Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Celebrate "Christmas In July" With A “Crown Roast of Pork with Stuffing” Recipe Plus Save The Date For Two Christmas Concerts By "Micheal Castaldo"

It has been extremely hot across the country this summer so far. Everyone is wishing for some relief from the heat. Aren’t you? So picture this; A cold winter’s day, as you are decorating the Christmas tree, the dinner is in the oven and you are awaiting the rest of the family coning for Christmas Eve Dinner, you can see through the steamy window as the snow comes down and absorbs the sound while hitting the ground, which shines like diamonds. Finally, the family is here! So now you know that it really is Christmas and many memories to follow.…yes, winter, with those crisp cool nights, we know we can‘t change the season, but we can dream of Christmas in July!” That is what many people do year after year. It’s an unofficial holiday which refers to a Winter-Christmas-themed celebration held in July.

The specific beginnings of the “Christmas in July” tradition are not very clear, but it is believed to have started in Europe, as a way to celebrate Christmas in the summer. It has been said that a group of Irish tourists who went on vacation to Sydney’s Blue Mountains in the summer months of July in 1980. This may have been the original start of this unofficial holiday. Away from the summer temperatures in their country, they were overjoyed at the sight of snow in the mountains. It is believed that these travelers convinced the owner of a local hotel in the Blue Mountains in New South Wales to hold a party called, “Yulefest.” The idea was an instant hit and now each year in July they hold a Christmas Party. Hence forth “Christmas in July,” became a tradition and continues to this day with a festival and many celebrations.



In the Northern hemisphere there are parties that are given in July that mimic Christmas celebrations, bringing the atmosphere of the holiday but with warmer temperatures. In the midst of the scorching summer months, people have parties which may include Santa Claus, ice cream, and cold foods. In the United States, this festival has become highly commercialized. It is used more often as a marketing tool. Many retail stores offer specials, “Christmas in July” sales that started around 1950. Restaurants offer special discounts and even television stations show re-runs of Christmas specials. This is mainly because most retailers tend to sell overstock of their Christmas items to make room for next year’s inventory, and before the “Back to School” shopping period begins in August.

Some families love this concept of “Christmas in July,” especially if their family members are scattered across the states, because it is easier for them to travel in July when the weather is more favorable for a vacation, rather than in the freezing winter months when long distance travels are really hard due to snow storms, etc. Celebrating “Christmas in July” can take place at any time during the month of July. At the Bakken amusement park in Denmark, Christmas is celebrated in July for three days, as well as the annual World Santa Claus Congress, attended by Santa Clauses from all over the world, accompanied by their wives and elves. Then, there are those individuals that choose to celebrate “Christmas in July” just because it is a clear excuse to have a party. 



****My readers know that I love anything Christmas! This holiday is my favorite! This concept is a wonderful way to spread cheer and have fun in the summer no matter what way you celebrate, “Christmas in July.” Also want to give you a heads up to “save the date,” December 6th  starts my traditional “12 Days Of Christmas.” This year my theme is “12 Days Of Christmas Cookies” Which means that everyday from December 6th through December 17, I will be posting a sweet, yummy, and an easy cookie recipe. This year I am starting sooner so you will have time to make these delicious cookies for your Christmas celebration. Any questions or requests, just email me or leave a message below.

My recipe this week gives us the opportunity to celebrate Christmas and “Christmas in July” together. It is called a “Crown Roast of Pork with Stuffing ” A Crown Roast has always seemed Dickensian to me. A warm and cozy aroma coming from the oven.. Every Christmas my mom would prepare a Crown Pork Roast or Prime Ribs of Beef. My job was to make the little tops to put on the ribs. This succulent dish is adapted from “Taste of Home” magazine. Each forkful is a bit of “Christmas” as you can taste the delicious pork and freshly seasoned stuffing. Try to stay cool and remember Christmas is 5 months away! (I know that is it so hot now no one can think of this dish at this time. But now you have a Christmas Dinner planned. One less thing to think of)

                                 "Crown Roast of Pork with Stuffing    

Bake: 2-3/4 hours Yield: 12-16 servings

Ingredients:
3 tablespoons canola oil, divided
1 pork crown roast (16 ribs and about 8 pounds)

Crown Roast of Pork with Stuffing

For Stuffing:
1-1/4 pounds bulk Italian sausage (with or without the fennel)
3 cups finely chopped onions
2 cups finely chopped carrots
2 cups finely chopped celery
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup finely chopped apple (any kind will do)
4 cups diced cooked peeled red/yellow potatoes
1/3 cup minced fresh parsley
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
Decorative foil or paper frills, for tops of the ribs (optional)

Directions:
Rub: 1 tablespoon oil over entire roast; place on a rack in a shallow roasting pan. Cover rib ends with aluminum foil. Bake, uncovered, at 325° for 1-3/4 hours.

