appropriately. He had a good sense of humor and his passion besides the family was sports. He was a real sports fanatic. His favorite team is the Pittsburgh Steelers, and today his son Nicholas, and his daughter Lauren are following in his footsteps. 

Lauren & Nick

Chris was a self made business man. At the beginning of his career he was part owner of his own company which he started. He was Vice President of a collection agency and had many people under him. He was a fair yet understanding person. As the years went on he branched out and became President of his own company. He enjoyed sales, and was able to talk about anything to anyone. I believe that he had the “gift of gab.” He worked hard and played hard as well.

As he became a husband, and a father, his family ties were an extension of his love. He would have been very proud of his children today, especially of the accomplishments in their lives. His family was extremely important to him. His heart was filled with joy and love. Chris was always there for my parents whom he loved very much. His friends were a group of very special men and women whom were there for the family when he died. Some even flew from California to be near his bedside at the hospital. They were a big part of his life, and were always there anytime they were needed. After his family, my parents, and his friends, I was the only one left, but Chris never left me out of anything. He was very attentive to me, his only sister. No matter where I was or lived he would call me at least once a week, and find out the scoop of what was going on, if I needed anything or any help. He was there for me no matter what. He was not just my brother, but my best friend. 

My brother Chris was a very special person who I think about all the time, and will always remember the memories that were left behind. I know that if he were here right now looking over my shoulder he would be very proud of me for creating this family blog as a reminder of who we are and where we came from. But I think most of all he loved life to the fullest and loved his family, friends, and food. Chris, not a day goes by that you are not thought of, loved, or missed.  We all will cherish the precious memories you lovingly created in our lives.

One last thought about Chris was that he loved to cook and really enjoyed food. Among his favorites were my mom’s sauce (or gravy) and her meatballs. He used to make my mom’s recipe for his family. He loved all the Italian dishes that my grandmother’s and mom would make. Holidays were special and he really enjoyed being with the family. Especially when we would bake all the traditional Italian cakes, cookies, and pies. He was into traditions and the Italian way. So in honor of my brother, I am sharing my “Mama’s Marinara Tomato Sauce” (no meat). No store bought sauce can compare with the taste of a sauce that you make from scratch. This recipe was passed down from my grandmother to my mother and now I am sharing it with you. Hope that you enjoy!

“Mama’s Marinara Tomato Sauce

2 cans of 28 oz. crushed tomatoes (Tuttorosso)

2 cans of tomato paste
Olive Oil or Wesson Canola Oil
5 large whole garlic cloves
Salt to taste
1 teaspoon of Oregano (flakes) *
1 tablespoon of Parsley (flakes) *
1 tablespoon of Basil (flakes) *
2 dried Bay Leaves

On medium heat sauté olive oil and garlic together. When garlic becomes pale gold and fragrant (do not burn) then add the crushed tomatoes and paste. Use the paste can and add 1/2 can of water. Stir, till well blended and now add salt, parsley, basil and oregano to taste, plus the 2 bay leaves. Stir well to combine and bring sauce to a boil, then reduce to a low simmer for 1 hour. You can add a small amount of sugar (optional) if desired, to cut some of the acid in the tomato. Cover on or slightly off to thicken sauce. Stir occasionally until sauce is thickened. When you lift the cover off of the pot, the aroma of your sauce will be so mouthwatering that you will not be able to wait to devour it. This recipe makes enough for about 8 people, but you can freeze the leftover sauce, if there is any left.

**Note: If you are using fresh herbs, then you have to use more than a tablespoon or teaspoon. Just break off the leaves and use a rough chop on your herbs.

Till Next Time………………………………........

Copyright © 2014 “Family Plus Food Equals Love”  All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

An April Fool's Day Recipe Called, "Mock Apple Pie"

Welcome to “Wordless Tuesday!” Where there are no more words, just a mouth watering recipe which I know you have been waiting for…..

I can recall a recipe that my Mom taught me which we would sometimes create on April Fool’s Day. It was a dessert called Mock Apple Pie. This was a good joke for family and friends, as we would tell them that we made Apple Pie, and then the joke was on them as this is not made with any apples. Mock apple pie made its first appearance around the middle of the 19th century. As the North American settlers journeyed west, they yearned for the taste that reminded them of home: apple pie. Apples were hard to come by out in the wilderness, so those amazing pioneer women came up with a dessert that is surprisingly apple-y, considering that it contains neither apples nor apple juice. The recipe first appeared in Mrs. B.C. Whiting’s book, How We Cook In Los Angeles (1894) as “California Pioneer Apple Pie, in 1852.”

