Tuesday, October 21, 2014

“Crunchy Autumn Chicken Salad” & A Glass Of Wine For "Wordless Tuesday"

Welcome to “Wordless Tuesday!” Today I have a mouthwatering recipe which I know you will love, perfect for the season, also some info on how to pair chicken with wine.…….. Enjoy!

Salad is a refreshing, vitamin-rich option used all year round, but the cooler months give us an excuse to top our lettuce with seasonal produce like apples and oranges, as well as ingredients like cheese, nuts, and meat. This satisfying recipe brings out the fruit, chicken, and vegetable fan in all of us. This dish is both tender and crunchy, which is very fulfilling.

                                          "Crunchy Autumn Chicken Salad

Recipe Serves: 4
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 20-30 minutes

(Photo Courtesy of Knorr)

1 package Knorr French Onion recipe mix
1/2 cup plain dry bread crumbs
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 1 lb)
1/3 cup Mayonnaise
2 medium zucchini, sliced
8 cups mixed salad greens
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1 large Granny Smith apple, cored and thinly sliced
1/2 cup walnuts, lightly toasted
1/2 cup dried cranberries

Raspberry & Walnut Vinaigrette

Preheat oven to 425°F  Combine Knorr French Onion recipe mix with bread crumbs in a shallow bowl and set aside. Coat chicken with Mayonnaise, then with bread crumb mixture. Arrange chicken on a baking sheet, and then arrange zucchini around chicken. Bake, turning zucchini once, until chicken is cooked, about 20-30 minutes. Cool chicken slightly, and then slice. Arrange salad greens on serving platter. Top with chicken and zucchini, then remaining ingredients. Drizzle with a Raspberry & Walnut Vinaigrette. It has the flavors of nuts, fruits, and a perfect choice for this dish. 

"Don’t be chicken to pair wine with your chicken." Chicken lends itself to many different types of sauces and spices, which means that many different types of wines pair well depending on the sauce or spice. Generally speaking, chicken pairs better with white wine because whites don’t overpower the taste of the chicken. But keep the sauce in mind, and be ready to break the rules. If you are making say Chicken Parmesan with a bold tomato sauce, the sauce won’t match with the delicate flavors of a white. You need a hearty red, like a Merlot. Fruity reds go great with spicy sauces and barbecue chicken. If you are making a delicate chicken dish or a chicken Kiev, a nice white would pair nicely. 

Here are a few pairings:

Chardonnay, due to its buttery flavor works best with creamy chicken dishes.
Sauvignon Blanc works well with dishes using green spices like rosemary and thyme or citrus dishes.
Pinot Noir would be great with chicken dishes that are salty.
Riesling and Gewurztraminer, because if there sweetness, work well with spicy chicken dishes.
Merlot is a wine to drink with heavy tomato sauce recipes.

When it comes to pairing wine and chicken it's a bit of a blank slate. Chicken can be paired with any number of wines. Which ones work best really depend upon how the chicken is being prepared. See, there’s no reason to be chicken about wine pairing with chicken. Cin,-Cin!, Cheers, or Salute!

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

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

Friday, October 17, 2014

“Pumpkin Butter Thumbprint Cookies” For October's "National Cookie Month"

Years ago when I was a young girl, my grandmother lived with us. She had an apartment on the first floor and we lived upstairs. This was my mom’s mother Julia. I used to go down to visit her every day. She taught me many things and we always had fun. She had a cookie jar on top of her refrigerator that I absolutely loved. The funny thing about this cookie jar is that she never put cookies in it. She used to use it to keep her coupons and some change in the jar. I didn’t care, I just loved it. Many years later when my grandmother passed away, I asked my mom to please hold the cookie jar for me, which was all I wanted to remember her by. Well, can you guess the rest? My mom had a garage sale and accidentally sold it. I was totally crushed. This cookie jar was nothing special, at the time it was more of a remembrance of my grandmother. Many years later I realized that the cookie jar was a pottery called "Shawnee" which was made in Ohio. This one was called “Dutch Girl” Cookie Jar (1945?). Every yard and garage sale I went to I would look for this type of jar, but to no avail I never found it, until one day…….
Grandma Julia

Salamanca is a small town located in the Southern Tier of NY state. I lived there when I re-married. One day my husband, Rick said, “Let’s take a ride, there is this big antique shop, and we can look around.” We were not interested in purchasing anything, but just liked to get ideas. The ride was lovely as the leaves were changing colors on the trees, and the mountain side looked like a kaleidoscope. This antique place was huge and had 7 levels to it. It looked like it was an old barn that they converted into this store. As I entered it was tremendous and so many things to look at. You could really spend a day there. I saw many vintage things that I had remembered seeing in my mom and grandmother’s house. I never even thought about the cookie jar. As we were climbing the stairs we ended up on the 6th level and I said to Rick, “I am tired, you go up to the top and I will wait here.” He went up to the top and seemed to be up there for a while. Now rested a bit I climbed up the last flight of steps and turned to the right…wait for it…

