Tuesday, April 26, 2016

"Tip Tuesday" Plus "National Pretzel Day" With “Honey Butter Homemade Soft Pretzels”

Who doesn’t love pretzels? Can you believe that today is National Pretzel Day? 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 baked, or deep fried.  

Americans consume an average of 1.5 pounds of pretzels per year, supporting an industry that has an annual value of over $550 million, according to National Day Calendar.

Free Pretzels on National Pretzel Day:

Auntie Anne’s: If you have the My Pretzel Perks app, you can get a free Original or Cinnamon Sugar Pretzel between April 26 and May 1. Plus, if you download the app by April 25, you could be one of five people who will win free pretzels for a year.

Ben’s Soft Pretzels: Donate $1 or more to the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund and get a free Jumbo Soft Pretzel. All proceeds go to the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund.

Philly Pretzel Factory: Receive a free pretzel on April 26 at most locations. This offer might not be valid at locations in aquariums, zoos, airports or train stations.

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. 

As a young child, I remember when I would go to NYC with my family especially at Christmas, the hot soft pretzels was 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.

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 it’s 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.

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 5 Th 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 °F degrees. 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 just a few minutes. 


Tip Tuesday: Salt

Did you know? Ancient Romans seasoned vegetables with salt, which is where the word “salad” originates.

Think outside the salt shaker! Salt is a versatile household powerhouse—here's how to use it to clean your kitchen, preserve your produce, and even soothe common aches and pains.

1. Brighten a wooden cutting board: Sprinkle salt over the cutting board and scour it using half a lemon. Rinse the salt and lemon juice off with water and let the board dry.

2. Put out a grease fire: Turn off the heat and try to cover the fire with a lid. If the fire doesn’t go out, pour a large amount of salt on it to snuff out the flames.

3. Soothe a sore throat: Dissolve 1/2 teaspoon of salt in an 8 oz glass of water to temporarily relieve throat pain.

4. Set the color of new clothes and towels: Add a tablespoon of salt to the wash to help seal in the fabric color.

5. Relieve bee sting pain: Mix salt and water into a paste and apply to the bee sting immediately. Leave the paste on for 30 minutes. 

6. Make milk last longer: Add a pinch of salt to your milk carton to make it last a few days longer.

7. Clean wicker furniture: Scrub your outdoor furniture with a stiff brush dipped in salt water to get rid of any dullness. Let the furniture dry in the sun.

8. Stop candles from dripping: Make a saltwater solution of 2 tablespoons of salt for every 2 cups of water. Soak your candles overnight and then set them out to dry.

9. Clean greasy pans: Sprinkle a generous amount of salt in the pan to soak up any grease. Scrub the salt around to remove any burned-on bits, then wash with soapy water.

10. Prevent windows from frosting: Dip a sponge in salty water and rub on the inside of your windows. This will stop any ice from forming.

11. Stop apples from browning: Mix a 1/2 teaspoon of salt for every 1 quart of water and soak the apple pieces for about 5 minutes.

Till Next Time…..

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

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

"Tip Tuesday" Is All About "Garlic"..."Grandma’s Marinara Tomato Sauce" & "Grandma’s Meatballs"

Welcome, to my blog and Tip Tuesday! Come on in have a glass of wine! If you would like to share some tips that have helped you out just let me know by posting below or by an email to angellite13(at)optimum(dot)net and I will post them with your name in a future blog post. I think this will be fun and “Tips” are always a time saver. 

Today happens to be “National Garlic Day!” Garlic is used in many households for wonderful tasty dishes. You can NEVER be without garlic cloves in an Italian house. Garlic is called "the stinking rose" or “the fragrant pearl." Its pungent flavor is used as a seasoning or condiment. Garlic cloves can be eaten raw or cooked. They may also be dried or powdered. According to Ron Engeland, author of “Growing Great Garlic” there may well be over 450 identifiable strains of garlic.