While the original recipe used soda crackers, Ritz saw a fabulous marking opportunity. During the Great Depression in the early 1930’s, apples were very expensive at that time, so Ritz adapted the recipe to use its own brand of Ritz crackers. The recipe was found on the back of the cracker box. Mock Apple Pie became a favorite throughout the 30’s and 40’s. 

So try the recipe and see if you can fool your family and friends too.  Enjoy!!!!   

"Mock Apple Pie"

36 Ritz crackers, broken in large pieces (about 1 3/4 cups crumbs)
2 cups of sugar
2 cups of water
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Zest of one lemon
2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Pastry for 2-crust pie

Preheat oven to 425°F. Line glass pie plate with bottom of crust of pastry. Place crumbled crackers in pie plate on top of lined pastry. Mix sugar and cream of tartar in saucepan. Gradually stir in water until completely combined. Bring to boil. Reduce to low and simmer for 15 minutes, without stirring. Add lemon juice and lemon zest. Allow mixture to cool. Pour syrup over crackers. Dot with butter. Sprinkle with spices. Put top crust on and seal edges. Cut vents into top crust. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until crust is golden brown. Cool on wire rack. Tastes just like a real apple pie.

Till Next Time………………………………...................

Copyright © 2014 “Family Plus Food Equals Love”  All Rights Reserved

Friday, March 28, 2014

All About "Rice" And A "Mushroom Risotto" Recipe... Delicious!!

If you have walked down the rice aisle lately at the supermarket, you’ve no doubt been surprised at the number of options available for the consumer who needs to purchase this very common staple. These days, rice is no longer just a few select varieties. Worldwide there are more than 40,000 different varieties of rice. There are about 20 rice types grown in the US. They are classified as Long, Medium or Short grain. California grows, short and medium grain. While Arkansas produces medium and long grain varieties. Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Texas grow long grain rice with some production of medium grain varieties in each state. Long Grain: perfect choice for a side dish, main dish, or salad recipes. Medium grain: ideal for dessert, casseroles, bread and stir-fry recipes. Short grain: great for stir-fry recipes and puddings. Did you know that rice consumption is on the rise? In fact, Americans eat twice as much rice now than they did 10 years ago. People have been growing rice for almost 10,000 years. 

Rice has many health benefits such as being rich in fiber. Rice reduces blood pressure due to its low sodium content. It also has the presence of potassium. Rice will stimulate the elimination of liquids, reduces the pressure, and risks of heart problems. Brown rice is the healthiest and white rice is the least nutritional, but it is not considered particularly unhealthy. Rice is high in complex carbohydrates, contains almost no fat, is cholesterol free, and gluten free which makes it easily digestible. 

Rice is a cereal grain, it is the most widely consumed staple food for a large part of the world's human population, especially in Asia. It is the grain with the second-highest worldwide production, after corn. Rice was introduced to Europe through Western Asia, and to the Americas through European colonization. Muslims brought rice to Sicily, where it was an important crop. It was cultivated and promoted by Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan. In the year 1694, in the USA, rice arrived in South Carolina, probably originating from Madagascar.

There are many varieties of rice and culinary preferences tend to vary regionally. Raw rice may be ground into flour for many uses, including making many kinds of beverages, such as rice milk, and rice wine. Rice flour does not contain gluten, so is suitable for people on a gluten-free diet. Rice flour and starch often are used in batters and a breading method to increase crispiness. Rice is cooked by boiling or steaming, and absorbs water during cooking. It can be cooked in just as much water as it absorbs, or in a large quantity of water which is drained before serving. Electric rice cookers, more popular in Asia and Latin America, simplify the process of cooking rice. Arborio rice is sometimes quickly fried in oil or fat before boiling (for example saffron rice or risotto); this makes the cooked rice less sticky, and is a cooking style commonly called Pilaf by American chefs in India, Pakistan, and Iran. Almost one in five adult Americans reports eating at least half a serving of white or brown rice per day.

Arborio rice: Arborio rice is named after a town in the Piedmont and Lombardy regions of northwest Italy. A short grain Italian white rice, Arborio is popular in risotto and other Italian rice dishes. Arborio's short, plump grains contain more starch than most other rice varieties, which makes it ideal for starchy rice dishes like risotto. It is also well suited for rice dishes where the rice must retain a shape, like sushi. Its pearly appearance and short, fat grains are expected to be served slightly al dente, still firm inside. It can be ground into flour and added to dishes that require a creamy consistency.