"Dutch Girl" Shawnee Pottery
YES, the cookie jar was staring right at me!!! I couldn’t believe it, it was like a miracle! I started calling out, “Rick, look it is the cookie jar.” Now I know that there are many out there of the same "Dutch Girl" by Shawnee, but this one I really believe was my grandmother’s. It had a little tiny chip in the back and she used to put a rubber band on the top of the jar just to keep it from rattling. This one had the chip and it even had the rubber band around the top. Well, you can imagine how amazed I was and so happy that I finally had that cookie jar to remember my grandmother, Julia. A cookie jar brings a smile to everyone's face, whether young or old. Many are taken back to their mom or grandma's kitchen with the smell of cinnamon wafting in the air and the selection of that one "perfect" cookie taken carefully from her cookie jar. It's those childhood memories that we kept in our hearts. 

This story about my cookie jar brings me to the topic of this post which happens to be, that October is “National Cookie Month.” I know you must be saying Cookie Month that should be in December for the holidays? Let me tell you that no matter what month cookies are celebrated in, everyone loves them, with milk, a cup of tea, or just as a special treat. Nothing says family and home than the aroma of cookies baking in the oven when you went home after school. Before doing your homework, reaching in that cookie jar and taking out some homemade cookies with a tall glass of milk, was really a comfort. There are so many varieties of cookies, either gooey, chewy, or crunchy. Coated with sugar, or cinnamon, filled with nuts, raisins or chocolate chips, no one can resist a cookie…   
Here is a little info on “National Cookie Month.” In the United States and Canada, a cookie is a small, flat baked dessert. In most English-speaking countries outside North America, the most common word for this is biscuit; in many regions both terms are used, while in others the two words have different meanings a cookie is a plain bun in Scotland, while in the United States a biscuit is a kind of quick bread not unlike a scone. Its name derives from the Dutch word koekje or (informal)  koekie which means little cake, and arrived in the English language through the Dutch in North America. It spread from American English to British English where biscuit is still the more general term. Don’t forget the first week in December is Cookie Cutter Week and December 4th is National Cookie Day. (resource: Wikipedia)

This recipe is a spectacular cookie called “Pumpkin Butter Thumbprint Cookies.” If you don’t want to use pecans, you can use any type of nuts you like, walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds or even a combination. The flavor makes you think of the time of the season, yummy! Don’t forget to put the rest of the cookies in your cookie jar. (If you have any left!) Enjoy!

Pumpkin Butter Thumbprint Cookies”

1 Cup &  2 Tbsp whole pecans
1 Cup of all purpose flour
1 stick of unsalted butter
3 Tbsp sugar
1/4 Tsp salt
1 Tsp of good vanilla extract
Powdered sugar
Pumpkin butter (Can be found at Trader Joe's or homemade))
Or your favorite jam--Apricot is a good one to use

Preheat the oven to 350°F  In a food processor process the nuts until they resemble coarse cornmeal. Do not over-process otherwise you'll end up with pecan butter. Then add the sugar, salt, and flour to the nuts and pulse a few more times until there are no distinguishable pieces of nuts. Cream the butter with a hand or stand mixer then add the extract and mix. Add the processed pecans and flour and mix until the dough comes together. Scoop about 1 1/2 teaspoons balls of dough. I use a 1-tablespoon cookie dough scooper and break up the dough in half for 1 1/2 teaspoons. Roll the dough into a ball and press an indentation in the center of the cookie with your finger or the back of your measuring spoons. Space the cookies about 2 inches apart. Bake for 15 - 18 minutes, they will be lightly colored but not too brown. Wait until the cookies are completely cool then dust them lightly with powdered sugar. Then fill the centers with pumpkin butter or jam. You may need to warm the pumpkin butter or jam so you can fill the cookies. The filling will set as it cools.

Till Next Time……………………………….....

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

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

“Stuffed Italian Artichokes” & “Fried Artichoke Hearts” To Celebrate The Italian Heritage

Beneventi! Welcome, Family and friends, it’s “Wordless Tuesday” today…But today I may have a few more words to say, so I hope you don’t mind that I share….I hope that everyone had a wonderful and restful long “Columbus Day” weekend. Today I want to share two fabulous dishes...I have been on an artichoke kick lately so I thought why not share my recipes.