Did you know that garlic, is a species in the onion family. Its close relatives include the onion, shallot, and leek. Garlic has been used throughout recorded history for both culinary and medicinal purposes. Here’s some “Garlic” trivia and “Tips” that you may enjoy reading.
  • Central European folk beliefs - considered garlic a powerful ward against demons, werewolves, and vampires. To ward off vampires, garlic could be worn or hung in windows etc.
  •  Egyptians worshiped garlic - and placed clay models of garlic bulbs in the tomb of Tutankhamen.
  • How Can You Get Rid of Garlic Odor on Your Hands after cooking? After exposure, scrub your hands with salt and lemon juice, using cold water. Then rinse off with soapy warm water. Another way is to rub your hands on the stainless steel sink. Then wash your hands and the odor should be gone.
  • It is said that if you carry a garlic clove with you when traveling over water, it will prevent you from drowning.
  • Soldiers throughout history have used it for these properties when going into battle.
  • Garlic Tea - For sore throat, make a garlic tea by steeping several cloves of garlic in half a cup of water overnight. Hold your nose and drink it.
  • Garlic is also used for hair growth.
  • Alliumphobia is what the fear of garlic is called. Garlic only contains 4 calories per clove.
  • Chicago was named after the American Indian word for the wild garlic that grew around Lake Michigan, chicagaoua.
There are many Garlic Festivals throughout the country. One is called “The Hudson Valley Garlic Festival,” in Saugerties, New York (Oct 1 & 2,  2016)


Making a great tomato sauce is something you can be proud of once you get it right. No store bought pasta or spaghetti sauce can compare with the taste of a sauce that you make from scratch. You can use this sauce on a variety of pasta including spaghetti, macaroni, and it is also a good base for lasagna and meatballs. My recipe this week is two fold, one is my mom’s “Marinara Sauce” and the other is her “Meatball” recipe. Of course these two dishes contain garlic. The recipe for this sauce was passed down from my family, and now to you. Buon Appetto! 

Grandma’s Marinara Tomato Sauce

2 cans of 28 oz. crushed tomatoes
2 cans of tomato paste
Olive Oil or Canola Oil
5 large garlic cloves
Salt to taste
2 1/2 tablespoons of Oregano flakes
2 1/2 tablespoons of Parsley flakes
2 1/2 tablespoons of Basil flakes
2 dried Bay leaves

On medium heat sauté olive oil to thinly cover bottom of pot. Add garlic. Then add crushed tomatoes and paste.  Add 1/2 can of water (use paste can).  Put in salt, parsley, basil, oregano to taste and add 2 dried bay leaves.  Stir while cooking on low simmer (after starts to boil) for 1 hour. You can add a small amount of sugar if desired (optional). Cover on or slightly off to thicken sauce. Enjoy with pasta of your choice and meatballs.


Grandma’s Meatballs
Yields: 30 meatballs-(10 meatballs per pound)

2 cups of bread crumbs (if too stiff add a sprinkle of water)
3 lbs of beef chuck chopped meat (80% lean, but not too lean, you need a little fat for moisture)
1 1/2 teaspoons of minced garlic
3/4 cup of Pecorino Romano cheese

6 eggs
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 water or milk. As it softens remove crust and squeeze water or milk out of bread chunks. Separate into small pieces and add to chopped meat mixture.

Don’t forget to pair your meal with some delicious red wine……

Don’t forget to drink responsibly!

Till Next Time………………………………..

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

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

"Tip Tuesday" and “Ham Asparagus Strata” Yummy!!

Welcome, to my blog… all my friends, family, and followers! I am finally back! I am taking it slow so I will only be posting on Tuesday for a few weeks, then I will be back on Friday as well. If you have noticed I have renamed, “Soupy Tuesday” for the Spring and Summer to “Tip Tuesday.” I will still be posting a fabulous recipe but then at the bottom of my recipe I will be posting some “Tips” for food, cooking, baking, household tips, etc. As I did with “Soupy Tuesday,” I am also welcoming your “Tips” too. So if you would like to share some that have helped you out just let me know by posting below or by an email to angellite13(at)optimum(dot)net and I will post them with your name in a future blog post. I think this will be fun and “Tips” are always a time saver. 