Please join me in cooking this recipe which is a favorite of my family. It is made with Arborio rice. This dish is called, “Mushroom Risotto.” This rice dish can be a tasty side with either chicken and or fish. I know that your family would love it just like mine does. Don’t get discouraged making Risotto. It takes practice to get your Risotto to the perfect consistency. The main key to making this recipe is stirring the rice in the same direction and always use a wooden spoon. The reason for the wooden spoon is that it will not break down the rice in your Risotto. This recipe is adapted from Chef Tomm‘s “Risotto.” Note: This recipe is the base for all risottos. For instance if you wanted to make this a chicken and grilled asparagus you would cook the chicken and asparagus separately then add them hot, toss them with the risotto then finish it by adding the cheese and butter.

Mushroom Risotto

2 tbs unsalted butter
1 medium onion, cut into small dice (approximately 1/ 4 inch)
10 ounces baby Portabella mushrooms, sliced
2 cups Arborio rice
1/ 2 cup of white wine (the kind you like to drink)
2 sprigs of Thyme
7 cups Chicken stock, hot (it doesn’t stop the process of cooking if it is hot)
Note: (You may not need all of the stock)
4 tbs (1/2 stick) unsalted butter or more if you like
1 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus for shaving (or more if you like)
Salt and pepper to taste

In a 12 to 14-inch skillet, heat the butter over medium heat. Add the onions and mushrooms. Cook the onions until translucent but not browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Once the onions are translucent add the rice and stir with a wooden spoon until toasted and opaque, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the wine to the toasting rice ensuring that it is all cooked off before you add any stock. Add a 6-ounce ladle of the chicken stock and cook, stirring, until it is absorbed. Add in two sprigs of thyme. Continue adding the stock a ladle at a time, waiting until the liquid is absorbed before adding more. Cook until the rice is tender and creamy and yet still a little al dente, about 15-20 minutes. Remove the thyme. Remove from heat and stir in the butter and cheese until well mixed. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Portion risotto into 4 warmed serving plates, serving with extra shaved cheese. Bon Appetit !

Wine Pairings To Drink;

Barolo Wine: A red wine from Piedmont, Italy with ripe cherry, raspberry, and creamy vanilla spice. 

Pinot Noir Wine: A red wine with red berry, truffles, and it is earthy.


Till Next Time………………………………....................................

Copyright © 2014 “Family Plus Food Equals Love” All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

“Rigatoni with Broccoli Rabe and Tomatoes” & “Banana Napoleon With Cocoa Sauce”

Welcome to “Wordless Tuesday!” Where there are no more words, just a mouth watering recipe which I know you have been waiting for…..


 “Rigatoni with Broccoli Rabe and Tomatoes


1 pound of fresh broccoli rabe
1 clove of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 cup of tomatoes, diced
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1/8 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
1/2 pound of rigatoni
3/4 cup of grated Pecorino Romano grated cheese


Coarsely chop the broccoli rabe. Cook in boiling water for 3 minutes, until tender-crisp and drain. Return broccoli rabe to pot and sauté with garlic and olive oil for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, salt and pepper and cook for another minute. Separately, cook the pasta in water until al dente (cooked just enough to retain a firm texture). Drain the pasta and toss with a tablespoon of the pasta water. To serve, sprinkle the cheese in a bowl and add the vegetables, then the pasta. Toss like a salad. Serve warm.

Yield: 4 servings  Prep Time: 15 minutes  Cooking Time: 25 minutes


“Banana Napoleon With Cocoa Sauce”

Ingredients for the Cocoa Sauce:

2 tablespoons of cocoa powder
6 tablespoon of water
1 1/2 tablespoons of sugar

For the Napoleon:

6 graham crackers
3 large bananas, sliced into 4 inch pieces on a diagonal
10 tablespoons of light non-dairy whipped topping

In a small bowl, whisk together the cocoa powder and 3 tablespoons of water until smooth. Set aside. In a small pot, combine the remaining water with the sugar. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. When it comes to a boil, remove from the heat and whisk in the reserved cocoa powder. Return the mixture to the stove and let it cook for one minute, until it thickens slightly. Transfer the sauce to a bowl and refrigerate until cold, about 30 minutes. This sauce can be made in advance.

Break the grahams crackers in half . You will have 12 two–inch squares. Place one graham cracker square on each of four plates. Place some of the bananas on each graham cracker. Top with one tablespoon of whipped topping and then 1 teaspoon of cocoa sauce. Top and repeat with another graham cracker, banana, whipped topping and cocoa sauce. Place a third graham cracker an top and garnish with half tablespoon of whipped topping, add a few strawberries on the plate. Serve immediately.

Yields: 4 servings  Prep time: 20 min  Cooking time: 45 min (including cooling)

****Recipes taken from “Celebrity Chef’s Across America”

Till Next Time……………………………….........................