The first one is called “Stuffed Italian Artichokes.” I know, you must be saying, I don’t like them, you are wrong! Till you have tried my mom’s recipe made with spices, cheese, and bread crumbs all tucked together inside the leaves of this wonderful little green vegetable. Then baked with a crispy top, you really haven’t tasted anything like this before! Now, that’s Italian! So in honor of my Italian-American Heritage and Columbus Day (yesterday) celebrate, and eat something Italian. “Buon Appetito!” 

Stuffed Italian Artichokes” (Carcioffola in Italian)

6 medium artichokes
1 1/4 cups of bread crumbs (plain)
1/2 cup of grated Pecorino-Romano cheese
1/2 cup of fresh chopped parsley
2 teaspoons of minced garlic (jar or fresh)
3/4 teaspoon of salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
1/3 cup of olive oil or vegetable oil

Cut off stem and 1/4 off the top of artichoke. Then remove some of the outer leaves at the bottom. Use scissors to clip off top of side leaves. (That removes the sticky point on each leaf) Then wash in deep bowl. Fill large pot with water and boil. Place the artichokes in pot carefully and lower heat to medium for about 7 minutes. Fork test bottom of artichoke for tenderness. If fork goes in and out easily, they are done. Next drain and run cold water on artichokes let them sit and cool off. While they are cooling down, mix the bread crumbs, parsley, minced garlic, grated cheese and a sprinkle of salt with pepper. Mix in a little oil with hands. When it feels like a sandy consistency then you are ready to fill. Gently spread the leaves a little apart and sprinkle some of the bread crumb mixture between each of the leaves. Place the now stuffed artichokes in a glass Pyrex baking dish. (7x11x1.5) Drizzle a small amount of oil on top of each artichoke. Put a small amount of water in bottom of pan about 1/4 inch deep. Bake for about 25-30 minutes at 350° F The top should be a little browned and crispy, when they are ready to eat.   


My second recipe is one that my family just loves, “Fried Artichoke Hearts.” We make these mostly at the holiday time, but I can’t wait till then…They are so tasty, crispy, and a great side dish to your meal. You can even use these as an appetizer. But how ever you make them, they will go so fast right before your eyes…

“Fried Artichoke Hearts”

2 Packages of frozen artichoke hearts (thawed)
1 1/2 cups of plain or seasoned breadcrumbs
3 Tablespoons of all purpose flour (mixed in with breadcrumbs)
2 eggs, beaten (use more if needed)
Vegetable oil for frying 

Rinse & paper towel dry the artichokes. In a shallow dish, combine the seasoned or plain breadcrumbs mixed with some flour and mix well to combine. Set aside. In another shallow dish, beat the eggs and set aside. Place a rack in a sheet pan and set aside. Start preheating the oven to 200°F  Dip a few artichoke hearts in the eggs and allow some of the egg to drip off. Coat in the breadcrumb mixture. Place the breaded artichoke hearts on a sheet pan. Repeat this process with the remaining artichoke hearts. Now fry them in 1/2 inch of oil. When the oil is hot, fry until golden brown, which should only take a few minutes or so. Transfer to the sheet pan and place the pan in the oven to keep warm while you fry the remaining artichoke hearts.


Ciao a tutti, I know that my readers have heard of my close 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. Casa Belvedere & Majestic Castle Music Productions Presents Micheal Castaldo’s 2nd annual “Italian Christmas Concert - From Bethlehem to Belvedere” When: Sunday, November 30th at 2:00pm Where: Notre Dame Academy in Staten Island, New York (Fundraiser for Casa Belvedere) Please take a moment and read through the official flyer. Don’t delay to purchase tickets to this awesome event! Tickets go fast! A BIG thanks to all of his fans from Micheal, Ciao!!

Italian Christmas Concert - From Bethlehem to Belvedere
at Notre Dame Academy Auditorium (Fundraiser for Casa Belvedere)

Featuring: Micheal Castaldo, Rebecca Newman, NDA Children's Choir and the Richmond County Orchestra Strings. Micheal will be singing Authentic Classic Italian Christmas Carols From his #1 CD "Extravergine"

Date: Sunday November 30th
Time: 2:00PM
Doors Open at: 1:30PM
Duration: 90 minutes
Address: 78-134 Howard Ave, Staten Island, NY 10301
Admission: $25 Admission, VIP Reception: $75
Tickets: Brown Paper Tickets

Toll Free Box Office: 1-800-838-3006
Secure Parking On Site

Till Next Time…….