Next, I just want to thank all of you who have been sending well wishes and prayers to my mom, my dad, and myself. My mom was in a rehab center for her back from November to the end of February. Her condition is getting better. We did have a few set backs but she is trying to regain her strength. It is very slow going and my family thank you for your continuing prayers and thoughts. I was also in the hospital after my mom came home and so you can see things have been a little busy around here. So again thank you dear family and friends for your concern, understanding, and your prayers.

This recipe is taken from a cookbook that I have used before called, “Better Homes and Gardens Annual Recipes 2007.” I have the pleasure to participate in my food blogger friend Louise‘s, Months Of Edible Celebrations.” She is posting to her blog recipes that are taken from cookbooks, magazines, booklets, etc. on Wednesday as “Cookbook Wednesdays.” So stop over at her blog and tell her that I sent you.... 

“Ham-Asparagus Strata”

This cheesy breakfast or brunch recipe is a make-ahead special. Fix it the night before and pop it in the oven the next morning. I have made this before and used only veggies, but you can add whatever you and your family likes. Enjoy!

Serving yield: 6

4 English muffins, torn or cut into bite-size pieces (4 cups)
2 cups cubed cooked ham (10 oz.) (you can also add Vegetables/no meat)
2 cups cut-up fresh cooked asparagus
4 ounces shredded Swiss cheese
4 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup dairy sour cream
1 1/4 cups milk
2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
1 tablespoon Dijon-style mustard
Salt and ground black pepper to taste

In greased 2-quart square baking dish spread half the muffin pieces. Top with ham, asparagus, and cheese. Top with remaining muffin pieces. In bowl whisk together eggs and sour cream. Stir in milk, onion, mustard, and salt and pepper. Pour over layers in dish. Cover; chill for 2 to 24 hours. Bake, uncovered, in 325°F oven for 60 to 65 minutes or until internal temperature registers 170°F on an instant read thermometer. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.



Clever uses for White Bread: These tips are the greatest things since sliced…well, you know. 

People eating white bread these days are shamed by the healthy eaters all around them. I happen to love white bread (peanut butter and jelly on soft white bread, there is nothing better!) but buy the multi-grain in an effort to eat healthier. If you find yourself with an uneaten loaf of white bread here are some creative household uses for it.

Clean the coffee grinder…put a couple of chunks of white bread in, pulse a few times and dump out. The grounds hiding in the corners will stick to the bread chunks.

Safely pick up broken glass…catch tiny shards by gently pressing a slice of bread down on the area where the glass broke. Toss immediately into trash to avoid scattering them.

Keep fresh baked cookies soft…before putting cooking into a covered container, add a few slices of bread to the bottom. The bread will become hard, keeping the cookies soft.

Degrease soups & sauces….soak up the oil that’s risen to the surface of your soup/sauce. Simply place a stale piece of bread on top, let it sit for a few seconds, then remove it.

Erase photo smudges….make a ball out of a few pieces of stale bread and swipe it across fingerprint-covered photos. The porous bread absorbs the oils without leaving scratches.

Stop foul smells….soak a slice in vinegar, place it on a paper towel and leave inside an empty trashcan, lunchbox, etc overnight. When you toss out, odors will be neutralized due to the acidic vinegar.

FUN FACT: Wonder Bread’s name was inspired by the “wonder” of the sight of the International Balloon Race of 1921.


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

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

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Buona Pasqua! Happy Easter!

To All My Facebook Friends, 
Family, And Followers:

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 and all the joys of Spring.”