For stuffing, in a large skillet, cook sausage over medium heat until no longer pink; drain and set aside. In the same skillet, sauté the onions, carrots, celery, apple and garlic in remaining oil until tender. Stir in the potatoes, parsley, salt, pepper and reserved sausage. Carefully spoon into center or roast. Bake 1 hour longer or until a meat thermometer reads 160° and meat juices run clear. Replace foil with decorative frills if desired. Remove stuffing to a serving bowl; slice roast between ribs.   

                        
*****To pair wine with your dinner, you can try all of these which would have a lovely bouquet and very tasty as well. Chardonnay, Red Pinot Noir, Pinot Grigio or a Sagiovesse… 

                       


I have a “Christmas in July” gift for you…A special cocktail to keep you cool and in the spirit of Christmas….Similar to a Spritzer or a wine cooler, this cocktail is very refreshing. Easy and perfect for the summer and “Christmas in July” You can use Sprite or 7UP.

Tinto de Verano” 



Ingredients: (1 drink only)
2 ounces dry red wine
2 ounces lemon-lime soda
Ice
Lemon slice, for garnish

Directions:
Combine the wine and soda in a tall glass or cocktail shaker. Serve in a rocks glass over ice and garnish with a lemon slice. Enjoy!



                             “Please Drink Responsibly”

 

                          
Wait, Don’t Go Yet…..there is more “Christmas in July” fun…..


Ciao a tutti, I know that my readers and followers have heard of my personal friend Micheal Castaldo. I have written about Micheal before on my blog posts. He is an Award-winning song writer/producer, recording artist, composer, Italian Cultural Ambassador, and entrepreneur. He was born in Calabria, Italy, and has fans all over the world, including many from the tri-state area. For more information, click on this link.....Micheal Castaldo. So save the dates....   Micheal is very proud and excited to announce two fabulous Christmas Concerts:

Michéal Castaldo “Home for Christmas” Concert to Benefit St. Brigid’s Parish, Westbury, NY,  “Home for Christmas,” a traditional Italian Advent and Christmas concert that will take place on Sunday, December 4, 2016 at 4:30 p.m. at St. Brigid’s/Our Lady of Hope Chapel, 101 Maple Avenue, Westbury, NY 11590 (doors open at 4:00 p.m.).

Castaldo will perform classic Advent and Christmas carols from his chart-topping best-selling album, "Extravergine: Christmas in the Mediterranean," accompanied by a string quartet. A few songs will include, "Oh Santa Notte" (Oh Holy Night), "E Nato Il Bambino Gesu" (What Child Is This?), "Batte Nel Cuore, Suona Natale" (Little Drummer Boy), "Gioia Nel Mondo" (Joy To The World), "Puoi Sentire Quel' Che Sent Io?" (Do You Hear What I Hear?), and "Astro Del Ciel" (Silent Night). Castaldo translated the well-known Polish carol, "Jezus Malusuenki" now entitled, "Piccolo Jesu," which will also be featured along with "Gloria in Excelsis Deo," "Tu Scendi Dalle Stelle," "Va Pensiero," and "Adeste Fideles." You can get the CD of Extravergine from Amazon 



My family and I will be attending this concert and I can not wait as this holiday concert will capture your heart and imagination with the spirit of the Christmas Season especially being in this 160 year old, St. Brigid’s Church (Built in 1856). Even those who don't speak Italian will be moved by the setting, the songs, and Micheal's powerful and melodic voice. Over the past ten years, Michéal Castaldo has entertained more than 500,000 people across the USA, Canada, and Europe with creative and rousing renditions of classic Italian songs. Castaldo’s performances are enchanting, heartfelt, and authentic. He treats the audience to stories, spoken in English and Italian, in between songs that share moments from his Italian upbringing, tidbits about his musical journey, and insight that went into his song choices. All songs are sung in Italian with a few sung in English as well.

Refreshments will be served immediately following the concert, with a meet and greet with the artist, courtesy of the Comitato Italiano of St. Brigid.

So come and join Micheal and my family…Tickets are available for $45/premium and $35/regular seating at 1-800-838-3006 (mention event # 2563580), online at Brown Paper Tickets  St. Brigid Parish Center at 516-334-0021, or the Comitato Italiano of St. Bridgid at 516-578-8753.

The second concert:

Michéal Castaldo to Perform “Songs of Angels – Italian Christmas Hymns and Carols” is at Saint Ann’s Catholic Church, (704 Jefferson St., Hoboken, NJ 07030) On December 10, 2016 - at 7:30 pm. He will be accompanied by the Castaldo String Quartet. This concert is another fundraiser to help the church meet its restoration fundraising goals for 2016.


Fr. Michael Gori, OFM Cap., the first Capuchin Franciscan pastor of Saint Ann Catholic Church, oversaw the laying of the cornerstone of the church on All Saints Day in 1925. The magnificence of this House of Prayer, remarkable for its pure Romanesque architecture, the monumental marble alter towering in the sanctuary, the elegance of the stained-glass windows, and the flood of light effused throughout the interior of the church coupled with the majestic harmony of the organ music and the rhythmic concert of the bells ringing in the steeple, dazzled the senses and inspired one and all to praise and glorify God. For more information, you can visit here- Saint Ann Catholic Church.