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

Friday, October 10, 2014

Yummy “Pumpkin Gingerbread” To Celebrate "I Love Yarn Day!"

Julia Roberts does it, so does Vanna White, Sarah Jessica Parker, Julianna Margulies and many others. Are you wondering what it is that they do? They all knit or crochet, which is one of their favorite hobbies, but these crafts aren’t just for celebrities or your grandmothers. Some 20-30 year olds are turning on to crocheting and knitting, joining the 38 million consumers who enjoy doing these crafts. Did you know that knitting and crocheting can improve your mood, mind, and body? Well it can so let’s celebrate as today happens to be, “I Love Yarn Day!” This day is always the second Friday in October, The idea behind this day to share your enthusiasm for yarn with those around you.

Many of my followers know that I cook and bake, which is what my blog is all about. But something many of you don’t know is that I also knit and crochet. It is my creative outlet, my passion, (besides food) my stress reliever, and my comfort. My favorite patterns to crochet are doilies, but I will crochet anything. I love all kinds of yarn and colors. 

As the weather gets deeper into the fall, and the days get colder, there is nothing like snuggling on the sofa, a chair, or your bed with one of your crochet protects. There is a special feeling when you finish a pattern for a throw (small blanket) or a scarf that you can wear and know that you made this yourself. When I am not writing my blog, or my novel, or even cooking/baking, a way to keep my hands busy and unwind is to know that my crochet and knitting needles are not far away. I get so much satisfaction when my projects are completed. Most of my house is filled with my throws, Afghans, doilies, and fun objects that are used for practical purposes which I have made in the past. 

Before I go any further I have to tell you about how I began to crochet and knit. My love for crocheting became apparent when I was taught by my grandmother (Nanni) at a young age. She never used a pattern to crochet but she would look at an item and create the exact same thing. That is how she taught me; I never learned how to read a pattern book till much later in my life. My Nanni was a Milliner/ Interior Designer by profession. A milliner is one that makes, trims, designs or sells women’s hats. Some of her many talents included crocheting, playing the piano by ear, designing clothes for herself, and being very creative. She owned her own business and called it “Roberta Originals.” I have many memories of going to her store in Astoria, Queens and helping her for the day. She would take me on the bus and we would go into New York City in the garment district so she could get her supplies for her hats. It was always an experience to be with her as she would teach me about many ways to be creative. My Nanni, you could say was very flamboyant in her ways. She always dressed to the nines. Her hats were so beautiful and always different. All I had to do is have a hat on, (at that time they used hats when I was a young girl) she would take a chiffon scarf out of her closet and drape it on the hat, add an ornament of some kind and a new hat would be born for me to wear. 

Nanni (grandmother)
Now let me get back to yarn and knitting/crocheting. I hadn’t picked up a crochet needle for many years. When I lived upstate NY, I was reading the local paper that they were having classes at the school. So I went one night to the class and that is when my life changed and took a different direction. I met a woman there who was going to be in my life, her name is Mary Ann. We became friends and kept going to the class, even though she was extremely experienced and knew how to knit and crochet (she taught herself) like a professional. We began having our own crochet circle with some other ladies at each others houses and she taught me how to read a pattern from a book. 
A whole new world opened up to me because I was able to create so many patterns from clothing to beautiful doilies. It’s not important whether she is miles apart from you, as a true friend will always have you in her heart forever. That is my Mary Ann! She is the person that told me about Ravelry, which is a free social networking website. It functions as an organizational tool for a variety of fiber arts including knitting, crocheting, spinning, and weaving. Members share projects, ideas, and their collection of yarn, fiber, and tools. You can see my projects that I have made if you click on this link Ravelry. 
I am listed as angellite13 on Ravelry.
Since then, I have knitted hats for the soldiers, so their heads will not get cold under the helmets. I have entered two of my projects into the county fair upstate and won, 1st prize, (Blue Ribbon) for crocheting Baby Booties using the thin thread yarn, and 2nd prize, (Red Ribbon) for a crocheted afghan called “Kittens in a Row,” plus many afghans for friends and family. I also share my talents for charity by making Afghans; making toys and fun items for the holidays is also fun to create.. 
When I moved back to Long Island, I was invited by another friend, Carolyn to join her group of woman who crochet and knit also. I was thrilled as I met a wonderful group of ladies and we also took turns at each others houses every Wednesday for what we call “Sewing.” As far as the yarn goes, my love for yarn has been a love for many years. I have bins filled with my stash of yarn, all types and colors. From thin doily yarns to thick yarns. A favorite of mine is Red Heart, as it is easy to work with. I also love the new fun yarns especially the yarn that is used for those new curly scarves called, “Red Heart Sashay.” So I continue to crochet and knit in-between my food blogs. I do hope that I have inspired some of you that have crocheted and knitted before to pick up your yarn and needles again, and those that have not, try to find a class at your local school or library. You will not be sorry you did. 