Love and hugs.... Dottie x


*****IMPORTANT: Thank you for all of your thoughts, prayers, and comments about my mom and dad, as well as my own health issues. Things are looking better,  but it is a slow process with my mom. Sorry, I have not written sooner, but my family is my first priority. I will be back stronger, with more fabulous recipes, and stories as soon as I can. Feel free to go through my blog at anytime and see other posts with delicious recipes from other years…Enjoy! Ciao!********

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

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

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

“Easy French Onion Soup” For "Soupy Tuesday" & "Cruise with Castaldo" On The Regal Princess

Welcome to “Soupy Tuesday!” For those of you that are new to my blog…For the next few months I will be sharing a recipe for a delicious easy soup. Everyone enjoys a hot bowl of soup especially this past weekend which the temps were below zero! So this soup or any soup for that matter is like a welcoming friend. Warm and comforting…If you would like to see a special recipe for soup or have one that you want to share just email me (angellite13(at)optimum(dot)net) or post something in the comments below. I will be happy to give you a shout out. Hope this keeps you warm and cozy for the next few months…

******* I just want to thank all of you who have been sending well wishes and  prayers to my mom who is in a rehab center for her back. Her condition is getting better. We did have a few set backs but she is trying to regain her strength. It is very slow going and my family thank you for your continuing prayers and thoughts. Also want to let you know that I will be only posting on “Soupy Tuesday” for a while. Thank you dear family and friends. **********

My recipe for today is one that my mom used to make for dinner when my brothers and I were young. “Easy French Onion Soup” This rich soup is great for a Friday-night supper. (If you omit the Pancetta) Indulge your senses in a bowl of steaming French onion soup you’ve made yourself! This dish uses onions simmered with butter, beef broth, and dry white wine. With those savory flavors, all that’s left is to add cheese to melt over every bowl ensuring each spoonful is deliciously cheesy. I always enjoyed this soup so much as the flavor is delicious but also the cheese melted on top is heavenly. So I am sharing this recipe with you so you can feel all the warmth inside and make memories with your family.
Easy French Onion Soup

Servings: 6 -8

The onions can be caramelized a day ahead. Let cool to room temperature, then transfer to an airtight container, cover and refrigerate until you are ready to finish the soup. 

4 Tbs. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
4 Tbs. olive oil
2 lb Vidalia onions, thinly sliced
2 leeks, thinly sliced
1/4 pound Pancetta diced (optional)
1/2 tsp. sugar
1/ 2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 Tbs. all-purpose unbleached flour
2 quarts beef stock, homemade or purchased
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 tsp. freshly ground pepper
12 to 16 French bread slices, each 1/2 inch thick
3 garlic cloves, halved
1/2 lb Swiss, Gruyere, or Provolone cheese
Some Pecorino Romano grated cheese for topping

Caramelize the onions: In a large fry pan or Dutch oven over medium heat, melt the butter with 1 Tbs. of the olive oil. Add the onions, diced Pancetta, and the leeks, now cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, 4 to 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes. Uncover, add the sugar and salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions and the Pancetta are caramelized, about 25 minutes. Add the flour and stir for 2 to 3 minutes.

Simmer the soup: In another saucepan, bring the stock and wine to a boil over high heat. Slowly add the stock mixture to the onion mixture, stirring to blend. Add the pepper. Reduce the heat to medium, cover partially and simmer until the onions begin to break down and melt into the broth, about 45 minutes.

Finish the soup: Meanwhile, preheat a broiler. Place the bread on a baking sheet, drizzle with the remaining 3 Tbs. olive oil and toast under the broiler, turning once, until golden, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Rub the bread with the cut sides of the garlic and set aside. Reduce the oven temperature to 400°F. Place 6 to 8 ovenproof bowls on a baking sheet. Ladle the soup into the bowls, filling them about three-fourths full. Top each serving with 2 slices of toast. Sprinkle with the cheese. Bake until the cheese is golden brown, about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve immediately. Enjoy!

                 Wine Pairing : This pairs well with rich, medium-bodied white wines.