Micheal will be singing
from his chart-topping best-selling CD album, "Extravergine" Immediately following the concert, refreshments and an Olive Oil tasting will be served at St. Ann’s Hall, with a meet and greet with the artist.

The production value of this concert is in excess of $75 per ticket. But due to the generous support of its sponsors underwriting the production costs, the tickets will be available for only $25 at 1-800-838-3006 (mention event # 2563594) or online click here... Brown Paper Tickets or they can be purchased directly through the church rectory at (201) 659-1114.

Both of these awesome concerts will sell out fast so please, get your tickets today! Thank you 




Till Next Time………

Copyright © 2016 “Family Plus Food Equals Love” All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

“Watermelon & Pomegranate Tossed Salad” And “Watermelon-Cranberry Agua Fresca” For Summer Gatherings

Welcome, come on in…. Get cool, I have the A/C on. It has been really hot and humid so far and what comes to my mind is a big slice of crunchy watermelon! It is so refreshing and tastes so good especially if it is icy cold. Watermelon is one of my favorite summer fruits. July just happens to be “National Watermelon Month!” 

Watermelon Month was submitted to the Senate of the United States and passed on June 29, 2007. Now this month should not be confused with “National Watermelon Day,” which is celebrated every August 3rd. “National Watermelon Month” is to honor and enjoy the great flavor of a juicy ice cold watermelon. You can eat them sliced, cut in chunks or just from the rind. Some people like to put a sprinkle of salt on top and enjoy it, while others like to blend it up and make refreshing slushy or put it in a cold salad.


There's something fun and sociable about eating a tasty watermelon outside with your family and friends. Children gather around the designated watermelon slicer just to be able to hear that nice ripe pop when it's cracked open. Everyone gets a nice fat wedge and begins to eat the sweet juicy red melon.... and the best part is, we don't even mind the juice running down our chin! Watermelon seems to be the standard for picnics and outdoor socials. Then there are the black seeds, (unless you have a seedless melon) which I remember when I was young, we had contests to see who could spit the black seeds the furthest. 

The origins of watermelon have been traced back to the deserts of southern Africa, where it still grows wild today. The first recorded watermelon harvest occurred about 5,000 years ago in Egypt and is depicted in Egyptian hieroglyphics on walls of their ancient buildings. Watermelons were often placed in the burial tombs of kings to nourish them in the afterlife. From there, watermelons were brought to countries along the Mediterranean Sea by way of merchant ships. By the 10th century, watermelon found its way to China, which is now the world's top producer of watermelons. The 13th century found watermelons spreading through the rest of Europe via the Moors.

More than 300 varieties of watermelon are cultivated in the United States and South America, where complementary growing seasons provide a year-round supply of watermelon in an array of shapes, colors and sizes. Because there are so many varieties, they are often grouped according to characteristics, like fruit shape, rind color, pattern, and size. The most common watermelon options are:

Seeded: The classic watermelon comes in a wide range of sizes. (15-45 lb, round, long, oblong)

Seedless: Due to high demand, the majority of watermelon cultivars grown today are seedless and they are getting redder and crisper thanks to seed breeding advancements. They are not the result of genetic engineering, but rather hybridization, the crossing of two different types of watermelons. (10-25 lb, round to oblong)


Mini: Petite “personal watermelons” are easy to handle and their thinner rinds can mean more flesh per pound. Hollow them out for a serving bowl. (1-7 lb, round)

Yellow & Orange: Generally sweeter than red-fleshed watermelon, yellow and orange varieties add a surprising element to the plate or glass. (10-30 lb, round)

There are health benefits to eating watermelon. A great health fact to know about watermelons is that it's an excellent source of lycopene. Lycopene is an antioxidant that is only found in a few red plant foods. It has been shown to reduce the risk of certain cancers. It also qualifies for a great heart healthy food too! Watermelon is 92% water! The body needs a lot of water to function so this is a good thing. It's nutritious and good for us! Watermelon has no fat or cholesterol which makes it a parent’s favorite snack to give to their children. Watermelon is an excellent source of vitamin A, B6, C, potassium and fiber which we all struggle to get more of. These vitamins are vital to good health and disease prevention.



Do you know how to pick a watermelon? Here is a good tip! It's as easy as 1, 2, 3. Look the watermelon over. You are looking for a firm, symmetrical watermelon that is free from bruises, cuts or dents. Lift it up. The watermelon should be heavy for its size, due to the fact of its water content. Turn it over. The underside of the watermelon should have a creamy yellow spot from where it sat on the ground and ripened in the sun. So go get yourself a few and chill them up. Have fun with them, enjoy eating them, and definitely celebrate the Watermelon!

Today, I am sharing with you two recipes that I know you will enjoy, using watermelon. “Watermelon & Pomegranate Tossed Salad”and  “Watermelon-Cranberry Agua Fresca,” yummy, cold and refreshing!