Now you can’t crochet or knit without a cup of tea and a sweet dessert. My recipe for today is called, “Pumpkin Gingerbread.” When you are making your projects you don’t want to have a gooey or messy dessert, so a bread, a plain cake, or even cookies will do. This recipe is not only outstanding for this time of the year, but the aroma in your house is amazing. It really gets you in the fall mood. Enjoy!                                

                                                    “Pumpkin Gingerbread

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Ready: 45 minutes to 1 hour

Servings: 24 (makes (2) 9x5 inch loaf pans)

A delicious bread that will fill your kitchen with spicy scents.

3 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
2/3 cup water
1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie mix)
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Preheat oven to 350° F. Lightly grease two 9x5 inch loaf pans. In a large mixing, combine sugar, oil and eggs; beat until smooth. Add water and beat until well blended. Stir in pumpkin, ginger, allspice cinnamon, and clove. In medium bowl, combine flour, soda, salt, and baking powder. Add dry ingredients to pumpkin mixture and blend just until all ingredients are mixed. Divide batter between prepared pans. Bake in preheated oven until toothpick comes out clean, about 1 hour.

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

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

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

“Apple and Sage Pork Chops” Plus “Roasted Carrots With Parsley and Thyme”

Welcome to “Wordless Tuesday!” Today I have two mouthwatering recipes which I know you will love…….. Enjoy!

 “Apple and Sage Pork Chops

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Serves: 6

Apple and pork chops are enhanced by sage in this delicious dish.


1 1/2 tablespoon flour
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 teaspoons Sage, Rubbed
1 1/2 teaspoon Garlic, Minced
1 1/2 teaspoon Thyme Leaves
3/4 teaspoon Ground Allspice
3/4 teaspoon Paprika
6 boneless pork chops, 1-inch thick

(about 1 1/4 pounds)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 medium onion, thinly sliced
3 red apples, thinly sliced
3/4 cup apple juice
1 1/2 tablespoon brown sugar

Mix flour, salt and seasonings in small bowl. Sprinkle both sides of pork chops with 1 tablespoon of the seasoned flour. Heat oil in large skillet on medium-high heat. Add pork chops; brown on both sides. Remove from skillet. Add onion; cook and stir 3 minutes or until tender. Add apples; cook and stir 2 minutes. Stir in juice, sugar, and remaining seasoned flour until well mixed. Return pork chops to skillet. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 5 minutes or until done.


Roasted Carrots With Parsley and Thyme

Yield: Serves 6

The roasted carrots were tossed with lots of parsley and thyme, and I loved the way those bitter herbs offset the sweetness of the carrots.

2 Lbs carrots, peeled, cut into sixths lengthwise (depending on the size) then into 2-inch lengths
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped
1/2 teaspoon oregano
3 Tbs finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Oil a sheet pan or a baking dish large enough to fit all of the carrots in a single layer. Place the carrots in a large bowl, and toss with the olive oil, salt, pepper, thyme and oregano. Spread in an even layer in the prepared pan or baking dish. Cover with foil, and place in the oven for 30 minutes. Uncover, and if the carrots are not yet tender, turn the heat down to 375°F and return to the oven for 10 to 15 more minutes until tender. Add the parsley, stir gently, and taste and adjust salt and pepper. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature.

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

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

Friday, October 3, 2014

“Honey Butter Homemade Soft Pretzels” For "National Pretzel Month"

Who doesn’t love pretzels? Can you believe that October is "National Pretzel Month?" Pretzels come in so many varieties, sticks, loops, long, short, braids, hard, soft, thin and thick. Hard pretzels originated in the United States in 1850 at the Sturgis Bakery in Lititz, Pennsylvania.  In Europe, snack pretzels are sprinkled with salt, sesame and poppy seeds, or with cheese. In the U.S., they come in a variety of flavors and with different coatings, such as yogurt, chocolate, strawberry, cheese, mustard, nuts, sugar glazes, and also salted. Pretzels can be crumbled and used as a topping for ice cream, which eventually led to the development of an ice cream cone tasting like a pretzel.  