            "Cruise with Castaldo up the Atlantic East Coast" (New England & Canada)

"Micheal Castaldo"

Ciao a tutti, I know that my readers 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. Micheal is very proud and excited to announce a U.S. Atlantic  Seaboard/Canada performance cruise along the east coast, from New York City to Halifax, Canada, and back, on the elegant and premium Princess Cruise Lines newest ship, the Regal Princess. He will perform several times during the seven-night cruise. Travelers will have the opportunity to dine with the performer, accompany him on special optional excursions throughout the trip, and join in his birthday celebration as well. The ship departs from New York on Saturday, September 24, and returns on Saturday, October 1, 2016. Click here for rates. Click here to learn how Princess Cruise Lines is an award winning ADA compliant shipFor info on internet access and in-cabin calling click here.

Castaldo, an award-winning Italian tenor, sings in the style of Andrea Bocelli. His body of work has been called a “plush world of ballads and utter sweetness” by celebritycafe.com and “the perfect complement to an Italian music collection” by La Gazzetta Italiana. His passionate performances consistently transport audiences to his native Italian world of beauty and sweeping romanticism, and his loyal fans truly believe his voice has healing powers.

             To learn more about Michéal Castaldo visit www.michealcastaldo.com 


Ports of Call:
New York, NY (Planned Excursions)
Newport, RI (Planned Excursions)
Boston, MA (Planned Excursions)
Bar Harbor, ME (Planned Excursions)
St. Johns, Canada (Planned Excursions)
Halifax, Canada (Planned Excursions)
New York, NY (Planned Excursions)

For more information and all the details about this Cruise with Castaldo,
visit http://www.expertiseintravel.com/cs/530821/true  or contact travel consultant and cruise expert, Matilde Pope, of Cruise Planners, at 800-464-1380 | 973-521-9030 or mpope@cruiseplanners.com.

Matilde Pope

                   Micheal thanks all of his fans for their awesome support and love!

Till Next Time………………………………...

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

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

“Easy Shrimp Creole Soup” For Soupy Tuesday & “Cenci Cookies” To Celebrate "Carnevale"

Welcome to “Soupy Tuesday” and Carnevale!!! Being an Italian American, Carnevale is celebrated much like Mardi Gras, but with an Italian flare to it. Carnevale which means in Italian “goodbye to meat” is celebrated before the beginning of Lent. It is the last chance to party-hardy before the days of abstinence. Traditionally during Lent, people refrained from eating, meat, dairy, fats, and sugars. So to dispose of these types of foods and drinks they involved the whole community to consume this food many years ago. You could say a giant party thus became Carnevale. 

The Lenten season officially starts on February 10, (this year) Ash Wednesday and continues till Easter Sunday. The traditional purpose of Lent is the preparation of the faithful, as they await the Resurrection of Jesus Christ on Easter Sunday. This is done by prayer, penance, and giving up certain types of luxuries for this season. A favorite food or drink for example; chocolate or soft drinks may be what someone would give up for Lent. I remember when I was a young girl my parents always made sure that we would give up something that was important and special to us. I remember the one thing that I would give up every year which was chocolate. As you, my readers know, I love chocolate and this was extremely hard for me. Then on Easter Sunday we would get a basket filled with goodies like a chocolate bunny and I was able to enjoy my chocolate fix once again. 

Carnevale is a festival traditionally held by Christians, but many cities and regions worldwide celebrate with large events leading up to Ash Wednesday. In fact the last day of Carnival is called "Mardi Gras" in New Orleans and precedes Ash Wednesday. This day also is called by other names as “Shove Tuesday,” or “Fat Tuesday.” Most Christians celebrate Shrove Tuesday. For most Christians it is a time to reflect, confess, and ready one's spirit for the forty days of repentance that is Lent. That's where the term "shrove" comes from. "To shrive" is to hear confessions. Thus, Shrove Tuesday is a day of feasting as well as penance.