Watermelon & Pomegranate Tossed Salad”




Ingredients for dressing for salad:
1 cup pomegranate juice
1 tablespoon agave syrup
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar (Pomegranate vinegar is the best)
1 1/2 tablespoons orange zest
1 small minced shallot
1/8 teaspoon stone-ground mustard
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Dash of salt and pepper to taste

Ingredients for the salad:
8 cups baby spinach (one 6-oz bag)
3/4 cup diced red onion
1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese (optional)
2 cups diced seedless watermelon (placed on paper towel to drain excess fluid)
Some fresh raspberries (6oz.)
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds

Directions:
Place juice in a small saucepan over medium-high heat and simmer until reduced to about 3 tablespoons and liquid is a thick syrup. Set aside. When cool, add remaining dressing ingredients, from vinegar to salt and pepper. Whip. Set aside for flavors to blend. Place spinach in a large serving bowl. Top with onion, watermelon, feta cheese, raspberries, and pomegranate seeds. Divide onto 4 salad places and drizzle with dressing.

Yield: Makes 4 servings and 3/4 cup of dressing.
               


Watermelon-Cranberry Agua Fresca

Serves: 6


Ingredients:
2 1/2 lbs (about 7 cups) seedless watermelon, rind removed and diced
1 cup fruit-sweetened cranberry juice (sometimes called cranberry nectar)
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 lime, cut into 6 slices

Preparation:
In a blender or food processor, blend the watermelon until smooth. Pour the juice into a large pitcher. To eliminate pulp, use a fine-mesh sieve placed over a bowl. Add the cranberry and lime juices to the pitcher, and mix well. Refrigerate until very cold. Pour the agua fresca into tall, chilled glasses and garnish each with a fresh lime slice.

******* Optional: You could make this an adult drink, by adding your favorite alcohol.

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

Copyright © 2016 “Family Plus Food Equals Love” All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

“Sweet Sriracha Chicken Wings” & A “Warm Beet & Spinach Salad” Plus An Italian “Lemon Sgroppino” Cocktail For "National Culinary Arts Month"

Welcome, did you know that July is “National Culinary Arts Month?” Each July, National Culinary Arts Month is held, which promotes awareness of professional cooks, chefs, and their contributions to the culinary world of excellence. Culinary artists are responsible for skillfully preparing meals that are as pleasing to the palate as to the eye. The world of Culinary Arts not only consists of creating delicious dishes, but also the use of kitchen utensils, tools, and equipment that must be associated with preparation of the recipes.  
I did not have any professional training to be a cook or baker, but I remember when a young girl, I would always watch my mom prepare and cook dinner. My job was always to set the table, quite boring. As I got older I would help my mom prepare the food by peeling the potatoes or fixing the salad, but that would not due either. I desperately wanted to be taught how to create mouth watering dishes. So, then I became more curious about cooking and wanted to seriously learn. That is when my mom started to teach me about how to cook certain recipes. My mother and grandmother’s taught me the basic instructions of cooking and baking. They said that baking was a science which you had to follow the recipe correctly and that cooking you can be more creative with, by adding a little of this or that. They told me that the tools and equipment you need are extremely important to create wonderful and tasty recipes. 

I received my first cookbook from my mom in 1974. It was the same cookbook that we used at home when I was a young girl. She wrote in the front cover, “Enjoy! Be happy in your kitchen as I am in mine, Love Mom.” For those of you wondering what cookbook it was, “Culinary Arts Institute Encyclopedic Cookbook,” revised edition 1971. Her copy was from 1948 which was the first printing of the cookbook. As the years went by and I became a wife and mother I learned how to improve my skills by still watching my mom, plus cooking shows, and reading recipes in cookbooks. This month is the perfect time to try your hand at cooking or baking! Here are some helpful tips and the tools that you will need to be a Master Chef and Master Baker in your own kitchen.


Tips:

Buy basic equipment; invest in a good set of sharp knives, sturdy pots, pans, and a set of glass baking dishes. You will also need measuring cups (dry & liquid) plus a set of measuring spoons. A food processor and an electric mixer will come in handy as you learn the ins and outs of food preparation. You will also need some wooden spoons, a wire whisk, a few spatulas, a vegetable peeler, a pastry brush, a rolling pin, a grater, a cutting board, and a strainer just to name a few. The inventory of tools and equipment are countless, but as you learn to advance in your cooking techniques you can always add to your collection.


Familiarize yourself with cooking terms such as poaching, braising, roasting, grilling, and par boiling, and folding in. Again these are just some examples that you will need to learn. You can use cookbooks for research and also an online cooking dictionary will help you learn the correct terms to use for your preparation of special dishes. Here are two more links that are full of fantastic information.  http://www.foodsubs.com/ & http://whatscookingamerica.net/Glossary/A.htm
Don’t be afraid to take advantage of cooking classes being given in your neighborhood such as in schools or libraries. Look at cookbooks; sometimes they supply you with tutorials which are extremely helpful. Or don’t forget "YouTube".. they have such wonderful tutorials of cooking as well. 