Copyright © 2014 “Family Plus Food Equals Love” All Rights Reserved

Friday, March 21, 2014

“New York Maple Festival” & “Maple Salmon Fillets”

Come, taste the Tradition! This weekend is Maple Festival time in New York State. There are so many iconic symbols that illustrate what New York State is known for and Pure Maple Syrup is one of them. New York State is 1 of 17 states in the USA that produce 100% Pure Maple Syrup. “The Empire State“ has a distinctive climate, its soil, and trees are recognized as the finest, and perfect for producing Pure Maple Syrup.  

Did you know that New York State is the second largest state in America to produce maple products? Yes, it is true, but Vermont is number one. Canada, although produces more than 80 percent of the world’s maple syrup, and it is mostly produced in Quebec. These dedicated “sugar-makers” take pride in their syrup, and all things made with maple. These Maple Farmers work hard in the forests to continue the tradition of collecting sweet sap for their production of Pure Maple Syrup. That is the way it has been for hundreds of years, and they intend for the tradition to continue for years to come in the future.

It takes more than 40 gallons of maple tree sap to produce one gallon of Pure Maple Syrup. A maple syrup production farm is called “sugar bush” or “sugar wood”. Sap that is collected is boiled in a “sugar house” or “sugar shack”. Maple trees can support between one and three taps, depending upon the trunks diameter. An average maple tree will produce about 9 to 13 gallons of sap per season. Sap is usually tapped during the day, but not at night because the temperatures drop which will restrain the sap flow. Maple Trees can continue to be tapped for sap until they are over 100 years old.

Maple Syrup is often eaten with waffles, pancakes, and French toast. It is also used as an ingredient in baking as a sweetener and for a flavoring agent in many recipes. The United States uses a grading system for their standards of Maple Syrup, which is divided into two major grades: Grade A and Grade B. The grade of syrup not for table use is called commercial or Grade C. Grade A typically has a milder flavor than the Grade B, which is a very dark color, but has a very rich maple flavor.

I remember when I lived in upstate New York, there was a wonderful Maple producer called Sprague’s Maple Farms. They are located in Portville, New York. Portville is a quaint town in the Southern Tier. Numerous times I have been to their farm, not only purchasing maple products, but to have breakfast and dinner at their restaurant. This weekend is their “Maple Festival.” March 22, 23, 29, and 30th. Sprague’s has a year-round, full service restaurant, featuring their own 100% pure maple products. They give tours and demonstrations, plus have many activities for children. Maple cake donuts, maple cotton candy and sugar on snow are very popular with their customers. 

Sprague’s Maple Farm also has a beautiful gift shop featuring all their Maple products and you can purchase products from their online store as well. But the best thing about Sprague’s is their “Pure Maple Syrup“. I can’t tell you how amazing it tastes especially on top of pancakes. So smooth, flavorful, and gooey, it brings back comfort foods that you longed for from home. So, experience an old fashioned good time, make Sprague’s a pleasure to visit. They uphold the tradition of generations who came before them, including Native Americans, who were the first to practice the maple trades. It’s Pure Maple Syrup time! 

My recipe this week is in honor of our maple syrup producers. It is called “Maple Salmon Fillet.” This delicious sauce is sweet, due to the maple syrup, but it is a perfect flavor with the salmon. It has an oriental undertone because of the soy sauce. The salmon is so moist and tasty that you will think you are in the orient. I made a side dish of asparagus and some white rice for a delightful meal. 

Maple Salmon Fillet”

1/4 cup pure Maple Syrup
2 tablespoons Soy Sauce
1-2 clove Garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon of ginger, minced
Salt and Black Pepper to taste

Mix maple syrup, soy sauce, minced garlic, and minced ginger. This is the glaze.
Prepare the baking dish/sheet. Use aluminum foil to line the baking dish/sheet to
save on scrubbing. Spray cooking spray on the foil. Sprinkle the salmon fillet both
sides with salt and black pepper, then pour some of the glaze on the salmon. The
glaze is a bit watery so fold the foil a little inward to make sure the glaze is gathered
with the salmon and not running around the sheet. Cover and let the salmon
marinate in the refrigerator for no more than 30 minutes. In the meantime,
preheat oven to 400°F and cook your rice. Place the salmon in preheated oven, bake
for 20 minutes uncovered or until it’s cooked through. While the salmon is in the
oven, wash and cook the asparagus. After 20 minutes, the rice should be cooked and
so you could serve everything together. Warm up the rest of the glaze before serving
the sauce for salmon. Then Enjoy!

Till Next Time…………..

Copyright © 2014 “Family Plus Food Equals Love” All Rights Reserved.