A pretzel is known by different names in other countries. In Germany, pretzels are called Brezel, in Polish it is known as Precel, the Norwegian and the Danish people call it Kringle, and the French, Spanish, and the Italians call it Pretzel, Bretzel, or Brezel. In Italy, the Taralli is an Italian snack food that is similar in texture to a pretzel. Taralli can either be sweet or savory. Sometimes they are glazed with sugar, may be flavored with onion, garlic, seeds, pepper, fennel, or just salt. The sweet and plain Taralli are often dunked in wine. The Taralli shapes are classically formed into small rings or ovals. They are boiled then baked, or deep fried.  

Most people agree that the pretzels were invented by monks and have a Christian background. According to history, in 610 AD, an Italian monk invented pretzels as a reward to children who learn their prayers. He called the strips of baked dough, “pretiola” (little rewards) These strips of baked dough were folded to resemble arms crossing the chest. However, there is no source cited to back up these details. Another source locates the invention in a monastery in southern France. In Germany there are stories that pretzels were the invention of their bakers. In Greece, ringed bread, derived from communion bread used in monasteries a thousand years ago, may also be related to the invention of the looped pretzel. 

Within the Catholic Church, pretzels were regarded as having religious significance for both ingredients and shape. Pretzels made with a simple recipe using only flour and water could be eaten during Lent, when Christians were forbidden to eat eggs, lard, or dairy products such as milk and butter. As time passed, pretzels became associated with both Lent and Easter. 

In the 19th centuries, southern German and Swiss German immigrants introduced the pretzel to North America. These immigrants became known as the Pennsylvania Dutch. Many handmade pretzel bakeries populated the central Pennsylvania countryside, and the pretzel‘s popularity spread. In the 20th centuries, soft pretzels became extremely popular in other regions of the United States. Cities like Philadelphia, Chicago, and New York became famous for their soft pretzels. With increased popularity due to mass production, pretzels were distributed at schools, grocery stores, movie theaters, sports stadiums, arenas, and street vendors. Selling pretzels on street corners in wooden glass enclosed cases were found in New York City. 

L-R: my aunt, my mom, my son Paul,
 myself, & brother Chris

As a young child, I remember when I would go to NYC with my family especially at Christmas, and the hot soft pretzels were always a treat. We would be walking along  5th Ave, near all the famous department stores, like Macy’s and Lord & Taylor, and low and behold we would see one, a vendor selling hot soft pretzels on the corner. You could smell the baked dough and the mustard as you were getting closer to the stand that sold them. It was wrapped in waxed paper and placed in a brown paper bag. To me, the best time to eat them was in the winter when the weather was cold outside. The hot bag filled with pretzels would warm your hands. Then as we continued walking, I would pull apart a piece of the warm pretzel and leave the rest in the bag to keep warm. All the salt would be the first thing that I would lick off. The hot soft dough would just melt in your mouth and it always seemed to warm up your stomach. At that time you could get 3 pretzels for $1.00, and what would be left, was an empty bag with some salt crystals left at the bottom. What a delicious memory to have with my family.

NYC Pretzel Vendor
Today, Pennsylvania is the center of the American pretzel production for the hard crispy and the soft bread types of pretzels. Pennsylvania with its large German background produces 80% of the nation’s pretzels. In 1963 the largest pretzel of its time weighing 40 pounds and measuring 5 feet across was baked by Joseph Nacchio of the Federal Pretzel Baking Company.  In 1993 the Pretzel Museum opened in Philadelphia, operated by the Nacchio family.

In the world of foodies drink pairings are an important part of the meal. There are some perfect matches: chocolate chip cookies and milk, coffee and donuts, and beer and pretzels. You're going to need something to wash that pretzel down with, and few things besides mustard go better with a soft and chewy pretzel than a beer. Just about any beer will work with a pretzel, but to make the most out of the match you'll want to pick a beer that complements the doughy and toasty knot. So I asked my dear friend, Jeff B. to give me some insight as to what beer may be a good choice to have with your pretzel. He is a connoisseur of beer and told me that everyone has their own preference but he likes a Stout or dry stout "black beer." His choice and the most famous example is Guinness followed by Murphy's and Beamish. Thanks Jeff for your insight on pairing pretzels and beer.

My recipe this week is called “Honey Butter Homemade Soft Pretzels” I have made these before and I usually have my family knocking on my door, for more. The soft dough is so light and the honey butter melted on the top of each pretzel reminds me that I’m back on the corner of 5th Ave, reliving my childhood all over again. Memories never tasted so good. So enjoy, whether you like the sticks, chocolate covered or the big soft ones with mustard on top, celebrate pretzels with a bag today.