 There are many places that these festivals take place. To name a few famous ones which are held in the cities of Venice, Milan, and Verona in Italy. They have a variety of celebrations which include floats, parades, stilt walkers, throwing confetti, and masquerade balls. Masks are worn to allow people of the lower class to be mixed and undetected with the aristocrats. 

The traditional colors of the masks are purple, green, and gold. These colors capture the essence of the Holy Trinity. In the Christian faith it is related also to the Three Kings of the Orient. The colors represent purple for justice, green for faith, and gold for power. The Carnival is a colorful, joyful party during which tasty and rich dishes are traditionally prepared. Loved by young and old, it is celebrated with masks that create a humorous and playful atmosphere. Like any self-respecting party, Carnivale is also an excellent opportunity to share something special like the recipes.

Today I have a yummy recipe for “Soupy Tuesday” as well as a sweet dessert for “Carnevale!” The soup is called “Easy Shrimp Creole” and the dessert I am sharing is called “Cenci” in Italian which means “rags/ribbons.” When I was young I remember my grandmother “Nanni” used to make this type of Italian cookie. Instead of long strips she would take up the two ends and make a knot in the middle before frying them. They would look like bow ties or bows but how sweet and yummy they were especially with some powdered sugar or honey on them. Delizioso!

Enjoy this hearty shrimp that's served with rice – a wonderful dinner ready in an hour. It is a little thicker, not as soupy, but has all the flavors of Carnevale or Mardi Gras.


   “Easy Shrimp Creole

30-minutes for prep
60-minutes total time

2 lb uncooked medium shrimp in shells, thawed if frozen
1/4 cup butter
3 medium onions, chopped (1 1/2 cups)
2 green bell peppers, finely chopped (2 cups)
2 medium stalks celery, finely chopped (1 cup)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 cup Chicken stock
2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper (cayenne)
2 dried bay leaves
1 can (15 oz) tomato sauce
6 cups hot cooked rice

Peel shrimp. Make a shallow cut lengthwise down back of each shrimp; wash out vein. Cover and refrigerate. In 3-quart saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Cook onions, bell peppers, celery, and garlic in butter about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onions are tender. Stir in remaining ingredients except rice and shrimp. Heat to boiling; reduce heat to low. Simmer uncovered 10 minutes. Stir in shrimp. Heat to boiling; reduce heat to medium. Cover and cook 4 to 6 minutes, stirring occasionally, until shrimp are pink and firm. Remove bay leaves. Serve shrimp mixture over rice.

******* Notes: you can add as much heat as you like! You can also add some scallops, or even cut up in rounds some Andouille Sausage.********** 

One of the most familiar treats at this time of year are mounds of crispy sugared strips called “cenci,” which are also called rags, but cenci sounds more elegant. These randomly cut pieces of dough are fried and then coated in confectioner's sugar. In Tuscany at Carnivale time this sweet treat is made everywhere and everyone has their fill before the austere Lenten season of denial begins.                                                                                                      

3 eggs
3 Tablespoons of sugar
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla or almond extract
1/2 teaspoon of salt   
Grated zest of 2 oranges or lemons
2 cups of unbleached all purpose flour   
1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons of unsalted softened butter
About 6 cups of vegetable oil for deep frying
A pasta machine is perfect for thinning the dough
Confectioner’s sugar or honey

In a bowl, beat eggs, sugar, and salt until frothy. Stir in vanilla or almond extract, and the orange or lemon zest. Sift flour with baking powder and gradually add to batter. Add butter and mix well. Turn out on a floured surface: knead for at least 10 minutes. Divide dough into half; then roll each as thin as possible (noodle thickness) Cut into 5” x 1” strips with a knife or scalloped pastry wheel. Preheat oil to about 375°F; then fry strips until golden brown about 1 minute per side. Drain on paper towels, sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar or drizzle honey on top. Cookies are best served the same day.