I also can recommend “Cooking with Nonna" which is the best site to see videos, learn recipes, and share with others the love of Italian cooking and it's traditions. Rossella Rago is the host and of course you can't have this show or site without Nonna Romana. She is fabulous not only as a cook or baker but she steals the show with her Italian ways. You can learn some wonderful ways to cook by watching “Cooking With Nonna TV” and the tutorials. 


"Cooking With Nonna Knives"

“Cooking With Nonna” has a fabulous set of knives that I have personally have purchased and use all the time. They are extremely sharp and are a good price. If you are interested click on this link, “Cooking With Nonna Knives” and you will not be disappointed. This site celebrates the family or "famiglia" and it’s traditions which is what life is all about. 

But most of all make your cooking and baking experience fun! If you make a mistake, just try again. Every inspiring cook or baker needs assistance, so ask for help from your family, friends, and even your children. Chopping, cutting, and dicing are how they learn. So put on your apron and get out your knife and start chopping to create your next flavorful meal as the master chef of your own kitchen.


I hope that you enjoy these recipes and I’m sure that your taste buds will thanking you! “Sweet Sriracha Chicken Wings” is a sweet way to grill your wings. They are succulent and finger licking good!

Sweet Sriracha Chicken Wings

Yield: 12 servings

Ingredients:
12 chicken wings (about 3 pounds)
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper



Sauce:
1/4 cup butter, cubed
1/2 cup orange juice
1/3 cup Sriracha Asian hot chili sauce
3 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons lime juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Sesame seeds

Directions:
Place chicken wings in a large bowl. Mix oil, coriander, garlic salt and pepper; add to wings and toss to coat. Refrigerate, covered, 2 hours or overnight. For sauce, in a small saucepan, melt butter. Stir in orange juice, chili sauce, honey and lime juice until blended. Grill wings, covered, over medium heat 15-18 minutes or until juices run clear, turning occasionally; brush with some of the sauce during the last 5 minutes of grilling. Transfer chicken to a large bowl; add remaining sauce and toss to coat. Sprinkle with Cilantro and sprinkle lightly with sesame seeds.                 

        *********************************************
Warm Beet & Spinach Salad

Makes: 4 servings, about 2 cups each
Active Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes



Ingredients:
8 cups baby spinach
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup thinly sliced red onion
2 plum tomatoes, chopped
2 tbsp sliced Kalamata olives
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1 clove garlic, minced
2 cups steamed beet wedges, or slices
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper

Directions:
Place spinach in a large bowl. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring, until starting to soften, about 2 minutes. Add tomatoes, olives, parsley and garlic and cook, stirring, until the tomatoes begin to break down, about 3 minutes. Add beets, vinegar, salt and pepper and cook, stirring, until the beets are heated through, about 1 minute more. Add the beet mixture to the spinach and toss to combine. Serve warm.

                                                **************************************

This Italian cocktail is sweet, frosty and a thirst-quenching drink! You can use the Vodka or have the drink without it. Either way this drink is delicious! Chin, Chin! or Cheers!

Lemon Sgroppino

Ready in: 5 mins
Serves: 8




Ingredients:
1 bottle Prosecco
1 lime or lemon
1/ 2 cup of Vodka (optional)
2 (14 oz) containers lemon sorbet

Directions:
Chill 8 champagne glasses and 1 bottle of Prosecco 3 hours before serving. Cut 1 lime or lemon in 8 thin slices. Place 2 (14 oz) containers softened lemon sorbet in a large bowl and gradually whisk in 3 cups of Prosecco and the vodka (optional) Pour the mixture in the chilled glasses and garnish with lime or lemon slices. Serve immediately.

                                "Please Drink Responsibly!"

Till next time……..

Copyright © 2016 “Family Plus Food Equals Love” All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Celebrate "National Apple Turnover Day" With A Delicious "Apple Turnover" Recipe

Welcome…come on in, I have something scrumptious baking in the oven. I hope everyone had a safe and fun July 4th weekend. Today is another day to celebrate as it is “National Apple Turnover Day.” Who knew, right? Apple Turnovers are simple and are such a delicious dessert for your family or for your guests. You can celebrate this day by making my recipe with apples.. but did you know that turnovers can be made with other fillings, such as cherry, cheese, blueberry, peaches, chocolate, nuts, raisins, and spices. Savory turnovers generally contain meat and/or vegetables and can be made with any sort of dough, though a kneaded yeast dough seems to be the most common in Western cuisines. They are usually baked, but may be fried. So just use your imagination!     

Every year in the United States, lovers of apple-stuffed pastries all over the country have an excuse to indulge in a decadent treat that can be enjoyed for breakfast, brunch, or as a snack. In my research I did not find a creator, or origin of this day. I did however find that this holiday has been celebrated for years. There is plenty of documentation to support that this holiday does indeed exist.