Honey Butter Homemade Soft Pretzels

Total Time: 1 hr 55 minutes
Prep: 25 minutes
Yield: 4 to 6 servings

2 tablespoons yeast
2 cups of warm water
6 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
1 tablespoon of salt
2 tablespoons of sugar
1/4 cup of honey
3 eggs beaten
Honey Butter Mix (recipe follows)
Kosher salt, for sprinkling

Honey Butter Mix
1/2 cup of melted butter
1/4 cup of honey
In a small bowl combine melted butter and honey


Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. In a large bowl, combine the yeast and warm water; allow to sit for 5 minutes till somewhat foamy. Add the flour, salt, sugar, honey and eggs. Mix thoroughly for about 10 minutes. Let the dough rise about 10 to 15 minutes. Divide the dough into 4-ounce portions and roll out each piece into a long rope shape. Now shape the pretzel dough and pinch the 2 (arms) to maintain them from coming apart. Place on greased cookie sheet or you can use parchment paper and let rise for 1 hour. Brush with Honey Butter Mix and sprinkle with kosher salt. Bake for 20 minutes till light brown. Remove to cool for 5 minutes prior to eating; if you like them warm wait for just a few minutes. 

Till Next Time…..

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

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

“Roasted Broccoli & Olives” Plus “Fillet of Sole Piccata”

Welcome to “Wordless Tuesday!” Today I have two mouthwatering recipes which I know you will love…….. Enjoy!  

This recipe is both tender and crunchy. The Broccoli comes alive with the sharpness of the olives and garlic, plus the freshness of the lemon. This “Roasted Broccoli and Olive” dish goes deliciously well with the “Fillet of Sole Piccata” (recipe follows)

“Roasted Broccoli and Olives”

Prep: 15 minutes
Roast: 20-25 minutes
Makes: 8 servings

6 cloves garlic, peeled and gently crushed
1 tsp kosher salt, divided
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
2 1/4 pounds broccoli, washed, drained and patted dry
1/2 cup mixed unpitted olives
1/2 fresh lemon or more

Preheat oven to 425° F. Line a 15x10x1 baking pan with parchment paper; set aside. In a small bowl combine garlic and 1/2 tsp. of the kosher salt. Using the back of a spoon, muddle garlic and salt until garlic begins to release its oil; set aside. Trim broccoli stems; cut stalks lengthwise into halves and/or quarters. Place in prepared baking pan. Pour garlic oil and olives over; toss well. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 tsp. kosher salt. Roast 20 to 25 minutes, tossing occasionally, until tender but al dente. Transfer to a serving dish. To serve, drizzle with additional olive oil. Squeeze lemon juice over.

Recipe adapted from “Better Homes and Gardens”


“Fillet of Sole Piccata”

This recipe will work with any small flat fish fillet, example flounder, fluke or sole.

1 pound skinless fillets
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
1/3 cup all purpose flour for dredging
4 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup dry white wine

(ex: Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio)
2 Tbsp real lemon juice
1/4 cup small capers
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 Tbsp unsalted butter

Rinse the fish in cold water and pat them dry. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and pepper. Then place the flour mixture in a long shallow bowl or dish. Dredge the fillets in the flour so that both sides are lightly coated. Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a large stick-free sauté pan. When the oil is hot (add a little pinch of flour to the oil, and if it sizzle immediately, you're ready), work in batches and place the fish fillets in the pan in one layer and fry until golden, about 2 minutes per side. Add more oil to the pan if needed. Once browned on both sides, remove the fish fillets from the pan, set them on a paper towel-lined plate (or keep them warm in a 200°F oven) Add the white wine to the pan and use a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Let the wine boil furiously for a minute or two, until greatly reduced, and then add the lemon juice and capers. Boil another minute. Turn off the heat. Add 1 Tbsp of butter to the pan, swirling it constantly. When it melts, repeat the process with the other tablespoon of butter. Stir in half of the parsley and pour it over the fish. Sprinkle the fish with the remaining parsley. Serve at once with the roasted broccoli and a baked potato would be nice! Enjoy! 

Recipe adapted from “Simply Recipes”

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

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

Friday, September 26, 2014

“Baked Cauliflower with Anchovies” For "National Fruits & Veggies Month"

 How many fruits and vegetables does your family eat a day? Do you think they are eating enough? September is "National Fruits & Veggies Month"and unfortunately the majority of Americans are not eating enough fruits and vegetables. Eating more fruits and vegetables may reduce the risk of contracting certain diseases, including heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and some cancers. However, it can be difficult for many Americans to eat the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables because they might not be easily accessible, available, or affordable. Children eat more fruits and vegetables at some schools where they have a variety of choices, such as those provided in a self-serve salad bar. 