Till Next Time………..

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

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

“White Bean Soup with Swiss Chard” For "Soupy Tuesday" and Groundhog Day!

Welcome to “Soupy Tuesday!” For those of you that are new to my blog…For the next few months I will be sharing a recipe for a delicious easy soup. As the days get colder, everyone enjoys a hot bowl of soup. So this soup or any soup for that matter is like a welcoming friend. Warm and comforting…If you would like to see a special recipe for soup or have one that you want to share just email me (angellite13(at)optimum(dot)net) or post something in the comments below. I will be happy to give you a shout out. Hope this keeps you warm and cozy for the next few months…

******* I just want to thank all of you who have been sending well wishes and  prayers to my mom who is in a rehab center for her back. Her condition is getting better with her PT and OT. She is trying to regain her strength. It is very slow going and my family thank you for your continuing prayers and thoughts. Also want to let you know that I will be only posting on “Soupy Tuesday” for a while. Thank you dear family and friends.**********

Not only is it “Soupy Tuesday” but it is also “Groundhog Day!” Groundhog Day is always in the month of February and is held on February 2nd each and every year. Groundhog Day or Groundhog's Day is a holiday celebrated in New York and Pennsylvania as well as many other states across the USA. In weather lore, if a groundhog emerges from its burrow on this day and fails to see its shadow because the weather is cloudy, winter will soon end. If the groundhog sees its shadow, it will return into its burrow, and the winter will continue for 6 more weeks.

You may be saying what is a Groundhog anyway? The groundhog (Marmota monax) is a rodent of the family Sciuridae, belonging to the group of large ground squirrels. It's also known as a woodchuck, whistle pig, or marmot. “Punxsutawney Phil,” in Pennsylvania is the world’s most famous groundhog.

The earliest known American reference to Groundhog Day can be found at the Historical Society of Berks County in Reading, Pennsylvania. The reference was made Feb. 4, 1841 in Morgantown, Berks County, Pennsylvania storekeeper James Morris' diary: "Last Tuesday, the 2nd, was Candlemas day, the day on which, according to the Germans, the Groundhog peeps out of his winter quarters and if he sees his shadow he pops back for another six weeks nap, but if the day be cloudy he remains out, as the weather is to be moderate."

So what do you think will happen today? Will the Groundhog see his shadow or not? What ever will happen, we will still have our bowl of hot soup! Join me today as I share with you a soup called “White Bean Soup with Swiss Chard” Generous measures of Swiss Chard and white beans make this soup filling enough to serve as a main course, accompanied by whole-grain bread and a salad on the side…Enjoy and stay warm….. 

White Bean Soup with Swiss Chard

Prep time: 10 minutes Cook Time: 25 minutes Servings: 6

1 Tbs olive oil
1 large red onion, chopped
1 leek, white part only, halved, rinsed and sliced (see directions below)
1 garlic clove, minced
3 oz Portobello mushrooms, stems & gills removed then dice
1/2 tsp dried thyme
4 cups Chicken Stock or Vegetable Stock
3 oz Swiss chard, cut into strips 1/2 inch wide ( you can also use spinach or kale)
2 cans (15 oz each) Cannellini beans, drained & rinsed

1. Sauté the vegetables: In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, warm the oil. Add the onion and leek and sauté until the onion is translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic, mushrooms and thyme and cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid released by the mushrooms has evaporated, about 6 minutes.

(To clean a leek quickly, trim off the dark green tops. Cut the stalk in half lengthwise, leaving the root end intact. Rinse the leek under cold running water, separating the layers to remove any embedded dirt. Prepare as directed, removing the root end.)

2. Finish the soup: Add the stock, chard and beans and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, until the chard is just tender, about 8 to 10 minutes. Serve immediately.

Wine Pairing” This pairs well with rich, medium-bodied white wine. Cin Cin!

           "Please Drink Responsibility"

Till Next Time………………………………...

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