Claude Lorrain

What is Puff Pastry? Conventionally sweet turnovers made from puff pastry. Puff pastry seems to be a relative of the Middle Eastern Phyllo, and is used in a similar manner to create layered pastries. While traditionally credited to a man named Claude Lorrain accidentally created puff pastry. He was a French painter and was told by doctors that his sick father was only allowed to eat flour, water, and butter. He didn’t have much time to prepare a specialty bread so instead he mixed the flour and water but forgot the butter so he just kneaded it in after. He hoped it would turn out good for he had no time to make a new batch. As the newly created product baked he realized he had done something great! References appear before the 17th century, indicating a history that came originally through Spain and was converted from thin sheets of dough spread with olive oil to laminated dough with layers of butter, perhaps in Italy or Germany. Turnovers are one of the most popular examples of portable pies.



With its decadent layers of butter, light and airy good looks, and endless versatility, puff pastry is a regular on many dough boards across the country. But because of all the folding and rolling of dough, not to mention the serious time commitment required to make it from scratch, homemade puff pastry makes it difficult for consumers to prepare outside of restaurants and banquet halls. The good news is that frozen puff pastry delivers all the goodness of puff pastry without all the hours and elbow grease. In your freezer aisle of your favorite grocery store you can find puff pastry and create sweet, savory, quick and easy hors d'oeuvres, main courses, and desserts. And there's absolutely no shame in using frozen puff pastry: I always keep a few packages on hand to make palmiers, cheese straws, turnovers, pot pies, pizzas, and tarts. And frozen puff pastry is especially great for home entertaining, as most recipes can be assembled ahead and baked just before the party starts. If you're new to frozen puff pastry or looking for creative ways to cook and bake with it, don’t be afraid. Just purchase a package and you can make many delicious recipes with it.  
                         


Here is a list of just a few ways that other cultures make and enjoy the turnover:

Beerocks (German) Filled with cabbage and meat
Calzones (Italian) Filled with tomato sauce, meat and cheese
Dim Sum (Chinese) Filled with meat, fish or vegetables
Empanadas (Spanish-speaking countries) Filled with sweet potatoes and meats

Pastelillos (Puerto Rican) Filled with meat, onions, raisins, capers and egg
Pasties (Cornish miners, England) Filled with potatoes, vegetables and ground meat
Pastelitos Fritos (Brazillian) Fried turnovers with meat & cheese

Pierogies (Polish) Filled with potatoes, vegetables or fruit
Saltena (South American) Typical meat pies
Samosas (India) Filled with chick peas, potatoes and spices
Sanbousic (Middle Eastern) Filled with cheese and dill
Spanokopitas (Greek) Filled with spinach, cottage cheese, feta cheese and olives

                    


Tip Tuesday:


Prep Your Pastry:
Most frozen puff pastry comes in folded sheets. Let the pastry thaw completely, either overnight in the refrigerator or for 45 minutes at room temperature, before using it. Unfold the pastry gently, and if you see any tears or holes, use your fingers and a little water if necessary to gently squeeze the pastry back together. To prevent sticking, roll puff pastry out on a lightly floured surface, using a lightly floured rolling pin. Afterward, gently brush off any excess flour. If you're making a sweet recipe, you can use sugar or cinnamon sugar in lieu of flour, and for recipes made with cheese, you can use finely grated cheese. Be careful not to roll puff pastry too thin, especially if making any kind of pizza or tart, the pastry needs to be sturdy enough to support the toppings and stay crisp.

Keep Cool:
Puff pastry is easiest to work with when it's cold, so store whatever you're not using in the refrigerator, and if the pastry gets too soft while you're rolling or cutting it, simply return it to the fridge or freezer to firm it up. If you're trying to create a specific shape, keep the pastry as cold as possible and it will be easier to make precise cuts. Use a sharp knife, a pizza wheel, a pastry cutter, or simple cookie cutters, and if you're after really straight lines, pull out a ruler or use a straight-edged baking sheet as a guide.

Customize Your Puff:
Puff pastry is delicate, so be careful not to weigh it down with excessive toppings or ingredients that could release a lot of liquid and make the pastry soggy. Be particularly cautious with sticky fillings or ones that could overflow and make a mess of your baking sheets. And no matter what you're baking, line your baking sheets with parchment or a silicone baking mat, such as a Silpat, to prevent sticking. 



Egg Wash
Make It Shine:
Just before baking, brush your puff pastry with an egg glaze (one large egg lightly beaten with about 1 teaspoon water) to give it an attractive sheen. An egg glaze can also be used like an edible glue to seal the pastry edges for turnovers, empanadas, or any stuffed pocket-style pastry; just brush a thin layer along the edges and press them together gently.

Bake Now or Later:
Puff pastry is at its best fresh out of the oven, so if possible, bake it in small batches and serve immediately. If you like to entertain, note that most recipes can be assembled and kept in the fridge for a couple of hours and then baked just before the party. Some recipes can even be prepped but not baked, wrapped well, and frozen for a week or two. (Check your recipe for specific baking and defrosting instructions.) If you want to avoid last-minute prep and don't mind sacrificing some of puff pastry's signature lightness, bake your puff pastry then cool it completely and keep it in an airtight container at room temperature for a couple of hours. And if your pastry gets too soggy, simply pop it into the oven briefly to bring it back to life.
                  