Here are some ways to increase your fruit and vegetable intake! Have a piece of fruit or a glass of juice at breakfast daily. Stock up on dried, frozen, and canned fruits and vegetables. Grab an apple, orange, banana, pear, or other piece of portable fruit to eat on the go. Snack on raw veggies like baby carrots, pepper strips, broccoli, and celery. Pick up ready-made salads from the produce shelf for a quick salad anytime. Pile spinach leaves, tomatoes, peppers, and onions on your pizza. Add strawberries, blueberries, bananas, to your oatmeal, pancakes, or toast. Stash bags of dried fruit in your car and at your desk for a convenient snack. Stir fresh or frozen vegetables into your pasta, noodles, or omelet. Whip up smoothies made from fresh or frozen berries, ice, and yogurt. 

*****Note: I have a new widget on the right side of my blog, called Seasonal Foods. It shows the month that we are in and the foods that are in season for that month. This is a perfect tool to use to buy fresh and in season fruits and veggies. Plus it is fun!..Don‘t forget to support your local farmer‘s market for your in season produce.

Make Colorful Food Choices:

Include Blue/Purple foods to help maintain: a lower risk of some cancers, urinary tract health, memory function, and healthy aging. Get blue/purple every day with foods such as: blackberries, blueberries, black currants, dried plums, elderberries, purple figs, purple grapes, plums, raisins, purple asparagus, purple cabbage, eggplant, and potatoes (purple-fleshed).

Include Green fruits and vegetables to lower your risk of some cancers, vision health, and strong bones and teeth. Go green every day with some of these: avocados, green apples, green grapes, honeydew melon, kiwifruit, limes, green pears, artichokes, arugula, asparagus, broccoli, Broccoli- Rabe, Brussels sprouts, Chinese cabbage, green beans, green cabbage, celery, cucumbers, endive, leafy greens, leeks, lettuce, green onion, okra, peas, green pepper, sugar snap peas, spinach, watercress, and zucchini.

White/tan, and brown fruits and vegetables to get all the health benefits by including foods such as: bananas, brown pears, dates, white nectarines, white peaches, cauliflower, garlic, ginger, artichoke, kohlrabi, mushrooms, onions, parsnips, potatoes, shallots, turnips, white corn.

Yellow/orange fruits and vegetables contain vitamin C, they include: yellow apples. apricots, cantaloupe, yellow figs, grapefruit, golden kiwifruit, lemon, mangoes, nectarines, oranges, papayas, peaches, yellow pears, persimmons, pineapples, tangerines, yellow watermelon, yellow beets, butternut squash, carrots, yellow peppers, yellow potatoes, pumpkin, rutabagas, yellow summer squash, sweet corn, sweet potatoes, yellow tomatoes, yellow winter squash.

Include a variety of Red fruits and vegetables to help maintain: a healthy heart, memory function, and urinary tract health. These include: red apples, blood oranges, cherries, cranberries, red grapes, pink/red grapefruit, red pears, pomegranates, raspberries, strawberries, watermelon, beets, red peppers, radishes, radicchio, red onions, red potatoes, rhubarb and tomatoes.

Lastly the good news is, communities, health professionals, businesses, and families can work together to encourage people to eat more fruits and vegetables. Make a difference: Spread the word about tips for healthy eating and encourage communities, organizations, families, and individuals to get involved.

This recipe is one that my mom has made many times and it is outstanding! This recipe is so yummy especially when you bake it and the spaghetti gets crispy. You don’t even taste the anchovies, they melt and it gives the dish a wonderful aroma and flavor. Enjoy! 

"Baked Cauliflower with Anchovies” 
1 large cauliflower- washed and cut in florets
3 medium onions (sliced)
3 cans of anchovies                                                            
Salt and Black Pepper
1 lb. of spaghetti
Vegetable oil to sauté
Pecorino Romano grated cheese

Boil water and cook your spaghetti. Drain and leave on the side. After washing and cutting cauliflower put in large pot with water and par-boil until tender. In another large pot put a thin layer of oil on bottom. Put in onions and sauté, then add anchovies and mix with the onions. When cauliflower is cooked and drained (save some water) put in with onions and anchovies. Add some liquid from cauliflower cooking water, (not too much) not quite covering the cauliflower. Stir together carefully. In baking pan spoon some cauliflower mixture into pan. Place 1/2 of pasta on top of cauliflower. Sprinkle grated cheese on top. Then arrange another layer of cauliflower mixture and then spaghetti, grated cheese on top again. Bake for about 25-30 minutes at 350 F. should be lightly browned and crispy. You can serve with a big tossed salad and according to your taste add extra grated cheese on top.  Abbondanza!!

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

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