Classic apple turnovers are an easy treat everyone should make at least once. Of course, once you’ve tried them, they’re sure to become a recipe you’ll make over and over again. With their flaky puff pastry crust and spiced apple filling, these turnovers are like little grab and go apple pies. Best of all, they have none of the fuss of baking a pie and require less than an hour to make. To make these turnovers you’ll need just six ingredients: apples, brown sugar, butter, cinnamon, cornstarch and puff pastry. You can find frozen puff pastry in most grocery stores. Defrost it in the fridge overnight, or simply set it on the counter for 30 minutes.

Apple Turnovers


Serving: 4
(I doubled the recipe, I had more people than 4)

Ingredients:
4 medium apples, peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons butter (may need more butter so it doesn’t stick)
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 dash or two of Nutmeg
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed (2 packs if you are going to double the batch)
Egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 teaspoon water)


Glaze
1 cup of Confectioners sugar
A couple of teaspoons of water


Directions:
Heat oven to 400°F. Line cookie sheet with cooking parchment paper. In 2-quart saucepan, heat apples, butter, brown sugar, cinnamon and cornstarch to boiling over medium-high heat. Reduce heat; simmer about 5 minutes or until thickened and apples are tender. Set aside to cool slightly.



Sprinkle work surface lightly with flour. Roll out thawed puff pastry into 15-inch square. Cut into 4 smaller squares.  Exactly how much filling you’ll need will depend on the size of your squares. Brush each square with egg wash; spoon apple mixture onto center of each. Fold each in half diagonally to form a triangle; press edges together to seal. Use back of fork to crimp edges. Transfer to cookie sheet; brush with egg wash. Use sharp knife to cut a few vents into each turnover. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until golden.

To make the glaze:
Combine the confectioners sugar with the water and whisk together.. It should be a thick consistency so it doesn’t drip off of the tops of the cooled turnovers. If your glaze is too thin add more sugar if it is too thick, you can add a little water at a time. Then just drizzle on top of the turnovers with a back and forth motion. (see photo) 



****** The turnovers have a shelf life of about 4 days, and are best if frozen immediately (rather than being stored in the refrigerator). Frozen apple turnovers are best if eaten with 6 months of freezing. Remember freeze without the frosting, as you can add that later. 


 



Till Next Time………………………………..

Copyright © 2016 “Family Plus Food Equals Love” All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Celebrate July 4th With A "Hershey's Chocolate Cake,” “Classic Milk Chocolate Chip Cookies," & A “Chocolate Strawberry Martini” Plus "Tip Tuesday"

Welcome, we are all invited to a Birthday Party! Next weekend will be the July 4th which is the 240 year of our nations birth! Wishing you, my readers a Happy 4th of July! It’s a Birthday party so we have to celebrate! We're so grateful to live in this country and to celebrate the birth of our Nation. Most of us celebrate with family, picnics, BBQ’s, parades, and showing a great emphasis on the American tradition of Freedom. The most common symbol of Independence Day is the American flag, but other symbols include the Statue of Liberty in New York harbor and Macy’s fireworks display viewed all over the United States. I have to mention “thank you” to the servicemen, women, and animals who have been fighting for our freedom and keeping our country safe. These are the people that our founding fathers would have called our heroes! 


Independence Day, is the anniversary of the publication of the Declaration of Independence. How it all began was in 1775, people in New England began fighting the British for their independence. On July 2, 1776, the Congress voted for independence from Great Britain. The Declaration of Independence was first published two days later on July 4, 1776. John Adams wrote in a letter to his wife, Abigail Adams on how the day should be celebrated. He described “pomp and parade, with shows, games, bells, bonfires, and illuminations” throughout the United States.


John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, & Ben Franklin
Interestingly trivia: Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, both signers of the Declaration of Independence and Presidents of the United States, died on the same day, July 4, 1826 - exactly 50 years after the Declaration of Independence.

Fireworks have been used by Americans for July 4th since the nation's very beginning. The earliest documentation of fireworks dates back to 7th century China, where they were invented. The fireworks were used to accompany many festivities. It is a part of the culture of China and had its origin there; eventually it spread to other cultures and societies. The first recorded display in England celebrated the wedding of Henry VII in 1487. Shakespeare mentions them several times in his plays. As I recall when I was young, my dad would always buy a few packages of sparklers. When it got dark out, he would light them and watch us as we swirled them around in the sky. This was a lot of fun and it made us feel like we were part of the celebration.


Fireworks come in so many different shapes, colors, and sizes such as stars, rotating circles, fish, and even 3D shapes. They are sometimes programmed to music as in Disney World where the fireworks are fired off to music with colors. Fireworks are used in celebrations of theme parks, Olympics, Halloween, Christmas, New Years, and Political events. States such as New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Delaware ban all consumer fireworks completely. Only legal professional authorities can be approved to operate firework displays. Please be responsible and do not use fireworks unless a professional person is on hand. Please be sure that your pets are safe as well. They do not like the noise and tend to hide.  



Tips On Baking A No Fail Cake:

Why A Cake Fails:
   
Has A Hump:   
The oven was overly hot when baking started
Too much flour used


Dark Bottom:
Pan too deep or large, keeps top from browning
Dark pans absorb more heat, place on higher oven rack (same with Pyrex)
Pan was warped which caused uneven browning


Has Deep Cracks:   
Temperature too high
Too much: flour or baking powder


Has Fallen:
Temperature too low
Peeked while baking
Removed from oven early
Too much: shortening or sugar or baking powder
Not enough flour


Coarse Texture:   
Temperature not high enough
Batter over mixed
Too much baking powder or flour


It’s Running-Over:   
Pan not large enough
Too much baking powder or sugar

Temperature not high enough  

It’s Tough:   
Temperature too hot
Not enough shortening or sugar
Too much flour


It’s Doughy:   
Temperature too low
Left in pan too long after removing from oven


Light In Color:   
Temperature too low
Another pan too close while baking


Browned Edges:
Oven too full
Tin touching another one or oven wall


Not Large Enough:   
Temperature too high
Not enough baking powder
Over mixed batter
Oversized pan   


Here we are at the beginning of July and the summer is really heating up. However you celebrate, remember to incorporate your holiday traditions with your family and no matter where you are, take time to be thankful for our freedom. I’m sure like most people, you are preparing your menus for the July 4th, celebration. That means grilling meats, cold salads, baked beans, corn on the cob, fruits of all kinds, etc. Now we have to put out the desserts, cookies, cupcakes, and pies, just to name a few. Just like any birthday party, the cake is always the most important part of your celebration. A birthday party with no tasty birthday cake will not make that event complete. Who can resist the aroma of fresh baked cakes and cookies wafting through the house? Whichever you choose to bake, you’re sure to please family and friends with these true classics from Hershey’s kitchen. Beautiful to look at, but it is time to have a slice of this very outstanding cake!

Hershey's "Perfectly Chocolate” Cake

Yield: 12 servings 


Ingredients:
2 cups sugar
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup Hershey’s Cocoa
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water
“Perfectly Chocolate” cake frosting (recipe follows)

Directions:
Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans. Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. Frost with "Perfectly Chocolate" frosting. 


"Perfectly Chocolate Frosting

Ingredients:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
2/3 cup Hershey’s Cocoa
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:
Melt butter. Stir in cocoa. Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating to spreading consistency. Add small amount additional milk, if needed. Stir in vanilla. Makes about 2 cups frosting.


Other Variations:
One Pan Cake: Grease and flour 13x9x2-inch baking pan. Heat oven to 350° F. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 35 to 40 minutes. Cool completely. Frost.

Three Layer Cake: Grease and flour three 8-inch round baking pans. Heat oven to 350°F. Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake 30 to 35 minutes. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. Frost.

Bundt Cake: Grease and flour 12-cup fluted tube pan. Heat oven to 350°F. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 50 to 55 minutes. Cool 15 minutes; remove from pan to wire rack. Cool completely. Frost.

Cupcakes: Line muffin cups with paper bake cups. Heat oven to 350°F. Fill cups 2/3 full with batter. Bake 22 to 25 minutes. Cool completely. Frost. About 30 cupcakes.
 


No one can resist a Chocolate Chip Cookie, so this second recipe is a chocoholic’s dream…can’t just have one……..

Hershey’s “Classic Milk Chocolate Chip Cookies”


Ingredients:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups (11.5-oz. pkg.) Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Chips
1 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Directions:
Heat oven to 375°F. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla in large bowl with mixer until creamy. Add eggs; beat well. Stir together flour, baking soda and salt; gradually add to butter mixture, beating until well blended. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts, if desired. Drop by teaspoons onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool slightly; remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely. Yield: about 5 dozen cookies.
 

                       
My third recipe is an alcoholic cocktail that you will not want to miss…. we have to have a drink to toast  “America’s Birthday”…so what better way then with this very cool and refreshing drink. This elegant drink of Godiva Milk Chocolate Liqueur combines luscious chocolate flavor with the seductive flavor of strawberries to create a delicious smooth cocktail.

Chocolate Strawberry Martini


2  oz. Godiva Milk Chocolate Liqueur
2  oz. Smirnoff No. 21 Vodka
2  oz. strawberry nectar
1  oz. milk or cream
2  piece(s) strawberry for garish
Glass: Martini Glass

How to mix together: In a shaker with ice, add Godiva Chocolate, Smirnoff Vodka, strawberry nectar & milk. Shake and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with a strawberry. Makes 2 servings.



     
“Please Drink Responsibly”


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

Copyright © 2016 “Family Plus Food Equals Love” All Rights Reserved